Innovation in Africa – Morocco on the move

By June 15, 2016 Blog

All around the world cities, regions, and countries are looking to create innovation ecosystems, usually starting with entrepreneurial ecosystems. I have been extremely appreciative of the chance I have had to witness first-hand over the last twenty years Israel’s emergence as the start-up nation of reference (nicknamed the “Silicon Wadi”), have visited with many different players, shakers and movers in the Silicon Valley and the Bay area of San Francisco over recent years, was a student in Boston when Route 128 went from referring to a highway to that of a concentrated  band of high tech focused start-ups in and around Boston, in the last few years have marveled at the progress France, and especially Paris, has made to create a vibrant,  start-up friendly, environment, and last month, as a participant in an official delegation organized by France’s MEDEF, I got to see and hear more about initiatives, like PITA, that are flourishing in the Palestinian territories.

The next country I see emerging in this direction is Morocco. Organizations like INJAZ Morocco (educating for entrepreneurship) and enactus (promoting social entrepreneurship) are working hard to instill the spirit of entrepreneurship across the country and all ages. They are also working to involve universities, business schools, the business community (as mentors, sponsors and partners), investors, financial institutions, industrial partners, regional government and the government in various initiatives around entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship with a particular corporate social responsibility flavor. Unlike entrepreneurial initiatives in other countries, there is also an interesting desire to involve many of the country’s leading banks and corporate partners to create long term initiatives that have the potential and ambition to go beyond Morocco into French-speaking, first, and English-speaking Africa, second.

At the École des Ponts Business School we are proud to have been invited to play a small role and to contribute in our own way to furthering this new dynamic. On the heels of initiatives by our mother school, the École des Ponts, to create co-innovation labs across Morocco to enable research-driven entrepreneurship – a key element in the blossoming of any entrepreneurial ecosystem – we hope to help ensure that the teams with brilliant business ideas also have access to appropriate business training. We also hope to leverage the collective intelligence of the approximately 1,200 graduates of our MBA program in Morocco (which started nearly 20 years ago) as a mentor network with high added value for budding entrepreneurs of all ages. These are not world-changing contributions in appearance, but if we can help even one world-changing start-up to get going, then we will have added our brick to the edifice.

As Joshua Lerner pointed out in his book Boulevard of Broken Dreams, it is highly important to involve non-local and foreign experts in all domains when trying to create a thriving local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Fortunately, Morocco continues to be a country that has the healthy reflex of looking outside often, encouraging international collaboration, while still ensuring that it remains faithful to its own mores and culture.

Maybe one day we’ll nickname Morocco “Silicon Yalla” (the Arabic version of just do it).

You heard it here first – to be continued!

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