EXPANDING TO MALI AND CÔTE D’IVOIRE

Morocco 2020 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Khaldoun Bouacida, Managing Director and Country Cluster Head for North West Africa of BASF, on raw material provision, multinationals in Morocco, and the introduction of new technologies.

BASF Morocco is active in numerous segments, including agriculture, water treatment, chemicals, and automotive paints. What is the main role of BASF in the Moroccan economy?

BASF provides raw materials and solutions for the industrial value chain here, so it truly creates value in Morocco and beyond. We provide the ingredients for local producers in Morocco and create value in terms of products, jobs creation, and innovation. This is the big differentiator in what BASF does in Morocco that others perhaps do not. We are not B2C; we are B2B. We work with most of the big players and medium-sized companies in Morocco. We call the mid-sized local companies our local champions. We also bring in know-how and the right sustainable solutions for growth. BASF's aim is not to sell products, but to sell the right products so that our customers can grow and differentiate themselves from the competition. We seek to give our customers an edge with the most up-to-date materials and solutions. We want to create value in the country. Our KPIs reflect this—we want to sell things that match our customers' needs and add value. We also help producers in Morocco expand their business geographically into places like South Africa and Gabon. We even produce in Morocco and export to sub-Saharan Africa. We also provide our customers with technical training and hold regular symposiums. BASF's agricultural division goes into the field with a caravan and shows farmers new technologies, helps them identify and combat diseases, and teaches them to increase their yields in a smart and responsible way. Our aim is not to flood the market with products, but to help the customer grow in a sustainable way. BASF builds long-term relationships.

Who are BASF's main partners?

They are in many sectors. Our partners are large players and the local champions in the paint sector and in the shampoo and detergent manufacturing segments. We also serve the companies using coatings and most of the local Moroccan brands manufacturing shoes and mattresses. We look at what these customers want, and if we do not have a ready-made solution, we customize a solution for them.

BASF signed an exclusive agreement with PSA Maroc regarding e-coating and a brand-new production line. Can you tell us more about this tender?

The strategy is to work hand-in-hand with our global key accounts, and PSA is a key account for BASF worldwide. Whenever PSA invests in a country, we work to help it because PSA knows our products, so there is no disruption to its production lines. This is a positive development because there are others that want to invest in Morocco because BASF is here, and we can provide them with technical and warehousing services and technical expertise. Companies also feel comfortable when they see other multinationals already established here.

What AI and digital technologies and solutions is BASF using in Morocco?

In Morocco, most of the digital trends we are following are related to agribusiness. We are fairly advanced in screening fields, identifying diseases at an early stage, and using the right solutions at the right time. This includes monitoring diseases and their spread and the application of treatments. This is extremely helpful because agriculture is a major pillar of Morocco's economy. Stopping the spread of agricultural diseases is extremely important. We also have to be careful with the responsible use of any solutions. In terms of digital technology, we also have online platforms where customers can order, pay, and arrange for delivery of products directly with us.

What is your opinion on the current state of Morocco's agricultural sector?

Morocco is fairly advanced compared to its neighbors. For instance, there is the Agriculture School in Meknes with excellent academic staff. We are only beginning, but three of our colleagues from Morocco are working in Germany and sharing their expertise. There is still a great deal to do in Morocco's agricultural sector and many people are investing heavily in agribusiness. What is still missing—but it is gradually arriving—is food processing and adding value to primary agricultural production. However, we are seeing more processed and bottled premium brands of olive oil, jam, biscuits, pasta, and the like. This is great because it creates value and jobs in Morocco and potentially exports.

Do you see these locally processed foods appearing more in the mass production segment or in the health and high-quality brand segments of the Moroccan market?

The beauty of processing food is in extending its shelf life and avoiding waste. This means the company will make more money and create more jobs. Some 20-30% of the harvest in Africa is thrown away because of the lack of options to store, preserve, or process it. However, Morocco is fairly advanced in food processing today, and growth is sizable. There are several promising projects.

Would you expand on BASF's internal mobility program for its employees?

Our job positions are open to anyone worldwide. If one has the right skills and competencies, they have the opportunity to apply. We have people in Germany, South Africa, France, and the UAE. BASF is a multinational. In our country cluster, we have people from Algeria, Brazil, and China. Our HR structure is mobile and based on skills and competencies. Diversity is a driver; it brings a great deal of new vision and ideas with it.

Does BASF have any partnering programs with educational institutions here that the company takes talent from?

We do, and we are extremely pleased with the level of education here. Most of our staff comes from public universities. The only problem at times is differentiating between three or four candidates because they are all excellent. There is absolutely no problem in Morocco.

What are the main challenges for BASF in Morocco?

We need more transparency regarding corporate issues like governance, tax, and customs duties. Having said that, with the Customs Authority one can get an answer or an appointment within two or three days. It listens to companies, gives a definitive answer, and even provides ideas on how to solve problems. However, in terms of the big picture, the ease of doing business is sometimes not that clear. We have addressed our concerns to the government many times, and their role is to change the system to create opportunities.

What are your goals and priorities at BASF for 2020?

We have a business plan and have to reach those targets. These are mainly qualitative targets. We have growth in certain sectors that we want to achieve. The main target is to improve our footprint in the region by expanding into new countries or expanding certain activities in other countries. We are setting up small investments in Mali and Côte d'Ivoire in 2020.