The Spain-Morocco Forum in Dakhla: the participants highlight the stability and security of the region, as well as its economic potential

They also praised the good relations between Spain and Morocco, which are fundamental for trade cooperation

ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ  -   The Spain-Morocco Forum in Dakhla

The Spain-Morocco Forum in Dakhla has been a key event for several public figures and representatives of various organisations and private companies to share the great opportunities offered by the southern provinces of Morocco and to deepen the economic relations between two neighbouring countries and allies such as Spain and Morocco.

Atalayar was able to talk to some of those attending the event held in Dakhla.

Rachad Andaloussi: "In the region, peace, stability, access to businessmen and authorities and development opportunities are magnificent"

Rachad Andaloussi, a Valencian businessman, gave an interview to Atalayar during the Spain-Morocco Forum, in which he highlighted the stability and security of the region, as well as its business opportunities.

What is the significance of the Spain-Morocco Investment Forum in Dakhla?

We are very happy to participate in the forum and also with the participation of so many Spanish businessmen, who could all come to Dakhla, these days are an opportunity to create direct links. Unfortunately, Spain has arrived with some delay because in the region there is a presence of companies from all over the world, there are consulates, so it is an opportunity for growth for the Spanish, Morocco and the region. 

ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Rachad Andaloussi, a Valencian businessman

We can say that the plug has been pulled, that the Spanish government's decision to back the Moroccan proposal on the Sahara brings businessmen closer, as they see that politically there will be no impediments.

It is a psychological blockage because Spanish businessmen have always been interested in this area, there is an agri-food industry, agriculture, fishing, etc., which has been developed by Spanish companies.  The latest decision of the Spanish government has been noticed in terms of the calmness and eagerness with which Spanish investors are coming. Moreover, as you can see the region is a peaceful, quiet area with great potential, all these ingredients ensure that business success can be achieved. For my part, I am very happy to have attended this event which has helped me to make contact with many businessmen from Spain with whom I am convinced that we will be able to be in contact and return here with firm decisions. I would like to congratulate the organisation for the work done, as you have been able to see in the region the peace, the stability, the access to businessmen and authorities and the opportunities for development are magnificent.

The development of possible businesses in the area favours the Saharawis, not only those living in Dakhla but also those in Tindouf, where the main objective would be family reunification.

Obviously, so much appreciation for the Sahrawi population, so much nostalgia for the Sahara, we are faced with the opportunity to demonstrate Spain's sentimental relationship with the Sahara. The Sahara does not need banners, press statements, conflicts, etc. It needs work, to create wealth and to stop the possible problems of the Sahel, we are kilometres away from a very conflictive area. This area must focus on progress and prosperity and I insist that all the ingredients are present. What is happening now in terms of infrastructure and development 30 years ago, when Spain abandoned the Sahara, there was nothing like that, now there are airports, a new port is being built and infrastructure of great value for the region. In addition, it is a very interesting international tourist spot, also for the countries in the area. Our health, financial and hotel infrastructure bodes well for the future of Dakhla.

Dakhla is also of great geostrategic importance, the new port will be of enormous importance.

One of the things that is striking is the intelligence in the steps that have been taken in Dakhla, despite being a small city, it has so much infrastructure and projection that obviously local resources cannot finance it at this level. I see a great desire to invest not only in concrete projects, but also in human resources, as incomes here are up to three times higher than in other regions of Morocco. The Saharawis have stable jobs and are happy to be able to offer a more prosperous future to their children. Honestly, I am enjoying the wonders of the region very much these days and I would love to come back next year, although the way the forum is developing, I will probably come back sooner if we finalise some projects.

Mohamed Chaib: "It is worth continuing along this path of great friendship between Spain and Morocco"

Mohamed Chaib, a former member of the Catalan parliament, spoke to Atalayar about the Spain-Morocco Forum in Dakhla and praised the ties between Madrid and Rabat.

What is your assessment of this forum and what does it represent?

First of all, I would like to thank Atalayar for the opportunity to conduct this interview. Secondly, I would like to say that we are here today representing the company Consa Corporación, which is fully dedicated to the development of infrastructures, whether they be rail infrastructure, airports, ports, etc... In fact, we are currently working in Dakhla at its airport. I have just met the president of Dakhla and he congratulated me on the work we are doing and asked me to pass on his thanks to our workers, who he assured us are true professionals. All this means that the large number of companies that are present in Dakhla are receiving the message that we are trying to convey of latent opportunities in the region. Following the Spanish government's announcement of its decision to support Morocco's proposal for broad autonomy over the Sahara, businessmen are losing their fear of investing in Morocco because there is a political security that we did not have before. The possibility of holding this type of forum, in a city like Dakhla, is proof that there are opportunities for development and needs to be met, which is why more than 150 Spanish companies have signed up here over the last few days. 

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ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Mohamed Chaib, a former member of the Catalan parliament

What are the attractions that this region offers Spanish companies?

