The University of Alabama Class of 2020 EMBAs have arrived in Seoul to begin their international trip. The eight-day trip will take them from Seoul, South Korea to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The international experience is part of the global business course taught in the final term of the program. Students are immersed in business and cross-cultural experiences.
Considered transformative by our students, the trip includes visits, tours, presentations by senior executives of local and global companies, exposing them to how business is conducted in those countries and the region. Also, our students will be consulting with Friends International, applying their expertise and business knowledge to work on critical issues in growing their opportunities in international markets.
Ranking 12th among the world’s largest economic powers and 4th in Asia, South Korea is famous for its spectacular rise from one of the poorest countries in the world to a developed, high-income country in just one generation. During the global financial crisis, the country maintained a stable economy and even experienced economic growth during the peak of the crisis.
Cambodia is among a few economies in the East Asia and Pacific region that continues to perform well. The economy is projected to remain robust, although the average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth decelerated to 7.0 percent in 2019 it continues to be driven primarily by the expansion of exports, investment, and internal demand.
Following the trip, students may elect to do an optional post-trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat. Students return after the trip to complete their spring term classes before graduation in May.
For more information on The University of Alabama Executive MBA international trip and how to apply for the program, visit the UAEMBA website or contact Cheryl Altemara at 205.348.4501 or email@example.com.
By Denise Vickers
There are few places in the world where on one day you can be holding a rough diamond worth $11 Million, and the next be canvassing the streets of a township where a family of five subsists on less than $11 a day.
One minute you can be strolling the halls of a high-tech innovation hub where an entrepreneur seeks success by developing an animated safari video game and the next be navigating the bumpy roads of the bush stalking real-life wild game.
Simply put. Southern Africa is a land of extremes.
Wealth and poverty.
Modern and primitive.
Stunning and deplorable.
During its final semester, the 2019 University of Alabama Executive MBA class traveled to South Africa and Botswana as part of their International Business course. “The goal of the trip is to experience other cultures and to get [the students] a little bit out of their comfort zone,” said Dr. Sharif Melouk, Associate Dean of the Manderson Graduate School of Business. “Coming to areas of emerging markets and economies is a good learning experience. The students see other people, alternate perspectives, and how they live. It is quite valuable and gives everyone fresh perspective when they go home,” Melouk added.
The Tuscaloosa and Huntsville EMBA cohorts began the first leg of their trip in Cape Town on February 23 with a high-altitude excursion to Table Mountain, reaching the summit via a revolving cable car. The next day they toured the spectacular scenery of the Cape Peninsula with its gem-like blue water and impressive views from the lighthouse at the Cape of Good Hope. From there, the students delighted in observing the playful personalities of the endangered African Penguins that have colonized on the beach in Simon’s Town.
The students applied their newly-acquired business skills-strategy, marketing, economics and global business-by delivering a consulting project to Adri Williams, owner of Khayelitsha Cookies. Williams wants to export her all-natural, handmade cookies to the United States, and the student presentations focused primarily on marketing channels to successfully do that. “I’m standing here and I can tell you, I feel with every single fiber in my being that today was the day that we got a breakthrough into the American market. And, I know with the help of this group of students we are going to start supplying America very soon,” Williams proclaimed.
Apart from the cookie business, Adri inspired the students with her passion for helping unskilled, uneducated and previously unemployed women of the Khayelitsha township. They had the opportunity to work alongside the women in the cookie factory rolling cookie dough and performing various production tasks. Others helped plant vegetables in the staff garden and paint a mural in the breakroom. HEMBA 10 student Jonathan Lewis described it as sobering, “To see some of those women in situations that they wouldn’t be able to make the wages or have the jobs, if not for Khayelitsha cookies, that was something that welled my spirit. I’d like to hope that there would be more organizations that would put it all on the line like she (Adri) did. Sell everything. Buy it. Take on all the risk in order to turn an organization like that into something that really impacts the community. It was definitely an inspiration and one I won’t soon forget.”
That evening, the group walked the unpaved, litter-lined streets of the Khayelitsha township where they learned about the realities of living in makeshift homes. Families welcomed the students into the small structures constructed of sheet metal where in most cases a single pipe provided cold water but no other indoor plumbing for basic needs like bathing and bodily functions exists. A row of community portable toilets services dozens of families.
