On the wool carpet woven in the Atlas Mountains that makes its way to a fancy living room in Seattle.

On the 25th of February, I received this message on my Facebook page from a certain Dan Driscoll :

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I’m gonna be brutally honest here : at first, I got a little perplex as I thought it was one more western hero and one more project taking advantage of local artisans while marketing it as a “ social business ”. See however hard I try, and even though I belong to the generation Y, I still have that old fashioned metropolitan-raised perplexity. But you’ve guessed it, I was wrong. And let me tell you : I’ve never enjoyed being wrong that much. Dan, the “western hero”, turned out to be more engaged for the good of the local communities than I ever was. Oh, and he also happens to speak Tachlhit (=berber language quite rarely spoken in urban areas even by Moroccans).

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But let us start from the beginning and set some context; I hit the road to Rabat on Friday, I woke up Saturday to a rainy wheather, took a taxi to “Quartier Hassan” because the taxi man did not recognize the Technopark –neither did everybody I met that morning, up your communication game Technopark Rabat, would you! – and I thought I could easily get there. Once again, I was wrong. I got lost for a solid 20min. But I finally stumbled upon the colorful building and went in for my meeting. I entered the 15m2 office to find the five board members of the ANOU cooperative waiting for me. To the surprise of my perplex self, Dan annouced to me right away that he was in fact leaving for a meeting  and that he was gonna leave me in company of the rest of his team for them to answer my questions.

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I first interviewed, Rabbha Hakkaoui, a middle-aged women, one of the three main Artisans leaders, president of the association Shorouk in Tounfit specialized in textile. At first Rabha met with some representative from peace corp that helped her found the Shorouk Cooperative. Grouping women of Tounfit wasn’t that easy she says. “ The association begun with 26 women then when there was no revenue, there were only 7 left. The rest left the association and the art of craft itself as they started drifting towards other jobs like house keeping or agriculture.” The income that the members would get from the sales at a showroom they would re-invest  to participate in other showrooms. They used to struggle a lot with commercializing their products as there were only a few artisanal showrooms over the year and the region where they are located is not touristy. Since Anou, they stopped going to showrooms. “ Now the revenue is a little better “ Rabbha says before correcting herself to general laughter “ Not a little better, much better! God bless!” she then continues “ There are craftwomen who were able to contribute with their husbands to build a house, to buy pieces of furnitures, to help their kids with school. They even started to buy pcs for their kids as now they could see the benefits from such technology. And when the lives of these women changed, more women artisans started coming back to us wanting to join! ”. Rabha dropped out from her fifth year  in primary school. Nonetheless, she was on her laptop when I first came by. This right here sums up the impact Anou had on many people around Morocco. Artisans from Tetouan, the Atlas moutains, Tiznit, the south; Souk l’had, Azrou…” People from regions that bearly have decent roads use this technology” Rabha states. She tells me how the abuse to what artisans were subject really used to put them down so that’s why when a chance like this comes up they stick to it. Rabha, once empowered, also undertook a project within the association which aims to provide a source for revenue for widows in order to prevent the family from collapsing and the kids from having to work as sheep keepers and house keepers.

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So how does it work? The artisans have access to a language-free platform where they have virtual shops to what they post their products with pictures and all the informations. When an order is registered into the platform, the artisan who’s product was ordered receives an SMS with the reference of the said product and the address of the client, he confirms subsequently the availability of the product through the platform, packages it and goes to the post office to send it. Once that is done, he sends another SMS with the product reference and the package reference, which is sent through the platform to the end client so he can receive his product. That way, the ANOU team is no middleman, they only provide training and post-training assistance to artisans. And that is the story of how a wool carpet woven in the Atlas mountains makes its way to a fancy living room in Seattle.

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I then went on to have some insight from Mustapha, an artisan leader originally from Souk El Hed, province of Ifran, specialized in wrought iron. He says that the sales were doubled up to x8 times since joining Anou. 80% to 90% of the artisans are illiterate so at first they get scared at the idea of such a technology, but the platform being intuitive, they get used to it easily. As Tifaout, the project manager, the youngest of the team and a business school graduate, says “ Often when we go to give trainings on how to use the platform, they think that we’re gonna be the middlemen, they do not understand that we’re giving them a tool they can work with independently“. Their antidote to the reluctance of artisans : proximity, a peer to peer approach. Most of the artisans already knew Ibrahim, the original artisan leader.  The trainings given also include courses in design and patterning aiming to modernize the patterns used to better suit the wants of foreign costumers.

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Furthermore more on how the artisans life got better, Mustapha narrates how the members of the cooperative of Souk El Hed used to work from home while they now have their local siding the road, and how they started organizing and going on tourism-aimed trips to Marrakech, Rabat, The south…”That is something that wasn’t imaginable before, especially for women of such regions!” he emphasizes. “ I founded the cooperative of women, and got the women to go out of their homes to showcase their products, and now they have better phones than mine! “ Ibrahim adds. Local communities empowerment, women emancipation, culture appreciation…ANOU, just like its name states, is decidedly an inexhaustible well of good things.

