In February, King Mohammad VI of Morocco set off on a tour of Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Gabon, his second regional trip in less than five months. He took with him a delegation of advisors and company CEOs, who negotiated a raft of agreements covering everything from training imams in Ivory Coast to agriculture and mining projects.
There is sound economic logic to the way Morocco is pushing to expand its commercial ties in the south and east. As France and Spain struggle to recover from the eurozone crisis, Moroccan companies that have traditionally looked north are seeking new opportunities in the fast-growing economies of West Africa.
“Southern Europe is in the doldrums, so Morocco is looking for new markets and also opportunities for its banking sector,” Michael Willis, a lecturer on Maghreb politics at Oxford University, told Al Jazeera.
Read more about Morocco’s drive to expand its regional influence in my first article for Al Jazeera: