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Unlocking Morocco’s Potential: Hearing from the Experts – Jean R. AbiNader

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

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

Jean R. AbiNader MATIC
October 10, 2013

A panel organized by the Financial Times on growing business opportunities in Morocco was held in New York this week. It was part of a series of programs done in association with the Moroccan Agency for Investment Development (AMDI) to highlight Morocco’s geo-strategic and geo-economic importance as a platform for accessing markets of close to a billion consumers in Europe, Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East.

The impressive panel was moderated by Ed Crooks, former BBC economics correspondent, currently the US Industry and Energy Editor for the FT. He opened the program by pointing out that Morocco has enjoyed consistent growth and stability that is attractive to international investors, a point echoed by Adil Chikhi, the Director of Development & Strategic Marketing at AMDI.

A veteran international player, Mr. Chikhi has broad experience in managing business transactions on all continents. He utilizes his extensive background in “creating a new environment for investors in Morocco,” by focusing AMDI resources on supporting “new companies and partners” for the country.

Adil pointed out that Morocco has developed national plans in key sectors, including tourism, automotive and aerospace parts manufacturing, ITC, pharmaceuticals, and value-added agro-industry.

Hildegard Gacek, Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), addressed her organization’s priorities in Morocco, including support for the economy by reducing risk exposure for equity investors through financing, and providing long-term loans to support new projects.

Hildegard noted that Morocco, unlike other countries in the region, has a market economy and strong financial sector. She endorsed private-public-partnerships (PPPs) as a useful vehicle to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and commented that the government, which dominates some sectors of the economy, should allow more space for the private sector, for example, in renewable energy, where there are many opportunities along the value-chain from the mega-projects awarded by the government.

An indicator of how far Morocco has evolved in advancing its financial sector was clear from the presentation by Hamid Tawfiki, CEO of CDG Capital, in which he spoke about the changes that CDG has undergone.

Since he arrived from the private sector just two years ago, CDG has greatly expanded its role as both a steward of savings (pension funds) and an investor/developer in the Moroccan economy.

As a quasi-government institution, it is committed to having a strong social impact through its investment activities, acts as an incubator for new projects, and attracts co-investors from around the world.

It has moved beyond managing pension funds to participating in the banking sector as an investor and through its own bank, and in being a co-investor in mega-projects such as the Tangier-Med port and Renault’s manufacturing facilities.

A key presentation was by Najwa El Iraki, the Head of Business Development at Casablanca Finance City (CFC). If anyone has questions about Morocco’s focus on building business in Africa, CFC is the place for answers. Established three years ago, its primary mission is to serve as the hub for financial services to the south, including francophone and other sub-Saharan countries.

With more than a decade of experience in the financial sector, Ms. El Iraki is a good example of the strong team that supports Morocco’s growth strategies. Specialized investment funds, boutique financial services companies, and financial services providers will find a welcoming home at CFC.

Since its creation in July 2009, AMDI has become the leading source of information and data on investment in Morocco, providing services that enable prospective investors and companies to gather market information on opportunities, meet prospective partners and investors, contact the right government offices, and provide technical expertise on establishing businesses and registering to do business in Morocco.

AMDI also plays an important role as an advocate for the private sector, making recommendations to the government regarding policies and procedures to support investors.  The panel will visit Frankfurt, Seoul, and Tokyo during the remainder of the year.

Jean R. AbiNader is Executive Director of the Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Co-published with Fair Observer (www.fairobserver.com)

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