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And last but not least, I interviewed Ibrahim, the original artisans leader specialized in wood sculpting from Ait Boughmaz, province of Azilal that basically co-founded Anou along with Dan.

Ibrahim had a workshop at home, he met Dan as he was volunteering in environmental issues at Peace Corp, the two became friends and through this friendship Dan got a peek at the issues artisans were facing. He first suggested using Etsy.com, it worked, they sold many products but it was not easy to use and needed a middlemen. Dan then went to Yemen to study, he came back after the events of the arab spring, and they started ANOU, they thought it will be done in 3-4 months but it took them far longer than that. The idea sprouted in 2008 but the platform didn’t start running business until 2011 on a beta version and officially in 2012.

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“ One time there was this artisan from Tiznit that was perplex and wouldn’t trust us, and I really wanted him to join, so I helped him enter his infos and the pictures of his products on the site, and on the same afternoon I called Dan and told him that we had to find someone that would buy from him right away so he could trust the concept, so Dan found a foreigner that bought a ring from him, the artisan came back to him all happy that his products are being sold. Now this artisan is among the best sellers.” Here, a lesson of Management brought to you by ANOU.

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I left Technopark truly overwhelmed, bought myself a freshly baked apple croissant, stood there on a rainy Avenue Mohamed V, begun digesting what I just witnessed while watching the pigeons feeders, and suddenly my eyes teared up out of joy. That is to sum up, if this whole article did not do so, how inspirationally genuine this initiative and its people are.

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Psst, if you liked the initiative, make sure to go show ANOU people some love through their different social media :

http://www.facebook.com/TheAn0u
Instagram.com/anou.artisans/

On why we hate mondays, Wach-ma3andek-maydar-ism, and Anass Yakine going to space

I first met Anass Yakine back in 2014 as I organized with Tangier’s Photography Club -a club I was member of back then- his  arrival to Tangier marking the end of his two years long journey across Morocco. We threw a gnawa party in his honor, he spoke for several hours about his legacy to a spellbound audience and it was plain beautiful.

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On the 16th of February 2016, my school’s cinema club, The “ Clap! “, invited him for a conference and, of course, I had to attend. I was willing to introduce myself all over again as I thought that he probably would not remember me giving that he must meet new people every week and at every event, but I was wrong. He welcomed me with a big smile and a hug, and even remembered the story behind Elbidouna I had told him 3 years ago. The reason I’m telling you this is because I want you to realize that this guy is truly as genuine as it gets. He is not faking it for the fame, he is not an attention seeker, and he did not just get lucky. Put your metropolitan perplexity away and come with me as I introduce you to the art of Anass Yakine, would you!

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Anass Yakine is the son of a modest Casablancaise family, that grew up in a rough neighborhood where he learnt a lot especially from a guy named Omar that mentored him the I-turned-out-to-be-a—junkie-and-a-criminal-but-I-wish-better-for-you way. When he was around 14 years old, Anass’ father would drop him off at the intercity bus station with a minimum budget and oblige him to take the first leaving bus wherever it takes him. This went on for years and Anass explains that it forged his personality and taught him minimalism and the true meaning of happiness. When he turned 15, the national-hero-to-be was diagnosed with a diseased called Osgood-Schlatter, a knee infection that meant that he was not supposed to walk long distances. Yes. That is the same guy that walked 5000 kilometers later on. He got his baccalaureate in 2005, registered by default at the university closest to home, 2 years through, all classes passed, he decides to drop out, goes to his parents and tells them just that. He says that this decision was the result of a meta-position where he asked himself futile yet existential questions such as “ why do we wait for the week-end to do what we love, to get happy?”, “Why are we so grumpy on Monday mornings?”. “ If you live for the week-ends, and you die at 70 years old, you’ve only spent 20 years of life happy, what about the rest?”. His goal behind this sudden change back then was not especially to hit the road, but rather to “be happy despite what week day it is!”. As he explains “ It ended up with me travelling across Morocco as it could also have ended up with me setting a street shop somewhere, or maybe I could have ended up behind a desk. Because yes, there are people that are happy working behind a desk and that is perfectly okay as long as they are happy!”. And, for me, that is the most important thing to retain from the inspirational speech of outsiders like Anas or Allae Hammioui; it’s not an invitation to quit your job, grow hair and go live a baba cool life far from civilization, but it’s rather an invitation to realize that by undertaking small changes in your own daily life you can be significantly happier. Now the small changes in question may include quitting your job, growing hair and adopting a hippie life style, and that, as well, is perfectly okay! As for Anas, travelling he says, is his oxygen. Something he realized since his early years thanks to the non-orthodox yet highly pedagogical methods of his fathers and also later when he would join his friends, the musicians of an underground Moroccan band called Hoba Hoba Spirit on tour. And therefore he decided to conciliate his passion, traveling, and his job and figured out he would do that by learning the techniques to become a documentarist. He started with a first primarily trip from Casa to Ouarzazate that lasted 23 days and took 900KM back and forth. The concept was simple he explains : “ I would do it like I was going to the grocery store, go out of the house, go to Ouarzazate and come back”. In 2010, he receives a message from both the globetrotter Pierre Fritsch and the French-Moroccan comedian Jamel Debbouze. He couldn’t believe his eyes as it happened in a context where everyone he knew would tell him “ Wach ma3andek maydar?” (=do you have nothing to do?). About that he says “ I always asked myself what do they meant by “ maydar “ (=something to do/worthy of doing), what is it that they want me to do? The stay at home women is doing something, someone that  is home asleep all day long is doing something, someone that is sitting behind a desk is doing something, and I, am doing something. I’m traveling. The only person not doing something is the person that is dead. It’s just that we reduced the “maydar” into the classical career where you get your diploma, a house, a car, a wife, and you die ” .

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He started his tour in Morocco in 2012 and since then, hundreds of people hosted him as “Daif lah” (=God’s guest), Moroccans and foreign, young and elders joined him for a few kilometers, he met his soulmate amongst them, the inside-out beautiful Amal Chouli, gave more than 100 conferences, had a segment on a show on national TV, and is now preparing his tour around Africa along with his companion, Amal, entitled “ Yakines Around Africa ”. I could go on and on about the amazing legacy of this man, relate to you the stories I heard him narrate with such serenity, tell you about that time he met a man living in autarky that hadn’t seen any human being in years, or the time he wittily pushed his own mother to adopt a much healthier life style but I wouldn’t report them with as much passion so I leave it to him to do so. How you ask? Everyone’s favorite Moroccan globetrotter is writing a book! And it’s to be called “Mashi Mashi” (= a mythical persona you can find in kids tales).

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I was sitting there towards the end of the conference all dreamy, appreciating the loving look Amal gave her husband while he spoke with such passion, and staring at Nounous, Anass’ Teddybear that accompanies him everywhere throning on the scene of that amphitheater that was, until now, only reminiscent of the speeches of the ministers and other conventional success stories. I was listening to the discourse that was taking place, to the ideas that were being discussed, to how free and unconventional they were. And I suddenly felt genuine happiness at the realization that my Morocco was growing more free and tolerant. We now have a national globetrotter, you guys! Kids and dreamers are gonna look up to this guy and think that they, too, can make it!

 

BIDOU-QA

The BIDOU Q&A is a set of 10 standard questions going from some very basic fun ones to some pseudeo-deep ones that I ask  my guests each time to get to know more about them in a light way.

Here is Anass Yakine’s take at the BIDOU-Q&A :

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“ Atay.”

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“Msemen.”

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“Couscous.”

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“A worldwide trip, of course!” and a few seconds later ”…or a trip to space, why not!”

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“ No. I’m keeping the sand. It’s hard to substitute something to the sand, because it’s an element of a big equation and it fits perfectly in there!”

I ain’t gonna argue with someone who swept the sahara, Am I!

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  • Théodore Monod
  • Sarah Marquis, a Swiss globetrotter
  • “ It has to be a city? You know I’m not very into cities!”
    No. It can be any place!
    “ The saharah!”
  • Hoba – 7yati
  • ” It can be a Quran verset?”
    Yes, of course it’s open!
    ” قال تعالى : ” قُلْ سِيرُوا فِي الأَرْضِ فَانظُرُوا كَيْفَ بدأ الخلق
  • A color : Green
    ” because I’m forever a Raja fan! I can’t help it! I’m all like philosophical and stuff but that is the only your-typical-casaoui-guy-next-door trait I can’t get rid of!”

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” The human being is god’s caliph on earth.”

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” Im happy when we hit the road me and Amal! And I get sad when I’m on the road as I fear for my parents and I keep thinking what if something happens to them while I’m on the road…But you know you can’t never have it all and they know that i’m happy doing what i do and that is what matters”

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” How to travel! There are people that travel to empty their heads and there are people who travel to fill up their souls! Aim to belong to the second type. ”

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” The project that takes me by heart currently is Djebli club! Go support that!”

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” Education! A good education fixes the rest!”

10” I think that before speaking about a dreams-empowering environment , we should accept each other mutually. We should accept our differences and believe that we are similar through the fact that we are different! -What bring us togheter is the fact that we’re different as paradoxal as it sounds !- And we will no longer hear “ Wach ma3andek maydar?”. Because we will become aware that what looks like nothing to us is someone else’s everything and therefore we will bcome more tolerant and we will then empower people by letting them have whatever dream they have. “

On the 18th Pitch Lab, Saad Lmjarred and E-mo9ata3a!

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It’s Thursday, 24th of February, 15:25PM, the Moroccan public workers are on a strike which means happiness and no class for me. It also means that I get to sit comfortably in my dorm room, celebrate by making a chocolate bar disappear, and write to you about the event I attended yesterday; The 18th   edition of the Pitch Lab! What is the Pitch lab you ask? The Pitch Lab is the flagship event of the New Work Lab, a Casablanca-based co-working space that is engaged to empower the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Morocco. The event has as a goal to offer Moroccan startuppers a scene where they can showcase their enterprise, make themselves known, get feedback and why not their first customers. How does it work? It’s 5 startups per edition, and each startup gets 10 minutes; 5 min to pitch the idea and another 5 min for Q&As. The Q&A part is very important as it challenges the pitcher and translates a will to make it as interactive as possible as Fatim-Zahra Biaz, Founder of NWL explains that for her and her team “ it’s extremely important that everybody plays the game today. So if you spot a startup or someone that you would like to support, step in for them! Not just by voting today but also on the long term. If you are a journalist offer them visibility, if you are a college student go to them for internships and work opportunities, if you are a designer offer your services, etc…”.  The event took place in a venue called “ Moultaka El Ajial “ near Casa Port and was a bit special given that a bunch of municipality officials and executives were invited to attend among which was the president of the Casablanca region. To put it to you in brief : this Pitch Lab is where you should have been to witness video games and smart cities matters being discussed in front of state executives.

