Bradley Cooper starred in American Sniper. Photo: AP
Bradley Cooper starred in American Sniper. Photo: AP

Niel on Africa: Morocco … An old kingdom for a new continent

By Neil de Beer Time of article published Sep 12, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – The highest-earning war movie of all time starring Bradley Cooper as the late Chris Kyle, American Sniper, is a 2014 biopic based on the memoir of the most lethal sniper in US military history. 

The scenes in Iraq were actually filmed in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. Parts of the city’s neighbourhoods are transformed to resemble the devastated Iraqi city Fallujah, as it was too dangerous to film in Iraq. For Game of Thrones fans, unknowingly you have been to the dazzling land, as most of the scenes on the continent of Essos and the constituent of Dorné were shot in Morocco.

The kingdom of Morocco is one of two unitary constitutional monarchies with an elected parliament (alongside Lesotho), making up the three remaining sovereign monarchies of which the other is an absolute monarchy, the kingdom of eSwatini.

The country, whose name describes its location of the continent in Arabic “al-mamlakah al-maghribiyah”, meaning the western kingdom, as it is the western-most country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The country, with an estimated population of 36 million (World Bank 2018), is only 13km from Europe, across the Strait of Gibraltar. European influence, specifically Spanish and French, is seen in Tangier and Rabat respectively.

Morocco is the only country in the world which produces and exports argan oil, as the argan tree grows only in Morocco. Wth an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $118 billion (R1.7 trillion), it is driven mainly by the agricultural sector as the main contributor to the GDP (15 percent), which employs most of the workforce. 

The EU is Morocco’s primary trading partner, accounting for about 77 percent of Morocco’s agricultural exports. Moroccan agricultural production includes oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, olives and olive oil. Morocco is also known for cannabis production and its substantial hashish production, which at one point fuelled over 70 percent of European consumption, and continues to be the largest producer of hashish in the world.

On the Neil Economic scale, the price of a can of Coca-Cola costs 5.38 MAD (R8.17) and the price of a litre of petrol is 10.34 MAD (R15.70). Morocco, despite the stability in its economy and having an exchange rate pegged to a basket of euro and US dollar, has managed inflation to remain below 1 percent.

The country imports 90 percent of its energy requirements, of which 97 percent is from imported fossil fuels. The external position remains solid, despite the recent deterioration of the current account due to the impact of higher prices of imported energy. The kingdom has an average solar potential of 5kW/h per square metre per day. 

The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy plans for the installed capacity of at least 2000MW by 2020. The country has started the journey to reduce its over-reliance on imported energy by implementing alternative programmes. This can be seen at the Tarfaya wind farm, with its capacity of 300MW. It is the second largest wind farm in Africa.

Morocco recently re-joined the AU, making it the 55th state of Africa. The huge legacy in the past that this kingdom has brought, again will hopefully add to the continent as an effort for unity. King Mohammed VI has no doubt lead the nation to modernisation, taking his kingdom to play a leading role in economic transformation. 

Although the country has huge agricultural emphasis, which will no doubt bring an old, established kingdom into its new AU membership.

Neil de Beer is president of the IFA and advises African states on economic development. Contact at or [email protected]


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