Morocco’s new dev’t strategy impact on its southern regions

The socio-economic development

The socio-economic development of the Southern Regions of Morocco is fundamentally linked to the development of the Kingdom as a whole. The measures taken in favor of this development meet the same requirements throughout the Moroccan territory. The results in terms of economic and social development are reinforced by the prevailing position the Southern Regions of Morocco hold in the fields of health, education, infrastructure, energy and investment.

Thus, several socio-economic indicators show better performance in these provinces than in the rest of the Kingdom, particularly in terms of GDP per capita (50percent higher than the national average), or the poverty rate (up to three times lower than the national indicator as a result of the deployment of more than 50percent of direct national public aid in the southern provinces alone).

The New Development Model for the Southern Provinces, which constitute the outcome of a broad national multi-stakeholder consultation, has led to the formulation of a dedicated development program for the period 2015-2021. This development model constitutes the compass of an action in favor of a territorial and holistic development as close as possible to the realities on the ground.

It aims to provide the Southern Provinces with endogenous socio-economic resources in order to better integrate them into their regional, African and Atlantic environment, thus achieving their natural aspiration to become a real economic platform between the North and the South, as well as constituting a prime regional hub for trade between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world.

The New Development Model for the Southern Provinces has a substantial budget of 8 billion dollars (85 billion dirhams), nearly 10percent of Morocco’s GDP, and has resulted in the conclusion of more than 700 projects. The American Development Bank (DFC) has granted additional financial and technical support for private investment projects, for a total amount of 3 billion dollars (33 billion dirhams).

The 2021 Budget Bill has reaffirmed the relevance of the Development Program for the Southern Provinces, which can be likened to an ambitious Marshall Plan, by integrating numerous large-scale projects, such as the Teaching Hospital (CHU) in Laayoune, the Faculty of Medicine, or the City of Jobs and Skills (CMC) in the city.

Infrastructure projects are thus at the heart of a national policy conducted in a consultative manner and aimed at the development of the region and its population, in strict compliance with the economic, social and cultural rights enjoyed by Moroccans as a whole. In this respect, and in order to open up the region and provide access to education, employment and health, the highway linking the cities of Tiznit and Dakhla will cover a distance of 1,055 km with an estimated budget of 1 billion dollars (10 billion dirhams).

The 220-kilometre section linking Tan-Tan to Laayoune has reached 80percent completion, while the widening of National Road No. 1 between Laayoune and Dakhla over 500 kilometers has been completed. From the point of view of commercial connectivity, the future port of Dakhla Atlantic, counting for an overall investment of 1 billion dollars (10 billion DH), with its 270-hectare industrial zone will connect southern Morocco to sub-Saharan Africa, from the Sahel-Saharan strip to the Gulf of Guinea. In this context, the Moroccan state is the leading investor and employer in these regions.

The favorable economic structure has allowed for rapid urbanization supported by a dedicated budget amounting to US$340 million (3.4 billion dirhams). The urbanization rate has increased from 70percent in 2004 to 80.8percent in 2019, exceeding the national urbanization rate of 62.9percent. This development has brought public services and economic activities closer to the local population.

Morocco is also dedicating considerable efforts to the expansion of its energy portfolio in the Southern Provinces. While the electrical capacity in 1975 did not exceed 7 megawatts, it now reaches more than 1700 MW, of which more than 1300 MW comes from renewable energy sources.

Investment in the Southern Provinces of Morocco has been significant. More than 3 billion dollars have been invested in the water, electricity and liquid purification sectors in the three regions of the Moroccan Sahara, since their return to the mother country in 1975.

Owing to the efforts made in this field, these Provinces currently have a total operational capacity from wind energy of 760.64 MW, i.e. 53.2percent of the total installed capacity in wind energy in Morocco (1430 MW), while a capacity of 1153.5 MW is in the process of being built, i.e. 54.8percent of the total capacity under development in wind energy in Morocco (2104 MW).

At the same time, these Provinces currently have a total operational capacity from solar energy of 105 MW, i.e. 12.65percent of the total installed capacity in solar energy in Morocco (830 MW), while a capacity of 380 MW is in the implementation phase, i.e. 20.76percent of the total capacity under development in solar energy in Morocco (1830 MW).

These energy projects are reinforcing the enjoyment of rights in the Southern Provinces in an indivisible and interdependent manner. The Moroccan Southern Provinces are at a crossroads between a growing energy demand in both the North and the South of Morocco. The potential of these regions is to meet the pressing needs for decarbonized energy in a context of widespread geopolitical uncertainty.

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