Morocco woos Nigerians for business, tourism

Jalal Imani

The Kingdom of Morocco is moving to expand its development frontiers with Africa through economic development policies that will see an anticipated increase of 2 million tourists visits into the country each year.

With its aim to boost business, tourism and trade relationships with African countries, the kingdom, in 2000, set up a strategic development program that would among others receive up to 3-10 million tourist by 2010. It though reached the 10 million mark in 2012.

A new 2020 vision now targets a mark of 20 million at a rate of 2 million yearly with further steps to be put in motion to surpass its volume of tourists received in 2018 by the year 2019.

The program also has specific purpose: equipping the cities, like its business capital Casablanca, with infrastructures related to conferences, exhibition, reception and activities in conformity with international standards. Thus, large building sites are currently in hand like the construction of a Marina, a 2,500 seats conference centre, an aquarium, golf courses, etcetera.

In addition, an urban leveling programme with its first line tramway is already in course. Also is the restoration of the old Medina, the rehabilitation the ‘Art Deco’ heritage and the reorganization of the green spaces and parks in the city.

Its business development strategy is unique, especially where it comes to its relationship with Nigeria. Morocco believes strongly that with that with the economic strength and power of Nigeria, both countries can develop a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Besides its rich hospitality and tourism capacity, Morocco promises trade, cultural and agricultural technology exchanges with heavy considerations on economic development with Nigeria as its experts furthermore cautions African countries on relations with the West and China; a relationship it has described as dangerous.

Morocco is positioned as a port of entry, unlike any other African country, facing the both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and its back country equally locking its land mass across the Sahara borders of Algeria and the Mediterranean with Spain, while managing to contain the whole Atlas mountains where it snows to the deserts. It is a tourism spectacle with strong heritage and history the nation intends to fully take advantage of.

For this reason, tourism plays a critical part as a cross sector link in the economy where it affects every other sector including trade, creative, business, sports, aviation industries, etcetera, and employment creation as it currently targets youth empowerment and technological innovations.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Director General of its Open Government Partnership (OGP) structured Counseil Regional due Tourisme (CRT), Saïd Mouhid, put the current contribution of tourism to the kingdoms Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 8 per cent with the sector alone providing employment to about 6,000 people in direct labour. Currently, expenses by tourists, excluding airfares, runs up to 7 billion Euros.

Mr. Mouhid believes African countries can help each other grow when they work together instead. He also believes African countries would have to strive at this because Western nations are not interested in African unity.

“We consider other African countries as brothers, this is the difference between Morocco and Europe’s relationship with Africa. We believe Africans should work together and do business together. Nigeria is smarter because they know it would mean more business.

“Many Nigerians are currently in transit or coming through Maroc but we hope to do better with relationship because the potential of Nigeria is huge,” Mr. Mouhid said.

Morocco may well be perfecting its plans in becoming a business hub in Africa as it aims to scoop some market share from already existing business and tourism destinations. Maintaining its coinage of ‘Paris of Africa’, it might not well be exaggerating its potential to attaining such position.

From the economic capital, Casablanca to the tourism city, Marrakech, then Rabat, Tangiers, Fez, Meknes and Ouarzazat, the structures being put in place to ensure sustainability and function aligns impressively with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) philosophy.

Most of all, Morocco said it is willing to share information for growth and sustainable development and promises investments and economic appreciative ventures. The launch of the fastest train in Africa by the Moroccan Monarch, King Mohammed the 6th and French President Macron, added another splodge of detail to its portrayed exclusivity.

Even though there have been few criticisms regarding the direction of Morocco’s investments. As expected, like every other country, it has its own challenges. Besides that, the country prides itself in its resourcefulness.

The main industries in Morocco are phosphate rock mining and processing, food processing, leather goods, textiles, selling of arts and crafts, construction and tourism.

The major resources of the Moroccan  economy are agriculture, phosphate minerals, and tourism. Sales of fish and seafood are important as well. Industry and mining contribute about one-third of the annual GDP.

Morocco’s GDP for 2018 is expected to be 110.00 USD Billion by the end of this quarter, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations. In the long-term, the Morocco GDP is projected to trend around 114.00 USD Billion in 2020, according to econometric models.

Currently, Royal Air Maroc, the kingdom’s national carrier, on its Lagos – Casablanca route, maintains flights to and from Casablanca with connecting flights either through Marrakech and/or to Europe and the U.S.. In its bid to expand traffic and accessibility to Maroc, the airline has concluded plans to commence flights to and from Abuja, either connecting from Lagos or directly to Casablanca from Abuja.

The Abuja flight schedule is to be launched in April, 2019 and is expected to ease connections between both countries. According to Mr. Samir Abdelkrim of the Royal Air Maroc, increased flights between major cities can heavily contribute to ease of doing business and tourism and ultimately between Nigeria and Morocco, strengthen ties.

This fact can be much effective especially when a Nigerian carrier joins the connectivity efforts. The greater fact is that increased passenger traffic can be generated with more carriers plotting strategic routes with lower fares as a stronger factor.

Already, a high percentage of passenger traffic through Maroc fly through connecting flights to Gatwick, Madrid and others.

Morocco hopes to leverage on this in its tourism plan, which is already in course. Nigeria, on its part, county also consider this and other market shares feasible.

The Moroccan National Tourist Board Office’ Director for Africa, Jalal Imani, expressed strong faith in the growth of the Nigerian-Moroccan relations stating emphatically that even though Morocco seems to have strong optimism in the possibilities of increased business and cultural relationship between both countries, Nigeria, if open to such possibilities, may even stand to benefit more on the long run.