Football Succours Morocco’s Stock Market to a League of Its Own

Football Succours Morocco’s Stock Market to a League of Its Own
Gavin Serkin

By Gavin Serkin

The 2030 FIFA World Cup is passing a long ball to the stock exchange in Casablanca. 

More than any of the other five countries picked as joint-host nations, Morocco has shown the most grit in bringing the all-important final of the most-watched global sporting event onto home turf. An hour’s drive east of Casablanca, the ground is being prepared for what is soon to become the biggest football stadium the world has ever known: a 115,000 seater mega-arena. The Grand Stade de Casablanca will hold its first major match next year when Morocco hosts the Africa Cup of Nations. A $2 billion infrastructure drive will upgrade other stadia in Tangier, Rabat, Agadir, Marrakech, Fez and Casablanca, combined with boosts to transport connections and accommodation for streams of fans. 

From construction to hotels, tourism, and beyond, the World Cup’s Mexican wave is lifting the prospects of Moroccan corporates from telecoms providers – readying for a surge in voice and data usage, and accelerated implementation of 5G networks – to banks drumming up financing arrangements to pay for these projects. Retailers, airports and airlines are all planning extra capacity for the increased footfall.   

FIFA’s decision in October last year came within a month of the country suffering its most devastating earthquake, which set in motion a universal relief effort that saw Moroccans from across the country arriving to help with recovery missions and assistance. The heightened sense of solidarity and awareness of shared values that comes with such tragedy is, to some extent, being channelled in football-loving Morocco with zest for this new national focus. 

Economic momentum is being assisted by an accommodating macro backdrop, with interest rates on hold at 3%, half the level of many emerging market peers and reflecting a recent plunge in inflation from 10% early last year to below 1% now. Meanwhile, Moroccan industry has been booming – with a rapidly expanding vehicle production line becoming the nation’s biggest export industry, overtaking phosphate, and the aerospace industry similarly flourishing. The Saharan sun is being harnessed in a growth industry that within a few years should supply 8% of UK energy via undersea cables, with Atlantic wind turbines further expanding Morocco’s renewable energy leadership.


The net result is that investor interest in Morocco’s stock market has been catapulted. The stock market jumped more than 5% the day the winning World Cup bid was announced, evidence of the extent of investor interest. The amount of shares changing hands has almost doubled this year, reaching $21.2 million every day, a jump from roughly $13 million of average daily trading volume in both 2022 and 2023. A roadshow by the Bourse de Casablanca in London this week has scheduled more than 120 meetings with international investors, an unprecedented number for its annual Moroccan Capital Markets Days

Foreign investor interest is adding to rapidly rising investment at home. Morocco has one of the highest investment rates across emerging markets at 31% of GDP. The country’s asset management industry has seen funds under management soar sixfold in the last two decades to US$61 billion, driven by increased savings through pension and insurance funds. Investment by these local institutions helps to reduce stock market swings as they tend to buy securities for the long-term, resulting in lower volatility relative to other frontier market exchanges. The launch of the Mohamed VI Investment Fund, with 15 billion dirhams ($1.5 billion) investable in infrastructure projects now and a target of 45 billion dirhams, creates a further pull for foreign capital inflows, injecting growth into multiple sectors of the economy. 

The challenge now for the exchange is to absorb these record levels of investor flows with new securities. The performance of initial public offerings, or IPOs, has been encouraging. Shares sold in the exchange’s biggest private IPO since 2008 – healthcare group Akdital – have more than doubled since listing in late 2022. 

Morocco’s proactive financial markets regulator, the AMMC, is moving in step to enable more innovative structures to broaden funding of the country’s construction and property expansion. Investors will soon (likely in the first half of 2025) be able to buy a broad range of assets bundled into a single investment vehicle through the introduction of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and exchange-traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). A further game-changer for investors comes later this year with twin regulations that will enable more ways to manage risk through the introduction of a derivatives market and greater investor access through a central counterparty clearinghouse. Additionally, Morocco is aligning regulation of its fund management industry with European Union standards on transparency and supervision by adopting the European Commission's regulatory framework for managing and selling mutual funds known as UCITS.

