The development of Morocco’s IT sector

Morocco aims to position itself as a strategic hub in the Middle East and North Africa by becoming one of the top performing countries in the region in terms of datacom infrastructure and IT business environment. The investment reform plan presented in July 2016 by Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy, marked a strategic step in the realisation of new reforms for building a competitive and efficient economic model. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the reforms launched and initiatives taken to develop the Morocco Digital Program 2020.

In order to promote Morocco as an attractive destination for outsourcing services and an anchor in the global digital movement, the government has lifted the ban made by the Telecommunications Regulatory National Agency (ANRT) over internet protocol (VoIP) services. In our previously published article, we explained that the ban of VoIP could impact the operating costs of the companies in the sector and decrease the country’s competitive advantage in terms of telecom prices. According to a report published by The Brooking Institution in October 2016, the VoIP ban resulted in US$320m of economic loss for Morocco during the first half of 2016.

In terms of digital progress, Morocco still struggles with disparities in access to computer technologies in crucial sectors. Even though 60% of Moroccans had access to internet last year, the country’s 2016 network readiness index remains relatively low, ranking 78th out of 139.

According to the APEBI chairwomen, Saloua Karkri Belkziz, the development of a digital economy remains crucial to improving the positioning of the country. In order to exploit the full potential of ICT technologies, Morocco needs to develop a strong and dynamic programme to establish itself as a competitive actor globally.

As an initial step, the MCINET will launch the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Exportation Development (AMDIE) to engage in a competitive economic model. The agency will play a key role in ensuring the deployment of various programmes and coordinate between the different actors, bringing together the Morocco Export Agency and the Office of Trade Fairs and Exhibitions (OFEC). This structure will support investment at all levels based on elaborated road maps and create a real collective dynamic between the different actors.

As an important step to further building the country’s international positioning, the MCINET launched a new Digital Programme for 2020, subsequent to the Morocco Numeric 2013 Plan, emphasising the importance of introducing more diversification to improve the competitiveness of the country. According to Elalamy, in order to “reach an emerging country status and enable all citizens to fulfill their aspirations, Morocco should attempt to create the conditions for a sustainable economic growth, in which investment acts as a catalyst”.

The digital programme plans to accelerate Morocco’s digital transformation and reinforce the country’s status as a regional digital hub. The programme consists of a $750m investment in reducing the digital divide by 50% through the digitisation of administrative services, improved access to internet through free wifi in public spaces and digital literacy programmes, aiming to train over 39,007 ICT professionals by 2020.

Overall architecture of the Morocco Digital 2020 Strategy

The Morocco Digital 2020 Strategy relies on three main pillars:

  • Pilar I: Boosting e-government services and fostering the dissemination of ICT usage among Moroccan households
  • Pilar II: Positioning Morocco as a digital hub in French-speaking Africa and enabling the development of BPO services with high added values
  • Pilar III: Focusing on human resources to increase the regional competitiveness of the country and extend the potential growth of the market

Morocco Digital 2020 objectives

Many initiatives have been launched in parallel to strengthen the e-consumer’s protection and enforce the market legislations. The General Confederation for Enterprise in Morocco (CGEM) implemented an “e-thiq@” label that aims to categorise trading websites based on a list of criteria (i.e. commercial transaction, protection of consumer personal information, etc.).

In recent years, Morocco tried to position itself as a strategic actor and to be in the frontline in terms of e-commerce and digital development. The country tried to extend its expertise in a wide range of IT areas, from offshoring to electronic payment and software development. According to a report published by the International Data Corporation, the Moroccan IT services market is expected to expand at an average annual growth rate of 10.3% in the coming years and is expected to reach $550m by 2018. To achieve these ambitious plans the country should rely on the development of the telecoms and infrastructure sectors, improve information security regulations, and boost the public services.

Mounia Bendraoui is an associate at Infomineo.

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