Study Trip Morocco – Day 5

The last day of our study trip started with sunshine. This is how our mood towards this experience changed as well. We started to feel that this very interesting study trip was slowly coming to an end. During the day we experienced two very interesting business presentations of Swissport in the morning and ABB and later on a tour and presentation in the Business University ISCAE. The day was accompanied with the best mood and excellent lunch offered from swissport by the Kenzi Sidi Maarouf Hotel. That is also where Christophe de Figueiredo held his presentation about Swissport.


In the morning we had the opportunity to attend a presentation of Swissport on entering and innovating in Morocco for a Swiss company. The event was taking place in the nice atmosphere of the Kenzi Sidi Maarouf hotel close to the companies Moroccan Headquarter.

Swissport presentation

Mr. de Figueiredo, CEO Morocco, originally from the French part of Switzerland welcomed us and inspired the students with his insightful and entertaining presentation. Swissport is the world leader in offering airport side services. From landing to take off, the firm takes care and coordinates all processes involved. De-icing of wings, loading and unloading luggage, check-in process and onboarding passengers are just parts of its key services. The company has a market share of 15% of global volume in the extremely fragmented market, as explained by Mr. de Figueiredo. Its global headquarter is located in Glattbrugg, Zürich Switzerland and acts as a strategic coordinator.

Profile key figures:
– Revenue 2.7 billion
– Countries 48
– Flights handled 4.3 million
– Airports served 279
– Passenger handled 250 million

Swissport entered the Moroccan market in 2012 and nowadays handles 4 out of 250 million passengers travelling in and out of the country. The subsidiary employs 649 Moroccans and Mr. de Figueiredo, which represent the only foreign employee in the company. In Morocco, Swissport serves 9 airports and its headquarter is located in Casablanca. The main challenges while entering the new market were the heavy bureaucracy and the reluctance against foreign competition. Further did cultural differences and the low skilled workforce represent challenging problems. However, doing business in Africa is definitively worthwhile for Swissport because of promising business opportunities in the near future.

Swiss chocolate for an outstanding presentation

Further Outlook for the Swissport:
Swissport is opting for alternative energy options to park the aircrafts and pull it to the take off.
Fully automated processes are planned by Swissport, however automation is difficult in such a traditional industry.

Facts you might didn’t expect:
– The heaviest cargo makes up the fuel
– At some check-ins the body weights is measured secretly – for optimal weight balance of the aircraft
– Statistically, seats in the very back of the airplane are the safest

Quote of the day

Excelent buffet offered by Swissport


After a extremely delicious and varied lunch we headed to ABB and were warmly welcomed by Khalee Torbey, Managing Director of Morocco and his team.

37 smiles for ABB – counted by team of the day

In short, ABB is ensuring that the electricity is smoothly supplied up to the plug. They are active in three main segments:

  • Power and utilities
  • Industry
  • Infrastructure

ABB recently joined a partnership with formula E that opened up a platform to develop electric cars. Furthermore they are an official partner of the COP22, which is in line with Moroccos heavy investment in renewable energies. Their latest step was the acquisition of General Electrics, which follows the strategy of penetrating the US market.

Narjise Saadi Drissi, country service manager with a degree in electrical engineering introduced us to ABBs values such as safety & integrity. She also highlighted the career opportunities for women at ABB, despite being part of the technical industry.

ABB is moreover focusing on the industrial revolution 4.0. They constructed the first collaborative robot in the world and created a platform called „My ABB portal“, an online tool for customers to plan the future maintenance of their machines. According to Mr. Torbey, the todays emerge of robotics and fully automated processes will not lead to disruptive effects and unemployment but rather give employees in charge of repetitive tasks the opportunity to develop their skills.

To conclude, ABB is building a strategy on base of what is coming next: „The opportunity is here – and we are ready.“

ISCAE University

Our last stop was at the University ISCAE, which is one of the best business schools in Morocco. The visit started with tea and a tour through their spacious campus.

ISCAE University Campus

The lecture hall of the University

ISCAE lecture

Afterwards,Professor Abdellah Amallah, lecturer of economics at ISCAE presented Morocco‘s economic outlook and relations with the World Bank, AfBD (African Development Bank) and the EBI (European Investment Bank). The aim was to give us an insight of how lectures are held at their University. The final discussion was enriched by some local students of the ISCAE.

Wrapping up this day and also this whole study trip week we can say in the name of all students that it was a very informative, challenging and also fun week. We had many different companies and presentations, which gave us deep insights into different businesses and the Moroccan business culture. Our horizon has been enlargend by the so-called “gateway to Africa” and this study trip experience.

