Business Brief: Morocco Sets Social Housing Goals, and Fez Prepares for the Annual Amazigh Festival – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 2, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

The Moroccan government updated its housing target to meet rising demand due to its growing population and growth of urban areas. The 13th annual Amazigh Festival is getting ready to display the rich culture of the Amazigh in the region. Additionally, Moroccan monthly industrial production rises while a Moroccan garners top entrepreneur honors in the region.

Severe Housing Need to be Addressed. The Secretary of State for Housing, Fatna Lkhiyel, announced that the government will move to add 170,000 social housing units a year, in an attempt to reduce the housing deficit by half in the next four years. According to a story in Morocco World News, “This program will allow for the processing of applications of half of the 120,000 families set to receive improved housing under the national program ‘Cities without Slums’ by 2021. The program will also provide for the urban regeneration of informal settlements to improve the housing conditions of more than 200,000 households and the renovation of 37,000 buildings.”

The new program will also reinvigorate the National Agency for Urban Renewal and expand the range of housing available for needy families. The middle-class housing support program will also undergo revision to encourage greater community participation in local housing affairs.

Despite long-standing incentives to provide adequate social housing, Morocco has fallen behind previous goals as demand increases and land costs soar. Most of the units are provided under a government scheme of public-private partnerships, in which the government sets the prices for housing based on size; subsidizes purchases on behalf of the consumer; and then permits private companies to sell and manage the projects. The system has long been a lucrative sector since it guarantees the outcome for development firms if they fulfill government guidelines.

Fez ready to rock Amazigh Festival. From July 14-16, the city will host the 13th annual Festival of Amazigh Culture under the theme “Amazigh and Cultural Diversity Confronting Extremism.” The Festival has both regional and international followers, and this year’s program will focus on the importance of multiculturalism and Amazigh culture in Morocco’s development. Last year, more than 30 speakers, 100 artists and performers, and 60,000 visitors attended the Festival. This year, the program will have  panels on Amazigh culture and the Moroccan identity, historical and cultural insights, and, of course, “a variety of Moroccan music styles, including Chaabi, Rai, Amazigh, flamenco dance, Mediterranean and Italian music.”

Industrial production continues monthly climb. The Central Bank, Bank al Maghrib, released its monthly analysis of industrial growth, and everything looks positive in the immediate future, with room to grow in all sectors. The bank uses the Capacity Utilization Rate (UCA), which measures the percentage of industrial capacity in use over a certain period, in this case the month of April, which can then be plotted to describe trends by sector. The report also indicates movement in exports and local sales by sector to provide a composite view of the economy in the medium term.

Growth was uneven in April. While most of the industrial manufacturing sectors — such as chemicals, mechanical equipment, electrical components, and downstream chemicals improved — the textile and leather sectors declined slightly. According to figures reported by Morocco World News, “The Capacity Utilization Rate reached 72 percent in the agri-food sector, 71 percent in textiles and leather, 57 percent in chemistry and para-chemistry, 67 percent in mechanics and metallurgy, and 83 percent in the electrical and electronic sector.” The report concluded on an optimistic note, in that in the next 90 days, manufacturers are projecting an overall increase in sales and production, pointing to continued positive results.

Recycling the old-fashioned way. Over the years, many bio-mass projects converting waste into energy have been proposed for Morocco. The country certainly has enough trash to make these ventures profitable. It is estimated that landfills in Casablanca alone could provide eight years of energy for its four million inhabitants… but the catch is that the garbage must be dug up, sorted, and sent to recycling centers for processing. Fortunately, advances in bio-mass technology are bringing down the costs of the gas-powered units, and some even use solar power. In the meantime, here’s what’s going on in the informal sector of recycling Morocco, from a great piece called “The Small Hands of Moroccan Recycling.”

The story begins in Casablanca, where an army of largely unskilled people scour through landfills to pull out refuse that can be recycled profitably, ranging from plastic containers to metal and electronics. Anthropologist Delphine Corteel coined the phrase “waste workers” to identify these people, in many ways similar to their counterparts in Cairo and other large cities. Despite the important services they perform, they are often excluded from society due to “the uncleanliness of their work, and the nature of their living spaces. They live on the margins of legal urban areas, in slums and makeshift houses, which are regularly demolished or threatened by real estate and urban projects. While working in the streets, they are often victims of violence either committed by the authorities or other inhabitants.”

The waste workers gather cardboard, plastics, metals, glass, fabrics, and vegetable waste for selling by the pound to recyclers. Anything of value usually ends up “in one of the city’s flea markets (joutiya). Nothing that can be used is left behind. After collection and sorting, some materials have to be compacted and crushed to take up less space, which adds value. The materials will then be sold to informal sector wholesalers or to the formal sector through pick-ups or trucks sent to carry the waste.”

At the Mediouna landfill some 18 miles east of the city, “some 600 illegal waste collectors extract about 1000 tons of materials daily that will be re-injected into the informal and formal recycling circuit.” The article notes that many recycling factories and export wholesalers rely on these people for the bulk of their business; for example­­, the plastics collected by the waste collectors is compressed and sold to exporters who then sell it to China.

As one waste worker said, “We contribute to the economy of Morocco. It is thanks to us that this waste is recycled instead of being simply buried or burned. This is our livelihood, it’s our survival and it makes our community live.” Although marginalized in Morocco, it is noteworthy that “Yet, elsewhere in the world, innovative experiments, mobilisation of reclaiming communities and associations are signs that integration, access to social rights and, more broadly, recognition or informal waste collectors are possible.”

Moroccan entrepreneur makes select international list. The Endeavor organization is an international group that supports entrepreneurs by providing gateways to financing, consulting, and other key services. It has helped scale more than 800 companies in 26 countries.

This year’s London program recognized Hammad Benjelloun as an Endeavor Entrepreneur for his company Adlive, which “is a technology workplace that provides media agencies, advertisers and digital publishers with an automated way to plan, execute and optimize their digital media campaigns.” He joins a select group identified by Endeavor’s International Selection Panel (ISP).

The next ISP selection meeting of Endeavor will be held in Miami December 11-13, 2017, and will be hosted by the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor, which “now supports 1,461 entrepreneurs leading 915 companies in 30 growth markets around the world. Panelists at the event include top global business leaders and investors who are drawn from Endeavor’s extensive network of mentors and supporters.”

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