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While Morocco’s main diplomatic and economic partners remain the European Union and the United States, from 2008 to 2013 the Kingdom doubled its exports to Sub-Saharan Africa. Rabat seeks to position itself as an entry point to Africa, especially as a bridge between the West (Europe and America) and Africa.
Morocco’s investments in the African continent have been on the rise, accounting for 44% of total Moroccan Foreign Direct Investment in 2013. Morocco is the second-largest African investor on the continent after South Africa.
Since 2008, Morocco has been negotiating a preferential Trade and Investment Agreement with the West African Economic and Monetary Union, and strategic partnership accords with ECOWAS and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States, with the aspiration of eventually establishing free trade zones.
Morocco’s trade volume with Sub-Saharan Africa has more than tripled during 2003-2013. The choice to invest in West Africa seems to be a sound strategic move, since that region is currently home to most of the fastest growing economies on the continent, with an economic growth in the region of 7.4% in 2014.
Morocco’s religious diplomacy, including the king’s legitimacy as a moderate religious leader in West Africa, has been a critical element for the success of its regional strategy. Mohammed VI has the status of “Commander of the Faithful”, bestowed upon him by the Moroccan constitution.
His legitimacy derives from Morocco’s relations with West Africa during the pre-colonial period, around the 11th century, when most of the region adopted Islam due to the jihad of the Almoravids, a berber dynasty of Morocco.
The Tijaniyyah Brotherhood is a legacy of this long-held Moroccan-West African relationship; today, there are millions of Tijane Muslims spread around the Western African countries. They regard the Moroccan king as a religious leader, and Fez as a pilgrimage centre.