Hayat Essakkati: I believe in Africans growing their own continent

hayat essakkati

Won’t it be great to have a one-stop shop where investors can be guided through establishing their businesses in foreign countries? Good news is there’s an organisation that provides such services for Morocco, Maroc4Invest (M4I). It’s principal/director Hayat Essakkati is passionate about women and Morocco’s development. Here she shares her insight on expanding internationally and how her work experience has shaped her as entrepreneur.

When lead you to start Maroc4Invest?

I started Maroc4Invest (M4I) in June 2015. When I was working for the International Finance Corporation in Morocco, I realized that foreign investors were increasingly interested by the Moroccan market. The market was/is faring very well, both economically and politically in contrast to its unstable neighbouring countries.

On top of that, there has been an increase in the number of companies expanding their activities in Africa and a majority of them are changing their thinking in relation to doing business in Africa. They know the Africa-to-Africa business channel is more effective than Europe-Africa or US-Africa. Morocco has become the ideal location for doing business in Africa. This has lead me to start my company as I believe in Africans growing their own continent.

What kind of services do you offer? Are they aligned with your academic background?

Maroc4Invest enables foreign investors to penetrate the Moroccan market using a multitude of services. Our services are aimed at taking clients through the process from company registration to ultimately running their operations in Morocco.

The idea behind the company is straightforward: to navigate the business world in Morocco, you need insider’s information and access. Maroc4Invest is a one-stop shop with the objective of making foreign investors feel at home by minimizing their risks. They’re aligned with my academic interests. My Master’s thesis is titled, ‘National Use of International Norms: Morocco’s Implementation of the IFI pressures’ and on top of that I’ve written numerous papers on Morocco’s sectors. I have always been interested in the impact of foreign entities on Morocco’s economy.

You have offices in three continents, can you share tips on expanding a business internationally? What challenges did you face?

The most important aspect of international business, in my perspective, is running your administration correctly. You can’t be in all 3 continents at the same time so making sure your processes run smoothly without a daily administrative to-do list will prove very useful in the long term.

I prepared it adequately, talking with friends and people who’ve already went through the same process before opening the offices. I’d suggest choosing countries you know very well. Holland and the USA are countries I know very well, so it makes sense.

How large is your team and how do you go about selecting members for it?

Our team has been growing and we expect to reach 10 in-house consultants by the end of the year. We have also developed a group of experts I can tap into on any occasion.

Tell us about your experience with the World Bank Group and the African Development bank. Have these shaped you as an entrepreneur?

I started my own companies to fund my college from the time I was 18 years old to be able to pay my college and expenses. I also worked in international organizations. It was more out of a sense of urgency rather than wanting to penetrate a certain market.

After my studies in the US, I started working with the World Bank on topics that interested me; strengthening youth civil society and entrepreneurship in the Arab region. I could keep my entrepreneurial spirit while working as I had the right managers. The same goes for when I was working for the International Finance Corporation.

The key thing is to make sure to surround yourself with good managers/colleagues that know your strengths and understand how to tap in to them.

What do you think the rest of Africa should know about Morocco?

Morocco is fully reliant on its human wealth. It has no natural resources, making the country’s success depend completely on its men and women.

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