The structural changes that the Moroccan economy has experienced over the last few years give a glimpse into future prospects. The sectoral plans have pitched in to making this transformation possible and the success is recognised the world over. In fact, in 2012 the former Minister of Economy, Nizar Baraka, was named “Finance Minister of the Year” for the MENA region by The Banker magazine.
“The award comes in recognition of a drop in inflation, average annual growth over the past decade of more than 4.5 per cent, and maintaining public debt under 60 per cent,” explains Othman Benjelloun, Chairman and CEO of BMCE Bank.
“There is a general consensus in Morocco and abroad that the solidity of Morocco’s banking system ought to be praised, especially in contrast with the turbulence and general feeling of distrust felt overseas nowadays,” underscores the BMCE chief.
It is in this encouraging panorama in Morocco that plans such as the Casablanca Financial City (CFC) are taking on a fundamental and driving role. Speaking of CFC, Mr Benjelloun says that it “represents one of the most important initiatives for managing the globalisation phenomenon and taking on the challenges that Morocco, African and the Mediterranean region face.”
BMCE is highly involved in the project. It is part of the Moroccan Financial Board (MFB), which structures the plan’s organisation, and has decided to set up offices in the financial enclave in Casablanca because it has full confidence that “CFC will become an international financial hub of reference.”
For the BMCE Group, the CFC will give it a foot in the door to the African continent, and the group is currently developing two projects: Insurance of Africa and BOA Capital, the group’s African business bank. “The Kingdom of Morocco is a natural gateway to Sub-Saharan Africa, with which it maintains spiritual, cultural and ancestral ties,” says Mr Benjelloun.
BMCE and the Moroccan banking sector are present in nearly 25 African nations. “Moroccan banks represent more than one-fourth of the market in more than 10 countries. That translates into a very important qualitative presence,” points out Mr Benjelloun. The goal for the next 10-15 years, he adds, is to be in 54 countries in Africa.
The BMCE Bank Group is already active in nearly 30 countries, with more than 11,000 employees. Its net banking income is in constant growth and already surpasses the €800 million mark, with gross operating profit near €324 million. The figures affirm the group’s excellent prospects.
Moreover, “among the first outcomes of the regionalisation process have been a growing rate of banking penetration, greater efficiency, the adaptation of different services and products to specific local needs, and the strengthening of the BMCE Bank Group’s image as one of the most important contributors to national competitiveness,” says the CEO.
In addition to the bank’s financial success one finds its social commitment: 4 per cent of its profits go to the BMCE Bank Foundation, which contributes to education and schools. BMCE Bank is deeply committed to helping out with various projects, such as Medersat.com, an education programme that comprises 200 schools and preschools, and involves some 15,000 students. Medersat.com has also enabled access to electricity and clean water for numerous villages, thanks to synergies with other collaborators.
Medersat.com is a source of satisfaction because more than 99 per cent of the students involved have passed the secondary school access exam. Yet another one of the programme’s feats is ‘A thousand and one schools’, which takes pride in having more than 190 schools and preschools, with nearly 14,000 students and over 380 teachers.
Othman Benjelloum highlights the bank’s commitment to Africa, as well as the “fight against illiteracy and poverty in favour of development.” It is for this reason that the BMCE Bank Foundation is already present in Senegal and in Congo Brazzaville, and has projects in Kenya, Benin, Mali and Niger.
Another of the group’s main objectives is to strengthen its relations with Spain. BMCE Bank is the only Moroccan bank with a banking licence in Spain since 1994. “We are a firmly rooted bank in Spain,” comments Mr Benjelloun, who was awarded the Order of Isabella the Catholic medal, the highest decoration in the Iberian country.
For the bank CEO, now is a prime time to reinforce the relations between the two countries and he speaks of an important improvement in the business climate. “Nearly 20,000 Spanish companies have been able to export their products to Morocco in the fields of energy, electricity, textiles and automobile parts, among others,” he says.