Field Trip - A Perspective on the African Economy: Business in Morocco

By Araceli McAdam, Global MBA Student Ambassador 2017-2018, Strategy & Management Major

The Kingdom of Morocco greeted the Global MBA’s Strategy & Management, Digital Business, and Enterprise Innovation majors from both the France and Singapore campuses for a one-week intensive field trip, exploring eight companies in various industries. The aim of the trip was to expose students to working possibilities in Africa and to understand Morocco’s strategic importance and influence for local and international companies alike. The industries ranged from automotive manufacturing to food and dairy packaging- a diverse collection but all shared the warmth of Moroccan hospitality. This trip also provided an opportunity to visit ESSEC’s newest campus at Rabat with light exploration of scenic landmarks, including Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque.

Here are 3 highlights from the trip which left the deepest impression on me:

JUMIA – Believe in the Dream

Jumia was a highlight for two major reasons: their supply chain needs and the young start-up culture. After recently completing Sue Breniman’s Supply Chain course in Singapore, I felt well equipped to understand Jumia’s needs during the first portion of the visit. The way the company was presented to us was also very endearing – the company wanted to hear our thoughts. It wasn’t just a presentation about themselves, but an opportunity to exchange and for them to hear our recommendations. 

Based on previous experiences and through the field trip, I am realizing that I really appreciate the growth opportunities available in younger companies. Not to mention, the start-up culture is very attractive. I find flatter working environments encompassing team spirit and agility very appealing. The employees were also so young, creating a lively atmosphere. 

From a business strategy perspective, the issues the company is facing are very interesting and entails a deep understanding of Moroccan culture. Jumia has an opportunity to take over the e-commerce market because they know their customers, giving them the edge over companies like Amazon. Jumia has created a supply chain that enables their customers to try the product prior to purchasing it - a component that adds complexity but is essential to the success of the company’s expansion and goal to serve all of Morocco. If we had more time, I would have loved to follow the entire process from when a product is ordered to the last stage of the process.

TANGER PORT MED – Strategic International Location

This was one of my favorite stops. The director who greeted us was so enthusiastic and full of energy. The strategic decisions and investment needed to launch Tanger Port Med were fascinating to hear. It was also impressive that the port is so young yet already covers 20% of worldwide container traffic. From a business strategy standpoint, I loved that they must work with companies from various industries and must negotiate to make beneficial partnerships.

During our tour of the port, I made it a point to speak with a young woman from the marketing team. I wanted to know what it was like working for the company, especially from a marketing perspective. She described Port Tanger as a city. Although the travel to and from the port can be intense, the benefits and opportunities to expand her network are so immense. No day is ever the same and she loves that she is able to work with diverse international clientele.

DANONE – Safety Culture

Danone- the most delicious visit! The diversity of company visits was very impressive and I don’t think I ever would have had the opportunity to visit a dairy factory, let alone one in a foreign country, had it not been for this field trip. Since my background is in Environment, Health & Safety, it was interesting to learn about how the company manages work safety. Based on the initial Q&A session, it was evident the company understood the difficulty of managing a productive factory while assuring everyone is safe. As it was explained to us, safety is not just a choice but stems from culture. It is finding that key which makes everyone want to be safe. Although it may seem obvious or easy to achieve, sadly this is rarely the case for many companies. I applaud the site for minimizing their number of injuries to zero and I hope they continue this successful trend.

Their ideas of promoting a safe culture were also very creative. On our way to the cheese factory, there was a big sign that read “For Them” in French (Pour Eux, as seen in the picture above). The words were composed of many pictures. Upon closer examination, one could see that the photos were of children. Danone made the sign using photos of the workers’ children so that everyday, they are reminded as to why they should be safe – not just for themselves but for their families. The company’s culture was very warm. People cared for each other and there were children drawings scattered throughout the offices. It appeared to foster a good working environment. 

Once on the factory floor, the process was so clean and streamlined, it was evident why Danone is an industry leader. The logistics involved for perishable/consumable products appears to be very complicated. Also, the automation integrated throughout the lines was interesting to see.

After having the experience of studying at ESSEC’s campuses in both Cergy and Singapore, visiting Morocco provided an exciting opportunity to explore a third continent within the academic year. Prior to the field trip, I was unaware of Morocco’s positioning of being a strategic entry point for international players in Africa – this became very evident especially after visiting BNP Paribas, Intelcia and PwC. I now appreciate and witnessed firsthand that Morocco is truly a land of opportunity.

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