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Premium Cigars Made The Moroccan Way



How Habanos S.A is on the rise to becoming a leading Cigar producer in Africa.

The kingdom of Morocco is rich with fertile soils, good fertilizer and produces 75% of the world’s best phosphate in the world.

All these qualities are why The Kingdom of Morocco is the home ground for Habanos S.A, a leading producer, and distributor of premium cigars and cigarettes in Africa.

“Cigars are a very important market in Morocco because our country imports 20 million dollars annually on behalf of cigars,” says 29-year-old Moulay Omar Zahraoui, CEO and co-founder of Habanos S.A.

A true proudly Moroccan product, Habanos works with more than with 500 farmers to grow tobacco on 120 hectares of tobacco plantations.

“We’re specialized in developing premium & sophisticated handcrafted Moroccan cigars!”

– Moulay Omar Zahraoui

They offer three different products; cigars, cigarillos and cigarettes.

Each cigar they produce is composed of three types of tobacco leaves, the wrapper, the binder, and the filler, all contributing to their premium quality.

Co-founded in 2011 by the successful entrepreneur and his family, Habanos S.A. was created in the industrial zone of Ain Sebaa in Casablanca Morocco.

“We’re specialized in developing premium & sophisticated handcrafted Moroccan cigars!” he says proudly.

Zahraoui is a representative of the success of science behind the company with great ambitions.

“After the liberalization of the tobacco sector I got the license of tobacco manufacturing and distribution and I wanted to invest in this project,” Zahraoui says.

Today, Habanos S.A. prides itself in being one of the first cigar factories in Africa. The group plans to provide payment flexibility to each of its distributors in Africa

The Moroccan National Company is a leader 100% in the premium cigar industry Handcrafted from the finest tobacco grown in the Kingdom of Morocco.

The cigar manufacturing industry is saturated with multinational competitors and therefore not easy to integrate.

“Our most interesting anecdote is that we were sued by the Cubans and we won the lawsuit and we asked for compensation of twenty million dollars,” he says.

Despite some of these challenges faced by Zahraoui he is still optimistic about the future.

His goal is to open a subsidiary throughout Africa and in the United states, of which they have already signed a contract for.

“Our group will provide payment flexibility for each distributor in African countries for a credit of one million dollars for each distributor of manufactured tobacco. It is thanks to policy of his majesty King Mohamed VI that encourages African countries for the development, industrialization and creation of jobs,” Zahraoui says.

While last year was a milestone for the company as they hosted one of the first cigar trade shows in Africa, this year they plan to invite all cigar aficionados and tobacco distributors to their second cigar trade show in Casablanca, the African Cigar Capital in December.

The company has signed an agreement with the US group of $500 million.

In addition, they expect to achieve export revenues of $1 billion in the near future.

“Africa is full of opportunities for any kind of business and not only ours,” he adds.

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Content provided by Habanos S.A.

Brand Voice

Mauritius-Africa, a partnership for shared prosperity



Mathieu Mandeng is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Standard Chartered Bank Mauritius Ltd

By: Mathieu Mandeng

In the current complex and challenging circumstances that are testing the resilience of our economies and its foundations, I believe Mauritius remains in a unique position to create a partnership for shared prosperity with African countries.  Mauritius is leveraging its unique selling proposition of being the only investment grade international financial centre “ IFC” in sub Saharan Africa to drive trade and investment in mainland Africa.

