As the kingdom continues to develop its national transport network, both private-sector and foreign partners have an important role to play. The state has invested considerable resources in building road, rail, airport and maritime infrastructure over the last decade. The public sector is likely to remain the main player in the management of transport, but private firms will be instrumental to the future development of the sector, both with regard to construction and financing. Abdelaziz Rabbah, the minister of equipment and transport, has indicated one ministry objective in coming years is to engage in more public-private partnerships (PPPs), in order to bring maximum financial and technical resources to bear on development efforts.
RAILWAYS: Morocco’s rail network is run by the National Railways Office (l’Office National des Chemins de Fer, ONCF), a public entity. ONCF executives have confirmed that the rail authority has no plans to privatise, but that it will look to PPPs as a source of technical and financial support for its plans to expand rail. The sector’s leading project, the establishment of a high-speed rail line, is particularly reliant on the private sector. Construction of the first phase of the country’s new high-speed railway, between Tangier and Kénitra, is set to require a total investment of Dh20bn (€1.78bn). The government has committed to providing Dh5.8bn (€515.6m) and will look to private sector partners, foreign governments and financial institutions for the remaining funds. The French government and its development agency have provided considerable funding to support the project, complemented by loans from development funds from several Gulf states, including Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. On the technical side, support has also been provided by France’s private sector railway operator, the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer (SNCF), which sent a team of technical specialists to advise on the conceptualisation and execution of the project. Furthermore, French transport and power firm Alstom was contracted to provide 14 high-speed trains of eight cars each to service the new line, for a total cost of €400m. Alstom has been an important foreign partner of Morocco’s rail system in the past, manufacturing trains for conventional railways and new urban tramway systems. The 14 high-speed trains will primarily be constructed in France; however, in line with Morocco’s goal to increase the transfer of knowledge and value-added activity from foreign partners, the state has outlined a tentative project with Alstom to establish a manufacturing plant in one of Morocco’s industrial zones. The proposed facility would specialise in the fabrication of railway cables and other electrical components, destined both for domestic consumption and export.
ROAD NETWORK: The national highway network is managed by a public limited company, Autoroutes du Maroc (ADM). After a decade of dedicated investment in the road network, liquidity is tight, and the company is relying on capital markets to help finance its operations in the medium term. Most recently, ADM issued a 20-year, Dh1.2bn (€106.7m) bond in April 2012 at interest rates varying between 4.69% and 5%. Through this and other outstanding debt engagements, ADM expects to balance its books by 2020 while maintaining high investment levels. ADM’s investment programme for 2012 totalled Dh6.9bn (€613.4m).
Foreign financial institutions also play an important role in financing infrastructure. The European Investment Bank (EIB), for example, contributed €250m in loans to the new motorway for Safi, and the Islamic Development Bank contributed $160m to the construction of a road connecting Marrakech and Agadir.
A number of institutions, such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the EIB, and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, have supported Morocco’s National Rural Roads Programme (Programme National des Routes Rurales, PNRR). Total investment, for both phase I and II of the programme, is expected to reach Dh10bn (€889m), and foreign loans and grants have been critical to its success. According to analyses by the Ministry of Equipment and Transport, the first phase of the programme increased the percentage of the rural population with access to the national road network to 54% and cut transport costs in half, which helps to boost profits from agricultural, artisanal and other rural economic activities. On the execution side, the important role of private sector firms will continue, as officials have indicated that the financing and construction of new motorways is most likely to be conducted through concessionary loans. A number of foreign construction firms, most notably from Turkey and China, execute a large number of the road building projects today.
PUBLIC-PRIVATE: Morocco’s air transport network is primarily managed by public entities. In late 2012, the government was reportedly considering selling a stake in the national flag carrier, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), in a bid to stabilise its and support future expansion. Government officials indicated at end-2012 that a strategic partnership would be the most likely option On the other hand, the private sector plays a prominent role in maritime transport. The public National Ports Agency oversees all of Morocco’s ports except for Tanger-Med, which is managed by the Special Agency for Tanger-Med, a public-private partnership. Beyond this, private shipping and logistics companies operate many of the nation’s ports through concessionary agreements. To take the example of Tanger-Med, the private group Marsa Maroc has managed the bulk terminal at Tanger-Med I since 2010 and was recently awarded an operating concession for the Tanger-Med’s new container terminal, TC4. The other two terminals of Tanger-Med I are operated by Netherlands-based APM Terminals and by a consortium of companies including EUROGATE, Contship Italia, and shipping lines MSC, CMA-CGM and Comanav.
LOGISTICS: Finally, private and foreign partners will be crucial to the implementation of the national logistics strategy, which aims to reduce logistics costs as a percentage of GDP from 20% to 15% by 2015. Expansion of the logistics network will be necessary to support growth in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and other key industries. The government has outlined a 2010-2020 sector development strategy, which is expected to entail a total investment of Dh60bn (€5.33bn). Of this, Dh18bn (€1.6bn) is set to come from public funds, and the remainder will depend on private sector investment. In the second quarter of 2013, the ONCF and the national logistics company, Société Nationale du Transport et de Logistique, are expected to invite private operators to submit bids to rent and operate nine warehouse facilities under construction in the Zenata and MITA logistics zones, the first two zones built under the strategy. Therefore, both foreign and private sector partnerships will continue to be critical to further development. By shifting its strategy toward greater reliance on PPPs, the state is now working to utilise all available resources in its effort to establish Morocco as a hub for air, maritime and land transport in the region.
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