Interview: Omar Moro
What challenges have accompanied the region’s recent economic growth?
OMAR MORO: The previous three years have been marked by the implementation of the regionalisation project, an instrument for the economic and social development of the Tangiers-Tétouan-Al Hoceima region. Currently, the region is experiencing significant growth across multiple sectors, including the manufacturing industries, which employ some 121,700 people. The growth of Tangiers’ industries has resulted in improved employment growth rate figures: from 2007 to 2017 the sector experienced an average annual growth rate of around 3% per year, compared to the national average of 1.3%.
However, this economic dynamism has also resulted in a host of challenges that will need to be addressed in the coming years: the regional labour market needs to become more inclusive and the urban-rural employment opportunity gap – particularly in regard to the low participation rate of women – must be bridged. As part of its response, the region has launched a programme to tackle youth unemployment, and to improve the quality of skills and employment.
How do you evaluate the regulatory and tax framework for multinational corporations in the region?
MORO: Multinational corporations established in the Tangiers region benefit from a number of unique advantages, such as export processing zones and financial centre schemes, in addition to those already granted under Morocco’s federal regulatory and tax regime. This framework has fostered the expansion carried out by multinationals now installed in Tangier, accounting for the 95% occupancy rate of the Kenitra Atlantic Free Zone and the Tanger Automotive City free zone.
Other incentives ensure multinationals are not required to submit to exchange regulations and are exempt from import duties. Overall, such tax exemptions are meant to incentivise multinationals to install themselves and to make use of the region’s extensive resources. The region’s tax framework is extremely competitive: companies are exempt from patent taxes, the national solidarity tax and the value-added tax for inbound products to the free zone, and the urban tax for a 15-year period. At the same time, they benefit from a five-year business tax exoneration, an 80% reduction of the general income tax, and a free repatriation of profits and capital.
What is your overall assessment of the regional tourism industry’s competitiveness?
MORO: The region of Tangiers-Tétouan-Al Hoceima occupies a privileged place as an economic metropolis of the kingdom, making it a necessary destination for national and foreign investors. The regional heritage is rich and varied, with 21 sites of biological and ecological interest distributed throughout the territory, including wetlands, maritime, coastal and continental landscapes. These natural assets make places such as Tangiers, Tétouan, Chefchaouen, Al Hoceima, Larache and Ouazzane the leading tourist destinations, with many promising large-scale redevelopment projects in progress or nearing completion.
However, there are still challenges. Although various economic actors have utilised promotional actions to revive the regional tourism sector – while preserving and respecting the identity and originality of each regional province – seasonality continues to be a chronic concern for Al Hoceima and Tamuda Bay, while the accommodation infrastructure of Chefchaouen and Al Hoceima needs to be expanded.
These challenges indicate a continuing need for the encouragement of private investment across the region, in addition to a more comprehensive promotional strategy through new communication tools and projects – perhaps including the planned museum, conference and exhibitions centre. Each of these measures, alone and together, are likely to increase the entire region’s competitiveness in the coming years.