Morocco's EconomyPreviously, a myriad of tourists had visited Morocco to explore its diverse culture, food, landscapes, history and people. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation has faced a devastating economic crisis. Without its regular influx of tourists or traveling diaspora, Morocco is in the depths of a recession for the first time since 1995. The government is working to ensure that Morocco’s economy can recover from the pandemic.

5 Ways Morocco’s Economy is Recovering

  1. The Mohammed VI Investment Fund: In November 2020, King Mohammed VI established a $1.6 billion economic plan to revive Morocco’s economy due to the economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic brought on. Shortly afterward, the International Finance Corporation, as part of the World Bank Group, officially announced its support for the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance’s efforts to boost the country’s economy.
  2. Moroccan Transportation Companies Decrease Prices: In June 2021, King Mohammed VI announced that all transportation companies must make tickets more affordable for Moroccans living abroad. The announcement targeted airlines such as Royal Air Maroc, which dropped flight ticket prices by more than 50% globally. Within a few days of the announcement, flights were being booked much faster than before. During the first week of discounted airline ticket prices, 195,547 people traveled to Morocco.
  3. Other Discounts for Tourists: Airline discounts are not the only thing Morocco’s economy is relying on to attract travelers. All forms of transportation in Morocco, from car rentals to train and bus tickets, have decreased in price. Additionally, 30% of hotel prices have decreased.
  4. More Visitors: International travel restrictions drastically affected tourism, causing a 78% deficit in the sector’s revenue in the first quarter of 2021. In response, the Moroccan government established a new economic plan that specifically targeted revenue from tourism. Now, tourism is surging more than it ever has since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 12 million tourists visited Morocco, half of whom were Moroccans living abroad. From June to September 2021, Morocco will see 72% of the visitors it saw in the same period in 2019, or around 3.5 million travelers.
  5. Rapid Tourism Sector Rebound: Morocco’s tourism sector suffered a loss of $7.2 billion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses and tourism hotspots hard, especially during national lockdowns. However, these businesses are benefiting from the country’s new economic plan. Travel reopenings are also catalyzing Morocco’s economic recovery.

Laudable Economic Growth

Despite the effects of COVID-19 on Morocco’s economy, the World Bank ranked it 53rd out of 190 countries for ease of doing business in 2020, reflecting its laudable economic achievements within merely a decade. With King Mohammed VI’s plan in place, the country’s setbacks hardly seem significant. The restoration of Morocco’s economy is underway and the country’s effervescent tourism sector is back on the rise.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in MoroccoThe COVID-19 pandemic has harshly impacted the world and Morocco is no exception. When the virus reached Morocco in mid-March 2020, the country entered a health and economic crisis that impacted the majority of citizens. The national government took rigorous actions to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Morocco.

COVID-19 in Morocco

In March 2020, the Moroccan government issued a state of emergency lockdown across the country to limit the spread of the virus. These measures left thousands jobless, leading to increased poverty. The unemployment rate in Morocco jumped from 10.5% in the first quarter of 2020 to 12.5% in the first quarter of 2021. Roughly, 600,000 jobs were lost across all sectors and provinces, affecting mostly agricultural workers.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on poverty in Morocco. The percentage of people living in poverty increased from 3.3% in 2020 to 3.6% in 2021. In 2020, more than one million Moroccan people became vulnerable to poverty. Unfortunately, this rise in vulnerability to poverty is forcing students from low-income families, especially girls, to drop out of schools.

Although Morocco enforced strict lockdown laws, COVID-19 cases were on the rise at the beginning of the pandemic, which increased the fragility of the country’s health system. In 2014, Morocco only had 1.1 hospital beds available per 1,000 people. In 2017, Morocco had 0.7 physicians per 1,000 people. Morocco also suffers from high inequality in healthcare access. In 2016, the World Bank reported that, at minimum, a quarter of rural families live at least 6.2 miles away from basic health facilities. The transportation costs of accessing healthcare are also prohibitive for many. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Morocco has made significant progress in fighting COVID-19.

Morocco’s COVID-19 Response

  • The national government created a $3 billion pandemic emergency fund. It also allocated $200 million to the Ministry of Health to bolster the country’s medical system.
  • Much of the emergency fund is dedicated to financing economic measures to support vulnerable sectors, save jobs and mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
  • The government also issued cash transfers to Moroccans who lost their incomes due to the pandemic, ranging from $80 to $120.

