Q. How has Morocco’s financial industry fared in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the 'Arab Spring' that swept north Africa and the Middle East in the early part of 2011?

A. When the global financial crisis started in 2008, the government and the Central Bank of Morocco rapidly mobilised several [players] in the economic and financial sector to study and evaluate the impact of this crisis on the Moroccan economy and, more specifically, on Morocco’s banking sector.

Advertisement

This rapid reaction was crucial as the government, based on the private sector’s recommendations, implemented emergency measures to [lessen] the effects of the crisis on key channels that were directly affected, namely the exports and tourism sectors, as well as the 4 million Moroccan workers abroad, all of which play a crucial role in our economy. Thus the Moroccan economy caught up by the second half of 2009, and since then, in the past three years, we have achieved an average annual growth rate of 4.5%. While Europe and North America are experiencing an almost flat rate of growth, our economy is growing.

The Arab world is in revolution and numerous movements have taken place in several north African countries. Yet Morocco withstood this turbulence. We did witness protests here; however, it is important to understand Moroccans did not question their system. There is a general consensus that the monarchy forms part of our identity. Therefore it is this stability that has reinforced investor confidence in Morocco. I am confident that our economy will continue to progress, and the banking sector will continue to grow.  

Q. It appears Morocco wants to position itself as an international financial centre. Has Attijariwafa Bank assisted the country in building world-class financial institutions that will attract FDI to Morocco?

A. We have a real ambition in Morocco to become both a regional and an international financial centre. The central bank and the Ministry of Finance, along with a group of professional banks in Morocco that included Attijariwafa Bank, undertook a strategic study examining the creation of a regional financial centre in Morocco. Attijariwafa Bank was central in contributing to the study. Being the top bank in the region listed on the largest stock market in north Africa, the Casablanca Stock Exchange, we are committed to addressing the weaknesses identified in the strategic studies we undertook to make Morocco an even more competitive hub for investors.

A key channel we are actively involved in is financing the modernisation of the national economy. Thus beyond the traditional activities of the bank, we have been in the process of consolidating operations in corporate finance, capital risk and asset management in order to diversify our financial sources to profit economic operators. We also actively seek to open more bank accounts in the country and we encourage Moroccans that do not have a bank to open an account.

Q. How does Attijariwafa Bank differentiate itself as a bank, and what kind of clout do you perceive it to have within its industry?

A. We are well known as a bank with strong values, namely commitment, responsibility and solidarity – and this value is well expressed by our employees daily. We are based in 23 countries worldwide, and within Morocco we are the top financial institution with a market capitalisation of $8.9m. This makes us the largest bank in Morocco and the sixth largest in Africa. We have a solid cost-to-income ratio of 36%, against the Moroccan bank average of 52%, making us the most efficient bank here.

Morocco is in the process of diversifying its markets and export partners, and Attijariwafa Bank has a strong conviction that a key route for diversification is through south-south co-operation, so we are in the process of developing and consolidating our presence in Africa. The pan-African dimension is important to Attijariwafa Bank.

We have commercial relations with 5 million clients today in Africa. We want to continue to expand our networks, gain a closer proximity to our African clients and open more bank accounts over the next few years. We have existed for 110 years, so we have developed a wealth of experience and a banking model that has been very successful in Morocco. We want to duplicate this model as we refine our financial expertise in the African countries that we operate in.

We share very similar cultural experiences, as well as similar problems and challenges, with our African partners. Attijariwafa Bank seeks to be solidly embedded in Africa, and our investments reflect this. Today our financial investments in all our African offices are worth $800m, representing 25% of our group’s total consolidated equities. Our African venture targets all those overlooked by the international multinational corporations.

Our model is simple and our involvements range from partnering with small and medium-sized enterprises, to grand infrastructure projects. In Tunisia, we bought La Banque du Sud, a Tunisian state-owned bank that established 90 offices over 65 years. In just four years we managed to increase this by 100% through constructing 90 new offices. In Côte d’Ivoire, we stayed through the civil crisis, and we actually doubled our network there. We are also financing a power plant in Mali as well as Bamako’s international airport, funding a huge mining project in Gabon and highways and power plants in Senegal.

We will continue to invest in Africa as our hope is to increase our presence from 12 to 20 countries in [the continent] by 2015. We want to develop a pan-African synergy, and we hope our pan-African network can be a tool of Africa’s development. Yet we cannot forget the US, Europe and Asia, as we also hope to continue developing tripartite operations with our partners in these regions as well.