© REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Morocco’s relations with sub‐Saharan Africa, and particularly with West Africa, have undergone a qualitative change under King Mohamed VI since the death of his father, King Hassan II, in 1999. While under King Hassan II Morocco’s foreign policy, and thus also its Africa policy, was overshadowed by its "West Sahara policy" – the securing of Morocco’s claim to the Southern Provinces, occupied by Morocco in 1976 and previously administered by Spain – King Mohamed VI has updated and diversified Morocco’s foreign policy strategy, partly as a result of global developments. The still‐important West Sahara "dossier" now includes other elements: the strengthening of South–South cooperation and the provision of support for development in the sub‐Saharan states with a view to hindering illegal migration to Morocco; the opening up of new export markets for growing Moroccan companies; the positioning of Morocco as a “gateway” to Africa, particularly for Chinese, Indian, and Russian firms; the strengthening of Morocco’s security engagement in the Sahel Region, which has been destabilised by transnational terrorism; and the accompanying intensification of the mission to disseminate a moderate Islamist discourse. In contrast to the era of King Hassan II, the foreign policy strategy followed since 1999 has manifested in significantly increased activity in all the classical areas of foreign policy (diplomacy/travel, military/security, economic agreements/trade volume, cultural/religious activities). As a result, Morocco’s image in the sub‐Saharan states has undergone a lasting improvement under King Mohamed VI.