Morocco at the crossroads

In Morocco, and probably elsewhere too, we all know that conflicts over inheritance issues are among the hardest to resolve. This is because many of us know, directly or indirectly, story of inheritance that has altered the sense of belonging to a family or a tribe.

That being said, the problem of inheritance in its global sense, independently of any other consideration, derives from codes and customs that go back a long way in time, both here in Africa and among our neighbors on the northern shore of the Mediterranean. Thus, among Europeans, it was accepted that someone could claim land as his property (and enjoy it as an inheritance) if he exploited the place in question for a few decades in the absence of another formal complaint. Taking this perspective, we can deduce that the descendants of European peoples, who colonized for several centuries and divided the African continent according to their wishes, by stifling in the bud any hint of protest — before granting our countries often superficial independences — have come to consider our territories as theirs without sharing. We then understand better how these people can find it unbearable that other powers such as China, Russia, Turkey, India, Japan and others are trying, in their eyes, to challenge them for pre-eminence over economic and commercial exchanges with our Continent. The EU seems to have developed feeling of suffocating possessiveness towards our African countries.

In this perspective, the 6th EU-AU (European Union-African Union) summit this month of February (initially scheduled for 2020 and postponed twice) should serve the EU, according to preliminary information available, to keep out of its way the other pretenders to trade with Africa, which have continued in recent decades to gain market share in Africa at the expense of Europe. The greatest beneficiary of trade and economic exchanges with our Continent at present is China. As a result, the Middle Kingdom now poses the most serious risk to the continuation of EU trade with Africa as before, particularly through its ongoing « Belt and Road Initiative ».

The EU claims to wanting to compete with this Chinese project and, to this end, has promised to put on the table several hundred billion Euros of investment over the medium term for the benefit of African countries through their project called “Global Gateway“.

But, coinciding with the many issues raised by the unwanted presence of soldiers from several European countries in Mali and elsewhere, there is little echo here in Africa of the aforementioned European solicitude. Our countries do not seem to give much credence to these proposals and instead seem to be adopting a wise “wait and see” attitude for now. There is no formal explanation for our leaders lack of enthusiasm for these promises of future EU funding in our territories. This leaves us free to speculate on the reasons behind what can be perceived as African reservations about possible future investments by Europeans in our Continent.

Among the possible reasons for this reluctance, there is obviously the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still there without anyone knowing when it will end. In itself, this uncertainty handicaps normal economic activity, complicates decision-making on investments and therefore forces reflection on the part of our African countries about the choice of our future partners for our international trade.

There are also the sounds of boots at the borders in the East of the EU. The media talk about it without it being clear if continental Europe will find common ground with Russia or, if not, how long this tension will last or if we are on the eve of a war that will really break out. But for the EU, this is a major problem with their largest supplier of energy products to which they must urgently find a solution before thinking about economic activity in normal times through the “Global Gateway” or other. At the same time, this gives arguments to our African leaders to defer the pressing demands of the EU countries, led by France, who wish, according to our assessment, to extend as they please commercial practices with the countries of our Continent, but where they are the only ones to benefit.

On another level, Africa was willing to believe for a time in the promises that the Europeans have constantly repeated to us for more than half a century that Europe is an agro-industrial superpower and, consequently, will act as a strong locomotive to pull behind it the agri-food sectors of our African countries. But, to see the exploitation, solely for their profits, that Europeans make of the wealth of our sectors in question, no one believes in these illusions any longer. Then comes the fact that the self-proclaimed standards that the EU has created to shield its advantages around thousands of products that they have grouped under the themes of CDO and/or PDO and/or PGIrespectively Controlled Designation of Origin, Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication — and other self-assigned privileges have ceased to deceive international markets, which are gradually beginning to ignore them. For example, the withdrawal of such protections for Champagne in Russia and Gruyère cheese in the United States.

These elements, and others reported every day in the international press, clearly show that the EU has long since lost the means of its prestige policy, even if its propaganda aimed at Africa on its stature continues as if nothing had happened. The EU as a locomotive is in reality out of breath but still holds because towed by a fiduciary currency, the Euro that, outside of Europe, we are in Africa its main users in the world. Even better, the EU has pegged the CFA Franc to the Euro to allow them to keep much of the African economy and trade under more control.

In this context, the example of Ukraine, country that the media are talking about a lot at the moment, is instructive. Here is a country which has done everything possible to side with the Europeans and which ultimately finds itself facing the risk of being reabsorbed by Russia and returning to the situation of enslavement in which it was at the time of the soviet empire. All because the EU “lacks punch” and has chosen the easy (Phoenician) route of trade and profit (one country out of 27 wants to stand out), to further optimize their trade profits, leaving to other responsability of the credible defense of borders. However, if Ukraine is so coveted by both sides, is because it is, in essence, an agricultural and agri-food power of international stature. The country has a larger arable area than that assumed for  metropolitan France and is therefore one of the main world exporters of cereals. According to a general assessment, Russia does not pay much attention to the European attitude in the current conflict over Ukraine and, if it has not already taken action to annex its neighbor, it is simply because  she is not sure of the degree of harm that the United States can create for Russia in such a scenario.

The case of Morocco is, in our view, comparable to the situation in Ukraine. Our country is also an emerging power in the agricultural and agri-food sector, including the fishing industry sector, and is the focus of many countries around the world. But the network woven around our economy by Europeans for more than century has made us slave to the EU market. The NDM (New Development Model) aims to free us from this enslavement and we are eagerly waiting for this wish to be fulfilled.

In this regard, those responsible for supervising the implementation of the NDM must, as far as we are concerned, remember that our agri-food exports, with a view to diversifying our outlets abroad, will remain weakened as long as Morocco lacks his own expertises. Proof of this is the following example, taken from our archives.

At the beginning of the nineties of the last century, a cargo of condensed milk, arriving in Casablanca, had been blocked by our customs. The milk from Ukraine was actually destined for the English market. But the authorities of that country had turned it back on the grounds that it posed a health risk of nuclear origin (presumed consequence of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster) on the health of the British consumer. The Director of the SGS in Casablanca at the time contacted me for an interview and then provided a copy of the file for a possible expertise with judicial extension. I had then discussed the subject at that time with senior magistrate friend of mine to get his point of view. We discussed it at length (details not reported in this article) after which I declined the offer to do that work. The product was also rejected from the Moroccan market.

But the Casablanca SGS had not appraised the product either. Information taken, it turns out that this organization, and other equivalent structures, which are all of them subsidiaries of European organizations that exercise on the same niche of expertise in Morocco, do not have the legal competence to plead this type of case before our courts. Our law, like those in force elsewhere, reserves this privilege for national experts.

That said, all professionals know that these organizations of European obedience make rain and shine in Morocco on the niche of agri-food expertise. In this regard, the documents they issue are taken into consideration by our supervisory authorities for the sector in question, starting with ONSSA. We can then ask ourselves whether our national authorities in question, whose mission is defined by Moroccan law, obey to some extraterritorial laws each time they have to decide on the validity of a document or another issued by these organizations that have got into the habit of acting like “cowboys” in our country.

This leads us to ask the question if our parliamentarians know how to deal with something other than politician politics?

Incidentally, the title of this article could also have been “Africa at the crossroads”.