GCC countries view Morocco as a gateway to Africa and Europe, Abdul Rahman Al Otaishan, chairman of the governing board for the Saudi Chambers of commerce and industry, told assembled delegates at the 4th Gulf-Moroccan Investment Forum in Casablanca.
Al Otaishan welcomed the forum and the importance of the over 500 local and foreign entrepreneurs at the forum, calling on both to engage in mutually-profitable cooperation.
“We are noting with satisfaction that cooperation between Morocco and the GCC is improving but we want to develop it even further and expand it to various fields,” he said.
Direct trade between and the GCC countries barely exceeded $3.5m in 2012 — 90% of its between Morocco and Saudi Arabia — but the overall investment into Morocco over the last decade has exceeded $5bn, in addition to contributions by the GCC fund to tourism projects.
The forum yielded a ‘Casablanca declaration’ for the creation of a business bank to support projects for the Youth in Morocco and the Gulf and promote small and medium-sized enterprises.
Morocco-Saudi investment groups also announced the establishment of an enterprise named “Sama” for agricultural investments and real-estate projects, as well as an initiative by the “Taswik” group for the holding of an international fair on smart life in smart cities.
The event was organised by the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry under the auspices of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and in collaboration with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting (GOIC) Secretary-General Abdulaziz bin Hamad Al Ageel, additionally confirmed the strategic partnerships rapidly arising between Gulf and Moroccan investors in pharmaceuticals, metals, automobile and aircraft industries.
Solar energy in particular represents one of the strongest areas for potential synergy between Saudi Arabia and Morocco, due to the emphasis of both countries in funding both their own projects and in developing their expertise to contribute to projects across Africa.
According to Al-Ageel, Moroccan expertise could prove valuable to the GCC in its promotion of investments across Africa, and he called for the expansion of industrial cooperation between the GCC and Morocco to include skills training and human resource development.
He pointed to the rise in the number of workers in the GCC industrial sector to 1,379,257 in 2013, as testament to the success of the Gulf countries in enabling “qualification, research and innovation to have a positive impact on economic and industrial development.”
“The emphasis should be on scientific training and building qualified human resources,” he affirmed, noting that the GCC countries should leverage their existing academic resources and work to develop Moroccan research centres financed by GCC scientific research funds.
He summed: “These countries believe in the key role of skilled workers in the development of manufacturing and knowledge-based industries.”