|17th Prime Minister of Morocco|
|Assumed office |
7 October 2021
|Preceded by||Saadeddine Othmani|
|Leader of the National Rally of Independents|
|Assumed office |
12 October 2016
|Preceded by||Salaheddine Mezouar|
|Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests|
6 April 2017 – 10 September 2021
|Prime Minister||Saadeddine Othmani|
|Preceded by||Himself (as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries)|
|Succeeded by||Mohamed Sadiki|
|Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries|
15 October 2007 – 6 April 2017
|Prime Minister||Abbas El Fassi|
|Preceded by||Mohand Laenser|
|Succeeded by||Himself (as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests)|
|Born||1961 (age 60–61)|
|Political party||National Rally of Independents|
|Spouse(s)||Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch|
|Alma mater||Université de Sherbrooke|
Aziz Akhannouch (Tachelhit: ⵄⴰⵣⵉⵣ ⴰⵅⵏⵏⵓⵛ, romanized: Ɛaziz Axnnuc; Arabic: عزيز أخنوش; born 1961) is a Moroccan politician, businessman, and billionaire who is currently the Prime Minister of Morocco since his government took office on 7 October 2021. He is the CEO of Akwa Group and also served as Minister of Agriculture from 2007 to 2021.
Early life and education
Akhannouch was born in 1961 in Tafraout and raised in Casablanca. His mother and sister were survivors of the Agadir earthquake from a year earlier that killed ten of his family members: they were reported to have been left buried beneath rubble for several hours before being rescued.
He is the CEO of Akwa Group, a Moroccan conglomerate particularly active in the oil and gas sector. Forbes estimated his net worth as $1.4 billion in November 2013. Akhannouch inherited Akwa from his father. In 2020, he was ranked 12th on Forbes's annual list of Africa's wealthiest billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.
From 2003 to 2007, Akhannouch was the president of the Souss-Massa-Drâa regional council. He was a member of the National Rally of Independents Party, before leaving it on 2 January 2012. On 23 August 2013 he was appointed by King Mohammed VI as Minister of Finance on an interim basis after Istiqlal ministers resigned from Benkirane's cabinet, a position he kept until 9 October 2013. On 29 October 2016, Akhannouch rejoined the RNI after being elected the president of the party. He took over Salaheddine Mezouar's position, who had resigned.
On 27 July 2016, Akhannouch met with Jonathan Pershing, Special Envoy for Climate Change for the United States. They spoke about preparations for the 2016 United Nations Conference of the Parties.
In March 2020, through his company Afriquia, a subsidiary of the Akwa group, Akhannouch donated roughly one billion dirhams ($103.5 million) to a COVID-19 pandemic management fund founded by King Mohammed VI.
In the 2021 general election, his party placed first, winning 102 seats of the 395 seats. On 10 September 2021, he was appointed as Prime Minister by King Mohammed VI, succeeding Saadeddine Othmani, and was tasked by the King to form a new government. Akhannouch announced the formation of an official coalition government alongside the PAM and Istiqlal parties on 22 September 2021, thus officializing his status as Prime Minister of Morocco.
In late October, Akhannouch represented King Mohammed VI at a Green Initiative event in Saudi Arabia, and was criticized by Moroccan citizens for wearing a pin of the MENA region that excluded Western Sahara.
17 billion case
In 2015 and 2016, after the Moroccan government decided to liberalize fuel prices, the fuel companies decided to collude with each other and not reduce prices. Among those companies was the Akwa company, owned by Akhannouch.
The profits of these companies amounted to about 17 billion dirhams (around US$1.75 billion), and several parties described them as immoral and illegal profits on the back of the Moroccan people. There were still several demands to restore them, whether in Parliament or in the media.
During the period following the case, the president of the Competition Council, Driss Guerraoui, prepared a report on Akhannouch's illegal profits, and submitted it to King Mohammed VI. In March 2021, Guerraoui was relieved of his position and replaced by Ahmed Rahhou.
As of 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture spent several million dirhams annually in massive advertising in the country's print press. If a newspaper criticized Akhannouch or his Maroc Vert plan, it immediately saw its advertisements cut off, along with those of the Akwa group.
In 2017, he sued three journalists from the Badil news site for having criticized him. He demanded that they pay him 1 million dirhams.
In the spring of 2018, Morocco was shaken by a boycott movement launched against Centrale Danone, Sidi Ali (mineral water) and Akwa's subsidiary Afriquia. These three brands, leaders in three basic products – milk, water and fuel – were accused by the population of charging very high prices. The movement became extremely popular, leading to reactions from the government.
According to the French think tank School of Thought on Economic Warfare (EPGE), which investigated the boycott movement, it would be a campaign of disinformation “hierarchized therefore orchestrated by a precise political agenda”. This destabilization initiative would even have benefited from a substantial budget, with for example between 100,000 and 500,000 euros for the purchase of online space to disseminate the ideas of the movement. To this must be added expensive donation campaigns to the poor to mobilize public opinion. According to the same study, the movement of Al Adl Wa Al Ihssan would be behind this boycott campaign with the aim of removing Akhanouch from the political scene.
On 17 November 2018, the King reacted by appointing Driss Guerraoui as president of the Competition Council. In 2020, the Council recognized that the three brands targeted by the 2018 boycott campaign had reached an agreement on prices.
In December 2019, during a meeting in Milan with Moroccans living in Italy, Akhannouch declared, "Whoever believes that they can come and insult the institutions of the country has no place in Morocco. Whoever wants to [live] in Morocco must respect its motto and its democracy. Insults will not move us forward. And excuse me, but it is not justice that should do this job. […] We must re-educate Moroccans who lack education." The remarks triggered strong reactions from Moroccan politicians and netizens as well as a call for the resuming of the 2018 boycott of his companies. TelQuel attributed his comments in relation to the arrest & prosecution of a Moroccan YouTuber after he published a video criticizing King Mohammed VI's speeches.
Rising prices and inflation
Throughout less than 200 days into Akhannouch's time in office, he became a target of Moroccans calling for his resignation, accusing him of corruption. The prices of fuel and several essential food products have skyrocketed in recent months, as the price of a 5-litre bottle of vegetable oil increased by 27 dirhams, while the price of 25 kg of semolina, widely used in Moroccan cuisine, increased by 50 dirhams. The inflation affected many vulnerable families, in which more than 430,000 Moroccans lost their jobs.
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