How would you describe the Morocco-Japan relationship?
The relationship between our two countries has been excellent since the establishment of the diplomatic relations in 1956, when Morocco recovered its independence 65 years ago.
Morocco is a country with a long history, since its first sovereign acceded to the throne at the end of the 8th Century, and the current Alaouite Dynasty has been ruling since the 17th Century. His Majesty the Emperor visited Morocco in 1991 as Crown Prince, and His Majesty King Mohammed VI visited Japan three times, including a State Visit in 2005.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 Japanese tourists have been visiting Morocco every year before COVID, and we also have had a long history of cooperation. Today, the two countries have become reliable business partners with the rapid development of Morocco. The number of Japanese firms investing in Morocco has doubled in 6 years, and there are now over 70 of them operating here, especially in the automotive industry.
What notable economic contributions has Japan made to Morocco?
The economic cooperation (official development aid) started in the 1960s, and until today, many accomplishments have been made especially in the fields of education, health, infrastructure, water or energy, with a total amount of 311.6 billion yens of loans, 37.1 billion yens of grants, and 40.2 billion yens of technical cooperation.
As a recent trend, we have also started cooperation in sustainable energy field. But during these several years, the two countries have developed a win-win business partnership, and the Japanese firms have created some 40,000 jobs in Morocco. We are proud that the largest foreign job creation case in Morocco has been realized by a Japanese company.
What makes Morocco a leading investment destination in the region?
The Kingdom of Morocco, ruled by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, enjoys among all safety, stability and visibility on a long term, which are precious factors for investing in the MENA region and on the African continent. Its infrastructure (ports, highways, railways and airport), its investments-friendly legislation, its proximity to Europe as well as its qualified workforce (Morocco has a good Higher education and job training system, and more and more people speak not only French but also English). And last but not least, Moroccan friendly people make the country a very nice place to live for expatriates. Due to these reasons, Morocco has had more than 3 billion US dollars of FDI per year for several years.
The management of the COVID 19 crisis has also shown the good governance of Morocco. Under the initiative of His Majesty the King, Morocco has succeeded in having a relatively low number of deaths, and as in early October, more than half of the total population is already vaccinated twice. Due to these, figures of the Moroccan economy seem to be good: in a speech given in early October, His Majesty the King himself announced that an economic growth above 5.5% is expected for year 2021, and that the FDI amount was 16% higher in August compared to the year before.
How can Japan and Morocco continue to strengthen ties?
As a result of the elections held in September 2021, Morocco has a moderate and business-oriented tripartite coalition government, and I am confident that building on what has been made until now, we will be able to work together to strengthen furthermore our bilateral ties.
We are waiting the ratification of two agreements signed in January 2020, a Convention for the elimination of double taxation, and an Agreement for the protection of investments. Once they will be ratified, and once the COVID 19 will be behind us, we are convinced that the interest of the Japanese business for Morocco will be re-boosted.
Another positive element is the Japanese commitment to the development of Africa, as shown in the TICAD process. One of the pillars of the Moroccan diplomacy is the promotion of South-South cooperation, we hope that the two countries will able to join their efforts in Africa in order to assist the development of the continent.
Last but not least, Morocco has published under the leadership of His Majesty the King a “New Model of Development”, a roadmap towards year 2035 aiming to make the country a development hub in the region. Japan will of course be happy to work with Morocco in making this ambition a reality.
What message do you have for our readers?
We are convinced that the Japan-Morocco bilateral relations will continue to grow stronger next year, which will mark the 90th Anniversary of the opening of a Japanese Consulate in Casablanca. We hope that many Japanese companies will consider doing business in and with Morocco, a land full of opportunities. And we look forward to having many visitors from Japan. Seeing is believing, the Moroccan people are so friendly, and there are so many historical, cultural, gastronomic and touristic assets.