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Mustapha Bakkoury, the president of the Casablanca region was solicited for a brief opening remark that he seized to thank Fatim-Zahra for her contribution to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He then explained that training and employment are among the top priorities of the new prerogative of the Casa region and that him, attending this event, is one of the ways he is taking on this responsibility. Furthermore, he stated that he, and the state entity he represents, will have succeeded only once their presence will no longer be felt, rather than how it is negatively presentimented today. He goes on to explain that “ The state has to be present through the time and effort it spears to the  entrepreneurs.” And that “ The road that leads the entrepreneur to his client has to be the shortest possible and, also, the most enjoyable! as entrepreneurship is a passion first of all.”

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The pitches then started. The first Pitcher was Beekast; it consists in a solution to dynamize keynotes and conferences and make them more interactive through an app that provides advanced interaction between the speaker and the audience through Q&A, votes, private chat between members of the audience, among other services. The market is estimated up to 500 million euros in France and 25 Billion worldwide. BEEKAST has already fundraised 1.2 Million euros.

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The second pitch was for The Wall Games; Video Games based on Moroccan pop culture developed by a programming agency with a team that has over 13 years experience in the field of game development and that has worked on worldwide known games such as Just Dance. Their first game, inspired by Casablanca’s traffic frenzy will be called “ Z7am ”, will be launched on the Android Playstore on the first of march. Save the date!

When asked about why choose to limit the games for the Moroccan context while they could go big by making it universal, Yassine Arif answered brillantly by giving the example of two pure Moroccan products that took advantage of the uniqueness of their culture, that are now MENA region success stories and that are soon to be exported worldwide : Saad L’mjarred; a morroccan pop singer and “ L’boulevard”; an underground music urban festival.

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The third pitcher was Mozaic Parking; the prototype of a platform that connects between a sleeping offer of empty parking spaces and the massive demand on parking lots in metropoles. Basically how it works : you leave your parking lot at 8am to go to work, users of the app have access to it with certain conditions among which is leaving before you come back. The offer is also expandable to hotels, malls and other strucutres with avaible parking lots. When asked about having the user of the parking lot stay past time, the pitcher responded that they believe in the good will of the users but they also foresaw it as an eventuality and planned a penality for such cases. And to the question about the security of the vehicule he stated that his solution does not add more insecurity to the usual scenario of a parked car.

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The 4th pitcher was Manageo, a management dashboard platform for very small and small structures. When asked about the difference between the open source ERPs and Manageo he stated that it has a vertical approach integrating all the functions, that it’s considerably more cost effective –thus suitable for TPE and PME- and does not require any specific knowhow in opposition to the implementation of the usual ERP.

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The 5th and last but not least pitch was for ALGO Group; an e-mo9ata3a* and an e-m9adem*! It’s a PPP e-gov solution that you should already know as i’ve wrote to you about it in the Africa Startup Summit report. You have no memory of that you say? Ok, Here is a recap :  “ Its an e-government solution that promises to make your struggle with Moroccan bureaucracy and your wait for “l’m9adem” to show up a vague memory by providing you with a total of 22 documents online. …contrary to the rest of e-gov solutions, it has a bottom up approach : it’s based on the citizen’s needs, and its given freely for the government, it’s the said citizen that pays for it.”

* These are the names of the apps developped by the startup 

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As soon as the last pitch ended, tablets started going around to pick up votes for the 5 startups in order to choose the 18th pitchlab edition winner. I personally voted for Algo Group not because of the quality of the pitch but just because it’s the most courageous idea of all in my opinion; as facing the Moroccan bureaucracy as a user is hard, let alone enterprising to revolutionize it!

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Moments of networking later, the results went up : The Wall Games won the February startup title! And with that was the wrap-up of another successful edition of the Pitch Lab. To next month!

On why “Kayen m3amen”, Djebli Club and other social-change implementing initiatives

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02/02/16 for me was just one of these days where dealing with the mundane hrira of getting out of bed in time and acting like a decent human being was too much to ask for. So I did what everyone does –or so do I hope- in days like this; I wore my pyjama pants to class and painfully survived through the day. Until around 4h30 PM where I had to go cover a conference organized by ENACTUS ISCAE. The conference started and it turned out to be the highlight of my day as I met one of the most inspiring Moroccan people I’ve ever met. The conference was themed “ Other than the touristy look, what does rural tourism leave to the local communities?” and had Allae Hammioui as a speaker.