Foreign Aid and NGO Support

Foreign governments and organizations have also contributed to the fight. The European Union offered €450 million to support Morocco during the pandemic. Morocco also received $127 million from the Arab Monetary Fund, €150 million from the French Development Agency and $730,000 from the U.S. to help contain the pandemic.

COVID-19 has hit low-income Moroccan families hardest. The National Institute for Solidarity with Women in Distress (INSAF) is among many local nonprofit organizations that have offered support. INSAF was founded in 1999 and is based in Casablanca, Morocco. INSAF targets mostly single mothers, refugees and low-income households.

The organization started a campaign to distribute food, and in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, INSAF put up flyers with social distancing guidelines. INSAF also extended help to sub-Saharan African migrants, donating 4,000 packages of supplies containing thousands of masks, bleaches and soaps in Casablanca alone. The organization also prepared another delivery of 4,500 packages for migrants in Rabat, Morocco. INSAF’s goal is to protect 8,500 sub-Saharan Africans during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Leading Vaccination Campaigns

Despite its economic challenges, Morocco’s mass vaccination campaign has outpaced most African countries, reaching the second-highest vaccination rate in Africa. Approximately 21% of Moroccans have received two vaccine doses. Morocco first distributed vaccines to healthcare workers, people older than 65 and people with chronic illnesses.

Though the vaccination campaign has excelled so far, the country is now facing a vaccine shortage. India produces more than 60% of the world’s vaccines, including many of the vaccines formerly bought by Morocco. However, the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine producer, stopped exporting AstraZeneca vaccines in early March 2021 in order to address a spike in India’s COVID-19 cases. To avoid a long period of vaccine shortage, Morocco is seeking other alternatives. The Ministry of Health has approved other vaccines and the government is negotiating with Russia and China to receive Sputnik and Sinopharm vaccines.

A Commendable Response

Despite its struggling economy, Morocco is taking strict measures to protect its citizens and is also carrying out one of the most successful COVID-19 vaccine efforts in Africa. At the same time, the government is taking action to support the economy, strengthen the fragile medical system and assist vulnerable Moroccans impacted by the effects of the pandemic.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Unsplash

Morocco-Nigeria PartnershipFor more than two decades, Morocco has worked to build partnerships with sub-Saharan African countries. The country is increasing its cooperation with several African countries to improve the bonds of unity on the African continent. A robust Morocco-Nigeria partnership is enhancing the economies of both countries.

Pipeline Gas Partnership

The Morocco-Nigeria partnership is taking another step forward, this time cooperating on a major gas pipeline that the king of Morocco and the president of Nigeria first discussed back in 2016. Nigeria’s gas will contribute to developing economies in much of the sub-Saharan African region. In addition, it will stimulate the growth and interconnectedness of the West African energy market.

Studies have demonstrated the economic viability of the pipeline project, which could draw attention from giant multinational energy companies. The pipeline also represents an important portion of Morocco’s recent investment in sub-Saharan Africa after the country rejoined the African Union in 2017.

The gas pipeline will ultimately link Nigerian gas to “every coastal country in West Africa.” These countries consist of “Togo, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania.” The pipeline will end in Tangiers, Morocco and Cádiz, Spain. The pipeline will be 3,517 miles long. The construction will be divided into multiple phases and will take around 25 years to complete.

Agricultural Partnership

The Morocco-Nigeria partnership exceeded expectations after the two countries agreed to launch a new agricultural project. The Moroccan OCP Group, a state-owned mining and fertilizer producer, will establish a fertilizer factory in Nigeria amounting to $1.3 billion. Several key facts outline the agricultural partnership.

  • The project was launched in June 2018 and the factory is anticipated to open its doors in 2024.
  • Utilizing Nigerian gas and Moroccan phosphate, the factory will produce 750,000 tons of ammonia annually by 2025.
  • Similarly, the factory will manufacture one million tons of phosphate fertilizers a year by 2025.
  • Affordable and customized fertilizer aims to improve agriculture in Nigeria in order to improve food security.
  • The OCP Group will offer agricultural training to Nigerian farmers and encourage digitalization in farming.

Finance Partnership

The Morocco-Nigeria partnership is also helping banks from both countries expand in the region. The Nigerian Bank of Africa (UBA) and Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank signed an agreement in 2016 to reinforce their cooperation in banking, finance, investment and trade. Both the Nigerian president and the Moroccan king were present at the signing as well as the CEOs of both banks.

