I was recently in Essaouira, a breathtaking town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. In my time in the city, I was confronted with overwhelming empathy around the World Cup defeat of all remaining African countries. Over dinner, the Governor of the province shared that while he loved the Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, he and his entire family and everyone he knew had been cheering for Nigeria. I engaged in similar conversations with other Moroccans sympathising with me both for Nigeria and what they often cited as the ‘political’ loss of Senegal.
‘We are all Africa’ was the message I heard in words and in the bright-eyed greetings of merchants in the colourful souks, suit-clad men in the conference halls and smiling women in cooperatives displaying veils of Argan oil.
In many ways, I was no stranger to the eagerness of Moroccans to reconnect with the severed limb of their African heritage. I had lived this passion working with youth across Morocco fostering social impact. From Rabat to Casablanca, to Marrakech, their desire to be seen, not as separate, as Arab, or ‘the other’, was apparent in so many conversations. They wanted to be seen as they see themselves, as Africans.
This fervour has been greatly rekindled by that of the King himself. King Mohammed VI has engaged in a focused reunification of his country with the rest of the continent. In addition to a whirlwind tour of tens of African countries, King Mohammed VI’s politics has led to the readmission of Morocco into the African Union after a 33-year hiatus. He is currently negotiating the country’s entrance into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). “Africa is My Continent and My Home”, the King has been heard saying, buttressing his words with actions that signal the firm commitment of the continent’s 5th largest economy.
The impact on the citizens is remarkable. The French language has a word for this, volonté politique, whereby the will of the leadership has given its citizens permission to dream the same dream. As a Moroccan friend described it, “When the king trusted Africa, Moroccans started to do the same”.
Morocco’s return to the fold is a step closer to fulfilling the Pan-African vision of a unified Africa. An ideology that asserts that the fate and destiny of all African peoples and countries are intertwined. The vision of a unified Africa is captured by the humanist African concept of Ubuntu — 'I am because you are. You are because we are’ — upholding and celebrating our shared humanity.
The realization of the Pan-African objective would lead to an economic, psychological and social power consolidation in Africa. Morocco is no stranger to consolidation. In 788-91 AD Idris I of Morocco unified much of modern-day Morocco under the Idrisid dynasty. His agenda was driven by a strong belief in ‘strength that is born from unity’. A concept that nature reveals abundantly to hold true, as no single unit flourishes in disunity with its ecosystem.
Most Africans will agree with you that they too dream of a united Africa, a dream almost 60 years in the making. From my experience, some have a unique gift to make a dream come true. Morocco has that gift. In addition to its long track-record of unification, in just a few years, Morocco has shown the force of its political will, consolidating and expanding its power in the continent, not for its own personal gain alone, as they are careful to cite, but for the betterment of the entire continent.
Essaouira offered a glimpse into actions speaking louder than words as regards Morocco’s commitment to unity. With a population of about 100,000 inhabitants, Essaouira, formerly Mogador, is a small city-town that has boasts Muslims, Christians, and Jews, in addition to a colourful history of cultures and peoples, all living together in harmony. Essaouira is not alone. By virtue of its history, Morocco sits on the crossroads of many religions, cultures and civilizations. Through the centuries the country has become a true melting pot of people of various races and ethnic groups, of life, and of beliefs.
Neither is Morocco alone is offering an example of how various people can live with each other in harmony, I have seen this in Mauritius, in Madagascar, and in the coastal towns of Kenya. What is compelling in the Moroccan example is the might of the country, its focused will for African unity, and its long history of success in being a force for just this.
In the words of late King Hassan II in describing the various influences present in the country, he referred to Morocco as a tree that has its roots in Africa, its trunk in the Arab-Muslim world and its branches in Europe.
Morocco’s African roots and global perspective with a history of uniting fragmented pieces offers Africa a blueprint and fuel for achieving the Pan-African dream.
“I am part of the whole, all of which is governed by nature...I am intimately related to all the parts, which are of the same kind as myself...I am connected to the whole.” The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius