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Why Orange chose Morocco for its new African headquarters

By Quentin Velluet
Posted on Tuesday, 14 January 2020 18:15

Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa © Francois Grivelet for GJA.

French telecom operator Orange, which has never had an operational headquarters in Africa, has opened shop in the new Casablanca Finance City district.

On a hot Wednesday, 8 January, a group of people gathered on the seventeenth floor of the highest tower of Casablanca Finance City (CFC), the new business district of Morocco’s economic capital.

The Orange Group is inaugurating its new African headquarters. The entire executive committee, some officials, and a handful of Moroccan representatives of the business world, gathered to hear, again, the mantra of Orange CEO Stéphane Richard; “Africa is the future of Orange”.

Located on two floors, the 900 square meter office is designed to accommodate 80 Orange Middle-East and Africa (Omea) employees.

CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa Alioune Ndiaye now oversees 18 countries — since the recent exit from Niger in October — and the company is growing at an average annual rate of 6%, making Omea the operator’s top growth zone.

Political Neutrality

“Orange was the only one of the four major African operators not to have an operational headquarters in Africa. The primary goal was, therefore, to rectify this and bring our decision centre closer to our customers,” explained the Senegalese-Malian executive Ndiaye.

Morocco was chosen, first because the country appears to be a politically neutral choice.

  • “Setting up in Dakar rather than Abidjan would have made the Ivorian side jealous and vice versa,” confided Richard, adding, “Casablanca has become a communications hub in Africa that meets all our expectations”.

Tax incentives and diversification

The second reason for selecting the Cherifian Kingdom is more economic. Until last 12 December last year, the CFC exempted international companies from corporate tax for five years. This incentive, however, has since been restricted.

The Orange Group, with a turnover of nearly 42 billion euro in 2019, intends to continue its current projects, including the continued development of connectivity for fixed Internet and mobile data.

In November, the operator officially launched its terrestrial backbone called “Bafo”, linking its subsidiaries in West Africa. Orange is also part of the round table being finalised for “Simba”, Facebook’s undersea cable that will encircle the continent.

The other priority project is transforming Orange into a service operator. In sub-Saharan Africa, the group is relying on its new banking services, which it hopes will generate 800 million euros in revenues by 2023.

  • “Orange Bank will be launched in the Uemoa zone (West African Economic and Monetary Union) during this quarter, first in Côte d’Ivoire, then in Senegal, and the other member countries,” said Ndiaye.

For the time being, the group already offers microcredit and picocredit in Mali and Madagascar but is backed by third-party partners.

This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique

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