The second day of The seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) is taking place today in Yokohama. Led by the Japanese government and co-sponsored by the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme, the African Union Commission and the World Bank, TICAD was initiated by Japan in 1993 to contribute to development initiatives on the African continent.
Private sector involvement in TICAD has increased and this year’s conference is welcoming more than 4,500 attendees, including African and Japanese heads of state, governments and nongovernmental organization representatives and business leaders. Today, Morocco is playing an increasingly important role in Japan-Africa relations.
“Morocco is one of Japan’s most important partners in Africa with diplomatic relations dating back to 1956, the year Morocco gained its independence,” said Japanese Ambassador to Morocco Takuji Hanatani. “The foundation of the relationship was built on the close friendship between the Japanese imperial family and the Moroccan royal family. In recent years, several royal visits have further strengthened our friendship. The most recent was by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Hasna who visited Japan last year and was welcomed by Japan’s current Emperor Naruhito.”
Business and trade between the two countries has flourished in recent years. Since 2014, the number of Japanese companies in Morocco has almost doubled to around 70; Japanese investment in Morocco’s industrial sector continues to increase with approximately 40 percent of investment directed toward the country’s automotive ecosystem.
“According to our recent surveys conducted with Japanese companies here in Morocco, there are two factors attracting Japanese companies to Morocco,” said Yoichiro Ishibashi, managing director of the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) Morocco.
“Firstly, ‘market size and growth potential’ is a key factor with 87.5 percent of Japanese companies considering Morocco and neighboring countries as key growth markets. Secondly, Morocco’s ‘political and social’ stability makes the country one of the safest countries in North Africa.”
Tax incentives, free trade zones, a concentration of ‘partner companies,’ effective government programs, strong infrastructure and the country’s favorable geographic location make Morocco a preferred investment destination.
The country has also signed free trade agreements with many countries including the U.S. (in 2006) and the European Union (in 2000). The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Morocco Office is actively involved in strengthening Japan-Morocco bilateral relations through official development assistance loans, grants and technical assistance. Since 1974, JICA’s Morocco Office has supported numerous projects across the country.
“We have prioritized the areas in which we offer assistance to Morocco,” explained Asahiko Karashima, chief representative of the JICA Morocco Office. “We are strengthening the competitiveness and sustainability of the economy by supporting numerous projects in agriculture, fisheries, industrial infrastructure and water resource security. We aim to reduce the social and regional disparities through education and regional development and promote ‘South-South cooperation’ by encouraging Morocco to assist with the development of Francophone African countries. Recently we have been proactively implementing projects that make use of the technology and expertise of Japanese private companies for the economic development of Morocco.”