10 Reasons Why “Morocco’s Emergence as a Gateway to Business in Africa” is a Joke

On August 4 Washington think tank the Atlantic Council held a presentation to publicize the release of “its new Issue in Focus report, ‘Morocco’s Emergence as a Gateway to Businessin Africa’ … coauthored by Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham and Senior Fellow Ricardo René Larémont. “Moderated by Dr. Pham, panelists included H.E. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, minister of industry, trade, investment, and the digital economy for the Kingdom of Morocco; Mohamed El Kettani, chairman and CEO of Attijariwafa Bank; Karim Hajji, CEO of the Casablanca Stock Exchange; Nabil Habayeb, GE’s president and CEO of Middle East, North Africa and Turkey; H.E. Moustapha Ben Barka, minister of industry and propaganda investment promotion for the Republic of Mali.

Despite the impressive economic star power here, the event amounted to little more than a Moroccan propaganda love fest and the Pham/Laremont report’s conclusion that Morocco provides a potential solution” for African “corruption, burdensome and ambiguous regulation, undeveloped human resources, poor infrastructure, and insecurity, ” is delusional. Anyone who thinks that Morocco is emerging as a gateway to business in Africa should have his head examined.

Here are 10 reasons why “Morocco’s Emergence as a Gateway to Business in Africa” is a joke

1. Morocco is the only African country that is not a member of the African Union. What is actually amazing is how few people at the event even realized this. I brought it up with pretty much everyone I spoke with, and not one even knew that Morocco dropped out of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 over the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (as the government of Western Sahara) in 1982. With the transformation of the OAU into the African Union (AU) in 2001, Morocco has remained the only African country that is not a member of the union. This fact, alone, is hardly a good start for being a gateway for business in Africa.

2. Morocco is the only African country that is illegally occupying an ex-colony. The UN’s Fourth Committee on decolonization has only one African territory left on its list of non-self-governing territories (ex-colonies). That territory, of course, is the Western Sahara, which has been illegally occupied by Morocco for almost 40 years now, in defiance of innumerable UN resolutions and an International Court of Justice Opinion. It is a great mystery to me why a continent made up predominantly of colonies that have gained independence would see Morocco as a gateway to anything other than neo-colonization. 

3. Morocco is the world’s largest drug trafficker into Europe. Even with large governmental attempts to crack down on drug trafficking, Morocco remains among the largest exporters of hashish in the world, coming out of its legendary hippie haven in the Rif Mountains. Since we are talking about Morocco as a gateway to Africa, you might want to take a look at Drug Trafficking in Northwest Africa: The Moroccan Gateway. A pretty raunchy gateway I would say.

4. Morocco continues to have a serious corruption problem. Freedom House and Transparency International tell you all you need to know: "Despite the government’s rhetoric on combating widespread corruption, it remains a problem, both in public life and in the business world. In the 2012 book, Le Roi Prédateur, journalists Catherine Graciet and Éric Laurent leveled sharp charges of corruption at the palace. Morocco was ranked 91 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index."

And Wikileaks has even more to say about all this.

5. Freedom House’s respected Freedom of the World and Freedom of the Press ratings are not kind to Morocco and are scathing on Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara.Morocco’s Freedom Status in the 2014 Report is “Partly Free,” with a combined score for Political Rights and Civil Liberties far worse than South Africa, slightly worse than Nigeria, and with the same score as Madagascar and Mali. Morocco’s Freedom of the Press rating is even worse, with a status of “not Free,” which puts the country in pretty nasty company both in Africa and the world. Finally, Morocco’s occupation of part of the Western Sahara gets them a Freedom of the World rating with the status of “not free” and “Worst of the Worst” alongside Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tibet. The Atlantic Council’s conclusion that Morocco is “an especially attractive portal for investment and a significant US partner in Africa” looks a bit fishy to me.

6. Morocco, through OCP, its national office of phosphates, has been systematically and illegally looting the phosphate wealth of the illegally occupied Western Sahara, and King Mohammed VI has been systematically looting the wealth of OCP making him one of the wealthiest people on earth. The international law case against Morocco’s plunder is extensive. Western Sahara Resource Watch’s Recommended Reading on The Plundering is a good place to start on all this, and Mohammed VI’s plunder has been extensively reported. See in particular Forbe’s King of Rock and The Predator King: an Expose about Graciet and Larent’s book The Predator King: Plundering Morocco. All of this is rather disgusting stuff. Is there any wonder why, with all this plunder taking place in Morocco, literacy remains at least-developed countries’ levels.

7. Morocco has a “mediocre” record of resource governance based on its “overall lack of effective resource governance” over its phosphate sector. “Morocco is the world’s largest phosphate exporter and holds three-quarters of global phosphate reserves.” The respected Revenue Watch Institute gives Morocco “mediocre scores on all components of its Resource Governance Index (RGI)." If Morocco has anything to teach to the rest of Africa, it is how to thoroughly mismanage, steal, and waste its abundant resources.

8. Morocco is among the world’s largest incubators of terrorists. In a 2011 Brookings study by Anouar Boukhars, we learn that “The involvement of many Moroccans in international terrorism has raised pressing questions about the efficacy of the Moroccan regime’s strategy in preventing the spread of extremist ideology among the population.” In a similar vein, in the United States Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2010, we learn that despite huge Moroccan government counter-terrorism efforts “Reports of Moroccans either preparing to go or going to terrorist fronts in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan to receive training from al-Qa-ida (AQ) linked facilitators and/or to conduct attacks suggest Morocco remained a source for foreign fighter pipelines.”

9. Morocco’s refusal to hold a referendum on independence in the Western Sahara, that it agreed to hold as part of the 1991 cease fire with the Polisario Front, has scuttled all attempts to get the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) off the ground. Morocco’s invasion and illegal occupation of part of the Western Sahara has created a situation where “Intra-regional merchandise trade has languished at 1.3 percent of the region’s total trade, one of the lowest rates of any region in the world.” Given Morocco’s miserable record of fostering trade in the Maghreb, it’s hard to see how, according to Atlantic Council and Rabat, Morocco could or would be a lovely gateway for trade in sub-Saharan Africa. 

10. Finally, “Morocco’s Emergence as a Gateway to Business in Africa” is a joke because J. Peter Pham co-wrote this brief for the Atlantic Council. Pham’s long history of dishonesty, misinformation, bias, propaganda, and misanalysis on the Western Sahara and Morocco guarantees that everything he writes or says on this topic is totally false. In other words, if he says that Morocco is emerging as a “gateway to business in Africa” you can be sure that the opposite is true – that Morocco is the gateway to hell.