Building on the strong relationship between Morocco and its European trading partners, the EnACT programme in the country is focusing on strengthening links between its leather suppliers and European brands. In Morocco, the leather sector is composed of microenterprises where women and youth make up 70% of the employees. The sector thus has the potential to provide highly skilled and sustainable jobs.

However, the only reason the sector is currently attractive to buyers in Europe is because of cheap Moroccan labour. This is not an ideal situation: it makes for a very fragile competitive environment as Moroccan firms tend to underbid each other to obtain new orders. EnACT aims to introduce more design work in Morocco, ensuring that more value added is embedded in products. In addition, small Moroccan leather firms often don’t have any human resources for marketing, with owners frequently confessing that they carry the marketing function but in reality have no time for it. This leads to orders from abroad that aim only to benefit from cheap labour, leaving Moroccan leather firms with no negotiating power. Essentially, they are selling cheap labour.

EnACT is working actively with the Moroccan Federation of Leather Industries (FEDIC) to bring designers from Europe (a Moroccan leather product destination market) to teach design and marketing skills to young workers. These marketing skills are as simple as how to respond to a customer’s e-mail enquiry and how to formulate a business proposal that is not solely based on price.

Beyond connecting the leather sector with international buyers and building their production and design capacities, EnACT is supporting SMEs in restructuring the management of their enterprise to become more competitive on the international front. This is being done through an audit programme that evaluates the export potential of each Moroccan company participating in the programme and then helps them build up areas where they need additional support in order to export.

Work done under the EnACT programme feeds into Morocco’s greater national strategy for development and export promotion called Maroc Export Plus, an ambitious plan that aims to triple exports in 10 years and complete the development strategies implemented in the context of the country’s sectoral development plans.

Supporting trade operatives is one of three strategic areas in which Maroc Export Plus is working. Its aim is to make trade tools available to all businesses that need them to develop internationally. A key component of this support is the assessment of the export potential of 1,000 Moroccan businesses by 2015. This is already being addressed through EnACT trained trade advisors with whom the Ministry of Industry, Trade and New Technologies aims to assess the export potential of 200 enterprises per year.

To start such a robust assessment of companies, Morocco needed to develop qualified practitioners in this area. This is where the International Trade Centre’s work through EnACT has been important. Officially launched in Morocco in April 2010, EnACT has fully contributed to the achievement of this goal through the Certified Trade Advisor Programme (CTAP). Its aim was to develop and deploy the skills of competitiveness counsellors, with the ultimate objective of strengthening the capacity of these companies in assessing their needs and in designing strategies for export.

Meanwhile EnACT is connecting the larger SMEs that are more ready to deal with sophisticated European buyers with brand names such as Lancel Paris. When those brand names come to Morocco to do business, they require social audits from their Moroccan counterparts to ensure that the production environment is fair to women and youth. This in itself is a capacity building activity as smaller firms come to realize that to excel in business they must go beyond the product and look at how they treat, train and value the people who make the product.

By contributing to the strength of the leather sector in Morocco, EnACT is addressing the challenge of SME competitiveness in the sector and the work life conditions of the women and youth who make up 70% of the employees in the sector.

EnACT has also contributed to the capacity building of executives from the Ministry of Foreign Trade who will oversee the audit programme, including the launch of the operation, the selection of contractors, matching auditors with businesses, and the validation of audit reports. Today, thanks to the qualified consultants, the Ministry of Foreign Trade launched its audit programme for exporting companies: in addition to the 30 companies audited under the CTAP programme, a pilot audit of 24 companies in the leather sector, funded as part of EnACT, was launched in August 2011, ten of which are currently in progress.

The agreement to finance the audit programme was recently signed with the Ministry of Finance; thus the Ministry of Industry and Trade will continue its programme according to the targets set for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 with the support of CTAP consultants. Additionally, those CTAP-certified trainers will help train others.

EnACT has selected the leather sector in Morocco for specific focus because the majority of the workers are women and youth. EnACT was already working with the sector through a programme aimed at connecting suppliers with professional purchasing managers of branded products, particularly in Europe, creating an opportunity for luxury fashion brands to engage with a new set of producers located close to European markets and design centres and with a strong manufacturing base. Thus this new work programme targeting the audit of 24 companies in the leather sector as a starting point for the full programme builds on work already done for the sector. The training portion of the programme has been completed. The focus is now on getting selected companies audited for export and moving ahead with export development programmes to help them reach their target markets.

Morocco: Creating opportunities through food exports to North America

The Ministry of Foreign Trade of Morocco partnered with EnACT to launch an operation aimed at strengthening Moroccan enterprises run by women and youth in the agro-food sector. In the framework of free trade negotiations between Morocco and Canada, and to promote trade between the two countries, the idea is to support a number of Moroccan enterprises from the sector by accompanying them through the export value chain, helping them learn along the way. Following the development of a comprehensive strategy, the first steps have been taken with FENAGRI, Morocco’s national agro-food federation, to study the companies interested in benefitting from such a trade programme. A survey was designed and used for each company visit to determine each company’s export potential.

In parallel with these activities, EnACT has engaged in the support of one particular Moroccan company to run the project on a small enough scale to allow for the study of each individual step along the way, including market development, packaging and distribution, to better assess the challenges of the process. The Tajini project was a success. After visiting the company in Meknes and determining its export potential, the project was deemed to be promising for the Canadian market. Mr. Benhassain, the company’s president, fully committed to the project. Subsequently, EnACT used its network of Canadian importers to link the producer with potential buyers. Following a trade mission to Canada, Tajini reached an agreement with Canadian distributors provided the company would make a few changes to its packaging.

Following the success of the project with Tajini, the Moroccan enterprises that were selected are now even more informed and enthusiastic about the project and they aim to build on the lessons learned from this experience. The methods used, from accompanying a company, to using networks of experts and Canadian buyers, have been reinforced by this success. For the future, this programme is being further adapted to Moroccan enterprises for exports towards Canadian markets. Going further, and with the participation of SIAL, the world’s leading food exhibition network, the project is being broadened to companies in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. SIAL runs six leading business to business events each year on five continents, including in Montreal, reaching 9,300 exhibitors from 100 countries and 220,000 visitors from 200 countries. Thus having a presence with SIAL and its events is of strategic importance for any company wishing to reach global agro-food markets.

On the sidelines of the exhibition, food tasting events will be organized to promote oriental food culture with the North American public.

By working in the agro food sector, EnACT is enhancing SME competitiveness: creating opportunities for exports abroad, increasing product sourcing opportunities from outlying regions in-country, and creating employment opportunities in the regions and where the exporting companies operate.

Read the overarching story of EnACT. In this series, read also about the EnACT programme in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Algeria.