Economy

France-Morocco: A Rich Past and a Promising Future

Chaima Lahsini

Rabat - By devoting his first trip in North Africa to Morocco, the new French President Emmanuel Macron starts a new promising era for Moroccan-French diplomatic relations. 

Macron has called Morocco “A friendly country and a strategic partner of France,”  and his recent visit to the Kingdom responds to the desires expressed by King Mohammed VI to see the bilateral relations between the two countries gain “intensity and depth.”

Sharing a strong historic bond, the relationship between Morocco and France has always been one of friendship, although interspersed with its share of tension at time.  Macron’s visit, however, sets a warm tone to the future bilateral relations between the countries.

A Bond Based on Economic Partnerships

With no less than EUR 8 billion of trade in 2012, France remains Morocco's largest trading partner. It is also  Morocco's leading investor (EUR 919 million in 2012) and its first donor of official development assistance.

During his visit with King Mohammed VI, Emmanuel Macron said he had discussed France's commitment to continue its partnership with Morocco as part of its strategy of economic emergence and industrial development as well as supporting the implementation of political and institutional reforms undertaken since 2011 with the adoption of the new constitution. France also intends to aid the country's efforts in the field of human development, particularly the fight against poverty and the reduction of social inequalities.

Moroccan-French economic relations are characterized by their density and depth as evidenced by the launch of several joint projects and the strong presence of CAC 40 companies in Morocco. The Renault Tanger plant, which has made the automotive sector a jewel of  Moroccan industry, and the high-speed railway project, are perfect illustrations of this exemplary economic partnership.

As Morocco's first bilateral donor France provides  substantial financial support to the Kingdom.  Grants from the French Development Agency (AFD) that fund several projects in the Kingdom in various areas, including promotion of SMEs, infrastructure and transport were estimated at EUR 600 million over the 2014-2016 period.

The republic is by far the largest foreign investor in Morocco, with an FDI stock of EUR 11.9 billion. With 750 subsidiaries of French companies based in the kingdom, hiring about 80,000 employees, Morocco is the main destination for French investment in the African continent. 55% of these subsidiaries depend on the industrial sector, while 33% are in services.

The two countries are also working together on climate change, especially since the last two editions of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP) were held in Paris in 2015 and Marrakech in 2016 respectively.

Africa, the New Eldorado

A solid economic partner of France, Morocco has positioned itself in recent years as the gateway to Africa for the European Union including France. Macron's arrival at the Elysée comes after Morocco’s return to the African Union, which was made possible by an unparalleled ambitious economic approach deployed by the Kingdom in various parts of the continent.

Morocco’s return to the AU and its accession in the ECOWAS present a golden opportunity for the two heads of state to translate into reality another commitment for development in Africa. If King Mohammed VI deploy all his effort to keep the wealth of Africa to benefit Africans, Macron has already outlined his strategy on African soil, contrary to the well-established formula of “françafrique.”

The French Government and the private sector encourage partnerships with Moroccan companies to conquer Africa, where competition from China and other emerging countries had led some to question the position previously occupied by the republic as the leading investor in the continent.

For the two countries, it is a question of “pursuing joint interests in the region and in Africa,” Macron said during the press conference on Wednesday. “It follows that France will accompany the ambitious reforms led by the King, including the modernization of institutions, economic emergence and integration of Morocco into networks and globalization, the fight against territorial inequalities and the promotion of advanced regionalization.”

“On the continent, Morocco is playing an increasingly powerful role, through regional and Sahel stabilization strategy,” the French President said, adding that he is “convinced that Morocco and France together have a common policy to lead, to develop alongside private entrepreneurs, artists, the educational and cultural world, a form of liberation for societies wherever they are flourishing, relying, in particular, on civil society.” In a nutshell, Macron wants to boost the involvement of diverse social classes in the development of Africa. .

Joint Action Against Terrorism

Bilateral cooperation also encompasses the fight against terrorism and radicalization. Both countries have demonstrated their shared determination to work together to combat terrorism and radicalization and to work towards resolving regional and international crises.

“The Franco-Moroccan partnership will, as always, pursue the same ideals: peace, security, openness and dialogue between cultures and civilizations,” assured the Sovereign who welcomed the alliance between the two countries in the fight against terrorism and obscurantism.

A History of a Shared Culture

Morocco and France emphasized the development and promotion of rich and diversified cultural cooperation. The strong presence of French cultural institutions in Morocco and the organization in Paris of two important exhibits  highlighting the culture of the Kingdom at the end of 2014 at the Institute of the Arab World (IMA) and the Louvre, testify of the interest in cultural exchange between the two countries.

The soon to be built Moroccan cultural center in Paris will also undoubtedly contribute to the development of the strong cultural ties between the two countries.

The cultural bond between Morocco and France was also illustrated by the Kingdom's place as guest of honor at the Paris Book Fair in March.

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