Morocco is more synonymous with souks than start-ups. But within the local and international business community, that perception is rapidly changing.
Alongside the Marrakesh race of the FIA Formula-E Championship entrepreneurs gathered in the city of Marrakesh to be part of the Allianz Explorer Hub Micro-conference to share how they’re tackling some of the country’s challenges through innovative use of technology. Among them: improving transportation, reducing pollution and empowering women.
Allianz’s Head of Group market management and distribution Jean-Marc Pailhol said “Morocco has huge potential. There is more opportunity for innovation in emerging countries like Morocco. There are less regulatory problems and constraints. The decisions are faster and the population is younger.”
The Allianz Explorer Hub Micro-conference was run over the weekend alongside the Marrakesh race of the world’s first fully-electric single-seater race series, the FIA Formula E Championship. Allianz not only is an official partner but also extends to direct investment into the race.
Head of Global Brand Communication Florian Scheiblbrandner said the insurer is eager to learn how people will move in the future, such as through electric cars.
“You would expect that Formula E is about cars racing a race track – and this is happening. But the purpose behind Formula E is much bigger. It’s thinking about how people in the future could move in cities.”
“There are lots of new technologies on the horizon like what we see with Formula E. Our business is about reassuring people. If we don’t know what people want to do and what they fear, we cannot insure them in the future.”
Moroccan entrepreneur Abid Khirani is working on initiative to improve transport safety. Casky has developed a device that sticks to the back of helmets and uses the riders head movements to signal a red light to show if a motorcyclist is turning or braking based off the movement of the rider’s head.
“Half of all accidents in Morocco involve a motorcycle and yet half of motorcycle riders here don’t use helmets.”
Casky will also upload information about traffic congestion to an app and notify family and emergency services if a user is in an accident.
Entrepreneurs are also using technology to improve gender equality. Social entrepreneur Manal Elattir has partnered with more than 1,800 young women artists and entrepreneurs to help them sell their crafted products online, such as handbags.
“In Morocco, we are seeing more women becoming trailblazers – and that creates role models for other younger women to start their own businesses.”
Panelist Ali Fahim of Pintail runs a low commission online currency exchange and believes new technology is improving the lives of ordinary citizens: “We have issues, but this is why I’m optimistic. We are seeing our problems and constraints and we are trying to solve them.”
Meanwhile, Panelist Faical Said of Peps-Meca is using solar power to transform household waste into energy. “Waste is a problem for everyone. We can give it some value and make it bankable and saleable.”
He says “there is hunger to make new projects and innovations in Morocco. Things are going to be better in the future.”
Panelist Oumaima Chamchati’s start-up Ville Propre is reducing rubbish around the country’s sprawling urban cities through smartphone app. Users can alert local authorities about rubbish that needs collecting by uploading photographs.
Meanwhile, Local Formula E race fans enjoyed an immersive experience at the Allianz Explorer Zone in the Allianz E-Village.