Interview: Youssef Chraibi

How has the offshoring sector evolved in recent years, and what are Morocco’s main advantages?

YOUSSE CHRAIBI: Turnover in the offshoring sector was Dh7.3bn (€794.2m) in 2013 and should reach Dh8bn (€870.4m) for 2014, representing as much revenue as the aeronautics sector and supporting as many jobs as the auto industry. It is the sixth-most-important sector in terms of inflow of foreign currency. The sector’s annual average growth was 20% over the last 10 years, progressing at a very steady rhythm, and today the sector provides jobs for 65,000 people. Revenues and employment creation are correlated in this sector, which in the past five years has represented 5% of GDP growth and created an average of 5000 net jobs a year.

Morocco has a leading role in the sector, covering up to 50% of the French-speaking market, and has managed to maintain that position in recent years, even if other countries emerged with lower costs. This is linked to two main factors. First, Morocco started before the others – 15 years ago – so it developed know-how in information technology outsourcing and customer relationship management, developed by leading companies established in Morocco. Second, even with higher prices than competitors like Tunisia or Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco has a position of nearshore and not offshore. We are a two-hour flight from most European capitals, with the same (or similar) time zone and many commonalities in language and culture.

Today, real growth is coming from externalisation, such as with business process outsourcing (BPO), rather than from offshoring. As a global tendency, companies are focusing more on their core activities and using service providers for less-strategic ones, so the outsourcing business is growing worldwide. While the core work is still done at headquarters, with some jobs created in France, other jobs are created offshore. The socio-economic result is great for Morocco, not only in terms of jobs and GDP but also in terms of state revenues – more than Dh3.9bn (€424.3m) was collected from BPO activities between 2007 and 2013. The sector is also the leader in terms of returns on investment. Government grants worth Dh400m (€43.5m) were provided to the sector, but this has been returned ten-fold.

What are the challenges to increasing the added value of services in BPO?

CHRAIBI: One is that our offer is limited by our capacity to find enough qualified employees, especially in terms of soft skills. We are creating training programmes to bring skills in line with sector needs, but the linguistic knowledge is lacking. A second challenge is that we are limited by labour laws in France. Developing BPO competencies in Morocco would mean job cuts in France, where laws are very inflexible in this regard.

How can Morocco boost its BPO competitiveness?

CHRAIBI: We must continue investing in the expertise of our employees and providing resources that will bring better knowledge of target markets. For example, Morocco is very interesting for telecoms operators, as many Moroccans are already familiar with France’s competitive environment and practices. Development of multiple channels is also key. A growing part of the customer relationship is managed not with voice services but digitally, through e-mail, chat and social networks. It is important for us to position ourselves quickly in this trend to accommodate our clients.

What other markets have room for development?

CHRAIBI: We could consider developing Spanish-speaking services in the North, Tangiers and Tetouan. The crisis in Spain did not help, as it made their local actors more competitive, so that the price gap was not enough to justify a migration. But some clients there have said that the quality level in Morocco could be superior to South American countries in terms of language proficiency and geographic proximity. We may have trouble attracting clients from places other than France or Spain, but we can still attract French and Spanish companies that have international operations and clients.