PARTNER OF CHOICE

Morocco 2020/21 | ICT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

Already present in 15 African countries, GFI is further expanding its footprint on the continent through acquisitions, with the end goal of helping Africa use the latest technologies and innovations to get ahead of the curve.

Saloua Karkri-Belkeziz
BIOGRAPHY

Saloua Karkri-Belkeziz has been the President of GFI Africa since 2019. Previously, she was CEO of GFI Morocco from 2003 until end-2018. She is the founding and honorary president of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Morocco, as well as president of the Federation of Information Technologies and Offshoring. As an entrepreneur with decades of invaluable experience, she is also member of the board of directors of the General Confederation of Enterprises in Morocco. In 2000, she was decorated with the Royal Wissam El Arch by the King.

Can you give us a short introduction to GFI?
I founded a company in 1987 to sell software solutions in Morocco. Before, companies used to sell hardware and customers developed their own applications. I started the company with a small capital of EUR5,000 and developed it until 2003, when the GFI group became interested in the Moroccan market. Fast forward to January 2019, when I got involved in GFI's operations and was appointed president of GFI Africa. GFI is present in many countries, including 15 in Africa. We are growing through acquisitions. We recently bought companies in Ivory Coast, Tunisia, and Cameroon. At present, we are looking to acquire some companies in Senegal.

Who are the key partners for GFI in Morocco?
In Morocco, we serve more than 300 active customers with maintenance contracts. These include private customers, large industries, multinational firms, and public-sector entities. We help them evolve their IT systems.

What kind of digital opportunities does the company see in Africa?
Africa remains the least developed continent in the world unfortunately, but this trend can be reversed with new technologies. Thanks to digitalization, countries such as Rwanda have completely transformed themselves. Kenya is another such example. Africa is perfectly positioned to use the latest technologies and innovations and get ahead of the curve—we are not obliged to go step by step. Our ambitions reflect the desire of our African subsidiaries to remain in the top class of companies considered to be export champions. We give the best of ourselves to consolidate this position and to establish ourselves as a true partner of customer information systems in all countries in Africa. The trust GFI has in its employees is a key element of its approach to the market, because the companies that trust us have to first deal with teams: men and women trained and certified in the latest technological advances. We are, therefore, able to advise our clients, who invest in a long-term relationship with GFI. We are consolidating our positions in Africa and developing our activity by helping companies benefit from our know-how.

What is your opinion of Moroccan human talent and gender equality?
I would say that there is a difference between what is possible and what is being done in Morocco. Women enjoy equal rights in Morocco. The labor law has been upgraded to ensure equal pay, equal treatment, and so on. Moreover, the nationality law was amended to give women the ability to pass citizenship to their children. Women in Morocco, unlike in other regional
countries, do not need permission to work, open an account, or establish a business. In terms of access to education, a great effort has been made. As a result, the enrollment rate of girls is as high as that of boys. It is lower particularly in rural and underprivileged areas because there is a lack of infrastructure. Overall, there is a lack of implementation. Unfortunately, the difference becomes more tangible in the professional world because we have not yet created an environment that allows women to reconcile their personal and professional lives. A national strategy is needed to increase the female participation rate in the workforce. At present, it is around 21-22%, while for men it is between 70 and 75%. According to a World Bank study, higher female participation can help Morocco boost its growth rates by up to 2%.