Today, you are director general of the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development, which facilitates investment in Morocco and exports from the country. But you began your career in government as an advisor to the Ministry of Industry and Trade in 2014. As a result, you’re well placed to comment on the changes the country has seen since then, especially in the context of the Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020. Could you summarize the country’s development in recent years?
Under the impetus of King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s economy has been profoundly transformed over the past 20 years, resulting in it becoming a regional industrial and export platform. Gross domestic product (GDP) increased threefold between 2000 and 2020, while industrial added value multiplied two-and-a-half times from 2000 to 2018. Exports also increased, multiplying four times between 2000 and 2021 to achieve $24.4 billion of additional export turnover, including $17.6 billion between 2010 and 2021.
This last figure reflects the effect of successive plans for the development of Moroccan industry: Emergence, followed by the National Pact for Industrial Emergence and the more recent Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020. The latter had three objectives: creating 500,000 jobs, increasing industry’s contribution to GDP from 14 to 23 percent and growth in exports. The results were extremely positive: nearly 600,000 new jobs were generated over the period 2014-2020, 50.6 percent of which were taken by women; 54 industrial ecosystems were created in the same period within 14 industrial clusters, including the automotive, aeronautics, agri-food, textiles and electronics sectors; and finally, exports grew at an accelerated rate over the period, as I’ve already mentioned.
The automotive sector illustrates the country’s success perfectly: Morocco has become the leading African producer of passenger vehicles, with an annual production capacity of 700,000 vehicles. Two major international manufacturers—Renault and Stellantis—have established operations here and they’re supported by an ecosystem of more than 250 companies with an integration rate of 60 percent. Furthermore, automotive exports have soared, making the industry Morocco’s leading export sector for seven consecutive years, with nearly $8.3 million being brought in last year.
The same is true with our aeronautics sector, which has emerged as a world-class ecosystem in recent years. All aircraft produced by Boeing or Airbus contain at least one part manufactured in Morocco now, which reflects not only the kingdom’s ability to meet the standards of this demanding industry, but also its ability to deliver on time. Over the 2014-2020 period, Morocco welcomed the arrival of ten new aeronautical manufacturers a year on average. The sector has also moved up the value chain, thanks to the establishment here of manufacturers of engine parts and subassemblies, which equip the products of the four global engine manufacturers: Safran, GE, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce. More recently still, the assembly of Airbus A220 fuselages at Spirit AeroSystems’ site in Casablanca has further anchored Morocco as a major destination for world aerospace investment.
You’ve just started in your role as the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development’s general director, having been appointed by King Mohammed VI in July 2022. What’s your strategic vision for the agency and what are your immediate priorities?
The royal vision is one of inclusive and sustainable development, of growth for the benefit of all citizens. Investment lies at the heart of enabling this ambition to be achieved. Morocco’s New Development Model sets clear objectives for 2035 in terms of investment performance and of what Morocco needs to do to meet those objectives. These have been integrated into the government’s program of activities and a new Ministry of Investment has been created. This ministry, to which the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development is attached, is directly overseen by the head of government, which highlights the priority given to investment in achieving the kingdom’s strategic objectives.
Morocco has one of the highest investment rates in the world. Nevertheless, two-thirds of it has come from public investment to date. This has enabled us to provide our country with world-class infrastructure and to support national industrial sector strategies. The ambition now is to reverse that ratio and make private investment the primary vector of growth.
The Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development is the deployment tool of this strategy—we are at the service of national and international investors. The agency’s ambition is to promote and facilitate investment in the country and to accompany Morocco’s international economic development.
Our priorities are, therefore, to strengthen relationships of trust with private partners by establishing a platform through which we can listen to sectors, professional federations and businesses in order to create an offer that is adapted to the companies benefiting from our support programs. This will also be done by implementing an appropriate system for operating new investor support measures provided through the upcoming investment charter, which was recently presented in Morocco’s council of ministers and before parliament. In these tasks, I’m fortunate to be able to rely on the women and men at the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development who work closely with businesses. It’s a team fully committed to making investment the spearhead of Morocco’s economic development.
“Morocco has a value proposition which is rare: a stable country with a long-term strategy that’s embraced by all stakeholders, an abundance of quality human capital, world-class infrastructure and competitive green energy.”
