News Notes: CSIS Study Focuses Attention on Migration Issues in the Region; and IMF and Others See Economy Strengthening – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader
May 4, 2018

Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

Migration continues to be an issue in North Africa and, of course, with the countries across the Mediterranean. Recent studies look at the consequences of migration and immigration issues from security, political, and humanitarian perspectives, recommending policies for both Africa and Europe. A recent study released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and written by Haim Malka, Deputy Director of the Middle East Program, focuses on the region and compares how both sides of the issue are handling its immediate and longer term consequences.

As the report points out in the introduction, the presence of Africans from sub-Saharan Africa is increasingly visible in cities in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. As a previous ECFR study noted, before the migrants were bound for Europe, while more recently, due to reforms pioneered by Morocco, some are coming to Morocco in particular as their destination for a better life. As the CSIS study frames it, “Now, the Maghreb could emerge as a destination for sub-Saharan migrants seeking new opportunities. Shifting migration patterns and governments’ responses to them will have implications for stability and security in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, as well as these governments’ bilateral relationships with European and African governments.”

This shift and resulting tensions has important consequences. “At stake in these relationships is a wider range of strategic interests, including aid, trade, border security, intelligence cooperation, and diplomatic support.”

The report is quite comprehensive and useful and this assessment will concentrate on Morocco, which has been addressed in previous blogs. While each country is taking its own approach to dealing with migrants, the study notes that “Morocco is pursuing a framework that seeks to manage migration through legal means aimed at integrating some migrants.” As the recent AU Summit in January, Morocco launched a pan-African initiative on migrants and chairs the committee on the issue. Its own domestic response rests on several pillars – registration, permits to work in specific sectors in the country, and working with African countries to bolster their vocational and technical training capabilities to prepare local workforces for in-demand jobs.

While migrants seeking to enter the EU across the sea to Libya have grabbed most headlines due to the high and visible number of deaths that have occurred, “the popularity of the Western Mediterranean route through Morocco stems from its shared land border with the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.” The kingdom has somewhat effectively restricted immigration to the enclaves by means of a bilateral agreement with Spain to control access to its areas, and physical barriers meant to deter infiltration by land and sea.

Morocco’s migrant resettlement policy has important positive consequences. For example, the permits awarded to migrants are often in sectors that need more workers such as agriculture, services, and construction. One survey found that a large number of migrants are well-educated with high school and university studies, thus making them desirable to local employers. In fact, Morocco has provided scholarships for Africans for decades, and some 15,000 currently attend universities in the country. The report said that “Morocco hosts an estimated 100,000 (mostly sub-Saharan African) migrants. The majority hail from the Republic of Congo, Senegal, Mauritania, and Guinea, but significant numbers of Nigerians, Cameroonians, and other African nationalities also reside in Morocco.”

The study is quite comprehensive, providing a historical summary of migration as well as examining policies and challenges ahead in dealing with migration issues. It provides details on how Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are making efforts to manage the migrant crisis, each according to its strategic aims and relations with both Africa and Europe. Worth reading for anyone interested in the issue and how it is being approached in the Maghreb. To read the full report click here .

Latest economic news looks better as IMF sees Morocco as one of the region’s best performers, “primarily because of the country’s relative political stability,” according to MENAS. It also points out that “in the absence of economic opportunity, particularly for the youth, the informal sector has been growing. According to a Confédération Générale des Enterprises du Maroc (CGEM) report in April, the informal sector comprises 20% of Morocco’s GDP and employs around 2.4 million people.”

It has been reported that the Finance Ministry is planning four sovereign sukuk (Islamic bond) issues for 2018 to help the government borrow funds. The IMF has even suggested that annual growth would recover by the end of the year to about 4.4%. And speaking of the Ministry for Economy and Finance, its Minister, Mohamed Boussaid said in an interview with FDi that Morocco is effective in attracting foreign investment because “investors do not just look at Morocco as a market – a very respectable market with 34 million inhabitants – but also as a platform and country that is integrated in global value chains. [Morocco] is a bridge to Africa and 55 countries with which we have signed free-trade agreements.”

In a response to a query if Morocco is encouraging investments in regions such as the Rif, which has seen unrest over the lack of economic development and jobs, he replied, “Growth means not just producing wealth and added value, but also taking care of wealth distribution. We believe that the regionalization of the past few years – giving the regions more liberty – is a good solution to Rif’s socioeconomic problems.”

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