I lived in Morocco for 6 weeks as part of my location independent journey. I went from the financial capital of the country Casablanca, to the administrative one Rabat to a fisherman town on the coast Essaouira to touristic center Marrakech.
I don’t pretend to give you an exhaustive view of the Moroccan maker scene, but a glimpse of who I met and questions it rose.
In the same vein than in Istanbul the month before, I found out that the maker scene is very new in Morocco.
Moroccan Hubs of the Maker Movement
The Moroccan maker scene is centered around 2 main initiatives: Sahara labs the first hackerspace in Morocco, based in the small town of Tarfaya, and Morocco Makers, a non-profit association created a few months ago in Casablanca.
Sahara labs is the first-ever hackerspace in Morocco. It got started in 2013 and is located in Tarfaya, a small town all the way in the South of Morocco. You’ll find all the good things that hackerspaces do such as workshops, 3D printing, Arduino and Rasberry Pi learning. Check the video below to learn more about Sahara labs:
Morocco Makers is a non-profit organization supporting the rise of the maker movement in Morocco. For Saad Zabari, one of the co-founder of Morocco Makers, the goal is to “initiate a community around the making and enable hardware startup projects to emerge.”
The group organizes events called Maker Days where makers meet, show their projects and share knowledge and advice with each others. They also organize workshops such as how to use Eagle or develop projects using BlueTooth.
Morocco Makers supports makers with a business idea in mind. First hardware company to benefit from the community is iMote. It’s a small 3D printed keychain that lets you find your phone. Created by telecommunications engineer Ali Lakrakbi, this simple project was a way for him to learn about 3D printing, soldering and how to start and run a hardware company.
Ali took his project internationally right away by getting his prototype 3D printed while visiting Boston, MA. He integrated Dubai’s accelerator Turn8 after pitching at a reknown Moroccan startup event called Startup Your Life. Turn8 brought initial funding and he’s been developing his project from Morocco and Dubai since then.
The electronic side of the project is locally made in Rabat region, at a facility located only 60km away from his house. iMote got certified by Dragon Innovation and is now preparing for its crowdfunding campaign.
In addition to these 2 active maker communities, I’d like to add Derbsellicon, which is Morocco-based online store for open hardware and DIY electronics. Team is doing a great job at providing maker tools that are not easy to get when living in Morocco. I’ll publish an interesting interview with the team in a next article on MakingSociety.
Moroccan Makers are Entrepreneurs
Makers and startup culture are very intricate in Morocco, with a strong focus on hardware entrepreneurship. It’s almost as if the maker scene here took the train where it is now in the US and in the Europe, joining the Hardware Renaissance instead of starting as a hobbyist movement.
New Work Lab is Casablanca’s only coworking space (where I recorded SparkFun podcast episode, thanks again to the team!). It’s an active hub for web entrepreneurs in Casablanca. Space organizes events where many entrepreneurs meet, both software and hardware.
As in Istanbul, Casablanca’s entrepreneurial scene is still mostly focused on software.
I’d like to point to an other interesting new space called The Blue House for Entrepreneurs. Located in Taghazout in a small fisherman town on the coast, The Blue House welcomes entrepreneurs willing to get things done with their team in a remote but enjoyable location. Startups need to go through a selection process as space is limited. First session starts in March 2015 and you have until February 15 to apply.
Arts and Crafts, DIY and Engineers
Morocco has a long tradition of arts and crafts. Leather, jewelry, wood… Moroccan medinas – these city centers with narrowed streets, small shops and overwhelming activity – are packed with artisans. Packed.
Behind every door is someone making something with his hands. Furniture, ceramic, shoes, metal binding, you name it. If there is one country where crafts are well and alive, it’s Morocco!
And even more than that, I was seriously amazed by the thousands of small daily hacks that everyone come up to. It’s basically a dream place for upcycling enthusiasts (and adrenaline junkies).
With this ever-present DIY culture, I was surprised to see that the engineered side of the maker movement, the one that is interested in 3D printing, connected things or drones seems entirely separated from the arts and crafts maker community.
So far, the Moroccan maker movement is more about technology than DIY. It’s about giving its member a chance to learn about tools and practices that will be greatly needed in the near future. It’s about encouraging the birth of companies that couldn’t have happened a few years ago.
I’d be interested to know if the 2 makers world of Morocco, the modern and the traditional one, will somehow meet and learn from each others.