Casablanca Finance City takes lead as Africa’s financial hub

Sunday 17/04/2016
Abderrahim Bouazza, general director of Bank Al-Maghrib (L); Said Ibrahimi, general director of Casablanca Finance City Authority (C-L); Kang Xiaolong, chief representative of the Bank of China in Morocco (C-R); Sun Shuzhong, Chinese ambassador in Morocco

Casablanca - Casablanca Finance City (CFC) has overtaken Jo­hannesburg, South Af­rica, as Africa’s leading financial hub, according to the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), the Z/Yen Group think-tank said.

CFC, which made its debut in the GFCI in September 2014, is ranked 33rd, 11 places higher than its pre­vious ranking. Johannesburg was down 18 places in the overall rank­ing due to a recent economic down­turn and the political uncertainty in South Africa.

Doubts emerged about its poten­tial when it was created five years ago but CFC now seems poised to thrive, even though it will not physi­cally exist until early 2017.

According to the 19th GFCI rank­ing, released on April 5th, CFC is considered the third most promising financial centre after Singapore and Shanghai.

Since its launch, the Moroccan fi­nancial sector has lured more than 100 leading multinationals, such as AIG, Bank of China, BNP Paribas, Ford and Baker McKenzie, that have chosen to operate in Africa from Mo­rocco.

Said Ibrahimi, chief executive of­ficer of Casablanca Finance City Au­thority, welcomed the new ranking, which he said confirmed the “right­ness” of the adopted positioning.

“The fact that the GFCI takes into account both technical elements and professional feedback indicates that Morocco projects confidence among professionals,” Ibrahimi said. “This encourages us to work harder to continuously improve our offer in order to make CFC a regional finan­cial centre recognised worldwide.”

GFCI provides a ranking of fi­nancial centres based on competi­tiveness. It combines 105 indices, including those of the World Bank, World Economic Forum, United Na­tions and the Organisation for Eco­nomic Co-operation and Develop­ment. It also considers international professional evaluations of financial institutions.

Bank of China, the world’s fourth-largest bank in terms of equity, in March inaugurated its office in CFC, allowing Morocco to become a gate­way for Chinese investments in Af­rica.

“The establishment of our office in Casablanca is not only a sign of friendship between China and Mo­rocco but also a strong impetus to business development,” said Bank of China President Chen Siqing.

China is investing heavily in Af­rica, although at a slower pace than previously due to its economic slow­down.

“Over the next five years China will import $10,000 billion worth of goods and 500 million Chinese will travel abroad. In addition, China’s direct overseas investments could reach $500 billion,” said Chinese Ambassador to Morocco Sun Shu­zhong. The African Development Bank will base its new $3 billion Africa50 Fund, which will finance infrastructure projects across the African continent, in the CFC.

Global carmaker Ford said it chose to establish its African headquarters in the CFC because of its strategic positioning as a suitable platform for investors targeting the African market.

The CFC status offers many fiscal and legal advantages, giving compa­nies lower income taxes, simplified paperwork for employees’ visas and work permits and other incentives.

Global Banking & Finance Re­view magazine in 2015 awarded the prize for “Best Investment Promoter Greater North-West Africa 2015” to CFC for its investment opportuni­ties and for promoting business in the region.

Casablanca is the nerve centre of the Moroccan economy. The city boasts of being a catalyst of initia­tives on a continental scale thanks to the establishment of large do­mestic and foreign financial and in­dustrial firms, which benefit from a young and skilled workforce.