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When you ask Allae to introduce himself he says « i’m 33 years old, i’m someone that is very normal, that did his studies, got a job and everything conventional until the moment where I asked myself why did I follow this particular path? That is when I chose to take another path that empowers my human side because that’s something that is very dear to me.” When I underlined that it was revolutionary as an approach he retorted “ It’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution!”. Furthermore, Allae is envolved in a multitude of social projects; “Sbagha f zen9a”, “Café Créatif”, “Dakhla b ktab”, and the last but not least, Djebli club.

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“Sbagha f zen9a” which translates to “ Street Painting/Painting in the street” is a project he initiated that “ brings art out of the galleries to the Moroccan Lambda that does not have access to it as he is afraid to walk into a gallery”. How does it work you ask? “we bring young artists that paint in the streets and we invite the passers-by -all of them, no matter what age, which profession, which statute…we really do not care! because we do not know them-; we bring them, we try to implicate them, we try to make them spend an afternoon far from the mundaneness, to initiate them to art as a discipline” because art, he says, is “ like food; you need to get a taste first for you to be hooked to it!”

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As with “ Café Créatif “, we tried to gather people with different backgrounds who do not know each other a priori into heterogeneous groups over a cup of coffee in order to push them to collaborate.” He went on to explain that many are the projects that came out of this and actually made it, art projects especially. “ We believe that ‘kayen m3amen’ (=there are people that are worth it)! You just have to dare, to do! When you dare to do something, you do it and it works “. Allae criticizes the typical common retort -that implicitly illustrates a mindset- that the Moroccan pop culture inherited from a wildly successful Ramadanesque TV series character called ‘Kabour’ and that proves how big the impact of essentialism can be; “ Makayench m3amen “ = “ There are no people that are worth it”, and suggests that instead of ranting about not finding your people, maybe you should turn to the person right beside you and get to know them on a more deep level. Heard that, Kabour & co?

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Allae also took part in the organization of “ Dakhla B Ktab” (=”Entry with a book”) a concept initiated by Marwan Naji, a friend of his. It consists in organizing concerts, Theatre plays, Slam cafés and anything performance wise and to have books as entry tickets. So you bring a book to be able to attend a show given by volunteer artists, and those books are gathered and sent to rural areas where libraries are created in order to democratize access to culture for people who would otherwise never have the chance to have books availble for them to read. As he explains it“ I want things to change in Morocco, but I do not believe in guns, I mentioned earlier ‘ If you want peace, go to war” but the said war according to me is implemented firstly, when every one of us does his best at implementing positive change from their own perspective at their own level and secondly, I think that culture is key, if we want to change something, I’m inclined to think that it all starts from the culture!”

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As for Djebli Club, it’s a ecological collaborative project of a cultural, social, artistic platform and an auberge at the same time that Allae started with 0dh and the land his father had landed him back in his hometown Mokrisset, Chaouen. “ We are currently working on eco-building an inn in the mountains, somewhere far, not known tourism-wise, we aim to develop there responsible Tourism; Tourism that cherishes the culture and the human aspect as the “clients” are not obliged to pay their stay but in return they have to take a certain amount of time per day to animate workshops for the citizens of the region in their respective field of competency. It’s a collaborative project as everyone takes part in it; we learnt construction techniques by ourselves, the volunteers come from everywhere, the funding is collaborative as we worked by crowd funding…that’s the magical thing about this little project just really! “. He then added “ I’m into an approach that praises the human being, and coming back to the sources because we were like that before! Before, we would help each other! Before money, there was bartering; your neighbor has a knowhow in electricity matters, your other neighbor knows how to fix plumbing, and you, have construction skills : you three build a house together! It was as simple as that and with Djebli Club, we aim to come back to this! ”. When I asked Allae what he had to say to people that may think that this is some form of hippie inspired counter culture movement he stated “First of all, I love the hippie movement! But no I’m not a hippie. I’m not leaving everything to go pursue a hippie lifestyle, I’m not going there to play “ l’mejdoub” (= a sufi person that lives in autarchy), I’m going there to make a difference! “

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As he was relating the journey of the Djebli Club, anecdote by anecdote, you could see genuine happiness in his face. “At first, we were 10 chic metropolitan folks lacking any kind of field-related skills, we started doing bricks; the first day we did 25 bricks, 70 the second day and 170 the third day! We were all excited and pumped! Some days later, we organized a “Tawaza”= a festivity where people come over to help you with some chore and in return you offer them food and you all have fun together. 4 people came from the town next door to help us that day. They did 800 bricks!!!! “

In the horizon of 10 years, he would love to see the concept of such inns sprout everywhere in Morocco as he stated that he is ready to give all the knowhow he has acquired so far to anyone willing to start a similar concept. “ it’s open source! “ he jokes.

The conference talk was about passive tourism versus active tourism and so to conclude, Allae asked the audience “Are you ready to change, can you give up on your “ solar panel”* holidays? “. Everyone agreed. Which of course does not mean that everyone will immediatly give up on their five stars hotel holiday but it will open up many to a reflection they never had thought of before which can only lead to positive results.

