Hicham El Habti: [00:00:00] Welcome to STI think pod. My name is Francis

Aziz: and I’m Aziz. And I think part, we speak about the smartest ideas and the biggest challenges facing the world. Right now, we speak about. How we got here and where we’re going

Aziz: today. Our guest is Hisham president of the university of Muhammad six Polytechnic, universally known as UN 6P . We discussed innovation and new technology in higher education. Why he believes the next generation power to innovate. We’ll have Africa leapfrogged, the modern world. He was straight to the postmodern.

Aziz: So you’ve become the president of UN six P after working extensively with SMEs. What was the transition from the private sector life?

Hicham El Habti: It was very interesting. So before going to six P I had, I did the jump between SME and the biggest industrial company in Morocco. It was in January, 2013. And for me it was a challenge after spending seven years in the SMEs to see if I was able to work in a big company.

Hicham El Habti: So it went well. [00:01:00] And in late 2017, they asked me to join the university. For me, it was a discovery and it was the opportunity to learn. And last year I was appointed president of UM6P after spending three years in the management of this university.

Aziz: How did that inform your vision of the unit?

Hicham El Habti: It’s a new way of managing the university for the faculty is they were a little bit puzzled because I’m not a faculty myself.

Hicham El Habti: So what does it mean? I manage a university like a private company, so it’s a impact oriented, performance oriented. And so at the beginning they were puzzled after that. I think now they are okay because I’m not challenging them in their work because I’m not a faculty. So I understand what they are doing, but I can not tell them this guy’s good.

Hicham El Habti: This paper is. It’s up to them. So for them, it’s like a trust between us and managing the university. They are doing their research and their academic stuff.

Aziz: You mentioned that you want your students to be the builders of new [00:02:00] Africa.

Hicham El Habti: Yeah.

Aziz: What does this new Africa look like in your opinion?

Hicham El Habti: In 2050, for instance, uh, for me it will be the place that will enable the food security for the world because more than 60% of the Arabic.

Hicham El Habti: And news so far are in Africa, Africa, we leapfrog some innovations. It was the case in the mobile. So it will be the case in other topics. Uh, we, we will go from the pre-modern world to the post modern world without passing through the modern world. So for me, Africa tomorrow will be the place to be for innovation.

Hicham El Habti: Because it’s a must for, for Africa, and this is the message we want. And we share with our students that think of Africa, not like the place where we are struggling, but the place where, where we have opportunities to innovate. So they say that need is the mother of invention. Yeah. And you talked about innovating and leapfrogging and innovations, right?[00:03:00]

Aziz: Being a leader at an academic institution is what kind of innovations are most exciting to you?

Hicham El Habti: I think in the, in the education and, uh, thanks to the COVID 19 from day one, a delivery university. We invested a lot in digital, but it was a nice to help. Uh, in March, 2020, the government decided to lock down the country.

Hicham El Habti: So we had to switch. from Physical education to a digital education in three, four days. So we had invested a lot and now we understood why we have invested a lot in digital. So for me, the most exciting thing is to find this hybrid mode of education, uh, mixing digital and physical. We don’t need to invest a lot on campuses because it’s very expensive.

Hicham El Habti: We need to leapfrog in education. And the more, one of the most exciting thing is to leverage on the experience of COVID-19 [00:04:00] to have a new, uh, mode of education. We have an example within university is in decoding. We have a coding school called the 1337. We have now a 1200 students. And there is no baggage.

Hicham El Habti: So there is no professors. It’s a school open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a peer to peer learning and we don’t have to manage the professors because they are. So, and they having some fun, uh, the students. So we need to understand why we have this model and it works because we have a lot of demand.

Hicham El Habti: People are now living the conventional school to join this unconventional school and to see if we can do the same thing in the health, in the agriculture, in the mining, in the engineering. Uh, so.

Aziz: What do you see the future of Ed-tech looking like, generally.

Hicham El Habti: I think for me, it’s the future for education. If we [00:05:00] want to reach to more than 500, uh, youth in Africa, we cannot, as I say, just build campuses, it’s not possible.

Hicham El Habti: It costs a lot of money, but we have challenges behind that. It’s the connection is the infrastructure. Uh, so we had an example in Morocco. So during the COVID 19, uh, we had. Uh, platform for all the students, not for just six feet, but uh, about 8 million students in Morocco. And they had to have access to.