Written by Group 1 – Céline, Edona, Leah, Tanja

Study Trip Morocco – Day 4

Another morning in Casablanca started with heavy rain and even hail. This did of course not dampen our spirit and after a quick bus ride we arrived at Sheraton Hotel which was thought to be our first destination of the day. On arrival, however, we had to realize that plans have changed and we were indeed not at the right location. After consulting with the organization and a short coffee break in the hotel lobby, which gave one or the other sleepy student the possibility to wake up a little more, we continued our trip to the Indou Afna Hotel to meet the representative of SGS.

The presentation of the company would turn out to be a little more challenging than the previous ones as this time the presentation was being held in French. Mr. Adil Saoud, Certification Manager of SGS, started his presentation by presenting general figures of the company and continued by an explanation of the company’s methodology regarding the various trainings offered by the company.

SGS est le leader global dans l’inspection, vérification, et la certification d’entreprises. Plus de 90’000 personnes sont employées par SGS dans plus de 2’000 bureaux au tour du monde. L’entreprise comprends 14 différents secteurs d’activités dont l’agriculture, la nutrition, la chimie, l’industrie automobile et les biens de consommation.

If you did struggle understanding this short part you might empathize with some of the students during the presentation. Especially in moments when explanations were given on more technical aspects.

SGS is the global leader in inspection, verification and certification of companies. Over 90,000 people are worldwide employed at SGS operating in more than 2,000 offices and they are active in 14 global industries including agriculture, food, chemistry, automotive and consumption goods.

The SGS Academy provides professional development training and customized training solutions for companies to enable a company to keep up with industry trends, changing technology standards and regulations. The solutions offered by SGS range from in-house to online courses over to mobile learning. SGS Academy has worldwide presence via centers of excellence or regular training courses  According to Mr. Saoud e-learning is not yet really developed in Morocco due to concerns in safety and effective participation. The areas of training are grouped as following:

  • Environmental
  • Health and Safety
  • Leadership and Management
  • Management Systems and Standards
  • Process Improvement
  • Risk and Security Management
  • Manufacturing and Supply Chain
  • Sustainability
  • Industry-Based Specific Training

After the presentation students and accompagnants were invited to enjoy a tasty buffet meal in the hotel own restaurant. A variety of moroccan foods including fish, tagine, and various typical salads were served followed by a large dessert buffet. After this mouth watering break we headed back to the bus to drive to the next destination. Surprisingly, we arrived early for the presentation at the “Centre Régional d’Investissment” which is located in front of the square mohammed V. The early arrival gave us the opportunity to have a walk around the centre. This time was used to visit the court of justice or do some souvenir shopping. 2 p.m. marked the starting point of the second presentation for today.

Lunch Buffet kindly offered by SGS

Today’s Dessert Buffet

The “Centre Régional d’Investissement” helps and advises people (local and foreign) who want to invest by providing information on for example jurisdictional, fiscal and administrative procedural matters. These services are provided free of charge. Mrs. Zahra furthermore said that there is an additional desk specialized on the creation of companies. Mrs Zahra and her colleague then spoke more about the Kingdom of Morocco and Casablanca and why investing in these destinations is attractive. They highlighted that Casablanca is the economic capital and it serves as a model for The rest of the country and that Morocco has a unique set of free-trade agreements that enables to reach 1 billion of potential customers which amounts to 50% of the GDP. As a last point, it was said that Morocco is targeting more electrical procedures including the submission of tax information to move to an e-government.

Square Mohammed V

Study Trip Group at CRI

After the visit of the “Centre Régional d’Investissement” we headed back to the Mövenpick Hotel by bus. The last point on the schedule for today was a presentation on the Islam and the Moroccan specifities of the islam, which was presented by Mr. Hssein Khtou and Mrs. Nadia Halim both associate professors at the Dar Al Hadith Al Hassania Institution in Rabat.

Mr. Hssein Khtou and Mrs. Nadia Halim

After an introduction in the history and evolution of Islam a closer look was taken on its country specific characteristics. According to the presentation Morocco is known for its modest interpretation of Islam which is defined by tolerance, openness, cooperation and stability that guarantee a peaceful coexistence. This is achieved through the following specificities:

  1. Unity of Madhab (School of Jurisprudence) Theological doctrine and Sunni Sufism
  2. Management of the religious field by the commander of the faithful (The King)
  3. Scholars are tasked with scientific and religious training within institutions
  4. The fatwa is performed by a scientific authority, not individuals
  5. Involvement of women in the management of religious affairs
  6. The centrality of the Quran in religious life and educational systems
  7. The centrality of religious occasions in religious practice, social life and official management of the religious affairs

Moroccans, however, moderate they are, place high importance in Islam in their daily lives in private as well as in business. Therefore, the aspects of culture and religion are predominant and should be considered when doing business in the country. During Ramadan for example working hours are being reduced and the whole economy slows down in order to allow for the daily prayers to be held.

In the name of our study trip group we would like to thank all the contributing parties for the fascinating insights and their commitment.

