Private sector steps in with IT training for growth

The private sector is stepping in to provide higher education in information technology in Morocco, as the government struggles to match demand from the North African country’s growing economy with an output of highly skilled graduates.

According to insights from a Morocco IT Services Market 2013-2017 Forecast and 2012 Vendor Shares report by the International Data Corporation, the Moroccan IT services market is set to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 10.3% in the coming years to total US$472.37 million in 2017.

This growth has partly been fuelled by the government’s ‘Maroc Numeric 2013’ programme, investing MAD100 million (US$10.3 million) and leveraging further investment into IT start-up companies for two to seven years of business activity.

Another programme has been a public-private Technopark initiative, which opened IT centre Technopark Casablanca in 2001, Technopark Rabat in 2012, and there is one opening in Tanger this year.

Meanwhile, the government has promoted entrepreneur development agencies such as the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, or CEED, a private organisation founded to mentor young entrepreneurs in Africa by investment group Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, or SEAF, and INJAZ Al-Maghrib, a foundation that promotes North African economic growth.

These initiatives have resulted in a rapid growth in new companies in the information and communications technology or ICT sector, according to an official from the German IT major SAP.

He told University World News that many companies had launched within the last six months, with a main cluster currently around Casablanca numbering 180 companies, according to technology information provider FL Computer Resources.

Private sector training programmes

With demand for qualified ICT professionals in Morocco outstripping supply, companies such as IBM have been implementing training.

IBM began running courses less than a year ago in partnership with three universities and an engineering college: Mohammed V Agdal University and the École Nationale Supérieure d'Informatique et d'Analyse des Systèmes or ENSIAS, both in Rabat; the International University of Rabat; and Mundiapolis University in Casablanca.

IBM is also piloting a programme at Mohammed V Agdal University training students in IT mobility, security, business analytics, data management, clouds and more.

Meanwhile SAP, a market leader in enterprise resource planning software, has launched a ‘Skills for Africa’ course in Morocco in partnership with the OCP Foundation, funded by Morocco’s agri-business giant OCP.

Pfungwa Serima, CEO for SAP Africa, said: “SAP is committed to driving business in North Africa. This is not possible without developing the right skills and creating the right jobs in the communities in which we do business.”

Meanwhile Amine Alaoui, executive vice president for the OCP Foundation, said: “This partnership with SAP is an exciting opportunity to drive both the skills and job creation agenda forward in Morocco.”

The ‘Skills for Africa’ course as currently structured involves 39 students following a nine-week programme at the new, private OCP-owned Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Benguerir, north of Marrakesh.

Frederic Masse, vice-president for EMEA – Europe, Middle East and Africa – government relations at SAP, said: “The academic degree requested during the selection process was at least [a first degree].

“Most of the trainees have a masters. At the end of this ‘Skills for Africa’ training they will go through an exam and if they succeed will get an SAP professional certificate recognised worldwide in the SAP ecosystem of partners and customers.”

“All 39 of the first Moroccan ‘Skills for Africa’ class have guaranteed internships – provided they complete their studies successfully.” He said this first cohort was a small initial intervention and the course would expand significantly in the future.

Combating unemployment

Private investment in higher education should help the North African country where, according to business information service Trading Economics, unemployment had risen to 9.9% in May 2015, up from 9.6% in November 2014 – 1.15 million out of 33.3 million people.

For many Moroccans, access to university education may in future become beyond their reach as the government said in 2012 that it wanted to end free university education, although this policy has yet to be enacted. Students can also look online for affordable training.

Costas Spirou, co-organiser and professor of sociology at Georgia College and State University in the United States, said: “There are many good programmes in the form of certificates, associate or bachelor degrees that are delivered online and can help meet the demand for qualified ICT professionals in Morocco.”

Spirou, a Morocco expert, cited the need for investment from organisations such as the United Nations and charitable foundations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, which have been investing in Africa’s digital economy since 2013.

“What is most important though is that Moroccan institutions – higher education, political, business – must be involved by leading the effort to create sustained agreements and partnerships.

“Leadership at that level is critical since building the technology workforce in Morocco will bring about robust economic growth.”

Frederic Masse added that SAP would also expand its work in Morocco in other ways, with its ‘University Alliances’ programme looking to develop new partnerships.

Looking to the future in Morocco, Masse said: “We will run sessions of ‘Skills for Africa’ and develop in parallel a dual [IT engineering and management] diploma with engineers and management schools as we do in many other countries.”