Human Trafficking in MoroccoWhile human trafficking in Morocco persists, this small North African country is working to end it. The U.S. Department of State identifies Morocco as a Tier 2 country, meaning it has taken steps to eliminate human trafficking but it does not yet meet minimum standards. In 2016, Morocco enacted an anti-trafficking law, laying the groundwork to tackle this issue. Morocco addresses human trafficking in a variety of ways, including partnering with organizations that spread awareness, providing resources to victims and preventing future trafficking.

Types of Human Trafficking in Morocco

Human trafficking in Morocco includes unpaid domestic labor, forced begging and sexual exploitation. Children can become victims when their families, usually from low-income backgrounds, send them away to work. Boys often become agricultural laborers or work in trades such as carpentry or mechanics. Meanwhile, girls typically work as domestic servants or experience exploitation through sex trafficking. Despite Morocco’s child labor law and a 2018 law that specifically protects domestic workers, employers frequently pay these children far below minimum wage and abuse them. Traffickers also force migrants into sex work and other types of labor. Morocco’s major cities are destinations for “sex tourists” from Europe and the Middle East who take advantage of trafficked women and children.

Who are the Victims?

The U.S. Department of State reported that, in 2020, Morocco identified 441 trafficking victims and referred them to care. Of these reported victims, 245 were female, 196 were male, 398 were adults and 43 were children. The majority (426) were Moroccan citizens, although migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were also vulnerable. Some migrant human trafficking victims may have gone unidentified.

Families who are struggling economically contribute to trafficking by taking children out of school and sending them to work, where they often experience exploitation. Traffickers also frequently target migrants, some of whom are undocumented and are passing through Morocco en route to Europe. The U.S. Department of State reported that traffickers who abuse migrants often come from the same countries as their victims. Traffickers may use physical and emotional abuse or withhold migrants’ passports to keep them in servitude.

How Morocco is Addressing Human Trafficking

In 2016, Morocco enacted Law No. 27.14. This law defines human trafficking victims as well as human trafficking crimes and their penalties. Under this law, the government provides victims with medical and psychological assistance as well as free legal aid. Morocco’s anti-trafficking law also created a national commission to stop human trafficking and prevent future cases from occurring.

In addition to policy changes, Morocco addresses human trafficking by working with organizations locally and abroad. SAVE, which stands for Soutien à l’identification et l’accompagnement des Victimes de Traite des êtres Humains, is a three-year project that aims to identify and support trafficking victims in Morocco. In 2019, the French nonprofit CCEM founded SAVE, which the European Union funds. SAVE partners with the Moroccan government and several Moroccan nonprofits. The goals of the project include receiving at least 500 trafficking reports and identifying a minimum of 100 victims by 2022. It also hopes to share best practices with other nations in the region.

Moving Forward

While Morocco has made progress in ending human trafficking, more work is necessary. According to the U.S. Department of State, Morocco’s efforts in prosecuting and convicting human trafficking cases have decreased. Additionally, migrant trafficking victims still receive unfair punishment for crimes, such as immigration violations and prostitution, that traffickers forced them to commit. The U.S. Department of State’s recommendations include establishing systemized procedures to identify victims, especially migrants, separating data on human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes and providing training on Morocco’s anti-trafficking law.

In an interview with U.N. Women, Amina Oufroukhi, president of the International Judicial Cooperation Department, noted that victims are often afraid to seek help, making identifying human trafficking difficult. To address this problem, Oufroukhi has helped create a network of prosecutors who have training in victim identification and established a Moroccan public awareness campaign. She is also working on a guide that will help prosecutors better apply Morocco’s anti-trafficking law. Oufroukhi further hopes the government and organizations will continue to build trust with those affected and that more research on human trafficking and migration in Morocco will occur.

Human trafficking continues to plague Morocco. However, efforts by the government as well as organizations working on the ground have made great strides in protecting the rights of victims and preventing future exploitation and abuse. As Morocco addresses human trafficking with a diverse set of invested stakeholders, there is hope that its most vulnerable populations will eventually live in freedom.

Annie Prafcke
Photo: Flickr

education system in MoroccoThe education system in Morocco has struggled for decades. In part, this is due to historical turmoil involving education accessibility. However, Morocco has recently taken a new approach to reverse this damage and improve its education system.