An IFC is fundamentally a response to the complexity, inefficiency and hardship of doing business in mainland by leveraging the five factors of competitiveness that are business environment, financial sector development, infrastructure, human capital and reputation. A quick health check shows that Mauritius that now ranks 13th globally in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business is a conducive jurisdiction that upholds the rule of law with the UK Privy Council as the ultimate court of appeal. Mauritius has a high transparency index, the 3rd in Africa and ranks number one in the Mo Ibrahim Index of good governance. The Financial Services sector is well developed and highly regulated while allowing free flow of capital; total bank assets as a percentage of GDP is more than 300% and banking penetration rate is 90%. The infrastructure that includes digital, transport and energy is world class and keeps developing with the recent construction of the light metro. Human capital is highly skilled and bilingual, able to serve both anglophone and francophone Africa. The country is therefore playing on its key strengths as a centre of excellence, leveraging its solid regulatory and legal framework as well as its reputation  to provide a unified platform to direct investments into key projects that can relaunch the Continent’s fragilized economies.

The country developed itself by creating markets outside of its insularity,  diversifying its economic model from a monocrop economy, the sugar industry, back in 1968 with a GDP per capita of around USD 200 to a high-income country with a GNI per capita of USD 12,740 in 2019 for a threshold of USD 12,535, according to the World Bank report released on July 1st, 2020. The industrialization process in the 70s and 80s  and the rapid growth of the hospitality industry in the 80s and 90s, the development of financial services in the 90s and ICT and professional services more recently, have all contributed to its success. Today the sugar industry only represents 2% of the GDP compared to financial services, that is nearing 13% of GDP, aiming at doubling its contribution within the next ten years.

The Mauritian global business sector has been a key contributor to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows in India over the past fifteen years backed by solid  bilateral relationship and investment agreements. India received more than USD 300 billion in terms of FDI, a third of which went through Mauritius, contributing directly and indirectly to India’s economic and industrial development. With financial flows come also the invisible flows such as expertise, technology, know-how, training, etc. The renegotiation of the bilateral agreements a few years back offered Mauritius the opportunity to reinvent its model that was too heavily reliant on India. The country is now looking towards mainland Africa to migrate best practice, building on its experience to channel funds, skills and expertise. With a high literacy rate and a number of talents that are bilingual, Mauritius can export its human resources to contribute to the development of sectors such as financial services on the Continent. Tourism and Sugar are the other mature industries that have generated a number of talents with the depth and expertise that can help these sectors develop in Africa.

A concrete example to illustrate how Mauritius is driving this agenda, is the creation of the Mauritius Africa Fund in 2014 worth Rs 500 million (USD13m), to develop “Special Economic Zones”, with pioneering countries that include Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana and Madagascar. In doing so, Mauritius is  asserting its ability to manage the risks associated with issues related to lack of good governance, conducive business environment, poor infrastructure and lack of regional integration that are key challenges when investing into the Continent.  Mauritius is taking advantage of its share of development in Africa, where the growth is driven by the three “Cs” that are “commodities”, “consumption” and “corridors”. And the latter is a powerful lever as we are describing here the emerging corridors, that are facilitating trade and investment coming from Asia, Turkey and Brazil. As for the first corridor, Mauritius, through its agreements with India, in the case of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA), and China, with the FTA (Free Trade Agreement), but also the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has a fundamental role to play in facilitating trade and investment between Asia and Africa, and within  Africa. These avenues of collaboration and growth can help both Mauritius and mainland Africa navigate the aftermath of this pandemic resiliently.

With its unique selling proposition of being the only global bank bullish on the African with a presence of more than 18 years in Mauritius, Standard Chartered is leveraging its unique coverage of the Continent and its global products suit to deliver high value-added solutions to network clients. The case in point is the Regional Treasury Centre (RTC) value proposition that provides solutions for liquidity management, procurement and shared service centres to clients managing their regional operations out of their regional office in Mauritius. 

As Africa embarks on its own industrialization journey to create value derived from the abundance of minerals and other resources, it would be beneficial for the Continent to engage in diversifying its economies. The current crisis offers an opportunity to accelerate this key agenda for its sustainable development. Mauritius can play a strategic and catalytic role in this process by creating the right conditions for investors to access the opportunities that arise. While the unprecedent COVID-19 crisis has heavily disturbed the global value chains and presents real challenges to African nations that need to balance the act of preserving the health of populations and relaunching their economic development, this is the right opportunity for them to cast away the overdependence on commodities’ exportations and overreliance on imported manufactured products by diversifying their economies. And Mauritius is uniquely placed to develop win-win solutions in a partnership for shared prosperity with mainland Africa by leveraging its experience and key differentiating capabilities.