* = his terminology for a tanning-by-the-pool-in-a-5-stars-hotel kind of holiday

 

BIDOU-QA

The BIDOU Q&A is a set of 10 standard questions going from some very basic fun ones to some pseudeo-deep ones that i will be asking my guests each time to get to know more about them in a light way.

Therefore, today’s Bidou-Q&A guest is Mr.Allae Hammioui.

9ahwaoratay

Atay in the morning, 9ahwa in the evening!

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Msemen!

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The two do not especially appeal to me but i’m gonna choose bestilla as couscous for me is a concept that means nothing because, I eat to get hungry right afterward!

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Enough ressources to make this project work!

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Glass! It would be beautiful! Transparent glass! But none-slicing glass, something like little glass balls maybe? That would be so beautiful!

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  • Ali, my father.
  • Naima, my mother.
  • Chefchaouen.
  • The song : https://goo.gl/fA3qFV
  • Black. “ why black?” i asked. “ why not black!” he reponded.

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The sum of experiences, a history, an exchange, humanism…learning endlessly !

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What makes me happy is to see the human above all, and what makes me afraid is the opposite; when I see that there is no humanity!

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Hum…construction! It’s not easy at all!

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Vote for “Dkhla B ktab”  in Morocco Web Awards!

link : http://goo.gl/voSKQ3

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The culture!

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Wake up the human being in you, it will change everything!

On late trains, Awesome taxis drivers and potential-full African Startups ecosystems!

1imageBeing highly interested in entrepreneurship and in the whole startup hype, i left Tangier, my hometown, where I had just landed 2 days ago from a Marrakech trip that revolved also around the same matter to go attend Startup Africa Summit, the gathering of the African startup scene organized by Startup Maroc hoping that the event, the ideas and the connections i would make would be worth the acrobatics and the ONCF train merry-go-round that I had to go through. So, that is how I jumped on the last train to Casablanca on Friday night. The said train arrived with only one hour late which, let me tell you, is quite an achievement in the Moroccan context. I rejoined my scary desert lodging -as everyone left for the holidays-, ate the dinner that mom had neatly packed for me cold because i was too lazy to heat it up, and went to bed all excited to go meet the enterprising Africans the next day.

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I woke up at 7h30, scrambled down of bed, poured myself a cup of tea and I was good to go. Here is what I wanted to narrate in this part of the tale : I booked myself a Careem/a uber that arrived just in time, the trip/the service was nice, so was the driver, look we took a selfie and I arrived safely. That would have been a good intro to such an article, wouldn’t it? I installed the UBER app a long time ago but never got around completing the registration don’t ask me why. And I tried booking a Careem, but the app estimated the trip up to 90dhs and as much as a ride in the hyped new economy transport services matched my aesthetics, my student budget just couldn’t afford it. So i went out of the campus, stood there in the middle of Nouassar Road, Sidi Marouf and somehow a free taxi, a normal one, happened to pass by. Which, let me tell you once again, happens once in a lifetime in this peripheral side of Casa. To “ how come you came to this area?” the taxi driver responded “ I don’t know. I just somehow ended up here”. That’s what true miracles are made off, kids. Frosting on the already pretty cake of that morning, we spent the ride talking about Bob Dylan, Abd El Halim Hafid, Eric Clapton, Naima Samih, Aziza Jallal, Oum keltoum and other classics of American and the Arabic music; “ Al khalidat” he sighed nostalgiously. Furthermore, he suggested me to watch “ Lost words” a film about 70’s music industry, we talked about how Dounia Batma – a pretty voice gone mainstream, kardishans kind of mainstream…- had ruined the potential she had of becoming the next Aziza Jallal, and the man told me about the rock band he was part of in his young age, how he was invited to play in ISCAE back in the 70’s, and how he had that one friend that later made it to become a Doctor in Paris. Being particularly fan of the Moroccan post-colonial glamour, i was thrilled! I was even more thrilled that all of this only cost me 30dhs that I asked him for a selfie! Step up your game UBER/CAREEM!

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I was afraid of being late, I ended up being early. I’m telling you that taxi ride was the best thing ever! I entred Studio Des Arts Vivants, the pretty-pretty venue where the event took place, saw the familiar faces of the regular startup enthusiasts, registered, took more pictures than needed, social-meditated (= updated facebook and snapchat),  had my second cup of tea of the morning, met some friends and finally got to the amphitheatre as the first talk was about to start. The Eyeris Moroccan CEO, Modar Alaoui, took the stage to tell the sucessstory of his Sillicon Valley based startup. Eyeris, operates in ambient intelligence through face recognition based on deep learning. Basically it’s a software used in driving monitoring (as it analyses micro expressions such as eye blinking ), and marketing feedback (when implemented it can identify the reaction to an ad; did the eventual consumer laugh? Was he interested?) among other applications. Feeling overwhelemed by all the technical aspect of the thing yet? I felt the same as as the founder was explaining how it all worked, i even scrapt some technical words in my agenda. You can literally read in the said page “ robots taking over the world”. As he puts it “It’s no longer ‘Artificial’ Intelligence as  IT fades into the fabric of life, it’s life 2.0!”. “ I hope life 2.0 has better battery life because my Samsung is already running low on battery” i thought to myself.

