Interview: Farid Bensaïd

What are the challenges facing the retail sector?

FARID BENSAÏD: One of the main disruptive trends is the emergence of digital platforms, which will eventually result in the disappearance of a number of jobs, as well as completely new kinds of jobs appearing. This brings up the challenge of the adaptation of human resources. The fact that more and more consumers purchase goods or services through the internet also represents a shift in modes of consumption.

That being said, in terms of volume, online purchases remain marginal compared to traditional methods of consumption, but it is a fast-increasing trend to which every retail company needs to adapt. In addition, new technologies such as mobile payment methods will soon have a significant impact on retail. The eventual disappearance of cash is an evolution that every economic actor with a brickand-mortar shop is anticipating. Another interesting trend is the recent emergence of large modern-style malls. However, these have not yet proved their economic sustainability. For sure, they are places where Moroccans enjoy spending time, but they do not necessarily purchase anything there.

Lastly, one of the main challenges that affects the sector’s development is the cost of land and real estate. There is some speculation, and in general real estate in certain areas of high potential is prohibitively expensive. For example, prices in the Gueliz neighbourhood in Marrakech have been as high as Dh100,000 (€9000) per sq metre.

Which cities have the highest purchasing power?

BENSAÏD: Casablanca and Rabat remain the cities with by far the highest household consumption. Marrakech is also a zone with significant purchasing power. Then there are areas such as Tangier or Fez with large population concentrations, but where purchasing power still remains low. This means it is necessary to offer products that match different types of demand. In cities such as Oujda, Agadir or Temara, one solution is to discuss with the city councils how to make land affordable, and thus create jobs. This is a win-win situation because, in addition to generating employment, these areas stand to become attractive to international companies.

How will the role of insurance brokers evolve as the digitisation process continues?

BENSAÏD: There are almost 2000 intermediaries in Morocco, which is a huge number for a country of this size. Even if the insurance sector grows every year, the size of the broker’s share will remain the same. Therefore, they must evolve towards an advisory role. There must an added value associated with using a broker. This means brokerage companies must invest in human resources to offer real expertise to their clients. There must also be an adaptation of the legal framework to allow such things as digital signatures. In the medium term, business-to-customer insurance brokerage may disappear. I anticipate that the internet will remove the need for intermediaries.

What are the main human resource challenges that the retail sector is currently facing?

BENSAÏD: IT engineers are extremely difficult to find as they often leave to work abroad, responding to significant demand in Europe. This challenge can impede some companies from developing.

In terms of skills, we have noticed that basic educational levels have seen a decrease over recent years. This has resulted in a situation where technical skills are available but soft skills, such as communication or decision-making, tend to be lacking. This scarcity of highly skilled managers and engineers has given rise to salary inflation, which can have the result of a reduction of the competitiveness of Moroccan companies. In that sense, the government’s top priority should be to raise the level of basic education.