Despite strong fundamentals – including an inflation rate almost consistently below 2% throughout this century, and the only free trade agreement with the US in all of Africa – Morocco tends to be lumped into the category of higher risk frontier markets. These regulatory steps, combined with increased trading volumes and diversification opportunities, make Morocco a prime candidate for promotion to the investment world’s premier league through an upgrade in MSCI’s index classification from frontier to emerging markets.


Kick backs

Morocco’s football-fueled renaissance has been a long time coming. Until last year, the country held the World Cup record for failed host bids, having been kicked back in 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2026. Its 2030 success follows Morocco’s best on-pitch performance to date, leading in 2022 as the first African and the first Arab nation to reach a World Cup semi-final. More fundamentally, it reflects the country’s rapid economic and infrastructural development. While Morocco passed inspection by FIFA in its 2026 bid, it scored a lowly 2.7 out of a possible 5, being assessed as high risk in three key areas: stadiums, accommodation and transportation. The amount of new infrastructure required for Morocco’s World Cup hosting “bid to become reality cannot be overstated,” FIFA wrote in its report in 2018.

Fast-forward five years, and Mediterranean neighbours Spain and Portugal – experienced tournament hosts – approached Morocco in part because of the combined quality of their infrastructure. While Uruguay will host the first World Cup game to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first-ever World Cup match in Montevideo, the 2030 tournament quickly moves on to Argentina and Paraguay for a match each before crossing the Atlantic for the next 101 games in Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Beyond short-term stimulus, the far greater goal is to present Morocco as every bit as entwined with Europe as with the Middle East and Africa, as players, fans and commentators easily traverse the 11-mile Mediterranean divide. An EU associated country with advanced status under the European Neighbourhood Policy, while also a member of the African Union and the Arab League, Morocco will present a unique vantage point from which to connect and trade. 

Of course, the links between hosting sporting tournaments and payback in terms of political, economic or financial reward is far from clear cut. Professor Jonathan Grix, author of Sport Politics, refers to ‘image-leverage’ – use of the international sporting spotlight to challenge stereotypes or any negative biases. A serendipity not lost on officials in Casablanca: the last time Morocco’s co-host Spain had a World Cup on home turf was 1982; four years later, it joined the European Union. 

Morocco might not need to wait for the 2030s to test the benefits of football tournaments. The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off next year in Morocco for the first time since 1988. If this year’s hosts, Ivory Coast, are anything to go by, fortune resides on the home side. After losing 1-0 to Nigeria and 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea in opening matches, the all-but-defeated Ivorians sacked their coach – only to be clutched from the jaws of elimination by Morocco's victory over Zambia. Ivory Coast’s grateful Elephants took to wearing the Atlas Lions' jerseys in appreciation as they progressed to the final. Again, Nigeria’s Super Eagles put down the Elephants 1-0 in the first half, only to be equalised in the 62nd minute and defeated in the 82nd. In the Alassane-Ouattara stadium in Abidjan, before an enraptured home crowd, President Alassane Outtara celebrated with his team of miracle makers. Within a month, the Ivory Coast’s credit rating was lifted by Moody’s citing heightened private sector investment. Soaring cocoa prices drove the economy of the world’s largest cocoa producer to the fastest pace of growth in Africa. In football, the hand of God works in mysterious ways.

Is it only football tournaments that can work this kind of magic? We’ll find out soon enough. This month, Morocco hosts another crucial tournament: the Casablanca Chess Tournament. Just as with the World Cup, top international players – including the No. 1 ranked Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen – will be celebrating their game’s own centenary: the formation of the FIDE International Chess Federation in 1924.

In chess, as in football – as in life – there are no sure-fire bets. But it pays to practise your set pieces. Notably, this tournament is being hosted by the Casablanca Stock Exchange. 

*Gavin Serkin is the author of Frontier: Exploring the Top Ten Emerging Markets of Tomorrow, Journalist and Editorial Consultant on emerging & frontier markets and technology, with particular focus on Africa, blockchain, ESG and impact investment.

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