Casablanca Finance City (CFC) is an initiative that aims to position the Moroccan economic capital as a gateway for investment in Africa. It is a sign of growing commercial linkages between north Africa and the rest of the continent.
CFC is trying to lure financial institutions and multinationals to establish their regional headquarters in Morocco, Africa’s fifth largest economy, with a GDP of US$104bn.
Companies with “CFC status” benefit from tax incentives, exchange control facilitation as well as other perks, such as being able to register a company in 48 hours and being given assistance when it comes to bringing in foreign employees. So far the CFC Authority has managed to attract companies such as MasterCard, insurance broker Lockton, Bank of China and ICT company Huawei, to name a few.
The initiative was brought up during a panel discussion at Cape Town’s recent SuperReturn Africa conference, a private equity- and venture capital-focused event. Mehdi Zehaichi, a business developer at the CFC Authority, said companies can use Morocco as a “single entry point” for their investments in sub-Saharan Africa, especially French-speaking west Africa.
Joining Mehdi on the panel was Andrew Brown, investment manager at Emerging Capital Partners, a private equity firm with investments throughout the continent. He highlighted the improving relations between north Africa and the rest of the continent, saying there is growing interest from Moroccan companies to expand into sub-Saharan Africa.
“We recently sold our pan-African insurance business to a Moroccan strategic player. We’ve seen a lot of interest in different financial services from Moroccan corporates. And Casablanca is starting to operate as a regional hub for francophone west Africa, and I think that is something that the private equity players need to adapt to.”
Jarl Heijstee, managing partner of private equity firm XSML – which has invested in a call centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo – confirms the interest in north Africa. He said that the company is actively pursuing links with the region.
“We… invested in Congo in a call centre and the path for us is clear: one day either a call centre from Morocco or from Tunisia will come and become a strategic partner. It is a bit early now, but that time will come. So we are actively looking to establish links with north Africa.”