Rabat – Morocco and China signed an MAD 140 million economic and technical cooperation agreement on Tuesday, March 19, in Rabat. The agreement will finance joint public projects.
Morocco’s minister of economy and finance, Mohamed Benchaaboun, and the ambassador of China to Morocco, Li Li, initialled the grant agreement.
Since Morocco exempted Chinese citizens from getting visas before arrival in June 2016, Chinese investment and the number of Chinese tourists in Morocco has increased, said Benchaaboun.
With increasing numbers of tourists, the two countries announced in January a direct flight connecting Casablanca to Beijing or Shanghai, to open between late 2019 and early 2020.
Li commented that the financial aid will help the two sides launch pilot projects in the technology and education sectors in Morocco in the near future. China will support economic and social development in Morocco, he said.
Li told the media last week that East-West cooperation should be understood in terms of “plurality” rather than from a “geopolitical” perspective. He spoke at the 6th Africa Development International Forum (FIAD) in Casablanca on March 14 and 15. Organized by Attijfariwafa Bank, FIAD brought together 2,000 entrepreneurs and banking experts.
In February, Morocco’s Minister of Energy Aziz Rabbah said Morocco is becoming a partnership hub as a link between China and the rest of Africa thanks to major reforms and partnerships under Morocco’s Africa policy.
China announced its Belt and Road global development strategy in 2013. The strategy established the Maritime Silk Road, a trade sea route connecting China to Europe through East Africa. Although it lies in northwest Africa, Morocco is relevant to China’s plan.
Morocco is eight miles away from Europe, a major trade partner of China. The Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain and Morocco is a strategic global trade location.
Its position on the map, as well as its Africa investment policy, made Morocco fit into China’s Belt and Road initiative.
China made a number of investments in Morocco’s cultural, education, and technology sectors, laying the foundation for the long-term Belt and Road project.
In January 2018, Morocco and China agreed to establish a research institute focusing on “Belt and Road Studies,” according to news outlet China Daily.
In March 2017, the Confucius Institute, a state-affiliated organization promoting the Chinese language and culture, opened in Tangier.
Moroccan students are also interested in China. Chinese universities are the second most popular destination for African students after France, according to UNESCO. Most of them come from East African countries, Morocco, and Cameroon, reported University World News.
In the technology sector, King Mohammed VI launched Tangier Tech in March 2017, a smart city to be built in the next 10 years. China’s Haite group will help finance the $1 billion project. Tangier Tech plans to host 200 Chinese companies.