Morocco hopes to attract $10 billion in investment to new tech city

TANGIER, Morocco (Reuters) - Morocco hopes to attract investments worth $10 billion and create 100,000 jobs at a high-tech city near the northern city of Tangier, a local elected official said.

Morocco-based BMCE Bank signed a memorandum of understanding in April with state-owned China Communications Construction Co (CCCC) and its subsidiary, China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC), to develop the city known as Tanger Tech Mohammed VI.

The deal came after the withdrawal of China’s Haite group, with which BMCE and the northern regional council had expressed in 2017 the intention to build the city in 10 years.

“There were disagreements over ownership of the new city among other issues,” Ilyas El Omari, head of the northern Tangier-Tetouan-Alhoceima region, told Reuters.

Morocco was still negotiating with CCCC about its ownership percentage, he said.

BMCE did not respond to requests for comment.

“Our partner is Chinese but this does not mean that the city will be Chinese,” El Omari said, adding the tech city would attract investments from China and beyond.

“The number of applications by international companies to invest in the city exceeds the surface area that we have planned,” he said, without giving details.

Morocco will grant tax incentives to companies operating in the automotive, aeronautical, textile, chemical, renewable energy and food industries.

The city will be built in three phases, said Omari. He declined to give a date for the completion of the first phase, which he said would cover up to 700 hectares (1,730 acres) out of 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) in total.

Work has already begun to connect the city to road, rail and electricity infrastructure, he said, adding the tech city would benefit from its Tanger Med port.

Tanger Med launched terminals on Friday increasing its container handling capacity to 9 million, the largest in the Mediterranean Sea.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Peter Cooney