The GCC countries are investing heavily in Morocco, particularly in tourism and real estate. Construction is evident everywhere. These investments reflect the strong diplomatic relations between Morocco and the regimes in the Gulf countries. Some analysts would add the Sunni affinity as another factor, but above all, it is the liberalized economy and the economic reforms in Morocco that appear to be attracting most of the investors from the Gulf region.
As part of its economic liberalization policy, Morocco has concluded free trade agreements with GCC countries, thereby lining Morocco with one of the largest free trade networks in the world and giving it duty-free access to a huge market.
Analysts estimate that the potential of investment of the Gulf countries is about $500 billion, and Morocco could conceivably attract no less than 20 billion dollars of that amount.
The trend of heavy Gulf investments in Morocco came in the wake of 9/11, when GCC countries began to invest more in the Arab world. Due to the oil prices, which climbed about 400% in eight years, member countries of the GCC (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) accumulated considerable liquidity that has triggered the drive for diversification.
Some Key Investments by GCC Companies
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a major player in Morocco’s development. While early investments were primarily in construction and tourism, recent investments have been directed at newer areas such as information technology, agriculture, transportation, telecommunications, automobile and aviation development. The amount of the investments is becoming of great significance for the Moroccan economy
Created in 1997, EMAAR Properties is one of the biggest property developers in the GCC countries. Its investment in Morocco has totalled $6.90 billion, covering six real estate projects across the country. On January 2007, EMAAR and the Moroccan government signed a new $5.4 billion memorandum of understanding (MoU) that opens the doors for EMAAR to develop urban projects, comprising residential, commercial, retail, leisure and entertainment facilities.
EMAAR and ONA Group- the leading Moroccan industrial and financial group- joined forces for a $327 million real estate venture for a new project. It is a luxury residential golfing complex in Marrakech that will allow individual buyers to purchase plots of land and design and build their homes. This project will be called Amelkis II.
EMAAR Group: Coastal Road of Rabat, 1.3 billion US dollars to start...
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL PROPERTIES
Dubai International Properties, the international real estate investment arm of Dubai Holding, is also developing a series of real-estate projects worth $12 billion in partnership with CDG, one of the biggest Moroccan real estate companies. The projects will be developed in major Moroccan cities, including Marrakech, Casablanca and Rabat over the next five years. Indeed, Morocco is fast maturing as a tourist destination and residential investment location.
Dubai Holding has focused its activities in the City of Marrakech because of its potential in terms of location, tourism, leisure and entertainment. In addition, Marrakech enjoys an international reputation and offers important investment opportunities.
The investments made by Dubai in Marrakech were diverse and took advantage of the skilled human resources, policy transparency, good governance, and the public-private partnership.
DUBAI PROPERTIES concentrated on the development of specific landmarks, such as skyscrapers under the name of "Dubai Towers" and projects of Spas and fitness clubs under the name of "Salam", as well as schemes of the development of integrated cities, such as the “Amouaj” project.
The following is a sample of projects financed by UAE companies in Morocco:
DIP: Dubai International Properties, CDG: Groupe Caisse depot et de Gestion www.cdg.ma
AL QUDRA HOLDING GROUP
The Abu Dhabi-based Al Qudra Holding group is also making strategic investments in Morocco’s capital city of Rabat and has opened an office there. Al Qudra’s key focus is investing in Rabat's public transport infrastructure, which centres around an electronically driven tram-way by 2010. Al Qudra also has initiatives to develop water taxis, and a water bus concept to ease traffic congestion which is increasing proportion to the number of property developments. Al Qudra Real Estate, a subsidiary of Al Qudra Holding, is itself involved in real estate projects in Morocco.
Moreover, Morocco is collaborating with Dubai to fund and build the third-largest port on the Mediterranean. Dubai Ports International will manage the duty-free zone within the port and Morocco will manage the logistics. This project should be completed by 2012.
Diar's Al Houara, a subsidiary of Qatar Real Estate Partners, planned to construct a coastal resort project near Tangiers. The new resort will blend Moroccan culture with European-style amenities. Designed by award winning architects, the result is a community that offers handcrafted luxury and an unrivalled investment opportunity. Consisting of three 5-stars hotels, over 1,200 freehold villas and apartments, a world-class 18 hole golf course and numerous retail and entertainment facilities, Alhoura resort is targeted at an international and affluent clientele.
Qatar Real Estate Partners will focus on the distribution of Qatari Diar's extensive portfolio of luxury real estate projects and will additionally offer their brokerage and added value services to other developers and property owners across the region. North Course will oversee the development and ongoing management of Qatar Real Estate Partners as well as provide leisure real estate consulting services to the partnership and to Qatari Diar.
Morocco-Kuwaiti Group to Promote Tourism in Southern Morocco
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in Agadir between "Pearl of Kuwait Real Estate" and the Moroccan Department of Tourism to develop several major tourism projects in Morocco, notably in Agadir, Marrakech and Casablanca.
Pearl of Kuwait Real Estate Company specializes in real estate purchasing, land sales, investment in tourism, commercial, industrial and residential projects with a capital of USD 83.6mn and with assets under management of USD 400 million.
"Lo-Loat Al Maghreb" company, subsidiary of “Pearl of Kuwait Real Estate” group, initials a USD 60mn investment agreement to promote tourism in the southern city of Agadir.
According to Tourism department, the three-year investment project will create some 250 direct jobs and reinforce the city's capacity with some1400 extra beds.
The agreement provides for setting up theme parks, multiplex cinemas, a water park pool, sports facilities, shopping centers, etc.
The agreement aims at improving economic relations between Morocco and Kuwait, adding that the choice of Morocco was motivated by the position of the kingdom as one of the promising markets in North Africa.
This stream of investment is a sign of confidence in Morocco, which is going to continue to work on developing investment sources in order to create jobs and sustainable economical growth.
The Middle East as a whole will have a significant role to play in the new Morocco for the coming years.
*Selma Talha Jebril is a student at CERGY PONTOISE University, Paris and is conducting an internship at www.memrieconomicblog.org.
 Morocco Times (Morocco), 4 April 2008.
 L’Economiste (Morocco), 2 May 2008.
 Assabah (Morocco), 24 April 2008.
 Maghreb Arab press (Morocco), 11 March 2008.