Business Sweden’s office in Casablanca has a pronounced experience with companies and projects that involve industrial equipment, wood, pharmaceuticals, transport, IT and telecommunications, and energy. Geographically, we cover the all of West Africa and Maghreb, with the most dynamic markets being Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
About twenty Swedish subsidiaries are established in Morocco, mainly in telecom and industry. Morocco has an association agreement with the EU since 2000, which among other things enables Morocco’s duty exemption for all industrial products except fish. Apart from that, there is also a separate agreement on agriculture, processed agricultural products and fisheries. The country has in recent years experienced growth across several sectors that are of great interest to Swedish companies. A brief description of a selection of these prominent sectors follows below.
Morocco is one of the major investment destinations in Africa with regards to renewable energy. The Moroccan government has pronounced ambitious goals for the energy sector which include ambitions to generate over 43% of its energy from solar power by 2025, and 50% by 2030.
The automotive industry and vehicle sales in Morocco are expected to increase by 8.8% in 2017. Several foreign automotive companies have relocated parts of their production to Morocco. A new factory has for example been built in Tangier, which will start to produce electric buses. This is expected to increase the country's attractiveness as an investment destination for foreign automakers.
Morocco has also become an attractive market for multinational pharmaceutical companies. As a part of a broader effort to stimulate industrial development in Morocco, the domestic pharmaceutical industry has been given a significant boost through investments and prioritization in development plans from the Moroccan government.
The Moroccan telecom market offers many opportunities for the Swedish telecommunications companies. The entire population is increasingly getting more access to 4G services, and the population living on the countryside and in urban areas are increasingly getting more access to internet which expands the Moroccan customer base of products and services related to telecom.
Algeria is the second most important actor in the region of West Africa and Maghreb with regards to the Oil and Gas sector. Due to the previously falling oil prices, the government has been directing more focus on diversifying the country’s economy.
One such example is that Algeria's pharmaceutical market currently is on a positive growth trajectory as a result of modernization of healthcare infrastructure and a rising demand of chronic disease treatment. Therefore, industrial production in the pharmaceutical sector will continue to attract foreign investment as the country gradually moves towards its long-term goal of becoming a regional pharma-manufacturing hub.
The telecommunications sector is also expected to continue to grow and Algerie Telecom’s monopoly over the fixed broadband has fueled demand for mobile broadband where competition is required to achieve the affordability required for this kind of customer market.
The Tunisian government encourages FDI in almost all sectors of its economy by for example offering tax incentives to foreign investors and operating a number of free trade zones, of which the largest is the Bizerte Harbour Free Trade Zone, located 60km north of Tunis. The country is well integrated into the global value chain and has in the past decade significantly developed its electronics industry allowing it to cater to the European market. Some other examples of sectors where the Tunisian government incentivises investors, are call centres, electronic manufacturing, automotive parts and textile manufacturing. Moreover, credit is relatively easy to access, enabling customers to make large cash payments and exporters to receive payment without troubles.
The telecommunications sector shows high growth potential with regards to 3G/4G penetration since price basically is the sole competitive attribute used by operators in the market. The pharmaceutical and healthcare markets contains limited opportunities for innovation but Tunisia’s close proximity to Europe and participation in several free trade agreements are often seen as a strategic and an operational advantage for drug companies. In addition, the adoption of a new investment code from the country's parliament in 2017, is expected to simplify procedures for foreign investors and reduce regulatory uncertainty.
Furthermore, the automotive sector is another promising sector in Tunisia which is in line with growth expectations. In fact, Tata Motors has decided to start a local production facility in Tunisia, which could attract other carmakers interested in the network effects that might arise.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with an estimated population of over 186 million. As a hub for economic growth in Africa, Nigeria also has an impact on the economic activity in neighboring countries. The country’s government focuses on infrastructure development and investments in energy, transport, ICT and health care sectors. At the same time Nigeria has a continually growing middle class and thus also a steeply growing private consumption. However, during the last year the Nigerian economy has suffered from falling commodity prices since the country is a major producer of oil, gas, minerals, and cocoa. This trend is predicted to stall the country’s economic growth but a brighter future is expected in the upcoming years creating many interesting business opportunities in the country. Smart-phone penetration is for example high and local demand is currently pushing for innovation and development in the sector.
