Morocco's Royal Initiative in Sahel sparks Algeria's Tindouf–Zouerate road project

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On February 22nd, 2024, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and his Mauritanian counterpart, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, officially launched construction on the highly anticipated Tindouf-Zouerate road. This 800-kilometer land route, entirely financed by Algeria, has been a point of discussion and even tension between the two nations for some time.

According to a memorandum of understanding signed in December 2021, Algeria will hold the operating concession for the road for a period of ten years, with the option for renewal. However, the project has faced significant delays. Despite the agreement's signing, President Tebboune only ratified it in March 2022, leading to frustration within Mauritania, who urged the Algerian government to expedite construction during meetings in December 2022.

The recent launch could be attributed, in part, to the evolving regional dynamics. Just days after several Sahel countries – Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad – joined King Mohammed VI's initiative offering them Atlantic access, President Tebboune announced the creation of a free trade zone with Mauritania. Notably, Mauritania has yet to join the royal initiative.

This development adds another layer to the complex relationship surrounding the Tindouf-Zouerate road. In 2018, Algeria inaugurated the Tindouf-Zouerate border crossing, but the unpaved road was met with criticism from Algerian transporters. The new project aims to address these concerns and provide a smoother, more efficient route for trade and travel between the two countries.

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