Business Brief: Moroccan Auto Exports Roll On; Hilton Plans Expansion – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 10, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

There was good business news on several fronts, including an uptick in auto exports and increased domestic auto sales; expanded gas and oil drilling activities; growth in the exports of handicrafts; and Hilton making its presence felt in several locations. In general, there are strong indications that the Moroccan economy will continue to grow, despite the haggling over the composition of the new government, as the banking and agricultural sectors see expansion fueling growth.

Zoom, zoom goes the auto sector. According to Moroccan authorities, both domestic and export sales grew in 2016, despite a sluggish economy. A story in Morocco World News, citing a report from Morocco’s Association of Importers of Motor Vehicles (AIVAM) indicated that 2015’s record sales were surpassed by a 25% increase, as dealers sold 163,110 vehicles, including passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

Renault continued its domination of the domestic market  capturing close to 38% market share, with its Dacia brand leading the way with a 27% increase in unit sales. Renault’s exports also grew by 8.5% over 2015, shipping more than 153,000 vehicles to Africa and Europe.

US second-largest customer for Moroccan handicrafts. The Ministry of Handicrafts, Social Economy and Solidarity reported a 16% rise in exports, the first in more than 15 years, with a strong showing by US importers of Moroccan textiles, rugs, pottery, and traditional clothing. This follows a multiyear campaign to diversify market outreach and increased Moroccan presence at international trade shows and marketing venues.

Now the second largest markets after the EU, US companies are showing an increased appetite for Morocco’s artisanal products. Most recently, the World Market chain has launched a new campaign featuring Moroccan products. In its press release, it headlines products from Fez, Safi, and Marrakech, noting, “To see the entire CRAFT: Morocco collection and read more about the unique stories behind each item, go to www.worldmarket.com/morocco.”

Oil and gas prospects continue to draw investors. Qatar Petroleum, in partnership with Chevron and the Moroccan National Hydrocarbons and Mines Office (ONHYM), received an extension of its coastal drilling licenses for gas and oil in Morocco. Last year it acquired 30% interest in three deep-water blocs 60-120 miles west and northwest of Agadir, while Chevron holds a 40% share and ONHYM 30%.

Moroccan companies expand business in Africa. EuroNews.com looked at Morocco’s role as a “business bridge to Africa” in its Target business profile series. They interviewed several businesses in Casablanca about the country’s strategic efforts to increase its economic presence in regional markets. They believe that Morocco’s cultural awareness and reputation for quality are factors in the country’s success.

As an example, electricity infrastructure supplier “Fabrilec” has installed more than 500 miles of power lines in Burkina Faso. “The firm’s chief executive officer (CEO), Moustapha Mouchrek believes shared cultural links are the secret to its success. He said that  ‘Business in Africa is an adventure and I think that as our cultures are very close we have more opportunities so we know how to adapt a bit more than others.’”

Working with Maroc Export, Fabrilec’s use of Moroccan-made products that are both high quality and competitively priced builds Morocco’s brand on the continent. In fact, Fabrilec and another Moroccan firm, Energy Transfo, recently won “Great Africa” awards for their roles in growing the Africa market. Since the continent is energy deficient in terms of meeting consumer and industry demand, Moroccan companies fill a critical need.

Energy Transfo CEO Nouzha Taarji explained to EuroNews that Morocco’s experience in building power capacity throughout the country provides a model for other countries.  “The electricity sector has experienced strong growth in Morocco, which has allowed the industry to develop beyond its borders today. We have a wide range of industrial firms that make a multitude of electrical material and that’s what enables our African clients to come here and satisfy their needs.”

A similar story has emerged in the pharmaceutical sector. CooperPharma, one of Morocco’s oldest firms, is building a factory in Rwanda. According to Aymen Cheikh Lahlou, the firm’s CEO, “Investing in Africa gives the continent a chance to develop and have a positive impact on people’s lives. There can be no economic social development without investment in health care; as pharmaceutical companies we do participate to reach this end. This is materializing by job creation, by direct foreign investment, by local accessibility and availability of drugs, by lower pricing, more accessibility and also by training a pool of qualified people, because our pharmaceutical industry required higher international norms in terms of quality,” said Cheikh Lahlo to EuroNews.

Hilton rising again in Morocco. According to multiple sources, Hilton has signed a management agreement with Group Sadiki to open its first hotel in Casablanca in 2021. Slated for the rapidly growing Sidi Maarouf neighborhood, the Garden Inn will initially consist of 118 guestrooms. It will be part of a mixed-used development that includes a ballroom, Moroccan-themed restaurant, other dining options, and exhibition/meeting space. This follows the opening of Garden Inn Tanger City Center last year.

“Casablanca is a market we’ve been looking at for some time and we’re confident that we’ve now identified the right partner and the right location for our debut property,” said Carlos Khneisser, VP of development, MENA, Hilton Worldwide. “Sidi Maarouf is rapidly establishing itself as not only the gateway to the city center, with the construction of its new suspension bridge, but as a significant business district in its own right.”

Sidi Maarouf has emerged as Casablanca’s new business district, with several multinationals establishing a presence in recent years. Just 25km from Mohammed V Airport, and directly accessible by tramway, the area is an enviable location for hosting meetings and events.


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