MADRID Feb 4 Morocco has recruited foreign
investors to fund a $9 billion solar power project, even though
some European lenders have balked due to the location of some
planned plants in the disputed Western Sahara, its foreign
Lending sources at German state-owned banks and at
multi-lateral lenders such as the World Bank, the European
Investment Bank and the European Union have told Reuters they
would not finance projects based in Western Sahara.
"That is their problem. We have no financing problems. We
have several (investors); there are Japanese, Chinese, Gulf
countries," Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told Reuters on
Tuesday in an interview in Madrid, where he was meeting with
Spanish business leaders.
He declined to give details on the financing contracts with
Morocco, a net energy importer, wants to develop renewable
power to reach 20 percent of its energy supply in 10 years, up
from 8 percent now, Mezouar said.
The solar project involves five plants, two of them planned
in Western Sahara, that would produce a total of 2,000
Morocco has controlled most of the sparsely populated
Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, since 1975. But the
Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks independence, and a United
Nations mission was formed more than 20 years ago ahead of an
expected referendum on Western Sahara's political future, which
has never taken place.
European investor sources told Reuters earlier this year
they did not want to support any project in Western Sahara,
because it would mean abandoning a neutral position over the
The solar project is focussed on building the first of the
"The other four plants will also happen. The goal is to
achieve 2,000 MW, and we will continue with our plan. The
Western Sahara issue has nothing to do with it. The financing is
not conditioned on whether plants are in Sahara or not," the
"Western Sahara needs renewable energy, and the investment
will be made. If some people don't want to come, others will."
Saudi Arabia's Acwa Power International won the $1 billion
contract for the first solar plant, which is scheduled to start
operating next year in Ouarzazate with a capacity of 160 MW. It
awarded the construction to a consortium of three Spanish
companies - Sener, Acciona and TSK.
Hundreds of Spanish companies do business in Morocco, and
more than half of Spain's entire investment in Africa is in
Morocco, according to Moroccan figures.
Overall, Morocco aims for 15 to 20 percent growth in foreign
direct investment a year in the economy, up from 13 percent last
year, Mezouar said.
Mezouar said that Morocco, which has been more stable than
most of its neighbours during the so-called Arab spring in
recent years, offers yet more potential for Spanish investors as
a base for textile and automotive manufacturing and as a
springboard for trade to the rest of Africa.
(editing by Jane Baird)