Everyone knows that 90% of the people and institutions in Dakhla speak perfect Spanish, which is very helpful for Spanish companies. Now we are seeing how Dakhla is developing enormously in recent years, King Mohammed VI has given a very big boost to the southern provinces and it has been a total success and it is something palpable not only in Dakhla but also in Laayoune and all the regions of the Sahara. Spanish businessmen should take advantage of this moment of momentum, economic development, the potential of the region and opportunities that the area offers in renewable energy, logistics, fisheries, industry, agriculture, etc... It is worthwhile that we continue along this path of great friendship between Spain and Morocco, that by working together we can help the development of our southern neighbour and today especially in Dakhla.

In the Canary Islands there are those who think that the development of Dakhla implies direct competition, we must work towards the opposite, we can perfectly well be complementary.

Frankly, to think that Morocco's development will be Spain's responsibility is to ignore the fact that Spain's development is enormous and has been going on for many years through different channels and in many aspects. We must bear in mind that it is not only economic development, but also social, educational and administrative development, etc. ... in all these areas Spain can help Dakhla and the Canary Islands a great deal. While I was chatting with the president of Dakhla, the representative of a company for the digitalisation of public administrations approached him, and the president was fascinated by this, and I believe that this is what we have to do, to come here to contribute and to add. In fact, the port of Tangiers is used by a lot of Spaniards and it does not have to be a competition, Morocco in all these aspects is still many years away from being a competition for Spain. Look, I am a pharmacist and the consumption of medicines in Spain is €300 per person per year, but in Morocco it is €30, which means that there is still a long way to go and we must help Morocco.

Development can bring about the regrouping of the Saharawis and put an end to the conflict in the Sahara, reunite families after so many years, and enable the Saharawis to have access to decent housing, health care, a job, etc...

After 47 years of conflict, I think the time has come to stop telling the Saharawis in Tindouf that international solidarity is the best there is. If there really are Spanish people and institutions that love and want the best for the Saharawis, the best thing to do is to support them so that they can get out of the conflict. How this is done, explaining that there is an option, which is the one offered by Morocco and that it is a broad autonomy, I have honestly read the text and it is tremendously advanced in some aspects, much more advanced even than in Catalonia. Therefore, those who say that Morocco wants to take advantage of their resources are deluded and need to read the text, which clearly explains that we must support the Saharawis so that they can have their own autonomy and manage their resources within national sovereignty. With this Moroccan initiative, the Saharawis will have their own parliament, will manage their own resources and will be able to move their land forward, we are talking about three generations of Saharawis who have lived on international solidarity, how much longer can this situation go on like this? We must help them to put an end to this so that all those who are in Tindouf can have a better future, so that they can enter Morocco, as we are seeing in this forum. There are many, many men in great positions in the Sahara who have come out of Tindouf and have prepared themselves to be able to do so.

The Polisario Front can no longer claim to be representative of the Saharawi people because it does not have it... 

Indeed, it cannot because it does not have it, it is a lie that they are the only representatives of the Saharawi people, not even in Tindouf. 

ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Mohamed Chaib, a former member of the Catalan parliament

Could it be proposed at the Geneva talks in the United Nations to be able to extend the representation of the Saharawi people not only to the Polisario Front but also to tribal leaders or the Movement Saharawi for Peace?

I think so, what happens is that there are other countries and other factors involved here, apart from the Saharawis, who are the ones who have to speak. I think it is more feasible for the Saharawis to come to an agreement on this whole issue than for Algeria, for example, to continue to think that the Arab Maghreb union will not go ahead. Ten years ago I thought that the union of the Arab Maghreb would be possible, imagine how positive the union of the Arab Maghreb would be in the current international context. Honestly, Algeria is at loggerheads with Morocco over the Sahara issue and questions of leadership, and if we are talking about a union of the Arab Maghreb, leadership belongs to no one because it would be everyone's business.

When Algeria gets angry with Spain, it recognises itself as a party involved in the conflict...

That's right, we are talking about something that is the first time this has happened. It's a pity that when the Sahara was distributed Algeria was left with four parts, the Algerian desert in the Sahara is enormous, and why this insistence on a much smaller space than the one it houses, because it is the strategic exit to the Atlantic for Algeria and for Russia. That it is better to throw our heads in the sand and carry on as before, with the president of Algeria talking rubbish about King Mohammed VI. I do not think that this is the best way forward. Algeria should reflect on this matter because it cannot be eternally angry with Morocco, nor should its citizens suffer the consequences of its anger. Moreover, this is not good for its relationship with the European Union, nor is it good for the Arab Maghreb Union we were talking about earlier. It would therefore be very interesting for Algeria to play a leading role in the Arab Maghreb Union, but not at the expense of Morocco. If there is enough leadership for all and the sum of all can constitute a more than interesting Arab Maghreb with a very important development for the citizens of any of the countries.

Finally, what would you say to the other Spanish investors who have yet to discover Dakhla...

Today's meeting is a first phase in the weaving of excellent economic relations between Spain and Morocco, more specifically in the Dakhla region. I repeat that I see that Spanish businessmen, politically, have lost their fear, and that is a great thing. They should come and see all the economic development that Morocco has carried out in this region, and they should have no doubt that they will be protected. They will come here and they will have no problems in terms of security, legal security or really any other kind of problem. So I encourage you to discover the Dakhla region and to see first-hand the potential of the region.