Written by Group 3 – Guillaume, Joëlle, Patricia and Sandro

Study Trip Morocco – Day 3

We embarked on our Wednesday journey with a full packed program ahead of us, starting off with Bühler as a first company visit.

Strict control in front of the bus.



Mohamed Saadi, Project Manager and Jin Kit Chua, Area Sales Manger welcomed us warmly to their Casablanca Head Office of the BNWA subregion. 65 percent of global wheat production is covered by Bühler milling solutions. Bühler as a global company has to be close to their customers in order to provide solutions, therefore the Casablanca plays an important role in order to react quickly to the market needs. What distinguishes the African market to the other locations of Bühler are many different factors. Mr. Saadi and Mr. Chua emphasised the following especially for the BNWA region:

Quality and Quantity
In Europe the need for automation of machines is way higher than in Africa. The quality expectation that the end customer wishes for has to cover higher wishes and adding up to that the quality regulations in Europe are way stricter than in Africa regarding the food processing industry. Africa, being an emerging economy has not yet developed the same standards when talking about food preferences and nutritional values.

Training and People Development
Depending on the region, education levels differ immensely. As an example, it is hard to find highly skilled technicians and therefore Bühler sees the need to employ locals who can benefit from a training in Uzwil, Switzerland. Furthermore, they send a lot of expats abroad. For the office in Casablanca there are about two Swiss people on a team of 13 locals.
Gaining Trust
It is hard to find the right ratio of being a local who for instance speaks not only French but also Arabic and presenting yourself as a Swiss company towards the customers. It is of high importance that the customer relationships are maintained on a regular basis and perhaps way more than in Europe because the relationship is also established through private events as it is very common in collectivist cultures.
Strength is to be found in serenity.
To conclude the visit, Bühler invited us to a tasty Moroccan couscous on their rooftop with an astonishing view over Casablanca.

Rooftop Lunch at Bühler


Bühler’s milling solutions.

Student Voices:
“I knew that Bühler makes machines, and now I know what kind of machines”.
“Super company with great office installations”.

The Mosque Hassan II

After an informative morning at Bühler in Casablanca, we had a tour through the Mosque Hassan II. With its 200 metres length, 100 metres width and 65 metres height, the mosque is not only the largest Mosque in Morocco, it’s minaret is also the tallest worldwide at 200 metres. The architect of this breathtaking building is Michel Pinseau from France which is also the best friend from King Hassan. The instructions began back in 1987 and it took them only six years to complete the whole building. Approximately 2.500 craftsmen as well as 10.000 artisans were involved during the building of the mosque and they were working on it for 24 hours each day during construction. An interesting fact about the building is that almost all products used are from Morocco; only a few products were imported from Italy. The mosque has a capacity for approximately 25’000 people, which especially on special occasions as for instance in the holy month of Ramadan can be completely full. Another interesting fact about the building is that one third of it is build on the ocean due to a Vers of the Quran.
But enough with the information – let’s enjoy the pictures..

Hassan II Mosce


The two towers of Casablanca.


Take off before the storm.

Student Voices:
“I love the architecture of the mosque – it’s something different!”


From the tallest mosque to one of the most admired companies of the world – Novartis.

The ZHAW delegation already took seat when Mr. Mourad Benhammacht, the Head of Human Resources for Morocco, Tunisia and Libya (MTL), entered. Mr. Benhammacht made a clear point at the beginning by saying that the company is not a drug dealer in first line but with the mission to improve people’s life. He gave a brief introduction of the company, by mentioning the main responsibilities of Novartis, which is to provide people in need with medicine and not to make the biggest profit. When he made us familiar with Novartis Human Resource Strategy, most of the students experienced a flashback to the MPIC exam few weeks ago. HR key topics such as talent management, importance of change and benchmarking were presented and discussed. Once the first presentation was finished, conditions like in the ancient Rome were observed. Students and lecturers were attacking the welcoming snacks and beverages offered by Novartis like they had no food during the last days.

Food attack at Novartis

Following the sugar bombs, the warmhearted Nadia Moukafie, CFO, talked about the financial situation and answered questions to the IM students.

Presentation of Novartis

The last hour belonged to Ghizlaine Tahiri, Head of Quality & Compliance, which highlighted the enormous importance of adhering to local rules and policies. Furthermore, corruption mitigation in highly corrupted markets, such as Morocco, were discussed. She mentioned that Novartis would have strong procedures against corruption, internal audit and training to ensure a correct compliance worldwide.

Dinner, La Sqala

To finish this interesting day, ZHAW invited us to a traditional Moroccan restaurant in the heart of Casablanca. We were served with three courses, as a starter goat cheese salad, delicious Tagine (slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce) and for dessert nougat and fruit salad.
A big thank you in our name to Mr. Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, Dr. Michael Kendzia and of course ZHAW for this meal.