Morocco represents a very interesting destination for investors as a country with renewable energy, well versed in industries such as automotive manufacturing and aerospace, with a geostrategic position close to European and African markets, plus impressive transport infrastructure and logistics centers. What would you say were the best assets of the kingdom for investors?
In a recent interview, Jane Fraser, CEO of Citibank, said: “There’s a rebalancing towards countries that are close to major consumption areas, with good infrastructure and a quality workforce … I hear a lot from CEOs I meet that their investment decisions are guided by the quality of the countries’ governance and respect for the rule of law.” That description matches Morocco’s main assets perfectly, to which you can add its ability to decarbonize production.
Firstly, we have institutions that guarantee stability and are committed to economic, democratic and human development. Morocco is exceptional in the region for its political, economic and social stability, which is rooted in its monarchical pact that was renewed by the reforms initiated by King Mohammed VI. Morocco is fortunate to be able to build long-term national strategies, the objectives of which are the focus of all public stakeholders. This offers a guarantee of coherent, long-term and transparent public policies. On the economic front, massive investments in infrastructure, along with the successful implementation of major national plans and strategies, have made it possible to build a competitive production and export platform that generates jobs for our young population. This has been achieved while, at the same time, ensuring rigorous management of macroeconomic balances, making it possible to control inflation, which remained under 2 percent from 2010 to 2021, and to guarantee monetary stability via a stable exchange rate with the U.S. dollar and the euro.
Secondly, Morocco offers investors proximity and privileged access to European, American, African and Middle Eastern consumer markets. Located in northwest Africa, 8.7 miles from the Spanish coast and with a double seafront on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, Morocco has taken full advantage of its exceptional geographical location to create a bridge with Europe. For example, there’s our construction of Tanger Med Port, a vast complex in the north of Morocco on the Mediterranean, the biggest container port in the Mediterranean and Africa and the 23rd-largest worldwide. That port makes it possible to reach the center of Europe in 72 hours by combining maritime and road transport. In addition, free trade agreements covering more than 50 countries that have been signed by Morocco offer preferential access to a market of over a billion consumers.
In addition to Tanger Med Port, which provides maritime connectivity to more than 180 destinations in over 70 countries, Morocco has developed state-of-the-art transport infrastructure to ensure every region of the country is connected and there is excellent international air connectivity. The kingdom ranks first on the continent for the quality of its infrastructure. For example, Morocco has the first high-speed train line in Africa, which links Tangier in northern Morocco to Rabat, the administrative capital, in one hour and Casablanca, the economic capital, in two hours. This line ensures direct transport of vehicles produced at the Stellantis plant in Kenitra to Tanger Med Port in less than an hour as well. Morocco also has 1,120 kilometers of highways, 19 international airports and the quality of its internet infrastructure is exceptional.
Then, Morocco has a well-trained young population that constitutes a deep talent pool. Morocco has invested massively in training to achieve its industrial sector objectives and to meet its demographic challenges: 60 percent of the population is of working age, which includes nearly 9 million young people between the ages of 20 and 34, and 12 million people are under 20 years old. The number of graduates from both higher education and technical education has more than doubled in ten years—every year now, for example, 24,000 young engineers and technicians graduate and enter the job market. Our youth and our human capital are two of our major assets in a global context marked by an aging population, a shortage of talent and the growing phenomenon of disengagement of human resources from companies observed in certain developed economies, post pandemic.
Finally, Morocco offers a low-carbon solution that ranks among the most competitive in the world. The abundance of wind and sunshine in Morocco makes it possible to offer the best cost for green electricity in the region, and the kingdom has been a pioneer among developing economies in initiating renewable energy projects—for instance, we’ve built one of the largest solar power plants in the world. Today, 37 percent of Morocco’s electricity production capacity is generated from renewables and the objective is to reach 52 percent by 2030.
To sum up, Morocco has a value proposition which is rare: a stable country with a long-term strategy that’s embraced by all stakeholders, an abundance of quality human capital, world-class infrastructure and competitive green energy.
The Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development has introduced a new brand for investment and export promotion: Morocco NOW. What does this brand represent?
The Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development launched Morocco NOW last October, just when we were nearing the end of the pandemic crisis. The objective is to raise national and international awareness about Morocco’s entry into a new phase of its development. Under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, the last 20 years have been ones of industrial and logistical transformation. Morocco NOW marks the entry into a new phase that reaps the benefits of 20 years of huge public investment. We’re entering Morocco’s time for private investment.
