5 obstacles Morocco must overcome to foster tech success

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The few examples of ‘Made in Morocco’ success tech stories (Microchoix, Jumia, Kaymu) can’t conceal the large number of barriers to the proper development of the Moroccan digital industry. After proposing four ways to boost entrepreneurship in Morocco (in French), now here is a list of five obstacles hindering the path of would-be Moroccan entrepreneurs.

Hesitant investors

The tech sector is not one that has been traditionally favored by Moroccan investors, nor so by banks from which loans have worryingly decelerated over the past two years.

Some organizations have worked to change this. For instance, since its establishment, the Plan Maroc Numeric 2013 has aimed to position Morocco among the most dynamic emerging countries in information and communication technology.

Yet public and private investors are still lagging behind. Business angels and VCs that are beginning to emerge such as MNF ClubIwi Venture, and Fonds DAYAM are the only ones reassuring young entrepreneurs.

It is time for the private sector to become interested in the tech market, one that has been enjoying rapid expansion and great potential for profit. In the meantime, Moroccan entrepreneurs who are failing to find funding in the country have nothing to lose by looking for regional investors.

Stifling taxation

Despite SMEs being an essential component of the Moroccan economic landscape, they are burdened by disproportionate taxes. At the end of each month, each company must pay 20% of their turnover for the VAT as well as National Security, pensions contributions, income tax, and a quarterly installment for the corporation tax. Late payments are heavily penalized.

To promote business creation, which is the main revenue source for the government, the next finance laws must consider lowering these taxes that threaten to destroy Moroccan SMEs.

Very little innovation

Globally, the main source of innovation is undoubtedly various corporate research and development departments. In the U.S., around 3% of the GDP is allocated for R&D; in South Korea, it is 3.6%. According to a 2005 R&D Maroc study, less than 0.1% of the Moroccan GDP is allocated to R&D, despite the recent launch of a national strategy for scientific research development by the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Management.

For more information, I invite you to read Part III of my article “The Myth of Tech Startups in Morocco”, and the abstract of the article “Workshop on competitiveness: how to promote research and development in Morocco?

Even fewer qualified employees

The success of a startup depends primarily on human resources, inspired and energetic entrepreneurs and competent young graduates. Yet, it is very difficult to find the right developer or startup employee in Morocco. “They should have taught us the research spirit,” explains Abderrahmane Tahri Jouti, a computer science student living in Fez. Zineb Chanaoui, a marketing professional in Tangiers, added: “What we needed the most was the actual contact with businesses and leaders, and practical work [experience].” And, according to Zohra Jebari, a computer engineer, Moroccan education legislators must “propose a month or semester dedicated to training and another for practicing within a company.”

It’s time that the Ministry integrates student wishes into the decision making process. Until this happens, students can improve their skills by launching social enterprise projects with groups like Enactus or by participating in trainings.

A lack of incubators

Despite the marvelous results of Technopark Casablanca (which incubates 180 enterprises which employ a total of 1,500 people) and Technopark Rabat which benefits a dozen enterprises, Morocco still lacks of accelerators.

Multinationals can get inspiration by Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Paris initiative, while entrepreneurs might establish private incubators like Le Camping and The Family, both in Paris. Local authorities should create digital areas and the Moroccan government must adopt policies that might contribute to the creation of a tech district like London’s Tech City.

Much remains to be done. However, if we mobilize together, it’s possible to address these obstacles.

What do you think? What concrete steps can Moroccan entrepreneurs take to tackle these obstacles? The comments section is waiting for you.

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