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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06CASABLANCA142 2006-02-02 17:26:00 UNCLASSIFIED Consulate Casablanca
Cable title:  

MOROCCAN PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS: OVERCOMING

Tags:   ECON EFIN EIND ELAB ETRD MO 
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Morocco's numerous professional
associations have had limited effectiveness in lobbying
for their collective interests and promoting social
change and reform. Some observers cite conflict between
so-called "old guard" associations holding back the
reform efforts of newer groups. However, business
contacts suggest that many associations are hampered
more by internal disputes and their own structural
flaws. Moreover, Moroccan law does not require a
consultative process in the formation of public policy.
Both the political and corporate spheres in Morocco
tend to reflect cultural norms favoring top down
organizational leadership. As Moroccan associations
struggle to grow and adapt to a changing social and
economic climate, they face not only internal
organizational challenges, but also institutional and
cultural norms to overcome as well. END SUMMARY

OLD GUARD ASSOCIATIONS


--------------------------




2. (SBU) The Confederation Generale des Entreprises du
Maroc (CGEM) is Morocco's oldest business association
and traces its origin to French colonial times. CGEM
is designed as an umbrella organization and represents
more that 120 professional associations and branch
federations. Membership includes 200 of Morocco's most
successful companies representing a significant amount
of the country's wealth. CGEM is ubiquitous in the
press and enjoys strong ties to GOM officials.
Government officials maintain regular contact with CGEM
to solicit views regarding initiatives and programs
affecting its membership. CGEM's President Hassan
Chami is known for his close relationship with Prime
Minister Jettou (both are former Cabinet Ministers
whose careers alternate between the public and private
sector). Critics complain that CGEM is too closely
linked to the GOM to effectively represent private
sector interests.



3. (SBU) Chami concedes the challenges in heading an
association with such a large and diverse membership
but insists CGEM's mission is to focus on "fundamental
priorities shared by the majority of companies
operating in Morocco and make the Moroccan economy
attractive, especially to investors". Chami is a
controversial figure within CGEM himself, having won a
closely contested re-election in 2003 despite harsh
criticism from members of the Federation of Small and
Medium Enterprises (PME-PMI), a CGEM member
organization. Chami defeated the PME-PMI socialist
challenger who was backed by some on the largest
companies in Morocco, including Omnium Nord Africain
(ONA), the royally controlled multi-national for which
Jettou was a former Board Member.



4. (SBU) PME-PMI members feel CGEM gives a
disproportionate voice to large companies at the
expense small and medium sized enterprises (SME) and
PME-PMI is advocating for change. The dispute between
SMEs and larger enterprises within CGEM has been
covered extensively in the press with PME-PMI
threatening to quit CGEM and incorporate independently.
PME-PMI members argue that the GOM only contacts the
top few elite members of CGEM and does not receive
broad-based, representative advice or opinion.
Interestingly, the institutional culture of CGEM seems
to mirror the operations of many of its member
companies: patriarchal, authoritarian and run by
elites. Other associations complain that CGEM's access
to the GOM confers a "sense of self-importance" that
impairs its ability to work effectively with other
organizations, even if they share similar goals.



5. (U) The ongoing dispute between CGEM and PME-PMI
is sometimes characterized among observers as a
generational conflict between older members
representing established companies accustomed to large,
uncontested market shares (referred to, derisively, as
"dinosaurs") and younger entrepreneurs, often boasting
western educations and work experience abroad. There
may be truth to this, although both sides are quick to
downplay generational divide. The dispute does however
encapsulate the challenge CGEM and other associations
face in adapting to a changing social-economic
environment marked by increased competition and rapid
technological change.



6. (SBU) Another old guard member, The French Chamber
of Commerce (CFCIM) has been operating in Morocco since
1913 and has 2,500 registered members. It is very
influential and covers a full range of sectors. CFCIM
assistance includes direct intervention with the GOM,
business surveys, access to seminars and activities,
and facilitation of visas to France. CFCIM Executive
Director Dominique Bruin cites direct intervention with
GOM customs and tax administration officials as
examples of successful lobbying on behalf of CFCIM
members. CFCIM also distinguished itself by creating a
management company to finance the building of an
industrial park near Casablanca designed to attract
"non-polluting, job creating industries".



7. (SBU) CFCIM is criticized by some younger French
entrepreneurs as too focused on large companies and not
attentive enough to the needs of SMEs, echoing
criticism within CGEM. A French-Algerian entrepreneur
interested in starting a sports franchise in Casablanca
told Econoff she felt rebuffed by CFCIM because her
project was too small for them.



8. (SBU) Old guard member, the Moroccan Banking
Association (GPBM) is probably the least effective and
most disliked association according to its members.
This is mostly attributed to GPBM's GOM-imposed
structure which requires all the banks to pay dues to
an association whose president is a political
appointee, compelling some to claim "taxation without
representation." Banking sector contacts further
complain that they do not have any influence in GPBM.
As a result, most reform efforts in the financial
sector have been the result of government initiative
rather than lobbying efforts by the GPBM.

MORE PROGRESSIVE ASSOCIATIONS


--------------------------




9. (U) The Association des Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises
du Maroc (AFEM) was created in September 2000 to allow
female entrepreneurs and business leaders to actively
participate in civil society and promote the cause of
female entrepreneurship. While members stress their
commitment to promoting Morocco's economic and
industrial growth, AFEM does not limit itself to gender-
based business issues; it pursues a broad international
relations and development agenda and actively engages
social causes. AFEM members number over 250 and in
general are educated, well traveled and western in
orientation. Their modernity however opens them up to
charges of elitism. Econoff spoke to several
Casablanca businesswomen who described AFEM as not
representative of the typical Moroccan businesswomen,
who tend to be small scale entrepreneurs with very
little capital and few employees.



