Moroccan businesswoman Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, who is the wife of the current head of the Moroccan government Aziz Akhannouch, has been listed among Africa’s leading retail billionaires.
The list, published by Billionaires Africa, highlighted the Moroccan businesswoman’s substantial impact on the continent’s retail sector and her role in shaping the retail industry.
Salwa rose to prominence with the founding of the Aksal Group in 2004. Under her leadership, the Aksal Group has secured exclusive franchise rights for 45 globally renowned brands in Morocco, making luxury accessible to the local market.
In 2011 Salwa unveiled the Morocco Mall, an expansive 10-hectare retail and entertainment complex that elevated Morocco’s retail reputation and contributed significantly to tourism revenue.
In light of the recognition by Billionaires Africa, many Moroccans have expressed their dissatisfaction with the ranking and perceived wealth accumulation of an individual associated with the government.
These critics’ discontent notably stemmed from the government’s decision in 2022 to impose new import tariffs on online purchases from abroad.
Morocco’s Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxes (ADII) announced that starting July 1, 2022, all international e-commerce platform purchases would lose their import duty exemptions, regardless of their value.
Under these new regulations, non-commercial shipments valued at less than MAD1,250 ($125) remain tax-exempt. However, purchases intended for e-commerce purposes are now subjected to tariffs.
This marked a significant departure from the previous provisions, under which e-commerce imports with a value under $125 were also exempt from taxation.
Government spokesperson Mustapha Baitas justified this decision by describing it as a means to safeguard the local economy. The government argued that many buyers had been dividing their purchases to avoid paying taxes.
However, this move has raised concerns among Moroccans who argued that the new law has constrained their ability to shop online freely.
Some have even suggested that this situation could potentially direct more business towards Salwa Akhannouch, further fueling the dissatisfaction.
“Of course she is [among Africa’s leading retail billionaires] … when laws are made to maximize your profit it’s no surprise,” said a Moroccan social media user.