First Day of the Moroccan Business Forum
The first day of the Moroccan Business Forum included introductions by the Wali (Mayor) of Fes, the Governor of the Fes-Boulemane region, and the US Ambassador. The Americans invited to a brief private session with US Ambassador, who spoke directly to concerns relevant to US businesses, such as energy costs, water availability, and low-level corruption.
My favorite presentation of the day was by an American entrepreneur who has started several businesses, his current being ornamental fencing, and offers business consulting services. He delicately drove home the point that the American entrepreneurial attitude requires a modified interpretation of Moroccan attitudes embodied the Islamic sayings bismillah (thanks to God) and inshallah (God willing). While these phrases have clear religious value, they are often used to avoid the pain of decision-making and subsequent responsibility and accountability. He noted that American entrepreneurialism is fueled by a desire for independence and a desire to change the world, and I don’t think there is a corresponding desire in Morocco. He outlined the traits of leadership and the American value of humility stating in America “we know that our success comes from God.” I don’t think I would have received his message as well in another setting, but in Morocco the point was particularly poignant. Starting a business requires one to question not only his or her assumptions about success, but his or her assumptions about culture, lifestyle, and ability or desire to impact the world.
The forum introduced me the English-speaking Moroccans who are working actively in the field of design. Most of the participants, both Moroccan and American, seemed to be earning a living from education, by teaching English or Arabic or managing schools, while pursuing the larger issue of business opportunity in their spare time.
We spent the second half of the day touring the Fes medina. The highlight for me was a trip to a tile factory outside the medina. The guide there spoke fluent English and is a promising contact for learning more about the art of zillij.
The tour ended with dinner at a restaurant, which I happened to dine at the night before. The dinner featured a packed show of three different types of musicians, two different types of dancers, and a magic show. I decided to pass on the spectacle and took dinner at Riad 20 Jasmins, where I am staying. Dinner at the riad was much better than dinner I had the night before. The pastilla was impeccable and the zalouk the best I have ever had.
Coverage of the 2008 Morocco Business Forum: