Moroccan enviro-startups turn their eyes on Africa

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This year COP22 succeeded in shifting into a real platform for action for the development of innovation and entrepreneurship - in Morocco, at least.

Moroccan entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs in the green economy took advantage of the world’s biggest enviro-political meetup, on November 7-18 in Marrakech, to share their ideas and develop new solutions to planetary challenges.

Many of the ideas and competitions were focused on solving problems in their region: Africa.

Doing a social duty

Cleantech has always been a main concern for Morocco’s social entrepreneurs.

Kaoutar Abbahaddou, a founding social entrepreneur from AWIS (Africa Water Innovative Solutions) and alumni of the Enactus network, participated in COP22 mainly for networking and discovering new trends and innovations in the water sector.

"I first participated in COY12 (Conference of Youth) which is held just prior to the COP to discuss the various challenges related to the environment. More than 2,000 young people from more than 30 countries took part in it," she told Wamda. "As for the COP, I was there to look for opportunities for collaboration for my company. I have already started discussions and I hope this will lead to effective partnership.”

Enactus entrepreneurs present their projects in the Green Zone public space. (Image via Enactus)

Enactus Morocco, the Moroccan branch of the international social entrepreneurship association, enabled 30 local startups to travel to Marrakech to exhibit their products.

"COP22 was above all an opportunity for all these projects to make new contacts. This exhibition allowed them to meet new partners, new suppliers and new customers. It was a great success, especially for those who have just started," said Adnane Addioui, Enactus Morocco country leader and cofounder of the Moroccan Centre for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship.

Eight startups including  Granéco and eco-laundry Cleanzy, all incubated at  Casablanca social incubator L'Espace Bidaya, exhibited their projects.

Granéco produces a biofuel alternative to wood and coal made from waste. They also help people in mountainous areas by distributing the waste ‘logs’ free of charge. The event enabled cofounders, Mohamed Hafid and Kenza Joullanar to extend their network and "evaluate the relevance of the project for the market and financing structures", said Hafid.

Project leaders of L'Espace Bidaya. (Image via L'Espace Bidaya's Facebook page)

Eco-hackers in action

Two hackathons brought together entrepreneurs, makers, designers, engineers and scientists of various nationalities to co-create sustainable solutions for the environmental challenges in the future.

Innovation Camp, organized by Moroccan cultural and artistic incubator Houna, ran a hackathon for eight early stage projects, and Scale Camp, organized by an international collaborative platform Openteam, held one for nine more mature startups. Both focused on environmental innovations from agriculture, to energy and recycling.

After five days, the 17 teams pitched their ideas to a jury of experts and investors. Three projects from each hackathon were selected to pitch during the first edition of Startup Altitude Morocco, another event that took place just after COP22.
Innovation Camp participants. (Image via Houna.org)

Startup Maroc organized a special edition of Startup Weekend, a global competition in 150 countries where local teams have 54 hours to go from idea to startup. The theme chosen for this edition was the creation of green startups.

The winner Overnec valued ​​the waste of edible oils in order to make it an eco-friendly soap. They won a check for $1,000 and a $12,000 package of services offered by Microsoft4Afrika to realize the project.

At Hack & Pitch, 500 people from local universities and tech and design businesses worked together for 36 hours to develop a mobile application around green technologies using Screendy, an award-winning Moroccan platform which offers a fast and easy way to develop native mobile applications. A $1,000 check and $27,000 of Microsoft's cloud services were put into play.

Scalecamp participants. (Image via Houna)

 

Africa and collaboration at the heart of Tech22

Morocco’s economic and diplomatic strategy is focused on Africa, a continent where the impact of climate change is being felt, so COP22 focused on the needs of Africa.

 

Hub Africa organized Tech22, an ‘open innovation’ gathering held for 11 days at the Al Mazar shopping center. Everyone from entrepreneurs to students, corporations and public authorities attended with the aim of contributing to the emergence of future African leaders of green technologies.

The open innovation strategy had already paid off for Ville Propre, a mobile application for waste collection in Marrakech, said founder Mouhsin Bourqaiba. The mix of people who attended gave them access to entities they could not have approached otherwise.

"We met with the mayors of Rabat and Casablanca, and they agreed with us on an appointment to collaborate and implement our system in their city. Our application has also gathered interest from public figures in Senegal,” he told Wamda.

President of COP22 Salaheddine Mezouar at Tech22 (Image via DR)

In his speech to the participants of the Tech22, COP22 president and Morocco Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation expressed his admiration for the innovation and the creativity he was able to see in the different booths.

He also stressed the need for the mobilization and collaboration of all stakeholders for the environmental cause, which not only improves living conditions, but is full of numerous opportunities for entrepreneurship, growth and development.

While COP22 has dropped its curtains, the main challenge now is to capitalize on this will and those achievements, to take action and to structure these efforts in the long run, far from the effects of an announcement or a one-time action.

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