What is the current situation concerning your deployment in the Middle East?
We have been present in the Middle East for a long time through representative offices. The purpose then was to support the Moroccan diaspora consisting not only of highly skilled labour, but also of artisans and senior managers. More recently, the focus has turned towards supporting the surge in investment and the intensification of relations between Morocco and the countries in the region. Today, this region ranks fourth in terms of remittances, after France, Spain and Italy, at more than $ 725 million.
We are the main bank to the Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (TAQA) in Morocco. We have assisted them in raising the necessary financing for the Jorf Lasfar station expansion project, turning it into the largest coal-fired station in the MENA region. We succeeded in raising, in partnership with two foreign banks, some $1.4 billion to finance this project.
What is your outlook on the evolution of the group in the coming decades?
We must carry on working towards the consolidation of our business and specific governance model, our Group being composed of Banque Centrale Populaire (central institution), Banques Populaires Régionales (regional banks under cooperative form) and specialised subsidiaries). Its primary aim is to maintain our leadership position in Morocco, by further strengthening our capabilities in our four areas of excellence: mobilising and adding value to the savings of Moroccan residents and non-residents, financing and supporting the development of the VSB and SME base, assisting the champions of the national economy in their drive to expand their activities both within Morocco and abroad, and, lastly, supporting government programmes such as the Industrial Emergence Plan, based on the designation of sectors of excellence, such as the automotive and the aeronautical industries.
Do you believe this model is exportable to other African countries?
It is difficult to replicate the model as such, but the way we operate – our organizational model, especially for the mobilization of savings, the recruitment of bank customers – probably has a potential for export to these countries.
The development of cooperative banks in Europe was essentially based on a community of dynamic artisans and SMEs, which is not the case as yet in Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, the percentage of the population holding a bank account in Morocco currently stands at 55 %, while in Sub-Saharan countries this is below 11 or 12 %. Hence, there is a potential for developing bank account ownership provided that suitable tools for such development are invented. This is the role and the mission on which we have primarily based the strategy for our recent acquisitions in Africa.