Plans to build a 2,000ha new city outside Tangier, intended to attract hundreds of Chinese manufacturers to boost the Moroccan economy, have been revived with the selection of a new Chinese partner after withering last year.
First announced to the accompaniment of a brass band in Beijing in 2016, and officially launched in a blaze of publicity in March 2017, the Mohammed VI Tangier Tech City project was quietly abandoned in 2018.
Originally sponsored by Haite Group, primarily an aviation company based in Chengdu, and Morocco’s BMCE Bank of Africa, the plan was to invest $1bn in a 10-year project to build a manufacturing and technology hub.
However, Haite withdrew from the scheme sometime last year, reportedly over problems with its scale and a dispute over who would own the completed city.
Now Haite has been replaced by a Chinese construction giant, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), and its subsidiary China Road and Bridge Corporation. The two signed a memorandum of understanding with the Moroccan government on 26 April in Beijing during the Belt and Road Forum.
CCCC was chosen after a lengthy search that began in September last year. A Moroccan ministerial source quoted by website Navva said: "The selection was tough and at the end we had two finalists, both major players in the Road and Belt initiative. The consensus was for CCCC."
The new developer will take over existing plans. The business case is that 200 Chinese companies will open factories, generating around $10bn in investment and creating 100,000 jobs. The attraction will be Morocco’s free trade agreement with the EU and the US, as well as the growing African market.
Ilyas Omari, the chairman of the Tangier-Tetouan region, pointed out that since Tangier is on the Strait of Gibraltar the city would be just 15km from Europe, and would be supported by the modern port of Tangier Med, the motorway network, a high speed train line and industrial and logistics areas.
BMCE Bank of Africa commented in a statement that the agreement reflected the determination of the three groups to develop the tech city by "providing all the necessary means to move forward in the implementation of the project".
Image: Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with Haite chairman Li Biao during the 2017 launch of the tech city (Government of Morocco)