Business Brief: Entrepreneur Culture Growing Stronger in Morocco; Kingdom Broadens Ties with Senegal; Film Sector Bullish on US Productions – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 16, 2017

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

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

Entrepreneurship is active in many sectors, and social entrepreneurship is making its mark in Morocco. The Kingdom continues to broaden its ties in Africa with business initiatives, while long-awaited film industry incentives are expected to draw major production houses from the US and elsewhere.

Study examines state of social entrepreneurship.  Although the sector’s ecosystem lacks a full complement of services, young entrepreneurs and organizations promoting social entrepreneurship are striving to make a difference in opportunities for Moroccans. The Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Enterprise (CISE), is at the center of efforts to garner more technical support, funding, better legal protections, and greater visibility to improve the outlook for their activities. Despite differences across the country, a recent study in cooperation with the British Council shows that the increasing number of incubators and support organizations are making a positive impact on social entrepreneurship.

One such change-maker, according to the report, is “Dare Inc., a social enterprise incubator based in Rabat … one of the pioneers of social entrepreneurship in Morocco. It aimed at finding a solution to boost social enterprises throughout the country … Through its one-year program, it is seeking to bring to the Moroccan market a significant flow of strong social startups which are able to attract domestic and foreign investments, that can contribute to the socio-economic development of Morocco.”

Since it started in 2015, Dare Inc.’s incubator has supported 80 projects and incubated 43 startups. The year is divided into two segments. The first six months focus on accelerating the startups from ideas into companies offering social services. The next six months includes mentoring and coaching to enable a sustainable future, including $3000 in seed funding.

According to its press release, “Today, 20 companies ­­­have been legally established as LLC (limited liability companies), 11 seed funds have been allocated to 11 startups, one million Moroccan dirhams (US$100,000) have been raised, 24 companies are making sales, and 74 jobs have been created (excluding the ones of the founders). These social startups, which are active in various fields such as energy, recycling and agriculture, are well established in their respective markets, such as Eco-Heat, Shems for Lighting, Seaskin which processes fish waste into leather, and Amendy Foods which produces quinoa made in Morocco.”

An entrepreneur’s success story.  HuffPostMaroc recently featured an interview with Niama El Bassunie, the founder of Ways to Cap, a Moroccan based company that facilitates trade between Moroccan exporters and imports. Opening for business in 2014, and initially focusing on markets in West Africa, the company sees the continent as its target of opportunity and is opening offices in the region to serve demand throughout Africa.

Ms. Bassunie has been involved with a number of entrepreneurial projects that were less than successful; yet she never gave up. Now she has created what is being called the Alibaba of Africa! Her advice to other would-be entrepreneurs, “We must not be afraid to fail,” she insists. “People think that a start-up is built overnight, they only knew those who succeeded and do not see all the work behind and the failures by which they have learned.”

Growing agricultural ties in Senegal.  A robust agricultural relationship has developed between Morocco and Senegal, according to a column in AgriMaroc; the relationship includes experimental farms testing various crops and fertilizers, induced rainfall, and rural electrification.

Aeronautics sector gets a boost. Hiolle Industries, a French company specializing in mechanical and electrical engineering, has bought out its local partner in Morocco and has decided to expand its base there to serve customers throughout Africa. The areas targeted by this new orientation are the environment and industry, in particular the maintenance of turbo-generators or the design and construction of complete waste treatment lines.

New incentive program to boost film production. The new incentives program adopted by the government and coming into effect in October will lead to a significant boost in the number of film productions in the country. According to Sarim Fassi Fihri, head of the country’s film authority, “Apart from South Africa, Mauritius, and the United Arab Emirates, Morocco will be the only country in Africa and the Arab world to set up this mechanism, which will triple foreign investment in one year. Reimbursement of certain expenditures by foreign film investors at a rate of 20% based on the same terms as for national production, and will cover most of the expenses incurred during a film shoot.”

According to Fassi Fihri, the first demands of major American studios like Universal, Miramax, and Disney to benefit from the “Cash rebate” were registered only four hours after the adoption of the government decree in July. The total amount available in the first year is $11 million.

Employment news variable. Citing government statistics, Reuters reported that, despite an increase in overall job numbers, the official unemployment rate rose to 9.3% from 9.1% in the same period last year, as the active number of job seekers rose by 107,000. Services and construction created 19,000 and 7,000 jobs respectively, while manufacturing lost 4,000 jobs.

Heavy rainfall contributed to 52,000 new jobs in the agricultural sector due to the very positive harvest outcome. The sector accounts for some 15 percent of Morocco’s gross domestic product and employs more than half its workforce, according to the report, which also noted that “informal labor abounds in Morocco, making it hard to produce reliable employment figures.”

In a related story, the government announced two decrees related to domestic work. The first covers the contracts between employers and employees, listing the terms to be included in a contract, highlighting that employees have the right to bring to the attention of officials contracts that do not include the required stipulations. There will be a transition period of six years for the law’s implementation. The second decree lists the hazardous work prohibited for workers 16-18 years of age.

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