This phase is also driven by a geo-strategic context. The climate crisis, pandemic and Ukraine conflict have exacerbated global challenges: the need to reduce carbon footprints, reorganize value chains and find new sources of competitiveness in the face of inflation. Morocco NOW defines itself as a future-proof industrial platform to export to the world from now and it highlights four Moroccan assets:
Sustainable NOW: Thanks to pioneering investments since 2009, Morocco has built a renewable energy production capacity of 4 GW, that’s 37 percent of the country’s installed capacity in 2021 and we have a target of 52 percent by 2030. Today, Morocco is ready for decarbonized production at a very competitive cost and supports investors in their commitment to environmental responsibility.
Competitive NOW: Morocco ranks among the world’s best-value destinations. It offers privileged and rapid access to a market of more than one billion consumers in Europe, the U.S., the Middle East and Africa. That access is reinforced by free trade agreements, its geographical location and the performance of Tanger Med Port, which ensures unloading and customs clearance operations in under two hours. Competitiveness also comes from Morocco’s young, qualified and English-speaking human resources, which established investors here consider to be a key factor in their success. The country directs more than 150,000 young graduates a year toward industry—and I think it’s worth mentioning that, with 42 percent of our engineering graduates being women, Morocco is one of the world’s equality champions in that field of education, according to the United Nations.
Well-proven NOW: Morocco has a track record in bringing projects to fruition, as demonstrated by its success in supporting major investment projects with Renault, Stellantis, Boeing, Airbus, Spirit AeroSystems and many others. It has also successfully realized mega projects such as the largest container port in Africa, as well as the continent’s first high-speed train.
Agile NOW: Essential in an increasingly volatile global environment, agility is part of the Moroccan DNA, as was proved during the pandemic, particularly through our effective deployment of vaccines. Agility is also reflected in simplified and efficient authorization processes for investors and in the rapid learning capacity of Moroccans, resulting in record times for the establishment of new projects.
What needs to be done to make Moroccan exports more competitive?
It should first be noted that Moroccan exports are already very competitive in certain industries, such as our aeronautics and automotive sectors, which export 90 percent of their production, to Europe in particular. This is also the case in other industries, including textiles and pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, this performance often goes unrecognized and one of our missions is to change this through promotions and business meetings.
However, we still have a fundamental tool to boost our exports, which lies in the country’s ability to decarbonize production, thanks to its natural solar and wind resources and the pioneering green-energy investments made under the leadership of King Mohammed VI. With our renewable energy prices being among the lowest in the world, decarbonized production is both a potential source of price competitiveness for Morocco’s exports and a guarantee of entry into the European Union without additional cost after the bloc’s imminent implementation of a carbon tax on imports.
One of the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development’s main mandates is to attract foreign investment. What’s your assessment of the current opportunities in the country?
This is a watershed moment for Morocco, coming after over 20 years of public commitment to invest in future growth—we feel that the stars are aligning for us. The post-pandemic economic period and the conflict in Ukraine provide a new context for investment. Companies are now reviewing their production chains and integrating multiple factors: geopolitical, climatic, environmental and sanitary. They’re seeking to multiply their sources of supply and production sites, or they want to move them closer to consumption markets. In this volatile context, just-in-time strategies are no longer tenable and all these elements have cost implications. As a result, international companies are looking for competitive and carbon-free regional production platforms and this is precisely what Morocco has been building methodically over the past 20 years.
What does the future hold for Morocco’s bilateral economic relationships?
It will be a prosperous future. Morocco has excellent economic relations with its partners. The kingdom has chosen to promote economic cooperation in order to replace head-on competition with sustainable partnerships. This choice is reflected in the royal vision of South-South cooperation that we’ve initiated with our African partners, as well as our strategy of competitive co-location with European and North American economies. We’re pursuing the expansion and diversification of our economic relations where the potential for collaborations is important.
Do you have any final comments for the readers of Newsweek?
Come and see Morocco for yourself! When it comes to business, nothing beats an in-the-field appreciation that goes beyond numbers and analysis. Talk to companies that have chosen Morocco to hear about Morocco’s value proposition as experienced by your peers. Meet our young people and see for yourself their motivation and commitment. Finally, know that the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development is at your disposal to welcome you, answer all of your questions and take you by the hand to discover the opportunities the kingdom has in store.