In July 2016, the Kingdom of Morocco petitioned to rejoin the African Union, more than three decades after it left the organization over territorial disputes.

Morocco is the only country on the continent to ever separate from the block, however, it has managed to stay economically strong and politically stable.

So we wanted to know, just how powerful is Morocco? Well, Morocco is the only African nation to border both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

At around 172 thousand square miles, the country is roughly the size of California.

Over half of Morocco’s over 33 million residents live in urban communities, away from its harsh deserts and mountains, while the country blends Arabic and African cultures, it is religiously homogenous, with 99 percent of its population adhering to Islam.

Economically, Morocco has expanded and diversified in the last four decades.In the mid 1980s, the country was severely in debt. But through privatization and neoliberal investment policies, Morocco turned it economy around and since 2004, its GDP of more than $100 billion has almost doubled.

While the country’s economy relies heavily on its exports, most notably textiles, copper wire, and fertilizers, other industries are growing.

This can be seen in tourism, which accounts for 12% of the country’s GDP and has created 500 thousands direct jobs. Even with 14 million tourist every year, the government has launched a campaign with the goal of attracting 6 million more visitors by 2020.

Due to its location, Morocco maintains close ties with the European Union. The country was granted “advanced status” from the EU in 2008 and receives as much as 200 million dollars from the organization annually.

Morocco also keeps close ties with the Islamic world and is a member of the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The country seeks to promote peace in the middle east, and hopes to oversee peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Morocco also has the third largest military in northern Africa with 350 thousand personnel. The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces are controlled by the country’s King and receive an estimated $3.4 billion dollars annually.

Although, the army is reportedly well trained and has been a part of peacekeeping missions. A strong military presence is extremely important, as it keeps Morocco largely free of terrorism, especially when compared to nearby Libya and Mali.

While the military has not declared an official war in over fifty years, Morocco has been involved in territorial disputes over the Western Sahara since 1975, after it annexed the territory from neighboring Algeria.

While the UN enforces a ceasefire between the nations, Moroccan forces have clashed with protesters in the region, leaving thousands wounded and over a dozen dead. So even with a strong military, the country still faces obstacles, namely income inequality.

Wealth remains in thriving cities, while three million people in rural communities live below the poverty line.

Climate change has also affected these largely agricultural towns, leading to financial hardship. However, with a strong economy and political stability, there’s no doubt that Morocco is very powerful.

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