The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

Globalisation, Tanger Med, and the case for innovation

Just in case you have trouble quantifying globalisation, and why it matters, I thought Tanger Med, a new container terminal, and commercial development in Morocco, is the ideal example, and offers staggering consequences for us all.  Stay with me here 🙂

Investment in the Mediterranean | The Med’s moment comes |

LOOK southward from the southern tip of Spain, across the strait of Gibraltar. There, only 14km (nine miles) away through the slight sea haze, arises the vast construction works of a new seaport to the east of Tangier in northern Morocco. Tanger Med (pictured) opened its first docks last July. Handling 3.5m containers a year, it is already as big as Felixstowe, Britain’s biggest port. A second terminal opens this summer, and within seven years its annual capacity will rise to 8.5m. It will be the largest container port in the Mediterranean, not far behind Europe’s biggest, Rotterdam (although merely one-third the size of the Asian giants of Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong). Similar ports are being finished in Algeria, Egypt, Malta and Tunisia.

What struck me here is, the location, the scale, and the fact it is unheard of in North America [or at least by me]. 

While we worry about Banks failing, inflation increasing, increased unemployment, and the price of gas [petrol] here is a development in Morocco with staggering statistics:

  • larger than Britains largest Felixtowe [container terminal]
  • closing in on Rotterdam [largest in Europe]
  • Similar ports are being finished in Algeria, Egypt, Malta and Tunisia
  • Auto manufacturers are building factories alongside to take advantage of the terminal, and the low wages

This from the article:

Renault and Nissan started preparing the ground for a huge car factory costing €600m. The Franco-Japanese alliance aims to build low-cost cars and vans not just for Europe but for markets around the world, mostly in emerging economies where the basic Renault Logan has already proved a winner. Annual output will start at 200,000 vehicles, but will double within a few years.

Renault (France) and Nissan (Japan) in Morocco! 

So we have a new, extremely cheap, efficiently located distribution capability, with new centralised manufacturing capacity being built around it.  You can see where I am going with this. 

Relevance to Bankwatch:

I posted earlier today that the next phase after the current banking crisis, will be a raft of takeovers. But thats not an endgame … what is really NEXT.  I suggest it is innovation  .. true innovation in the sense of new things we have not yet thought of will appear.

One thing we do know from history, is that disruptive innovation is not just created from new technology, but often after turbulent events that shake things up, such as economic crises.  Thats when people and companies dig deeper, do more with less and look for creative solutions, not just more of the same.  It is just easier do do new stuff when the chips are down, because risk already exists. 

This is where the dreaded innovation comes in.  The only message Tanger Med has to offer Banks is that there is always someone somewhere willing to do the same thing better and for less.  If I am the CEO of GM, Toyota or any large auto manufacturer Tanger  Med worries me.  Yes there are the political problems in North Africa, and a host of reasons not to go there, but here we have a situation where the Southern Mediterannean (MEDA) is a close second to China in foreign investment, and closing fast.  This is driven largely by lower production costs, as well as sea route access.  Note that North America is a bit investment player here, but may well feel the consumer impact.

Where does that put Banks? 

  1. Where are the MEDA’s for Banks? 
  2. Who will come along with a Tanger Med that so dramatically undercuts Banks in cost and easy distribution that it leaves Banks’ so far behind, they cannot catch up?
  3. Which banker is certain there is no Tanger Med set of financial services just over the horizon? 
  4. Tanger Med Bank … not just a cheaper version of the same thing, but located and built differently … something so different that Banks are wrong footed?

Perhaps I am dreaming in technicolour, but I am sure that GM in 1975 did not see cars being produced and shipped from North Africa at fractions of the costs in Detroit.

Thoughts and predictions welcome!

Written by Colin Henderson

July 16, 2008 at 21:40

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