fivehundred magazine > > Interview with… Benzakour Rachid, Benzakour Law Firm (BLF)

Interview with… Benzakour Rachid, Benzakour Law Firm (BLF)

Morocco continues to sponsor initiatives that make it a pioneering renewable energy force in the African continent. Has your firm seen a significant uptick in international financing for renewable energy projects?  

In line with its national energy strategy that seeks to increase wind and solar power, Morocco is indeed deeply engaged in the development of the renewable energy sector. 

For this purpose, more and more projects are financed by foreign institutions and national and international banks. 

Among themthere is one major program called Morocco Sustainable Energy Financing facility (MSEFF) launched  by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). 

This 110-Million-Euro facility has financedthrough local partner financial institutions, 230 sustainable energy projects in the Moroccan private sector for a total of 100 Million EUR with an additional 30 projects totaling 10 million EUR. 

In this frame, companies benefit from an investment grant anfree technical assistance. 

Bank financing, free technical assistance and investment incentives are bundled into one unique package dedicated to financing investments leading to better quality equipmentreduced operating costs and improved competitiveness. 

The EU NIFis an innovative financial instrument of the European Neighbourhood Policy.  

Its primary objective is to finance key infrastructure projects with a mixture of grants and loans as well as to support private sector development in the Neighbourhood region.  

As a Moroccan firm, in a legal market increasingly populated by foreign firms, what makes your offering distinct for your clients? 

Foreign law firms are limited to provide legal advice only, as they are not admitted to practice before Moroccan Courts and cannot therefore deal in litigation/dispute resolution. 

Foreign law firms may have no experience and encounter a lack of capabilities in assessing some legal issues and how they can be solved in practice, which can for example make the drafting of clauses in contracts improper. 

On the contrary, as a Moroccan firm, raised with the local culture and mentality, but also with an international education, background and experience, we feel completely distinct and appropriate for clients offering them a tailored service and expertise.  

The firm is also offering a complete spectre of legal services and a full portfolio in business law, acting in downstream and upstream, with a main focus on assistance to foreign investment in Morocco and also with a considerable practice/track records in business litigation and arbitration. 

Moreover, the firm has a particular expertise and skills in maritime law/shipping arrest, aviation and financing and energy. 

The firm is multilingual and dealing in Arabic before Courts (as it is the judicial language) and also in French before certain public authorities and in English especially in communicating with clients and drafting certain contracts.  

How has your firm sought to overcome the unique challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic? 

The firm was from the beginning of the Covid– 19 pandemic totally dedicated to clients in this unprecedented time and offering continuous and remote legal assistance to clients for the main specific legal issues they were encountering and especially those concerning contracts and force majeure, corporate/general meeting of shareholders and board of directors issues, commercial lease issues, debt collection, labour issues, tax issues….).  

The establishment of industrial free zones and the Casablanca Finance City promised to transform Morocco’s manufacturing and financial economy with foreign investment. Have you found this to be the case?  

Morocco has indeed several decades of experience in the development of industrial zones. 

The strategy to create specific interlinked sector-specialized areas is part of the Industrial Acceleration Plan launched in 2014 to expand industrial development in the Kingdom between 2014- 2020. 

The benefit to the zones is that they are sector-oriented, developed to service industrial clusters, so that firms operating in the same areas can create interdependent systems to strengthen manufacturing capabilities. 

“The government has made efforts to organize sectors in the same spaces. 

 You do not want things spread out too much, otherwise these industries cannot help each other and create cluster environments,” Melissa Marszalek, business development manager of Midparc Casablanca Free Zone, the aeronautics-focused SEZ , told OBG. 

Casablanca Finance City (CFC) is an African economic and financial hub located at the crossroads of continents. 

Recognized as the leading financial center in Africa and a partner of the largest international financial centers, CFC has built a strong membership community of finance companiesregional headquarters of multinationals, service providers and holding companies. 

CFC offers its members an attractive value proposition and quality “doing business” support to promote the deployment of their activities in Africa driven by the ambition to satisfy its community, 

CFC is committed to promoting the African expertise of its members while stimulating synergies and business opportunities within its network. 

The main missions of CFC are: 

  • The implementation and management of Casablanca Finance City’s development strategy ;
  • Institutional promotion of CFC to international institutions and investors ; 
  • Developing an attractive “CFC value proposition” for international institutions and investors ;
  • Drive new reforms to improve the business environment ;
  • Advise and support companies with the CFC status. 

These missions are subject to a regular monitoring by a steering committee composed of the Minister of Finance and Economics, the Governor of Bank Al Maghrib and delegated representatives of major national financial institutions and authorities. 

Which client-focused innovations have proven especially successful over the course of the past 12 months? 

Over the course of the past 12 months clients dealing in transportation, distribution, digital and energy have been especially successful.  

Since becoming managing partner, what’s surprised you most about running a firm?  

Running a firm is an exciting assignment. 

Being a managing partner means that you are acting upstream and downstream and that you are always seeking that people/staff and clients are satisfied. 

It is challenging rule which requires a broad knowledge in different areas and also a good and deep understanding of the development of the profession and the clients ‘needs especially in these unprecedented time of restructuring/ refinancing, development of the digital and enhance of litigation.  

How has your role/involvement in client-facing work changed since becoming managing partner?  

Being managing partner requires gathering lawyers and staff and making them motivated and dedicated and also satisfying clients by offering them tailored services as the law and regulations are changing fast.  

What advice would you give to the next generation of partners ready to rise in the ranks?  

It is necessary to be passionate and always curious, to listen, to be sensitive to the development of the legal market and to the economy trendsto the clients ‘needs and to the new technology tools.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you? And, are D&I difficult in your jurisdiction?  

Diversity and Inclusion mean that people are unique and welcome. 

Morocco has always be an open country where people are kind and friendly.  

It is a country where individuals from different culture, social level and various religious faiths use to live together. 

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capacity? 

My greatest achievement is to make the firm running in an international level, building strong connections and several alliances and partnerships with international firms and organizations and offering a full and broad spectre of business law services both in advice/consultancy and also in litigation/arbitration, while it remains a total independent law firm. 

Also, the firm is gaining continuously new skills, competence and expertise in certain raising fields. 

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