Written by:

Amadeo Ismael Disasi, Christina Jäger, Marcel Näf, Yasin Sevic and Laila Werner

Study Trip Morocco – Day 2


Tuesday – Day 2

The second day of our memorable study trip started with a nourishing breakfast including typical continental breakfast as well as Moroccan specialties such as Amlou, the delicious “Berber Nutella”, made of argan oil, almonds as well as honey.

BMCE Bank of Africa

Off we went by bus to the BMCE Bank of Africa at 9:15 am. After a quick run under the heavy rain of Casablanca, we arrived at the very nice property of the bank where we were kindly welcomed by a warm thé à la menthe as well as a beautiful selection of traditional sweets.

The speeches were introduced by a very inspiring trailer including the “beyond borders” vision of the company. After being a state owned company for about 35 years, BMCE Bank of Africa has been privatized in 1995. A strong network across four continents has been established. However, the focus where the company also sees its competitive edge is the penetration of the African continent. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that the ambition of the company is not only profitability but at the same time sustainability and shareholder value creation. Following an introduction to the company, its offering and strategy, we were informed about the currency of Morocco, the Dirham. Currently, the aim is to change from a fixed to a free floating exchange rate in order to strengthen the nation’s competitiveness.

Subsequently, the head of sustainable development, Soraya Sebti, introduced us to BMCE Bank of Africa’s sustainability program. In order to tackle the challenges in Africa, BMCE Bank of Africa created the “Fondation BMCE Bank” in 1995. The positive influence of education starting in an early stage of a human’s life is of big importance to the foundation. Therefore, the promotion of education in rural areas is one of their core areas. Apart from education, the foundation also commits to the preservation of the environment.

Many projects are in cooperation with other organizations or partners, such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Thanks to the projects in the area of education, over 18’000 children have access to schools today. The Bank was the first to be ISO certified and has been awarded the best CSR performer in the country for the fourth year in a row.

Another great program supported by the BMCE Bank of Africa is the African Entrepreneurship Award. This program enables African entrepreneurs to share their ideas and to develop a business plan and strategy. The best and most innovative ideas win the award and are supported in the execution of their projects. It is a great way to inspire people and by that fostering innovation and economic growth. The following video provides additional information:

We did not expect any meal but were ravished by the Moroccan hospitality. For lunch, we have been treated to traditional Moroccan food. After a very tasty and slightly spicy appetizer, vegetables and meat on a bed of couscous were served.  As a contrast, there were caramelized onions as well as raisins on top. When the server asked us for a milky-looking drink, we were first a bit hesitant. However, we decided to do as the Moroccans do and tried the rich yet tasty buttermilk. Nice conversations at the table were complemented with a private etiquette insight from Dr. Kendzia. We won’t forget how to fold and use a tissue and will make sure that the cutlery is in the 20 past 4 position after completing a meal.

BMCE Bank of Africa – Trading Floor

After lunch, the spontaneously offered visit to the trading floor at BMCE Bank, right next to our hotel, took place. We got the chance to have a unique look into the facilities where BMCE processes and manages trades of their clients and we also had the opportunity to talk to experts working in the fields such as:

  • FX / Currency trades
  • Commodities trading
  • Equity / Bonds trading
  • Money Markets / Fixed Income trading

They provided us with valuable insights of what their consumers demand most, which, with many corporate clients, is naturally the hedging of risk exposures.

The short inspection rounded out a great inside view of the BMCE Bank of Africa with the general information session in the morning and the office visit in the afternoon.


Presentation Mövenpick

The final part of tuesday’s program was the presentation about information about mövenpick Morocco and Morocco’s future outlook. The presenters were Mr. Amr Kallini (General Manager) and Tarik Kerdoudi (Commercial Director).

Mövenpick Morocco

The hotel is owned 66% by the German family who founded the Mövenpick and rest is owned by the Moroccan royal family. Generally, in Africa, the properties are owned by someone and management contracts are made for certain periods, whereas in Europe most hotels are leased. Mövenpick is the only hotel in Morocco who serves their own food.

From Mr. Amr Kallini’s personal view, the terrorism (Daesh; ISIS) around the world is affecting the tourism sector in Morocco. Even though there was no attack in Morocco, people cancel reservation after these events due to the perception that these groups are created in Northern Africa.

Definitely good news according to Mr. Kallini is that Marrakech is getting more and more popular around the world for holiday trips and high hopes are in the possibility of hosting the football world cup in 2026, which would boost the economy.

Why investing in Morocco?

Mr. Tarik Kerdoudi continued by giving 7 reasons to invest in Morocco:

  •      Cost Competitiveness
  •      Strong and Stable Macroeconomic Performance

In relative to other North African countries the last eight years.

