More than 70 million years ago, the world’s largest phosphate reserves formed under Morocco.

Phosphate rock is the main source of phosphorous, one of life’s basic building blocks and an irreplaceable mineral in human and plant DNA.

In 1920, the state-owned OCP Group began to develop this precious resource, becoming the world’s first exporter of phosphate-based products.

Backed by almost a century of production history, the Group has become a global leader across the entire phosphate supply chain, extracting, processing and selling phosphate and its derivatives, phosphoric acid and fertilisers.

Economic success has never distracted the company from its core moral responsibility to ensure the longevity of this valuable mineral for worldwide use.

Every one of OCP’s 23,000 employees shares this mission as they help contribute to regional development through mining and fertiliser operations and the Group’s social and environmental sustainability program.

Spearheading the company is Chairman and CEO Mostafa Terrab, a Moroccan-born executive with more than 30 years’ experience across the private and public sectors.

Mostafa Terrab, Chairman and CEO of OCP Group
Mostafa Terrab, Chairman and CEO of OCP Group

The journey

“It was my first day on the job and we were down visiting one of OCP’s mines when a miner stopped his work and turned to me saying, ‘I’m sure your colleagues, the senior managers, have told you that our main endowment and wealth is here in these phosphate mines.’”

“I replied, ‘yes, I can see we’re very lucky’. And he said, ‘Don’t listen to them. If you do, you’re going to fail as a general manager.”

But, if you understand that our true wealth lies in our human capital, then you will succeed.’ And with that, he left,” laughs Mostafa.

“That was on my very first day and it’s still the most important lesson I’ve ever learned.”

“On my very first day on the job a miner said: ‘If you understand that our true wealth lies in our human capital, then you will succeed’… it’s still the most important lesson I’ve ever learnt.”

A graduate in engineering from École des Ponts ParisTech, Mostafa went on to complete a Master’s in Engineering and then a PhD in Operations Research at MIT.

Starting his career as a transport systems analyst, Mostafa soon returned to his alma mater in 1986 to work as an assistant professor and researcher in decision sciences and engineering systems.

“This teaching experience led me to various roles in both public and private sectors, where I gained a deep understanding of global business policies,” he says.

Mostafa served as an adviser in the Royal Cabinet between 1996 and 1999, and became Director General of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency in 1998, before four years as a lead regulatory specialist at the World Bank.

In 2006, he became the Chairman and CEO of the OCP Group.“OCP is entrusted with more than 50% of the world’s phosphate reserves.

This created a unique opportunity for us to transform the company from a pure phosphate rock and intermediate product exporter to a diverse organisation with stronger investments in downstream activities in the fertiliser and finished product sector,” he says.

“OCP is entrusted with more than 50& of the world’s phosphate reserves.”

As if leading an international multibillion-dollar resources company isn’t enough, Mostafa also works tirelessly to promote entrepreneurship and human development in Morocco and abroad.

He is on the Board of Directors of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, OCP Foundation, as well as JESA (a joint venture between OCP and Jacobs Engineering) and La Banque Centrale Populaire.

”The first thing I did at OCP was to conduct an independent business review to identify untapped potential.”

“This is where I saw the first real evidence of the strength of our human capital, both in terms of expertise and their commitment to the company’s mission.”

“From very early on, I focused on serving that wealth of human capital, and it has more than paid off,” says Mostafa.

OCP has reported double-digit, year-on-year growth in revenues, retaining its industry-leading EBITDA margin for the first nine months of 2017 despite challenging market conditions.

“We have turned OCP into a prosperous corporation. This has allowed us to not only modernise internal management systems, but also raise funds more effectively and competitively serve global markets not only with raw material but with intermediate and finished products,” says Mostafa.

“I’ve taken what was initially a government-run parastatal company and turned it into a prosperous corporation.”

These achievements reflect the benefits of OCP’s investment program – the largest in the fertiliser industry.

It was established in 2008 with the objective of doubling its mining capacity and tripling its fertiliser capacity.