During the autumn of 2016, Business Sweden organized a successful delegation to Nigeria together with the Minister for European Union Affairs and Trade Ann Linde and 13 Swedish companies and organizations. The focus of the delegation was Smart Cities and ICT in transport, agriculture, health and energy.
To read more about IT and Telecom opportunities in Nigeria, click HERE.
Ghana has, with its position on 56th place a better ranking than both Italy (61/158) and Greece (58/158) in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Just like many countries in the region Ghana has also suffered economically from falling commodity prices. However, the country is currently attempting to diversify its economy by focusing on technology and productivity improvements. Agriculture constitutes a major part of the economy, particularly in terms of employment of domestic workers, and the government has set as a primary goal for the sector to enhance its productivity.
Another focus area is the energy sector, in which oil was discovered along the Ghanaian coast in 2007 and extractions started in 2010. Ghana is a developing country with a favorable geographical position, but investments are needed in infrastructure, energy, transport, business environment and training of workers. Swedish companies have great opportunities to partake in this development and Business Sweden has been conducting projects related to transport infrastructure, finance and energy.
Côte d'Ivoire remains one of the stronger actors in the West African region in terms of its overall receptiveness to international trade and foreign investment. From a regime perspective, both the Ivorian trade and investment regimes are liberal with very few barriers posed in the form of import tariffs, trade bureaucracy burdens or limitations on foreign business ownership. Côte d'Ivoire for example offers a number of tax incentives to new foreign investors such as corporate tax exemption for the first three years' trading.
Several sectors are stimulating the Ivorian economy and the government’s commitment to grow the Ivorian construction sector (together with foreign investment) is significantly driving the development of infrastructure in the country. The Ivorian telecommunications sector is also going through a period of high growth; and the 3G/4G-penetration is forecasted to reach around 52% of the mobile market by 2020 at the same time as the mobile customer base will continue to grow in line with the population growth.
AGRIBUSINESS IN WEST AFRICA
Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in a large majority of African countries where about 75% of the continent’s population directly or indirectly depends on agriculture for their daily survival and income. Palm oil and cocoa are two major export goods. Africa’s natural conditions and local resources make it a suitable location for agribusiness. However, unfortunately the full potential is not being reached due to a lack of mechanization and advanced infrastructure in the region. These circumstances therefore indirectly constitute important areas of development and valuable investment opportunities for foreign companies in general and Swedish firms in particular.
To learn more, read our West African Agriculture report here..
EMERGING CONSUMER MARKETS IN WEST AFRICA AND MAGHREB
Five out of the ten countries that together represent 75% of Africa's GDP are located in West Africa. Africa is expected to be the home of almost 17% of the world population by 2020, and its consumption per capita is comparable to the one of India or China. This is often being interpreted as good indications suggesting that Africa is a very advantageous place to position oneself in in order to enjoy the benefits from future growth in consumer goods and services sectors. West Africa is also a geographically suitable region for a company to initiate its African journey, bearing in mind similarities that exist between countries in the region and the applicability of common practices across several country borders.
Do not hesitate to read more about the opportunities here.
MINING IN WEST AFRICA
With the decline in global prices for metals, West Africa has been negatively affected on both a macro-economic level and a local level though its different mining industries. Price levels create a precarious situation for metal companies in the region leading to divestifications, declining production, and in some cases, even bankruptcy. However, despite the difficult situation, the region’s mining sector still attracts long term investments due to the abundance of minerals and low labor costs. The development of the sector is also underpinned by the fact that it also is highly prioritized on the country’s political agenda. As a result, the sector is expected to continue to be a vital part of the West African GDP in the next coming years.
You can learn more about opportunities in the West African mining sector here.