The UBA exists in 19 African countries, making it one of the most dominant banks in Africa. The agreement covers finance projects, trade and investment between the two countries. The Nigerian UBA Chairman Tony Elumelu said, “This collaborative effort is a historical milestone.” He added, “We see huge potential in bringing our collective expertise in banking to provide Africa-led solutions to the needs of Africans.”

Security Partnership

In terms of security and fighting terrorism in the region, Morocco cooperates with the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) in Nigeria. In April 2021, high-profile representatives from Morocco met with CEN-SAD in Nigeria to talk about different plans to fight terrorism. The three-day gathering focused mainly on the progress CEN-SAD had accomplished in fighting terrorist groups.

The two parties also shared their expertise for future collaborative exercises and proposed new approaches for areas damaged by terrorism. The Moroccan representative party presented counterterrorism methods that Morocco has recently applied in its own region. The two parties also discussed forming a state-run entity to advance the collaboration between Morocco “and the members of the region’s counterterrorism operations.”

The Morocco-Nigeria partnership illustrates the strength in collaboration and cooperation between countries. With more countries coming together for mutual benefit, the power of partnership can advance progress on global issues.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Flickr

combat violence in MoroccoThere is a Moroccan village in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains where a group of women is staking their claim to a portion of the nation’s economy. With the support of a government initiative, these women have formed a civil society organization (CSO) known simply as, The Association. These women took part in jumpstarting the production of sheep and honey within the region. This is an effort to combat violence in Morocco.

The Benefits of CSOs

In May 2017, Dr. Beth Shirley, a professor of technical and science communication at Montana State University, participated in a research trip to Morocco. The trip involved the study of how CSOs are designed to improve the lives of women in rural communities. The researchers engaged with members of the Association and learned about how they communicate and organize themselves in a semiliterate environment. Also, how a CSO manages the effects of climate change on their agricultural prospects.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Shirley said, “Improving the lives of women like this actually reduces violence and terrorism.” Additionally, the women in The Association are contributing to, “the reduction of violence against women more than Morocco’s progressive legislation.”

There is a long history that has led to this moment in Morocco and women in the High Atlas Mountains stand at the forefront of the fight for rights and against violence.

The History of the Women’s Rights Movement in Morocco

Following Morocco’s independence from France in the late 1950s, there was a push for sweeping legal and cultural reforms. During the women’s rights movement, artistic talents were often used to renegotiate the status of cultural identity in a post-Colonial Morocco. Not long after this, women began to shape contemporary politics by forming unions and other democratic associations and holding positions in the ruling government.

A couple of decades later, the Arab Spring began and shifted the dynamic of the pro-democracy and women’s movements in Morocco. This led to radical reforms such as the right to marry without permission from a male guardian, the right to divorce their partner and the right to maintain custody of children after a divorce. The legal marriage age also changed for the better. Once the legal age was 15, now it is 18.

This progressive legislation emboldened more women to invest their time and resources into their society and attempt to combat violence in Morocco. The women of the High Atlas Mountains were a part of this trailblazing class of women. It was in 2012, one year after the Arab Spring, that they formed their Association and began to improve the lives of rural women.

The story of the Association is a testament to the lengths that Morocco has gone to become a progressive Arabian ally. Sadly, there are still many loopholes in the legal framework that fail to protect women from sexual harassment and assault.

Violence Against Women and Terrorism

In this sense, Morocco finds itself stuck in an awkward position when it comes to the protection of women’s rights. This is because the policies are progressive enough to anger religious extremists yet lax enough to condone violence against women exercising their rights. This thorny reality has allowed terrorism to propagate in Morocco and neighboring nations like Algeria for the last decade.

At a U.N. Forum in New York City, Justine Coulidiati Kiélem, president of the G5 Sahel Women’s Platform, stated that it’s critical for women to be allowed to stop terrorism. Kiélem said, “They [Moroccan government] sometimes spend money on the wrong priorities. They need to spend money on where there can be a good impact — supporting women.”

The Moroccan government answered this call by implementing policies like the Hakkaoui law. The Hakkaoui Law is in place to combat violence in Morocco. It criminalizes any act of harassment, aggression or sexual exploitation against women. Other supportive laws incentivize women-led programs like the Association. These reforms, paired with a robust counterterrorism strategy, have led to dramatic successes. According to the United States Bureau of Counterterrorism, “There were no terrorist incidents reported in Morocco in 2019.”

Some say that this fact is proof that the Hakkaoui law mitigates violence against women. However, advocates for women’s rights believe the measures taken have not been enough. For instance, 40% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 experience violence, with more than half of those acts committed by their husbands.

