Business Brief: Morocco Shines in OZY.com Spotlight; Positive Business News Supports Economic Progress; and OCP and IBM Launch Joint Venture to Manage the Digital Age – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
December 6, 2017

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

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

Social media source likes Morocco. A recent article highlighting Morocco was featured on OZY.com, a social media platform focusing on emerging trends worldwide in news, culture, and entertainment. In November and December they are “providing a spotlight” on five countries, and Morocco was chosen, noting that “It’s a pivotal time for this North African kingdom — while others in the region have experimented with revolution, this 33-million-strong land is trying evolution. Its economy is booming; its politics stable. And it could become Europe’s new bridge to the Middle East and North Africa.”

Alice Morrison, OZY’s reporter based in Essaouira, Morocco, was interviewed for the report. She began by assessing the pace of change in the country. “People are very much steeped in their traditions, but of course the internet made a massive change in this country. It opened everything up; you can go to the tiniest village and people are on their phones…it’s a land of contrast.”

On Moroccan society, Morrison noted that the middle class is growing, poverty rates are falling, and economic and political power are still dominated by elites. On the cultural influence of Islam she said that “Islam is Moroccan culture. You cannot separate the two. It infuses the history, but also daily life.”

Her thoughts on the country’s stability were quite clear, “At the root of the country’s stability is the king…he is well-loved; he is seen as someone who loves his people, who is the father of his people, and who works for his people.” In an interesting comment on power-sharing she said that the current Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani is “a moderate man, a man of consensus. So when the king appointed him, it was seen as a clever move, because they’re both moderates and both focused on progress.”

Dealing with the unrest in the north and Morocco “stepping up to have a lead role in Africa” were two of the main policy priorities she mentioned, reflecting on the King’s speech “saying they were putting Africa first, and Morocco is perfectly positioned to play a lead role there.” Overall it was a positive and interesting profile of Morocco today.

More details on Morocco’s internet penetration. It has been previously reported that Morocco has the highest internet penetration rate in Africa, some 58.3% compared to South Africa in second place at 54%. The positions are reversed in the metric for tech readiness with South Africa number one at 4.6 (out of 7) and Morocco number two at 3.8. An interesting data point is the number of Facebook users, where Morocco is behind its Africa neighbors with Egypt at 33 million, Algeria at 18 million, South Africa and Nigeria at 16 million. Morocco at 12 million compares favorably with Algeria and Egypt if comparing percentage use by population, while Morocco leads the others by a large margin.

Morocco has a high adoption rate of 55%, which reflects access and use of technologies, a critical factor in a country’s capacity to participate effectively in the global economy. Using technology often enables small and medium-sized companies to increase their ability to be part of supply chains, source material more efficiently, and find regional and international customers.

Russian biotech giant readies move to Morocco. According to a press release in BusinessWire, the Russian biotechnology company BIOCAD has set up a partnership with Moroccan pharmaceutical company Sothema to manufacture cancer-fighting medicines in Morocco for the North African market. The specific drugs are called biosimilars, which are biological products that are demonstrated to be biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-approved biological product, in this case bevacizumab and rituximab, used in the treatment of oncological diseases, at 30% less cost.

“The efforts of our company combined with the eager enthusiasm of our Moroccan colleagues in transferring the production of biosimilars to North Africa has brought remarkable results,” says Dmitry Morozov, the CEO of BIOCAD. “In the coming days, the drug products will go on sale. In my opinion, this is eloquent evidence that Russian companies can compete with leaders of the international market. Once the manufacturing site reaches its full production capacity, the partners expect to capture more than 50% of the relevant cancer drugs market.”

Remittances play a vital role in Economy.  The latest data from the government indicates an increase of 2.6%–some $6 billion–by the end of October 2017. Good news was also registered in foreign direct investment (FDI), which rose by 16.9% to around $2.6 billion for the same 10 month period.

OCP and IBM plan venture to upgrade digital capabilities. A year in the making, OCP group has announced the renewal of its agreement with IBM to invest in a high tech joint-venture company to lead the internal digital transformation of OCP and build a regional client portfolio offering digital transformation services. The company, Teal Technology Services, will equip the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and launch a 10,000 square foot data center as core elements in building strategic partnerships with West African countries.

As reported in Morocco World News from the IBM press release, “IBM is present in 24 countries in Africa, with four client centers, in Morocco, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. The continent has grown to be a substantial market for digitization and computerization services that IBM has provided to governments and their healthcare, banks, and telecom sector. Teal, the result of a long-time partnership, is part of IBM’s African strategy to invest in projects of regional significance.”

In its continuing expansion, OCP announced that its third integrated fertilizer production plant (JFC3), at Jorf Lasfar is now fully operational at a cost of some $600 million. The facility has already reach full production, and will be joined by JFC4 this coming year to make OCP the world’s largest fertilizer exporter.

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