There is something remarkable happening in the Middle East even in the face of all of the doom and gloom that you read in western news services – and that is the Arab Spring is having another spin off from young people taking to the streets to now taking to business in a movement that is seeing hundreds and thousands starting up. In fact when you take a look at some of the emerging data you might be forgiven for thinking entrepreneurship as a movement is moving at a faster pace than in some western countries. Sitting down with Injaz Al- Maghrib on the sidelines of the Arabia CSR Conference in Dubai I was given an insight into what is happening in Morocco but first the scene.
Youth unemployment in that country is a staggering 30% and job creation is not keeping pace with the growing number of young people entering into the workforce every year. At the same time young people have not been taking advantage of the generous loans on offer where the government will back up to 85% of initial start-up costs. On top of that a problem that seems to be generic is that school curriculums are not geared towards encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.
So, lets look at a youth led revolution that is happening in the Middle East right now and it has nothing to do with conflict and in the words of Mr.M’hammed Andalousi of Injaz Al-Maghrib:
The unemployment rate among Moroccan youth is at a staggering 30% and job creation is not keeping up with the growing number of young people entering the workforce every year. On the other hand, youth are not taking advantage of the government programs that offer mentoring and loan opportunities. For example, in 2009, a government program called “Moukawalati”, which means “my business,” received only 900 applicants; their target was 30,000.
This could be explained by the fact that the education system in Morocco today does not sufficiently promote initiative, imagination, team work, and entrepreneurial spirit. Schools largely ignore enterprises and the way they operate while enterprises often overlooks education, beyond occasional charitable donations mostly focused on improving construction and equipment. Stimulating entrepreneurial spirit of Moroccan youth is sorely needed as it is the case in the larger Middle East North Africa region.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Great solutions already exist as illustrated by the Junior Achievement programs launched in 1919 in USA, which are a best practice. In 2012, INJAZ Morocco committed to cultivating entrepreneurial spirit among 26 155 Moroccan students, with half of the participants being girls, by scaling up the size and scope of these programs in schools at the middle, high school, and college levels.
By discussing entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and life skills, our programs equip youth with the knowledge and skills needed to start and grow a business - this is the “learning by doing” methodology. Thanks to the support of 90 partners and the involvement of 1750 Executive Volunteers, INJAZ Morocco managed to reach more than 35 000 students.
These achievements speak to the great potential there is in Morocco for businesses to partner with Government to support the youth. This program results in a win-win situation for all parties.
For businesses and executives involved, first: the latter can then develop new skills in term of team management, communication and training, while the former may improve their image. Indeed, once the daily life of companies is better understood, they should not be perceived as “predators” anymore. As highlighted by Meriem Bensalah, President of the Moroccan association of Employers (CGEM) : “To see every week hundreds of business executive volunteers giving of their time and communicating their passion of entrepreneurship with young people, gives us, the pride to be a member of those change makers of the economy.”
For the government, this program is considered as a good case study to develop the basic of businesses but also soft skills. As explained by Rachid Benmokhtar, Minister of National Education and Vocational training, “INJAZ’s mission to build awareness among young people and prepare them for the business world is unique. It is masterfully filling a gap by bringing companies into the heart of the schools and universities”.
For young people, the main beneficiaries, who are happy to be presented new opportunities - judging by the positive feedback received. Among the most encouraging we have heard so far: “This experience changed the course of my life and gives me a reason to wake up every morning” and “I have learnt to take control of my life. I have learnt not to stand and watch. I found out that the more you do, the more you can do”.
A program like that of INJAZ has a direct impact on young people. By promoting the entrepreneurship culture, it contributes to developing Morocco. Building on significant results to date, we at INJAZ now believe that it is time to reach a new step and take a new commitment. Over the 3 coming academic years, INJAZ Morocco will empower 71,190 students with the knowledge and skills they need in terms of creativity, initiative, marketing, business planning, teamwork, leadership to start and grow a business by scaling up the size and scope of the Junior Achievement programs.
So, as you can see entrepreneurship is very much alive and well across Pan Africa and Arabia. Find out more about this incredible program at http://injaz-morocco.org/en/
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