Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mega Project Launched To Regenerate Old Medina of Casablanca, Morocco

* Wessal Capital, the investment fund with a unique SWF shareholding structure supports second stage of Casablanca re-development

* Growing investor confidence in Moroccan tourism market helps Wessal Capital, the investment arm overseeing the Wessal Casa-Port project, to secure additional €28 million of funding to support development

* Old Medina project builds on rich cultural heritage to reclaim Casablanca’s status as premier cultural, business and tourism destination

* The regeneration of the Old Medina is a response to local residents’ desire to improve their neighborhood and boost local economy

Morocco has begun the €28 million regeneration of the historic Old Medina of Casablanca, a vital part of the city’s history and one of its most appealing tourist attractions. The project is part of Wessal Capital’s €530 million Casa-Port project, which will transform Casablanca’s harbor and port area and help restore the city once known as the jewel of Morocco.

The restoration of the Old Medina is the second phase of the Casa-Port project, with work on the port redevelopment starting last week. When completed, Wessal Casa-Port will offer world-class tourism infrastructure, including the development of the city’s first marina, an upgraded port and new commercial and cultural spaces. The public-private partnership is due for completion in five years.

The historic Old Medina is one of Morocco’s most important cultural sites and the country’s largest medina, dating to the sixth century. It has been a focus for Casablanca’s commercial and civic life for centuries, including currently hosting seven mosques, three synagogues and a church – a testament to Morocco’s religious openness and sense of tolerance. The regeneration works include creating a 3.7 km tourist pathway winding through the medina and connecting with the new cruise ship terminal, going through all the major heritage buildings combining tradition and modernity in a way that inspires visitors and the people of Morocco.

Tourism is the second largest contributor to Morocco's GDP and is also the second biggest job creator, playing a vital role in the country’s overall economy. In 2013, tourist arrivals exceeded 10 million for the first time. However, Casablanca is often overlooked as a tourist attraction by visitors who instead prioritize travel to other parts of the country, such as Marrakech and Fes. Enhancing the appeal of the medina, which has long been the heart of the city, together with the coastline district, will help reposition Casablanca as a major destination for cultural, business and cruise tourism.

Morocco projects the investment in Wessal Casa-Port will help revitalize the economy, generating employment in a thriving tourism sector. The project is anticipated to double employment in the area and triple employment in areas indirectly linked to the project. Already 2000 jobs have been created in the construction phase alone, with 6000 more planned.

The project reflects His Majesty King Mohammed VI’s personal interest in the social and economic development of Casablanca, as well as the improvement of the standard of living of the city’s inhabitants.

The rehabilitation aligns with Morocco’s wider cultural, socio-economic and urban development strategy, which is improving living conditions, creating job opportunities, upgrading the city’s buildings and preserving Casablanca’s historical and cultural legacy.

This project in particular will support the aspirations of Casablanca’s youth. It has been designed to help them access new economic, social and cultural opportunities which support their own well-being and Morocco’s continued growth. Part of the rehabilitation program launched by the King includes setting up “work re-insertion centers”, especially focused on women and youth, to help some of the inhabitants acquire working skills and take advantage of the local job opportunities created by the vast infrastructure developments underway nearby. Another initiative is working to improve the marketing of handicraft products produced by the artisans of the medina.

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