Morocco has repeatedly called on the Algerian authorities to reopen the border. Algiers however links such an evolution to a comprehensive agreement including the resolution of the Western Sahara Issue. Clearly, archaic ideologies are not easy to remove. As a result, it looks like the path to the Maghreb Arab Union (UMA) is far from being achievable. The status quo is more than a waste of opportunities; it nurtures the emergence of new trends in drug trafficking and terrorist activity.
Despite the economic potential of Morocco and Algeria, the benefits of a free exchange fell short of expectations. Opportunities for trade and investment have been annihilated by the closure of the border. The two countries account for more than 65 million inhabitants, a promising market both for Moroccan and Algerian companies. That was the objective of the Maghreb Arab Union (UMA). Created on February 17, 1989, the UMA also includes Mauritania, Tunisia and Libya. More than just a political union, one of the goals of the UMA was the achievement of free movement of goods and persons as well as the harmonization of customs regulations to create a zone of free trade.
What is more, the closed border is a handicap for the fight against drug trafficking. While Morocco is portrayed as being the main provider of the Algerian transitory market in soft drugs, an issue that is ignored too often by the media and experts has to do with psychotropic pills flooding the Moroccan school market. Bought about 5 dirhams in Algeria (0.5 $ dollars), a tablet is sold three times its value in Morocco. High schools and colleges are the preferred targets of dealers: traffickers recruit students to sell the drug in schoolyards and classrooms. In Casablanca, schools Okbâa Bnou Nafii, Walada, Moulay Abdellah El Mostapha Maani are all examples of educational institutions affected by this scourge.
Morocco is no transitory market; it is a country of destination for psychotropic trafficking. On august 7, 2011, the National Union of Algerian pharmacists (SNAPO) called on the government to extend the effect of the Prime Ministers’ instruction No. 446 (dated 23 May 2010), according to which local drug manufacturers are required to establish their own distribution networks, noting that exporting stakeholders have been lobbying the State for the its repeal, so that they can keep on exporting psychotropic substances to neighbouring countries. According to the same communiqué, this trend accounts for recurring drug shortages in Algeria.
For the time being, the most pressing issue relates to the emergence of the Sahel area as a theatre of intense terrorist activity. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and active jihadist groups are financing themselves through foreign nationals’ kidnappings and the flourishing drug traffic. The situation calls for an urgent action to mitigate the induced damages resulting from the current situation.