The Maghreb refuses to share

Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have a common culture and cuisine, an oversupply of educated young people, and an undersupply of capital investment. Together, they would prosper, but their governments don’t see it that way

by Francis Ghiles

Anyone visiting the eastern Moroccan city of Oujda encounters a bizarre sight: the nearby crossing point into Algeria, which should be bustling, is oddly calm, with only a few policemen wandering around and construction works blocking the road. The silence of the closed border reflects the generation-long enmity between Rabat and Algiers.
The failure of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) to create a common market has cost the region dearly in energy, banking, transport, agribusiness, education, culture and tourism. Trade between North African countries is only 1.3% of their foreign exchange, the lowest rate for a region in the world. Two conferences on “The cost to the North African Tiger of the lack of economic integration” (1) and a report by the Peterson Institute (2) have demonstrated the benefits that open borders would have for people there. Most North African business leaders say they would like nothing more than to be able to operate freely across frontiers. Both rich and poor suffer from the inability of the region’s political leaders to work together. The Maghreb showed little enthusiasm for the Barcelona Process (3), and it is doubtful it will be any more proactive with its successor, the Union for the Mediterranean (4)…read more


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