Four institutions from both sides of the Mediterranean are joining forces to launch a new business school in Morocco.
The Euro-Mediterranean Business School will begin providing short courses for executives this September. This will be followed by an executive MBA in 2004 and a full-time MBA in 2005.
"The idea is to bring Europe a bit closer to the south," said Rachid Slimi, executive director of development and communications at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.
The initiative is led by Brussels-based business school network, the European Foundation for Business Development, with input from Al-Akhawayn University, Esade of Spain, and French business schools the HEC and Ceram.
The European Union, the Moroccan government and the regional authorities of Catalonia in Spain and Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur in France are providing financial support.
The new business school will be based in Casablanca, Morocco's main business centre. It aims to provide management training with input from Europe tailored to the specific needs of Morocco and the North African region. Its founders see the ability to provide quality training on the spot as a key advantage.
"Right now the most able Moroccans have to go abroad for training, they tend to go to France, the US, Canada or Spain," said Francisco Lamolla, director of new projects at Esade. "These are people with a lot of potential, but having to go abroad is a big barrier for them."
Although the school aims to be international, Dr Lamolla expects the first intake will be mainly Moroccan, with more foreigners applying as the school's reputation gets established.
However, Dr Slimi of Al-Akhawayn University believed there would be an immediate and big demand from students from other Arab countries. He said the war in Iraq and the events of the past 18 months were instrumental in driving this demand. "American education was always highly prized by the Arab countries, but with what is going on today, I find it hard to see exactly who is going to want to go to study in the US now," he said.
The choice of Morocco as a venue for this new venture and the involvement of French and Spanish business schools and backers is no coincidence.
France and Spain are the biggest foreign investors in Morocco and commercial links between the three countries look set to grow.