Shan Elasri, director of Acció's Casablanca office, spoke to Atalayar on the occasion of the event "Doing Business in Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region" to discuss the main investment focuses in the region

Automotive, textile and renewable energies are the three main sectors to invest in Tangier region

 - Shan Elasri, director de la oficina de ACCIÓ en Casablanca
PHOTO/ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Shan Elasri, director of the ACCIÓ office in Casablanca, during his participation in the "Doing Business in Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region"

Acció is the Agency for Business Competitiveness of Catalonia. It is a public agency whose objective is to boost the competitiveness and growth of the Catalan business fabric, through the promotion of innovation, business internationalisation and the attraction of investment. Acció is also responsible for attracting foreign investment to Catalonia. Shan Elasri, director of its Casablanca office, one of its 40 offices in various countries around the world, spoke to Atalayar after the Barcelona forum "Doing Business in Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region". 

What is Acció and what is the work it does in Casablanca? 

Acció is an office of the Generalitat de Catalunya. We have been established in Morocco for more than 30 years. From this office we only deal with the Moroccan market and we promote trade relations between Catalonia and Morocco. 

How would you rate the holding of this "Doing Business" event in Barcelona, to publicise investment opportunities in Morocco and, in this case, in Tangiers-Tetouan-Al Hoceima? 

This type of event is key for us, because since the pandemic we are noticing, from the Acció office, that more and more Catalan companies are interested in establishing themselves in Morocco, they are opening up their prospects of exploitation and implementation, and in this sense, the "Doing Business" will give tools to Catalan companies to know what are the measures, both economic and within the Moroccan legal framework, to be able to establish themselves with total security in the area of Tangier.

- Shan Elasri, director de la oficina de ACCIÓ en Casablanca, durante su participación en el “Doing Business in Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region”
PHOTO/ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Shan Elasri, director of the ACCIÓ office in Casablanca, during his participation in the "Doing Business in Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region"

Which sectors would you highlight as the most attractive or best, the ones that offer the best opportunities? 

That's a good question, because Morocco is a multi-sectoral country. But if we were to focus only on the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima area, I would highlight automotive, textiles and renewable energies as the top 3. Of course there are many more interesting sectors, such as tourism, but if I had to prioritise, these three would be the most relevant. 

You mentioned in your speech, and I think you were the only one, something very relevant: the organisation of the 2030 Football World Cup. This is an issue that will generate many opportunities. 

I believe that today it is one of the most important long-term events in the country. Morocco organises, as is well known, the Football World Cup with Spain and Portugal, but of the three countries, it is the one that needs the most investment over the next six years. What this type of event encourages is to transform the country and, in this case, its northern region. We will see if this type of investment materialises, especially in infrastructure, which is what will be most needed in order to achieve World Cup standards.

PHOTO/ACCIÓ - ACCIÓ cuenta con 40 oficinas en todo el mundo
PHOTO/ACCIÓ - ACCIÓ has 40 offices around the world

With your experience in Casablanca, is there a need for more and better information in Spain and Catalonia about what is happening in Morocco, and vice versa? Is there a deficit that causes clichés and stereotypes to cloud the reality in some way? 

Of course there is. First of all, I would stress that there are many organisations, both public and private, that can facilitate access to information about the Moroccan market.  

Nowadays there are no excuses for not having all the information possible when it comes to investing in exports to Morocco: there are chambers of commerce, Spanish institutional agencies, there are law firms, architects' offices set up in Morocco... nowadays we have all the tools to learn more about Morocco, and proof of this are the Catalan companies that visit us and are surprised, because there is a lot of cliché, a lot of stigma, and once you visit Morocco, you are surprised.  

On the contrary, not so much, because Moroccans are enjoying Spain more and more, in every sense, both in terms of tourism and economically speaking, with the investments and exports that are being made. In this sense, we still have a step or two to go before we can have total transparency, so that the Catalan or Spanish investor or exporter, in this case, knows about Morocco and has all the tools to do so. 

I would also add the quality of life, which is important for those who travel to Morocco to do business. And this is something that is unknown, especially in Tangiers: schools, sports, gastronomy, hotels... there is a quite remarkable quality of life on offer. 

I agree, especially on the Atlantic axis, with cities like Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech... which have very European standards of tourism and quality of life, while maintaining Moroccan culture, Islamic culture. I think that, if a person has doubts about settling in Morocco for whatever reason, for family, for children, I would invite them to spend a short holiday there to get to know what the country is like.

- Shan Elasri

And finally, the high-speed train, which allows anyone who is in Tangier to do their business in Rabat, in Casablanca, which provides great dynamism, operability and efficiency, just like in Spain. 

Since 2017, it has been possible to travel the 350 kilometres between Tangier and Casablanca in two hours and 10 minutes. But we must not forget that the line between Casablanca and Marrakech is also under construction and should be operational by 2025. And the Marrakech-Agadir line is under study. So in 2025 or early 2026 we should be able to travel from Tangier to Marrakech in about five hours. 

These are elements that help businessmen, entrepreneurs and the self-employed to decide to start an adventure in Morocco that can be very positive. 

Of course it can. Moreover, Morocco is very close. From a cultural point of view, it may be a little further away, but geographically there is no excuse not to come to Morocco, at least to try it, to get to know the country. And then you can decide.