Morocco’s transition into a digital era has faced several challenges, but the COVID-19 crisis has proven that the process can accelerate if all actors join efforts.
The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the world, changing work habits, and reprioritizing industries. In Morocco, the coronavirus crisis could be a long-awaited chance for the country to make a leap from the paper age to a digital era.
Several institutions, such as ministries, universities, utilities, and other administrations, launched digital platforms to ensure the continuity of their services amid the national lockdown, implemented on March 20 to restrict the movement of citizens.
The new digital services are not only protecting citizens from COVID-19 but also making their lives much easier. Procedures that usually took long hours, if not days, to be accomplished can now be done with a few clicks, without having to move from the comfort of one’s home or to stand in long queues.
In the private sector, digitization was already starting to become the norm, but the growth of this trend in the public sector as well, thanks to the coronavirus, would open the door for limitless opportunities in Morocco’s business sector, leading it to a new phase of prosperity.
Company incorporation in Morocco, for instance, the legal process of forming a corporate entity, could become a simple task thanks to digitization, encourage local entrepreneurs to start businesses, and attract foreign investors to launch their projects in the country.
While there are already legal texts supporting the procedure’s transition to a fully online process, their implementation is still facing challenges. Businesspeople in Morocco are hoping the COVID-19 crisis would help accelerate the implementation.
In January 2019, the Moroccan government adopted Law 88-17 regarding the creation of companies through electronic means. The law transfers the jurisdiction for creating corporate entities from the Regional Centers of Investment (CRI) to the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC).
The change aims to simplify the procedure and make it 100% digital. However, a delay in coordination between all the concerned parties–the Ministry of Justice, the General Directorate of Taxes (DGI), the National Social Security Fund (CNSS), and the OMPIC–is keeping the procedure from reaching a paperless form.
To this day, the CRIs continue to perform their original mission. The investment centers have recorded a surge in applications to create businesses since the start of 2020. However, due to the still-complicated bureaucracy, in addition to the current COVID-19 crisis, thousands of entrepreneurs have not yet materialized their projects, with several of them complaining of the delays in appointments at the CRIs.
The current business creation procedure can take several weeks, as it includes five lengthy steps to be completed at different institutions.
First, the entrepreneurs need to obtain a negative certificate, a document that proves their company’s name is not already registered in Morocco’s commercial register. The step takes a minimum of 48 hours.
Then, the investor must pay the legalization and registration fees at the DGI, which takes one week, before registering in the commercial register, which takes another 48 hours.
Finally, the business should be affiliated to the CNSS, which takes 24 to 48 hours, and then have its creation announced on the Official Bulletin and in a newspaper.
The discouraging procedure has led many ambitious Moroccans to give up their wish of starting a business. A simpler and quicker online procedure would certainly push more entrepreneurs to follow their dreams, benefitting the Moroccan economy as a whole in the long run.
The digitization of the company incorporation process would not only encourage Moroccan entrepreneurs to invest in their country, but also bring foreign investors.
According to Doing Business 2019 rankings, Morocco is the 53rd best country in the world for doing business, and the third in the MENA region. The country has set an objective to reach the Top 50 as soon as possible.
So, if Morocco wants to make that climb in the 2020 rankings, the COVID-19 crisis might be the push that the country’s business sector has always needed, on the condition that all stakeholders join efforts.