From the banking to the insurance and telecom sectors, Othman Benjelloun has left indelible footprints wherever he goes and has built up an impressive fortune in the process. With a net worth of $1.3 billion, he is not only one of the richest individuals out of Morocco but is also one of the wealthiest from the African continent.
No stranger to affluence, Othman Benjelloun is a descendant of a prominent Moroccan family whose roots go way back. His own father equally built up an impressive fortune and riding on this, he was able to get a head start in the business world. He subsequently forged his own part and is now the owner of the second-largest bank in Africa. A banking legend and a prolific humanitarian, Benjelloun has since diversified his holdings to areas such as telecoms, maritime, and even livestock. He continues to chart a new course with each passing day and is also passionate about giving back to rural communities in his motherland.
Othman Benjelloun First Made His Fortune in the Insurance Sector with RMA Watanya
As earlier stated, Othman Benjelloun is a descendant of the prominent Benjelloun family which migrated from Spain to Morocco in the 10th century. His own father, Haj Abbas Benjelloun, equally did well for himself and made a lot of money from the import-export trade between the 1910s and 1950s. With the money made, the senior Benjelloun sent off his son to obtain an education at the prestigious École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, renowned for its engineering and technology program. Othman dutifully completed his degree in engineering and made his way back to his motherland by 1959. He subsequently joined his older brother Omar in the family business which by now had expanded to steel and aluminum.
Upon joining the family business, Othman Benjelloun did not leave all the hard work to his brother to shoulder. He equally brought his own ideas to the table and soon enough, the Benjelloun family were doing business with popular automakers such as Volvo and GM. From the automotive industry, Othman set his sights on the insurance sector and concluded a €300 million acquisition of RMA (Royale Marocaine d’Assurances) in 1988. RMA Wataniya remains in existence today and is one of the leading insurers in Morocco. It has brought much wealth to its owner and it was with that wealth that Benjelloun was able to expand into the banking sector.
Schools That Othman Benjelloun Attended
- École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.
He Now Owns the Second Largest Bank in Africa – Bank of Africa (Formerly Moroccan Bank for External Trade – BMCE)
Within some years of purchasing RMA, Othman Benjelloun was able to turn the venture into a profit-making machine and it consequently generated significant ROI. With such money at hand, Othman could have very well decided to retire to a life of leisure on some tropical island. He was a more visionary fellow though and decided to plow his profits into the banking sector. Luckily for him, the Moroccan government had just decided to privatize its BMCE Bank and he shelled out the money to buy it.
This was in June 1995 and in the intervening period, BMCE has grown to become the 2nd largest bank on the African continent. Under the leadership of Othman Benjelloun, the bank has expanded to 697 branches in Morocco alone as well as a further 560 branches across the length and breadth of Africa.
Beyond the shores of the continent, BMCE also has offices in Asia as well as several European countries, including the U.K., Netherlands, Spain, France, Belgium, and the U.A.E. The bank is now valued at over $5 billion and Benjelloun, who is not only the chairman but also a major stakeholder, continues reaping good profits.
His FinanceCom Holding Company Has Spread Its Tentacles to Maritime Transport and Telecoms, Media & Real Estate
Othman Benjelloun now holds sway as the president of FinanceCom, a holding company under which he has aggregated all of his business interests. One of the major arms of the company is its maritime transport subsidiary, Africa Morocco Links. Created in 2016, it is geared towards ensuring the smooth running of transport operations for Moroccans living abroad during the summer. The company is targeting seven ships across four lines but they currently have two vessels operating on one route.
Benjelloun also has significant investments in the telecoms sector. He initially joined hands with two European telecom companies, Telefonica and Portugal Telecom, to set up Meditel in his native Morocco. The partnership was able to secure the 2nd mobile telephone license in Morocco, for which they paid €1 billion, and commenced business in 1999. Benjelloun would later buy out the duo of Telefonica and Portugal Telecom in 2009 and a year later, sold a 49% stake in Meditel to French mobile operators, Orange, for €640 million. Meditel has now been rebranded to Orange and has tens of millions of subscribers. It owns a fiber network stretching thousands of kilometers and was the first company to introduce the 4G network in Morocco.
Companies Belonging to Othman Benjelloun
- Bank of Africa (Chairman and CEO)
- BMCE Capital (Chairman)
- RMA Watanya (Chairman Supervisory Board)
- BMCE Bank (Chairman/CEO)
They Also Own the Biggest Ranch in Africa – Ranch Adarouch
Another area where Othman Benjelloun is determined to make a mark is livestock production. The Moroccan billionaire owns a 95.99% stake in Ranch Adarouch, one of the largest in Africa. Originally established in 1969, the ranch boasts of about 5,000 herds of cattle grazing on 11,000 hectares of land. They produce organic red meat as their cattle are fed with fodder not treated with either herbicides or pesticides. In addition to the ranch, Othman Benjelloun is also the owner of the first private slaughterhouse in Morocco. Established in 2010, BioBeef has the capacity of slaughtering around 5,000 cattle and sheep apiece each year.
Other companies under the umbrella of FinanceCom include BMCE Capital, the investment banking division of Bank of Africa. They also own several media organizations including La Tribune newspaper, Medi 1 TV, Medi 1 Radio, 2M TV, and 2M Radio. In the real estate sector, FinanceCom is part of a multibillion-dollar project to build a tech city in the Moroccan town of Tangiers. The project is expected to play host to 200 Chinese companies.
Othman Benjelloun’s Board Memberships
- Bank of Africa
- RMA Watanya
- CTM (unknown – 2019)
- Espirito Santo Financial Group (2002 – 2014)
Othman Benjelloun and His Wife Leïla Have Built Hundreds of Schools in the Rural Parts of Morocco
Benjelloun has conquered the banking, telecoms, and industry sectors in the course of his career but the thing that is a source of extraordinary contentment for him, and which he deems the project of his life, is his charitable foundation – BMCE Foundation. Headed by his wife, Dr. Leïla Mezian Benjelloun, the foundation is committed to fighting illiteracy in rural areas as well as promoting environmental protection.
With regards to the latter, the BMCE Foundation has set up about a hundred schools across many villages in Morocco. These schools employ professionally-trained teachers to instruct students, who would otherwise be herding goats, in the mornings. In the evenings, these schools are converted to community centers where adult education, training, village meetings, and local enterprise are held. To date, the BMCE foundation has trained about 29,000 youngsters and 5,000 adults. They have also provided electricity and potable water for the communities where their schools are located. Such accomplishments have fetched Benjelloun and his wife several awards, including the 2016 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award.
List of Awards Conferred on Othman Benjelloun
- Arab banker of the year 2007
- Officier de l’Ordre de Trône du Royame du Maroc
- Commander of the royal order of the polar star of Sweden
- Medal of the commander of the national order of the lion of the Senegalese Republic
- 2019 Middle East Institute Visionary Award (jointly with wife)
- Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award 2016 (jointly with wife)