“What to dream about next?”, an expression that is mainly linked to sleep, is a metaphorical exploration of the future. It’s about envisioning the next steps, the next goals, and the next victories. In the context of Morocco and Algeria relations, this question takes on a different dimension.
Algeria has a long history of rivalry and competition with Morocco, spanning various domains such as politics, economy, sports, and culture. Recently, it seems that Morocco has been gaining the upper hand in these battles, leaving Algeria to ponder, “Where to dream next?”
In politics, the diplomatic balance is constantly shifting. Economically, Morocco’s trade and commerce is visible on the global level. In the realm of sports, victories are celebrated in Morocco and not in Algeria. And culturally, the Moroccan culture, as an ancient nation grounded in history, continues to weave stories of identity and heritage.
As Algeria loses the chances to compete with the Moroccan overwhelming ascendance over these domains, the question remains: “Where to dream next?” So, let’s embark on this exploration and discovery, delving into the intricacies of these battles and understanding what it means for Algeria. Let’s ponder on what is left for Algeria to dream about next.
Indeed, the political landscape surrounding the Moroccan Sahara has been a complex one. For over 50 years, the Algerian leadership has advocated for secession in the Moroccan Sahara, with the aim of dividing the country and establishing a puppet state in the Sahara region. They have supported a guerrilla group known as the Polisario, which they hoped would be pro-Algerian.
However, this political dream of reaching the Atlantic Ocean through the creation of a pro-Algerian entity in the Moroccan Sahara has not come to fruition. Instead, Morocco’s proposed solution of an autonomy plan, launched in 2007, has gained international interest and support. This plan proposes some administrative, legislative, and judicial powers to be transferred to residents, who would run their affairs democratically.
Furthermore, the sovereignty of Morocco over the Sahara has been recognized by several countries, including United States of America and Israel.
In addition, more than 30 countries have opened consulates in the cities of Laayoune and Dakhla. These developments indicate a shift in the international stance towards the issue, favoring Morocco’s autonomy plan and sovereignty over the Sahara region.
In politics, Algeria’s long-standing dream for secession in the Moroccan Sahara has not come to fruition, with Morocco’s proposed autonomy plan gaining international interest and support.
In the realm of the economy, Algeria has made attempts to rival and counter Morocco on a global scale. One such instance is in the car industry. During the reign of President Bouteflika, the Algerian government established car assembly companies in an attempt to counter the Moroccan project of Renault Nissan and Dacia.
However, despite Algeria manufacturing cars, the high cost of imported car parts means prices continue to exceed those in Europe. As Algeria’s car industry struggled, Morocco continued to grow its sector.
In fact, Morocco has emerged as a car industry hub, with several multinational vehicle manufacturers setting up production plants in the country. In the car industry, Algeria had planned to compete with Morocco’s flourishing car industry. However, these plans were disrupted following the outbreak of the Hirak in 2019. While Morocco’s car industry continues to grow and gain ground, the car assembly companies in Algeria faced difficulties.
Furthermore, Algeria launched a campaign led by the foreign minister, Abdelkader Msahel, against the Moroccan air company, Royal Air Maroc.
The aim was to denigrate the company and devalue it globally by alleging that it transports substances other than clients, referring to drugs. However, it’s important to note that these allegations are serious and should be substantiated with evidence.
In reality, it has been reported that members of Air Algerie, the Algerian company, were caught many times transporting illegal goods and illicit drugs. In reality, Royal Air Maroc, the Moroccan air company, has a strong presence in Africa, with more than 20 lines to and from major African cities and capitals. This has made it difficult for Air Algerie, the Algerian air company, to compete at the same level.
Algeria has indeed made efforts to counter Moroccan investments, particularly in Africa. This includes opening new maritime links with Mauritania, establishing bank agencies in Senegal, and attempting to open roads with neighboring countries for goods export.
However, these initiatives have faced challenges and have not fully achieved their intended goals. The maritime line from Oran, Algeria to Mauritania was indeed opened, but its effectiveness and impact are yet to be fully realized. In the banking sector, while there have been plans to open Algerian banks in African capitals, these have not been fully implemented. The challenges faced by the Algerian system at home could be a factor in this.
The rivalry between Algeria and Morocco extends into the domain of sports, particularly football. Over the years, Algeria has made several attempts to compete with Morocco on the football field, but these efforts have not always been successful.
