Casablanca — Morocco and Libya are examining ways to strengthen economic ties, but government officials and analysts say there is still room for improvement.
Their second economic summit, held last week in Morocco, evaluated the countries' progress and expectations. Bilateral trade reached 900 million dirhams (80.1 million euros) last year and Libya's direct investment (mostly in real estate) in Morocco has spiked since 2011.
The numbers could be even higher, Morocco's minister delegate for foreign trade told the Casablanca conference on Friday (March 14th). And better relations between Morocco and Libya mean better chances for the entire Maghreb, Mohamed Abbou indicated.
"Morocco aspires to strengthen its co-operation with Libya in order to achieve the objectives of the sought-after Maghreb regional integration, enshrined as a strategic choice for the kingdom in its new constitution, and to create suitable economic conditions to foster shared wealth," the minister delegate said.
Libyan businessman Mohamed Charaf agrees that there is a lot of unexplored potential between the two countries, especially in sectors like infrastructure and agribusiness.
The kingdom had hoped to see stronger economic relations with Libya following the end of the Kadhafi regime, Moroccan economist Karim Tourabi tells Magharebia.
Morocco could have a much better position on the Libyan market, given its experience in areas such as infrastructure and industry. And government officials from both sides have repeatedly proposed stronger ties, the economist says.
"The political will to develop economic co-operation is there, and this was demonstrated at various official meetings," Tourabi says.
"We must now move on to concrete action by encouraging investors," he adds.
Moroccan and Libyan businessmen should intensify their exchanges in order to be able to better know each other, the economist suggests.
There are also new horizons to explore, such as the promising tourism sector, he says.
Another step to consider is a free trade agreement, to "facilitate bilateral exchanges of products and services", he says.
Many citizens also support efforts to strengthen economic bonds between the countries.
Accountant Chada Baliti says investment opportunities need to be seized in Libya.
Reinforcing the partnership between Morocco and Libya falls within the framework of Maghreb economic integration, she says.
"It will also help promote employment for young people," she adds.