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Brand Voice




Kweku Bedu-Addo, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank South Africa & Southern Africa

THE COVID-19 GLOBAL pandemic has brought forward the future. It has brought about humanity’s biggest challenge in a century, to choose between life and livelihoods. In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, banks have played a supporting role to clients and communities. Standard Chartered announced a commitment of US$1 billion globally to support companies in the health delivery supply chain to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and an additional US$50 million to assist communities in presence markets, especially Africa. 

Generally, banks have entered the COVID crisis much stronger and resilient than they did before the global financial crisis of 2008. This resilience is owed in part to the raft of regulatory reforms and stronger supervision since 2008, aimed at ensuring adequate capital and liquidity buffers against market-wide stress and also to avoid future taxpayer bailouts. Bank resilience notwithstanding, there is a catch! Well, several!

Many jurisdictions have placed fighting this pandemic at par with war by employing emergency measures and massive fiscal stimulus packages to provide relief to businesses and households and hopefully to bring the public health crisis under control. Relative to Q1 2020, total lockdown is now perceived as a blunt instrument in responding to the pandemic due to its potential for economic destruction and jeopardizing livelihoods. There is some convergence of views towards recalibrating easing of lockdown alongside placing high emphasis on both corporate and individual responsibility to obey public health recommendations and to observe good hygiene.

As the world emerges from lockdown, the nature and shape of the recovery is an important variable. Whether the recovery is a V-shape, U-shape or a W- shape makes a world of a difference to how banks will respond. We are only beginning to understand and measure the true economic cost of the pandemic, transmitted through lockdown and the deleterious effects on growth and the viability of some sectors. Many companies around the world face the grim prospect of possible collapse, necessitating tough survival decisions on rationalizations, write-downs of asset values and other corporate actions.

National governments need to determine the right balance between restarting economic activity and growth without compromising the capacity of healthcare infrastructure. The ability to do so would in turn influence the nature and shape of the recovery as well as which companies or sectors can survive the new reality, and which would fail. Then there is digitization. Digitization and the new ways of working will define who stays competitive, productive and can survive. Almost every sector or industry and even governments will need to invest in digital solutions to future-proof their survival and relevance.

While banks certainly have a critical role to play during and post crisis, the reality is there is no certainty or clarity on how events might unfold. In the meantime, a better understanding of the nature, virulence and measures to conquer the invisible enemy remains elusive, thereby drawing parallels with the expression “fog of war”.  The unfolding challenges and after-effects of the pandemic are not sequential or in any particular order. Neither will the responses be. Responses need to be diligent, intelligent and wise in order to safeguard the future. The pre-COVID bank resilience is a necessary and comforting condition but insufficient for post-COVID recovery unless banks themselves can successfully navigate the fog of this new war to avoid joining the casualty list that is beginning to grow around the world. They will certainly be dealing with elevated credit risk, strains to capital and liquidity and heightened operational and cyber security risk, among others. Livelihoods and economic security look fragile in the short run as the pandemic exposes cracks, fissures and chasms in the existing socio-economic order globally. This systemic stress could precipitate a repurposing of legacy political, economic, social and security arrangements by national governments which could be consequential to businesses recovery and viability, household incomes and social cohesion. For the banks, it becomes a waiting game!

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Brand Voice

The Secret Formula For Changing Lives In Africa



When Covid-19 struck, Coca-Cola, which has dominated FORBES’ lists as one of the world’s most valuable brands and innovative companies, deployed its resources and leveraged its distribution networks to make a difference in Africa’s economies and communities. Here’s how they did it.

Download and read this BrandVoice here.

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