On target: Ronaldo's Moroccan investment hat trick
Morocco World News states that Morocco's tourism revenues "reached MAD 59.4 billion [US $600m] by the end of 2016", making Morocco one of Africa's most attractive countries for tourists. The North African kingdom has set an ambitious strategy to increase its bed capacity for the hospitality sector to 375,000 by 2020.
However, the tourism sector in Morocco has been facing major obstacles to obtain bank loans, especially after the global economic crisis and the continued tension in neighboring countries.
The banks' reluctance to grant loans has affected tourism in Morocco. In 2010, the national development plan aimed to attract 10 million tourists annually, a goal which was only met in 2013. These difficulties reflect the decline in loans allocated by the banking sector, which the Oxford Business Group estimated to "account for just 2.4 percent of credit to the economy, down from 3.3 percent in 2009."
Consequently, the presence of Ronaldo's brand CR7 in the North African country could be the key to breaking the ice with the banking sector. With his fame as the world's highest paid athlete - more than $50 million annually before tax - and his record as Madrid's best scorer of all time, Cristiano's investments could serve to boost one of Morocco's main economic sectors, and help meet its 2020 agenda.
As a result, the Moroccan media has begun to take a closer look at what Ronaldo is planning for his investments. Almaghreb24 reported that Ronaldo is intending to build a five star hotel in the red city, and another for VIPs in Casablanca.
Apart from the economic boost many hope this will bring, the footballer's investment in Morocco is also expected to bring the country a permanent, positive presence in the media, particularly as Cristiano has renewed his contract with Real Madrid, until 2021.The Portuguese soccer player's investments may make Ronaldo the first footballing superstar to embark on a journey to promote investment in the North African region, and his choice to invest in Morocco shows that his dealings off the pitch are just as on target as they are on it.
Habibulah Mohamed Lamin is a journalist based in the Western Sahara refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. He has worked as a translator and is director of Equipe Media Branch, a group of media activists covering Western Sahara. His work focuses on politics and culture of the Maghreb.
Follow him on Twitter: @habibullahWS