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25 Dec, 2023 10:03

Sahel states seek access to the sea

Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad have welcomed a Moroccan initiative to allow landlocked countries to leverage maritime trade
Sahel states seek access to the sea

The Foreign Ministers of Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad backed an initiative on Saturday launched by Moroccan King Mohammed VI, aimed at enhancing the four landlocked African nations’ access to the Atlantic Ocean and boosting their development.

Mohammed proposed the Atlantic Coast Initiative last month, expressing his desire to rehabilitate his country’s coastline and re-engineer the African geopolitical space. The Moroccan-led project includes the four former French colonies in the Sahel, which lack territorial access to the sea and face isolation from global markets and high transit costs.

The king said he was willing to make road, port, and rail infrastructure available to “these sister countries.” The success of the initiative, however, is dependent on upgrading infrastructure in the Sahel and connecting it to existing transport and communication networks in the region, he added.

According to a joint statement published by Morocco’s state news agency, MAP News, the foreign ministers of Morocco, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Chad met in Marrakech on Saturday and hailed the project as critical to fostering stability in the Sahel region.

They also decided to finalize their recommendations to be submitted to the leaders of the countries involved “at the earliest,” according to the statement.

Niger lends its full support to this commendable initiative that reinforces our convictions and the hope of our populations for the well-being to which they legitimately aspire,” Nigerien Foreign Minister Bakary Yaou Sangare was quoted as saying by Morocco World News.

Sangare said his country hoped the initiative would provide tangible benefits, including the commercialization of Niger’s resources and accelerated cross-border trade for the mutual “prosperity of Morocco and the Sahel countries.”

The military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have been building regional ties in recent months in an effort to review partnerships with Western allies, including France, which they accuse of aggression and meddling.

The three West African nations signed a charter in September to form the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) after the withdrawal of French troops from their respective countries, pledging to defend one another against internal and external aggression. The move effectively dissolved the Paris-backed G5 Sahel alliance, which was formed in 2014 with Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, and Chad as members.

Meanwhile, Russia has taken steps to strengthen ties in the area, signing agreements with members of the new Sahel Alliance in a variety of fields, including defense, renewable energy, and medicine.

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