military mission

Meet the man who wants to build Morocco’s first armoured vehicle

By Rym Bousmid

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Posted on June 20, 2023 12:21

 © Youssef Mandour, chairman and founder of the FAR Group international holding company, based in the US.
Youssef Mandour, chairman and founder of the FAR Group international holding company, based in the US.

Youssef Mandour, a Casablanca-born US Army veteran, is the chairman and founder of the international holding FAR Group, based in the US. He wants to produce the first 100% Moroccan armoured vehicle.

Until a few years ago, nobody in Morocco had ever heard of him. Today, the 40-year-old businessman presents himself as a pure product of the American dream, with a visceral attachment to his homeland.

A meticulous communicator, the man who goes by Joseph in the US delivers his speeches in both English and Arabic, always donning a perfectly tailored suit and a large pair of prescription eyeglasses.

Speaking to the International Forum for Industrial Zones in December 2022, in reference to the Atlas Lions’ prowess at the World Cup, which was taking place at the same time, he said: “For 22 years I’ve dreamt of hearing my son, born in the United States to an American mother, call himself Moroccan. He’s never done it. This morning, he called me from Florida to say ‘Dad, I’m proud to be Moroccan.’”

Mandour, the chairman and founder of the international holding company FAR Group, has succeeded in the land of Uncle Sam. He now wants to reinvest in his native country, where he has promised to create hundreds of jobs and help develop the local defence industry.

One of his stated objectives is to manufacture the first armoured military vehicle, 100% ‘Made in Morocco’, from December 2024. Production would be carried out by the African branch of FAR Group, created “to meet the security challenges facing the countries of the continent”.

1) Growing up in Séfrou

Born in Casablanca to an industrialist father in 1981, Mandour grew up at the foot of the Middle Atlas mountains, in Séfrou, before returning to live in the city of his birth at the age of 14. 

He passed his baccalauréat there in June 1999, then decided to try his luck in the US in August of the same year. He was initially on a tourist visa before being granted a student visa on the spot, while doing a series of odd jobs alongside his studies.

2) Opportunism

It wasn’t because he wanted to enlist that he ended up in the army, but “out of opportunism”, he says. “An American soldier can study at university for free, so I went for it.”

In the army, which he describes as a “great school”, he learnt “unwavering discipline”, which he says enabled him to “give full rein to his talent and guarantee his personal and professional success”.

3) US Army veteran

Between September 2003 and January 2007, Mandour was a programme manager for the US Army in Arlington, Virginia. 

There, he was responsible for the direction, coordination, implementation and control of projects related to the US National Guard – from budget management to data analysis. 

Now a beneficiary of the title ‘wounded US Army veteran’, he has turned his hand to providing defence services for a number of companies.

4) Graduate in international relations

After leaving the army, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, ‘International/Global Studies’, from American Military University (AMU). 

The programme focuses on foreign policy analysis, international organisations, global development, international relations theory, and the interconnection of the world’s economies, societies and cultures.

5) Iraq

For almost two years, Mandour was an advisor to a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Najaf, Iraq. This type of unit, made up of officers, diplomats and experts, was also set up by the US government in Afghanistan. 

Their objective is to help the local authorities “govern better”. The US provided technical expertise and helped to draw up a strategy to support the Iraqi government, taking into account tribal considerations and the influence of religious leaders in the southern part of the country.

6) Aliron International

After these two professional experiences and until 2017, he held the position of senior executive vice president of Aliron International in Washington, a company that supplies the US government with cutting-edge solutions. 

These include information technology, cybersecurity, data analysis, open-source intelligence, and professional healthcare solutions and services. This experience inspired him to create Sanford Federal, now FAR Group.

7) The boss of FAR Group

Founded and headed by Mandour since January 2018, this holding company, headquartered in Stafford, Virginia, is an international provider of defence equipment and material services. 

The group is made up of six business units, each dedicated to a specific sector of activity: professional services, logistics, construction and infrastructure, military products, information technology (particularly cybersecurity) and subcontracting.

8) Offices in Morocco

Since 2018, FAR Group has had a branch in Tangiers employing around 100 people, “all of them managers with a master’s degree”, according to the CEO, who plans to take on a further 200 people at this site. 

In October 2021, Mandour announced another investment for the following year, in Dakhla, Western Sahara. “It would be an expression of my gratitude to my country and my way of contributing to its development,” he said. The aim is to create 500 jobs over the next five years.

9) An armoured vehicle ‘made in Morocco’

According to statements made by its CEO at the International Forum for Industrial Zones in 2022, the FAR Group aims to become a leader in the construction of military vehicles, not just in Morocco, but globally. 

The aim is to build more than 1,000 vehicles a year by December 2024. The project, revealed at the Industry Meeting Days held in Tangiers in April 2023, involves a MMV (multi-mission) 4×4 troop transport vehicle.

10) President of a football club?

In October 2021, against all expectations, Mandour expressed his intention to preside over the football team of Ittihad Riadh (IR) in Tangiers, the city that houses the Moroccan headquarters of his holding company. 

However, in December 2021, it was Mohamed Ahekan who was unanimously elected IR president, shattering the FAR Group boss’s footballing ambitions. Last January, the club, which had been facing financial difficulties for several years, saw a certain Mohamed Cherkaoui replace the now-resigned Ahekan. Will Mandour make another attempt to rescue IR?

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