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Fortifying Morocco’s age-old ties with the UK

The Morocco/UK relationship has come a long way in its 800 year old history

Published: Updated:

This article was co-authored by Her Highness Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui, Moroccan ambassador to the UK, and His Excellency Mr Clive Alderton, the British ambassador to Morocco

“A fortnight ago, leading business figures from the UK and Morocco came together in the heart of the world’s most international financial center - the City of London - for the “Morocco: Africa’s Business Gateway” conference, initiated by Mr. Mostafa Terrab, Moroccan co-chair of the Moroccan-British Business Leaders’ Forum (MBBLF) . The objective was simple: to use the 800 year old relationship between our two countries to build new bilateral partnerships as a motor for wider international engagement and success. Economists agree the 21st Century will be “The Century of Africa,” as growth and development continue to stride forward. Africa now increasingly imports rather than exports capital. The UK and Morocco, working together, can play an important role in spurring this growth further.

One only has to look at a map to see Morocco’s geographic advantages, as a skilled and competitive production hub; a potential springboard into wider African markets. And one only has to look at the history and experience of the UK to see how British expertise can help build those advantages to the next level, for mutual benefit. The timing could not be better. Bilateral trade in goods between the UK and Morocco exceeded the symbolic £1 billion ($1.6 million) mark in 2012. Bucking the trend of international economic volatility, exports from the UK to Morocco increased by nearly 40 percent in the first half of 2014. Morocco itself continues to register solid Foreign Direct Investment growth, attracting $3.4 billion last year with the manufacturing sector to the fore.

The foundations of this partnership are exceptionally strong.

But even these successes fall short of our shared ambitions. With Sub-Saharan African growth forecast at 5.2 percent this year, the UK’s traditional links to Anglophone Africa through the Commonwealth and Morocco’s strong links to Francophone Africa combine to create an exciting platform for new business relationships. The strategic partnership signed between the Casablanca and London Stock Exchanges this June, in the presence of H.M. King Mohammed VI, will link London’s expertise in financial markets and unique global reach with the dynamism and potential of the Moroccan financial services sector, helping Moroccan businesses of all sizes raise the finance they need to grow and create jobs. Working closely together our two Stock Exchanges will also support the development of Moroccan capital markets as the natural financial hub for North West Africa, and beyond.

To grow the international dimension of the Morocco/UK partnership we are also strengthening bilateral cooperation in vital areas such as education, financial services and energy.

There is an inescapable logic to learning English with the British. This September, close cooperation between the Moroccan Government and British Council saw the introduction of the first-ever English Baccalaureate in Moroccan state schools. We are working hard to expand this pilot project, to give the largest possible number of Moroccan families the opportunity for their children to be educated and examined in English. Success at this level will lead naturally to wider world-class training and qualifications in professional skills, equipping the next generation of Moroccans to beat fierce international competition for jobs at home and overseas.

The UK and Morocco are also working closely on economic reform, including Public Private Partnerships. The UK PPP market is now over 20 years old; the most mature in the world. The UK has over 700 operational projects with a capital value of over £50bn. Its experience is particularly developed in imaginative financing of public sector services including schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure. In September, UK business chose Morocco to launch a successful international conference on Port Finance, responding directly to the priority Morocco attaches to developing the strategic shipping opportunities offered by its long Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines.

The figurative energy of this joint work is matched by close cooperation in Morocco’s growing energy sector. To take just one example, both countries are making bold advances towards their ambitious renewable energy targets. The champions of the Moroccan renewables sector were strongly represented at the London Conference. Later this month, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, Lord Sharman, will lead a British Expertise Renewable Energy mission to Morocco to build new, durable relationships in wind, solar, waste management and energy efficiency.

The Morocco/UK relationship has come a long way in its 800 year old history. That is no surprise: as Monarchies, we are used to planning for the very long term. While the rapid pace of change in the 21st Century imposes new risks and challenges, it also offers vast new opportunities. We have overhauled our relationship to ensure it is fit for purpose to meet these challenges, rediscovering old friendships and making new ones along the way.”

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Her Highness Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui is the Moroccan ambassador to the UK and His Excellency Mr Clive Alderton is the British ambassador to Morocco.