Oxford Business Group: Morocco, a Model for Special Economic Zones, FDI

Oxford Business Group revealed in a new report that Morocco is a regional and international leader in establishing new special economic zones (SEZs) and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), thanks to its higher value-added technology industries.

Entitled “How Special Economic Zones are Shaping Africa’s Industrial Landscape”, the report states that between 2010 and 2016, Morocco’s exports increased by $ 2 billion, with automotive exports rising from 2% to 16% of the total. 

“Between 2008 and 2015 the share of medium- to high-tech exports increased from 23% to over 40%,” explained the report. 

Noting that Morocco has focused over the past decade on high-tech activities such as automobiles, Oxford Business Group stressed that the Moroccan government has played a key role in attracting industrial investment, with the launch of the National Pact for Industrial Emergence (PNEI) in 2008 and the Industrial Acceleration Plan (PAI) in 2014, in addition to providing a range of tax incentives for investors.

The report pointed out that the Moroccan government also prioritized specific industries, such as automotive, aerospace, electronics, and agro-industrial processing, underlining that the development of the country’s special economic zones (SEZs) has been supported by political stability, the relatively low cost of skilled labor, and proximity to Europe.

The publication also recalled that in 2020, the consultancy FDI Intelligence ranked Tangier Med, a group of eight free zones around the port of Tangier, as the leading free zone in Africa and second in the world. 

“Several emerging economies have tried to follow Morocco’s example in high-tech industrial development, but many have been unable to connect local low-tech industries, such as agriculture and manufacturing, with high-tech industrialized solutions,” noted the report. 

Oxford Business Group further explained that the lack of adequate resources for training highly skilled workers means that there is often a gap between local economic activities and the high expectations of international investors.

The report also stressed that the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) must improve integration across the continent in the future, stimulating the structural transformation of African economies from a focus on low-value-added industries to more diversified ones.

The publication concluded that the recent wave of free zone development in Africa has largely been aimed at adding value to traditional economic activities, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

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