Morocco: North Africa's Forgotten Child

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Mention IT in North Africa and talk inevitably turns to Egypt. But perhaps they should be thinking about the potential …

Mention IT in North Africa and talk inevitably turns to Egypt. But perhaps they should be thinking about the potential
in Morocco? Budde has called Morocco ‘one of the most advanced telecommunications markets in Africa and often
seen as a role model for future developments in other parts of the continent’, while its proximity to Europe means it
is well placed to become a technology leader on the continent. To test opinion on Morocco, we interviewed 38 IT and
business professionals in Morocco and the MENA area, asking if they thought the country’s IT market had potential
to boom. In this short study, we found the results were incredibly positive. This was especially true from within the
country, where almost 90% felt the country was ready to boom.

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  • 1. Januar y 2013Morocco - North Africa’s Forgotten ChildMention IT in North Africa and talk inevitably turns to Egypt. But perhaps they should be thinking about the potentialin Morocco? Budde has called Morocco ‘one of the most advanced telecommunications markets in Africa and oftenseen as a role model for future developments in other parts of the continent’, while its proximity to Europe means itis well placed to become a technology leader on the continent. To test opinion on Morocco, we interviewed 38 IT andbusiness professionals in Morocco and the MENA area, asking if they thought the country’s IT market had potentialto boom. In this short study, we found the results were incredibly positive. This was especially true from within thecountry, where almost 90% felt the country was ready to boom.Do you feel that Moroccos IT sector has potential to boom? Yes No[Source: IDG Connect] Total 37% Inside Morocco 86.6% 15.4% 63% Outside Morocco 48% 52%RESULTSFrom the results of our survey, the consensus is that Morocco does indeed hold future potential within its IT sector,with a total of 63.2% agreeing with the statement. Professionals within the country are strongly positive - 86.6% feeltheir country holds potential for the future. When looking at respondents outside of Morocco, negativity levels rise,with just under half (48%) disagreeing with the statement. This may be due to a lack of knowledge of the country sincethe focus on neighbouring Egypt.For respondents from within the country, the overarching reasoning for the positivity seemed to stem from the range ofchanges the country has seen in recent years. One interviewee explained:“ If you look at the mass of structuring projects that Morocco is launching TGV, Highways, Pipeline stations, seawaterdesalting, renewable energies, the use of social networks, the evolution of the GSM networks, the average age of its ”population and the educational level of its population, Morocco can only rejoice for the future.People also cited a young, tech savvy generation that is eager to learn, and a slowly improving political landscape aspositives. One respondent talked about the difference he has seen in the country over the years:“ Since my return to Morocco in 2010, I have seen growth in a sector that is excited by an increase in the user demand.During my last 25 years IT experience in Australia and Saudi Arabia, Morocco has moved very fast in this field to reachthe developed countries. ”
  • 2. Outside the country, Morocco’s proximity to Europe and its relatively cheap wages & educated workforce were quotedby several people, with one commenting:“ They are the bridge to Europe and they speak French as their second language. There are a well-educated people andthey have a big chance to support IT for all French-speaking African countries. Today in Casablanca there are many callcentres giving support to French-speaking countries and I am sure they will go on with improvement. ”Growing political stability and good infrastructure were also important influences. “When you visit Morocco you willbe amazed with the infrastructure that the country has which is one of the best in Africa and Middle East, so for surethis country one of the leading countries in the region; add to that political stability which Moroccans are enjoying.”Doubters however, worried that though a force in Africa, the requirements of a European playing field would be toomuch. “Morocco is a major player in the African market; however the country lacks the necessary infrastructure andfunds to rise as a communication leader.” Doubts over the country’s politics, education of the workforce and a lack ofinnovation were also mentioned.BACKGROUNDNestled in North Africa’s Western tip, Morocco is often Internet growth 2000-2012overshadowed by Egypt’s reputation as a leader in technology. [Source: InternetWorldStats]But for many the country is on the up, and may be on its wayto stepping into the light. Morocco 16,378%As with much of Africa, a digital divide exists that prevents Egypt 6,524%many of the poorest from joining the modern, connected Middle East 2640%world. According to a report from the Open SocietyFoundations, “Internet access is still restricted