While the successful implementation of the Tangiers-Metropolis programme has played a key role in boosting the city’s development, a number of large-scale projects made crucial advances in 2017. Moving forward it is the construction, expansion and modernisation of roads, rail links, hospitality infrastructures and ports that continue to establish Tangiers’ position as a diversifying smart city.

TANGIERS TECH CITY: The city of Tangiers holds a central role in the government’s six-year, Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-20 and is poised to increase the industry sector’s contribution to Morocco’s national GDP from 14% in 2016 to 23% in 2020 with the development of so-called automotive ecosystems – highly productive industrial clusters.

The planned Mohammed VI Tangiers Tech City, a 2000-ha industrial and residential park for some 200 multinational companies, represents the beginning of establishing successful smart cities in the kingdom. Looking to further boost domestic industries, a consortium was formed between the Haite Group of China, Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieure’s (BMCE) Bank of Africa and the regional council. Over the course of 10 years, Mohammed VI’s Tangiers Tech City – located only 15 km away from Europe and between Tangiers and Al Hoceima – is projected to generate investments of $10bn (€8.3bn), creating some 100,000 new jobs across the industrial spectrum, including automotive, aeronautics, pharmaceutics, e-commerce and heavy industry.

According to the signed public and private memorandum, 90,000 jobs will be accessible to locals, with an additional 10,000 jobs earmarked for expatriates to be employed in the new city. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, minister of industry, trade, investment and digital economy, told local media that the smart city will serve as the North African base for Chinese automobile, aeronautics and textile companies, and that it constitutes the concrete result of Morocco’s diversification in its economic partnerships. The realisation of this Sino-Moroccan flagship project gained momentum in December 2017 when the tech city attracted its first major client, Chinese automobile manufacturer BYD Auto. A memorandum of understanding was signed between King Mohammed VI and BYD’s CEO Wang Chuanfu to install four factories for manufacturing electric cars and batteries, as well as electric trains, buses and trucks. The factories will employ 2500 people and produce 100,000 vehicles per year, bringing Morocco closer to their target of producing 1m car units annually. In the same month, the regional council launched the Tangiers Tech Development Company (TTDC), charged with managing the implementation and maintenance of the tech city project and its lands.

A public-private partnership between the regional council and BMCE, the company is equipped with a share capital of Dh500m (€46.3m) and began its activities in January 2018. As the Mohammed VI Tangiers Tech City project gains momentum, more corporations are set to follow in 2018.

HIGH-SPEED RAILWAY: In addition to developing and building upgraded highway and port infrastructures, Africa’s first high-speed railway line (ligne à grande vitesse, LGV) and renovated stations are scheduled to open in June 2018.

A landmark infrastructure project, it will connect Tangiers with Casablanca, reducing travel time between the two cities and further developing the northern region. Although the LGV was initially set to begin operations in 2015, land acquisition problems delayed its launch by nearly three years, as 350 km of double-track rail lines had to be deployed.

According to the Moroccan National Railways Office (Office National des Chemins de Fer du Maroc, ONCF), the project required a grand total of Dh20bn (€1.9bn) in investments. The French state holds a majority stake at 51% with minority shareholders including the Moroccan state at 28% with the remainder split between four Gulf funds including the Saudi Development Fund and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

While the high-speed trains are supplied by French rail transport company Alstom, the LGV project also benefits from French rail-link expertise, including the French National Railway Corporation, Cegelec, Colas Rail, Egis Rail and SYSTRA. The LGV line will significantly reduce in-country travel time along the kingdom’s most populated coastal regions of Casablanca-Settat, Rabat-Salé-Kenitra and Tangiers-Tétouan-Al Hoceima.

“The LGV is due to be operational in June 2018 and will play a crucial role in decongesting overpopulated areas along Morocco’s coast line,” Mohammed El Yaacoubi, governor of the Tangiers-Tétouan-Al Hoceima region, told OBG. “Thanks to the LGV, many people will be able to live in Tangiers, but continue to work in Rabat or Casablanca. This train has, to some extent, the potential of changing the demographic dynamics of Morocco.” At a top speed of 320 km per hour, the new high-speed rail journey from Tangiers to Kenitra will take 50 minutes instead of three hours, and a trip from Tangiers to Casablanca will take two hours instead of more than five.

At the same time, the LGV pricing policy will take into account local travellers’ purchasing power, with tickets available from €12 for a Tangiers-Casablanca one-way journey. The ONCF announced significant advances in December 2017, with all first railway tests deemed successful. According to the national railway office, the last testing round will begin in February 2018 followed by preoperative burn-ins and a host of extensive certification procedures before the launch in summer 2018.

RAIL REDEVELOPMENT: In line with the expansion of the LGV network, complete redevelopment of the Tangiers main railway station and refurbishments of train stations such as Rabat-Agdal in Rabat and Casa-Voyageurs in Casablanca, and Kenitra has taken place. The upgraded stations offer underground car parks, elevators, escalators and retail spaces. With the network set up and its support infrastructure upgraded, the LGV is set to transport 6m passengers per year within just three years of its launch.

PORT UPGRADING: Another project that has seen significant progress in 2017 is the old Tangiers City Port. In 2010 King Mohammed VI launched the port reconstruction project with the establishment of the Tangiers City Port Management Company (Société de Gestion du Port de Tanger Ville, SGPTV). “The separation of the city port’s industrial and leisure activities has been one of the guiding principles behind the reconversion of the Tangiers City Port,” Jamil Ouazzani, head of marketing and strategic intelligence at SGPTV told OBG. “When Tanger-Med became operational in 2007, all industrial activities, i.e., merchandise and cargo transport, which were previously handled close to the city centre could then be outsourced to a dedicated port. The reconversion now enables Tangiers to become an international linchpin for cruise ships, yachts and fast-ferries over the next five to 10 years.”

At the centre of the project is the kingdom’s first urban marina, the Tanja Marina Bay International (TMBI). A redeveloped fishing port, the 24,000-sq-metre marina accommodates a total of 2114 berths across two separate basins for the mooring of boats and yachts from seven to 92 metres in length. In May 2017 SGPTV announced that construction work had been completed and preparations made to welcome the first boats in November 2017. TMBI represents the first realised outcome of the port and includes a convention centre, a shopping centre, hotels, restaurants, cafes and a yacht club around the marina’s edges. “The environmental aspect, including the sustainable development and preservation of nature, have been fully taken into consideration throughout this conversion,” Mohamed Ouanaya, CEO of SGPTV, told OBG. “As for tourism, Tangiers is a destination full of history, with a wide variety of landscapes and things to do, and has served as a source of inspiration for many famous artists,” he added.

Spread across 11 ha of waterfront land, the new port is almost three times the size of the old one and it is located directly next to the new marina. The port already serves as a key transportation link that is will continue to encourage visitors with its modern fast-ferry terminal. According to SGPTV figures, an estimated 1.4m passengers currently use the 45-minute fast-ferry line from Tangiers to Tarifa in Spain – the southernmost European city. As of November 2017 the fast-ferry terminal had a completion rate of 70% and is set to be open in 2018. The new port project is integrated into the plan for the restoration and development of the old medina, and is yet another force behind Tangiers’ ambitious and comprehensive urban renewal agenda.