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Morocco and Portugal

Emerging Market Challenges and Opportunities

This IFS will focus on the growth of the economies of Morocco and Portugal over the past several decades, as well as the challenges that each country faced as they sought to develop their economies. The socio-cultural, economic, historical, and political context of each country will be examined as we survey their growth and improvements in the well-being of their citizens. We will also study how each country is leveraging its country-specific advantages and its membership in regional trade alliances to advance its economy. Students will meet with executives and academics, and we will also explore cultural landmarks in Morocco and Portugal. Led by Ravi Sarathy, Professor, International Business and Strategy.

Morocco and Portugal represent two contrasting economies in the Mediterranean and North African region, with each country at a different stage of economic development. While Morocco is still an emerging market, Portugal is already a developed economy, albeit one of the smaller middle-income countries within the European Union. Morocco has deep Arabic and French colonial influences, is a constitutional monarchy, and has to accommodate Islamist principles in its economic strategies. In contrast, Portugal has had to overcome decades of inertia under a dictatorship and as a colonial power with colonies that once spanned the globe. Portugal’s entry into the European Union, and the transformation wrought with this opening up of its economy, is an interesting lesson in the benefits and drawbacks of regional integration. Both countries are relatively small economies in the global arena, with GDP at less than 1% of World GDP, and hence need to better integrate with the world’s major economies in order to continue to achieve economic growth.

Areas of Interest

Morocco and Portugal border the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, with significant amounts of coastline, and within close transportation distance of the major markets of the European Union. Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city, economic capital, and principal port, with its name derived from the Portuguese city built at the location in the early 1500s – “Casa Branca”. Morocco was once part of the Roman Empire, with the Arab conquest in the 7th century bringing Islam to Morocco, which has an important influence on its economic activity. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, a hilly city on the Tagus River and the Atlantic, and with its population of around half a million, is small by European capital standards, but a city rich in history. Shipping and global navigation, a high-tech industry of the 1500s, was the impetus behind Portugal’s rise as a maritime empire, with Lisbon the port of departure for explorers such as Vasco de Gama and Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan). Portugal joined the European Union in 1986, to its considerable benefit, with its GDP increasing from around $25 billion in the mid-1980s to nearly $220 billion in 2017. Intra-EU trade now accounts for ¾ of its exports, though Portugal is still one of the lower income countries within the EU, with its lower wages attracting manufacturing investments from other states within the EU.

Course Description

Students will be exposed to an array of cultural and business differences in the region with unique emphasis on challenges and opportunities related to economic development and growth. While in Morocco and Portugal, students will interact with executives, academics, and government officials. The overall objective of the course is to learn about the process of economic development and the path to higher incomes, drawing on the experiences of Morocco and Portugal.

Format of Instruction

The class will meet monthly prior to trip departure. Students will review case studies and other readings about Morocco and Portugal and the current economic and cultural environment of emerging markets and the EU. Students will develop case analysis, and do presentations on selected readings, as well as participate in class discussion and complete a final project.


Ravi Sarathy, Professor, International Business and Strategy, D’Amore-McKim School of Business

Accommodations, Transportation & Meals

Participants will be housed in double rooms in high-quality tourist hotels during the program. Accommodations for spouses or friends are not available. Breakfasts, some lunches, and some dinners are included. Students are usually responsible for other meals. Students are responsible for securing passports and visas. Inter-country transportation is included.