SEATTLE — Morocco’s poverty rate has steadily declined since 2007. However, approximately 2.5 percent of the nation’s citizens still live below the international poverty line. Recent and ongoing development projects in Morocco have served to reach out to its citizens politically, creating community through education, bringing rural markets closer together and making gains in energy technology that will extend across the globe.
Politics for All Helps Smooth Transitions
Adopting a new constitution in 2011, Morocco endures the same political struggles as other developing nations – instability, citizens’ underrepresentation (actual and perceived) and lack of opportunities for civil society organizations (CSOs) to participate in the process. The five-year Building Responsive and Representative Political Parties program, which wrapped this past summer, focused on citizen outreach. The program aided political parties to better assess the needs and expectations of citizens, to involve CSOs in legislative and election processes and to strengthen the role of women and youth in politics and government.
The Civil Society Strengthening Program (CSSP) will continue through 2019 and persists in promoting a stronger relationship between CSOs and government institutions. CSSP encourages collaboration on shaping public policy, increased involvement of women and underrepresented groups in politics and the building of local and regional coalitions and networks. Both programs stress the importance of transparency, accountability and inclusion in policy reform.
Learning Together, Working Together
The young people of Morocco account for more than half of the nation’s population, yet 40 percent of them are out of school or out of work. Undereducated and disenfranchised, youth in Morocco tend toward crime, lives of instability and even participation in violent extremism when faced with a lack of opportunity. Funded through USAID, the Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth activities promote building vocational skills and academic training in a community environment for at-risk Morocco youth.
Started in 2012 and originally slated to run for two years, the project has been extended to 2019 after measured successful impacts. By enhancing the social aspect of vocational training, the project has enriched the lives of 20,000 young Moroccans thus far. Impact studies show that increased confidence from acquiring skills and schooling opportunities, especially alongside their peers, has lowered the dropout rate and finds young people becoming more engaged in their communities. By investing in youth today, these kinds of development projects in Morocco will impact generations of future citizens.
Connecting Markets by Connecting Roads
After gaining independence in 1956, development projects in Morocco for infrastructure and road investments were concentrated in high-traffic urban areas. But half of the nation’s population live and farm in rural areas. Being left out of infrastructure planning and the lack of access to all-weather roads contributed to a rise in poverty by the mid-1990s, especially through missed opportunities to sell crops and other wares to other areas in the region. Inadequate roads also meant inadequate access to health and education services.
In 2006, the World Bank financed the Rural Roads Project (now known as the Second Rural Roads Project due to a seven-month extension). The project was completed in June 2017 and has directly impacted nearly three million citizens in farming villages in the Middle Atlas Mountains. Over 15,000 kilometers of new blacktopped roads helped increase the incomes of farmers and merchants who can now explore markets throughout their region and into the larger surrounding towns.
The World Watches: Morocco and Solar Energy
The most far-reaching of development projects in Morocco is the construction of what will be the largest solar power plant in the world. Upon the plant’s completion, Morocco has the potential to reduce consumption of fossil fuels by one million tons of gas per year and to prevent 762,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Located in the Sahara Desert, the plant’s first phase is finished: the Noor 1 power plant was constructed with parabolic troughs and has a three-hour storage capacity (and is already so massive that it is visible from space). The second and third phases (Noor II and Noor III) will have seven- and eight-hour storage capacities, respectively.
The African Development Bank has partnered with the World Bank, the Clean Technology Fund, the Moroccan Solar Energy Program and other European and African agencies to develop a unique financing structure. The system has created a partnership between the private and public sectors by allowing independent power producers to sell the solar-plant-generated power back to the government, thereby keeping project costs on par with current (traditional) energy technologies.
By continuing to work together, Moroccans can alleviate the challenges created by poverty. Through increased individual and national wealth, opportunity and civic engagement, Morocco is poised to make the jump from “developing” to “developed.”
– Jaymie Greenway