  •      Free Trade Access to One Billion Consumers
  •      World Class Infrastructure
  •      Qualified Labor Force
  •      Sectoral Plans
  •      Constantly improving business Climate

The following challenges in Morocco are vital to consider for foreign investors:

  •      Corruption rate: 37 (100 points = no corruption)
  •      Culture – French and Collectivistic
  •      Relationship-oriented business (habibi-business)
  •      Islam – religious events (Q2 usually lower GDP-Growth)
  •      Concept of face

We experienced a highly informative Tuesday. Our mind has been broadened through newly gained information regarding the culture, religion as well as economic situation of the finance and tourism industry. There were definitely a lot of messages that we are going to take home to Switzerland!

Written by Group 6, Bami, Carmen, Yasmin, Christoph

Study Trip Morocco – Day 1

The study trip is part of the International Management program at the ZHAW School of Management and Law and offers students valuable insights into the host country’s way of donig business, cultural differences, and important aspects of the local economic environment. This year, 33 students are attending the study trip to Casablanca, Morocco, led by Khaldoun Dia-Eddine and accommpanied by the head of the International Management program, Dr. Michael Kendzia. Furthermore, the study trip is organized and supported by Swiss Global Enterprise.

Day 1 – February 5, 2018

Flagship of Royal Air Maroc – the B787 Dreamliner

Royal Air Maroc
The day started with an early breakfast at the Casablanca Café in the Mövenpick hotel, with an interesting program ahead. Mr. Dia-Eddine gave us some important information about the program of the trip before we boarded the bus and took off to the HQ of Royal Air Maroc for our first company visit.

Upon arrival, Maria Tazi, Chef de Département Développement, warmly welcomed us. In three different presentations, the airline managers presented the company’s history, its current strategic focus, and the most important figures of their sales department. The Q&A session featured some interesting questions about the airline’s plans to establish a large hub in Casablanca, and further developing the African market. Being 60 years old, the company has managed to successfully reorganize its cost structures in oder to compete against the rising pressure from LCCs (Low Cost Carriers). Currently, the airline has four strategic focus points:

  1. Customer Centricity
    Placing the customer at the center of all its concerns has earned the company a 4-Star rating by Skytrax in 2016, and it has been able to maintain the rating through 2017. Amongst the benefits of such a rating: it improves Royal Air Maroc’s position in negotiations with large international partners
  2. Digital & Analytics
    Using large data pools to analyze the customer’s preferences can help to further improve services and reduce costs
  3. Innovation
    Continuous innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the workforce are key concerns of Royal Air Maroc
  4. Partnerships
    The airline wants to serve as the gateway to Africa, and has entered into partnership & Code Share agreements with Quatar Airways, Westjet, and Jetblue to name but a few.

Following the presentations, the Airline offered us coffee and some snacks, and tooks us on a tour of their new training center. The center has only been opened last month and features state of the art training rooms for flight attendants, pilots, and station managers.

The Royal Air Maroc Training Center

Dr. Kendzia – future pilot?

Training Center Conference Room

Overall, we gained valuable insight into a small airline (only 57 aircraft, compared to e.g. Ryanair with over 300, acc. to and its strategic focus to not just survive but even grow in a highly competitive environment.
After taking the first group photo of the trip, we again boarded the bus…

Swiss embassy in Rabat
After an 1.5h drive on the bus, we arrived at the Swiss embassy in Rabat. Unfortunately, the ambassador was needed elsewhere, which already gave us a first impression of the work at the embassy. Nevertheless, we were welcomed by the deputy ambassador, Ms Sibylle Obrist. She introduced us to the embassy’s task in general and the challenges in Morocco. Moreover, the heads of the different departments gave us an informative overview over the different fields the embassy operates in, including:

  1. Diplomatic and political relations
    Tasked with upholding the relations to the host country, bilateral agreements a.o.

  2. Swiss development cooperation
    The deparment does important work concerning humanitarian aid, and has increased it’s activities in the region since the events of the arab spring in 2011

  3. Consulate
    With 6 employees, the deparment’s task is safeguarding the interests of the about 1,700 Swiss citizens living in Morocco.

Swiss Embassy to Morocco – Reception

It became clear that especially the development cooperation was the field of most interest to the student delegation, bridging international relations with economics. The relaxed presentation was followed by an intriguing Q&A in which the staff has answered all the questions to total satisfaction. Subsequently, we endulged in a savory buffet, which rounded out the session.

Luncheon on Swiss soil

The study trip group

The visit to the embassy offered us important background information on how the Swiss government operates abroad, and how the interests of Switzerland are represented/reflected in the professional work of the embassy staff. Furthermore, we learned how companies can effectively use the Swiss diplomatic relations as leverage to gain access to competent decisions makers within the host government – a crucial process, especially in countries where bureaucracy can dramatically slow down a company’s international operations.

