Morocco-Algeria: A common destiny.
Tension between Morocco and Algeria has been exacerbated anew. This time it was more foolish than ever, because it came after senseless statements of the Algerian Foreign Minister, who told an audience of businessmen that "Morocco, its banks, its compagnies only launder drug money in Africa.” This is utterly outrageous and lacks credibility, but above all it stirred up passions. It should be noted, however, that even in Algeria, these statements were condemned.
Moroccan banks operate in 26 countries in Africa, either by means of a takeover or by a simple participation. In a span of seven years, the Moroccan private sector has invested $ 8 billion in Africa, not only in the West of the continent, but also in the East. On the other hand, Algeria has no real economic policy in Africa.
On September 2, 2012 the Algerian daily “Al Watan” sounded the alarm in an article entitled “How Algeria lost Africa”. Mourad GOUMIRI, an Algerian academic, explained that “our African strategy, being built on a distributive policy of a slice of the petrodollars, collapsed about the same time oil proceeds dwindled”.
Algerian products are found in Mali and Niger, including products imported and subsidized by Algiers, but this is more smuggling than real economic cooperation.
The Economist published on October 24, 2017, a very well documented paper. While Algeria has enormous potential, its ruling elite is mummified. Its ills are to be found in its political system.
Kamal DAOUD, a columnist and writer, known for his brave defense of free thinking, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled: "The Algerian exception.” In that text, he explains that if Algeria has not been affected by the Arab Spring, it is because the so-called “black decade” scares the Algerians, so much so that they prefer immobilism to a risky jump towards the unknown. What happened between 1988 and 1998, when a youth revolt and free elections ended up in blood remains in the collective memory, as an absolute fear of democracy.
This political standstill in Algeria is real and it impacts the region. Eighty-year-old politicians are locked in outdated patterns. They no longer have the means to maintain the distribution of petrodollars as the only economic and social policy.
In Morocco, progress is real, but so are problems and flaws. Except for the fact that the head of State, King Mohammed VI, himself recognizes them in official speeches, demanding change from the parties and the state’s administration, as well as a new social project that takes into account the reality of Moroccan society, but which is part of the vision of an open, prosperous and free world. The difference is between a blocked system, living in the fear of terrorism, and a system whose desired, consensual transformation is looking for ways to materialize.
Tensions between Morocco and Algeria are an economic, but also political nonsense, in a very distressing situation.
On the economic front, experts value border closures for a quarter of a century at a loss of 2 percentage points of GDP per year for both countries, which is huge. Integration between the two economies would have been a tempting market for foreign investors, especially Americans, but would above all have allowed to constitute a powerful hub towards Africa, which would have transformed the geographical position, that of Mediterranean gateway to Africa, into real strength.
Geostrategically, it's even worse. The Sahel is a real time-ticking bomb. Neither the United States nor France can eradicate terrorism without the direct involvement of the two strongest armies in the region. However, Algeria refuses any outside intervention on its doorstep. It is in the constitution. But the country also opposes any involvement of Morocco. Even in terms of intelligence, cooperation is kept to a minimum. On Mali or Libya, an agreement between the Algerian and Moroccan diplomacies could have led to stabilizing agreements in both countries. But none of that happened.
This factitious tension is inherited from a bygone era, that of the Cold War. Superpowers, especially the U.S., cannot continue to handle it with neutrality. Strong pressure is needed to initiate cooperation between the two countries.