On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, in Abidjan, the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) approved a loan of US $112.3 million to Morocco for the improvement of infrastructure on the Tangier-Casablanca-Marrakech railway route.
Allocated to the Moroccan National Railways Office (ONCF), the funds will be used to dual the line linking the cities of Settat and Marrakech. The doubling of this 142-kilometre stretch will generate time savings and allow increased passenger and freight traffic between Casablanca, the economic capital of the Kingdom, and Marrakech, its main tourist centre. The annual passenger volume could, thus, increase from the current 4.5 million to more than 7.4 million in 2020, when works are due to be completed. Freight volumes could more than double.
The project approved Wednesday extends cooperation between AfDB and ONCF which began in 1993 and is aimed at making Morocco a leading country for railway transport. In 2010, AfDB made a US $396-million loan to modernize other sections of the Tangier-Casablanca-Marrakech line, a project which is currently being completed. These successive investments are a response to the rapid increase in demand for transport in recent years. Between Casablanca and Marrakech, passenger volumes have particularly increased, by nearly 20% between 2010 and 2014.
"The quality of rail transport is a pull factor for economic actors. The promotion of rail is in line with the Bank's desire to invest in modes of transport that are effective, sustainable and low CO2 emitters," said Amadou Oumarou, Director of the Transport and ICT Department at the AfDB.
More than 8 million Moroccans live in the project's area of influence. Improving the efficiency of rail transport contributes to the competitiveness of logistics and to poverty reduction in these areas. The project was designed using a participative approach that involved local residents. It consists of a series of related actions, financing field programmes that are particularly geared towards women. Project partner the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) will promote income-generating activities, the creation of multi-purpose centres, women's centres (maternity homes), the provision of support facilities for young people in the form of student centres, and the creation of daycares and pre-school facilities in poor areas. Another partner, the Moroccan Social Development Agency (ADS), will work on the commercialization of local products, on the creation of individual entrepreneurship platforms and on capacity-building through local activities and the socio-economic integration of young people.