Hamid Ben Elafdil, Director-General, Invest in Morocco: Interview

Interview: Hamid Ben Elafdil

What is the outlook for the business environment?

HAMID BEN ELAFDIL: Thanks to the creation of the National Committee for Business Environment (Comité National de l’Environnement des Affaires, CNEA) and its numerous activities, there has been a positive evolution in the business legal framework. The CNEA has directed its efforts towards simplifying administrative procedures, improving and modernising the legal environment, urban planning and facilitating access to land. As you know, all economies are evaluated today based on how business friendly the administration is. In the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2015” report, Morocco ranked 71st among 189 countries, improving 57 places from its 2009 ranking. The kingdom also ranked 72nd in the World Economic Forum’s “The Global Competitiveness Report 2014-15”, thanks to the efforts made to improve the business environment.

What can be done to further improve the conditions for local and international companies?

BEN ELAFDIL: Improving the business environment is a permanent job. Every year, our competitors significantly improve, and investors make choices based on comparisons. Currently, I think that we need to give particular attention to three main elements. First, we have to emphasise the development of e-governance services for companies, especially for micro-businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises. Second, we must mobilise local actors to support improvements in the business environment at a regional level, strengthening the role of the Regional Committees for the Business Environment. Finally, we need to regularly benchmark ourselves against other countries in the region. It must be stressed that Morocco is the only country in the region that does not discriminate against foreign investors. Anyone can invest in the sector of their choice, is not required to have a Moroccan partner, and can transfer dividends, capital and gains without restrictions. Over the last 10 years regional investment centres have also increased support for investors.

How did foreign direct investment (FDI) in the kingdom improve in 2014?

BEN ELAFDIL: In 2014 net FDI flows reached $3bn, against $2.87bn in 2013, an increase of 4.5%. FDI strengthened due to the successful mobilisation of all members of government and public agencies Whether it is related to the macroeconomic framework, incentives mechanisms or sectoral strategies, Morocco has a vision that is ambitious, consistent and attractive. This is evidenced by the diverse sources of FDI flows, sectoral diversification and the drive behind privatisation programmes. In the future, the most important investments should come from industry in general, as well as from mergers and acquisitions.

How can Morocco further diversify its FDI sources?

BEN ELAFDIL: As mentioned before, Morocco has several sectoral strategies to meet our country’s challenges and, especially, to create jobs. Each of these strategies bases its success on its relevance, pertinence, consistency, the means used by the government, and private investment. We estimate that over the 2015-25 period, the average annual investment generated by these strategies will be Dh100bn ($8.9bn).

Invest In Morocco also works with government departments that require private investment as part of their strategy, ensuring that in terms of both content and procedure the interests of the ministry dovetails with the needs of foreign private investors. We are, in some ways an investment bank for any parties that will use our services as part of the contracting process, which integrates sectoral promotion, commerce, research and negotiation. The contracting process with private investors is the exclusive domain of the department concerned. In order to ensure that we can provide the best support possible, we have strengthened our intelligence and international research units, and are implementing specific taskforces that include various players such as ambassadors, state ministries, sectoral associations and regional investment centres.

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