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Modar also talked about the mobility revolution which I thought was a cool concept; it can be summed up in three zeros; 0 Gaz emission, 0 Accident, 0 Ownership. He also listed the main businesses he thought would be impacted by the disruption created by entrepreneurs; Transportation, Agriculture, Shipping and Pay tech. “why do we wait for Uber to come and take over the market? We know the market better than UBER, let’s beat it to it! “.  Furthermore on the difficulties of a 3rd world market such as Morocco he added “Yes. It’s not easy, it will not be easy, waking up today at 8AM today wasn’t isn’t, you just make it! “.

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The first panel was titled “ Going international, opportunities in Africa” and was moderated by the guy with the orange vest and an obvious incredible taste in fashion who is also an experienced CEO, Chafik Sabiry. The first Panelist, Tarik Fadili, is the CEO of Algo Consulting an e-government solution that promises to make your struggle with Moroccan bureaucracy and your wait for “l’m9adem” to show up a vague memory by providing you with a total of 22 documents online. It’s inspired by Obama’s 2025 plan of a paperless bureaucracy, and contrary to the rest of e-gov solutions, it has a bottom up approach : it’s based on the citizen’s needs, and its given freely for the government, it’s the said citizen that pays for it. “ Everyone wins but the fraudsters! “ he explains. After Guinée Conakry, Madagascar and Algeria, the Moroccan Ministry of modernization finally gave Tarik the right to launch a demo of his service in “F9ih Bensalah”. “ Seeing is believing” he emphasized on the importance of giving a proof of concept. Yassir Houmame, Co-founder of CACIOPEE, a Moroccan Leader IT Services & Business Software Solutions Company operating in 20 African countries, agrees as he explains that the westerners are used to “ oranges and sardines coming from Morocco, not softwares. You have to look for the opportunity to show them a proof of concept, always!”. He also underlines that “ Africa is not a single Market, it’s 54 countries and 54 different cultures, it’s a huge market with very different specificities”. Moreover on the advices, there were three main ones : Start your business with confidence, as Assim Slimani, General Manager at PayLogic puts it “ Start your business like it’s a 1 million dollar business from the start “, secondly, consider going international and start by the nearest markets, Africa! “ Morocco is a good school. But Africa is the university.” Tarik stated. And thirdly Scale up.

To a question about homeless companies, Tarik responded that his office for the 6 months was “ Café de la gare ” at Agdal train station while him and his team would go to Venezia ice, a more fancy café to meet with clients. It took him 14 months to get something close to an office and 7 years to get “ a real office”. He also underlined that it got easier today, as Technoparks and co-working spaces are becoming common and are offering great deals.

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Then it was time for the second talk. Samir Abdelkrim took the stage after he was announced as the official reporter of the Startup scene in emergent countries as he is the CEO of StartupBRICS.com. This was by far my favourite talk of the day as he really embodied the spirit of the event and reminded us that the whole startup ideology is not a product of our governements policies but really the will of many communities to take initiatives and make things better for themselves and for the others, creating opportunities and generating jobs. As he emphasized on the importance of Tech hubs, he gave the example of Co-creation Hub, an Incubator that is today the center of levitation of the Nigerian ecosystem, and that started in a very organic way as a group of new technologies enthusiasts organized bootcamps, small events, co-working spaces and brainstorming sessions to empower entrepreneurship and to initiate social change. One of the outcome in terms of startups was Wecyclers,  a household recycling service using a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes that aims to solve the lack of government policies regarding waste management in a context where Malaria is still present.  Little by little, these initiatives federated a community and the tech startups of Nigeria came to settle next to the CC hub which created a digital cluster. The government, having identified the potential of such a grouping has only followed recently. Yaba, the neighborhood where all of this is happening, is today the first Nigerian area to have optical fiber. This tall inspired me more than any of the Silicon Valley success stories did, because it’s locally made and it has a post-colonial revolution aspect that I just love. Moreover on how startups contributed to solve issues in South Africa, PAYZA, a Kenyan payment service converted 1/3 of the informal economy. “It all starts with a tech hub and a community, the government follows“ Samir says. He then stated that the ecosystem of Senegal is the most advanced one in Africa which explains why global players such as google opened their African headquarters there. What’s lacking according to Samir is the funding as in 2011 only 113 fundraisings took place in Africa. Nonetheless, the StartupBRICS founder confidently concluded “Even if it’s going to take time, I’m sure that the next Mark Zuckerberg will come out of Africa!”.

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In the next panel, the panelists among which was Hicham Majd, co-founder of Labseed, a startup that operates in decreasing immune reactions to transplant, tried to identify how technological transfert could benefit to Morocco as an African country. They stated that In terms of innovation, Morocco can still compete in biotechnology, nanotechnology -as the Moroccan clay can be used as a resource- and renewable energy which has been initiated by the Moroccan solar program in Ouarzazate. They also stated that for Morocco to develop a competitive edge it needs an ecosystem and a know-how, as for now we are just an “hotel”; “unless we do our own development we will only be a market for the international investors” they concluded.

