Five Moroccan delegates, including President of Rabat’s Capital Region, were in Mississippi this week to meet with officials from Mississippi State University and Mississippi Developmental Authority. They discussed potential economic ventures and cooperative education programs. According to state officials, two deals were signed during the visit. The first deal is between Mississippi and the Marita Group, a Moroccan-based manufacturing and energy group and one of the largest cork producers in the world. Rahhal Boulgoute, CEO of Marita Group, expressed his gratitude to the Mississippi governor during this week’s visit. Phil Bryant expressed his desire to bring a plant manufacturing to the state. The second deal was inked with Mississippi State University. It focuses on education, research and establishing areas for cooperation in research and agriculture, forestry and transportation between Mississippi and Rabat, Morocco. David Shaw, vice-president of research and economic growth at Mississippi State University and member this week’s host delegation, said that “This is one the most exciting opportunities I have seen come into the university and state.” “This partnership will have such an impact on education, economic development and research.” This was after a longstanding relationship between Mississippi State University and Morocco. In order to establish a joint degree program, Mississippi State and the International University of Rabat partnered four years ago. As part of this program, 21 Moroccan students were the first to complete their Starkville stint. Officials from Mississippi State began to communicate with Morocco after they had been exposed through the program. These conversations led to discussions about economic and educational partnership between the state of Mississippi and Morocco. The five Moroccan delegates, Boulgoute and Abdessamad Sekkal (president of the council of Rabat), Mariam Chemao, vice-president of the council of Rabat and Naima Cheddadi (vice president of council of Rabat), visited Mississippi’s key economic sites, including the Ingalls Shipbuilding, Stennis Space Center, and Nissan plant. Governor Bryant met the delegation. The delegation met with Gov. Phil Bryant several times during the week. They ate Monday night at Governor’s Mansion. They stayed at least one night in Starkville and one night on Mississippi Gulf Coast. They arrived at the Medgar Wiley-Evers International Airport Sunday night and will leave Friday evening. According to Jeff Rent, MDA Public Relations Manager Jeff Rent, their transportation from Morocco to Mississippi was paid by them. It is not clear how much the state spent on this visit. Shaw stated that Shaw and the governor discussed this week creating a Mississippi delegation to go to Morocco later in the year. Clay Chandler, Bryant’s spokesperson, said that the governor hasn’t yet visited Morocco and has not made any plans to do so. However, these plans may change if there is an economic opportunity. The Moroccan delegation stated that the visit by the Moroccans was “extremely positive” and they believe the partnership with Mississippi will improve the country’s economic and educational standing. Haitham Elkadiri, a Mississippi State mechanical engineer professor and native Moroccan, said that the Moroccans see Mississippi and the United States as a great partnership that will help Morocco and Africa. They are excited about the possibility of a regional agreement. We have identified a specific project that has a direct effect on the economy and education in both (Mississippi) and Rabat. It could then be scaled up to Morocco and Africa as a whole.