Escaping Western sanctions on Russian gas, the Alawi kingdom has seen its hydrocarbon exports intensify

Morocco emerges as one of the main beneficiaries of Russian gas

AFP/FADEL SENNA - King Mohammed VI

Relations between Russia and Morocco are in good shape, as evidenced by Morocco's non-inclusion on Russia's list of "unfriendly countries and territories committing hostile actions against him [Putin], his companies and citizens". Other evidence of the good relations between the two states is the neutral position adopted by the Kingdom in the face of Russia's conflict with Ukraine, calling on more than one occasion for a peaceful solution, the increase in Russian scholarships for Moroccan students, and Morocco's authorisation of Russian ships to reach the Kingdom's waters. As a ruse to avoid European and US sanctions, Moscow has ordered the diversion of hydrocarbon supplies to Morocco and Turkey. 

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The North African country is cited as one of the main destinations for Russian deliveries of oil products in Africa and worldwide. In 2022, diesel supplies from the Alawi kingdom accelerated to 735,000 tonnes from 66,000 tonnes in 2021. The European Union (EU), in conjunction with the G7 countries and Australia, on Sunday launched the second part of its plan to ban the import of refined Russian oil products in a bid to undermine Russian President Vladimir Putin. To circumvent the embargo, Russia is redirecting its oil products from the EU embargo, Reuters reports. Among the shipments are: gasoline, diesel, liquefied natural gas and jet fuel. 

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On the African continent, Morocco once again ranks as one of the nations benefiting most from oil products from Moscow. In recent years, the Kingdom has strengthened its trade relations with Russia. According to data provided by the Russian company Refinitiv, hydrocarbon deliveries to the North African country have increased by more than 1,100% in just one year. Moreover, Rabat has already received more than twice as much in 2023 as in 2021 in just two months. It is not only Morocco that is benefiting. Despite the embargo, other countries that are being involved in sending Russian gas include Ghana, Senegal, Libya, Turkey, Uruguay and Côte d'Ivoire. 

Embargoing other countries has historically been the default measure of the government seeking to put pressure on other executives. However, history shows that embargoes in the energy sector only push countries to divert their supplies and cause a major increase in much-needed energy commodities. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, energy prices reached record highs with barrels of oil surpassing $100 in March of the same year. The threat to energy security led many experts to predict that the EU could be heading for a new recession that would have a ripple effect on other economies, especially in emerging markets. 

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Russia is a vast country, which gives it, among other advantages, an abundance of virtually every raw material. However, if it lacks anything, it lacks the power of colonialist influence in Africa. That is why Russia and African nations are moving towards agreements on national currencies, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 18 January, adding that the sides are preparing documents on reorganising the mechanism of cooperation under Western sanctions. Moscow has been consistently pursuing a policy of de-dollarisation in foreign trade. In recent years, Russia and some of its trading partners, including India and China, have increased the use of national currencies in mutual agreements in an effort to move away from both the dollar and the euro. 

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Since the beginning of the conflict Russia has redoubled its efforts to support Africa in both the food and energy sectors. While the EU has raised prices, bought oil, LNG and cereals that were originally destined for other countries, South Africa, one of the continent's major powers, has now seen blackouts of more than 12 hours, a problem Pretoria blames squarely on Brussels. This is just further evidence of how Russia exploits the low morality of the new Europe's "me first" mentality, even though there are countries that need it much more. Such a problem is not new; as recently as September 2022 there were about 90 ships with Ukrainian grain destined for needy countries in Africa, of which only two reached their destination, the rest remaining in the hands of the West.

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