Challenges and Opportunities for Moroccan SMEs

Based on the “the Belt and Road Initiatives” Cooperation

Morocco’s economic status and essential analysis

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Morocco’s domestic economic environment has suffered heavy losses, mainly reflected in the insufficient and unreasonable utilization of the labor, the lack of innovation and derived value in the high-tech field, the high national unemployment rate (especially youth unemployment rate), the insufficient attraction to foreign investment (Lopez-Acevedo). It is clearly shown in the book “Morocco’s Jobs Landscape” published in 2021 which is recommended by the World Bank Organization.

However, it is not the core reason for containing Morocco’s economic development. Like a fuse, it just exposes the problem. Fundamental problem that restricts Morocco’s economy from breaking through the existing shackles and improving its quality and upgrading is the lack of internal innovation in its economic system. The recession of the overall domestic economic environment has undoubtedly set many obstacles to the innovation and development of local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), mainly reflected in insufficient enterprise competitiveness, the low educational level of the labor force, the excessive risk-taking of SMEs, and practical problems such as not enough of external projects and platform (Alfani).

According to the elements of core competitiveness of SMEs emphasized by International Trade Centre, only by rebuilding the internal reform of the economic system, can we realize the healthy and orderly operation of various industries and integrate into the general situation of economic globalization better than ever before.

Opportunities for cooperation in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative

There are two sides to each coin. The bright side of the misfortune is that it has forced Morocco to face up to its problems that cannot be ignored. At the same time, it has also accelerated Morocco’s exploration of seeking diversification of economic cooperation, all-round project cooperation, and integration of industry reforms. “The Belt and Road Initiatives” project proposed and initiated by China has provided a good opportunity for Morocco’s economic development. “The Belt and Road Initiatives” project has been carried out so far, based on the actual national conditions of each country, focusing on long-term development cooperation and national interests and constantly expanding the cooperation platform and market of participating countries (Yuan).

In addition, the industrialization development that Morocco attaches the greatest importance is coinciding with China’s infrastructure technology and capital reserves perfectly. Also, China and Morocco, on the basement of honest cooperation between both sides, aim to achieve a mutual interest by promoting the economic development of digital modernization to attract more suitable countries to participate in suitable project cooperation. This will bring about the common prosperity of all industries of Morocco in the exploration of multi-subject and multi-mode cooperation (Zhou).

The outlets for SMEs to break through the shackles

Prioritising Industralization

The sustainable development of SMEs is not only related to the survival of the enterprise, but also plays a critical role in coordinating and stabilizing the people’s life and work, social stability and national prosperity. For the future development planning of SMEs, there is a need to seek to achieve a rational development with priority and order. Morocco’s development planning, industrialization has always been regarded as top priority. The development of the industrial sector is often accompanied by substantial benefits such as technological innovation and productivity breakthroughs that improve the country’s comprehensive national strength. Therefore, the government, entrepreneur associations and overseas investors should consider industrial cooperation seriously.

Seek joint multi-country cooperation

With the increment of cooperation, projects and the expansion of cooperation platforms brought about by “the Belt and Road Initiative”, more sparks that are possible will light (Sun). For instance, Morocco and France have been in long-term cooperation, taking oil and gas development projects. China’s strong economic strength and the world’s leading infrastructure technology not only inject new vitality into Morocco’s oil and gas, but also promote China, France and Morocco to realize multinational joint project cooperation. After the number of domestic industrial projects in Morocco increases, the government can assign a certain percentage of the quota to local SMEs in the form of bidding. More so, the government is supposed to encourage and guide SMEs to actively learn advanced industrial technology from foreign partners and cultivate a group of local industrial and technical backbones serve as a talent pool for the domestic industry.

Cultivation of local young talents

In the national core development strategy, the meticulous cultivation of young talents and the integration of economic strategies are essential. The stronger the youth, the more prosperous the country is. The main group for industrialized talent training must be young people, which can increase youth employment rates and the quality of the youth workforce, while this industrial plan can get the perfect return of multiple benefits. On the one hand, it precisely fits the domestic industrialization development framework. At the same time, it shows the competence and vitality of Moroccan young talents to the world and improves the openness of Morocco, which is conducive to opening up many overseas markets opportunities.

Sustainable development of agricultural infrastructure

Attention should be paid to the stable development of local agriculture including animal husbandry in Morocco. Since Russia and Ukraine war started, there has been a series of resource crises. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure the sustainable development of domestic grain storage and other significant resources. SMEs should explore various ways to realize agricultural modernization. In addition to following a series of policies to benefit farmers, innovating agricultural structure and agricultural management is the secret of substantial difference (Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China). Modern agriculture in China has experienced a transformation from a small economy to people’s communes, from the collective contract system to the current diversified agricultural development methods that adapt to local conditions. These valuable experiences can be used as a cornerstone.

Diversification of marketing strategies

A good marketing strategy can achieve goals that far exceed expectations. A handmade product can have the following options: one is private customization, requiring a deposit to be made for VIP; the customer provides elements and requirements, then design and produce, aiming for high-end route. Another alternative is simple DIY (do it yourself: the merchant can just provide semi-finished product while people can finish it according to instruction, it helps to find the joy of crafting and sharing), highlighting Morocco’s customs and characteristics, providing manuals or video tutorials in order to attract customers who are interested in handicraft. Again, product-classification for high-quality products equipped with good packaging and sale as boutiques can attract customers who need to buy some souvenirs or holiday gifts. Products with flaws that do not really affect the use or appearance can be sold at a lower price to attract customer groups with limited spending power. This is also an effective method to attract more customers. The government should also help SMEs to promote products with national characteristics by building online cooperation platforms with e-commerce and maintain their relationship with countries with high productivity and great consumption to help SMEs expand their sales channels and markets (Sun).

Maximize the value of product derivation

The derivative value of export products is the key point (Schott). Taking handmade -products as an example, it can be divided into different parts and form a complete industrial chain, from raw materials, design, handmade products, product packaging and final product transportation, which can not only be linked together but also each link can be disassembled (Malam K). Only through local reprocessing and repackaging can product’s economic value be maximized, allowing SMEs to make profits far greater than the product’s original value, while also meeting Morocco’s realistic needs to reduce the trade deficit, improve trade balance, and promoting multilateral trade cooperation.


Facing the long-term coexistence and blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the era of economic globalization, under the cooperation of “The Belt and Road Initiatives” project, aiming at the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area, Morocco has great advantages politically and domestically. There is a need to overcome the existing problems, promoting Internet popularization and digital development to realize the overall strategic planning successfully which only innovative Moroccan SMEs can seize the opportunity, not just for Enterprise construction, also for helping Morocco shine on the world stage.


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International Trade Centre (ITC) SME Competitiveness (2021) flagship. Available online

Zhiqi Liao

Excellent internships have been completed in local government administrations, large educational enterprises and social organization.

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