Dr. Shirley said, “During my time in Morocco, I didn’t witness or experience any violence, but it does happen, most often behind closed doors.” While rates of violence are going down, the law does not go far enough. Al Jazeera reports that “the legislation does not explicitly outlaw marital rape or spousal violence and does not provide a precise definition of domestic violence, leaving women vulnerable.”

A Long Path Forward

Dr. Shirley recalled a statement from one of the Moroccan women in her study: “She said, ‘I would like to see the women be able to travel more, to think for themselves and make their own decisions and be more independent.’” The Association gives women in this rural village the power to be autonomous — to make the choices that they want to make for themselves. But, this effort could not be done without their collective participation in the movement. On their own, they might not be heard, but together, they speak loudly as one. Together they can combat violence in Morocco.

Morocco is on the brink of a transformative societal shift. The policies in place have to extend to all Moroccan women in both rural and urban communities. Making these changes not only grants women protection and the ability to participate in the economy but also sets new standards for what is acceptable and what is not in a civil society.

Women engage in small acts of resistance every day by exercising their right to protest, by engaging in a collective discourse and by educating members of their community. Moroccan women like those living in the High Atlas Mountains are laying the foundation for the path forward through economic participation. With the right type of legal pressure, advocates may find a way to light the fire that will create a transformative shift forward and combat violence in Morocco.

– Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

digital identification and the fight against global poverty
As the world continues to populate and technology becomes more widely available, the need for digital identification has become vital in the fight against global poverty. Currently, the World Bank has calculated that nearly one billion people worldwide do not have any formal identification, half of whom are in Africa. Thus, many people are without access to a range of essential services like banking, healthcare and general education.

In response, the World Bank Group began an initiative in 2014 to directly tackle this issue. The Identification for Development (ID4D) organization comprises experts, investors and technologies working to bring every person into the digital world.

What is Digital Identification?

Simply put, digital identification is a process in which an individual’s identity is confirmed through digital channels. A digital ID can range from a government-issued ID to a PIN to biometric data. Digital identification provides multiple important opportunities, such as opening bank accounts, establishing credentials for jobs and gaining access to education. Though these forms of identification seem common, many people struggle daily to prove their identity through these methods.

To understand the importance of identity management, one must understand the value and advantages it brings. In low-income countries, over 45% of women and 30% of men have no ID at all. In addition to the gender gap, a World Bank Group survey cited that the most impoverished 20% are the most likely to lack an ID. This places a veil over these communities, making them virtually “invisible.” It bars them from the opportunities and services that they most need to break out of the cycle of poverty.

However, digital identification can and is changing this. Identification for Development (ID4D) is doing pivotal work in building digital bridges, keeping transparency and empowering communities.

How ID4D Works

The ID4D initiative works in conjunction with 10 World Bank Group sectors that work toward digital expansion, economic inclusion, social safeguards and more for those in need of these services. The program primarily focuses on educating communities on the need and benefit of digital identification. Additionally, the group works alongside governments to implement effective and inclusive digital identification systems. The process of building up communities takes time and research. ID4D, therefore, performs assessments and creates a dialogue to understand the communities it serves.

Who ID4D Serves

Identification for Development serves the global community. For instance, the World Group Bank has supported the Moroccon government by designing and implementing a digital ID system. This project reformed the Moroccan social safety net system into a secure and functional digital society and economy.

Likewise, in West Africa, ID4D is in the beginning stages of implementing a new national ID system. This system will allow for easier access to mutual recognition and authentication processes throughout the area. A part of this project involves setting legal standards, industry standards and overall help promote and establish reliable ID systems between borders.

The Benefits of Digital Identification

There are numerous benefits to bringing underdeveloped regions into the digital atmosphere. First and foremost being the generation and broadening of new markets and customer indexes. Giving untapped markets the ability to tap into the digital realm financially gives poor communities a way to build savings, establish a digital trail, build credit and pay for what they need in micro-payments. Furthermore, digital identification helps to prevent fraud in various aspects. For example, with the help of digital identification, Nigeria and other countries have successfully used biometric records to reduce federal beneficiaries.

Not only does digital identification help communities at large, but it paves the way for women to provide for their families. Women account for around 70% of the world’s working population but receive only 10% of the income. As a result, women cannot afford to help raise their families out of poverty. Therefore, increasing women’s ability to verify their identities allows them to claim their income without issue, creating a highly effective method to combat global poverty.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Morocco
A 60-year-old royal decree largely dictates mental health in Morocco, but the government and outside institutions have been working to address this outdated decree in the last decades. A Dahir, or King’s decree, emerged in 1959, which determines Morocco’s mental health program, rights of patients and other aspects. Due to the inadequacy of the law, the Ministry of Health has and still is working on a new law to address treatment for mental health in Morocco.

