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Cablegate: Offshoring - Morocco,S Comparative Advantage

VZCZCXRO3745
RR RUEHTRO
DE RUEHCL #0209/01 3101326
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051326Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL CASABLANCA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8188
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3003
RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST 0051
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3827
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0666
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 8440
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0025
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 2125

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CASABLANCA 000209

SIPDIS

FOR STATE NEA/MAG
STATE PLS PASS TO COMMERCE FOR NATHANIEL MASON
STATE PASS TO USTR FOR BURKHEAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EIND PGOV PREL AMCHAMS MO
SUBJECT: OFFSHORING - MOROCCO,S COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) Building on its natural advantage of both
geographic and linguistic proximity to Europe, the
"offshoring plank" of Morocco,s "Emergence" strategy has
succeeded in making the country a premier destination for
European firms seeking to shift their operations offshore.
Beyond language, geography, and culture, Morocco has
benefited from its state-of-the-art infrastructure, and a
liberalized telecom sector, to become one of the top five
destinations in the world for the relocation of a company,s
business processes. Nevertheless, to maintain its
comparative advantage, Morocco must address two major
challenges: the lack of skilled labor and increasing
competition from Eastern Europe. End Summary.

--------------------------------
Job and Wealth Creation Strategy
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) Offshoring, defined as the relocation of a
company,s business processes, is playing an increasingly
important role in Morocco,s economy. A central part of the
government,s "Emergence" strategy (an effort to diversify
the economy and raise productivity) focuses on creating
offshoring hubs in major urban centers including Casablanca
and Rabat. A number of these are being financed by the
Caisse de Depot et de Gestion (CDG), which manages Morocco,s
pension fund. It plans to invest 2 billion USD in building
four high tech offshoring facilities in Casablanca, Rabat,
Fes, and Marrakesh, as part of its long-term strategy to
create jobs and generate return on its capital.

3. (SBU) On October 22, NEA Maghreb Office Director Williams
and EconOff visited Casablanca,s 550 USD million offshoring
facility, Casablanca Nearshore Park (CNP). The Director
General of CNP, Mohamed Lasry, explained Morocco,s long-term
plans in this area and discussed existing and potential areas
of cooperation between Morocco and the U.S., notably in the
field of information technology. As an example of this
collaboration, he said Dell has established helpdesks in
Morocco to assist its French and Spanish clientele with
technical problems, creating some 1,500 jobs.

4. (SBU) Although offshoring has clear benefits for the
Moroccan economy, leaders in the field disagree about its
long-term financial impact. On the one hand, Lasry told us
that CNP would produce 26,000 jobs and generate over USD one
billion in revenues by 2012. On the other hand, the Finance
Ministry estimates that offshoring will create 9,100 jobs and
contribute about USD 1.7 billion by 2015. Nevertheless, one
thing is clear; offshoring is an important component of
Morocco,s long-term economic development.

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Morocco,s Comparative Advantage
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) Morocco,s comparative advantage in the offshoring
sector is four-fold. The first advantage is its geographic
proximity to the European market. Second, Morocco,s labor
force is multilingual, namely in French, Arabic and Spanish.
The third asset is its state-of-the-art offshoring
infrastructure. Finally, Morocco,s growing telecom sector
is liberalized and modern.

6. (SBU) A clear example of Morocco,s unique position in
offshoring is found in the latter sector. Morocco has
already attracted close to half of Europe,s Francophone call
centers and is highly competitive in the Spanish market.
Moreover, the number of call centers in Morocco increased
from 50 in 2004 to an estimated 200 in 2008, employing 18,000
people.

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Fiscal Incentives
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7. (SBU) Morocco has developed a successful fiscal incentive
scheme to attract offshoring clientele to its facilities. The

CASABLANCA 00000209 002 OF 002


incentives at CNP include a corporate tax holiday during the
first five years of business and 17.5 percent thereafter;
telecommunication costs that are set at 35 percent below the
market price; and training grants of up to USD 7,000 for each
Moroccan employee during the first three years of employment.
With 100 percent of the office space rented to
multi-national companies, the incentives have proven to be
effective in attracting corporations like Tata, Nestle and
Accenture.

----------------------------------------
Obstacles in Maintaining Competitiveness
----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Challenges remain, however. Chief among them is a
lack of skilled labor. Morocco,s education strategy "Vision
2010" seeks to train 10,000 engineers by 2010, but will
likely fall well short of its objective. A leading business
paper recently estimated that only 4,200 engineers would
enter the workforce by that date. Other skills are in
similarly short supply: a McKinsey consultant who tracks
offshoring recently told us that the future of the sector
depends on whether Morocco can increase the supply of skilled
labor. Some steps have already been undertaken: the
offshoring facility in Rabat, for instance, will include a
technical university to train individuals with the necessary
skills to be competitive in labor force.

9. (SBU) The second challenge is increasing competition from
Eastern Europe, which offers cheaper white-collar labor.
Salaries for engineers in Romania, for instance, can be as
low as one-third the Moroccan level. Already, some
Moroccan-based companies are recruiting in Eastern Europe to
fill positions. Many middle managers at companies in the
Tangier-Med zone, for instance, have come from Romania and
elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

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Comment
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10. (SBU) As one of the key pillars of the "Emergence"
strategy, offshoring figures prominently in Morocco,s
efforts to create a modern and outward-looking services
sector. Hard-won success is at risk, however, until the
government is able to implement the education reforms that
will enable Moroccan schools to assure the supply of
highly-skilled labor the sector requires. End Comment.
MILLARD

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