HICHAM BOUDRAA

Morocco 2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hicham Boudraa, General Manager of AMDIE, on reasons for investing in Morocco, digitalization of customs procedures, and the role of SMEs in the country.

What make Morocco a good destination for investment?

Morocco's political and economic stability is the number-one reason why investors choose it over other countries. The Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, which gives us stability and a very clear short and long-term vision. All the necessary short-term strategies are put in place, including sectorial strategies and ministerial strategies, to oversee the yearly performance of programs and initiatives. Then there are long-term strategies that are guaranteed by the monarchy. For instance, it is not possible for a new government to easily make changes to the tax regime. This guarantees stability to investors. This stability has wide-ranging effects on the overall economy, including macroeconomic indicators and the exchange rate. Furthermore, Morocco has state-of-the-art infrastructure, a key geographical location, and FTAs that give access to more than 1.3 billion consumers in 56 countries. We have also recently signed agreements with several African countries and we have ratified in 2019 the establishment of the new African Free Trade Zone (AFTZ), on top of all this, Moroccan offers highly skilled and talented human resources.

What are the main opportunities for Moroccan exporters?

We strongly believe there are opportunities to be found in any crisis so we must be ready to seize and track them anytime and anywhere. According to several reports and analysis, the current situation brings as many challenges as hopes and opportunities. Indeed, the consequences of the coronavirus crisis have resulted in a global reshaping of value chains all over the world and in particular in the Mediterranean region. This is particularly the case for the European Union, which may begin soon to review some of its positions and economic alliances on the international stage. Pressed to reconsider its production plants locations and its subcontractors and providers proximity, the EU could think of reestablish its existing model of the automotive or even aeronautics in other sectors of activity. Here too, Morocco continues to claim a number of advantages for European operators. Despite a quite higher production costs than in other Asian countries, the Kingdom offers unbeatable geographic proximity and logistical efficiency. In addition, thanks to its very extensive network of free trade agreements (Direct access to more than 1.3 billion consumers in 56 countries), Morocco presents itself as a re-export platform to several other countries and continents. In addition, the Moroccan government offers technical and financial support as well as tax exemptions for the set-up of foreign investors, not to mention its highly specialized and equipped industrial acceleration zones. This new approach will also involve linking our objectives with those of our partners, to ensure joint and sustainable development and growth. Another main point is recommending and identifying the tools together, which will combine foreign investment in Morocco, national investment and the development of the Made in Morocco export. Furthermore, this unprecedented epidemic could undoubtedly offer one of the main cross-border collaboration beneficiaries for Morocco; accelerate a major global process: “near shoring". Indeed, in recent years, many multinationals have been studying different options, allowing them to reduce the dependency between their production chains and the economies fluctuations and uncertainties of some geographically remote countries.

What can be done to facilitate access to local markets?

Although the current crisis, by benefiting from the wide range of FTAs concluded by Morocco in the last decades, AMDIE is daily collaborating with Moroccan economic operators, to suggest and design new tailor-made measures to the needs of exporting companies. These new roadmaps are made while considering the company's markets, products, and production capabilities. Beyond that AMDIE is working on giving investors the possibility of becoming permanent sustainable exporters, but these investors are still need assistance to approach the international contractors. The biggest challenge for us is closing this loop and to boost production through our industrial ecosystems, in order to grow up exports volumes and reach a national sectorial critical size. The second-biggest challenge is logistics. The Port of Tanger Med and the Nador Tangier West Med port are great additions, but Morocco's ambitions require more projects, and the government acknowledges this need and is developing new logistical solutions and innovative infrastructure. Moreover, due to the current international tendency of buying and sourcing online, easy accessing to national and international digital E-Commerce platforms, combined with a great ranking of the Made in Morocco Products, become undoubtedly a real weapon to boost our exports. Without forgetting the importance of the Moroccan breakthrough in terms of customs procedures. Actually, in 2019 the Moroccan Customs and Indirect Tax Administration announced the full digitalization of the customs procedures.

How is the AMDIE helping SMEs?

In the current economic crisis, AMDIE is accelerating its efforts to support Moroccan companies in their search for new niches for growth and international business performance. We are recommending and promoting diversification, adaptation and opening up to new business lines, as well as focusing on export added value. These new strategies can be a success leverages to remain productive and competitive on these harsh times. Our goal is to create an excellent ground for Moroccan businesses growth opportunities. If these capacities are acquired and implemented by SMEs, it could help to catch new deals and lower the risk of a potential shutdown. In June 2020, the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Green and Digital Economy has just launched a set of full support tools and programs dedicated to the Moroccan industrial SMEs. The objective is to give a strong boost to their growth and competitiveness. The current support programs have been reconfigured into two new programs with more attractive loan rates and simplified access and payment conditions. The two programs are “Istitmar" and “Mowakaba". The first one focuses on supporting investment in industrial small businesses, up to 30% of the investment program, whereas the “Mowakaba" program covers the cost of technical assistance and consulting for the benefit of industrial small and medium-sized businesses, with up to 80% for middle-sized businesses (instead of the current 70%) and 90% for the very small companies. That is not all: in addition to Istitmar and Mowakaba, two new created from scratch programs have been implemented. These are 'Tatwir' and 'Nawat'. The “Tatwir" program provides tailor-made support including both investment assistance and technical advisory services, for the benefit of industrial small businesses investing in growth sectors. As for the" Nawat" program, it provides support in terms of consulting, expertise and technical assistance for both very small businesses and self-entrepreneurs and project leaders, whose investments does not exceed 3 million of dirhams.