Interview: Tobias Ellwood
How can awareness of Moroccan investment opportunities be increased among UK investors?
TOBIAS ELLWOOD: Morocco is increasingly on the map as one of the leading destinations in Africa for foreign direct investment (FDI), with investment up by 20% in 2015. The country is fast becoming a regional manufacturing hub, with more British firms looking at Morocco as a stable and attractive investment prospect in its own right, as well as a potential export gateway to the whole of Africa. There is already a very strong footprint of UK-invested companies there, including Shell, GSK, Unilever and Bombardier, plus a growing number of UK law firms and energy exploration companies.
Morocco has attracted a healthy increase in investment projects across most major sectors, and the presence of major British companies operating in Morocco will support growth and can act as a magnet for other international investors. However, the competition for global FDI is fierce. There is no room for complacency in Morocco, the UK or anywhere else.
It is encouraging to see that business reforms are being made in Morocco to make it easier for companies to invest. That progress is reflected in its strong performance in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings, moving up five places in 2016.
In which sectors do you see the greatest potential for increasing UK trade and investment?
ELLWOOD: The UK and Morocco have a thriving bilateral relationship, and the economic relationship is an important aspect. Bilateral trade is significant – at around £1.8bn per year – but our ambition is to do much more. The British government supports trade by helping British companies access the opportunities Morocco has to offer. We have a UK trade and investment team based in Casablanca, which gives British companies information, advice and support to help them enter the Moroccan market. We also have a strategic partnership with the British Chamber of Commerce in Casablanca, which plays an important role in helping UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access the Moroccan market. As we enter the third year of this partnership, the number of British SMEs we have helped has doubled.
In 2015 I was delighted to lead the largest-ever British trade mission to Morocco, which has opened up a huge range of new partnership opportunities. When I visit Morocco and speak to ministers and business leaders, I come away enthused by the desire to strengthen the bilateral business ties and the demand for high-quality British products and services.
I see great potential for Morocco to use more UK expertise right across the board, especially in areas such as energy and mining, financial services, education, and safety and security. Large projects like the liquefied natural gas and gas-to-power project at Jorf Lasfar and OCP’s industrial development programme have generated huge interest in the UK and play to British competitive strengths in consultancy, engineering, design and project management.
What sort of collaboration can the UK provide Morocco in building Casablanca Finance City?
ELLWOOD: As Morocco diversifies its economic offer and consolidates its position as a financial services hub in Africa, the UK can do much to support Morocco’s ambitious plans. London is the world’s leading financial centre, according to the Global Financial Centres Index. We are well represented in Morocco’s financial, professional and legal services sector, and this is demonstrated by the relationship recently forged between the London Stock Exchange and the Casablanca bourse. This is a great example of how the UK can help Morocco develop as the financial hub for West Africa and beyond. The Casablanca bourse is now running the London Stock Exchange’s ELITE programme, helping Moroccan SMEs to access funds on capital markets to help them grow.
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