SIGNS OF INTEREST

Morocco 2020/21 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

AmCham Morocco seeks to be the advocate for American companies established in Morocco and for Morocco as the best gateway to Africa for American companies.

Rabia El Alama
BIOGRAPHY

Rabia El Alama has over 20 years of experience in US-Morocco business relations, international trade, negotiation, mediation, mentoring, project management, entrepreneurship, and counseling in management and strategy. She has played a key role in explaining the FTA to Moroccan and American entrepreneurs. She received her master's in international trade and a bachelor of science in finance from the Institut Supérieur du Commerce et d'Administration des Entreprises (ISCAE) in Casablanca, Morocco.

What have been the main achievements of AmCham Morocco in the last few years?
A group of CEOs of American and Moroccan companies who had a common goal to develop and bolster US-Morocco business relations created AmCham Morocco in 1966. At the time, there were no formal FTAs, though one of the achievements today for us is the US-Morocco FTA signed and implemented in 2006, which has increased bilateral trade from USD450 million in 2005 to approximately USD4 billion today. The US-Morocco FTA along with other FTAs signed with Europe and African countries and the massive reforms undertaken by the Kingdom have resulted in an increase in the visibility of Morocco, making it more attractive to investors from around the globe.

What factors attract investment to Morocco?
Foreign investors are mostly looking for stable economies, competitive costs of production, proximity to new markets, and high ROI. The good news for Morocco is that the CEOs of American companies and investors established in the free zone of Tangiers like Lear Automotive or Polydesign all express their satisfaction with choosing Morocco as a platform for production and export to proximity markets. Moreover, their manufacturing facilities have excellent KPIs when compared to competing facilities in Europe. We have the same positive assessment from investors in the Midparc in Casablanca or the ones in the Kénitra Free Zone. We really should pay tribute to the kingdom of Morocco for its commitment to upgrading its infrastructure and building world-class facilities such as Tangier Med port.

What is the biggest challenge in doing business here?
Morocco has improved its ranking in doing business published by the World Bank year after year, but a lot remains to be done to cut down on bureaucracy and simplify the roadmap for investors. Today, one can literally set up a business in 48 hours. They can acquire the company name, tax number, and so on either directly through the regional investment centers (CRI) or through local CPAs, pay their taxes online, access the customs' agency and port services online, and pay utilities online; however, investors still complain about bureaucracy and lack of coordination between agencies. The investor wants to see clear and consistent procedures in writing, which should be the same whether one is in El Jadida or Beni Mellal. To achieve this, Morocco should: accelerate and improve e-government services; publish in writing all procedures and requirements; reduce the load of paperwork to save time and money; digitalize payments to avoid cash circulation; and make sure we have inter-agencies coordination and synchronization.

What events are you planning for 2020?
Most of our events are planned based on the need and feedback from our members. We also plan events that tackle key challenges identified by the Moroccan government. In 2020, we are planning a forum on Water and Sustainability to discuss innovative water solutions and technologies. Later, we will host a roundtable on social responsibility to showcase American companies' practices in the field and create the awareness about giving back to local communities. We have also planned an employability roundtable to discuss future jobs and skills for young graduates seeking employment. We also work on gender and female advancement.

What are your main goals and objectives for the coming year?
The main goal for us is to continue to be the advocate for American companies established in Morocco who invested over USD2 billion and created approximately 100,000 jobs. We will promote Morocco as the best gateway to Africa for American companies willing to expand and access new markets and opportunities. We will also continue to strengthen our partnership with the Moroccan government and help in any way we can to improve the business environment and make Morocco the best place to invest and live in for this generation and generations to come.