x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

It's well worth playing it again, Sam, in Morocco

The Life: Investment makes it an interesting time to be a business traveller in Morocco.

A view of Casablanca from Kenzi Tower Hotel. Zacarias Garcia for The National
A view of Casablanca from Kenzi Tower Hotel. Zacarias Garcia for The National

Morocco's history as a trading nation is evident in its bustling and historic medinas that are often designated as world heritage sites.

And although these are still centres of business and trade, the real investment is now being seen in huge infrastructure and development projects funded by a combination of government, private and foreign investment.

This expansion makes it an interesting time to be a business traveller in Morocco and more specifically Casablanca, the economic heart of the North African country.

While the misquoted Humphrey Bogart line from the film of the same name is synonymous with the city, opportunities for investment and business are now almost as well known as the country's markets or tasty tagines, its traditional dish.

As with Dubai, Casablanca is investing to become a city that blurs the boundaries between both business and pleasure. It is developing a number of cities of expertise, such as the 100-hectare Finance City, which is planned to be an offshore centre similar to the Dubai International Finance Centre. The Moroccan financial board hopes the development will create about 15,000 jobs by the end of the decade, with a further 25,000 added by auxiliary businesses linked to the city. Casablanca will also build a "city" dedicated to the aerospace and automotive industries, one for technology and another for health and wellbeing.

Admittedly, it is still very poor, with beggars on every street corner, and it does not quite hold the touristic charm of peers such as Marrakech, but doing business in Morocco is getting easier, according to the World Bank, which ranked it 94 out of 183 economies last year in a list of ease of getting business done. That was 21 places higher than 2010.

Moreover, Casablanca is investing heavily, building a 34km tram network around the city, as well as a huge leisure marina development at a cost of 5 billion Moroccan dirhams (Dh2.08bn).

Perhaps once dismissed by many, there are now good reasons to look again at this bustling metropolis.

rjones@thenational.ae