For the second leg of the journey, the students flew north to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. There they met with entrepreneurs at the Botswana Innovation Hub and also learned about the diamond supply chain and valuation process at De Beers Group Sightholder Sales; as well as how the partnership between the government of Botswana and De Beers has transformed Botswana from one of the poorest nations in the world to one filled with economic vitality.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip was the evening spent at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve. The group boarded open-air vehicles and guides trekked them across the African bush spotting a variety of indigenous game animals like impalas, kudu, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, and warthogs.
They capped the evening off with an unforgettable bush braai (barbecue) that featured a feast of grilled meats, chakalaka (a spicy dish of onions, tomatoes, and beans) and roasted butternut squash. The percussive beat of traditional African song and dance arrested everyone’s attention and united everyone in a celebratory spirit. At that moment, there’s no doubt many of the students realized the richness of the African experience, the value of their UA EMBA education and the pricelessness of the relationships they made along the way.
Denise Vickers is General Manager at WFXG Fox 54 in Augusta, Georgia. She is also a student in The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Program. She will graduate in May 2019. Before joining WFXG, she was Vice President of News for WHNT News 19 in Huntsville.
We are scaling the sacred Inca religious site Machu Picchu at close to 8,000 feet. The effects of high altitude are being felt with each step we climb but it is worth experiencing the lack of oxygen. The vastness and immense beauty of the 15th-century citadel in Peru is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The University of Alabama Executive MBA Class of 2018 began their international trip to Peru and Ecuador by visiting Machu Picchu and Cusco on February 22. Machu Picchu’s glimpse into the Inca Empire’s crowning achievement is a creation of escarpments, terraces and giant walls surrounded by a vast vista. A roughly two-hour train ride followed by a two-hour bus ride delivers us to Cusco surrounding us in carved balconies, bold architecture, ruins, and the colorful Plaza de Armas. Students visited the local San Pedro Market, the Sacred Valley and sampled pisco, cuy (guinea pig) and purchased alpaca clothing.
From Cusco, the EMBAs traveled to Lima, Peru. Coursework and culture co-mingled with company visits, a culinary class, and a chance to see Lima while biking or surfing. The international trip is part of the students’ global business course taken in their final semester.
As part of the course, the EMBA class (combining students from the graduating Huntsville and Tuscaloosa programs) work on a consulting project. This year EMBA students worked with MEDLIFE, an American non-profit organization that partners with low-income communities in Latin America and Africa to improve their access to medicine, education, and community development initiatives, through Service Learning Trips and the MEDLIFE Project Fund.
Our EMBA Class of 2018 worked with MEDLIFE to deliver a long-term strategic plan to allow the organization to increase its income and to develop, implement and market a new Service Learning Trip. Currently, MEDLIFE focuses mainly on pre-med students but is looking to create new SLTs for students in other university disciplines.
After visiting with Retail Head Juan Carlos del Alcázar at Financiera Effectiva, Acting Executive Director Alberto Ñecco at ProInversion and meeting with Edo van Hassel an entrepreneur in Peru, the students departed for Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Guayaquil is the largest city and chief port of Ecuador. The beautiful Simón Bolívar promenade flows along the Guayas River, and the colorful Las Peñas homes, cafes, and shops surround and lead up to Santa Ana Hill where the chapel and lighthouse surrender to a magnificent view.
General Manager Andrés Casal and CFO Jose Antonio Ponce at Concorsio Nobis presented and invited the students to join them for a spectacular sunset view of the city. Sweet & Coffee had packages of coffee for the students to take home after their manufacturing visit. The students also heard from Guillermo Lasso, CEO of Bank of Guayaquil, who ran for president of Ecuador in 2017, and VP-Marketing Communications & Corporate Affairs Sebastian Mantilla of Nestlé.
The international trip concluded at La Hacienda La Danesa. Students and guests heard from CEO of La Hacienda La Danesa Niels Olsen and CEO of New World Spirits Fernando Crespo. The afternoon included a tour and history of the plantation, a sample of cacao nibs, and a farewell dinner in a tranquil setting.
