Morocco has proposed the creation of an Economic Forum of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) as a platform for cooperation between operators in the region, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said on Tuesday.
“Morocco proposes the creation of an Economic Forum of CEN-SAD countries, which would complement the architecture of our organization in terms of development, and would serve as a platform for exchange and cooperation between economic operators in our space,” said Bourita at the preparatory meeting for the 21st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of CEN-SAD.
In line with this vision, Morocco “has worked for the co-construction of partnerships promoting prosperity and shared stability with its Sahelian brothers,” said the Minister, drawing on the royal speech in which the Sovereign stressed that “Morocco believes in co-development based on intra-African cooperation and economic complementarity, on active solidarity and the pooling of resources and efforts.”
The CEN-SAD is a real miniature of Africa - in its richness, diversity and challenges, the Minister noted that this continent has a significant potential to assert itself as a dynamic region, full of complementarity, producing added value and able to share the socio-economic challenges of its members.
But despite its potential, CEN-SAD is struggling to reach its cruising speed, and to be the catalyst of stability and shared prosperity to which its people aspire, said Bourita, arguing that the region continues to perform below its capacity in several areas of the UN Agenda 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063.
“That is why our efforts must tend to make our community emerge as a melting pot of our collective efforts, by advancing our grouping towards a real regional integration,” insisted Bourita, maintaining that the action of CEN-SAD should, in the coming years, tend to the establishment of various institutional structures provided for by the revised treaty of CEN-SAD, including the Permanent Council in charge of Sustainable Development.
It should also aim to develop a strategy dedicated to human development in the Sahel-Saharan region and programs aimed at integrating young people and operationalizing the CEN-SAD Security and Development Strategy (2015-2050).
According to the Moroccan Minister, the end of the pandemic crisis and the changes in the regional, continental and global contexts “call on us to maintain constant support for our organization” and also to optimize the role it can play.
This requires, he said, four prerequisites, namely the restoration of a normal pace of work in the governing bodies of CEN-SAD because its role as a lever for regional development depends on its internal dynamism and its ability to respond to the challenges of the region, alongside ECOWAS, the Economic Community of Central African States, and the G5-Sahel.
The second prerequisite is to complete and operationalize the architecture of the Organization, by setting up the new bodies provided for in the Revised Treaty, in particular the Committee of Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives, the Permanent Council for Sustainable Development, the Permanent Council for Peace and Security, as well as the Center for Combating Terrorism - whose work must be revived.
In this sense, Bourita proposed the establishment of a coordination group of CEN-SAD countries that are members of the African Union’s PSC, noting that this mechanism would be very useful for coordinating the monitoring and defense of the priorities dear to CEN-SAD in terms of peace and security.
The third prerequisite is to strengthen the capacity of the Executive Secretariat, the Minister noted.
“We can only congratulate the members of the Secretariat, who do so much with so few resources,” he said, adding that it was necessary to provide reinforcements in terms of competent human resources, expertise and means, “if we want a Secretariat able to deploy the full extent of its efficiency.”
He called, in this regard, to rethink the policy of the Sahel-Saharan Bank for Investment and Trade, noting that this strategic institution, must accompany the efforts of the Community in the areas of Development and its relationship with potential investors in this area.
Furthermore, Bourita deplored the fact that the security issue is raised every time we talk about the Sahel, stressing that “the fact is that in the space of a decade, our region has become not only a place of return and redeployment of foreign fighters, but also a space producing terrorist groups.”
The Sahel remains, unfortunately, the 2nd most affected by terrorism in the world, said the Minister, arguing that stop on the challenges to peace and security, “our Sahel-Saharan space is, therefore, not a figure of speech, but a fundamental concern.”
In this context, he called on the CEN-SAD more than ever, to accelerate the operationalization of its Peace and Security Council, noting that it also gains by transforming its Security Services Forum into an Intelligence Committee in the service of peace and security, and to establish a Sahelo-Saharan countries' General Staff to fight more effectively against terrorism and drug trafficking.
“The strengthening of the capacities of the States of our region, therefore, emerges as a structural necessity,” he insisted, recalling, in this regard, that the Office of the United Nations Program for Counter-Terrorism, inaugurated in Morocco in June 2021, could provide a certain support.
“Morocco will work in close coordination with the CEN-SAD Center for the fight against terrorism. But already, we could put in place a judicial cooperation between the States of the CEN-SAD area, as a first coordination action, immediate and zero cost,” said Bourita.