Morocco has appointed Mohamed Maliki as its ambassador to Nepal. Maliki, who is based in New Delhi, is in Kathmandu to present his credentials to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari. Ashim Neupane of Republica talked to Maliki on different issues including the possibility of fostering bilateral trade, among others. Excerpts:
How has been the trade relationship between Nepal and Morocco?
Morocco and Nepal started diplomatic relationship in 1975. The trade between two countries has been very low. But the trade figures will surely increase as Morocco can now import products like coffee, tea, textiles, and agricultural items, among others. Nepal can also import chemical fertilizers, electrical items, traditional artifacts, and agricultural products, among others.
Morocco has been getting over 10 million foreign tourists per year. How have you managed to attract such a huge number of tourists?
Tourism industry is our second largest foreign currency earner after phosphate industry. The Moroccan government has invested huge amount of money for the promotion and development of tourism sector, keeping in mind that hospitality sector is the backbone for the country's economy. The government had targeted to attract 10 million tourists per year by 2010 which turned out to be successful. The government has also made plans to attract 20 million tourists per year by the end of 2020 and 30 million by the end of 2030.
We have been able to attract such a huge amount of tourists annually due to our natural beauty, culture, cuisines, and hospitality. We also bring different offers for tourists to make their stay a little cheaper. We also have the history of oldest monarchy and oldest university in the world. We have also built our infrastructure, hotels, and made policies accordingly to attract tourists.
Nepal has immense potentials for tourism development. But the country has been failing to get good number of visitors. What do you think is the reason behind this?
With its natural beauty, hospitality, and rich culture, Nepal can grow a lot by attracting huge number of tourists. I think some promotional work should be conducted to attract tourist in large numbers. The promotion of resources and natural beauty that Nepal has in the global market will certainly help to attract more tourists. As far as I know, most of the tourists come to Nepal for hiking. The concerned authority here should work to explore other sectors for tourists as well. When tourists think of Nepal, they only remember Mount Everest. So the country should seriously work to promote its old temples, rich culture, religions, and wildlife. Nepal has many unexplored areas, which, if developed and promoted, can attract millions of tourists annually. There is also a need to develop infrastructure like hotels; and bring cheap offers to attract more number of tourists.
Tourists also visit Nepal because the country is very peaceful. The tourists feel much secured here in this part of South Asia. Nepal can also explore this thing to increase the flow of tourists in the country.
How has been the flow of Moroccan tourists to Nepal?
There is no official figure which shows the flow of Moroccan tourists to Nepal and vice versa. But many Moroccan have come here for hiking and to step on the top of the world.
The flow of tourist to both the countries will increase if we share the experiences. The visa difficulty has also affected the flow of Moroccan tourists to Nepal. We have held talks with high-level authorities to make visa process a lot easier, which will certainly help to increase the flow of Moroccans to Nepal.
Morocco is the largest recipient of foreign investment in Northern Africa. How did you manage to attract such a huge foreign investment?
It is because we treat all the investors equally. We provide equal incentives to all the investors. We provide same amount of incentive to domestic as well as foreign investors.
We are also the top exporter of phosphate in the world. We also have the largest reserve of phosphate in the world, due to which investors are keen to invest on chemical fertilizers. The mines of Morocco are recognized as best in the world which has also helped to attract investments. Apart from the mining sector, people have also invested huge amount of money on tourism sector which is growing as per the target. The open market in Morocco has also helped to attract investment in many sectors of the country.
What could be the sectors where Moroccans can invest in Nepal?
There are many areas in this part of the world where investors would love to invest their money. There are many hidden and unexplored areas in Nepal. The return would be very high if investors invest in the unexplored areas. The return is very high in tourism and agricultural sector of Nepal. Likewise, investors will also love to invest in renewable energy, irrigation, education, health, and cultural sector. We can also invest on entertainment sector. We want to bring some Moroccan movies here in Nepal. Nepal has a huge possibility to attract foreign investments.
Do you think the investment environment here is friendly for investors?
Yes, Nepal has investment-friendly environment. I will encourage Moroccans to invest in Nepal and explore the new areas to invest. Few years back, the number of flights coming to Nepal was very few. Now the airlines operating flights to Nepal has increased which is also a huge investment.
Is there any possibility of exchange of high-level visits between Nepal and Morocco?
Yes, there is a possibility. But I can't speak on behalf of high-level dignitaries. I am sure that level of friendliness between the two countries will pave way for high-level visits. Such visits will surely help to further enhance trading relationship between Nepal and Morocco.
The visit and high-level delegation meeting will also explore the possible investment sector. Not only high-level dignitaries, bilateral visits of business personnel should also be organized to explore the sectors where investments have been very less.