From France to the Maghreb: why some Maghrebi entrepreneurs return to the homeland

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Sidi Bou Said
This view does make a good argument for Tunisia. (Image via West East South North)

Sure, many Tunisians and Moroccans have launched startups in France.

But others are now also choosing to return to their native Maghreb region to start a business.

This may seem counter-intuitive, as the startup ecosystem in Tunisia and Morocco is far behind Europe’s. Obtaining funding in the Maghreb is more difficult, and clients, partners, and providers are often times in France or the UK. Moreover, the Maghreb’s legal system not ideal for entrepreneurs - and yet entrepreneurs are coming back.

But they’re not crazy. The opportunities in a developing market are huge, and the quality of life is something else: entrepreneurs here are making a difference while enjoying a less stressful life.

Making an impact

“Tunisia is where I was born, where I want to be active and have an impact,” says Karim Jouini. His expense report startup Expensya takes aim at the European market – Tunisia is still behind when it comes to B2B and the cloud, he explains – and yet he chose to base his company in Tunisia and to fly to Europe frequently.

“The impact I could have here is bigger than the one I would have elsewhere,” says Fatim-Zahra Biaz, founder of Casablanca-based coworking space New Work Lab.

A better quality of life

“Tunisia is a country with a growing entrepreneurial community, great energy, a lot of talents, and much lower costs than in Paris."

Because it costs less to live in Tunis or Casablanca, entrepreneurs can afford more services and better living standards while focusing on their projects.

With the money they save, they can also hire a team, which means less work for them and more time to unwind and enjoy life.

Another advantage to launching a startup is the Maghrebi lifestyle. The sun shines year-round, the couscous is delicious, the beaches and landscapes are amazing and the people are hospitable.

“It’s nicer to live here, the pace is better, and I have my family, my friends, and the beach around,” Biaz says.

“The quality of life [in Tunisia] is better, and the feeling of positively impacting people, even at a microscopic scale, is amazing!” Jouini said.

Less competition, better chances of success

Fewer people in an ecosystem often means a tighter community, more collaboration and less competition, a combination that is good for the nerves.

“It’s comfortable to work here, people are welcoming and available, maybe it’s because the ecosystem is small,” explains Biaz.

“I managed to launch my startup, pick the interest of a regional player, do what I love, and all that with a great quality of life that allowed me to spend quality time with my wife and my three kids,” says Yassir El Ismaili who created Taxiii, the Moroccan taxi app that was acquired by Careem

“Globally I think I wouldn’t have succeeded as well in France and I wouldn’t be as fulfilled,” Jouini says.

Being an entrepreneur is tough, working in the place that works the best for you is important. Even if opportunities are amazing, if you don’t feel happy, inspired, surrounded, healthy, you won’t last long enough to make your startup take off. Choose where you want to start your company with your brain but also your heart.

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