Opportunities and Challenges of Doing Business in Morocco – ESCA Ecole de Management

ESCA_Ecole_de_Management_Study_Trip_to_Casablanca3As the first business school in Morocco and French speaking Africa, ESCA Ecole de Management in Casablanca, Morocco has a deep commitment to educate a new generation of high potential, responsible managers and ethical entrepreneurial leaders in Morocco, across Africa and in emerging economies. The business environment in Morocco offers many opportunities but also several engrained challenges that ESCA aims to raise awareness about through its programmes. I recently spoke with Mahja Nait Barka from ESCA Ecole de Management about some of these challenges and opportunities.

Briefly describe ESCA Ecole de Management’s approach to sustainability and responsible management education.

ESCA Ecole de Management advocates responsible leadership and sustainable management and has committed to implementing the Principles of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Management Education since 2013. We have thus embarked on a series of interrelated initiatives directed towards this end, through programmes, research and partnerships that support change in managerial practices and educate leaders who carry values for the modernisation of society and positively impact their environments and organisations.

You mention that corruption is one of the major challenges for businesses in Morocco. Could you provide some more thoughts on this?

The Moroccan economy, Africa’s fifth largest by GDP, offers some of the most attractive options for investment in North Africa and the Middle East. The country has become a model of stability and reform amid the uncertainties of the Arab Spring, leading the region in social and political progress, but corruption is prevalent in many levels of Moroccan society and rarely prosecuted.

Because of the lack of statistical data, it is difficult to assess the extent of corruption’s entrenchment in Morocco but the international anti-corruption organisation Transparency International (TI) rates Morocco at 37 on scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) in its “2013 Corruption Perception Index.”

A 2008 survey by Transparency Maroc, the local branch of TI, reached a similar conclusion concerning regularly paid bribes to facilitate or speed up administrative procedures, or influence decisions on public calls to tender and state contracts. More than two-thirds of Moroccans surveyed called the judiciary, media, police, parliament and public officials “corrupt or very corrupt,” and questioned the lack for transparency and accountability of the public administration, which make it difficult to have access to services that are an inherent right.

However, the Moroccan government is committed to fighting corruption, and in 2010 established the Instance Centrale de Prévention de la Corruption (ICPC), Morocco’s national anti-corruption agency. Among ICPC’s accomplishments: the creation of a portal that allows small-to-medium-sized businesses to report corruption, and the drafting of a public sector code of ethics. The ICPC is also at the origin of a public campaign to raise awareness on anti-corruption questions, and the drafting of a bill to enhance the ICPC mandate and ability to prosecute corrupt individuals. These initiatives, coupled with the ‘Moroccan Code of Good Practice for Corporate Governance’ adopted by the anti-corruption committee of the CGEM (Moroccan Association of Entrepreneurs), are positively setting the framework to tackle corruption issues, and establish more transparency and integrity.

What role do you feel you as a business school can play to help with this challenge moving forward?

The concept of corruption is deeply rooted in Moroccan society’s DNA and in people’s attitudes. In Moroccan mentality, it cannot be considered as corruption, it is just help—paying for a service is a form of favour or friendly reciprocity. Raising awareness about the negative impact of corruption on the economy has therefore become absolute necessity and ESCA Ecole de Management is committed to sharing with students and stakeholders positive values, and promoting success as a result of hard work, effort and ethics. This position is strongly connected to ESCA’s initial mission: training managers to help them succeed and serve development. We educate future entrepreneurial managers who will be participating in economic development and society modernisation. We teach students how to create long-term value for themselves, their organisations, and their environment.

What are some of the ways that you are doing this?

In 2013, ESCA Ecole de Management launched an initiative with all its stakeholders to integrate a code of ethics in the School’s curriculum, to instill positive values and foster the emergence of a generation able to fight against corruption and restore the principles of integrity and accountability in the society.

The school also tackles corruption at its roots in “Business Ethics” classes, which teach students the negative impact of corruption, and influence of peddling on business integrity and development, while promoting the rule of law. Discussions are fostered by cases drawn from local current affairs, and special attention is paid to dilemmas and how to overcome them. We also encourage dialogue with ESCA Alumni and successful entrepreneurs, who are frequently asked to come and share their experience with our students during conferences and open chats. These testimonies promote positive models of upward social mobility through effort and hard work. Managers and entrepreneurs are also asked to mentor students on projects and act as role models. We also incorporated these lessons into our innovative Doing Business in Morocco and Africa programme.

What is the Doing Business in Morocco and Africa programme?

With a focus on the Maghreb Region and Sub-Saharan countries, the programme aims at appreciating Africa’s business opportunities from Morocco, which is considered a hub in Africa, as its rapid development and economic diversification has created opportunities in a variety of fields (banking, travel & hospitality, telecom, mining, etc.). As the Arab World is facing deep changes and difficult transitions, the kingdom has managed to build a different business model, and gain leadership within the North African Region as a politically stable and economically thriving country.

This programme is offered to MBA participants from ESCA Ecole de Management’s partner universities and business schools to help them learn not only about doing business in Morocco in a dynamic framework, but also to identify key winning conditions to maneuver successfully in the region. Participants are then able to develop better negotiation skills, create long-term connections, and avoid common pitfalls when dealing with multiculturalism and business uncertainty. The programme combines an overseas trip, cultural experience (guided tours, introduction to Moroccan history, culture and business etiquette), academic seminars (on Entrepreneurship in Emerging Countries, Multinationals’ strategies to target African Markets through Morocco, Free-trade agreements, etc.), company visits, and high-profile meetings with Moroccan emerging champions, local entrepreneurs and government speakers.

Eighty MBA students and academics explored Moroccan business and society in 2013-2014 within the framework of the Doing Business in Morocco and Africa programme, and particularly appreciated its mix of regional insight and cultural immersion. Participants included: Grenoble Ecole de Management (France), University of San Diego (USA), California State University Long Beach (USA) Stellenbosch University (South Africa). Participants from New York Stern School of Business are expected in Casablanca in November 2014.

What advice do you have for other schools working in environments with a lot of corruption?

Business schools are organisations. As such, they should set examples and be their own agents of change by promoting ethical governance, compliance systems and practices that prevent corruptive, nepotistic behaviours—for instance in the hiring of faculty or in the procurement of school resources. By inspiring good, responsible leadership, business schools serve as incubators of responsible future leaders.

What is next for ESCA?

In November 2014, ESCA Ecole de Management will host the 4th PRME MENA Regional Forum. This event, in partnership with United Nations-supported PRME, will bring together over 300 participants from 20 countries to explore approaches and experiences, and discuss challenges and strategies for improving responsible management education through syllabi, research, student activities, dialogue, and partnerships with stakeholders. Among the participants will be state ministers, senior officials, university and business school deans, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs and members of civil society from North Africa and the Middle East. This will be a fantastic opportunity for the school to spread best practices and advocate PRME on the south and east coast of the Mediterranean.


PRiMEtime on this date…

in 2013: What happened at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2013

in 2012: Creating a Cross-Disciplinary Course in Sustainability, Bentley University


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