Morocco’s request was accepted “in principle” by leaders of the group known as ECOWAS at a June 4 summit in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, recalled Onyeama.
This shows that there is “no hostility” regarding Morocco’s membership in the ECOWAS, he said, adding that “there is no enmity there that would mean an immediate and automatic negative response to such a request. What has to be looked at a bit more is all the technical ramifications.”
Several lobby groups in Nigeria, the biggest economy in the ECOWAS, are putting pressure on the Nigerian government to reject Morocco’s application out of fear that the North African Kingdom’s membership could curb Nigeria’s powers in the sub-regional groupings. Pressure also emanates from pro-Polisario groups.
But cooperation on the ground shows that Nigeria and Morocco have never been as closer as they are now. Economically, Morocco has offered its expertise in fertilizers production by investing in a giant fertilizer production plant in Nigeria, key to the country’s bid to promote the agricultural sector and reduce dependence on oil.
The two countries have also agreed to build a gas pipeline that will channel Nigerian gas along the West African coast all the way to Morocco and eventually into Europe. Nigeria is also looking forward to benefiting from Morocco’s experience in renewable energies, tourism, infrastructure and rural development.
The growing Moroccan-Nigerian cooperation was mirrored also in the political stands of Abuja in African Fora. Nigeria backed Morocco’s return to the African Union and is increasingly distancing itself from the Algeria-sponsored separatist thesis in the Moroccan Sahara issue.
Morocco applied last March to join the ECOWAS. Before submitting its application, King Mohammed VI paid visits to the countries in the region where Morocco is already one of the largest investors.
Morocco opted to look southwards and reached out to its partners in West Africa with whom it has been building partnerships on a sound foundation underpinned by a south-south cooperation approach.
Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS is, therefore, a continuation of a decades-long process of fostering ties with the countries of the region.
The admission of Morocco to the ECOWAS sub-region will make it the second largest economy after Nigeria. Thanks to its geographic location and trade agreements with the EU, Turkey, the US and several Arab countries as well as its port and airport hubs, Morocco will offer West African countries a gateway to new markets.
With the inclusion of Morocco, the ECOWAS will bolster its aggregated GDP to the 16th rank globally ahead of Turkey and right after Indonesia.