Some of the most promising cities for entrepreneurship in the Middle East are located in North Africa. While Morocco has not received much attention from the Middle East’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, this may soon change. A number of Moroccan entrepreneurs have emerged in recent years, and they are now earning a good deal of attention for their successful projects. What makes Morocco such an intriguing place for rising entrepreneurs is that fact that it has a thriving economy, yet many of the modern services that exist in North America and Europe, or even elsewhere in the Middle East, are not available there.
However, the Moroccan government has recently made some changes, such as increased business regulation and policies to stimulate exports, to support entrepreneurship. Many entrepreneurs see Morocco as a key bridge between the Middle East and Africa. The country is in a good economic position to support entrepreneurial growth, and it is geographically well placed to push businesses into the West African market.
According to Hayat Essakkati, the cofounder of Maroc4Invest, 2016 will witness the creation of new accelerators and unique spaces for collaboration and entrepreneurial community growth. She also predicts an increase in the number of angel investors and people interested in supporting startups at more advanced stages.
Maroc4Invest is working to open the Moroccan market to foreign investors. The organization works closely with these investors, as well as startups, to walk them through the processes, such as company registration, they need to understand to be successful in Morocco. Maroc4Invest acknowledges that fact that insider information makes penetrating a new market much easier and aims to jumpstart the Moroccan entrepreneurial ecosystem by helping businesses launch.
Maroc4Invest’s Advice for Entrepreneurs Interested in Morocco
Companies and investors interested in Morocco have a number of tools to help them guarantee success in the country. While Moroc4Invest can provide great support, individuals can also take a number of steps on their own. For example, Moroc4Invest urges companies entering the market to register, which they can typically do without assistance. The process takes about two or three weeks and will cost somewhere between $1,000 and $1,200. However, companies must also demonstrate that they have at least $1,000 in startup capital. This low threshold makes doing business in Morocco extremely easy. Also, registered Moroccan startup companies are exempt from certain taxes until their annual revenues grow above $50,000. Still, entrepreneurs may want to consider hiring a professional accountant to avoid some of the pitfalls involved with registration and tax issues.
As in most countries, the tax system in Morocco can prove confusing. Entrepreneurs here will face a number of different taxes, including a social security tax, an income tax, and a value-added tax (VAT). Entrepreneurs are exempt from the VAT until they make $50,000 annually, but navigating the other taxes can be tricky.
Although typical tax rates for Moroccan corporations hover around 30 percent, individual rates can go as high as 38 percent. In addition, some taxes apply to expatriate business owners, while others do not. It’s therefore a good idea for businesspeople to hire a knowledgeable accountant to help them understand the complexities of the nation’s tax policies.
Foreign investors, says Maroc4Invest, can repatriate their capital to a foreign account, which can save on taxes. The organization also recommends that entrepreneurs learn about the industrial, duty-free zones in Tangier and Nador, as well as the southern region of Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra, which has some tax exemptions.
Another issue that companies have to worry about is securing office space. Before renting a commercial space, entrepreneurs should check out the local incubators and accelerators according to Maroc4Invest. These organizations are growing more popular, especially in the country’s larger urban areas. Many accelerators and incubators offer shared-space facilities, which can significantly cut down on expenses. Another good option is a technology park. Also, startups can legally operate out of a home office for up to six months after registration. In Casablanca, a 600-square-foot office will typically run about $1,200 monthly, whereas in other major cities office space is usually around $800 monthly for a similarly sized space.
When it comes to recruiting in Morocco, entrepreneurs can turn to a number of different companies depending on their location. To ease this process, Maroc4Invest has identified a few trustworthy staffing companies. These companies help virtually all levels of the private sector find the right people, from high-level managers to factory workers , needed to help the company grow.
The incredible range of opportunities available in Morocco may very well make it a highlight of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Center, which takes place in Silicon Valley in June. The Moroccan market is set to emerge as one of the most supportive for entrepreneurs, and the major holes in the country’s services present a large number of avenues for securing significant market hold.