Elephant Vert
The last stop of the day was scheduled at Elephant Vert in Rabat. The company operates in the agricultural sector and offers alternative products without any negative impact on the environment. It was originally founded by a Swiss venture, Antenna Technologies. Elephant Vert has a range of biostimulants and biopesticides which are 100% organic and offer more sustainable solutions compared to conventional and potentially harmful pesticides. The firm operates in 5 countries and has around 500 employees. It not only engages in large investments (around 250m in the last 4 years) but also runs educational programs to raise farmer’s awareness of the benefits of sustainable planting.

Walking through the (green!) gardens of Elephant Vert

After an interesting presentation and a stimulating Q&A session, we were treated to some traditional Moroccan patisserie and tea. Of course we could not miss the opportunity to take a last group photo for the day.

Following this last company visit of the first day, we commenced our journey back to Casablanca. This proved to be a longer trip than expected. Upon entering the centre of the city, we got stuck in rush hour traffic where we only slowly progressed for at least another hour. Despite the day being very compelling, all of us were delighted when we, after a long and wearing day, finally reached our destination: Mövenpick Hotel Casablanca.

Finally, we would like to thank all the companies and respective representatives for taking the time to meet with us. We were ravished by the hospitality and openness of the Moroccan company representatives as well as the officials in the Swiss embassy.

To be continued!
Group 8 – Dominik Tschumper, Pascal Bonino, Tobias Strassmann, David Egli



Day 5 – Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy

Friday 8th September was the fifth and last day of our study trip in Vienna. We started the day with a feedback session, where the students of the Msc in Business Administration with a Specialization in Public and Non-profit Management could provide both positive and negative criticism of the past week.

Our first stop of the day was a presentation of the main priorities of the Federal Ministry of Science (BMWFW), Research and Economy by Magister Dr. Iris Rauskala. She is a former colleague as she worked as a lecturer project manager from August 2011 to August 2015 at the ZHAW. She is now the head of the forth Section called “Science and Research”.

Entrance BMWFW

Dr. Rauskala talked mainly about the financial management in the university sector. There are 22 public universities, 21 universities of applied sciences and 12 private universities. The last ones are not financed by the federal government but stated at local government. In 2016 there were about 350’000 students enrolled in all three types of universities. In 10 years the number of students increased about 150’000, which shows the commitment to the territorial sector of the government. Therefore, the student-staff ratio increased as seen in the second figure (Blue line: Number of students in examination; Red line: full time professors)

Support Relation. source:

Dr. Rauskala explained that in 2002 a law was passed, which increased the autonomy of the universities. They are now able to choose their top administrators and professors without needing permission from the BMWFW to do. Student fees were mostly abolished and universities have no entry restrictions (universities of applied sciences have then tough) expect for majors like medicine and art.

One of the top challenges of the BMWFW is that there is not enough money available to finance the huge increase of students by hiring more professors and infrastructure needs. On the other hand, if entry restrictions were adopted in all universities and for all majors, student numbers would decrease and youth unemployment would go up.

The BMWFW finances universities with a so called global budget. Universities then decide by themselves how to spend that money. The BMFWF is not able to in fluence how the money is spent, although a top priority would be to increase the number of graduates in STEM (science technology engineering mathematics) majors.

Dr. Rauskala stressed that without political will nothing can be achieved.

After the presentation, we went to our last stop of our week in Vienna. We had a delicious farewell lunch at the restaurant “Mariahilferbräu”, where we had also started the study trip on Monday morning. Then it was time to say goodbye to the beautiful city of Vienna and go back to Switerland.

We enjoyed our very interesting study trip tremendously and learnt a lot about the digital agenda of Vienna, e-voting, public finances and resource allocation.

Day 4 – World Bank and Ministry of Finance

Also the 4th day started with a briefing in the hotel lobby. As first, in the morning we visited the Centre for Financial Reporting Reform (CFRR) of the World Bank. CFRR provides knowledge, convening and capacity development services in support of financial reporting reform, institutional strengthening and the dissemination of good practice in the area of financial reporting and auditing. They work together with countries in Europe and Central Asia and support them to adopt and implement high-quality financial reporting standards. Further information here.

Jerry Decker, Head of CFRR, welcomed us on the 19th floor of the Galaxy 21 office building, which has a beautiful view.

He informed us that their department CFRR has a longstanding relationship with Switzerland as Switzerland is one of the major donors. In 2006 the EU issued a mandate to upgrade the accounting, auditing and financial systems of its member states. But the countries didn’t get any help to implement these new regulations. John Hegarty noticed this and founded the CFRR to help the countries to implement the new EU regulations. Austria offered to provide free office space for this new centre and gave initial funding to develop the programmes.

