Morocco’s Financial Sector Continues to Draw Support, Grow Regionally – Jean R. AbiNader
Attijariwafa Bank and EBRD Reaffirm Regional Strategy
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 11, 2015
Morocco’s regional economic leadership role continues to draw media attention, signaling a growing recognition that its role in Africa is substantive and long term. For example, a recent article noted that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has opened its first full-time office in Morocco. Previously, its offices were project-related – tied to specific project funding. Given the breadth of EBRD’s commitment to Morocco for the foreseeable future, “Opening a resident office is an affirmation of our commitment to Morocco and to helping achieve its potential. It is a key step in implementing the bank’s country strategy and boosting economic growth through development of the private sector and promoting regional inclusion,” says Phil Bennett, EBRD’s first vice-president.
EBRD currently has 18 projects in Morocco, according to its website, focusing on “supporting sustainable energy, direct and indirect financing of private enterprises and promoting infrastructure reform and facilitating non-sovereign financing.” It recently approved a comprehensive strategy “which focuses on realising the entrepreneurial potential of the country targeting women’s entrepreneurship and increasing finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through private equity funds, as well as providing dedicated credit lines associated with technical assistance.” Since 2012, EBRD’s disbursements have grown more than ten-fold, from 22 to 250 million Euros. Part of its success is that the private sector contributes 72 percent of the cumulative investment in projects. In this regard, local banks, financial institutions, and private equity, as well as companies, are the partners of choice for EBRD.
Domestic and International Commitment
Of course, the largest bank in Morocco, Attijariwafa Bank, is one of those key players. In looking at media coverage of Morocco in Africa, a story posted on Forbes.com, an article about Attijariwafa Bank, is an interview with its co-CEO and Director General Ismail Douiri on his thoughts on leadership, his bank, and business in Africa.
Mr. Douiri recently joined the African Leadership Network (ALN), a group of the “most dynamic and influential new-generation leaders in Africa. The ALN creates and strengthens relationships between these leaders to encourage intra-African trade, investment, and collaboration.” As Africa matures as a group of developing, frontier, and emerging markets, professional networks such as ALN provide opportunities for collaboration and strategic cooperation enabled by technology, common business vocabularies, and a shared commitment to human and economic development. This is a role for which Ismail Douiri is well prepared.
He has been instrumental in the growth of Attijariwafa Bank to where it now has assets exceeding $34 billion, more than 3,000 branches, 15,000 employees, and close to five million clients. Douiri believes that Morocco’s banking story is not well known. He points out that, relative to its economy, Morocco’s banking sector is larger than South Africa’s, and the two largest Moroccan banks each have more than twice the assets of the largest Nigerian bank. With a stock exchange that ranks between second and fourth largest in Africa, Morocco is well qualified for its leadership role.
He attributes much of the bank’s success to building strong internal human resources who recognize that their first priority is serving the customer. Knowing that there is no single style or talent of leadership, Mr. Douiri believes in openness to innovation, developing and enabling diversity in human resources, supporting talent and hard work, and listening…always listening. And he never forgets, despite the breadth of the challenges he faces, what matters. “I love being part of new projects aiming at entering new territories, or introducing new financing instruments that will bring value to people and help them realize their own dreams. I also love to contribute to broadening our community involvement through Attijariwafa bank’s Foundation.”
His experiences have clearly shaped his vision. When asked about inclusive growth he replied that that is not something easily defined or arrived at. “My personal view is that the pursuit of economic growth, if coupled with the right governance principles – transparency, accountability, organized stakeholder communication…, and a safety net to prevent extreme poverty, leads to inclusive growth, a growth that will generate a middle-class better able to educate their children than their parents did for them.”