*Morocco continues to build eco-system bona fides for regional leadership*
After the US-Morocco Business Development Conference (BDC) held last week in Rabat, news stories continue to confirm that Morocco, and particularly Casablanca, are rising stars in Africa as an investment destination and platform for regional business development.
The most emphatic indicator is the ranking of Casablanca on the Global Financial Centres Index 15. In its first ever listing on the index, Casablanca came in ahead of all sites in Africa except Johannesburg. The Index is an internationally recognized report that looks at key characteristics of a country’s profile as a financial center — within the country, off-shore, and regionally — and ranks them based on analyses of data and questionnaires filled out by financial professionals.
Although Casablanca was not mentioned in previous reports, it recently made impressive strides in creating an “eco-system” of financial regulations, reputational credibility, physical infrastructure, and support services required to operate domestically and globally, largely centered in the Casablanca Financial City (CFC). Even among Arab countries, Casablanca is ranked in the top 10 in the Middle East and Africa, right behind the energy-driven powerhouses of the Gulf, a significant achievement.
Casablanca scored high on a number of indicators, and its category as “transnational specialist” underscores its regional role in brokering business in broader African markets. No other African or Middle Eastern country earned this designation, as they primarily service their domestic economies. In addition, when respondents were asked which centers may be “most likely to become more significant in the next few years,” Morocco led all of the cities on the list.
US-Morocco Private Sector Leaders Ink MOU
During the BDC, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand and deepen their joint efforts to increase Morocco-US trade and investment. In addition to hosting “seminars, meetings, delegations, conferences, and trade fairs” the partners agreed to hold semi-annual meetings to align their efforts, and “exchange on a regular basis relevant data, trends, knowledge and information in order to reinforce and enhance the economic links between Morocco and the United States.” This last point addresses a continuing challenge in doing business in Morocco: access to up-to-date information in English that will serve the interests of both parties.
The agreement with the US Chamber means that Morocco will now have the resources of the largest American business organization with affiliated Chambers world-wide (there is an Am-Cham in Casablanca) as an advocate in the world’s largest economy. Along with the FTA, this gives Morocco important tools for promoting trade and investment as well as economic penetration into the larger region.
Building a Regional Business Platform
Morocco as a hub to Africa is not only relevant to US companies. An article in Forbes focused on plans by Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace for its $200 million Casablanca manufacturing facility due to open in late 2014. It will create some 850 jobs by 2020 and, according to Bombardier, “will improve its cost competitiveness…and “provide solutions to respond to African airlines’ profitability issues.” Aviation demand forecasts show a huge upside both in terms of travel and replacement of existing aircraft. For example, Morocco announced that its tourism industry is picking up after 2012’s stagnation, with 10 million visitors in 2013 and an eight percent jump forecast for 2014, according to Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad.
The Forbes article went on to say that “Bombardier believes its investment in Morocco, a location chosen for its internationally competitive manufacturing costs, low shipping and transportation costs and proximity to Europe, will serve as a springboard to the rest of the region and help it win an important part of the continent’s demand for new aircraft.” As importantly, “Bombardier brings know-how and expertise to the region and is currently in talks to develop its local supply chain. By training local talents and bringing them into their operations and involving local suppliers, it can be a catalyst for an industry that is so closely tied to the continent’s growth.”
It is this clear potential for long term profitable growth that is on the minds of the experts who responded to the Global Finance Centres Index, marking Casablanca as the top growth prospect in the cities rated. Location plus human assets plus a supporting policy framework give Morocco a critical edge in the regional business environment.