The Business Year

Rabia El Alama

MOROCCO - Economy

Rabia El Alama

General Manager, AmCham

Bio

Rabia El Alama has over 20 years of experience in US-Morocco business relations, international trade, negotiation, mediation, mentoring, project management, entrepreneurship, and counseling in management and strategy. She has played a key role in explaining the FTA to Moroccan and American entrepreneurs. She received her master’s in international trade and a bachelor of science in finance from the Institut Supérieur du Commerce et d’Administration des Enterprises (ISCAE) in Casablanca.

Given the country’s overall positive outlook, AmCham is confident Morocco will become a key hub and gateway into Africa for American companies.

AmCham Morocco has over 50 years of experience as a chamber of commerce promoting Moroccan and American business relations. How has the role of AmCham Morocco evolved during this period?

When AmCham was created in 1966, there were around 20 American businesses in Morocco mostly in the FMCG sector. Today, we have about 150 American companies dealing in aeronautics, automotive, pharmaceuticals, banking, hotels, agribusiness, education, franchising, and other sectors. Morocco is becoming a hub and gateway into Africa for American companies in high-tech sectors and could soon become a hub for electrical cars. We are also promoting “Select USA” for leading Moroccan businesses who want to expand to the US market. With an annual GDP of USD20 trillion and population of over 325 million, the US is the world’s most attractive consumer market, offering unmatched diversity, a thriving culture of innovation, and the most productive workforce. In 2021, we organized a round table on Select USA, which is our way of promoting two-way investment, because this is the logical consequence of developing bilateral relations. We have also organized a round table on the acceleration of digitalization of Morocco, because it will overall improve the day-to-day lives of investors and citizens.

What was the coordination between American and Moroccan businesses like during the pandemic?

In Morocco, the Agency for Digital Development (ADD) has been increasingly active. It even appointed a director for the digital ecosystem and boosted the start-up network. There is a strong restructuring of the digitalized services and e-commerce platforms boosted by the pandemic. On the US side, there is a new financing agency called the US International Development Finance Corporation (US DFC) that brought together a number of financial stakeholders to offer the best financial solutions to American investors willing to expand to Africa with a nearly USD60-billion program. This will enable American businesses to be present in the infrastructure projects in the African market.

The World Bank estimates that Morocco will see 3% growth this year and expects the agricultural sector to play an important role. What do you think of this assessment?

Yes, the agricultural sector will support this economic growth in Morocco. The automotive sector is not doing too badly, though the aeronautical industry is experiencing a bad patch. However, the sectors that will build on this growth are the agri-food, FMCG, services, e-commerce, and automotive industries. There are positive signs that this growth will go beyond 3.5%.

One of the specific efforts of AmCham Morocco is to encourage women in business. Can you elaborate more on the particular challenges in Morocco?

We have an annual event to promote women in business that is now in its fourth year. We also hosted a high-level Morocco Women Coffee Chat in partnership with the Commercial Service and the attendance of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Camille Richardson and several women entrepreneurs in the digital sector. We focused mostly on opportunities for Moroccan and American women and created the right connections for these women to work together and expand their businesses. In terms of challenges, women in business experience difficulty in accessing to financing, market opportunities, and lack of human resources.

What are AmCham’s main activities in 2021?

We will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Morocco-US FTA and 235 years of US-Morocco friendship. We will celebrate success stories of trade and investment between the US and Morocco. We are also planning a visit to Dakhla and a door knock to Washington as soon as the health situation improves.

Do you remain optimistic?

Yes, we are optimistic about the situation in Morocco, especially since agriculture is doing well. Once tourism resumes, it will revive all the other sectors. The agreements signed with Israel might also spur things along. Today, we are developing relationships with our AmCham in Israel and the federation of chambers of commerce to encourage greater exchange between both countries.

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