The “Decade of Education”

In 1999, Mohammed VI became the king of Morocco. He deemed education one of the main sectors in need of immediate action. Therefore, the years 1999 to 2009 were named the “decade of education.” During this time, reforms would take place under new guidelines, with the main goals to decrease illiteracy and upgrade the quality of learning. In addition, King Mohammed VI pledged to enhance private education and fight gender-based inequality.

The monarch’s involvement also resulted in a restructuring of the curriculum. To do this, King Mohammed VI replaced five years of primary and seven years of secondary education with nine years of the former and three years of the latter. He also introduced books that contained pedagogical principles.

These lessons targeted students’ needs and increased critical thinking skills. Through this reformed method of education, children learned how to develop a democratic mindset and thus the importance of human rights through science, technological and educational advances.

The Education Revolution

This new curriculum involved information technology studies and the integration of new subjects. Courses such as “Introduction to Education for Citizenship” in primary school, adding French and Amazigh language classes to the curriculum were all improvements to the former education system in Morocco. Exam schedules to ensure fairness and quality were revised and additional training in technology was provided to teachers. Overall, the changes during the Decade of Education shifted the way Morocco’s schools were administered. However, work to ensure the brightest future for Morocco’s children was still needed.

New Education Strategy Vision 2030

In 2014, the Minister of Education proposed additional revisions for the education system in Morrocco. In this vision, titled “New School for the citizen of tomorrow” the new education system allowed schools to appropriately provide all students with a high-quality education. The program allowed for increased Arabic classes, foreign language courses and learning vocational training.

Moreover, the project focused on encouraging openness and skill-building. With these overall advances, achieving greater  levels of education and the encouragment entrepreneurship allowed Morocco’s youth to learn important life skills. The ministry will also open centers for languages, culture and sports. The Ministry declared that during 2011-2012 and 2014-2015, there was an increase of more than 325,000 students enrolled in public and private schools.

In 2019,  The World Bank announced that it would contribute $500 million to the 2030 project. The grant will allow Morocco to extend access to quality education, especially pre-primary schools. It will also significantly increase teachers’ skills and competencies as improving human capital for children.

Hmemsa Organization: Education Program

Another group aiming to improve the education system in Morocco is Hmemsa. This organization is a successful Moroccan non-profit in the United States. Its main goal is to help low-income Moroccan households with essential needs and social issues. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Wafa Bennani was able to share more of the organization’s aspirations and achievements.

Bennani shared that currently, the Hmemsa organization is sponsoring two education programs. The first program involves exchanging engineering expertise with American students. Thus, Hmemsa is cooperating with the American Society of Engineering Education and other universities in Morocco to engage in an ASEE universal seminar in Morocco.

The second program is dedicated to orphans and impoverished children. Hmemsa’s Orphan Education Program is teaming up with the “Kafala Tifl Association” in Morocco to support and assist vulnerable children ages 5 to 18. The program has helped alleviate the financial burden of education from impoverished families and orphanages by providing children with necessary school supplies. Overall, the Orphans’ sponsorship program consists of $500 a year toward a child’s education.

Hmemsa’s Success Stories

Bennani also explained that the organization has been working with two orphanages in Meknes and Fez for more than 6 years now. They are planning to extend the program to include different orphanages in other cities as well. Success from Hmemsa’s work has been plentiful so far. Bennani expressed that two orphans have recently graduated high school with excellent overall grades. Additionally, Hmemsa sponsored one of the students to visit the U.S. and learn English at Western University. After this experience, the student went back to Morocco and secured a high-paying job.

Bennani also explained that when it comes to the challenges, mental health in orphanages is an issue Hmemsa sees frequently. With a shortage of special needs education, Hmemsa is looking for ways to provide counseling therapists and added support. With previous success in advocating for action against PKU, they are optimistic about their efforts in mental health advocacy.

Education and Poverty’s Future

In recent years, Morroco has made enormous efforts to boost its education system and make it accessible for all children. From the “decade of education” strategy to the 2030 vision, Morocco has always been striving for a better way to educate its children. With the help of The World Bank and non-profit organizations like the Hmemesa organization, the education system in Morocco is significantly enhancing education for all Moroccans.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Flickr

Child marriage in MoroccoChild marriage in Morocco is still widely prevalent in 2021, though there are efforts to expand girls’ rights and empower women. A worldwide issue, child marriage is an issue Morocco has long struggled with because of various legal frameworks. But, there is hope for the country’s girls as activists and groups work to reform laws and curb child marriage in Morocco.