The Current Situation for Mental Health in Morocco

In 2009, the government published a mental health profile of the country’s general population. The government’s report on mental health in the country used a random sample that it took of the population. Researchers interviewed nearly 5,500 people and over 40% of those interviewed had an active mental disorder.

Mental health disorders were more frequent among women, the divorced, unemployed and those in urban areas. More recent data on Moroccan mental health add credence to these older findings.

A 2019 study in the Annals of General Psychiatry outlined that one in five children in Morocco suffered from insomnia, depression or anxiety. Half of the mental health issues in Morocco’s children started at the age of 14. The Moroccan Ministry of Health published that nearly half of all adolescents it studied suffer from a mental health disorder. Morocco’s adolescents make up nearly 9% of the country’s total population. Outside institutions like the World Bank state that women and those who are young require special attention. The World Bank described the important relationship between education, work productivity, family care and mental health.

Solutions

The Moroccan government and the World Health Organization (WHO) are addressing mental health shortcomings with three major goals; drafting new legislation on mental health, building more hospitals and increasing the psychiatric workforce. The WHO’s “Country Cooperation Strategy for 2017-2021″ focuses on the entirety of the health care system in Morocco. However, legislative scrutiny is addressing mental health in Morocco, specifically.

Addressing the 1959 Dahir

The government adopted draft legislation in 2015 that addressed the outdated nature of the 1959 Dahir. The law emerged to protect the rights of those with mental health disorders. After scrutiny from health care professionals in Morocco, the government announced that the law would go under review in consultation with the Moroccan Society of Psychiatry or other leaders in the mental health field. The draft law is currently still under review.

Building More Psychiatric Hospitals

Morocco’s mental health infrastructure is currently getting a boost. The government is building psychiatric hospitals, one of which has already started construction. These hospitals are part of a greater initiative to increase regional access to health care. In fact, a psychiatric clinic finished construction in late 2020. All of these health infrastructure creations are part of a cooperative between the WHO and Morocco.

Increasing the Mental Health Workforce

The WHO reported that the ratio of psychiatrists was at 0.4 per 100,000 in 2005. However, in 2017, that ratio was at 0.84 which means it has doubled in 12 years. The WHO’s numbers show a steady increase in this workforce. A case study of under-resourced areas in Morocco has proposed peer-therapy as a solution to the lack of available mental health physicians.

A 2017 case study in Morocco gives hope to under-resourced areas. Sixty people ages 18-33 engaged in a rehabilitation program. The researchers found that the sessions were successful. They believe peer-therapy can make up for the lack of an available workforce.

While treatment for mental health in Morocco has presented some challenges, the country is working to improve the situation. Through the implementation of new hospitals and clinics as well as peer-therapy, access to mental health care should improve for Morocco’s residents.

– Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

How Promoting Gender Equality Can Help Fight TerrorismA 2020 brief by the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism denotes a reciprocal relationship between gender inequality and terrorism, whereby terrorism underpins gender inequality by inspiring violence against women. In the same manner, gender inequalities fuel terrorism and gender equality fights terrorism, as most terrorist groups exploit gender norms to violate women’s rights. Research by The Brookings Institution revealed that societies that prioritize gender equality are less likely to engage in internal and external violence. Consequently, gender equality and female empowerment are two of the most critical strategies to put in place to fight terrorism.

The Correlation between Gender Inequality and Terrorism

A study examining the in-depth link between gender, terrorism and foreign fighters hypothesized that countries that tolerate domestic violence against women are more likely to experience political violence and extremism. The same study found that the majority of radicalized individuals have a past history of domestic violence and crimes against women.

A strong correlation coefficient of 0.6 exists between lower levels of violence against women and higher democratic quality. As a higher level of democracy implies a lower prevalence of terrorism, this implicitly indicates that promoting gender equality strengthens efficient and effective democracy, which weakens terrorism. Democratic efforts further support the societal benefits of efforts where gender equality fights terrorism.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for why both men and women engage in terrorism, compounding factors that primarily affect women may be one of the answers. In a cruelly cyclical manner, such factors include a lack of decision-making power over household finances and a desire for greater independence.

Furthermore, a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) lists rape and coercive familial relationships as among the factors that push women into terrorism.