“Our investment program has helped us become a leading phosphate fertiliser producer in the world. By making a basic change to our business model and philosophy, we now have closer dealings with the end clients, the farmers,” explains Mostafa.

This increased industrial and commercial flexibility has led to higher sales volumes across Europe, North America, Latin America and Africa. Africa accounts for around 30 per cent of OCP’s total fertiliser exports.

“Our focus on Africa started around four or five years ago in recognition of the enormous potential of African agriculture."

"This came not at the expense of our presence in other legacy markets, but as a new opportunity to serve African farmers with innovative products and services,” says Mostafa thoughtfully."

From a management point of view, Mostafa says his biggest challenge has been trying to instil a corporate culture as part of OCP’s new business model.

“I’ve been successful in freeing up the existing energies within the company and reducing the layers of bureaucracy and hierarchical culture.”

“I discovered that the corporate culture was always there, it just lay below the surface. Over the past 12 years, our transformation has seen the average age at OCP drop from 45 to 35 years,” he adds.

Mostafa explains that the fertiliser industry is changing significantly as it gets closer to the farmer and is becoming more mindful of local conditions.

“The industry is shifting from a commodity-focused approach in producing standard fertiliser formulas, to a business approach in producing customisable formulas based on what the farmers, the soil and the plants need on a real-time basis,” he says.

“Our industry has embraced that shift, moving away from a push philosophy to a pull philosophy.”

OCP plant expansion at Jorf Lasfar, Morocco
OCP plant expansion at Jorf Lasfar, Morocco.

Working together

OCP has more than 20 subsidiaries and joint ventures across the areas of mining and processing, engineering and consulting, international markets and trading, and ecosystem development.

Mostafa sees these partnerships as an important building block in constructing an ecosystem around OCP’s operations to enhance its position.

“At the same time, we want to ensure our partners become viable businesses on their own, able to tap into growth opportunities not only in Morocco, but throughout Africa,” he says.

To assist in its expansion plans, OCP launched JESA, an engineering joint venture with the US-based Jacobs Engineering Group in 2010.

Fast facts:
The 3 pillars of OCP’s mission:

  • Economic leadership
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Social responsibility

Providing world-class engineering, project management and construction management expertise to support projects in Morocco and abroad, JESA is a crucial element in the construction of OCP’s Jorf Lasfar Phosphate Hub.

The Hub’s production capacity has grown by more than one million tons each year and is expected to reach a capacity of 15 million tons by 2020, establishing Morocco as the world’s largest phosphate fertilisers.

With the aim of fast-tracking India’s agricultural development, in 2016, OCP and Indian fertiliser manufacturer KRIBHCO joined forces to develop a large-scale greenfield fertiliser plant in Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

Mostafa says the partnership leverages KRIBHCO’s deep knowledge of the market and farmers’ requirements, as well as OCP’s global footprint and industrial expertise.

The state-of-the-art plant will have an annual capacity of 1.2 million tons of fertilisers and will include the development of logistical infrastructure in the region.

“We recently launched a major joint venture with IBM, to bring not just IT but also analytic solutions to OCP and our broad range of clients.”

“We identified Morocco and Africa as high-growth markets for these services, and are still exploring other regions,” says Mostafa.

The joint venture, TEAL Technology Services, will implement advanced technologies including analytics and the Internet of Things to develop customised services and generate employment in the IT sector.

“One of the aims of this venture is to create a major data centre in Morocco to bring the highest level of service to our clients.”

“These three partnerships illustrate our capacity to create synergies and ensure that the growth of each partner benefits the other.”

“We see partnerships as opportunities to make a difference and diversify our activities, not only as something we need to do to be more streamlined or efficient.”

“These partnerships help create dynamic local ecosystems and local employment. At the same time, they are central to our own competitiveness and growth.”

Giving back

As the exclusive caretaker of the world’s largest phosphate resources, OCP has always had a deeply rooted commitment to protecting global food security through its role in sustainably increasing agricultural productivity.

“Corporate social responsibility isn’t something we do on the side of our core production activities; it is very much embedded in our role as a responsible company,” explains Mostafa.

