Nations, simply put are the creation of our collective imagination, as expressed by Yuval Noah Harari in his best seller “Sapiens”. I have of late been envisaging something greater than the current status quo that the people of Maghreb have settled with.
As an alternative to the current five struggling countries, we have today, we amalgamate them to form one unified country with advanced potential. The new-fangled country, The Great Maghreb, would include Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and the Western Sahara- which at present is a disputed territory between Morocco and the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria.
The Great Maghreb would extend over a vast territory of 6M KM – 30% more territory than the 28 combined EU states, thus becoming the 6th largest country in the world. The combined population of the Maghreb Countries is around 98 million inhabitants which is approximately 1% of the world population.
The Maghreb countries are generally dominated by the spread of corruption and inefficient institutions, the lack of competitive development and open economies which is majorly hindering the countries. Missed opportunities and impeded sustainable growth prolongs the fragility within the countries and social unrest and revived protests against existing Governments for change will persist.
Whilst Covid – 19 has curbed call for change and protests, the collective challenges, such as the scale of youth unemployment, a shared craving for economic development still prevalent. The people are anxiously ready to maximise their potential, but governments do not have answers. The Moroccan King appointed a committee to come up with a new development model after the failure of all past policies; Algeria had a president that was in coma for most of his mandate until protests stopped him running for a fifth mandate. Tunisia is still struggling to maintain its democratic transition under harsh economic conditions.
The Great Maghreb would possess one of the biggest reserves of gas and petrol and spearhead some of the largest projects of renewable energy via wide solar and wind. Libya, Mauritania and Western Sahara would present fresh sites for diverse reconstruction and investments projects – boosting the economy exponentially for the new country as well as generating jobs for the youth.
Algeria and Morocco’s established military and security apparatus were built for hostilities against each other, as well as combating terrorism and opponents. Magnifying their military and security capabilities, will provide loftier stability in this territory, especially Libya. Economic development and security would also permeate to neighbours in Sub Saharan African, Egypt and Europe.
The Maghreb countries share a customary historical and cultural heritage. The region has been the core of a melting pot of original Berber culture with Arab African and European cultures. The derivation of people in the Maghreb countries is a blend of Berber ancestral origin, Arabs, Sahraouian origin and the indigenous Spaniards (Moors).
Whilst the suggestion of unifying has not widely explored in the Maghreb, integration has remained a popular notion within the region. In 1989, the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was founded by the five countries of the region to expand cooperation and integration of countries in the region. The AMU has been dormant since 1994 mainly due to the hostile relationship between Morocco and Algeria because of the Western Sahara dispute. An economic integration would add 5% to the GDP of each of the 5 Maghreb counties. Currently, intraregional trade in the AMU does not exceed 3% of the region’s total trade, which is the lowest rate worldwide. Intraregional trade accounts for 60 % of the trade within the European Union, 22 % within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Presently, the practical integration via the AMU is unfeasible with the unceasing conflict of the Western Sahara. This dispute could undoubtedly escalate into a war as proved by recent frictions between Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario Front. Resolving this conflict is mandatory for any possible cooperation between Morocco and Algeria to take place.
The new country absorbing the nations offers a resolution and also concept of a new country- providing a platform for additional resolutions. The Great Maghreb could commence as a confederation and grow to be a federation within 5-10 years. Steered by a Chancellor regulating a central government, to attenuate the impact of bad governance from devolved nations. Gradually, further power could be transferred from the devolved nations to the central government until an achievement of efficient balance of power is attained.
Integration is a vastly popular notion amongst people in the region and a referendum within every nation could support the belief of an ultimate political union. Fortunately, the relationship of the people between the different countries is by and large warm – noticeably during highly charged football games, where chants of brotherhood swell amongst the Moroccan and Algerian fans.
The Maghreb diaspora throughout Europe have cultivated a warm bond between the communities and would be welcomed far and wide. Mobilising cross country support for the new country would be presented as the alternative to the current regional order. 60 plus years after independence, the five countries have reached a crippling deadlock. The Great Maghreb could unleash aspirations of the people within the region, which would have unquestionable advantages on its neighbours, from all sides.