Case study: Bangladesh & Morocco’s Success Stories

The strong correlation that exists between gender inequality and terrorism leaves no doubt that promoting gender equality and female empowerment is one of the best strategies to put into place to deter terrorism. This strategy has successfully worked in countries like Bangladesh and Morocco.

Since 2005, Bangladesh has not experienced any significant non-political terrorist attacks. Since 2011, Morocco has not either. A similarity between the two countries, apart from success in suppressing terrorism, is an emphasis on women’s empowerment and integration of counter-terrorism efforts.

As a Bangladeshi representative at the country’s Washington Embassy disclosed, the country substantially owes its success in countering terrorism to the inclusion of female empowerment in its local Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts.

Measures that the Bangladeshi Government has taken to empower women include employment efforts. The Ready-Made Garment (RMG) Industry is the largest employer of women in Bangladesh. For self-employment measures, the government established micro-credit and micro-lending programs for women, which have significantly improved the standards of living of Bangladeshi women. These lending programs have helped women start and successfully run small businesses.

The newfound sense of independence, self-esteem and self-worth among Bangladeshi women has increased their economic participation, furthered their education and boosted their social empowerment. Bangladesh has also worked to inspire girls through education by ensuring that 60% of remote primary school teachers are women.

Likewise, Morocco has implemented various measures which have successfully helped the country to curb extremism and terrorism. These include raising the minimum marriage age to 18 for women; allotting shared property rights through marriage; introducing restrictions on polygamy, which significantly lowered its incidence; allowing women to initiate divorce by law; and making it possible for women to retain custody of children after divorce.

Looking Ahead

Former Secretary to the U.N. Kofi Annan declared, “There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole — women and men alike — than the one which involves women as central players.”

Promoting gender equality and female empowerment has proven to be a crucial measure to fight terrorism. The level of success at which this strategy has helped control terrorism in countries clearly signals its efficacy. Ultimately, gender equality fights terrorism, weakening it across the board and limiting those who engage in it in a variety of ways. Based on national examples, promoting and developing gender equality promises the same — or even better — results if enacted at a global level.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in MoroccoIn 2018 and 2019, Morocco became a powerhouse in renewable energy, exporting an increased 670% of energy and decreasing imports by 93.5%. This can be attributed to the nation constructing the largest concentrated solar farm in the world. The solar plant, known as the Noor Complex, has the capability to power one million homes and greatly reduce the use of fossil fuel.

Solar Energy in Morocco

Prior to this renewable attitude, 97% of Morocco’s energy was produced by fossil fuels. The construction of solar farms is able to offset the nation’s energy usage, lessening the demand for energy imports and creating opportunities for more exports, ensuring a self-sufficient nation.

The decrease in energy consumption in the country has saved funds on energy costs. In 2018, the Moroccan Government decided to move to the GMT+1 timezone resulting in less electricity consumption by citizens. This shift toward sunnier days allows Morocco to overproduce energy and afford to export energy.

The advantages of solar energy in Morocco extend into multiple areas, creating a positive impact for not only Morocco but the African continent as a whole.

Poverty Eradication Benefits

In past years, poverty in Morocco has seen a significant decrease. While an optimistic stride for the nation, the decline in poverty was disproportionate between rural and urban areas.

This disparity between the living areas is often attributed to the difficulty in distributing energy to the rural regions. The hope is that the efficiency of solar energy in Morocco will allow for energy distribution to residents living outside the city to be feasible.

In 2016, poverty in Morocco was reduced to 23% from 45% in 2014. As solar energy in Morocco becomes more efficient, the living conditions of the average resident should improve as solar power makes electricity more affordable and easier to access. The solar farms popping up across the country also create jobs for the population to earn a living wage.

Economic Benefits

Solar energy in Morocco helps the nation be less reliant on energy imports and capable of exporting more energy, boosting the economy and relationships with other nations.

As Morocco’s economy strengthens with its excess of energy, it looks to make connections with European countries. In 2016, the construction of the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline project was announced. This pipeline perfectly positions Morocco to become an energy hub for the Mediterranean, African and European nations.

These connections to other nations allow Morocco access to flourishing markets and new business opportunities. As Morocco forms these foreign connections, it is becoming a greater political power in Africa.

Political Benefits

The continent of Africa currently has a leadership vacuum that Morocco is preparing to fill. As it produces more energy and builds stronger relationships with European nations, it is seen as a serious economic and political figure for the continent.

