Morocco: Hands across the Sahara
Figures from Algiers reveal that the country only exported $42m to sub-Saharan Africa in the first nine months of 2016. Tunisia is just starting to consider its African options but Morocco is the big exception, banking on growth across the entire continent to help fuel its own development. Rabat calculates that 85% of Morocco’s foreign direct investment goes to sub-Saharan Africa, with Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon the top three destinations.
If anything, Morocco is likely to become more prominent as an entrepôt for African investment over the next few years. Tanger Med, one of the African continent’s most important container ports, already serves as a transhipment port for trade between Europe, Asia and North America but is likely to become increasingly valued as a dropping off point for cargo bound to and from West Africa’s modernising ports over the next few years.
The most important area of Moroccan investment at present is the banking sector. Students of the African Business Top 100 Banks report will be well aware of the heavy investment made in West Africa by Moroccan banks, particularly Attijariwafa Bank and Banque Centrale Populaire.
The latter owns Banque Atlantique, which has operations across West Africa, while Attijariwafa now has 3,376 branches in 23 countries, including Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Tunisia.
These activities have helped to propel both banks up our rankings and Egypt’s similarly sized banking sector could make similar headway through the development of banking operations in the rest of the continent.
Morocco’s financial services industry has the opportunity to expand in a different direction following the passage of new legislation this year that allows the granting of Islamic banking licences. Middle Eastern companies, such as Emirates Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, are keen to invest in Moroccan Islamic banking, both for the attractions of the domestic market and as a springboard for expansion into the rest of the continent.
Morocco also acts as a model for renewable energy development in Africa. It is on course to achieve 2GW of wind power generating capacity by 2020 and is building the world’s biggest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Ouarzazate, via the 500MW Noor scheme.
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