Antoine de Mirbeck, Managing Partner, Ipsen Logistics

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On new infrastructure projects to enhance logistics activity

How can supply chain procedures be further optimised in Morocco?

DE MIRBECK: The supply chain is a real issue here. In Europe a supply chain has been existing for more than 20 years, and the majority of operators are focusing on forwarding, international transport, authorised service centres and track, Customs clearance activities, cross-docking storage and distribution. In Morocco these activities are gradually rolling out, with the supply chain as the lifeline of the product.Thus, operators are obliged to go through forwarding, transport or Customs clearance. However, there are only a few operators in Morocco that have realised this potential. It is mainly global players that have been spearheading the supply chain in Morocco.

As for domestic companies, Customs clearance, forwarding and logistics activities have become highly competitive. With regard to other business units, however, these domestic players are less proactive. Customers are not welcoming to ruptures in the supply chain and prefer not to face a forwarder, Customs worker, logistician and a distributor, which constitutes four companies on the supply chain. Instead, they want one company to be responsible for the entire process.
In the beginning this was very difficult because each business unit had faced severe competition of specialised and dedicated companies. Supply chain flexibility and optimisation also require tools: competitive operators have their own integrated and mutualised arsenal of platforms, forklifts, IT systems and human resources, and hence do not rely on any subcontractors. 

What are the biggest challenges faced by logistics companies in Morocco?

DE MIRBECK: Spatial planning is an issue in Morocco because it is very expensive and logistics companies can currently only invest in businesses that lie a maximum 30-50 km outside of the city centre. In addition, if operators want to create an intermodal platform, i.e., a warehouse offering all supply chain control features, international transport would be concerned with proximities to Customs brokers. This would become a problem if the warehouse lies within a big intermodal platform, because the broker would never come to the warehouse if it is located 50 km outside of the city centre. Hence, all activities cannot be managed within the same place. 

How do you evaluate the competitiveness of the segment compared to its regional counterparts?

DE MIRBECK: The Moroccan logistics segment is more expensive than in Europe because the domestic interest rate is currently 5-6%, whereas it is almost 1% in Europe, which implies that raising funds and buying land is more costly in Morocco. However, as infrastructure – in particular motorways, bridges and ports – is developing and advancing, the Moroccan logistics sector has become more competitive than Algeria is or Tunisia is. In fact, land in Algeria is twice as expensive as it is in Morocco, even though the state of its infrastructure is less developed than that of Morocco. 

What infrastructure projects are set to boost growth in 2018?

DE MIRBECK: Notable examples are the Nador Port and the free zone in Kenitra. The area is booming since land is cheaper in Kenitra. Casablanca, on the other hand, is completely saturated, with the 3500-km Moroccan coastline offering port, industry and free zone development opportunities. In addition, the high-speed rail service between Casablanca and Tangiers will increase the mobility of people from 2018 onwards. As for logistics players, the extension of Casablanca Port and a new road between the port and Mohammedia will further reduce truck circulation and decongest the city. Since two years ago the Casablanca airport has included a new dedicated freight zone, and logistics players now have different options to pick from for air transport.

To what extent does Casablanca qualify as a regional logistics hub?

DE MIRBECK: Morocco will most definitely be a hub, Casablanca less so.  All global players present in Morocco are now looking for external growth opportunities. Shipping lines are now connecting Casablanca or Tangiers with a range of cities primarily in West Africa. With its expertise in construction, engineering and agriculture, Morocco – along with other African countries – is set to benefit from this exchange of knowledge.

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