CFRRs goal is to create wealthy and functioning market economies in countries in Europe and Central Asia through financial transparency and reporting. The people need to understand the value of financial accounting as this kind of reporting is needed for tax issues, statistics, to attract more investors etc. The World Bank has a lot of different projects. CFRR is partof it and a special institute as it has a long-term view and is funded entirely by donors.

After this introduction Andrej Busuioc, PhD, Senior Financial Management Specialist, gave us a general overview of CFRRs activities geographical coverage and areas.

CFRR employees are technical experts for every area needed. They are active on three different levels to foster high quality reporting:

  • Assessment of university curricula to help improve accounting professions, (e.g. training-of-trainers programs, benchmarking of accounting curricula).
  • Ensuring compliance: it is important, that someone checks accounting statements and auditing documents and that the auditors are overseen by an authority.
  • Setting reporting requirements (e.g. EU acquis guide, policy advice on audit reform).

Alfred Borgonovo, Senior Financial Management Specialist, informed us about a reform project in Serbia. He showed us the process of such a project. The results can be downloaded here.

After these inputs Lada Strelkova, Operations Advisor, gave us a general overview of the World Bank. The World Bank has 180 member states and is divided in five departments (IBRD, IDA…). In Vienna they represent two departments. They distinguish Part 1 countries, which provide funds and part 2 countries which borrow loans. Most programmes are located in part 2 countries in order to be with the clients. Therefore, the Vienna office is an exception and they have very unique programmes.

Furthermore, she explained that they have several mechanisms to avoid problems with the loans e.g. in case of corruption and they monitor everything (also environmental and social issues etc.).

After the lunch break we were invited to the federal ministry of finance. SC Dipl. Kfm. Eduard Müller, MBA, informed us about the digitalisation („Finanzamt 4.0“) in the federal ministry of finance. He talked about today’s challenges for the ministry of finance e.g. the complexity of the economy (globalization, digitalisation), clash of generation (digital and analogue) etc.

Daphne Aiglsperger gave an overview about customer service in their ministry. As there are a lot of regulations this is a difficult topic. The challenges are complex e.g. the rising number of regulations and laws, communication problems (the citizens don’t understand the officialese), etc.

Today they already offer an e-service-portal for 7x24h service. Furthermore, they reduce the bureaucracy with the one-stop service system. For the future, they wish to use more channels for communication such as chats, videos (e.g. video authentification), cognitive computing (computer learns and can therefore answer questions) etc. At the moment, the digital identification is still a problem. As we already learned this week the “Bürgerkarte” goes in this direction. At the moment they also work with an online platform to get feedback and ideas of their citizen:

A new law in Austria gives the citizen the right to communicate digital with all governmental institutions. Due to this an innovation pressure exists which is necessary to adopting it into the law. Furthermore, service platforms like exist. These platforms were only information platforms, but they evolve into platforms for interaction e.g. “eGründung” for the incorporation of legal entities.

We discussed also the problem of privacy protection. There is a conflict between higher service quality and supervision of the citizen. The government tries to provide a good service through automatic exchange e.g. between Nonprofit Organisations and the tax office with regard to donations made. Such new approaches lead to discussion about privacy and data security.

After the interesting discussion we had a guided tour through the wonderful building “Winterpalast des Prinzen Eugen”.

At the end of the 4th day our study group enjoyed a social dinner at „I Ragazzi“. The food was delicious and we ended our day in a relaxing atmosphere.

Day 3 – Ministry of Defence and Sports

We met today at 9 a.m. to get a briefing of today’s program from the responsible study group. The group gave us a short overview of the ministry and compared the Austrian army with the Swiss army. We heard that although the two countries are about the same size and population Switzerland (5.1 bn) is spending roughly two times the budget of Austria (2.1) for its army. The same applies for the number of soldiers. The armed forces of Austria include 55’000 persons, whereas the Swiss forces include 124’000. Looking at the number of fighter jet Austria owns 15, Switzerland 54. The group ended the briefing with a look on the current focal points of the Austrian military. One is the challenge that came with the immigrants from Syria in the last two years, the other is that the army aims the get more female soldiers. The group showed an old promotion video for female soldiers that was both funny problematic from a gender perspective.

At 10 a.m. we were welcomed by Mag. Dr. Iris Rauskala at the ministry of education (unfortunately, for security reasons we were not allowed to access the Ministry of Defence and Sports buildings) and could enjoy an interesting lecture given by General Lieutenant Mag. Franz Leitgeb. He is a top military leader and responsible for budgets and resource planning.

After introducing himself he talked about the budgeting and planning processes at the Austrians ministry of defense. In recent years, the army and other ministries changed their resource planning from an input oriented planning to an output oriented planning. What does this mean? A typical input target is to have e.g. 1’000 soldiers over a certain time in a certain region. This is easy to evaluate but it’s hard to say what your actual impact is. A typical output target is to foster peace and democracy in a region, aiming to establish a stable state and democracy in five years. Once the targeted outcome is given it is needed to plan the necessary measures to get there. It has to be defined what all the lower hierarchical levels have to do, so you get the requested outcome in the end. The concentration on the output makes more sense from a planning and managing perspective. The problem is, that it is much harder to evaluate.

