For AMDI, all investors are created equal. Here is how AMDI helped a Spanish manufacturer (Sage Energia y Produccion) and a start-up (Elephant Vert) with their entries into Morocco.

As Ahmed Fassi-Fihri, the director of AMDI Invest in Morocco, can testify, foreign investors come in all sizes and shapes: “For Sage Energia y Produccion (SEP), Morocco was only one option on a wide palette,” he explains. “While for Elephant Vert, a Swiss start-up, we were the natural choice. But no matter what the investor’s needs, we try to help them out.”

Sebastien Couasnet, the country representative of Elephant Vert in Morocco, says AMDI’s level of assistance was unexpected. “I was very pleasantly surprised,” says Couasnet. “I had been expecting administrative bureaucracy and slowness, but no, not at all. It was quite the opposite. I was assisted in a consistent and helpful way for more than two months.”

Elephant Vert is not a typical foreign investor. Founded in Geneva in 2010, the company is funded by the Antenna Technologies Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes innovative agricultural and financial solutions. Elephant Vert could be described as a cross between a biotech company and a microfinancier.

“Despite our unusual profile we mean serious business in Morocco,” pursues Couasnet. ”We intend to invest about €25 million in Morocco from now until 2015. Most of that will be for a manufacturing facility in Meknes, located within one of the country’s agropoles (see pages 60 – 61), and then two others in Berkane and Souss. Our plants will employ 500 people and produce both bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides.” Elephant Vert will also have an administrative office in Rabat, close to the Ministry of Agriculture, and a research and development center.

One thing that Couasnet found most useful from AMDI was the profuse advice on legal and administrative procedures, and more importantly, help in understanding financing options.

Investing

“AMDI gave me very clear explanations on the administrative processes, and my counterpart at AMDI, Nejma, was very consistent in her follow-up to my queries,” explains Couasnet.

David Rodriguez, general manager of Sage Energia y Produccion, backs up this point. “For us, the dealings with AMDI lasted for about ten months in 2011,” says Rodriguez. “AMDI helped us in four ways. The main way was an explanation of Moroccan legislation and how the Moroccan government could help my company, especially in terms of incentives and grants (see pages 18-19).”

SEP is a Spanish company based in Valladolid, and active in the design and manufacture of industrial processes with various applications, most notably in the automotive, aeronautics, energy and agriculture sectors. SEP’s subsidiary in Morocco, called IPEM, is to provide these services and products to clients in the EU and the USA, as well as in the Tangier Free Zones.”

SEP also took advantage of AMDI assistance to identify local partners and find a suitable location.

For SEP, the natural location was the Tangier Free Trade Zone, next to the large automotive cluster that has sprouted around Renault’s mammoth plant there. Elephant Vert took advantage of the Maroc Vert plan for agricultural development and its eight agropoles.

“Our initial investment will be about €1.5 million with perhaps 50 employees,” explains SEP’s Rodriguez. “But we fully expect to grow over the years and perhaps then use Morocco as a regional platform for expansion to Maghreb and West African countries.”

Low-cost but skilled labor was a main factor in choosing Morocco. “Accessing trained personnel, or receiving training assistance from the government, was very important for us,” says Rodriguez. “Our operation here will carry out industrial design, namely for automotive and aeronautics applications, and we need qualified engineers and programmers to do this work.”

Another important attraction was domestic demand. SEP’s Moroccan subsidiary IPEM can live from its domestic contracts as well as export contracts. IPEM expects that up to 75% of its staff will be Moroccan at first, and even more later on.

SEP and Elephant Vert agree that the stability of the country is another advantage.

“Economic and political stability, as well as longterm personal safety were certainly factors for us, in addition to Morocco’s location,” explains Couasnet of Elephant Vert, adding that location was also a key factor for Elephant Vert.

“We did not really give much thought to other Maghreb countries,” Couasnet explains. “Morocco was the natural choice. Casablanca has very good flight connections both to Europe and to other African countries and that is important for our future development.”

AMDI’s help in explaining financing options – be it from the Moroccan government or from other local sources – was another influencing factor for both companies.

Both SEP and Elephant Vert took advantage of special tax and financing incentives that apply to high-tech and to agriculture, just two of the six priority areas that the Moroccan government has defined.

“Perhaps the ten-month interaction with AMDI was longer than usual,” posits SEP’s Rodriguez, “but it enabled us to go back and forth between different investment options, and different incentive packages that the government put on the table.” ●