Thank you to the Confédération Générale des Entreprises du Maroc, the International Chamber of Commerce and Moroccan Embassy in London, for organising this dialogue.
Opportunities in Africa
We all know about the amazing opportunities emerging in Africa.
Africa has a young and rapidly growing population.
It is home to 8 of the 15 fastest growing economies.
By 2050 over 2 billion people will live in Africa. 1 in 4 global consumers will be African. It is a market we cannot and must not ignore.
As we leave the European Union, a dynamic global Britain will need to create new and lasting partnerships that will deliver more investment, jobs and growth, benefiting people and businesses across the UK.
Africa is foremost among these. And I am proud that the UK is already among the largest investors in Africa.
But our ambition goes further. We want the UK to be the investment partner of choice for African nations.
That is why yesterday the UK hosted the Africa Investment Summit here in London.
It is a huge milestone and opportunity to reset the narrative and give a boost to the UK’s relationship with this great continent.
Morocco-UK trade relationship
Morocco is a high priority African market for us.
That is why I have visited twice in less than 4 months.
I don’t know if that is welcome to our embassy – I’m sure it is a lot of work! – but it is a great pleasure for me.
It shows how much we value Morocco as a partner, and the potential there is for a stronger, deeper, mutually-beneficial trading relationship.
Morocco’s enthusiasm at the Africa Investment Summit, from both government and business, made it abundantly clear that you share this vision.
I was delighted to dine with Deputy Foreign Minister Jazouli and Moroccan business leaders during a visit to Rabat earlier this month.
We both agreed that we want to increase trade between our 2 countries. So what is stopping us?
We came to the conclusion that we simply do not know each other well enough.
Familiarity is important in business. Contacts are crucial. They give us information, they build trust, they create opportunities.
That is why today’s event is so important.
I want British companies to think about Morocco when they are developing their export plans.
I want Moroccan companies to think about the UK when they are looking for new partners and expertise.
I want Moroccans and Britons to see each other’s flags as a hallmark of quality whenever they see them.
And we are building the groundwork for that shared vision as I speak.
UK business in Morocco
For example, I am delighted that a memorandum of understanding is being signed between the UK’s Reigate Grammar School and Morocco’s British International School Partners. This partnership will see the building of 3 Reigate Grammar branded K-12 schools across Morocco by 2025, paving the way for future education collaboration.
Tomorrow, Coventry University will sign an MOU with Superior Institution of Science & Technology worth £14 million, to develop joint educational facilities and programmes on teacher training, research and staff / student mobility.
GlaxoSmithKline are signing an agreement with Mohammed VI University of Health Sciences to provide training for health professionals.
In the oil and gas sector, the UK company Sound Energy has signed an agreement to be the first ever gas supplier in Morocco, worth an estimated $300 to $400 million.
Europa Oil & Gas signed a deal with ONHYM to start offshore exploration.
We are also seeing some great strides forward in the banking and finance sector.
CDC, the UK’s Development Finance Institution, has invested $200 million in BMCE-Bank of Africa to develop its offer and promote financial inclusion across Africa.
This is its largest single investment anywhere in the world.
Moroccan business success
But this success is far from a one-way street. Moroccan businesses are thriving in the UK.
25% of the tomatoes, 20% of the soft fruit and 60% of the sardines consumed in the UK come from Morocco.
And there are a huge number of Moroccan firms with ambitious plans for the future.
In the financial sector, BMCE is re-branding itself as the Bank of Africa.
In the renewables sector, MASEN is exporting its technological know-how to address energy security and climate change.
And in the agricultural sector OCP is sowing its knowledge of phosphates across the continent, tailor-making fertilisers for specific soils.
Dr Murrison has already touched on how Morocco’s high growth sectors and emerging opportunities are in precisely those areas where UK companies have world-class expertise and competitive strengths, such as in renewable energy, in agriculture and agri-tech.
I am very pleased that the UK has been invited as the guest of honour at SIAM, Morocco’s major agriculture exhibition, this year.
This is an opportunity for British companies to showcase their world-leading expertise, including in sustainable agriculture, which I know is also a priority for Morocco.
UK-Morocco Memorandum of Understanding
And I am pleased to help us take the next steps in realising these opportunities today by signing a memorandum of understanding between our 2 governments, establishing a Trade and Investment Task Force.
This task force will identify priority sectors and promote specific opportunities to the business communities in our two countries, as well as looking at practical steps to make it easier for UK and Moroccan business to trade and invest.
These opportunities extend not just to bilateral trade, but the potential for UK and Morocco working as partners to develop trade and investment across Africa.
So let us embrace the opportunities before us and build our relationships, strengthen our ties, and increase the future prosperity of people in Morocco and the UK.