Morocco-UAE relations: fuelled by major new Emirati investment

Morocco

Published on Wednesday, 20 December 2023 Back to articles

King Mohamed VI and the UAE’s president, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ)

Early this month King Mohamed VI made an official visit to Abu Dhabi where he was met by the UAE president, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ). It was his first such visit since 2017 and he received a lavish reception at the Qar al-Watan Palace, complete with horsemen, folk troupes, and air displays tracing smoke trails in the colours of the Moroccan flag. 

The king — who looked to be robustly healthy which put paid to rumours of ill health — was accompanied by a large and senior delegation. It included: his senior advisor Fuad Ali el-Himma; the head of Moroccan intelligence, Yacine al-Mansouri; and the head of the Royal Moroccan Equestrian University, Moulay Abdullah Alaoui. Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, was not amongst them but several minister were, including: Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita; Economy and Finance Minister, Nadia Fettah Alaoui; Energy Transition and Sustainable Development Minister, Leila Benali; Equipment and Water Minister, Nizar Baraka; and Transport and Logistics Minister, Mohamed Abdeljalil. 

During the visit, the two countries signed a joint declaration for ‘innovative and deep-rooted’ partnership across a raft of sectors. Twelve memorandums of understanding (MoU) were signed for co-operation in a number of fields including aviation, ports and high-speed train projects. The UAE is planning to invest in the extension of the Tangier-Kenitra high-speed railway line to Marrakesh which will make it possible to travel from Tangier to Marrakesh in around three hours. 

Abu Dhabi is also reported to be keen to invest in the Dakhla port in the disputed Western Sahara. In line with the Palace’s call to develop the southern provinces, construction has already started on the 1,650 hectares Dakhla Atlantic Port megaproject — which will employ more than 1,400 workers — with the first terminals due to be operational by 2029. 

MoUs were also signed in the fields of water, agriculture, energy, fishing, tourism and real estate, as well as in financial markets and data sharing. Of particular importance was the signing of an investment partnership linked to the ambitious 5,600 kms offshore Nigeria Morocco Gas Pipeline (NMGP) project that was initiated by the King and Nigeria’s former president Muhammadu Buhari in 2016. It will supply gas from the Niger Delta via 13 African states — with some off-taking and others supplying additional gas — to Europe. Despite strong political backing for this pipeline it has been challenging to obtain financing for the project. Under this latest agreement signed in Abu Dhabi, the UAE will provide financial and technical contributions to the project, which has given it a significant boost. 

Abuja has changed allegiance and now appears to favour the offshore Moroccan route rather than the onshore Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) via Niger, Algeria and across the Mediterranean. Unsurprisingly this has triggered a strong reaction from Algiers — which thought that it had thwarted the NMGP by offering to finance the entire TSGP — and has been taken by surprise at Abuja’s apparent volte face, which is probably the result of this year’s election of President Bola Tinubu. Nigeria claims that the Moroccan route is more reliable because it does not cross unstable and supposedly terrorist-prone countries but in Algeria’s eyes, their decision was swayed by the offer of Emirati financial support. According to well-informed sources in Algiers, the Presidency has asked South Africa to intervene to dissuade Abuja from continuing with the NMGP. Envoys are expected in Abuja in the coming days to try and persuade Nigeria’s leaders back towards the Algerian-funded TSGP. 

This excerpt is taken from Morocco Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Morocco. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

The December 2023 issue of Morocco Focus also includes the following:

Foreign Relations

  • Morocco’s excellent relations with the UAE…
  • Implications

Politics

  • Pressure increases over Gaza conflict…
  • Prime Minister Akhannouch is in hot water…
  • Socialist parties form new alliance…

Security

  • Precautions are taken at Ceuta

Energy & Economy

  • Competition council fines fuel companies…

2024 Forecast

  • Domestic Politics & Policy
  • Security
  • International Relations 
  • Economy

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