Two decades in the life of Morocco
On July 30, Morocco celebrated the 20th anniversary of King Mohammed VI’s accession to the throne.
For the 35 million people of the kingdom, it was an opportunity to look back at what has been achieved over two decades and to soberly examine the challenges lying ahead.
Moroccans are appreciative of the stability their country has enjoyed at a time when much of the region remains shaken by upheaval since 2010. If the kingdom has been spared the ill effects of such turbulence, it is in great part because of the prudent foresight of King Mohammed VI.
Early on, at the end of the rule of King Hassan II in 1999, King Mohammed VI turned the page of past abuses and established new standards in human rights and political pluralism.
In 2004, he established the Equity and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights violations during previous years. He implemented the commission’s recommendations, including compensation to victims of state human rights violations.
In 2011, King Mohammed VI introduced constitutional reforms reducing his own powers and expanding the prerogatives of parliament and regional bodies. He also engaged a wide-ranging process of economic modernisation and social reform.
Today, Morocco is blessed with stability and progress. Anyone visiting the kingdom will find a country that is clearly on the move.
Its achievements span across an impressive array of fields. The kingdom is a pioneer in solar energy, boasting the Noor Power Station in Ouarzazate, considered the world’s largest concentrated solar power complex. From this station’s production, 42% of Morocco’s power needs will be supplied from renewable energy sources.
Meanwhile, Tanger Med Port, with a tripled capacity in 2019, has become the Mediterranean’s largest maritime cargo facility. Morocco’s high-speed railway line, which opened in 2018, is the first of its kind on the continent.
On the 20th anniversary of his accession to the throne, King Mohammed VI acknowledged that major achievements cannot conceal weaknesses in the system and that there are lingering inadequacies in the development model.
“I realise that, though important, infrastructure development and institutional reforms are not enough on their own,” he said. “Let me say this clearly and frankly: What undermines this positive result is that the effects of the progress and the achievements made have not, unfortunately, been felt by all segments of the Moroccan society.”
The king is clearly worried about the destabilising effect of social inadequacies.
Much like other countries of the region, Morocco is troubled with high youth unemployment and sluggish growth. To generate more jobs and opportunities for an ambitious, young population that often looks for greener pastures abroad to meet its hopes and aspirations, the country must forge higher growth. Achieving higher ratios of growth requires more efficiency, greater investment flows and less red tape.
In his speech, the king pointed to “the challenge of accelerating economic development and enhancing institutional efficiency” with “the aim of building a strong, competitive economy by continuing to incentivise private entrepreneurship, in addition to launching new programmes for productive investment and creating more jobs.”
There are also socio-economic inequities and regional imbalances to be tackled.
Drawing from the lessons of the 2016 unrest at home and of the social discontent in other parts of North Africa, King Mohammed VI set a strategic challenge for his country: “The challenge of social and regional justice” and the aim “to complete the building of a nation of hope and equality for all, a country where there is no place for blatant inequalities.”
Efficient security has been a factor in bolstering the kingdom’s stability. To its credit, Morocco, which has previously suffered from terrorist attacks, has spared no effort in dealing with extremist violence and addressing its deep roots. The creation of the Mohammed VI Institute for Training Imams, Morchidines and Morchidates and the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema in 2015 has imbued hundreds of Arab and African imams with values of moderation and tolerance in Islam. The effort will go a long way in curtailing radicalisation in the region and beyond.
International anti-terrorism agencies often laud Morocco’s invaluable collaboration. On more than one occasion, Europeans and others have acknowledged the kingdom’s role in preventing bloody acts of terrorism.
Morocco has reason to celebrate. Its prosperity and stable growth are an asset for its own people and for those of the Maghreb, the Arab world and Africa. So is its ability to correct course when circumstances warrant.