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Government Moves to Add Funding for SMEs and Start-ups, Moroccan Business Delegations Travel across Africa, as Moody’s Praises Banking Sector – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
November 9, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

SMEs worldwide have gained a reputation for being job creators. To take advantage of the energies that SMEs bring to the marketplace, and to enhance the environment for startups to become strong SMEs, Morocco has joined with the World Bank to launch the “Innov Invest Fund.” Initiated with $73 million in funds, it is tasked with seeding early stage companies and innovative SMEs.

The fund is designed to enable small companies with strong growth potential to access equity financing in addition to other available sources. Initially the fund is planning to offer funding-for-equity to some 300 beneficiaries through what are termed “smart debts.” It will tie the investments with the company’s performance while providing technical assistance and consultations to provide even greater expertise to the recipients.

Morocco is on the move again in Africa and the reception for Moroccan companies in Ghana is a bellwether of hoped-for results. As reported in Modern Ghana, “In a bid to broaden their business activities and form more partnerships in the African continent and beyond, Moroccan businesses have embarked on a vigorous drive across the African Sub-Regions.”

Recently, a group of 80 Moroccan companies visited Ghana to attend a day-long forum on the theme, “Africa should learn to trust Africa,” echoing a theme often stated by King Mohammed VI. Meeting with their counterparts, the business delegation discussed projects in electricity, renewable energy, water management, sanitation, information and communication technology, chemical production, and the transportation sector, making deals and signing memoranda of understanding.

The delegation also visited Ethiopia and Sudan on this trip, following the same format. Madame Zahra Maafiri, Director General of Maroc Export, noted that “Morocco was committed to strengthening partnerships with African countries, and Ghana is a great partner.” Citing agreements in fertilizer production, insurance, and collaboration on establishing the Bank of Africa, she believes that even more businesses can be expected.

In a related story in Le360, Morocco’s role as a regional hub for the lubricants industry was emphasized. Hicham Bouzoubaa, director of development at Afrique Petromin International. At the 6th Annual Conference on Base Oils and Lubricants in Accra, he said “The Moroccan market has enormous potential to develop the lubricant processing and manufacturing industry and is positioning itself more and more as the essential hub for export to Africa.”

Although Morocco does not yet produce any hydrocarbons, he noted that “Exports of finished lubricant products in Morocco have increased exponentially, from an average of 400 tons in 2014 to 30,000 tons in 2016,” largely driven by multinational companies investing in the Kingdom to take advantage of the country’s export incentives.
Bouzoubaa sees this trend continuing with the integration of Morocco into ECOWAS.

More good news for exports to Africa came from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE), when it announced that it was gearing up production of its wind turbine blades to serve the African market. The long anticipated announcement resulted from several years of negotiations between Siemens and Morocco, reflecting the country’s leadership in wind energy on the African continent. It is anticipated that the plant in Tangier, located near the Automotive City industry hub and the Tanger-Med port, will create 600 well-paying jobs and support another 500 support positions. As importantly, a training center has been established to facilitate the transfer of technology to local staff so that “The learning process ensures the complete transfer of the technical and process skill sets necessary to optimize the manufacturing process,” according to the story in ESI Africa.

According to the Minister of Industry, Investment, Trade, and Digital Economy, Moulay Hafid El Alamy, “This pioneer project allows local added value and opens up the development of a ‘renewable energy industry’ ecosystem which reinforces the strategic choices of Morocco, under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, aimed at the development of a green economy.”

Ricardo Chocarro, Onshore Business CEO of Siemens Gamesa, concluded: “In Morocco, the demand for electricity increased at an average annual rate of 6.7% from 2003 to 2013. Thus, renewable energy is particularly attractive, offering a secure supply of domestically-produced power and contributing to energy independence. Our commitment to the government and people of Morocco is clear: we will work together with you in meeting your energy challenges, today and in the future.”

Morocco’s banking sector benefits from its economic diversification, according to Moody’s Investors Services (Moody’s) latest assessment of the sector. Moody’s Banking System Outlooks represent Moody’s forward-looking assessment of fundamental credit conditions that will affect the creditworthiness of banks in a given system over the next 12 to 18 months. It stated that “one of the key drivers behind our positive outlook for Morocco’s banking system is the solid operating environment, with real GDP growth expected to remain elevated at 3.5% next year before rising to 4.5% in 2019,” said the report’s author.

Moody’s says its outlook for the Moroccan banking system is positive, supported in part by the country’s ongoing economic diversification and stable and predictable political and economic policy environment. It notes that “Lending will accelerate next year as public and private investment increases financing needs, while Moody’s expects the ongoing gradual transition to currency flexibility will be orderly and support Moroccan exports and domestic economy more broadly in the long-term.”

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