15 months since the country built Africa's 1st and only high-speed rail system between Casablanca and Tangier, Morocco is now planning to build the second high-speed rail system between Marrakech and Agadir at a cost of US$1billion.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, in a speech delivered on the 44th Anniversary of the Green March late last year,said the country should now move with speed and build the second railway.
“I invite the authorities concerned to give serious thought to the development of a rail link between Marrakech and Agadir, as a first step before extending it to the rest of the southern regions,” he said, Morocco World News reported.
Extending Moroccan rail line infrastructure south into the Western Sahara region, as King Mohammed VI is requesting, would see Morocco consolidate its territorial integrity by linking the cities of Laayoune and Dakhla with the rest of the kingdom and a Marrakech-Agadir rail line would be the stepping stone.
The country is also eyeing to tap into the booming tourism industry with the two destinations being a favourite destination of many tourists.
Marrakech and Agadir attract 57% of tourists staying overnight in Morocco, according to the Morocco Ministry of Tourism.
In 2018, Morocco received 12.3 million tourists, up 8% from the previous year, and the tourist arrivals in the country totaled 11.3 million in the first 11 months of 2018, accounting for an average of one million tourist per month and an increase of 8.5% compared to 2017, according to mordor intelligence, a market intelligence and advisory firm based in southern India's Telangana state.
It would also be Morocco’s second high-speed rail line after it constructed Africa’s first TGV line in 2018 between Casablanca and Tangier.
France and China are salivating over the deal with China already having offered a significantly lower bid.
France may, however, not take it lying down should Morocco accept China's deal. Long after 1956, French influence is still apparent in the infrastructure and economy of present-day Morocco.
France is the second-largest foreign investor in Moroccan infrastructure and the two-countries relations will likely take a hit.
Aside from the €1 billion invested into the Tangier-Casablanca rail line, French investments in Morocco have extended into other industries such as education and employment.
Though colonial control is no longer a feasible long-term goal for nation-states, maintaining financial control through loans is a powerful tool for a world power like France, giving it a foothold in its relations with its ally, Morocco.
Morocco, like most nations is also cautious of the ‘Made in China 2025’ project, in which Beijing seeks to become a frontrunner in a plethora of industries, including high-end rail infrastructure. As a part of that plan, it has already attempted to enter into deals that would require partner nations to share technological and industrial developments, giving China an edge in numerous industries on the backs of its business partners.