Business in Brief: Cross-country Motorcycle Rally, Accounting Software, and Moroccan Employment Top the Headlines – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
October 12, 2016

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

There was a great deal of business activity across diverse sectors recently, including the most important motorcycle event preceding the famed Dakar Rally, momentum-building behind an accounting program especially designed for SMEs by Moroccan entrepreneurs, a survey showing the employment preferences of young Moroccan professionals, and the latest corporate acquisition in the country. The upcoming economic and commercial agenda of the new governing coalition will be the most anticipated news in the coming weeks.

Vroom Vroom – International Cycle Competition Draws World-class Competition: Held under the patronage of HM King Mohammed VI, the final of the FIM World Championships, the OlLibya Cross Country Rally World Championship, brought together more than 1,000 participants, including 300 competitors at all levels, in the final competition before the Dakar Rally. It was the 17th year of the race being held in Morocco. Beginning in Agadir, the race began with a very short super special stage the first day, followed by five days under brutally hot conditions.  The athletes faced 870 miles of special stages racing against the clock. Adding in the distance of the liaison sections between stages, the whole rally covers nearly 1,250 miles.

The rally had broad media coverage in Moroccan and international markets with daily TV broadcasts to more than 120 countries, including Morocco, France, Spain, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Russia, as well as reporting on radio, websites, and social networks. The Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team took the top prizes: Toby Price, last year’s Dakar Rally winner, took the crown, and his teammates placed second and third, making them the odds-on favorites to capture the flag in Dakar.

Meeting the Back Office Needs of SMEs, in Arabic: A crucial ingredient in the success of any company, particularly SME’s without extensive business experience, is handing financial functions deftly and efficiently. Most small businesses do not have the resources to hire an outside firm or implement systems that automate finance functions.

As a recent article in Entrepreneur noted, “Managing finances, invoicing for products or services provided, and other financial tasks may not be alluring aspects of starting a business, but they are undoubtedly key requirements for running and scaling it.” Enter Sahih Business, a Morocco-based IT solutions company that recognized that SMEs needed a solution that could be adopted quickly and without advanced levels of software expertise. They created Aliphia, the first Arabic cloud-based SaaS accounting software for SMEs.

According to its co-founder and CEO, Mohammed Adnan Morabet, “Our objective is to offer a solution, easy to use, that encourages the use of cloud, and actually fits company requirements. Aliphia offers a true Arabic user experience interface.” The cloud-based platform is specifically tailored for small businesses and freelancers, allowing them to create and customize invoices, maintain accounts, manage clients, and track financial progress, among other functions.

Alphia supports Arabic text formatting, which allows SMEs to compete for government contracts where officials demand Arabic as the proposal language. Morabet says that the startup continues to build value-added features, and has structured itself to suit both product and services businesses. Currently there are an average of 14,000 active users representing some 500 customers, a number Sahih Business hopes to double by the end of 2017.

Whom do you want to work for? Universum Global, an employer branding thought leader, recently surveyed more than 2600 job applicants in Morocco to determine their employer preferences across the Business, Engineering/IT, Natural Sciences, Health/Medicine, Humanities, and Law departments at 46 Moroccan universities. The annual survey covers a number of African countries.

Royal Air Maroc placed highest among business students, who rated its creative and dynamic work environment and opportunities for international travel and relocation as tops. Not far behind were the local Bank Al-Maghrib and the Bourse de Casablanca. The top multinational company was L’Oreal. In engineering, OCP Groupe was once again the top finisher, followed by Renault and RAM.

Claudia Tattanelli, Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Board at Universum, said: “Moroccan graduates believe that working with these prestigious employers will allow them to be in a work environment that is creative, where they will be equipped with training and skill development needed, resulting in having better opportunities for leadership and career advancement.”

In the past, business students tended to favor professional services, which fell by 14% compared to last year. Growing in popularity were tourism, fashion, accessories and luxury goods, as well as management and strategic consulting. On the engineering side, engineering and manufacturing led the list, followed by energy, software and computer services among the top picks, although computer services fell below last year’s ranking.

 According to the report, “Within the Engineering and Technology sectors in Morocco there were also some stark contrasts to the previous year’s survey.   In 2016, the career goal of being creative or entrepreneurial moved from 4th place to 1st place amongst those surveyed, while the goal of being autonomous or independent shot up from last (9th) place to 3rd place in a major attitude shift that sees Technology students starting to echo the sentiments of those in the Business sector and students in other countries in the survey.”

Moroccan Company Acquired for Ports Expertise: Motherwell Bridge Industries, the engineering division of Hili Ventures, has acquired Techniplus, a multi-disciplined engineering firm in Morocco, from its long-standing partner Konecranes of Finland. Techniplus is engaged in the maintenance and servicing of port cargo handling equipment. Its major customers include the operators of Morocco’s largest ports at Casablanca, Tangier, Agadir, and Jorf Lasfar, as well as manufacturers, steel plants, and mining companies.

Acquiring Techniplus has immense benefits. Its 150-strong staff – most based in the ports – almost triples the size of Motherwell Bridge Industries and strategically extends its footprint to North Africa. Hili Ventures was successfully active in logistics, engineering, and banking hardware servicing there until recently, and the group is eager to re-enter the region to tap its commercial potential.

“Techniplus conducts business in Mauritania, Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria and there are significant business prospects in the wider region,” Motherwell Bridge Industries Managing Director Tony Mallia explained. “With a foothold in Morocco, Motherwell Bridge Industries will be able to expand its growing marine engineering services activities beyond the central Mediterranean. We are looking forward to combining the expertise of the Malta and Morocco teams and leveraging synergies to benefit existing and new customers.”

 It has become almost routine to say that Morocco stands out in the region because of its progressive business environment, diversified economy, and strong human resources. From tourism and recreation to manufacturing and IT, the kingdom is diligently building on its assets to secure its role in the global economy.


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