Morocco and South Africa, diplomatic ties between politics and economy

One year after King Mohammed VI and the former South African President Jacob Zuma met, relations between the two countries remained stuck in a dichotomy between politics and economy.

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King Mohammed VI and the former South African President Jacob Zuma./Ph. DR

On November the 29th, 2017, Abidjan hosted a meeting that brought King Mohammed VI and the South African President Jacob Zuma together. Their meeting, held on the sidelines of the European Union-African Union Summit, was the first of its kind.

A year after these talks took place, diplomatic relations between the two countries took a different, yet favorable, turn, especially when it comes to the economic side. On the other hand, the two governments still need to work on the political side of their relations in order to «work together, hand in hand, and look forward to a promising future», as announced at the end of the two leaders’ Abidjan meeting.

Realizing the above-mentioned promise to strengthen diplomatic ties between Rabat and Pretoria was built on the appointment of ambassadors in both South Africa and Morocco. However, this step has been contradicted by a group within the Ramaphosa government.

This was confirmed in November when the South African government said that Morocco has not answered yet a request of agreement sent by Pretoria 14 years ago for the normalization of diplomatic relations with Rabat.

In fact, the country has set a condition for the return of a Moroccan ambassador to Pretoria, who was appointed by Rabat on August the 20th, during a Council of Ministers.

Mxolisi Sizo Nkosi, a senior official at the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was the one to reveal the request of agreement drafted in 2004 to hinder the normalization of diplomatic ties between Rabat and Pretoria, as discussed by King Mohammed VI and the former South African President Jacob Zuma.

Focusing on economy

While Pretoria and Rabat are still struggling to better their diplomatic relations in the political field, economy between the two African nations is flourishing.

Indeed, a delegation from the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM), led by its president Salaheddine Mezouar, took part in the African Investment Forum, hosted on the 7th, 8th and 9th of November in Johannesburg by the African Development Bank.

During this event, members of the CGEM delegation met with their counterparts from the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI), which includes 20,000 companies.

The meeting between the two groupings is seen as a positive step towards a «promising future», between the two countries, as stressed by a royal cabinet statement issued on November the 29th, 2017.

For the record, stablishing economic relations between Morocco and South Africa took place under the government of Abderahmane El Youssoufi. In May 1998, in Cape Town, the first edition of the Moroccan-South African Joint Commission was held and co-chaired by Aicha Belarbi, Secretary of State for Cooperation and the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affaires in South Africa.

The event was hindered by the decision of Pretoria which recognized in 2004 «SADR», pushing Morocco to cut diplomatic ties with South Africa.

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