Unique Partnerships for a “Greener” Morocco
Thanks to a State Department-funded program, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, better known as Virginia Tech, and a Moroccan NGO – the Industrial Cluster for Environmental Services (CISE) — have developed a partnership that won a contract to promote “green” entrepreneurship” in Morocco. The background to the relationship is quite interesting. Selma Elouardighi, born and raised in Rabat, came to Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs in August 2010 as a PhD student in Planning, Globalization and Governance. As she tells it, “My research interests centered on corporate environmental responsibility…and I decided to focus my work on the transfer of environmental best practices from developed to developing countries.”
Her key findings were that environmental best practices (EBP) are most effectively adapted when market pressures engage corporations and their supply chains. “Networking, which often leads to the identification and capitalization of synergistic opportunities between various firms, is an important facilitator of a systematic adoption of EBP.” Selma decided that the best way forward in Morocco was to set up CISE, an association of producers and consumers of environmental services and technologies.
As Selma puts it, “CISE provides a platform for sharing of best practices and partnership development between various constituencies [companies, public sector, higher education and research institutions, and environmental NGOs] to collectively pave the path for cleaner production and corporate environmental responsibility…and aims to promote research activity…and an incubator for green enterprise.”
Both sides play critical roles in CISE. The producers, by attracting more members from the industrial sectors, increase the spread of Morocco’s green programs. Consumers of these services help identify the technologies needed in the market, which help set priorities for producers and at the CISE incubator for environmental projects. CISE sees itself, eventually, as a bridge between academia and industry in that university facilities “serve as R&D labs for small and medium sized enterprises,” which in turn work with graduate and doctoral students to bring their innovations to market.
After registering CISE in Morocco in June 2014, Selma reached out to her colleagues at Virginia Tech and found a professor who was trying to start an educational program with Morocco. After some discussions, they agreed to collaborate. Michael Mortimer, Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (GLiGS) at Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment became that counterpart for CISE. Always on the lookout for broadening the school’s international ties, he was already developing programs in China, India, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, and now Morocco.
When he saw a State Department request for proposal to fund a “Green Entrepreneurship” project in Morocco, the collaboration with CISE became a viable entry point for a joint proposal, which won the grant competition. CISE then engaged its stakeholders to identify the value chains in recycling and energy efficiency that appeared to be priorities. These included recycling of used oil, used tires, dangerous/toxic wastes, plastics, construction waste, and fish waste, with energy efficiency of construction materials also targeted. Requests for proposals were then sent to entrepreneurs throughout Morocco to identify strategies for how they would create green projects in these areas or others.
Those whose proposals are chosen will receive funding and support from business coaches who will work with the entrepreneurs and monitor their progress. The coaches are professors working in entrepreneurship at HEM, the highest-rated business school in Morocco and a CISE partner.
An interesting feature of the GLiGS program is that all graduate students must spend at least 10 days abroad conducting research. As Professor Mortimer said, it is a “marvelous opportunity” for students to learn about challenges in other countries and give back to the hosts by undertaking case studies or other small-scale projects. Since the Tech graduate students are professionals who have work experience, this means that they bring their expertise to bear on environmental and health-related issues in the host country.
World Bank Steps Up, Again
After, the international conference on climate change COP21 finished up its work in Paris last year, it passed the challenge of delivering global consensus on a way forward to COP22 — to be held in Morocco this coming November. And Morocco is relishing the challenge. The King has already appointed a senior-level task force to manage the logistics and agenda-building for COP22, and members have been holding meetings with their counterparts in many countries to move the agenda forward.
Not content to just be a great host, Morocco, with the help of its partners, is ramping up its concrete commitments to reduce emissions through a variety of projects, which, in addition to the Virginia Tech-CISE partnership, are playing a role in promoting a sustainable green environment in Morocco.
The World Bank, through several of its funding mechanisms, is supporting a major recycling project that aims to ramp up the rate of recycled materials from 5% today to 20% by 2022, while giving employment to waste-pickers and providing greatly improved working conditions including health care, access to a bank account, regular wages, and housing support.
Another World Bank project supports the sustainability of agriculture, tourism, and fisheries by promoting, for example, better groundwater management practices, soil conservation, improved information for farmers, and preservation of fish stocks; at the same time it encourages the diversification of employment “through the promotion of industries that have less negative impact on the environment, such as eco-tourism and aquaculture.”
These projects, funded by donor organizations, demonstrate that Morocco is deeply engaged on its COP21 commitments as well as its energy use goals for 2020 and beyond. By partnering with fund sources, NGOs, and the private sector, Morocco is opening opportunities for entrepreneurs and workers to find new opportunities in “Green” Morocco.