The Moroccan bedding group Richbond has launched its activity in Ivory Coast, after some setbacks, and bought a factory in Kenya.

Karim Tazi crisscrossed East Africa for several months before setting his sights in 2017 on a sleeping beauty, Silent Night Bedding, in Kenya. For 110 million dirhams (9.88 million euros), he bought nearly 70% of the capital of this company, which has a bedding factory with just under 100 employees.

Karim Tazi, a well-known figure in the Moroccan business world and a director of the Richbond group headed by his brother Nascer Tazi, is at the helm to ensure the company's international development.

And with the start-up of the machines in the Nairobi plant on May 30, he has enabled the group - which has annual sales of 1.5 billion dirhams - to become the first industrialist to plant a Moroccan flag in East Africa. A consecration for the president of Richbond Africa, structure created in Casablanca in 2015.

A slow start in Abidjan

In recent years, Tazi has not only surveyed the industrial zones of Kampala and Dar Es Salaam. He has also spent a few nights in a small accommodation built within a nearly 20,000-square-meter factory in the Yopougon manufacturing district of Abidjan.

When the Richbond Group launched this greenfield project in 2014, the actual start-up was scheduled for 2016. "It would be futile to claim that setting up in Côte d'Ivoire was easy," Karim Tazi acknowledges today. "The reception was good from the authorities, but the business environment is still complicated..."

The factory was built on state-owned land, which a former tenant, also a foreign entrepreneur, had decided to squat on. But Richbond stood firm and in mid-May the machines began to run "on low speed," says Tazi, powered by 110 employees.

Moroccan networks

To set up in Côte d'Ivoire, Richbond was able to count on the Moroccan network: the group benefited from the support of the Société ivoirienne de banque, a subsidiary of Attijariwafa Bank, which provided part of the 120 million dirhams needed for the project.

The daily service of Royal Air Maroc (RAM) to Abidjan has enabled it to regularly send Moroccan technicians for various missions and training. Moroccan ambassador Abdelmalek Kettani, his predecessor, and the former president of the Moroccan employers' union, CGEM, Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, have helped Richbond in its difficulties.


In Abidjan, where it is moving in the wake of its competitor Dolidol, another Moroccan company in the sector, Richbond Côte d'Ivoire plans to market "entry-level" mattresses under the Dorelux brand. The historical name is only affixed to products that meet the standards of the Moroccan market. And for the moment, Karim Tazi intends to focus the business on mattresses at about 20,000 CFA francs, or 30.49 euros.

"But we are already above average quality and soon enough, we will accompany the new consumption patterns of an expanding middle class," Tazi bets, adding, "The arrival of Moroccan companies has already benefited Ivorian consumers."

Continental vocation

In Kenya, the philosophy is that of external growth. The teams, including management, are being retained and the company will continue to produce Silent Night mattresses, in addition to making Richbond brand mattresses. Both factories will be supplied with semi-finished products from the group's Moroccan plants.


The same logic underlies these two new establishments, which Karim Tazi summarizes by his ambition to "become a continental player in the mattress industry". The planned investments are not to cover the national markets, but to extend to the two sub-regions. The walls of the Abidjan factory are already designed to produce more than the Ivorian market can demand.

The port of Abdijan makes it an ideal hub to reach Ghanaian and Burkinabe consumers, but here again, Kenya remains more attractive: "Regional integration is more accentuated in East Africa. Setting down your bags in Nairobi gives you direct access to the Ugandan and Tanzanian markets," enthuses the company director. Central Africa could be a possibility, as the southern region is a South African preserve and the air links do not allow easy travel from the kingdom.