About the budgeting process General Lieutenant Mag. Franz Leitgeb said that they have introduced a rolling 4 years budget. Every year they make a budget for the next 4 years where only the first year is fixed and the following years might be adapted later. Nevertheless, this gives a much higher planning security, which is needed for the long-term investments.

In the following discussion, he further mentioned that he appreciates the possibility for making reserves if a certain budget isn’t fully used. He additionally spoke about the recent growth of the budget after a long period of decreasing budget. The reason for that was mainly the huge number of immigrants passing the border in 2015, when the government of Austria wasn’t able to control them. Besides that, the destabilizing environment in Syria, Turkey and the behavior of Russia had some influence as well.

Further we were discussing the challenge that the army always has to be prepared for the worst case. But at the same time, it is from an economic perspective not possible to run the whole infrastructure you need to have for the worst case in times of peace.

Day 2 – Digital Vienna

The second day of our trip on Tuesday September 5th, started at the hotel lobby with a short group briefing about the topics ahead. At our first visit, we were introduced to two subjects related to the Smart City Strategy Framework of Vienna. The department of organization and security deals with the “Digital Agenda” of the municipality of Vienna.

Dipl. Ing. Birgit Lutz and MSc Thomas Schuhböck gave us deep dive into this topic. The Digital Agenda is an initiative derived from the “Smart City Strategy 2050” aiming to cope with the future digital challenges Vienna will encounter. The initiative was kicked-off by the municipality of Vienna by inviting and encouraging not only private companies and the people of Vienna but also everyone to participate and come up with innovative ideas. 172 ideas were submitted and condensed by several task forces into five fields of action, which were outlined in a strategy paper. Subsequently, the strategy paper was again steered by the online community. After all inputs, options and comments were incorporated into the strategy, the final version was published in July 2015. Seven lighthouse projects evolved out of this process mainly focusing on mobility, health and e-government.

Through this lighthouse projects the municipality of Vienna wants to promote firstly, data security and transparency, secondly the early fostering of IT skills, thirdly the usage of IT capabilities to save time and resources and last but not least, to improve digital mobility. Mag. Schuhböck mentioned that subject matter data security has to be treated as a “holy cow” as the citizens have a keen interest into the protection of their privacy. With this mantra in mind Vienna launched 2015 as the sixth lighthouse project “Digital City Vienna” within the field of action “I like it – Digital City Vienna” a marketing campaign together with leading IT companies based in Vienna. This draw immense public attention on the “Digital Agenda” and highlighted how crucial the IT industry is for this city. The added value created by these companies is four times higher than the one generated by tourism. What led to a successful project execution was the uncompromising inclusion of all relevant stakeholders – and as a best practice – the involvement of Vienna’s citizens in the decision making process.

The second subject was the pioneer role of Vienna’s government with the introduction of Open Government Data (OGD). Dipl. Ing. Lutz explained that OGD fosters the data usage which is collected by various individuals, institutions or companies. She mentioned that “data is the oil of the 21 century”. In order to prevent that difficultly gathered data becomes useless ending on data graveyards, the data is collected centrally and made available for others to use. Since the government does not have the capacities and resources to extract and analyze the data, entrepreneurs, scientists and companies are encouraged to develop based on the provided data various applications to make citizens life’s easier.

After the introduction to these two topics we had fruitful discussions followed by a soon ending of the first visit.

After lunch we visited the “Bundeskanzleramt” where we got an introduction into Government 4.0 by Mag. Christian Rupp who is the speaker of the “Platform Digital Austria”. The Government 4.0 claims to be efficient, digital and smart.

He emphasized that this process “is a journey and not a destination” containing various aspects needing particular attention. The four main components are legal landscape, political will, customer needs and technical feasibility. An integral part of the Government 4.0 is the e-citizen card which acts as a digital identification instrument enabling a secure one-stop-shop for all ministerial matters and services. The card is not mandatory for every citizen but rather optional to enroll. Approximately 1 Million out of 8.6 Million Austrian citizens have registered so far. The technical and legal aspects coming along with this e-card where explained by two specialists. Dr. Bernhard Karning introduced us to the legal aspects also indicated by the EU and Dr. Alexander Banfield-Mumb demonstrated the technological parts and functionality of the e-card with a particular focus on cybersecurity.

All in all, we had a very pleasant, educating and interesting day in Vienna and are very grateful for the time all these experts have taken and for the guide on e-government provided.

Day 1 – Welcome to Vienna and e-voting in Austria

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