Bidaya's insight into social green tech in Morocco
Sarah Diouri is the Head of Bidaya Incubator. Bidaya is the Social Green Tech incubator of Morocco, belonging to the international network of incubators GROUPE SOS Pulse. Established in Casablanca since 2015, Bidaya has supported more than 40 startups with a strong social or environmental impact. Here she shares with Business Chief her insight into social green tech in Morocco:
Morocco is the African leader in tech development, as revealed by Les Inspirations Eco in a Top 10 ranking of the continent. The country tops the list thanks to its control over tech exports in Middle East and North Africa (45%), as well as achieving more than 10% annual growth in the information and communication technologies sector during the last 5 years. More specifically, Morocco is strongly impacted by Tech for Good - which is the intentional design, development and use of digital tech to address social challenges.
Among the social tech incubators in Morocco, Bidaya is certainly the most active. This Social Green Tech incubator is part of the international network of GROUPE SOS Pulse incubators and has been located in Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, since 2015. Bidaya has helped more than 60 startups with strong social or environmental impact by providing training, mentoring, networking and financing opportunities.
Convinced of the need to build innovative business models to meet social and environmental challenges, Bidaya supports high-impact entrepreneurship in 4 different ways:
- Bidaya Incub is a 12-month program for startups at ideation stage, offering training and mentoring
- Bidaya Funds is a 3-month program for startups with a proof of concept, offering training and financing (grants and interest-free loans)
- Bidaya Space is a program to raise awareness on social tech entrepreneurship in Morocco via events and communication campaigns
- Bidaya Lab is a partnership driven initiative to develop new social tech support programs
Among the startups that Bidaya has supported, many operate in tech for good:
- Future Builders is an ed- tech startup. It is an inclusive technology initiation centre that democratizes digital and scientific education by deploying outreach teams in neighbourhood to offer workshops, holiday camps, introductory and competition days for children.
- Elle Voyage Seule is a social tech startup. It is a collaborative website for women wishing travelling alone in Arab and African countries. This dissemination platform and eco-friendly travel guide promotes women’s ownership of public space.
- Tbibcom is a health-tech startup. Tbibcom’s mission is to adhere the cancer patient to his treatment and to provide remote follow-up for the best management of complications and the reduction of toxic deaths, through the therapeutic education of the patient, as well as a web platform and a mobile application.
- Scube is a green tech startup. It is a design office and prime contractor in the field of connected tehcnologies. The startup invests and innovates in social and economical projects such as Aïni and offers customized resource management solutions (energy, water, human resources, etc.), especially in the precision agriculture sector.
- Fastoosh is a social tech startup. It is an online platform that offers video animation templates that cost 10 times less than a specialized agency or a motion design professional. Anyone, without prior knowledge, can choose and modify the desired template in few minutes. This platform represents a marketplace and an opportunity for visibility and income for Moroccan motion designers. In a second phase, training will be offered to disadvantage populations in order to integrate them into the labour market.
- Circus is an ed tech startup. It collects electronic waste to repackage it and gives it a second life in the form of an artistic design computer. These computers will provide digital access to beneficiaries in rural areas, including training in code.
Billionaire Kumar Birla Champions Regional Supply Chains
As the head of the Aditya Birla Group, a US$46bn firm that operates in 36 countries, Kumar Mangalam Birla is no stranger to splashy strategic moves. Yet his recent announcement that he no longer wants to acquire globally distributed supply chains stood out. While many companies have struggled to cope with shipping backlogs, his firm has chosen to pivot and focus on regional networks. Said Birla: ‘We wouldn’t look at a company or a business where you source in one corner of the world and sell in another’.
He cited protectionism, the pandemic, and the limited movement of products and people around the world as ABG’s primary causes of lost profits. And they aren’t alone. Over the past year, 900 of the U.S. and Europe’s biggest IT, defence, and financial services firms have lost an average of US$184mn apiece.
An Era of Global Disruption
Over the past few decades, low shipping rates and rapid delivery times have lulled multinational firms into a false sense of security. In the early 2000s, companies chose to take on significant global supply chain risks in exchange for increased profits. First, it made sense to manufacture higher-value goods, such as electronics, in low-cost regions throughout Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. Second, first-tier suppliers started to outsource the manufacturing of specific components to second-, third-, and even fourth-tiers—leaving supply chains with extremely limited visibility.
So when COVID-19 disruptions struck certain regions, companies were caught unprepared. Usually, these events come few and far between. But over the past ten years, we’ve seen a number of ‘black swan’ events that have thrown the supply chain industry into chaos. Here’s a quick history of the most significant events in recent years, thanks to the MIT Sloan Management Review:
- 2010. China creates export quotas for rare earth elements.
- 2011. The Tōhoku Earthquake hits East Japan; flooding sweeps throughout Thailand.
- 2016-present. Trade wars between the U.S. and China hurt suppliers.
- 2020-present. COVID-19 pandemic shuts down international shipping ports.
Now, Kumar Birla is one of many who want to re-evaluate how we run our supply chains. Though his company has acquired 40+ companies in the last quarter decade, Birla intends to build up local hubs rather than expand operations.
Why Pursue Regionalisation?
Combine Chinese economic dominance, global supply chain vulnerabilities, and major government policy shifts around the world, and you have a storm brewing on the horizon for big multinational firms. As Brookings noted, ‘the biggest risk for trading opportunities in the developing world is growing protectionism in more advanced economies, often dressed up as national security protection’.
Altogether, from the U.S. to the European Union, governments are trying to protect their domestic supply chains, secure adequate stockpiles of materials, and build world-class local networks. Consider Biden’s recent executive order, which seeks to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to home soil, or Japan’s bid to open more memory chip fabrication factories near Tokyo. The Aditya Birla Group intends to react in kind. Said Birla: ‘We’re looking at regionalism as a very big theme’.
Will Others Follow Suit?
In the post-pandemic economy, global businesses must decide whether to expand or contract. On one hand, the Alibaba Group’s Cainiao Smart Logistics Network recently launched a direct flight between Hong Kong, China, and Lagos, Nigeria. On the other, the Japanese government is desperate to make its chip manufacturing domestic. Indeed, as two supply chain strategies diverge in a post-pandemic world, the one businesses take may make all the difference.
Yet Birla is confident that regionalisation is the right call. According to his words at the Qatar Economic Forum, even necessary cross-border transactions should be smaller in scope. And as the Bloomberg Billionaires Index now lists his net wealth at US$10.4bn, up 52% from 2020, he may have the cash to test his theories out. ‘Regional hubs, regional presence, regional employment, catering to regional demand’, he stated. ‘We’re a global company rooted in local economics’.