In 1984, Morocco left the African Union (AU) because of a disagreement over the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). After many years, Morocco now seeks to rejoin the AU and strives to make the continent of Africa a robust, independent continent.

Now, the country is setting an example for the other nations of Africa to become self-sufficient and gain economic ground with foreign countries. Morocco has invested 85% of its foreign funds to other countries in Africa in an attempt to boost its leadership role as well as improve the struggling African economies.

The current Moroccan King, King Mohammed VI, has confidence in the continent’s abilities and wishes to lead Africa to success. He has made Morocco the second largest investor in African affairs.

Environmental Benefits

The positive environmental impact is often considered when looking at renewable energy. Morocco is heavily invested in combatting climate change and the environmental crisis the world is facing. Along with many green policies, Morocco is implementing the Green Generation 2020-2030 plan to help farmers conserve water and energy and grow crops more efficiently.

In addition to its pivot toward solar energy, Morocco is developing an environmental code to reduce pollution and work toward a greener society.

A Brighter Future

Morocco’s turn to solar energy is improving the living standards of its residents and empowering the country in the political arena all while reducing the harmful effects fossil fuels have on the planet. While Morocco has seen hard times, it is propelling forward and bringing the continent of Africa along with it. As Morocco constructs more solar resources and spreads its influence to other African nations, it plays a significant role in poverty reduction.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

AlNourWomen’s agency and equal rights can help to significantly reduce poverty. When evaluating the development of a country, the role of women should not be overlooked. When women are empowered through literacy and education, they become more productive members of society that contribute to global poverty reduction. AlNour is a Moroccan business that allows women in Morocco to be part of the labor force, especially disabled women.

Cultural Norms Limit Women

Oftentimes women do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to receive education, engage in the labor force or own property. This is partly because of cultural norms that limit women to domestic responsibilities. By reducing unpaid domestic work, women become empowered and capable of obtaining income security and sustainable livelihoods, which significantly diminishes poverty levels.

Gender Inequality in Morocco

Gender inequality and the lack of women in the labor force in Morocco are related and ongoing issues. The nation, which is located in northwestern Africa, ranked 137 out of 149 countries according to the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report and ranked 141 out of 149 countries for women’s economic participation and opportunity. Although there were reforms in 2011 to increase the participation of women in the labor force in Morocco, and specifically within the government, women largely remain underrepresented in elected positions.

The economy would benefit from an increase in women’s participation. The IMF examined the relationship between gender inequality and growth and found that policies that better integrate women into the economy would greatly improve growth. As of 2019, if as many women worked as men worked, “income per capita could be almost 50% higher than it is now.”

The participation of women in the labor force in Morocco increases economic development and therefore reduces global poverty. But, how can women become more active citizens in society? The answer can be found by examining an organization called AlNour, which serves as an important example of how to best empower women.

AlNour: A Women’s Empowerment Organization

AlNour is a textile and embroidery business that provides an outlet for women to participate in the labor force in Morocco, thereby contributing to the economic development of the country as a whole. AlNour, which means “the light” in Arabic, began in 2013 after Patricia Kahane, originally from Austria, began the enterprise as a means of offering disabled Moroccan women sources of income through textile production and embroidery. The business employs disabled female workers who face a double disadvantage in Morocco due to their disabilities and gender.

The organization not only provides women with work but also offers training programs for languages, professional and artisan skills. The company has a van that allows women to easily and safely travel to and from work and also has a child care center for working mothers. Furthermore, the company offers free breakfast and lunch daily. The business has partnered with local shops to distribute its products and it also has a website, which features a range of items from home accessories to clothing.

AlNour serves as a rich example of how an organization can alter the lives of many and even impact an entire country. By developing sustainable solutions that not only invest in education but also emotional and financial support, women can break free from traditional roles and gender stereotypes, while simultaneously promoting financial inclusivity and bettering the nation entirely.

Gender Equality Progress in Morocco

There is light and hope for women in Morocco, as significant progress has been made. For example, the revision of the family code to expand the rights of women in marriage, guardianship, child custody and access to divorce is a monumental stride. The creation of a 14-week paid maternity leave clause was also introduced. Additionally, “the first and most advanced gender budgeting initiative in the Middle East and Central Asia region was launched in Morocco in 2002.”

