Commenting on Morocco’s bid to join Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Senegalese top economic adviser Mubarak Lo said that it was a matter of time and inevitable.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Lo said that Morocco's joining will upgrade ECOWAS to rank as the sixth economic power worldwide and turn it into a large market with a population of 340 million.
He added that in Monrovia, Liberia, on June 5, the Summit meeting of the 51st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS decided “in principle” to grant Morocco’s application.
“I would like to point out that Morocco's decision to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is decided. The group’s heads of state adopted a preliminary decision at the Liberia Summit last June to approve Morocco’s membership bid. It is unlikely that they will back down on this unanimous decision,” said Lo.
Only minor formalities and the December signing of the convention during the Lomé summit in Togo now stand in the way of Morocco officially becoming a member of ECOWAS.
However, there are those who object to Morocco joining the economic union over geography.
The country belongs to the North African region. More so, the African Union has recommended that member states join and operate within one regional group.
The African Union decided on January 30, 2017 to readmit Morocco following a 33-year absence.
Morocco, which until then enjoyed the status of a sovereign Observer, announced on February 24 that it had applied to join the 15-member ECOWAS.
“West Africa’s geographical stretch extends from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Guinea— in other words, from Morocco to Nigeria,” said Lo.
“The geographic harmony of this region can be seen by simply looking at the map,” explained Lo.
ECOWAS zones are expected to increasingly attract investments after Morocco joins.
Nevertheless, Lo spoke of the obstacles facing the establishment of a single currency for the group and proposed solutions to speed up the initiative.
He said that Morocco could possibly join in on the unified currency initiative especially when the region’s largest country, Nigeria, decides on getting involved. He also discussed prospects for regional economic integration.
When asked about fears of some parties over Morocco's products increasing competition and invading ECOWAS markets, Lo said that admitting Morocco to the group will be by accepting it as it is and with what it has to offer.
As for taking into account the establishment of special procedures and certain conditions for approving Morocco's bid.
“Preconditions are not options,” answered Lo.
“Because this (granting membership without inhibiting preconditions) is the tradition that the group has upheld since inception,” explained Lo.
“It is obvious that when a new member joins, there will be challenges on the one hand and privileges on the other,” he added.
“It is unreasonable to accept concessions only and reject challenges.”
“What is needed is a strategy to manage the transitional phase and find appropriate solutions addressing challenges entailed by the process of integration,” said Lo.