There is more to Tangier than its ‘sheltering sky’ and its artsy cafes, which were the favourite hangouts of literary giants and celebrities, such as Paul Powles, Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, when the North African city had an international status from 1924 to 1956.
Tangier evolved from being a melting pot of Arabs, Berbers, Jews, Spaniards, Italians, Belgians, Dutch, French, English, Americans to an international trade and logistics hub at present day.
High-speed trains connect the city to Rabat and Casablanca (and other cities along a 1300km railway network), whereas modern highways (as part of a 1800km highway system) link it to the rest of the country.
Part of these big infrastructure projects and strategic investments have been supported by the European Investment Bank, which shows the eagerness of the EU to enhance competitiveness and connectivity in Morocco.
So was the extension of the Tanger Med Port, which hosts a state-of-art facility special economic zone only 35 km from the city of Tangier, offering fiscal, administrative and customs advantages (i.e. temporary admission of raw material and less paper work) for investors.
Following the inauguration of a second port facility Tanger Med 2 on June 28th this year, the container capacity of the port is expected to increase to 9 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU), making it the biggest port in Africa and on the Mediterranean Sea.
As envisioned by the Moroccan King Mohammed VI, the port is strategically situated on the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet and European and African continents embrace each other.
The 1000-hectare port complex is already home to 912 companies - half of them European- representing aeronautics, electronics, paramedical, agribusiness, textile and automotive industry (including the largest car plant in Africa run by France’s Renault).
“There is more to Tangier than its ‘sheltering sky’ and its artsy cafes, which were the favourite hangouts of literary giants and celebrities, such as Paul Powles, Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, when the North African city had an international status from 1924 to 1956”
Three out of four terminals of Tanger Med are operated by leading European port operators, such as the Netherlands-based APM Terminals and Germany-based Eurogate.
Major European and international companies have established themselves in Tanger Med not only for the port facilities but for the industry behind.
The automotive industry is exploding in the Kingdom and surpassed the biggest export sector phosphate for the last three years, 65 percent of the car parts being actually made in Morocco.
The proximity to Europe, cost of factors of production (electricity, labour etc.), availability and good temper of human resources, facility for import and export, tax incentives, stability of dirham to euro and possibility to retain talent are cited as the determining factors by international companies for choosing to invest in the Tanger Med regional platform for industrial competitiveness.
Linked to 186 ports in the world in 77 countries, Tangier Med now ranks 17th in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shipping connectivity index.
Not only Spain’s Algeciras is 14 km away from Tanger Med but the port finds itself in the centre of global maritime routes, permitting for close to zero deviation for ships at a crossing point for 20 percent of global trade.
This makes the Moroccan port an ideal gateway for trans-shipments to African countries, which cannot accommodate big vessels in the absence of deep-water ports.
“As envisioned by the Moroccan King Mohammed VI, the port is strategically situated on the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet and European and African continents embrace each other”
To have such facilitated access to booming markets in West Africa and beyond represents new opportunities for the EU, which has an Association Agreement with Morocco and relaunched negotiations for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
The EU is the number one trading partner of Morocco but the relationships between the two neighbours go far beyond.
The two parties gave a new impetus to their ‘strategic, multidimensional and privileged partnership’ in June this year by developing a Euro-Moroccan partnership for shared prosperity in the area of convergence of values, economic convergence, shared knowledge, as well as political consultation and enhanced cooperation on security in addition to climate change and migration.
In this context, the EU sees Morocco as a key partner in the Euro-African and the Euro-Mediterranean area for ‘its political stability and many reforms carried out” and attaches great importance to reinforce trilateral cooperation between the EU, Morocco and the African Union.
Strategic infrastructure projects, such as Tanger Med, promise to bring this cooperation to the next level, not only benefiting the EU and Morocco but the Maghreb region and the African continent as a whole.