Mezouar on Developing the Morocco of Tomorrow

04.26.2018

 

On Wednesday, April 18th, his Excellency Salaheddine Mezouar—the former Minister of Industry and Commerce, Minister of Finance, and most recently the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation—gave an address entitled “Maroc Afrique, un partenariat stratégique au service du développement et de la stabilité. Une vision et des opportunités” (Morocco-Africa, A Strategic Partnership in the Service of Development and Stability: A Vision and Opportunities) at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI) as part of the University’s ongoing Presidential Lecture Series.

 

Mr. Mezour began his address by describing his approach to Africa as concerted, claiming that he has been passionate about the continent since his youthful days as an athlete. In addition to a long and active political career, Mr. Mezour was also once an international basketball player. In those days, he reminisced, he was able to meet many good athletes from across the African continent, decent people with whom he forged unforgettable bonds. It was those friendships that deepened his love for the continent’s diversity, and this love that birthed the will to ameliorate its situation.

 

This concertedness is not something he lays claim to as a progenitor, but something, rather, that has been passed down to him from those officials that spearheaded post-colonial efforts to rebuild African nations. These people, Mr. Mezouar told an overfull room of students, faculty, staff, and journalists, were “des gens de cœur” who “[m’ont] appris à aimer” (good folks who taught me to love). In those days, the Africa he knew suffered as Cold War conflicts continued to engulf the globe, stunting development. It was, however, an Africa that did not trust itself—its leaders sought to reconstruct themselves with the help of exterior powers, refusing to turn accept intra-continental aid. In doing, Mr. Mezouar believes they grew passive.

 

During his time as the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Mezouar had the chance to work closely with the Private Sector, an experience which, he claims, allowed him to see much of the positive and negative that still permeate the nation. During his ministerial tenure, he sought to reconfigure the Moroccan economy’s acceleration so that it might enter into competition with others’; the country had undergone myriad changes, none of which had been capitalized on: there was a confident dynamic, but the fruits of the nation’s labors were not being reaped.

 

Given the risk that jobs might begin to disappear, he was forced to change tactics. With this, Mr. Mezouar argued for the need of a plan d’emergence (Emergence Plan). At the time, the entire continent was seeing similar changes, and as each nation changed, so too did their dynamics. Nations were becoming pragmatic, interested in the national rather than the idiomatic or the dogmatic, allowing them to profit on the global market.

 

With all this, Mr. Mezouar noted that in its current state, the continent still faces a plethora of challenges. By 2035, he noted, its population will double, raising its number of workers to one billion—70% of this population will report as young. 60% of the land will be rural, making African—thanks to the Congo Bassin—the world’s second lung. All this establishes Africa as a powerhouse—« On a fait un continent » noted Mr. Mezouar « qui doit devenir un enjeu de demain ! » (We’ve created a continent, noted Mr. Mezouar, that must claim a stake in the world of tomorrow)—only so long as nations continue to make the most of their resources and work together.

 

His Majesty, King Mohamed VI, has also remarked this, and has adopted in response a logical approach, seeking to create opportunity rather than wait for them to present themselves. In the last few years, Morocco has dedicated itself to partnerships that are centered on sharing, both politically and culturally. Over the years, notions of diplomacy have changed: nations can no longer rely on classical accords given that these sought to isolate nations rather than strengthen bonds between them. It is by relying on one another, said Mr. Mezouar, that economies are built and that threats can be diffused, not alone, but together. He went on to say that both nations and individuals must forget their biases and cease to project both themselves and their past experiences with certain individuals on entire nations or continents. People must adapt.

 

Within this, Mr. Mezouar noted that Moroccan relations have historically been too rigid. Commenting on Morocco-DCAO (Economic Community of West African States) relations, he said that this rigidity can be gleaned in most sectors. Though Morocco has been the largest investor in Western Africa, he wants the Morocco of tomorrow to work with other countries for the good of the continent. In doing so, he believes that the nation can become even more diverse than it is today, further entrenching it as a “pays d’accueil” (host country). It is in this spirit that Morocco recently rejoined the African Union. Thirty-three years after its initial departure, the nation has become less idealistic and is ready to join the table as a team-player.

 

Once more echoing this sentiment, his Majesty, King Mohamed VI, has developed a new conviction, that the new world is being (re)built and that the world cannot perpetuate previously established North-South relations given their universal untenability. This is what will serve the Morocco of tomorrow: it will even the scales. This is by no means a mercantile approach. It simply means that as African countries increasingly invest in one another—both politically and economically—the continent and the nations therein will begin to strengthen anew.

 

One problem in enacting this change, Mr. Mezouar noted, is that since the Arab Spring investments have slowed, Morocco faces the need to jump-start investments once more: an economically strong Morocco will be only so as long as the Private Sector thrives. He encouraged participants to stimulate this phenomenon, echoing former American President John Francis Kennedy’s famous line, “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

 

In order to overcome this, however, Morocco must first overcome its largest challenge: education. Morocco must continue to invest in education so as to give the next generation the best means possible. To neglect this sector would incur “une perte sêche” (allocative inefficiency). This, Mr. Mezouar stated, is his current passion—this is why he thinks African universities must continuously develop the domain of “African Studies” with an emphasis on “Development”. To this point, Mr. Mezouar emphasized the need for an African Erasmus in an attempt to fuel African intellectualism and to build the notion of African Identity on the continental level and not simply on the factitious, national level. Doing so, he believes, would perpetuate the idea of an African vocation and reify the necessity of emphasizing relationships. He hopes AUI will spearhead this movement.

 

In his closing statements, Mr. Mezouar encouraged AUI students—and indeed all Moroccan youths—to stay curious, to explore ideas, and to be ambitious. Invest yourselves, he said, in the continent: create start-ups and break down stereotypes: do what people around are doing around the world—but do it here.