The champion of Tanger Med Zones (TMZ) success has been Groupe Renault. The French carmaker added to its existing Casablanca plant in 2012 by building Africa's largest original equipment manufacturer plant in TMZ, helping to develop an ecosystem of automotive players.

Marc Nassif, who arrived in Morocco to lead Renault's operations in March 2016, says the proactivity of the kingdom and TMZ have been crucial to its success and long-term commitment to Morocco.

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What attracted Renault to set up operations in TMZ?

In 2007, the group was looking for a competitive location in which to expand capacities to source vehicles and parts for the Western world and the European-Mediterranean region, including all the north African and Arab countries.

Morocco became obvious for two reasons. First was the willingness of the king to re-industrialise the northern region, and to bring activity, know-how and jobs. 

Second was the location. Tangier is a bridge between Africa and Europe, so it was the perfect location. Another point was the stability of the country – socially, economically and in terms of foreign exchange – meaning you are able to operate in a stable environment.

How has TMZ supported Renault in the set up and operations of the plant?

 We started hiring in 2009, then the plant opened in 2012, with construction of the second production line in 2013. We very quickly reached the full capacity of 340,000 vehicles per year in our Tangier plant. 

TMZ was a single window of support. Many countries have a single window – I had experience of it in India – but [with TMZ] you have an agency that is fully empowered to get what you need. 

They really scout for what you require, because they know that your success is going to be their success. We have very regular reviews focused on activity and the pain points that we face in operations, whether it is land, logistics or employment and training. 

Given the global scope of our operations and ecosystem, this is paramount for us in terms of competitiveness. Right now, even during the Covid-19 situation, both of our plants are getting all the support they need.

How well integrated is the Tanger Med Zones platform?

To be frank, Morocco and Renault Group have jointly ticked all the boxes. Nothing is missing. Previously there was no infrastructure and electrical power was an issue. Now this is not an issue. 

The only discussions we have is on the cost of power. But an interesting point is that Tangier is our only plant around the world that is completely carbon-neutral. Two-thirds of our energy comes from windmills, and a third from biomass.

King Mohammed VI had a strong vision to bring clean power to Morocco, with the goal to reach 42% renewable energy in its power mix by the end of 2020. We are moving in that direction very clearly.

Morocco has no energy aside from solar and wind – there is no oil or gas. From a weakness, they made a strength. 

Where do you see room for improvement?

A One of the weaknesses that Morocco had was the preparation of people and training. In 2007, Tangier lacked industry aside from agribusiness and textiles, so had no ability to deliver the skills we needed to invest. That is going away. I think training and skills is a strong point today.

Renault is embedded into the official Moroccan curriculum, and provides specialised training on automotive maintenance. We have brought new technology, and have moved from extremely manual processes to slightly automated processes. We introduced automation into the curriculum and are spreading this outside the classroom. 

Logistics are extremely smooth, as we have a special line for all the imported parts and exporting cars. But we still have to work on the cost factor, because traffic compared with the big international platforms is still low. However, when the new port terminal becomes fully operational, logistics costs will definitely go in the right direction.

This article first appeared in the December/January print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.