– First of all, it is important to note that this project is in line with the Royal vision for an integrated and prosperous Africa. The Sovereign has shown the way with his strong will to develop South-South cooperation, since trade integration can help to get development off the ground. Moreover, trade integration has been the source of spectacular successes on other continents, notably Europe. The creation of a large free trade area in Africa will amplify the region’s potential for economic transformation. This will have the dual effect of boosting intra-regional trade and attracting more foreign direct investment and facilitating the creation of regional supply chains, which have been important drivers of economic transformation in other regions.
The ZLECAF could thus considerably stimulate interregional trade in Africa, on condition of activating both the tariff and non-tariff levers. An overall reduction in tariffs would therefore be needed to achieve significant effects on trade flows in the region. The most ambitious objective of the ZLECAF is to eliminate duties on 90% of existing flows, in the long term this would lead to an increase of around 16% in regional trade. These reductions should be complemented by policies targeting non-tariff barriers. These would accentuate the stimulating effect of tariff cuts on trade, especially in landlocked and low-income countries. It would therefore be desirable for the effort to deepen trade integration in Africa to consist first and foremost in removing some of the non-tariff barriers, in particular the poor trade logistics and infrastructure.
We therefore understand that Africa has everything to gain from this Free Trade Area. If fully implemented, this trade deal could increase regional revenue by 7%, to $ 450 billion by 2035.
– What would Morocco pledge from this free trade zone?
– With a trade deficit exceeding 200 billion dirhams and following a pandemic which completely devastated the national economy, Morocco also has everything to gain from the ZLECAF, since it will allow Moroccan exporters to export their products. produced to regions which until then were inaccessible. Our trade with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa is largely difficult, particularly due to high customs duties, non-tariff barriers and especially following fierce competition from other more advanced countries, such as China and Turkey. The ZLECAF will therefore open a vast market for our country without customs duties, and which has some 1.2 billion people, representing a total GDP of 2.500 billion dollars. This will allow us to start win-win partnerships with other countries.
In terms of income, Morocco would be in the Top 10 beneficiary countries of this project, with an expected increase of 8% of its income, and the measures to reduce bureaucratic brakes and simplify customs procedures within the ZLECAF should account for most of the increase in these revenues. The liberalization of customs tariffs as well as the reduction of non-tariff barriers, such as quotas and rules of origin, would make it possible to increase revenues by nearly 2.4%, or around 153 billion dollars, the potential is therefore huge.
– A large-scale project like this is surely full of challenges, so exporters must put in place well-crafted strategies to get the most out of it. So what is the key to success?
– Firstly, you have to know the target market, its specificities, its standards and its needs. Large Moroccan groups are already installed in West Africa, Morocco is even the first investor in this region. But in East Africa and Southern Africa, our country has a weak presence. We must therefore think about the optimal method to win these high potential markets and the ZLECAF will be our gateway par excellence.
In addition, Morocco’s image on the international scene will also help operators find a place more easily in these new regions. An image that Morocco has acquired because it has made the socio-economic development of Africa one of its priorities.
That said, even if, overall, Moroccan exports to other African countries are improving, they remain below the potential of our country, this is due to the fact that our industries are not yet operating at full capacity. ZLECAF is therefore an opportunity to really get the machine going.
Regarding the challenges, at the top of the list is the impact of the crisis on economic operators. Exporters have seen their cash flows damaged by the crisis, as our exports have fallen by more than 17%. According to the latest figures in our possession, the Automotive sector fell by 28.7%, Textiles and leather (29.5%), Aeronautics (21.2%), Agriculture and agrifood (4.7% ), Phosphates and derivatives (4.2%), Electronics and electricity (5.6%).
To take advantage of the ZLECAF, Morocco must, among other things, provide fiscal support to exporting companies, many of which are now at the end of their rope.
– International trade has undergone profound changes in these times of crisis, so what are the trends in regional trade integration in Africa, from which Morocco could benefit?
– First of all, it is important to stress that over the past two decades, intra-regional trade flows have developed at a high rate, in parallel with Africa’s rapid integration into the trading system international. African economies have peculiarities due to which the level of trade activity is lower than in other regions. These peculiarities are, among others, structural factors specific to African economies and factors linked to policies, such as those I mentioned at the beginning: customs duties, poor logistics, weak infrastructure, etc. Empirical analyzes, carried out in this direction, estimate that certain African sub-regions and certain sectors can still considerably deepen trade integration. Thus, the intra-regional trade in goods, such as food products, forestry and other primary products as well as manufactured products, is less important than predicted by the gravity model, so trade in these sectors could be higher. developed. This is where Morocco could strongly intervene.
Let us take the example of West Africa, which alone constitutes a breeding ground for growth, due to the fact that it is characterized by a strong demand for finished products, such as broilers, sausages and all. what goes with it. Thus, the investment and export opportunities in the countries of this region are enormous. For fishery products and renewable energies, things are the same.
So the idea, in my opinion, is to take better advantage of new opportunities, with an industrial policy restructured around the development of natural resources.
– What role could the Moroccan Association of Exporters (ASMEX) play in the implementation of this agreement?
– Morocco’s exports to African countries are very timid, they only represent 3.2% of its total exports to the rest of the world. The same goes for imports, where the share of purchases coming from Africa is barely 2.5%. ASEMEX intends to consolidate efforts to at least double these figures. It will also play a key role in the implementation and application of this agreement, through its Africa commission and its multiple actions within the framework of bilateral relations, in particular the conventions signed with African Chambers of Commerce and employers’ institutions.
The Association will also continue to carry out actions to boost the logistics sector and associated platforms to increase flows and open up poor regions. With the start of ZLECAF, ASMEX will continue its commitment to seek funding for investment and development of Moroccan export industries, because they are the centerpiece of the development of the economy, especially in these times. crisis. ASMEX thus aims to act fully within the framework of the royal desire for multidimensional economic and social development centered on people and the “win-win” spirit.