Hicham El Habti: And I think it was observed five, 10 minutes. It’s crushed because you had everyone who wanted to be connected. So we work very closely with the ministry of education and we hosted this platform on our servers and we worked with the telecom companies and all the data, uh, for this, uh, platform was for free.

Hicham El Habti: So we had to find a way to do that. [00:06:00] And we have succeeded. We have an idea about how to encourage people doing ethic. Uh, we need to invest on the setting infrastructure and in the connections. So as a leader of an academic institution yourself, right? You talked about making education more affordable, more accessible.

Hicham El Habti: Exactly. Right. What would be a call of action, perhaps institutions across the world, right? Where sometimes prices. And, and exclusivity our champion. Then, you know, becoming accessible, even though technology is now allowing that accessibility, what would you invite them to do? Or how would you propose they would go about solving that issue just to keep in mind?

Hicham El Habti: Because the business model, the actual business model, what we call the dominant design of this business model is we have to invest a lot on campuses. And this is a very, as I said, this costs money. So. Uh, if you want to break even. So it’s the tuition fees. And so that’s why there are up a year after year.

Hicham El Habti: We have an example in Morocco, it’s something in the French [00:07:00] countries called class pipe Artois. If you want to access to have access to an engineering school in Morocco, in France. So you have to spend two years. It’s a very tough two years. And after that you have a admission date. And after that. So you have your diploma of engineering of Sarah spending three or four years.

Hicham El Habti: So now we have all the curriculum or the curriculum, the two years curriculum in about a 1500 short videos between five and seven minutes and it could cost $200 a year. Wow. Well, and the actual cost is more than between 15,000, $20,000. So we can’t do that. People can now pass the exam to access to the engineering school.

Hicham El Habti: You pay a monthly, uh, 10 months or 12 months, and it’s about $200. So I’m inviting people to the university just to change the business model. And it’s not easy. [00:08:00] That’s why for us, we are a Greenfield university. We don’t have any. We don’t have 200 years behind us with all the costs of that, but the invitation is for them to forget the business model and to think about a new business model.

Hicham El Habti: And as I said before, really froggy innovation and keep in mind that we have people that can not afford $40,000 a year. Geographically Morocco is situated between Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world. How do you see maraca playing a pot within the pan African movement? Uh, great question. As the Greenfield project we have in the best in each, uh, continent in from the us, from Europe, from Asia.

Hicham El Habti: And, uh, now we have a lot of partnerships with the African universities because we believe in. So that technology is global, but innovation is local. So we can find technology [00:09:00] everywhere, but we have to take into account the country, uh, the village where we are sitting. And I have one exact example is with the is one of the best universities in the world.

Hicham El Habti: I think they are ranking nine, uh, in the QS ranking. And we launched it two years ago, an initiative called excellence in. Where we have three Peters. The first one is to train junior faculty because if Africa wants to develop itself, it will come through research. So that’s why we will mentor those junior faculty because they are the future of the academia in, uh, within, within Africa.

Hicham El Habti: The second thing is to educate PhDs. It’s 100 PhD students on topics, link to the developments or paprika. And the third one is about digital education and we are playing the role, connecting the perf. And others [00:10:00] with Sub-Saharan African universities and even our vision mission is empower talents to empower Africa.

Hicham El Habti: So this is the reason behind why we are here now by embracing Africa. Does that impact your relationship with the hour pole? Yes. When they see you at 6:00 PM, 6:00 PM. African universities. So we sit south to south and, uh, even in our, uh, department of humanities, we started the academic year by showing them a map of the world.

Hicham El Habti: Two maps, actually one how the north sees the south and you see that the African continues a very small, but the reassign. Is Africa is bigger than Europe. And we invite students to look at the south through the second map. That’s why for, for, for us empower talent to empower Africa, it’s comes to tell them what’s the south, how the south sees the south [00:11:00] and how to certain must see the salt.

Hicham El Habti: Even for our students, for their internship. We don’t send them. Or we send them to Sub-Saharan African countries. And when they come back, they see all the opportunities they can develop within the African continent. Technology has not only allowed education, perhaps to become more international and accessible, but also work to become more international and accessible.