“In terms of energy consumption, we are now almost self-sufficient through cogeneration within our industrial activities or by using renewables such as wind and solar power, which we will continue to expand over the next couple of years.”

“Corporate social responsibility isn’t something we do on the side of our core production activities; it is very much embedded in our role as a responsible producer.”

“We’ve reduced our water usage and we own and operate desalination plants and other water treatment plants in four cities where we operate. These started out as mining towns that are now fully fledged cities.”

“We recycle city water to use for our own treatment of phosphate rock and we are making it available to the local population as well,” he says.

“We don’t view this as something we are obliged to do to be a responsible citizen, but it’s part of what makes us competitive. And the same applies to reclaiming mining lands. In the end, we do this because it produces jobs and economic activity in local communities.”

In five dedicated skills centres – in Youssoufia, Benguerir, Laâyoune, Safi and Khouribga – OCP brings together a range of initiatives to support and promote the skills, talents and abilities of young people from the sites where it is present.

Fast facts:
To reinforce its position as the largest worldwide sulphur importer, in December 2017, OCP sealed a long-term sales agreement with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

The world’s largest exporter of sulphur, ADNOC will supply OCP with granulated sulphur until 2025, with both companies agreeing on a gradual increase in annual import volumes to accommodate for international price fluctuations.

“Since 2012, we’ve trained more than 15,000 young people, helping them to find jobs with our subcontractors and in our industrial ecosystem. Again, this is not an expense or obligation."

"This is something we do to make sure our subcontractors and service providers have a competitive and skilled labour force, which is directly reflected in the quality of services they provide us.”

As the largest corporate employer in Morocco, OCP is also committed to the continuing development of its own human capital.

Mostafa believes that the company’s future resides not in his hands, but in the hands of the thousands of skilled and dedicated OCP employees.

“For us, everything begins and ends with culture. It’s an expression of values,” he says.

“In our core values, I would say there’s one that stands out – sincerity of intent. Adhering to this value has allowed us to free up energies within the company, while ensuring we are all working to achieve our shared vision with the sincerest intent.”

“I challenge my colleagues to self-manage themselves by getting rid of a number of systems and processes that no longer fit our culture. We have generated a new social contract dictating that we must offer a growth path to every one of our 23,000 employees.”

“We have even built a fully fledged university to provide training opportunities and help people reach their full potential,” explains Mostafa.

In line with its mission to promote further research and development, in 2014, OCP launched the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, a world-class institution of higher learning, in Benguerir.

The university emphasises R&D in areas critical to OCP’s development – such as mining, sustainable development and industrial management – and to the economic, social, higher education and environmental future of Morocco.

Growing potential

Moving forward, Mostafa’s focus will be on integrating data analytics as a means of streamlining production and customising the way OCP develops its fertilisers.

“We are in the process of implementing a digital philosophy across the board, not just in production but also in our own internal management and processes.”

“This means getting in touch with the tech capabilities of our younger OCP colleagues, so we are digitalising our culture,” he says.

“Our objective is not to be at the forefront of the industry, but to create a culture where innovation thrives – whether that puts us in a leadership position or not.”

“Our objective is not to be at the forefront of the industry, but to create a culture where innovation thrives – whether that puts us in a leadership position or not.”

In the long term, OCP will take advantage of continued strong demand at home and abroad, particularly from its unique access to the rising African market and its production of customised products.

To encourage a more stable, sustainable output in Africa, Mostafa says industry leaders must ensure that African farmers have access to the inputs they need, so that agriculture can help drive the regions broader economic development.

“These inputs include fertiliser, seeds and water, as well as financial advice, knowledge on how to utilise these resources, and how to sell them effectively in the downstream market,” he says.

“We are working hard to create this ecosystem for farmers, and we’re already hearing success stories. However, there is still massive untapped potential as we see the green revolution take off in Africa.”

“It’s a matter of affording the African farmer the same environment that’s been successful in other regions.”

He continues, explaining that Africa is the only continent left in the world where there is huge potential for sustainable yield improvements that don’t strain the use of marginal lands or threaten valuable water supplies.