10. (SBU) AFEM members can publicly challenge GOM
officials as during a presentation by Abderrahim
Harouchi, Minister for Social Development and Family,
on the King's Initiative for Human Development.
Harouchi became visibly irritated during aggressive
questioning. AFEM members come from well-heeled,
prominent families and many are married to powerful and
successful husbands who often finance their business
ventures. Very few are self-made entrepreneurial
success stories. Saad Hamouimi, Vice President of PME-
PMI, criticized AFEM's close ties to the leadership of
CGEM, echoing his organization's criticism of CGEM. In
fact, an AFEM member is a leading candidate to become
president of CGEM.



11. (SBU) While it is too early to judge AFEM's
effectiveness as an association, it does exhibit an
impressive level of organization and commitment to
assist female entrepreneurs. However, much like CGEM,
AFEM is controlled by dominant and influential
personalities that sometimes distract from the role of
the association and undermine its credibility.



12. (U) The progressive Moroccan Textile Association
(AMITH) is cited by industry observers as a true
success story for effective lobbying of the GOM in
engaging support for an important, but struggling
industry. AMITH recognized early the global challenges
facing textile manufacturers and persistently fought
for the future of the sector despite initial rebuffs
from the GOM. AMITH took the initiative to design a
partnership agreement to engage the GOM and
successfully attract interest and support to its cause.



13. (SBU) Business professionals and industry
observers attribute AMITH success to several factors
including a narrow sector focus, high quality
leadership and the undeniable presence of a specific,
growing threat from China which served, as one observer
put it, "to concentrate the mind". The quality of
leadership is evidenced by former AMITH president
Mezzour Salahddine who now serves as Minister of
Commerce of Industry and was also president of a large
company. Under his leadership, AMITH showed vision in
not reflexively lobbying for protectionist measures,
but rather proposing a credible industry strategy and
inviting the GOM to participate.



14. (SBU) The AMCHAM is another effective association
and a valuable player in advocating for improving the
business environment as evidenced by its efforts to
promote the recently signed U.S.-Morocco Free Trade
Agreement. AMCHAM also successfully lobbied the GOM to
provide a grace period for members unable to comply
immediately with the GOM's Arabic-language labeling
requirements for food products. AMCHAM also produces
several products to assist the business community,
including business surveys and an annual trade and
investment guide. The AMCHAM's Director Carl Dawson
confesses to the same frustrations felt by other
associations operating in Morocco, highlighting the
lack of legal mandates for consultation and an
institutional, authoritarian culture in Morocco that
inhibits the effectiveness of professional groups.

UP AND COMING ASSOCIATIONS


--------------------------




15. (U) Newer, fledgling associations are beginning to
organize and develop as well, including - for example -
the Moroccan-American Association (MAC). MAC was
established over 23 years ago as a predominantly social
group to promote U.S.-Moroccan ties. Although dormant
for many years, MAC recently renewed itself with a
vibrant membership drive. Today MAC is a professional
networking organization with a social conscience and
recruits young Moroccan professionals who have either
studied or worked in the United States. While mostly
comprised of prosperous, progressive minded, western-
educated professionals, MAC manages to avoid charges of
elitism through a fairly diverse and inclusive
membership. MAC only recently began discussing
lobbying efforts in the public sphere and exhibiting
aspirations to influence policy and promote reform.
Some observers cite MAC as evidence of a generational
divide, but many MAC members argue that they are not
seeking competition with associations such as CGEM, but
only to complement efforts.



16. (SBU) MAC, like many associations, is not without
controversy. It is currently tested by a split between
those who would like more focus on lobbying the GOM for
business-related reforms and associating with the FTA,
and others who argue that the association needs to
concentrate on broadening membership and building
credibility. Membership recruitment has been
enormously successful in capitalizing on the growing
trend of young, western- educated professionals
returning to Morocco to make their fortune. Another
feature that distinguishes MAC from other associations
is the democratic flavor of meetings where members are
encouraged to openly comment on the organization. To
this extent, MAC outpaces other associations in
adopting the very reforms it wishes to see in the
public sector.



17. (SBU) Another fledgling association is the Moroccan
Association of Risk Capital Specialists (AMIC) which
has only recently become reactivated, but already
controls considerable levels of capital that could be
very influential in the Moroccan economy. In addition,
in 2005, it signed a cooperative agreement with the
U.S. National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) that
is designed to facilitate the exchange of information
and technical assistance for Moroccan firms. Exposure
to counterparts in the U.S. has shown AMIC members the
potential benefits of lobbying for institutional
reforms and this lesson should serve it well in helping
it and other young associations compete with larger
established associations for influence.

GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION


--------------------------




18. COMMENT: Although associations face differing
problems, the common denominator is the challenge to

overcome political and institutional cultures that are
not adapted to the consultative process as a means to
promote reform. The challenge is made more difficult
when, (as is the case with many Moroccan associations)
the culture they wish to change is reflected in their
own organizations. As associations seek to influence
and reform Moroccan society, they will continue to
struggle with their own internal evolutionary processes
as well. Perhaps through successful change from
within, they will become more effective advocating
public sector reform. Hopefully younger, more
democratic associations can help lead this change. END
COMMENT

GREENE