Long-time tension between Morocco and Algeria obstructed regional cooperation between North African countries. Had the 1989 regional integration ambitions materialized,  the two countries’ economies would have been way better than now.

Morocco and Algeria could have been among the Arab world’s largest economies if they had honoured their agreement to form an economic union in 1989, along with three other North African countries, said the Economist.

The British magazine looked at how differently things would have been had the Maghreb Arab Union, survived the upheavals that struck the region and the crises that made relations between Rabat and Algiers almost forever strained.

The union was founded in 1989 in Marrakech by the leaders of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.

“Their [Morocco and Algeria] poor border regions would be booming crossroads. Over the decade to 2015, reckons the World Bank, their two economies would each have almost have doubled in size,” wrote the magazine in an article published in its online edition on Thursday.

Back in 1989, the decades long-tense relationship saw a significant improvement. As a result, “both countries removed visa controls as part of a new Maghreb Arab Union.”

“Trade moved freely. Algerians went west on holiday,” wrote the magazine. And even the thorny issue of Western Sahara, still the primary source of contention between the two countries, was “parked” at the time, allowing for more cooperation between them.

The terrorist attack in Marrakech in 1994, however, during the Algerian civil war, set the clock back on relations to the tense period prior to 1989. The Algerian was blamed by Morocco for the attack. Borders were closed and the two states have been erecting barriers instead of building bridges ever since.

As a result, both countries missed and are still missing the opportunity to boost their economies. “Algeria grew only by 33% and Morocco by 37%,” said the Economist.

Along the closed borders, “Frustrated families shout greetings across the divide.”
The magazine added that, both states “have built hundreds of kilometers of east-west highways which stop short of their common border.”

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