Hicham El Habti: There’s a huge phenomenon of brain drain where a lot of talented people leave their countries and go abroad and work. Other places. Morocco particularly is no stranger broader. Africa’s no stranger to the brain drain from. How do you encourage and convince Moroccans to stay in Morocco? We have this question everyday, uh, from, from people within, within work, because we have more than 80% of our students got scholarships from, uh, from OCP foundation.

Hicham El Habti: So they told us, yeah, you got given scholarships. And if ups are spending five years here and the, they go to, to Europe or to the us, so you are participating in this branding. Our answer is the following. [00:12:00] We have now a reversed. Because we have a level of the university about 160 faculty wants a two, third are Moroccan diaspora decided to return back to Morocco.

Hicham El Habti: Why? Because there is a project. The project is how to develop Morocco, how to develop Africa. And they believe in this project and we are giving them the means. And especially the spirit of this project. The second thing is. We are not okay with this brain drain for us. Once we say brain drain is like, the youth are responsible for that for me now, we are responsible for that because we didn’t give them the opportunity to stay in their countries.

Hicham El Habti: So we have to be more attractive. So it’s up to us to develop some attractive ecosystem in terms of innovation, entrepreneurship, uh, education, research, and so on and so forth. The third thing even. That someone goes [00:13:00] to your opportunity, us, he or she could participate in development of their country. So that’s why for me, I’m interrogating this brain drain.

Hicham El Habti: This is the case for us at deliverable university. We are working a lot with faculty who decided to stay in Switzerland, in Canada, in the us, but they are hosting our students. They are connecting us with other institutions. So for me, this is the best way we can contribute into the development of the country.

Hicham El Habti: Africa broadly speaking is going to be disproportionately affected by climate change. How is UN six P but also Morocco going to tackle climate change? I think they continue that will suffer the most from the climate change. Africa and Africa did nothing because it’s not

Hicham El Habti: So for us, how we contribute in tackling this, uh, this, uh, this challenge is by developing research development and, you know, And give you two examples. The first one is in the water [00:14:00] use. Morocco is suffering from a scarcity in this. Element. So we are, uh, investing a lot in R and D about the best use of water, especially in the field of agriculture.

Hicham El Habti: So it’s a right quantity of water, depending on the soil, depending on the needs of the plant. That’s why we are using sensors, using all the images of the satellites to apply the right amount of water. So this is one second thing in the water is. To use even the salinity, introduce some crops that can support an issue because once we don’t have the water, we, we, we should use other, other types of water.

Hicham El Habti: So this is in the field of, of water. And we are sharing all this knowledge with the agencies, for instance, in Morocco that are using the dams water, so where they can use, where they can open, where they can store and [00:15:00] so on. So forth. The second thing is about the youth. Of the model. So the weather, uh, so far, there are just two, I think there are few models on developing the U S the other in Europe, but there is nothing for.

Hicham El Habti: So that’s good take into account the African, uh, characteristics. So we are working on that with, uh, with, uh, some partners from, from Europe and we will develop African model or a climate and we will share it, uh, which will be, uh, for mutual of science. It’s not just for us, it’s for all, uh, African continent and about the industrialization and in the mind.

Hicham El Habti: Is how to introduce a decarbonized ways of extracting, uh, minerals, uh, to even in the chemicals, how to use some green, uh, processes. So yeah, we have a, usually a department within university working on those. So as a final question, you know, given now that you’re leading an academic institution and you have so many [00:16:00] people that you’re responsible for the you lead and guide and look up to you, what type of personal legacy do you hope to leave behind?

Hicham El Habti: You know, for future generations? For me, the best legacy will be the youth, uh, in 10 years that decided to stay in Morocco or say in Africa, To develop an ecosystem and to continue this reverse brain drain for me, the best legacy is an ecosystem that will enable all the African youth to stay, to believe in themselves, to leapfrog innovation and to contribute in the development of the world.

Hicham El Habti: Because as I said before, for me, Africa will have. A big responsibility in the development of the world, not just Africa. Well, thank you so much, Mr. L Heptio was a pleasure having you in the thing pod, and we look forward to seeing you again. Hopefully thank you. Thanks for your time. Thank you. [00:17:00] We would love you to let others know about this podcast.

Hicham El Habti: Please rate us, leave us a comment and share with someone who might enjoy it too. I forget to hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss out on our next episode.