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Banking

Attijariwafa stakes claims south of the Sahara

Led by its confident and energetic chief executive, Ismail Douiri, Moroccan bank Attijariwafa is building a big franchise in sub-Saharan Africa as well as consolidating its ties with expatriate Moroccans in Europe.

It’s a steamy mid-September and l’atmosphere in downtown Casablanca could well be mistaken for a languid late summer in Marseilles.

In myriad chic eateries, Fashionable Young Things in oversized Jackie O sunglasses tap instant messages to each other into new iPhones over café au lait, while their male equivalents motor by in late-model Mercs and SUVs.

It’s a similar scene in the city’s southwestern beach suburbs at Africa’s biggest shopping centre, a complex that could have been transplanted from Singapore. With its array of aspirational brands, the Morocco Mall has in the two years since its opening quickly become the weekend playground of Morocco’s expanding middle class.

And after Morocco’s weathering of both the European economic meltdown and the worst of the Arab Spring that has coursed through its Islamic fraternity, ‘Casa’ seems rather pleased with itself these days.

Although wounded by Europe’s protracted crisis – as many as 4 million Moroccans live in and send remittances from the continent – and so far dodging the sclerosis that came with the Arab Spring revolutions elsewhere in the region, the economy here has proved resilient. GDP grew 3.2% last year.

The biggest port and city in the Maghreb, and its commercial capital too, Casablanca has always been regarded as cosmopolitan, a city as much a draw for northern-bound Africans on the make as it is profoundly Moroccan with a distinct European vestige.

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