- Morocco, Tunisia’s Membership of ECOWAS
- France Seeks Dominance of WA Economy
By Sadiq Abdullateef
Barely two weeks after he made a highly celebrated official visit to Nigeria, it has been revealed that French President, Emmanuel Macron may have embarked on the visit to more aggressively push through controversial French interests in Africa.
Diplomatic sources told DAILY ASSET at the weekend that top on Macron’s agenda for the Nigeria was to clear the “last hurdle” for the admittance of Morocco and Tunisia, North African allies and former French Colonies as members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Macron, it was learnt, strategically chose to warm himself up to President Mohammadu Buhari considering the strong influence of Nigeria in the West African sub-region to achieve his objective.
Besides, President Buhari’s foreign policy appears to be favourably disposed to countries of the Middle East and North Africa, a realisation which France hopes to exploit to achieve her objective.
Morocco’s Quest For ECOWAS Membership
Morocco, a North African country, has launched an ambitious and controversial quest to gain membership of the West African regional group.
Diplomatic sources explained to DAILY ASSET that the North African country was acting a script of France which has historically not pretended about her desire to have a controlling influence in West Africa in view of the large number of her former colonies.
Out of the 16 countries that make up ECOWAS, only five -Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Gambia are Anglophone. The rest of the countries -Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Guinea Conakry, Burkina Faso and Cameroon are Francophone countries.
Unfortunately, given their small sizes and state of their economies, Nigeria and Ghana have always dictated the pace of events and decisions in the sub-regional body, a situation which France hopes to upturn with the arrival of Morocco.
Given her strategic location along the North Atlantic Coast and her proximity with Europe (Spain), Morocco’s economy, largely supported by France, has grown rapidly in the last few years, a development that has made the country to launch an ambitious foreign policy that seeks to establish an African continental influence at the scale of Nigeria and South Africa.
The fall of former Libyan strongman, Mouamar Ghaddafi and the continued factional war among political power blocs in Libya, coupled with political instability in Egypt were said have combined to give Morocco the impetus to firm up her influence as a “rising star” in North Africa, DAILY ASSET was further told.
The country’s quest to join ECOWAS appeared to have been a settled matter and the ECOWAS Heads of Government meeting which held in June 2017, in Liberia, was scheduled to formally admit the country into the sub-regional body.
However, sources close to ECOWAS revealed that the visit of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu to Liberia, the first by an Israeli Leader since the state of Israel was founded in 1946, neutralised the plan as the country lobbied against Morocco’s admission.
However, the high profile visit of Moroccan King Hassan VI from December 1-3, 2016 and the reciprocal visit of President Buhari from June 10-11, 2018, appeared to have rekindled the hope of Morocco’s admittance into ECOWAS.
King Hassan VI had signed 15 Bilateral agreements with his host, President Buhari during the visit to Nigeria. The agreements among others provided for the building of a Trans-Saharan gas pipeline through West Africa that would enable Nigeria supply gas to the North African country and the establishment of fertilizer factories in Nigeria to supply various brands of fertilizers to West Africa.
Morocco’s renewed bid to join ECOWAS has been complimented by Tunisia, another strong ally of France in North Africa. Tunisia which has a sizable French population and has geographical proximity with France also hopes to enjoy French support to join ECOWAS in due course.
DAILY ASSET learnt that in order to impress on the Nigerian President and the citizens, the young French President used the visit to approve a financial package of $475million for the country. The package includes urban mobility improvement project for Lagos, sustainable water supply project for Kano and reforestation programme in Ogun state among others.
Macron who once served in Nigeria as a career Diplomat also made a historic visit to the African shrine, the performance centre of the legendary Afro music maestro, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, which is now managed by his son, Femi Kuti.
Macron also met with a section of Nigerian youth whose future must be taken into consideration in the future of an ECOWAS dominated by France.
Benefits of Morocco, Tunisia Membership of ECOWAS
An ECOWAS diplomat who spoke to DAILY ASSET on the condition of anonymity said France’s first interest in ECOWAS was to get Morocco and Tunisia into the membership to enable her push through a common currency for West Africa at the earliest possible date.
“As you know the economies of the Francophone countries are tied to France. It is in the interest of the French to have a common currency in West Africa to ease her trade with the West African countries,” our source, an ECOWAS finance expert explained.
France at the moment is a leading investor in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector as French company, Total, is the second highest producer of Nigerian crude and a major distribution company in the downstream segment of the oil industry.
France-Nigeria trade value rose to an impressive E5billion (N108.5trn) by 2015. Last year, France announced plans to invest another E1billion in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
The country had earlier launched a plan to popularise French language in Nigeria by opening the French cultural Centre in Lagos, Alliance Francaise in Kaduna, Abuja, Enugu, Ibadan and Port Harcourt to teach French language and popularise French culture which forms a major plank of the country’s foreign policy.
In fact, the visit to the African shrine by President Macron during his visit and his meeting with creative industry practitioners was to further stress the importance of culture in French foreign policy.
Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tope Adeleye however, told DAILY ASSET in a phone interview that the issue of Morocco and Tunisia’s membership of ECOWAS did not feature in Macron’s talks with Nigerian authorities.
“As far as I know, this was not part of the discussions” he stated.
Adeleye however informed that the ECOWAS Commission had earlier released a document to each member state on the criteria for admission of new members.
“The criteria is based on the issues in the founding documents –the issue of geography, political and economic issues. Members are studying it and I believe at the appropriate time they will make their decision,” he explained.
However, an official of ECOWAS who didn’t want his name in print said the visit of Macron and the gestures he did during the visit spoke louder than any direct discussion he would have had on the issue.
“The Francophone countries do nothing without consulting with France so Morocco is surely doing France’s bidding,” the official said.
He added that in spite of France’s pressure, “the decision to admit any new member into the fold of the organization is purely the responsibility of the Authority of Heads of States and governments.
“ECOWAS has its rules and organs. The issue of accepting new members at any time will be treated by the relevant authority according to the rules,” the official said.