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 2

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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 Ryanair.com) 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