Aziz Akhanouch

Aziz Akhannouch 

Born in 1961 in Tafraout, Morocco

Citizenship: Moroccan; residence, Rabat Morocco

Net worth: US$ 1.7B, 16th richest African (Forbes). Inherited Akwa Group, active in oil and gas

Education: Sherbrooke University,  MBA 1986

Chairman of National Rally for Independents (Political Party) since October 2016

President of Souss-Massa-Draa regional council from 2003-2007

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries since 2007

Political  Compass: Chairman of RNI (Liberal/Royalist)

In his own words:

“I believe that the political scene in Morocco has taken a very regrettable turn towards populism and inefficiency. It is mine and RNI’s job to change that” (Press conference in Dakar October 2012)

Speaking of whats ahead: “These future challenges remain for me as the logical continuation of the path in which I have always engaged myself: to contribute to the development of the country. It is a new phase in which I will engage with all the difficulties that it comes with” (Jeune Afrique interview November 22 2016)

“The sustainable management and development of our agricultural and fishing resources is at the heart of public action here in Morocco” (Marrakech COP22 Press Conference, November 2016)

 

Table:

Electioneering

Campaign Financing: 7?

Running for Office: 10

Public Endorsements: 10

Advocacy & Lobbying

Public Advocacy: 7

Lobbying Officials: Unknown

Political Network: 10

Opinion Shaping

Media Control: 5

Public Exposure: 10

Research and Funding: Unknown

Philanthropy

Donations Magnitude: Unknown

Control over Recipients: Unknown

Public Policy Relevance: Unknown

Electioneering

Campaign Financing: 7?

Due to the nature of the Moroccan political system, donations to campaigns are not well reported, documented, disclosed or regulated. However, being the chairman of one of the most important parties in the Moroccan government, coupled with large personal wealth, vast political and social network and close relationship to the King, it is highly plausible that Mr. Akhannouch is heavily involved in campaign financing

Running for Office: 10

Mr Akhannouch was a billionaire well before being involved in politics. He was elected as president of the regional council of the Souss-Massa-Draa in 2003 and won re-election in 2006. In 2007 He was named by King Mohammed VI as the minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and still keeps this post. He has held this position under four governments El Fassi, Benkirane I and II, and currently under the leadership of El Othmani. He was a high profile member of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) up until 2012 where he resigned. In his own words, he suspended his membership. In October 2016 amid a serious political crisis, Salahedine Mezouar, chairman of RNI resigned and Mr Akhannouch was asked to take his place. As of October 2016 he is the chairman of RNI , the second biggest party forming the government coalition.

Public Endorsements: 10

As the head of RNI and one of the 5 most important ministers of the country has immense sways in the appointment of public officials. Firstly as the head of RNI, he continuously promotes and endorses his party’s candidates at the municipal, regional, and national level. As an important minister he sees important appointments in his ministry, but due to his high level of influence and vast network of connections through his political and business career, as well as his close connection to the palace he has a sway in certain other public appointments.

Advocacy & Lobbying

Public Advocacy:7

Due to the important nature of Mr Akhannouch’s ministerial portfolio, consequently he disposes of a prominent platform upon which to defend and support not only his views but policy actions of the government. Morocco is a highly agricultural society (15% of its GDP according to WB) and therefore his statements hold even more sway. As an important businessman in the country, region and continent any form of endorsement from Mr Akhannouch can be observed as highly influential, especial in the public domain

Lobbying Officials: Unknown

In the political and economic sphere in Morocco lobbying is not prominent and almost non existent. Due to to his already immense wealth before being involved in politics, political status and close relationship to the royal family lobbying does not appear to be a probable activity of Mr Akhannouch.

Political Network: 10

The Akhannouch family is an extremely wealthy and well known family in Morocco.  Because of the top-down nature of decision making in Morocco, wealth and proximity to the circles of power are the two most important assets when interested in furthering policy objectives. As the Economist reported: “the further you are from the palace, the harder it is”. Aziz Akhanouch disposes of both. As a billionaire and CEO of the Akwa group, he is amongst the top five richest persons in Morocco. and among the 20th richest people in Africa. As a result,  his personal network is extremely vast, ranging from decisive economic actors to key palace figures.   Furthermore, the palace power structures are extensively based on patronage, involvement of the elite in key economic sectors, and personal relationships. For example, Aziz Akhanouch had the privilege of hosting King Mohammed VI for ftour (iftar, the breaking of the fast) this past Ramadan. This reflects a close personal relationship between the two that transcends Akhanouch’s political role. It is needless to note that it is extremely rare, if not unheard of, for other ministers to host the King for the breaking of the fast. It is important to note that despite holding essential ministerial portfolios,  members of the government rarely accompany the King on state visits, and if they do it is for formal reasons, to fulfill protocol. Decision making and advising to the King is done by the “shadow” cabinet, the close circle of key palace advisers and childhood friends of the King. The role of Aziz Akhanouch covers both of these domains. He travels with the King on personal and state missions, playing an important advising role. All of this is reflective of the extent of his influence and network. In government selection, the palace holds prerogative over the naming of the “ministères de souvranté”: Foreign Affairs, Finance, Defense, Agriculture and Industry. The holders of these portfolios are usually trusted advisors of the King, are technocrats, and hold their posts despite intense political oscillations in parliamentary elections or policy orientation. The fact that Akanouc held the post through four different governing coalitions, headed by diametrically opposed parties, shows the extend of his influence. Finally, Akhanouch hails from an important family, which is pivotal in a society where family status and reputation are key. His wife, Salwa Idrissi also hails from a prominent family, owns 99% of Morocco Mall (2nd biggest mall in Africa) and is an important stakeholder in the textile and fashion industry in Morocco (GAP, Zara, and Galeries Lafayette). She was ranked 46th in the 2016 ranking of most powerful Arab women.

Opinion Shaping

Media Control: 5

Mr Akhannouch owns media company (mainly newspapers and magazines) Groupes Characteres which is a fundamental media conglomerate in the Moroccan business sphere. Additionally, he was an important stakeholder of Morocco’s 2nd telecommunications operator Meditel up until its merger with Orange.

Public Exposure: 10

Mr Akhannouch is one of the most well known Moroccan businessmen, a position which is amplified throughout the African and Middle Eastern regions through his exploits. His ownership of Characteres magnifies his status. His participation in government and close alignment with the palace catapults his public personal standing and prestige

Research & Development: Unknown

It does not appear that Mr Akhannouch funds research with the objective to influence public opinion. However, with the ownership of a media company and his important public position as minister he does hold influence in this regard.

Philanthropy

Donations Magnitude: Unknown

Involvement of wealthy individuals in politics in Morocco is not done through donations or philanthropy. The most common method is through direct access of political power through wealth or leveraging of ones position.

Control over Recipients: Unknown

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Public Policy Relevance: Unknown

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