So how do you finally end a trip that begins with a bucket list location? You offer an optional once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands. Thirty-one of the UA EMBA students and staff jumped at the opportunity to visit the Galapagos. On Santa Cruz and Bartolomé islands we encountered giant land and sea turtles, sea lions, stingrays, lizards, crabs and sharks. Locals say the sharks are so well-fed that they do not bother humans. We all made it back limbs intact. North Seymour is for the birds and birders – a nesting ground for frigates and blue-footed boobies. Exploring lava caves and climbing the volcanic cone Pinnacle Rock, left us all wishing we had more time.
The EMBA Class of 2018 will be completing their degrees in a few more weeks. Graduation is May 5. Without exception the international trip to Peru and Ecuador will be a highlight of their program. A bucket list of places to visit is unique to each person, but it should include some adventure. It should provide us with an experience not found in one’s ordinary life. It may even transform us and change our viewpoint. And, it should leave a lasting impression that when we look back on our time there, we would say how fortunate we have been.
The University of Alabama Executive MBA Class of 2018 will be visiting Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lima, Peru and Guayaquil, Ecuador Feburary 23-March 3, with an optional post trip to the Galapagos Islands March 3-6.
The UA EMBA Program has been taking students abroad since 2003. We have visited 20 countries, 35 cities and over 135 companies. The trip is a requirement of the International Business course taught in the final semester. A benefit for our EMBA alumni is that trip is always open for them to attend. A guest package is also made available with many students bringing a family member.
The trip is considered a highlight of the program including visits to a wide range of industries and a consulting project focusing on a social enterprise and a community project in Lima, Peru. No trip is complete without exploring the culture and sights of the cities we visit. The upcoming trip begins with Machu Picchu, located 7,972 feet high in the Andes Mountains showcasing an impressive five-mile and 3,000 stone step man-made wonder. A tour of Cusco, the “Archaelogical Capital of the World” and an afternoon at a Hacienda in Guayaquil are included.
A special tradition for our EMBAs has been the optional “Bucket List” location. In 2018 the post trip is to the Galapagos Islands. This once in a lifetime location will allow students to observe the fragile ecosystem and get up close and personal with the unique animal species that populate this magnificent archipelago and surrounding waters.
More than half of all American Fair Trade Partners are in Latin America, making the choice of these countries simple. The selection of Peru and Ecuador allows us to compare and contrast between the two Latin American countries.
According to the U.S. State Department, “Peru has had two decades of pro-growth, yielding unprecedented economic expansion, low inflation, investment-grade status for the country’s debt, significant foreign investment in mining and manufacturing and a dramatic drop in poverty rates. The U.S. and Ecuador share a history of partnership and cooperation, and have mutual interests in reducing poverty, fostering Ecuador’s economic development, increasing trade and addressing environmental conservation and biodiversity.”
Our travel agency for 2018 is The Austral Group. Austral has been conducting trips for Executive MBA programs for almost a decade. Headquartered in Santiago, Chile they have an international staff of 47 organizing programs throughout the U.S. and Latin America. Austral is focused on creating an extraordinary international education experience for students. Dynamic, energetic and truly passionate about what they do.
For more information on the international trip and how you can enroll in the UA EMBA, contact Cheryl Altemara at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 205.348.4501.
The first thing you need to learn when you arrive in Saigon is that when you cross the street you look straight ahead and never at the oncoming motorcyclists racing around you. Just keep walking and they will adjust to your gait. If you stop, well, you’re a hood ornament.
Our University of Alabama Executive MBA Class of 2017 arrived in Saigon, Vietnam on February 25, to begin the first leg of their international study abroad trip. The students not only learned to navigate the streets, but many of them enjoyed a foodie motorbike tour where they sampled local cuisine at stops along the way. But nothing compared to experiencing the streets on the back of a bike.
The EMBA study abroad trip is part of the International Business course taught in the final semester. It is a highlight of the 16-course program. The trip focuses on strategy, marketing, finance, economics and global business. This past February and March students met with senior officials at companies in Saigon, Vietnam and Singapore.
In addition to visiting with Huntingdale and Esquel Garment Manufacturing in Saigon, the students delivered two NGO consulting projects to Mekong Quilts and La Petite Epicerie.
Mekong Quilts main aim is to create sustainable employment for underprivileged women in remote and rural regions of Vietnam and Cambodia. La Petite Epicerie partners with a network of small farmers in southern Vietnam committed to produce premium food with strict standards ensuring the best end product.