Child Marriage and Poverty

There are many reasons why child marriage in Morocco is so prevalent. Most significantly, it is a longstanding cultural tradition as well as a widespread practice in Islam. Once a girl starts menstruating, according to Moroccan society, she has reached “the marriageable age.” Additionally, girls in rural Morocco must preserve their virginity until they become wed. Since the act of reproduction is so signifcant, families marry off their daughters at early ages because it “allows young women to have more children than those married later.”

Child marriage also enforces economic and social stability as marriage comes with money, status and property. Often, these girls come from families suffering in poverty. Because girls get married off early, they miss out on educational opportunities, making them completely dependent on their husbands. Consequently, poverty and illiteracy are driving factors in the girls’ futures, exacerbating cycles of poverty even further.

Moudawana

According to Morocco World News, Morocco’s Family Code, also known as Moudawana, is the root of the problem in permitting child marriage. In 1958, Morocco established Moudawana, a traditional family law that permits practices such as “polygamy and forced marriage.” The traditional family law was the main legal framework responsible for legitimizing forced child marriage.

However, the Family Code was officially reformed in 2004 to raise the minimum marriageable age of girls to 18 and provide more rights to women in marriages. This includes rights to inheritance and the sharing of marital property. While the law still permits polygamy, it is legal only under strict conditions. Activist groups like the Moroccan Women’s Rights Movement have been advocating for these changes to allow more rights to women and girls. Nonetheless, challenges persist.

Looking at the Numbers

According to Reuters, 16% of Moroccan girls younger than the age of 18 marry illegally, despite the revised Family Code law prohibiting this. Since the 2004 reform, the number of underage marriages surged by almost 50% by 2016, though some activists claim this statistic should be higher. Families get around the Moudawana through loopholes in the law, allowing them to marry off their daughters at earlier ages. According to Morocco’s Ministry of Justice, in 2019, 98% of requests for marriage to underage girls came from rural regions. This exemplifies the difference in ideology and practice between rural and urban areas as well as how circumstances of poverty increase the likelihood of child marriage.

Hope for the Future

Despite these statistics, there is hope for combating child marriage in Morocco. In 2020, the National Council for Human Rights and the United Nations Population Fund partnered for “a collaborative effort to end child marriage and promote sexual and reproductive health in Morocco.” Through education and awareness, the organizations’ joint missions will ensure poverty is alleviated alongside ending child marriage.

Additionally, the Moroccan organization called Droits & Justice is also working to end child marriage in the country. The organization launched the Combatting Underage Marriage through Legal Awareness (CUMLA) Project in 2014. The initiative educates young girls, parents and entire communities about the severe consequences of child marriage.

By partnering and collaborating with local associations, Droits & Justice hopes to increase local awareness and create large-scale change. With these methods, the organization is hoping to get closer to eradicating child marriage in Morocco. Droits & Justice “has succeeded in educating more than 500 women, including 250 underage girls.” The organization also helped with almost 30 child marriage cases.

Although child marriage has been a longstanding issue in Morocco, legal reform and the efforts of activist groups are encouraging. These are signs that Morocco is approaching a culture free of child marriage, and consequently, a future free of poverty.

– Laya Neelakandan
Photo: Unsplash

mega ports in Morocco
Morocco’s geographic location gives it an advantage when it comes to developing the country’s economy. Morocco borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, making it the closest African country to Europe. Mega ports in Morocco are among the many infrastructure developments that are revolutionizing the country as Morocco proceeds to build and expand its transportation infrastructure to connect the two continents.

Tanger Med

The Tanger Med port adopted its name from the port’s home city of Tangier in northwestern Morocco. Because of its important geographic location, Tangier has played a significant role in trade between Africa and Europe since ancient times.

The first site, known as Tanger Med 1, has two terminals. The first terminal started in 2007 after the King of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, laid the first stone in 2002. Following that, the second terminal started just one year later. Tanger Med 1 has a capacity of 3.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs). The terminals created 6,000 jobs at the port and an additional 70,000 jobs in the trade zone area.

After the establishment of Tanger Med 1, the King gave the order for a second container port, Tanger Med 2, with an investment of $1.5 billion. The port contained two more terminals, beginning construction officially in 2015. In the summer of 2019, Tanger Med 2 formally opened. Tanger Med became the largest port in the Mediterranean region, exceeding Valencia and Algeciras’ container ports with six million TEUs. Because of the outstanding performance of Tanger Med, the first of the mega ports in Morocco and the biggest in Africa, the government decided to build similar mega ports in other cities.

