Big construction plans offer hope to Maghreb market

10 July 2023

This package on the Maghreb also includes:

Morocco plans six stadium projects for 2030 World Cup
Libya has potential for energy project surge
Security company licensing system overhauled in Libya
US firm plans 2MW Morocco hydrogen project
Italy and Tunisia start $1bn Elmed prequalifications

 


Based on the total value of work under execution, the Maghreb region remains an active market for construction companies. 

According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, there are $33bn of construction and transport projects at the execution stage in the Maghreb.

Algeria and Morocco are the two most active markets with $19.6bn and $10bn of projects under execution, respectively.

Libya and Tunisia have about $1.4bn of projects under execution each. 

The challenge is that many of these projects are long-standing ones, with the average duration of ongoing projects exceeding four-and-a-half years. 

At the same time, the value of new project awards remains subdued. Over the past year, there have been $1.2bn of construction and transport awards across the four countries. 

During that period, there have only been two contract awards with a value exceeding $100m in the Maghreb region.

The largest is a $403m contract to build a 36.5-kilometre-long stretch of highway in Morocco; the other is a $330m deal to expand a port in Algeria. 

A joint venture of Mojazine Groupe and NGE Contracting, Entreprise Houar, secured the Moroccan road scheme. The Ministry of Equipment, Transport, Logistics & Water project involves constructing a highway connecting Guercif to Saka as part of Morocco’s Guercif-Nador motorway project.

China Harbour Engineering Company secured the $330m Algerian contract to expand Arzew port. 

Morocco opportunities

With few significant projects awarded over the past year, construction companies are looking to the future for new opportunities. 

Morocco’s prospects for major construction projects appear the most promising, driven by two significant developments: the Spain-Morocco tunnel project and the potential hosting of the 2030 World Cup. 

In June, Spain approved funding for the Spanish Society for Fixed Communication across the Strait of Gibraltar (Secegsa) to conduct a design study for a tunnel link under the Mediterranean. Planned since 1980, the proposed railway tunnel is 38.7km long and will undoubtedly require the involvement of major international construction companies. 

For the World Cup, King Mohammed VI announced Morocco’s plans to join Spain and Portugal’s bid to host the 2030 tournament in March. To facilitate hosting the event, Morocco plans to build a 93,000-seat stadium in Casablanca and upgrade at least five existing stadiums.

The estimated MD2bn ($200m) stadium planned for Casablanca will be built on the outskirts of the city. It will be developed with the involvement of the Ministry of National Education, Preschool & Sports, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation and the local municipalities.

The five stadiums to be upgraded are the Prince Moulay Abdallah stadium in Rabat, the Ibn Battuta stadium in Tangier, and stadiums in Fez, Agadir and Marrakesh. A stadium in Tetouan may also be upgraded.

Algeria rail

In Algeria, the future pipeline of projects is dominated by railway schemes. At the end of 2022, Algeria’s National Agency for the Engineering & Monitoring of the Achievement of Railway Investments (Anesrif) invited national and international companies to express interest in working on its multibillion-dollar rail-building programme. It involves the development of lines that, when complete, will total more than 12,000km in length.

Tunisia viaduct

In Tunisia, the opportunities are more limited. One project that has attracted interest from international construction companies is the design and build of a 2.1km viaduct linking Tunis and Bizerte.

At the end of last year, the Equipment, Housing & Infrastructure Ministry prequalified firms including players from China, France, Turkey, Egypt, Italy and Japan for the estimated $250m scheme. The project is expected to be tendered this year. 

The scheme, which is cofinanced by the European Investment Bank and African Development Bank, is split into three sections. The south liaison road, which comprises lot one, includes three interchanges. The main viaduct forms lot two, and the north liaison road, lot three, will feature one interchange.

Longer term, foreign investors may play a leading role in the market. One such investor is the UAE’s Bukhatir Group, which plans to revive a $5bn sports-focused development in northern Tunis. In its first phase, it will include the construction of luxury villas and a golf course.

Libya highway

For Libya, there are high hopes that the market will soon put a decade-long conflict behind it. Over the past year, various moves have indicated that new projects may now be starting to progress.

The most significant of these came at the end of 2022 when it was reported that the Italian government had begun the tendering process for the coastal highway linking the east and west of Libya from Misrata to Ras Jedir, on the border with Tunisia.

For the Maghreb to become a dynamic construction market, the plans for projects in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya will need to start moving ahead in 2023 and 2024. If not, the market will remain subdued. 

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Colin Foreman
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