Interview: Mohamed Horani
What strategies should be used to better disseminate IT tools to Moroccan firms and organisations?
MOHAMED HORANI: The Maroc Numeric 2013 strategy has made some achievements in terms of IT dissemination but the plan’s implementation still needs to be improved. The procedures to qualify for the offered incentives lack flexibility and companies are not always able to meet the requirements. It is also important that the government implement regulatory measures such as the innovation tax credit, which encourages companies to invest in research and development (R&D). In France, 20,000 firms are involved in the innovation tax credit scheme, with 70% of investment in R&D covered by the firm and 30% by the government through tax redemption. However, in Morocco, Initiative Maroc Innovation 2011-14 targets only 800 companies.
Morocco has yet to implement more ambitious programmes to reach out to more companies. Such measures would also encourage international firms to invest in R&D in Morocco and establish the country as a regional hub for innovation and expansion to Africa. As for e-government, the upcoming 2020 IT strategy should also produce some improvements. Morocco is currently engaged in a process of advanced regionalisation that should enable authorities to have a more pronounced impact in remote areas. Both public and private companies must further outsource their IT-related services in order to reduce fixed costs and thereby give local companies the opportunity to develop exportable expertise.
How can financing for tech starts-ups be improved?
HORANI: A vast array of incentives has already been put in place by the banking system to foster better financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. Regarding start-ups, successful models inspired by North American practices need to be encouraged, such as the development of crowd funding or angel investor concepts. In the US, this model has been very successful for the gaming industry. It is fundamental to create an ecosystem that helps start-ups grow and secure the necessary funds in every development phase. Both government and private associations should create an incentives framework within the 2020 vision to develop an environment that facilitates the work of IT project developers.
What more can be done to foster digital literacy?
HORANI: Digital literacy is important for all stakeholders in the education system since it is a key condition for economic development. It is important to target young people to facilitate their integration in the job market. The rest of the community also needs to adapt to the changing world and be able to communicate and obtain information online. In schools, conventional and digital literacy must be promoted together through an integrated strategy. Local companies have already launched some IT learning campaigns and many of them reach out to low-income communities.
What are the growth prospects for e-commerce?
HORANI: E-commerce and electronic payments are already a reality in Morocco. With more than 9.7m cards and an annual electronic payment volume growth of 10%, reaching Dh198bn (€17.58bn), in 2013, the current activity trends are very promising. E-commerce is also taking off, as we have maintained an average annual growth of 70% over the past few years, reaching Dh1.4bn (€124.32m) in 2013. Today, there are only 400 merchant websites offering online payment services and 70,000 cards being used for online transactions. Utilities and airline ticket payments represent 85% of total volume, with electronic shopping accounting for only 15% of the online payments.
There remains enormous potential for growth, and great efforts have been made in this regard by all banks involved. The strong infrastructure already in place in Morocco, as well as high levels of local knowhow, will without doubt contribute to the development of electronic payment methods in the years ahead.
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