Nador West Med

Nador West Med is the second of the mega ports in Morocco. With almost half of its construction complete, the port will be fully ready by the end of 2022. The project will cost $13.8 million, consisting of new infrastructure and an industrial port.

The first phase of the Nador West port will include a 1,520-meter container dock for larger ships. It will also include a 600-meter dock for general goods to serve larger merchant ships. Furthermore, the Nador West Med port will have oil and chemical tankers, each able to carry approximately 170,000 tons.

New road construction will expand the route from six meters to nine meters and fortify the pavement. Nador West Med will have a tremendous socio-economic impact on the region. Once the port opens, it will reduce the unemployment rate with more jobs, allow for easy entry to the region and provide tax benefits for the country.

Dakhla Atlantic Port

Another port, the Dakhla Atlantic Port, will be built in Dakhla, located in a long, narrow peninsula in the southwest of Morocco. In 2020, the King announced significant investments that will cover the southern region of Morocco, including a mega port in Dakhla. This port will enhance many sectors such as fisheries, mining, energy, tourism and agriculture, processing approximately 2.2 million tons of goods yearly. With a cost of roughly $1.1 billion, the port will elevate direct commerce between Africa, Europe and the Americas following its completion in 2026. It will also include a space of 1,650 hectares for industrial and logistical services.

Certainly, mega ports in Morocco are boosting the country’s economy with a powerful presence in the region. Due to its strategic geographic location, Morocco’s ports allow the establishment of more investments and create a significant number of jobs. Moving forward, these mega ports should continue to bring many benefits for the country and the region.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Unsplash

 Aicha ChennaAicha Chenna, nicknamed “the Moroccan Mother Teresa,” is an important figure in Moroccan society. She devoted her life to fighting for women’s rights. She highlights the issue of single mothers in particular, which many consider taboo in Morocco. Within the country, many regard having kids outside of wedlock as an act of ignominy and dishonor to the family and society as a whole. It receives so much stigma that it can also lead to jail in some cases. To combat this, Aicha Chenna devoted her life to aiding single mothers and helping them become independent women.

Aicha Chenna’s Beginning

The activist Aicha Chenna began her journey as a state nurse and a social worker in the 1960s. As an employee at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Aicha Chenna witnessed single mothers having to abandon their babies for adoption, sometimes against their will. Aicha Chenna recounted, “In my office sat a young woman who was nursing her baby. She was about to sign the adoption papers and took the baby away from her breast to do so. The little one screamed and cried. That was the moment when it clicked for me. I had just had a baby myself and had recently returned from maternity leave. That night, I couldn’t sleep. The story kept going around and around in my head.” It was then that Aicha Chenna vowed to help single mothers.

Association Solidarité Feminine

Aicha Chenna established Association Solidarité Feminine (ASF) in 1985 in Casablanca. The goal of the association is to stand in solidarity with single mothers. The organization aims to help unmarried mothers stay united with their children and be able to be part of society. ASF offers single mothers a place to stay, literacy classes and job training. Further, the association has now added therapy counseling, cuisine and pastries training, sewing and accounting classes, fitness services and medicinal training. All of these services include daily childcare options and legal support. In this way, these single mothers gain the ability and support needed to reenter society.

The organization started modestly with two kitchens and some kiosks to aid 12 mothers. Since then, ASF has expanded into three separate locations. The Ain Sebaa center in Casablanca has dedicated itself to mothers in need of mental and emotional support. It provides educational services as well, including literacy classes. After women complete six months at the center, they meet with a social worker and a psychologist to discuss work options and training, including the restaurant or spa industry.

Progress For Moroccan Mothers

The activist Aicha Chenna, the Moroccan Mother Teresa, made strides in Moroccan society. Both Chenna and ASF received recognition and support from the Moroccan royal family. As such, the family laws underwent modification in 2004. The new laws state that extramarital sex is no longer a crime. Additionally, there are now paternity tests and new developments regarding the legal handling of children born outside of marriage. Thanks to the efforts of this daring activist, the chains of the societal taboos broke. Chenna’s work has saved the lives of thousands of single mothers and their children. These empowered mothers and their kids are able to rise out of poverty, decrease the number of social pressures they carry and lead full lives.

Zineb Williams
Photo: Flickr

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