The project comes after Moroccan authorities suspended smuggling activities across Ceuta borders, leaving over 450,000 Moroccans without income-generating activity.
Rabat – Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani has approved a decree relating to the creation of a public company to manage the economic zone in Fnideq, near the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.
Decree 2.20.425, published on Morocco’s Official Bulletin on June 26, states that the company called “Zone of Economic Activity of Fnideq” will have an initial capital of MAD 1 million ($103,148).
The new managing company will be a subsidiary of the Special Agency of Tangier Med, the public company managing the activity of the nearby Tangier Med Port.
The project of Fnideq’s economic zone comes after Moroccan authorities suspended smuggling activities across the Tarajal II Ceuta border in October 2019, leaving 78,000 inhabitants of Fnideq and 380,000 residents of Tetouan without a source of income.
According to the recently published decree, the project aims to install the necessary infrastructure for economic and social development in the region.
The Oued Negro Free Zone project, as it is called in the legal text, also hopes to “create a new economic dynamic in the region under the M’diq-Fnideq prefecture and the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, through setting up a platform that can attract economic activities with high added value.”
The newly-created company will have the responsibility of managing, developing, and marketing the project, as well as attracting investments.
In addition to the land granted by the Moroccan state, the project will cost MAD 200 million ($20.63 million), including both the planning and construction expenses. The project’s financing will extend over three years, from 2020 to 2022.
Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior will finance MAD 70 million ($7.22 million) of the total budget, the Ministry of Industry MAD 40 million ($4.13 million), the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region Council MAD 80 million ($8.25 million), and the Agency for the Promotion and Development of the North (APDN) MAD 10 million ($1.03 million).
Earlier in June, Spanish news agency EFE reported that the construction of the economic zone had already begun.
New economic strategy in the north
The closure of borders between Ceuta and Morocco in the face of smugglers created a frenzy among Spanish media.
The Moroccan government initially suggested that the main reason behind the decision was the injuries and deaths among smugglers, caused by the several-hours-long blockades at the Tarajal II crossing point due to the high number of porters.
However, Moroccan authorities later said the impact of illegal imports on Morocco’s economy also played a role in the decision.
In February 2019, the Director-General of the Moroccan Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxation, Nabyl Lakhdar, estimated the value of products illegally entering Morocco through the Ceuta border at MAD 6 billion ($621.2 million) to MAD 8 billion ($828.3 million) every year.
The smuggling operations costs Morocco between MAD 2 billion ($207.1 million) and MAD 3 billion ($310.6 million) in unpaid taxes yearly.
The Fnideq project will be matched with a similar one in Nador, northeastern Morocco, with the same objective vis-a-vis smuggling from the Spanish enclave of Melilla, local news outlets reported.
The two projects are expected to benefit local populations and protect the Moroccan economy.