The EMBAs presented to the companies a detailed expansion strategy and global business model on entering the U.S. market (La Petite Epicerie) and for growing its U.S. presence (Mekong Quilts). No trip to Saigon is complete without a visit to the Mekong Delta. Coursing the river, the students stopped to sample local food and a few even braved a taste of rattlesnake-infused Vodka.
The class continued their trip with a stay in Singapore. Students visited healthcare company Edwards Lifesciences and Open Port, the first neutral mobile platform connecting shippers and carriers. They also met with iProperty, a leading real estate website company; FMC Technologies, a global provider of equipment and services for the energy industry; DBS Bank; Facebook and media management GlobeCast.
According to Barry Navarre, Business Development Manager at Southern Telecom, “The greatest benefit of being on the UA EMBA trip is the exposure to different cultures and how those cultural differences impact business environments.” In Singapore students took in a city tour of Little India and culturally-rich Chinatown with its temples and traditional shop houses. With the sweeping view of the harbor from their hotel, the students took advantage of visiting the many sites and nightlife in their evening hours. And, if Vietnam and Singapore were not enough for one visit, half of the class extended their trip with an optional post to Koh Samui, Thailand for another stamp in the passport. The optional post trips have become very popular with the EMBAs for providing “bucket list” trip excursions to not-to-be-missed destinations.
The University of Alabama Executive MBA revealed this weekend that the Class of 2017 will be visiting Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and Singapore February 24-March 4. The trip is a requirement of the IBA 550 International Business course the EMBAs take in their final semester. In addition to students the trip is also open to EMBA alumni and spouses.
During the trip the students will visit a wide cross-section of industries, participate in case studies with companies, as well as conduct two consulting projects focusing on social enterprise in Ho Chi Minh. Participants will also take in the sights of Ho Chi Minh, explore the Mekong Delta to learn more about the locals’ way of life: their homes, transportation, work and traditions; and they will also tour Singapore’s colorful districts of Little India and Chinatown. It is a packed trip that will give maximum exposure to our students and their guests.
Our selection of Vietnam and Singapore allows us to compare/contrast between a developing and developed country. Vietnam is a powerful economic force in the region with vast agricultural exports and a high rate of foreign direct investment. The GDP for 2016 is $510.7B with a 6% GDP growth. Unemployment is 2.3% for a population of 90.6M and a median age of 25. Singapore’s successful free-market economy and urban development strategy boasts a GDP of $452.7B for 2016 and a 2.2% GDP growth in 2Q16. Unemployment is at 2.7% for a population of 5.5M.
Participants will also have an opportunity to do a post trip March 4-7, to Koh Samui, an island off the coast of Thailand. Travel+Leisure describes Koi Samui as “over-looked tropical treasure where you will discover small villages built entirely of bamboo; lush jungle interiors; turquoise-fringed beaches and a local culture giving you a taste of the region’s Asian traditions and a unique heritage preserved in hidden Buddhist temples with their iconic, gilded-red roofs, and resilient fishing villages on the Southern coast.”
International Study Programs (ISP) will once again serve as our travel agent and is working with the EMBA administration and faculty to design an outstanding international academic program. ISP has been providing premium, customized educational trips for business students for over 17 years. This year’s trip to Morocco and Spain was a rewarding cultural experience for our students with exceptional corporate visits. We hope to expand on our last trip to make the 2017 trip to Vietnam and Singapore a once in a lifetime experience.
Donna Blackburn, Director, EMBA Program
For more information on the UA EMBA International trip or in applying to the EMBA Program, contact Cheryl Altemara at email@example.com or call 205.348.4501.
This is the final story of a four part series on The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Class of 2016’s international trip to Morocco and Spain from February 27 to March 8, 2016.
Executive MBA Programs throughout the world have provided international trips to their students to further global business, political, historical and cultural understanding. For The University of Alabama Executive MBA, like most EMBA programs, the trip is a required part of an international business course. However, over the last couple of years, UA EMBA has offered an optional extension at the end of the required trip. The optional trip offers the students an opportunity to extend their cultural and historical understanding of a country as well as fulfill a dream to visit a bucket list location. In the past we have made visits to Valipariso, Chile, Machu Picchu, Peru, Izmir and Ephesus, Turkey and this year to Barcelona, Spain.