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We had lunch, networked a bit between two bites, and we were back for another set of sessions of inspiring talks and valuable discussions. Most of the ideas stated in the afternoon session were stated before, so I’m just going to give you a quick tour of what got my attention the most.

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Hasan Haidar, venture partner at 500 Startups a famous emerging ecosystems investment structure, preliminarily reminded us that that as fairytale-like as the whole startup hype may sound or look, it still based on the money and then gave us tips on how to pitch. “ Tell us about what you achieved, not the story of how you started! …You have to be uniquely persistent, but do not pitch me in the toilets!”. When asked about the profile of the ideal startup in terms of investment he simply replied “ we are investing in numbers ”. The sixth panel, made of investors, emphasized on that same idea later on as they declared “Do not ask us to help you, ask us to invest in you!” and they insisted on the fact that one should do their “homework” before pitching. About people who do not talk about their ideas as they fear that they will get stolen from them, he said “Ideas are worthless, I have 100 ideas before leaving home in the morning. It’s the way you execute that matters!”. “ We believe in you guys, it’s up to you to believe in yourself!” he assured. He later on was joined by a bunch of Silicon Valley startupers in what resembled to a remake of “9issat nass”, Moroccan-Silicon-Valley-Veterans edition. On to go or not to go to Silicon Valley Haidar stated “You can go if you want, but it’s freaking expensive!”. He advised not to go, to stay near your market unless your project is about a new groundbreaking technology. “If it’s spaceships and nanotechnology, then yes, go!” he said. They discussed and came to the conclusion that in a way or in another, you face the same problems whether in here or in Silicon Valley. For example: if you want to hire 200 developers, you’re gonna have a hard time in here because not enough qualification, and you’re going to have a hard time in the valley too as the demand exceeds the offer. Despite the fact that they all agreed that the valley is characterized by an never-seen-before ecosystem  that you cannot mimic with amazing facilities, some, Omar Tazi, an investor, for instance, thought that it’s “ an overrated thingy” and that it’s more of a mindset than anything else. An overrated thingy, that, like all overrated thingies, still does it in the bank I thought to myself!

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In the remaining panels, Hamid Bouchikhi, director of ESSEC ventures, illustrated how the idea about entrepreneurship changed through the years as he related anecdotally that in 1987 a hysterical mother called him because her son, a business school graduate, had had the oh-so bizarre idea to undertake a project on his own. He assured that today “Entrepreneurship is not only a vogue, it’s an imperative!”. As business school students are no longer expected to join a multinational and plan a typical career, but rather they are supposed to implement new concepts and create jobs opportunities for their communities. And three main factors of success for businesses were identified; the accompaniment of the dynamic of the ecosystem which was illustrated by the incredible work that STARTUP Maroc is doing through the startup weekend caravan and similar entrepreneurship democratizing initiatives. Secondly, the identification of the best practices in terms of para-governmental and governmental contracts, and private-public partnerships. And finally, the democratization of the access to funds.

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The first part of the event had ended. By this time, the casa-Tangier jetlag (or should I say ONCF Lag) had got into me, I was tired and wondering if I shouldn’t just go home and skip the Final of Get In The Ring. I attacked the buffet, got me some more energy from one too many petit-fours, and decided to stay. And I did well, because it was worth it. Algerian-middle-age-hijabi-women-in-a-ring-defending-a-youth-empowering project kind of worth it! A young Sudani women, CEO of SUDACRAFT,  responding to why her project should win rather than Votrechauffeur.ma with “ I can just take a taxi you know!” kind of worth it. Let me tell you, I was thrilled to see African countries entrepreneurs entering the ring full of confidence, full of will to change things for the better!

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And so here I’m writing these lines in my Sunday 11am train back to Tangier, full of hope for the African startup scene. A scene full of potential, in an area full of potential, in an era full of potential. May we just be wise enough to come together as African countries, join forces and make all of this potential profitable/something more than just plain potential!

Bidouna-venue!

Hi there!Bidounavenue

Welcome to Elbidouna.com! a brand-new wannabe go-to platform for contagious Moroccan-based positivity. Expect positive-mindset empowering content through articles, interviews, reviews and a lot more in what intends to be a as-graphic-as-it-can-be hodgepodge of positivity, and a bold statement about the Morocco of today reported through the eyes of a 20yo business student. The 20yo business student, that’s me! My name is Hamza, and my ultimate goal starting this webzine with you -yes, YOU! as this is an interactive experience- is to federate a community of believers that l’3am can be zin if, we, make it so!

Join my journey as i wander through Morocco, both physically and virtually, surfing on late trains and slow internet, to get to know the Moroccans that are building the Morocco everyone is dreaming of on a day to day basis by undertaking little initiatives with big impact, looking for everybit of positive inspiration to spread.

Pack your positive attitude, and hop in the never late train of positivity!

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Disclaimer : The mint tea is only virtual. We are not offering a tea cup to every one of our visitors as we don’t have that kind of logistics/budget…why are you crying?! don’t! we’re sorry! It’s easy to make you know! Go boil some water and put mint and sugar and…some will and it will do!