Analysing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Morocco

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Swisscontact and its partners analysed the startup community in Morocco and share recommendations for developing the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Just after launching the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme programme, Swisscontact followed up with an entrepreneurial Ecosystem Health Check in Morocco to facilitate the implementation of the Youth Inclusion and Employment Project (YIEP).

The Danish-Arab Partnership Programme

The Danish-Arab Partnership Programme (DAPP II) is Denmark's collaborative programme with North Africa and the Middle East. The programme aims to build partnerships to strengthen good governance and ensure economic opportunities, especially for youth and women, in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. In Morocco, the Youth Inclusion and Employment Project, which falls under the first pillar of the DAPP, will be implemented by ActionAid Denmark and Alianza Por La Solidaridad in collaboration with Swisscontact and Turning Tables. The project aims to enable young people to be inspired and actively included in economic life by equipping them with the technical and soft skills needed to get a decent job or to engage in entrepreneurship.

The Ecosystem Health Check tool

In 2021, Swisscontact and its partner DEEP Ecosystems developed the Ecosystem Health Check – a self-serving toolkit that supports actors in startup communities to measure and analyse the state of their entrepreneurial ecosystems. DEEP Ecosystems is a platform for the acceleration of entrepreneurial ecosystems that works with innovation leaders worldwide to help them grow their regional communities and institutions to support more entrepreneurs to succeed.

Analysing the state of development of the local ecosystem

Swisscontact worked with DEEP to build a strong basis for the project and to ensure improved business environments for entrepreneurs and SMEs in a very complex, economical and social environment such as Morocco. In January 2023, CEO of DEEP Ecosystems Thomas Kösters, Ecosystem Expert Sara Usinger, and DAPP coordinator Zineb Fakihani jointly started elaborating an Ecosystem Health Check that will serve as a tool to compare and benchmark the state of development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, plan strategic interventions, and identify key metrics related their impact. 

To reach a better understanding and deliver the right recommendations that will promote the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Morocco, key metrics included the level of international connectivity and network density, among others.

In order to collect data for the analysis of the startup community, the team conducted a review of studies on the local ecosystem, brainstorming sessions, roundtables and surveys with leaders of the ecosystem. 641 startups were identified and a list of Entrepreneurship Support Organisations (ESOs) was created.

Strengths and weaknesses of the startup ecosystem in Morocco

The results of the analysis were summarised in a guideline. The findings show a strong performance in terms of the startup environment:  

  • Good regional distribution of support programmes,
  • A relatively good innovation culture,
  • Open dialogue with the government on entrepreneurship,
  • A positive international brand, especially with digital nomads

Despite the fact that support for startups has a positive impact on the success of these startups, the ecosystem is not able to rally behind a successful strategy just yet:

  • The startup scene shows a striking lack of talent and entrepreneurial experiences.
  • Specialisation efforts are misguided and perceived growth sectors underperform drastically.

Recommendations for developing Morocco's entrepreneurial ecosystem

As a general guideline, the recommendation for a future strategy should refocus away from structural development and guide towards talent and community objectives, combined with an ambitious growth mindset. The results show that education and inspiration for entrepreneurial talent is needed to capture the great economic potential of the Moroccan youth:  

  • Tap into the untapped talent pool by increasing diversity in entrepreneurship education. Focus on developing specific programmes and networks to support the socio-economic empowerment of women and youth.
  • Explore the combination of entrepreneurial training programmes with digital nomads to make use of international expertise.
  • Establish close ties with universities by setting up a student awareness cell to capitalise on the mobilisation capacity of universities. Explore ways to reduce dropout rates due to financial stress by offering stipends, loans, or grants.
  • Building the talent networks needed to create globally successful companies; programmes accessible to the greatest number, following the example of 42 in France. Programmes like 1337 in Morocco can play a vital role.
  • Develop synergies with the private sector for investments in entrepreneurial talent development.

Swisscontact and its implementation partners in the DAPP project will place these recommendations at the heart of their activities to maximise their impact. 

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
The Danish Arab Partnership Program (DAPP) was established in 2003 by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Danida). The current phase of the DAPP (2022-2027) focuses on employment and human rights in the MENA region, with a primary focus on youth. The activities focus on Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan, and address some of the root causes of youth migration to Europe.