Thirty-three of the sixty EMBA students, alumni, staff and spouses journeyed to the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region on March 5. Defined by quirky art and architecture, imaginative food and a vibrant street life. We arrived by high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona. The trip took two-and-a-half hours and afforded us a beautiful view of the countryside. Upon arrival we took in a breathtaking view atop the city looking over the Marina, then we explored the Raval, a large boulevard crowded with pedestrians and a fountain that locals swear that if you drink from you will return again one day to Barcelona.
After checking in at our hotel we made our way to La Sagrada Família. This beautiful and haunting site was the obsession of famed architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s influence touches all of Barcelona, but none is more amazing than this magnificent temple.
The first stone was set in 1882, and in 1883, Gaudí joined the project and transformed it, adding his personal touch of Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. He devoted the last years of his life to the building, but died at the age of 76, before he had the chance to finish his masterpiece. At the time of his death, less than 25% of the building was finished. Today 65% has been completed with an anticipated completion date of 2026.
In the afternoon, we separated to shop, visit Gaudí’s La Pedrera (a family residence designed by the architect with a rooftop that conjured up scenes from Dr. Seuss) or Pauk Güell, stroll the Raval, or have a drink in the local cafes. For many of us, it was still hard to adjust to having dinner so late. Restaurants do not open until 8:00 p.m., and most locals do not dine until 10:00 p.m. Although by now, we were getting accustomed to mid afternoon tapas, Sangria or hot chocolate to tied us over until dinner.
On Sunday we spent the day touring Caves Montau de Sadurni, a small winery, founded in 1530, located outside the city. No visit is complete without a sampling of the winery’s white and red wines and a country lunch of salad, olives, sliced meats and sausages, tomatoes, rice and for dessert flan.
The next day we spent in Tarragona, the capital of Hispania Citerior during the Roman Empire (its origins date back to around 218 BC). We strolled along the old Amphitheater, Placa de la Font, Cathedral of Santa Maria, and the Central Market. The afternoon was spent at the impressive Cistercian Monastery, El Poblet, founded in 1150, it is found hidden in the mountains. Although we did not see any monks we found solace and beautiful vistas to photograph, as well as icons to take home of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalina, who according to legend slew a dragon.
We returned to Barcelona for a group dinner above the city at Restaurante Mirabé. The beautiful views of the city lit below brought us full circle from the site overlooking the Marina the day we arrived. We recounted our journey and the many lovely people we had met and the memories made. One last toast to Morocco and Spain and to more journeys ahead.
This is part three of a four part series on The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Class of 2016’s international trip to Morocco and Spain from February 27 to March 8, 2016.
It should come as no surprise that Alabama LOVES football. Can I get a Roll Tide! So if you are a University of Alabama Executive MBA Class of 2016 student on an International Trip in Madrid, Spain, where do you go first? You visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, stadium and home to Real Madrid or Real, as the team is commonly known, one of the most widely recognized and supported teams in the world. 2015 was a great year for Alabama and Real.
In 2015, Real was crowned Champions of Europe for the ninth time after beating Olympiacos in the Final Four, and Alabama took home the CFP National Championship after beating Clemson. In the world of football it’s important to pay your respects. So, we bought a ticket and drank a toast to Real and Madrid. After the stadium we had a quick tour through the city where sites were pointed out and notes taken of places to visit, we then headed to our hotel.
As we arrived we faced a sea of media, spotlights and cameras. Our hotel, as it turns out, was located directly across from the Congreso de los Diputados (Congress of Deputies or the lower house of Spain’s legislative branch). We had arrived on March 2, 2016 to our tour guides exclaiming, “Welcome to Spain, we have no government.” According to Reuters, during this week, “the leader of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez, was unsuccessful in winning enough parliamentary votes to become prime minister, resulting in a new round of talks or the possibility that Spaniards will have to return to the ballot box in June for new elections.” Everyone quickly and quietly rolled luggage over cables, smiled for cameras (we probably no doubt ended up on Madrid’s nightly news shows strolling through the backgrounds), checked into our hotel and promptly headed out to the nearest Tapas bar or for a cooking class.
There is no dish or drink more identifiable with Spain than paella and sangría. Some of the EMBA students and spouses put their culinary skills to work in recreating the Spanish rice dish rich with meats, seafood, vegetables and spices at Madrid’s Private cooking school the Cooking Point. They also unlocked the secrets to preparing sangría. As with all cooking classes a final tasting was in order for our newly minted Master Chefs.