To start with, one notable instance was when Morocco withdrew from the African Nations Championship held in Algeria due to a ban on Moroccan aircraft flying over Algeria. This incident highlighted the intertwining of political and sporting events by Algeria which is banned by FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) regulations.
Moreover, Algeria’s attempts to host major football tournaments have been met with challenges. For example, the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) has yet to be assigned an organizing country, and while Algeria and Morocco are the primary contenders, Algeria’s ongoing political instrumentation of the event has complicated the debates over the credibility of the CAF which Algeria accuses of siding with Morocco without tangible evidence.
In contrast, Morocco has made significant improvements in its football infrastructure. It regularly hosts matches between African clubs and national teams that don’t have stadiums that comply with the requirements set by CAF. This has positioned Morocco as a leading country in terms of football infrastructure in Africa.
In addition, the late decision of the CAF to award Morocco the honor of organizing the 2025 championship has been a source of contention. Algeria, feeling that it would be humiliated by this decision, decided to withdraw from the competition, alleging that Morocco had used illegal means to manipulate the executive committee of the CAF. Algerian politicians and media outlets launched a media campaign against Morocco to denigrate the country’s efforts to organize the event.
However, it’s important to note that hosting such a large-scale event requires meeting certain standards and requirements set by FIFA and CAF. These transcend football stadiums to include other infrastructures like airports, hotels, highways, rapid trains, a flexible monetary system, and high internet connectivity among others. Unfortunately, Algeria’s infrastructure did not meet these requirements, which led to the collapse of its dream to organize the CAF 2025 tournament.
The cultural rivalry initiated by Algeria has been a contentious issue, with Algeria often accused of appropriating elements of Moroccan intangible heritage. This includes historical figures like Tarik Ibn Ziyad, equestrian performances (Tbourida), dishes and culinary plates (Couscous and Tajine), music and folklore (Gnawa and Malhoun), dress (Kaftan), and architecture (Zellij: a style of mosaic tilework made from individually hand-chiselled tile pieces).
For instance, Algeria’s controversial new training shirt for football sparked tensions with Morocco, as the kingdom claimed it was appropriating Morocco’s “cultural heritage” as it drew on the Zellige, a traditional style of mosaic tilework common throughout the Maghreb region.
Moreover, Algeria has been accused of attempting to claim the Moroccan Caftan, a traditional Moroccan dress, as part of its cultural heritage. This move was met with backlash from Moroccans, many of whom took to social media to denounce the Algerian regime’s continuous, hostile appropriation of Moroccan culture and history.
To stop controversies over Moroccan intangible heritage, Tbourida is Inscribed in 2021 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It is recognized as a Moroccan equestrian display that traces its origins back to the 16th century.
It recreates a series of military parades, reconstructed in accordance with traditional Arab-Amazigh customs and rituals. Similarly, Algerian officials have tried to appropriate the Argan tree (Argania spinosa) and making of it an Algerian product. To stop this systematic appropriation of cultural heritage, the UN decides to make every 10th of May an international day of Argan tree which the UN defines the plant as “a native species of the sub-Saharan region of Morocco, in the southwest of the country, which grows in arid and semiarid areas”.
In conclusion, Algeria’s rivalry with Morocco spans various fronts, including politics, economy, culture, and sports. Each of these domains has seen a series of attempts by Algeria to counter Morocco, but these efforts (dreams) have often faced challenges and have not always achieved their intended goals.
Engaging in open and constructive dialogue with Moroccan counterparts to address contentious issues and explore areas of potential cooperation is crucial. This promotes dialogue and cooperation, which is essential in all domains, including politics, economy, culture, and sports. Fair competition should be encouraged in the economic domain, upholding the highest standards of integrity and transparency in economic practices. Prioritizing investment in key sectors such as the car industry and banking sector can help in this regard.
Investment should also be made in key infrastructures such as airports, hotels, highways, rapid trains, a flexible monetary system, and high internet connectivity to meet international standards for hosting large-scale events. This is particularly important in the sports domain, where fair competition and the highest standards of sportsmanship should be upheld.
Furthermore, acknowledging and respecting the cultural heritage of Morocco and refraining from appropriating elements of Moroccan intangible heritage is vital. This respect for cultural heritage should extend across all domains, promoting a sense of mutual understanding and respect.
Source : MoroccoWorldNews