While policies and laws that support gender equality such as the gender budget initiative are undoubtedly important, creating sustainable organizations like AlNour is an equally essential step in order to create a system that allows women to personally and professionally prosper from the ground level upward, consequently helping the economic development of Morocco as a whole.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy is Transforming Africa
Photovoltaics panels, more commonly referred to as solar panels, are often cited as the best way to decarbonize the world’s energy grids and reduce emissions. According to MIT, the price per solar cell has decreased by 99% since 1980. These incredibly low costs have now unlocked the use of solar panels for the world’s poorest continent, Africa, with incredibly positive ramifications for the local environments of its citizens and the international effort to reduce emissions. Beyond emissions, however, cheap solar energy also improves the prospects for poor and rural Africans to access electricity, opening new opportunities to enhance standards of living and reduce poverty rates. With the majority of the world’s poor now located in sub-Saharan Africa, these cheap panels, along with the innovative thinking of African communities across the continent, have created new use cases for solar energy that are increasing water security, improving rural access to electricity and increasing economic resilience for Africa’s developing economies. Here are three ways solar energy is transforming Africa.

3 Ways Solar Energy is Transforming Africa

  1. Kenya’s Solar Desalination Plant: Kenya, a former British colony located in eastern Africa, is home to a population of approximately 50 million people. With an annual population growth rate of 2.2%, Kenya has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and is set to see a population of 85 million by 2050, according to the World Bank. While a significant amount of Kenya’s population growth will be in urban developments, only 28% of Kenya’s population is urban today, meaning that Kenya’s government will need to find ways to provide water and energy infrastructure for its rural communities for decades to come. One small Kenyan fishing village known as Kiunga, home to about 3,500 individuals, has found a solution. Partnering with an American NGO known as GivePower, this village uses solar panels to desalinate ocean water, with the capacity to deliver water to 35,000 residents, 10 times the village’s current population. Today, over 300 million sub-Saharan Africans struggle with water insecurity, often leading to conflict and instability that causes poverty, according to global NGO The Water Project. Developments that can reduce such insecurities can go a long way in improving the future for Africa’s poor. While much more progress needs to occur on this front, this village of Kiunga is providing a template for villages across Africa to harness the power of the sun for water security.
  2. Tanzania’s Rural Mini-Grids: Tanzania, a neighbor of Kenya and a former British and German colony, is home to about 58 million people. Tanzania is East Africa’s largest nation and is home to its largest population and its lowest population density. With its urban population constituting only 35.2% of the country, Tanzania faces the challenge of providing electricity to rural communities far from its city centers. Solar power is uniquely capable of delivering power to these rural communities, and Tanzania has embraced new economic models called “mini-grids” in order to deliver this power. While traditional fossil fuel power plants rely on extensive supply chains and infrastructure in order to deliver electricity, in part due to the weight of the fuels, solar panels generate power on-site, directly from the sun. These “mini-grids” allow small Tanzanian villages to afford electricity for the first time, creating opportunities for rural education and improving security, ultimately contributing to the reduction of rural poverty in Tanzania. Although the current situation is poor, with more than 70% of Tanzanians lacking access to electricity, by 2040, 140 million Africans – including many in Tanzania – will get electricity from these mini-grids, according to the World Resources Institute.
  3. Morocco’s Mega Solar Plant: The North African nation of Morocco is becoming an increasingly important economic power in Africa, with a growth rate of nearly 4.1%. Despite this progress, however, Morocco’s rural poverty rate remains high at 19%. Though one cannot fault Morocco for prioritizing its economy over its environment, given its current poverty rate, Morocco has committed to ramping up its solar energy production, seeking a 50% renewable energy capacity by 2030. The benefits of this development, however, are more than environmental, as Morocco is now a net energy exporter to Europe, decreasing its domestic electricity costs and enhancing its economic resilience, all while improving its economic and political relationships with Europe. Thus, Morocco has used solar energy to not only maintain its commitments to emissions reductions but also as a tool to diversify its economy, allowing the nation to not only lift its citizens from poverty but to sustain its citizen’s incomes in good times and bad.

Poverty remains a significant problem in Africa, with more than half of the world’s deeply impoverished peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa. However, through remarkably low costs and a variety of unique use cases across Africa, solar panels are now increasingly capable of delivering energy, water security and economic growth. From LED-powered lights in rural African schools to increasingly reliable electricity for African small businesses, solar energy is transforming Africa by contributing to its economic rise and modernizing its rural life. And, with solar-powered desalination moving from fiction to reality, water security is increasingly possible across the continent, leading to greater community stability and resilience. All of these factors play an essential role in decreasing poverty rates and improving the quality of life on Earth’s poorest continent. Sunlight, it seems, will brighten Africa’s nights in the future.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: UN Multimedia