x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Morocco foothold for Abu Dhabi capital investors

Could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Casablanca Finance City builds links with Abu Dhabi firms as international companies seek an entry point into Africa.

Casablanca Finance City has signed up two Abu Dhabi investment firms as part of government-led efforts to create an investment gateway into north-west Africa and a new regional hub for finance.

AD Capital, an arm of Abu Dhabi's National Holding, and the asset management company InvestAD have established operations in the newly created business hub amid renewed investor interest in Africa.

Through a mix of tax incentives and a dedicated legal body, Casablanca is seeking to lure investment banks, asset managers and insurance firms to a 100-hectare business district it hopes will become a regional hub for finance.

"The opportunity isn't just a Moroccan opportunity but one in north-west Africa," said Said Ibrahimi, the chief executive of the Moroccan Financial Board. "There is a strong need for finance in this region." Casablanca Finance City, established in 2010, has so far attracted six companies, including the law firm Clifford Chance and the consultancy firms Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey.

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.

With many developing markets starting to become saturated and returns dwindling in the United States and Europe, investors have been turning their attention to frontiers in Africa.

InvestAD is seeking to expand its African operations as it courts greater numbers of individuals looking to invest in the continent, said Nazem Fawwaz Al Kudsi, the firm's chief executive.

"Global institutional investors are looking to deploy more capital in Africa and want asset managers with on-the-ground expertise," he said.

Mr Ibrahimi said he hoped Casablanca Finance City would complement rather than compete with Dubai by targeting regional opportunities in Africa.

While investment hubs such as Johannesburg, Cairo and Nairobi cover many parts of Africa, Morocco is seeking to establish itself as a gateway to what it terms the "Greater North West Africa" - an area of the continent stretching as far afield as Libya in the east and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the south.

The Moroccan Financial Board estimates the economic output of this area is about US$800 billion (Dh2.93 trillion), equivalent in size to the economy of Turkey, and home to 500 million people.

ghunter@thenational.ae

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