Huge infrastructure investments combined with more than 50 free-trade agreements have seen Morocco’s GDP more than double between 2000 and 2019 to over 1,000bn dirhams (more than $107bn).
However, the pace of growth has gradually slowed down, from an annual average of 4.8% between 2000 and 2009 to 3.5% between 2010 and 2019. This figure runs counter to the investment effort, which represents 32.2% of the country’s GDP, one of the highest rates in the world along with China and India, according to the World Bank.
The slowdown has had an impact on the job market. “Each point of growth generated less than 21,000 jobs between 2010 and 2019, compared to more than 30,000 jobs between 2000 and 2009,” says a central bank report.
“While Morocco has made clear progress that has been recognised worldwide, the national development model is today proving to be incapable of satisfying the pressing demands and growing needs of citizens, reducing categorical disparities and territorial gaps, and achieving social justice,” King Mohammed VI said in a 2017 speech.
Since then, a special commission chaired by Chakib Benmoussa, the former Moroccan ambassador to Paris and current education minister, has outlined a new development model. Among its recommendations, the new Moroccan growth should be based on a “better allocation of investment towards productive capacities and a stronger contribution from the private sector”.
The share of private investment should thus be increased from 35 to 65%. The head of state also set a new course for the government in October 2022: to mobilise 550bn dirhams ($53.6bn) of investment and create 500,000 jobs from 2022 to 2026.
It is in this spirit that Aziz Akhannouch’s government has adopted a new investment charter – the previous one dating from 1995. Among its objectives, as stated in the preamble, is “to establish Morocco as an attractive continental and international hub for investment”.
“Morocco is now entering a new phase in its development, characterised by the construction of a social state. This is based on particularly bold social programmes, the first of which is the generalisation of social protection to the entire population. These programmes must be financed by the development of the private sector,” the investment ministry says.
“The advantages it provides are unprecedented in the economic history of the kingdom,” says the office of Mohcine Jazouli, minister delegate in charge of investment, convergence and evaluation of public policies, which specifies that “investors can receive direct premiums of up to 30% of the total amount invested”.
Addressed to all investors “national as well as foreign, and to all investments, small and large”, the new charter stipulates that aid will be granted for the creation of 150 stable jobs. Otherwise, the investor must make an investment of at least €50m ($53.6m) and create at least 50 jobs.
Several subsidies can be cumulated according to several criteria: local integration threshold, sustainable projects (renewable energies, saving energy for example), future professions (technology, maritime industry), female payroll, location area and more.
“It is in line with the priorities of the kingdom and the main challenges of our generation: it aims at growth that is both substantial and sustainable – guaranteeing our sovereignty, inclusive for citizens and territories – as well as turned towards the professions of the future,” says the investment minister.
This new “flexible” scheme allows the holders of so-called strategic projects to benefit from specific support from the state, “negotiated directly with the investor and which does not only concern investment premiums, but also other types of contributions”, says Jazouli.
According to the economist Ahmed Azirar, its implementation can only bear fruit if it elicits general mobilisation, so the task is great. Now operational after the publication of all its application texts, it is already bringing private and public actors on board, says Jazouli.
[There is] a clear appetite for Morocco, which is establishing itself as a privileged land for investment
“The state is working closely with our partners in the private sector, such as the Confédération générale des entreprises du Maroc, the chambers of commerce and the banks, to promote this new tool as closely as possible to the field,” he says.
After roadshows in the US, Germany, India, China, Japan and the UK, the minister says he has noted “a clear appetite for Morocco, which is establishing itself as a privileged land for investment”. As proof of this, he points to “a pipeline of extremely promising projects” in certain strategic sectors such as green hydrogen or electric mobility.
Between the Centres régionaux d’investissement (CRI) – under the authority of the interior ministry until early May – the Agence marocaine de développement des investissements et des exportations (AMDIE) – under the authority of Mohcine Jazouli – and other bodies in charge of promoting investment in various sectors, it is not always easy to identify the right interlocutor.
The CRIs have come under the authority of Prime Minister Akhannouch, and therefore under that of Jazouli, the government’s ‘Mr Investment’, which implies an important change. This “unification around the head of government was first materialised with the creation of a dedicated ministry to which the AMEDI was attached”, says Jazouli’s office.
Although the majority of the actors involved have praised the new scheme’s subsidy system, some have not held back from criticising its “discriminatory” aspect. This is the case of former CGEM vice-president Hammad Kassal, who considers that the criteria related to the number of jobs, or the threshold of 50m dirhams, exclude de facto small businesses. “All companies should be eligible for investment subsidies,” the teacher at Al Akhawayn University says.
This is criticism that the investment ministry sweeps aside. “Projects costing more than 50m dirhams only concern the main support system, which has also lowered this threshold, previously set at 100m dirhams”, it said before listing three additional support systems, including “a specific system dedicated to very small, small and medium-sized enterprises”, currently being finalised.
Chaired by former finance minister Mohamed Benchaâboun, the Mohammed VI Fund (FM6I) for investment is expected to play a central role in the kingdom’s new investment policy. Called to be an “engine of economic recovery”, the investment vehicle will intervene in areas deemed to be priorities, such as industrial restructuring, infrastructure, innovation, the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture and tourism.
“Contacts have already been established by the Fund’s team with Moroccan and international institutions, and will continue over the coming months. The aim is to present the Fund’s strategy and its approach and to gather, in return, the reaction of partners to maximise the chances of success,” Benchaâboun said in January. Suffice to say that for the kingdom’s former ambassador in Paris, the new investment charter is an undeniable asset.
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