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How can Special Economic Zones lead to Growth and Integration in North Africa?

International Workshop on the potential of Special Economic Zones for North Africa, taking place in Rabat and Tangier, Morocco.

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North Africa, also referred to as the Maghreb region, has enormous economic potential with remarkable natural resources and industrial production capacities. Nevertheless, the region remains among the least integrated in the world, and lacks cross-country cooperation. This hampers overall development, causes high unemployment, and exposes countries to price volatility. Given these challenges, one economic and business tool that could help generate growth and encourage regional integration is the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). SEZs come in various forms, but are generally understood as geographically limited areas with some form of dedicated infrastructure, transparent incentives, and business-friendly regulations. SEZs are often used as a proving ground for reforms that can then be spread to the broader economy, and so generate greater employment, exports, foreign direct investment (FDI) and other benefits. SEZs can help upgrade the structure of national and regional economies.

This workshop, organized by the Regional Program South Mediterranean of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in collaboration with the EastWest Institute and the Policy Center for the New South, will investigate how SEZs can make greater contributions to national and regional economic development. It will ask how the Maghreb region can learn from its own SEZ experiences, those of the wider MENA region, and global good practice. It will consider what types of SEZs are most suited to the Maghreb, and what policy and investment actions can be taken to realize their potential? It will bring together distinguished experts and practitioners from the Maghreb countries, the Middle East, and international institutions with the aim of developing policy recommendations, identifying practical and actionable SEZ approaches, and proposing potential SEZ projects suited to the Maghreb context. The event will take place in Rabat, Morocco, and include an on-the-ground visit to the Tangier Free Zone. It will lead to a Policy Brief covering the actual and potential role of SEZs in the Maghreb Region, policy recommendations and suggested next steps.

Thursday, 20 June 2019


Welcome & Introduction

Karim El Aynaoui, President, Policy Center of the New South, Morocco

Dr. Canan Atilgan, Director, Regional Program South Mediterranean, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Tunisia

Kawa Hassan, Vice President, Middle East & North Africa Program EastWest Institute, Belgium


Panel 1: Understanding and Unpacking Special Economic Zones for North Africa

Mapping the main conditions and features of SEZs provides the conceptual basis for the implementation of SEZs into the Maghreb framework.

Moderator: Mounir Benyahya, Director of Industrial Parks, French Chamber of Trade and Industry in Morocco, Morocco

Dr. Carl Aaron, International Investment and Development Advisor, formerly at the UK North Africa Joint Unit, UK

Larabi Jaïdi, Senior Fellow, Policy Center for the New South, Morocco


Panel 2: Regional Good Practices and Lessons Learned from the Middle East

Diverse forms of SEZs in the Middle East provide insightful and practical lessons for North Africa. SEZs in Oman provide lessons in successful zone management, and examples from Jordan and Egypt can provide insights on incorporating labor force considerations as well as appropriate legal frameworks in the set-up of SEZs.

Moderator: Adel Hamaizia, Committee Vice Chairman, Oxford Gulf & Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, UK

Loay Y. El-Shawarby, Investor, Lawyer and Expert on SEZs, Egypt

Mukhallad Omari, Managing Partner, The Specialists for Development and Financial Consulting, Jordan

Yousuf Hamed Al Balushi, Economist, Oman 2040 Vision Office, Member, Technical Committee of Economic and Free Zones, Oman


Panel 3: How can Special Economic Zones Contribute to Growth and Integration?

Practicable and actionable policy recommendations for moving forward in mapping out potential SEZ contributions to North Africa. What kind of SEZs would be most useful, relevant and needed for North Africa?

Moderator: Mohamed El-Hachimi, Senior Research Fellow, Centre d'Etudes et Recherches en Sciences Sociales (CERSS), Professor, Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco

H.E. Hedi Larbi, Former Minister of Infrastructure and Sustainable Development, Tunisia

H.E. Ali Benouari, Former Minister of Treasury, President Ecofinance, Algeria

H.E. Fathallah Oualalou, Former Minister of Economy and Finance, Former Mayor of Rabat, Senior Fellow, Policy Center for the New South, Morocco

Ehab Abdulgader, Director, PetroGas Libya, Libya

Jean-Paul Gauthier, Secretary-General, World Economic Processing Zones Association, UK



Friday, 21 June 2019


Industrial Platform Presentation at the Tangier Med Special Agency


Panel 4: The Case of Tangier Free Zone

Tangier Free Zone has been a success story for Morocco and contributions from participating private sector companies provide important perspectives on the establishment of SEZs in North Africa

Moderator: Alfredo Valladao, Senior Fellow, Policy Center for the New South, France

Jaafar Mrhardy, General Director, Tangier Free Zone, Morocco

Ghazi El Biche, CEO, Textile Company van Laack, Tunisia

Larabi Jaïdi, Senior Fellow, Policy Center for the New South, Morocco


Visit of Tangier Free Zone

End of workshop and departure of participants

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Rabat, Morocco


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Malte Gasseling