to urban areasand educated categories in cities.” It explains how “Moroccohasn’t yet joined digitisation, given that there has been onlypartial migration to digital communication.”But despite this, Morocco can be seen something of a leaderin African internet; the first country in North Africa to installa 3G network, and it’s in the process of awarding 4G licenceswith the aim of being operational by the end of this year. Thisis in conjunction with a ten-year infrastructure developmentplan to give the country’s entire population access to high-speed, fixed or mobile broadband by 2022. According toInternet World Stats, around half of the country’s 32 million people have internet access - the third highest in Africa.As with much of the continent, mobile and internet are closely linked in Morocco. Mobile penetration is over 100%,according to IT News Africa, and more than 80% of the broadband market is mobile. At one point MT’s ADSLbroadband service held over 90% of the internet market, but the introduction of 3G opened up the market andpromoted competition. As of a year ago, there were over 600,000 smartphones in Morocco [up to date figures are hardto come by], but estimated annual growth is more than 200%.All this internet use has yet to translate into a massive social media culture. According to Socialbakers, Morocco hasjust under 5 million Facebook users, equating to around 15% of the population, while Twitter claims just 35,000,or 0.1% of people in the country. Surprisingly, since LinkedIn became available in March, it has shot up to 400,000users. The Moroccan government is being proactive on technology. The “Digital Morocco 2013” strategy envisagesnationwide access to high-speed internet by 2013, bringing the administration closer to the needs of the user throughan ambitious e-government programme, and encouraging the computerization of SMEs. The government has also
  • 3. introduced projects in an effort to enhance the digital skills of small business owners. Students also benefit, with plansfor Wi-fi at universities, and subsidized laptop and internet costs.Back in 2005, King Mohammed VI launched the “Technopolis” Innovation Rankingproject, a 300 hectare, multi-million dollar technology city near Sale. [Source: Global Innovation Index]Companies now based at the tech hub include digital security companyGemalto, Nemotek, Novec, HP, and Axa. The launch of such a big,new project was how Morocco announced itself to the wider world oftechnology. Today the country is trying to establish itself as a majorplayer in African technology; government plans and investment from MAR 88ththe Middle East are helping push things forward.These efforts seem to be paying off already; IBM has recently opened a EGYsecond office in the Kingdom. Abdallah Rachidi Alaoui, IBM General 103rdManager Morocco, has said the company emphasises its investmentin Morocco because it recognises the opportunities presented by highgrowth rates and an increasingly competitive market. 119th MLI“By strengthening our presence in Rabat, we are able to offer the mostadvanced technologies and solutions to our local partners and clients - ALGhelping them to do things smarter and more efficiently,” he adds. Rabat 124this also taking part in IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge, with the aim ofdevising a plan for a more efficient and better integrated transportationsystem. “IBM is strongly committed to helping cities improvethemselves, and through this initiative will provide its best talent and Country Rankexpertise to help the city of Rabat develop smarter solutions for urbantransport,” said Abdallah.Northern Africa has historically always had ties to the Middle East, and looks to be integral to the future of Morocco.And following Gitex Technology Week recently, links between the two are predicted to grow in strength and number.Etihad Airways own a large share of its flag carrier Royal Air Maroc, while Qtel have expressed interest in purchasinga controlling stake in Morocco’s largest telecom operator.CONCLUSIONMorocco’s proximity to Europe combined with modern infrastructure means the country well poised for an IT boomin the future. The government is taking proactive steps to embrace technology and grows its IT sector, and competitionin commutation is increasing, which helps to reduce the digital divide. Though our small study polled only a handful ofbusiness & IT professionals, it shows there is a positive sentiment on the future of Morocco, especially for those withinthe country. Problems with restrictive freedoms and cybercrime are present, but overall things seem to be on a positivetrend.ABOUT IDG CONNECTIDG Connect is the demand generation division of International Data Group (IDG), the world’s largest technologymedia company. Established in 2005, it utilises access to 38 million business decision makers’ details to unitetechnology marketers with relevant targets from any country in the world. Committed to engaging a disparate globalIT audience with truly localised messaging, IDG Connect also publishes market specific thought leadership papers onbehalf of its clients, and produces research for B2B marketers worldwide. For more information visit:http://www.idgconnect.com/