On Thursday, we visited the Headquarters of BBVA, a multinational group providing financial services in over 35 countries and to 66 million customers throughout the world. During the presentation, Mr. Miguel Cardoso, Chief Economist BBVA Research reported that “1) the world economy will continue to grow but at a slower pace than in past with more risks, 2) Spain’s economy has started 2016 with positive signs pointing to continuation of trends set in 2015, and 3) due to uncertainties, internal and external, forecasting growth at 2.7% for this year.” BBVA also reported that they were investing for new ideas and ways of doing things rather than just for profitability as a long-term strategy.
In the afternoon the students visited Genomica, Spain’s leading molecular diagnostics company. The company’s mission is to improve the current approach to molecular diagnostics in the life sciences by providing reliable and automated diagnostic tools. Genomica’s CEO and General Manager Rosario Cospedal talked about Genomica’s development of diagnostic tests for human papillomavirus, viral respiratory diseases and providing analysis of DNA, legal and forensic medicine and technology transfer service and toured students through the laboratories.
On Friday, students visited Deimos Space and met with General Director Miguel Belló Mora. Deimos specializes in the design, engineering and development of solutions and systems integration in the aerospace, satellite systems, remote sensing, information systems and telecommunications network sectors. Students enjoyed interesting discussions regarding the Galileo Project, mining on the moon, Don Quixote Project (to deflect asteroids), tracking satellites along with Deimos’ work in energy, transport and tracking solutions and services.
The final company visit belonged to the Grey Group, one of the world’s top advertising and marketing organizations. Grey operates in 154 cities in 96 countries serving one fifth of the Fortune 500. CEO Javier Suso led the EMBA teams in a case study on the revitalization of the Grey Group.
As with all good things they must come to an end. Well, at least for some. We ended our official trip with a farewell dinner and (because it’s Spain) a Flamenco Show at the Corral de la Moreria Restaurante. And, yes there was paella and sangria, and dancing. Corral de la Moreria is quite famous. Not sure if they would post our pictures up on the walls with Ron Wood, Omar Sharif, James Cameron, Harrison Ford, Sarah Jessica Parker, Richard Gere and Justin Beber – but we did feel we deserved a spot. I mean, come on Roll Tide! The next morning half of the students, spouses and faculty returned home while the other half extended the stay with an optional trip to Barcelona. We were not ready to say goodbye just yet.
This is part two of a four-part series on The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Class of 2016’s international trip to Morocco and Spain from February 27 to March 8, 2016.
Hate to tell you, but there never was a Rick’s Café in Casablanca until after the movie. No Rick, no Sam, no Ilsa or Victor – never existed – except on a Warner Brothers’ back lot in Hollywood. And, yet we just passed Rick’s Café on Boulevard Sour Jdid on our way to our next company visit.
“It was actually an American (Kathy Kriger) who upon visiting Morocco decided to bring the famous gin joint to life in 2004,” this according to our tour guide. The University of Alabama Executive MBA students took note and many made plans at that moment to dine at Rick’s and to hear Sam play that song “As Time Goes By.”
It’s Tuesday, March 1, 2016, and we are on our second leg of a three-part journey for the EMBA Class of 2016 international trip to Morocco and Spain. Our time in Casablanca will be brief, less than 36 hours. Our first visit was to Marsa Maroc, the national leader in the management of port terminals. Mr. Rachid Hadi, Executive Board Member and Operations Director of the Casablanca Port, and Ms. Nawal Taji, Head of Communication Services spoke to us on lean manufacturing and quality improvement, union negotiations and international trade challenges. In addition, students toured one of their nine ports including the terminal for processing and storing cars.
“Global traffic has increased for 2016, including the exporting of cars, which increased 25% since January,” according to Taji. Well connected in trade lines throughout the world they see continued growth for their company. Marsa Maroc also hosted the students at their company’s Club Resort where employees can relax, swim and play tennis.
The afternoon focused on Morocco’s thriving automotive industry with a visit to Toyota Morocco and a meeting with Country Manager Adil Bennani. Toyota Morocco is a subsidiary of group ALI (Abdul Latif Jameel), one of the biggest Toyota distributors in the world. Established in 1996 with the main aim to import, distribute and sell vehicles, spare parts and accessories and provide quality service. According to Bennani, “ALI operates in 17 countries and three continents.”
