Though Israel and Morocco share many historical and cultural ties, geopolitical issues have long kept our two nations separate. That changed at the end of 2020 when the two countries began establishing full diplomatic and trade relations.
Since then, embassies have been opened, dozens of G2G MOUs have been signed and direct flights have begun flying on a near-daily basis. What’s still lagging, however, are the business-to-business and people-to-people ties, the kind that will really cement the relationship and transform it from a formal normalization agreement into a genuine warm peace that can benefit all Moroccans and Israelis.
As a 30-year veteran of the Israeli tech industry, having filled a range of roles in both the private and public sectors, I am convinced that innovation is the key to expediting and enhancing our relationship and ensuring mutually beneficial outcomes.
Israel and Morocco may be different in many ways, but what both our countries share is a passion for progress and a belief that advanced technology must be an economic anchor. For Israel, it already is, with technology accounting for more than 50% of its exports, and for Morocco, it is very much a goal — a cornerstone of King Mohammed VI’s New Development Model, which charts the country’s economic path for 2035.
In my experience, the best innovation is a result of finding creative new solutions to significant challenges. The story of the Israeli innovation ecosystem as a whole is one of necessity forcing people to come up with innovative ways to overcome deficiencies or obstacles, whether that is drip irrigation to solve water shortages or the firewall to cope with malicious cyberattacks. For better or worse, Israel and Morocco share many of the same challenges.
Both our countries must cope with a climate that is often hostile to agriculture and food security, we have both been negatively impacted by logistical and supply chain-related concerns, we both seek to secure our future energy needs through transitioning to more sustainable sources, and we both have young and growing populations who we want to ensure can secure employment opportunities in rewarding fields.
Overcoming shared challenges
As we transition from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one, the answer to all these challenges lies in innovation and in our ability to identify opportunities to work together to overcome them. That kind of cooperation cannot be built overnight and from behind the desks of government officials, no matter how committed and well-meaning they are. Collaboration of the type I am advocating for needs to be built over time, by trusted partners who identify each other’s motivations, capabilities, and pain points, and then seek ways to turn them into real-world solutions.
Fortunately, the similarities I mentioned between Israel and Morocco do not put us on a collision course. Both the geographic distance and the differences between our two economies mean that instead of competing with each other, our countries can complement each other. Nowhere is this potential more apparent than when it comes to human capital.
While Israel has long suffered from a chronic shortage of high-quality personnel for its booming tech industry, Morocco suffers from the opposite problem, a shortage of jobs to meet the needs of its talented college graduates, who often have to seek employment opportunities abroad. There is every reason to believe that by joining forces and connecting our two tech sectors, we can come up with ways to mitigate each other’s challenges. Similar solutions can be found in the areas of capital investments, research and development, and market access, with each country benefitting from the advantages of the other.
Consistency and agility
Having worked closely with entrepreneurs for many years, I know that they require two seemingly contradictory forces in order to flourish. On one hand, they need consistency so they build long-term plans and see them out to fruition, and on the other, they need a level of dynamism that can react to the ever-shifting nature of the economy. While the King’s New Development Model provides the former, I believe that infusing it with the characteristically Israeli attributes of agility and risk-taking can provide a formidable boost.
For Israel, Morocco is in many ways a hidden gem, less obvious than our other Abraham Accord partners in terms of market size and opportunity, which means there is more of a chance to make an impact. Israeli technologies introduced to the North African hub can rapidly find their way to the entire continent, opening the door to an often overlooked and undervalued consumer base.
By building a bridge between Israel and Morocco with innovation ties at its foundation, I hope we can also inspire other countries, namely Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria to put aside past differences and recognize the value of working in partnership with the Start-Up Nation.
This article was originally published in Morocco World News