Morocco's diplomacy led by King Mohammed VI is currently playing a leading role, contributing to the strengthening of cooperation within the African Atlantic space

The Moroccan Sahara and the African Atlantic

Puesto de control fronterizo entre Marruecos y Mauritania en Guerguerat, ubicado en el Sáhara Occidental - AFP/FADEL SENNA
photo_camera AFP/FADEL SENNA - Border checkpoint between Morocco and Mauritania at Guerguerat in Western Sahara

When many were impatiently awaiting the royal speech on the 48th anniversary of the Green March to find out how Mohammed VI would respond to the Polisario Front's latest terrorist attacks on the town of Es-Smara, His Majesty's speech announced something far more important than this desperate manoeuvre. Mohammed VI, son of Hassan II, the initiator of the Green March that enabled the recovery of the southern provinces of the Kingdom of Morocco, announced the continuation of the marches of development by consolidating the national coastal space, including the Atlantic coast of the Moroccan Sahara, and the structuring of this geopolitical space at the African level. 

Often unknown in its historical specificity, the South Atlantic, which separates Africa and Latin America, is often incorporated into the geopolitics of the North Atlantic. However, the South Atlantic area has its own historical, geopolitical and cultural characteristics, highlighted by a growing number of researchers over the last two decades. These Afro-Latin constituent elements of the South Atlantic space, which have been affirmed throughout history, offer today enormous opportunities for cooperation and development. 

PHOTO/FILE - Mohamed VI
PHOTO/FILE - Mohammed VI

It should be recalled in this context that Morocco has made South-South cooperation a strategic choice through the consolidation of its political relations and the diversification of its fruitful partnerships with the countries of the South, particularly with Africa, in this sense Moroccan diplomacy led by HM King Mohammed VI is currently playing a leading role, contributing positively to the strengthening of cooperation within the African Atlantic space. 

PHOTO/AFP - Esta fotografía de archivo muestra banderas de Estados Unidos y Marruecos junto a un mapa de Marruecos autorizado por el Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. que reconoce el territorio en disputa internacional del Sáhara Occidental (con la firma del embajador de Estados Unidos en Marruecos, David T. Fischer) como parte del reino norteafricano
PHOTO/AFP - This file photo shows US and Moroccan flags next to a map of Morocco authorised by the US State Department recognising the internationally disputed territory of Western Sahara (with the signature of US Ambassador to Morocco David T. Fischer) as part of the North African kingdom

There are several factors that explain this geopolitical orientation, climate change and the high-speed industrialisation of most of the world lead to a scarcity of the Earth's resources, mainly water, soils and hydrocarbons. This scarcity increases the interest in the sea, a virgin territory still under industrial exploitation, which would abound in immeasurable natural resources. 

PHOTO/FILE – Dajla
PHOTO/FILE – Dakhla

The sea is therefore a space to be conquered, a resource to be exploited and an object of rivalry and contested power, in a world where the oceans play a geostrategic role of the utmost importance, not only in international trade and logistics, but also in the field of energy.  

However, it should be noted that the African Atlantic seaboard is not an evocative space in international relations or in contemporary African relations, despite the fact that 23 African countries have an Atlantic coastline and represent 46% of the African population, which alone accounts for almost 55% of the continent's GDP. Moreover, these countries face common challenges that threaten their coastlines, terrorism in the Sahel is increasingly pushing towards the coast and the risk of contamination from this threat from landlocked countries to coastal countries is real. 

PHOTO/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Dajla, Marruecos
PHOTO/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ/ATALAYAR - Dakhla, Morocco

The African Atlantic coastline therefore faces major challenges that must be tackled by joining forces; but it is also true that this coastline has immense potential that must be harnessed, and in this sense, Morocco is making enormous efforts to restructure this geostrategic space, beginning by valuing its own coastal space. 

Morocco has two coasts totalling a total length of 3,500 kilometres, of which approximately 3,000 kilometres on the Atlantic and 500 kilometres on the Mediterranean. However, this strategic advantage, as King Mohammed VI's speech shows, is not fully exploited.  

AFP/FADEL SENNA – Entorno del Sáhara Occidental
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Around Western Sahara

The Moroccan sea represents a major geostrategic asset for the future, both economically and in terms of energy, which presupposes a renewed geopolitical vision for the Kingdom to guarantee and exploit, as an asset, the country's maritime horizon in order to make the most of this geographical blessing, and more particularly to promote investment opportunities on the Atlantic side, by establishing Morocco as a port and logistics platform for African countries. Within the framework of this strategic vision, Morocco has taken three very important initiatives: 

PHOTO/FILE - Mohamed VI
PHOTO/FILE - Mohammed VI
  • The first consists in creating the new industrial port of the city of Dakhla on the Atlantic coast of the Moroccan Sahara, a new mega-project structuring the new development model of the Moroccan Saharan provinces, whose conception had been inscribed by HM the King in the framework of Morocco's determination to continue the work of promoting the development of the southern provinces and guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of their populations. Once the work on the Dakhla Atlantic port is completed by the end of 2028, as planned, this gigantic project will play a key role as a strategic lever, to confirm the Kingdom's African anchorage and better enhance its Atlantic dimension. 
  • The second initiative taken by Morocco as part of its strategic vision for the Atlantic area was the creation in 2009 in Rabat of the Ministerial Conference of the African States bordering the Atlantic, which, aiming to establish a zone of peace, security and prosperity, will be able to develop a common African vision of this vital space, to promote an African Atlantic identity and to defend the continent's strategic interests with a single voice, as well as providing new business opportunities for Latin American companies by enabling them to access a larger market in West Africa and, consequently, to strengthen South-South cooperation between Africa and Latin America and to promote solidarity among southern countries so that they can develop common solutions to global challenges such as climate change, poverty and inequality. 
  • The third initiative concerns the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline project, a historic project with enormous economic, political and strategic dimensions, which could set a record as the longest maritime gas pipeline in the world. In September last year, Morocco, Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) signed an agreement to advance the development of this mega-project, whose studies are currently at an advanced stage, and which would run for 7,000 kilometres through the waters of thirteen West African countries before reaching Europe. There is no doubt that, given the current uncertainty caused by the energy crisis exacerbated by Russia's war in Ukraine, the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline will constitute a key energy infrastructure on the African continent and at the global level. 
PHOTO/ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Técnicos marroquíes explicando el proyecto del nuevo puerto de Dajla
PHOTO/ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Moroccan technicians explaining the project for the new port of Dakhla

This is the context for the various structuring actions undertaken by Morocco to develop its Atlantic coastline (port infrastructure, tourism projects, the construction of a strong and competitive national maritime trade fleet, the concentration of industrial activities on the Atlantic coast, etc.). The opening of these actions to the states of the region seems to provide the first components of an "Afro-Atlantic" strategic identity, still under construction, but already based on a common vision of the risks and challenges, as well as the importance of institutionalising the space, through informal structures such as the Conference of African Atlantic Coastal States. 

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