When asked about differences in the market place, Bennani pointed out “in the U.S. the average age of a car is 11 years, in Europe 10 years and in Morocco it is 17 years.” The average consumer in Morocco is not loyal to a make or model of car. They look for value. Taxes are very high on gas, which explains why 90% use diesel as opposed to 3% in U.S. who drive diesel cars.
Following our visits everyone spent their last evening in Casablanca visiting the Hassan II Mosque, last minute shopping in the Medina, dining at Rick’s or strolling along the Corniche (beachfront district) or downtown. Tomorrow we fly to Madrid, but for tonight here’s looking at you … Casablanca.
This is part one of a four-part series on The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Class of 2016’s international trip to Morocco and Spain, February 27-March 8, 2016.
Morocco conjures up a world glimpsed from movies. Say the word Morocco and you immediately transport yourself to scenes out of Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile, The Bourne Ultimatum or Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation. It is a nation shaped by many cultures, and whose history is rich and deep and can be traced back to prehistoric times. A country where a Medina offers the intoxicating smells of spices and food, a visual kaleidoscope of yarns dyed and hung across the narrow alleys, of being wrapped in scarfs and touching the artistry of wooden bowls and ironwork and the rapid intensity of bartering for goods.
It was into this world, in exotic Marrakech, that The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Class of 2016 began their international trip. As part of their Global Business course in their final semester, the EMBA students are required to spend a week abroad meeting with senior officials of local and international corporations, as well as experiencing and understanding the culture first-hand. Sixty students, faculty, staff and spouses journeyed to Marrakech and Casablanca, Morocco and then to Madrid, Spain. An optional post trip to Barcelona, Spain allowed students to further their cultural adventure.
The global experience began February 27, with a welcome orientation and lunch followed by a tour of Marrakech with shopping in the Medina and a dinner that included a Moroccan Show. We dined on traditional food that began with a course of small dishes of olives, nuts, vegetables, a sweet fruit jam and bread. Next came a mound of couscous with roasted vegetables and chicken, then a Pigeon Pie (complete with a Pigeon’s skull) and then orange slices for dessert.
The next day combined film with adventure as everyone learned more about Morocco’s booming movie industry from James Cutting, owner of Cutting Loose Productions, who has been in the business for 40 years and cooperated on such Hollywood films as Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel and Mission Impossible V. The afternoon included an opportunity to explore the beautiful views of the Atlas Mountains either by quad bike or camel, or experience a Hamman (traditional Steam Room and Bath) at the Beldi Country Club. For most it was a first time to experience fishtailing a four-wheeler, navigating a camel, or being scrubbed head to toe until you are red and shiny.
On Monday, February 29, the EMBA students arrived at the ABURY Foundation, a charity with two main goals: to support development co-operations and community education. The ABURY Foundation is supported heavily by the ABURY Collection, which connects emerging designers with artisans in remote places of the world (in this case in Marrakech where women create exquisite handcrafted bags and carpets). For every product sold from the Collection ABURY gives back to the local community education for women and children.
As part of a consulting project, the Tuscaloosa and Huntsville EMBA classes were tasked with developing a set of recommendations for the best strategy for ABURY to enter the U.S. Market. Student teams presented to ABURY’s Founder and CEO Andrea Kolb their general analysis of the U.S. Market, customer analysis and segmentation, initial target city markets, logistics, marketing and communication strategy, and online sales recommendations. The students received high praise from Kolb, “[The EMBA teams] presented amazing work and a valuable framework for us to follow in order to expand our business.”
After the presentation the students, faculty and staff visited the small village of Douar Anzal, in the Atlas mountains, where the women live and create their handbags. Upon arrival students filled the school that ABURY built. Inside the women proudly showed off their writing skills in English and Arabic while outside an impromptu football (soccer) game ensued between the children and some of the EMBAs. Then the students experienced the overwhelming generosity and warmth of a Moroccan welcome. We climbed the hillside to enter their homes. Women, some holding babies on their hips filled the small kitchen to prepare our meal of couscous, vegetables and chicken. It was agreed this was our best meal. A meal with friends, with those that welcome you into their homes and hearts, are always the most remembered. We said our goodbyes and as the sun set on the small village we made our way to Casablanca.