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The high potential of the information technology sector has sparked so much interest on the part of government that it conceived the Digital Morocco 2013 strategy to develop the sector.
Morocco is working hard to improve its ranking on the world’s connectivity stage and use the IT sector’s dynamism to generate employment and economic growth. Foreign companies are jumping on the bandwagon.
“Morocco is well positioned and has great potential to become a technology and innovation hub in North Africa,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Scientific Affairs, Kerri-Ann Jones stated at a recent conference in Rabat.
The Moroccan government could not agree more, and numerous private companies have not waited for a government invitation to set up operations in the country.
According to the association of information technology companies (APEBI), the aggregate revenues of local industry (in the distribution, hardware, and service segments, but excluding telecoms operators), has grown from $330 million in 1998 to $525 million in 2001 and fully $985 million in 2011.
The IT sector generates close to 28,000 jobs in export-oriented IT companies (for example, BPO or KPO centers) and about 3,000 jobs for the domestic market needs, namely systems integrators for Moroccan companies, according to APEBI.
To complete the quantitative panorama, the sector counts almost 1,000 companies, with about 170 APEBI-member companies accounting for 95% of turnover. Among these heavy hitters are several multinationals and domestic companies: Capgemini, Bull Morocco, Brams Technologies, Astec, Sage Morocco, Omnidata, GFI Morocco, IWC, HP, Microsoft and Disway, just to name a few.
Given the successful implementation of the various programs and strategies, the IT sector is on target to reach $8.2 billion in revenues (including telecoms) by 2015. Also expected are an aggregate 58,000 jobs in the sector. But for IT to play its full role as a growth driver, two issues must be tackled.
“Our corporate fabric needs to be updated, in particular entrepreneurial start-ups and SMEs need to be incubated and fostered,” says APEBI President Lakhlifi Mohammed. “And we need to improve access for citizens to computer equipment and the Internet and thus anchor the use of IT in daily life. The challenge is to act quickly and extensively.”
The state’s helping hand
Although the private sector carries the bulk of the IT sector’s development, the Moroccan government is not sitting by idly. King Mohamed VI has taken a personal interest in the Digital Morocco 2013 program (Plan Maroc Numerique in French), launched in 2009 by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and New Technologies.
Among other priorities, Digital Morocco aims at facilitating the use of IT by the general public, computerizing SMEs, and the digitizing public administration operations. Three years on, many of these goals are well underway.
For example, the Injaz program, which reached 26,000 students in 44 schools in 19 cities in two years (2009-2011), enables students to acquire a laptop and Internet access while benefiting from a state subsidy of up to 85% of the cost, capped at $425.
The ministry is proposing to extend the Injaz offer to all university master’s level students for the 2011-12 academic year. This would represent about 45,000 students in nearly 110 institutions.
For small enterprises, the ministry created the Moussanada IT program and so far more than 100 companies have enrolled to improve their IT knowledge base. For micro-enterprises, the Infitah program promotes IT awareness and training. Since its inception, more than 1,400 small enterprises have taken advantage of the subsidized initiative. Another program, Rawaj, touches on retail and distribution needs. Rawaj facilitates data exchange for barcodes and inventory management and receives a 75% state subsidy.
Reaching the government electronically
Next in line are e-government services. “We have progressed from 104th to 56th place in the Online Service Index of the United Nations,” says Badr Boubker, director of the Digital Morocco plan. “Some e-government services have already been launched, while others are being tested, for example the Watika site, which enables downloading of standard forms or making an online appointment at a hospital.” ●
Moroccan success in payment systems
Founded in 1995, Hightech Payment Systems (HPS) is a Moroccan SME that has managed within less than a decade to elbow its way into the hotly-contested electronic banking segment. For the company’s entrepreneurial founder Mohamed Horani, and his partners, key success factors included an innovative corporate culture, a flexible business model that adapted to changing environments, and steady international expansion onto five continents.
Currently ranked among the top ten worldwide companies in its sector, HPS’ star product is called PowerCARD, a versatile software for electronic payments. PowerCARD is used by almost 100 clients in banking, telecoms, distribution, and other sectors in 60 countries.
For more information:
Professor Lhacen Belhcen, ESCA School of Management Co-author of the HPS case study