Migrant Stories

Italy-Morocco: A Mosaic of Talent Receives Business Training

Despite the constant rumble coming from the ancient and congested
Via Nomentana, there’s a quiet, studious atmosphere at the
University of Malta campus in Rome.

In a couple of high-ceilinged rooms, some 40 Moroccan expatriates
and budding entrepreneurs are outlining their nascent business
plans to Simonetta Bormioli, a sociologist and researcher who works
for CERFE, a non-profit organization that has teamed up with IOM to
provide migrants with the appropriate training to help them
successfully invest at home.

“Our first task is to listen and identify some of the
obstacles that could jeopardize their business plans,” says
Bormioli. “This is paramount to defining their training needs
and to establish a realistic level of expectations for all
involved. Once this is done, the programme will provide the
migrants with the right technical baggage, contacts and skills to
help them undertake a detailed feasibility study as part of their
business plan.”

The trainees, who have been selected on the basis of applications
outlining their entrepreneurial goals in Morocco, are all keen to
share their hopes for the future.

With a strong background as a social mediator in Italy, where he
has lived and worked for more than 20 years, Malayo Abderrazak has
decided to set up a financial intermediation venture.

“The idea is to build on the valuable experience I have
acquired as a social mediator to set up a structure that would
mobilize funds from Italian businesses and migrant communities to
invest in promising, but often cash-starved start-ups in
Morocco,” says Abderrrazak. “Businesses that are
sponsoring or benefiting from this scheme would also employ, train
and support young professionals in Morocco and Italy to ultimately
help them come up with viable business plans to set up their own
small enterprises.”

Abderrazak, who also heads ATLAS, a vibrant NGO for Moroccans
residing in Italy, believes twinning mechanisms between NGOs and
small businesses on both sides of the Mediterranean would help
promote sustainable development and reduce the incentive for many
thousands of young Moroccans to emigrate at all costs.

“My work as a social mediator has taken me inside Italian
prisons where I have helped fellow compatriots who have fallen on
the wrong side of law. This has made me realize how many human
tragedies and economic opportunities are wasted through irregular

Abderrrazak sees himself as a true trans-national who intends to
make the most out of his unique background to encourage a greater
mobility of people, skills and capital.

“The Moroccan community in Italy is ready to invest at home
but many expatriates who have business ideas do not know how to
carry them out. This training is also crucial because it will allow
us to confront our dreams with the harsh realities of the business

Also taking part in the training is Fatima Chegri who wants to
develop a business plan with the active support of several family
members who are currently living and working in Italy and Morocco.

“I have two brothers who are employed as skilled technicians
in a chroming plant in Venice and another brother who works as a
senior accountant in Rabat,” says Chegri, who adds her family
is ready to mobilize some the capital for the enterprise.
“Over the past 20 years, we have bought land in and around
the seaside resort of Temara, which we could sell to invest in the

Chegri says her brothers have already carried out a limited
feasibility survey in the region of Rabat and have identified what
they believe to be a niche market. But the family also realizes
they might not be able to set up this business without some strong

“Ideally, we’d like to set up this business with the
technical and logistical support of the Venetian firm,” says
Chegri. “A form of partnership would certainly kick start the
venture and make it more sustainable in the short to medium

Chegri, who works full time for ARCI, an NGO that provides support
for refugees and migrants, says she’s only too familiar with
consequences of exile.

“Moroccan expatriates have a collective duty to invest in
Morocco to provide our brothers and sisters with viable economic
alternatives,” adds Chegri who believes this training and her
family’s support are her best guarantees for success.

Bouhrim Said has spent most of his professional life working in the
textile industry in Morocco. Last year, his wife, a consular
officer, was posted in Rome, the capital of fashion in Said’s

“I took a leave of absence from my Moroccan employer because
I wanted to develop a business plan that would make best use of my
knowledge and contacts in the textile industry to help aspiring
Moroccan and Italian designers in their bid to create new
brands,” he explains.

Said firmly believes the future for young designers lies in
finished, high quality goods produced in small quantities. He says
he wants to work with designers and textile manufacturers in Italy
and Morocco to position his country’s unique cultural
heritage as a strong selling point for the European fashion

“Fashion can be a wonderful cross-cultural mediator,”
says Said who believes his project could also promote new cultural
synergies between young Italians and Moroccans.

IOM’s Ugo Melchionda, who manages MigResources, is fully
aware of the many pitfalls that lie on the way to successful
entrepreneurship. “Migrants will only become successful
agents of development if they are provided with the necessary
financial and management skills and if they benefit from strong
support networks among migrants’ associations, public
administrations and the private sector.”

As part of the programme, a similar course was launched in May in
Casablanca for 30 qualified Moroccans who wish to acquire new
skills through on-the-job trainings in Italian businesses. The
course, which is carried in partnership with the Rabat-based Centre
d’Etudes et de Recherches Démographiques, which
provides practical guidance on how best to access the Italian job
market with the aim of acquiring skills.

“Circular migration can be achieved through partnerships that
promote mobility through job-training or job-matching
services,” explains Melchionda. “This programme is a
first step to show that circular migration promotes skills
transfer, investment and ultimately economic growth for all
countries involved.”