Interview: Abdellah Abbad
How can Morocco strengthen its role in sub-Saharan Africa and support integration efforts?
ABDELLAH ABBAD: The volume of trade between the kingdom of Morocco and the rest of Africa increased by an average of 13% per year between 2003 and 2013, and by 12% when we look at the sub-Saharan region. Despite this progress, the economic potential of our relationship with the continent remains underexploited. In efforts to increase our regional competitiveness, there remain several areas to explore and additional synergies to develop – particularly with francophone Africa. I refer mainly to fertilisers, agro-industry, manufacturing and the relocation of small and medium-sized enterprises given the abundant supply of affordable labour. Morocco would benefit by engendering further talks on accelerating free-trade agreements with its sub-Saharan counterparts.
Much like the rest of Africa, CEMAC’s defective regional integration efforts have been aggravated by risks associated with a fragile social fabric, territorial conflicts, rivalries and so on. Morocco has undertaken several initiatives that favour African nations, including the cancellation of debt and the total exoneration of Customs duties for some of the less-developed countries and their products. I believe that Morocco can play an important role in terms of technical assistance and knowledge transfer, as well as on scientific and cultural fronts. It could also take measures in the fields of economics and finance by, for example, reinforcing the capitalisation of its companies in the CEMAC bloc. Bilateral economic and commercial cooperation has always constituted an important lever for action in Morocco’s Central African strategy. The economic ties between Morocco and these countries are governed by a legal framework, which includes 500 cooperation agreements. Royal visits have given them decisive impetuses that widen the opportunities for cooperation, to which Morocco attributes strategic importance.
How have relations between Morocco and Gabon evolved in recent years?
ABBAD: Morocco and Gabon nurture excellent political and economic ties. Moroccan companies have been present in Gabon for decades, with involvement in banking, telecoms, forestry, mining, hydrocarbons, construction and public works, ICT, cement, and air transport. During the last royal visit to Gabon, partnerships were concluded in the fields of agriculture and fisheries, merchant shipping, tourism, industry, and labour. These bilateral cooperation agreements followed others signed in 2013 related to health care, including a deal regarding the training of health professionals. A memorandum of understanding for a strategic partnership in technology and information systems was also concluded at that time. I believe that given the exemplary relationship between the two countries, every challenge can be overcome. Difficulties associated with transport are often due to insufficient maritime routes, and it also seems as though businesspeople from both nations lack information on the details of the preferential arrangements.
What sectors offer the most opportunities for Moroccan exporters and investors?
ABBAD: Gabon boasts immense potential through its natural assets, and the local market is proving buoyant for Moroccan exporters, provided that they adopt a strategy that adapts to Gabonese import demand. To this end, the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services – Rabat-Salé-Kénitra Region is prepared to organise business-to-business meetings to allow businesspeople from both nations to negotiate partnerships directly in fields such as the automotive industry, textiles, construction materials, the metal and metallurgic industries, copper, ICT, chemicals and parachemicals, renewable energies, and transport and logistics. Links in tourism and craftsmanship could also bolster ties between our nations.
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