Atlantic Council’s Africa Center Responses to the Amadeus Institute
Morocco took early measures to close its borders, instate a gradual lock down, and established a special relief fund to help face the threat of Covid 19. How would you evaluate the Moroccan response so far?
Morocco is certainly in the vanguard of the African response to COVID-19. Its decisive actions in response to the coronavirus pandemic – including school closures and stay-at-home orders – have almost certainly curbed rates of transmission in the country (although, as elsewhere, until testing is more widespread, it will be difficult to tell precisely how many people remain infected and what rate of community transmission is still occurring). Morocco’s efforts to create a $3.2 billion emergency fund for the country’s poor and recently unemployed, and King Mohammed VI’s calls on wealthier Moroccans to contribute to the fund, will hopefully serve as an example to African nations. However, there are still challenges to be faced. Despite the current public satisfaction with the government’s response, this pandemic has, across the globe, exposed alarming inequalities in access to health services and the lack of resources in healthcare sectors. It has also exposed the exceptional vulnerability of those who make their living in the urban informal sector. The lockdown has effectively forced those individuals to choose between exposure to COVID-19 and starvation. This is a global problem that has afflicted even the wealthiest Western nations, and Morocco, like other countries, will have to think about long-term structural changes to address these inequities. However, the creation of the emergency fund is an encouraging sign that Morocco is prioritizing care of the most vulnerable.
His Majesty the King Mohammed VI called for a united African response to face the pandemic; how do you view Morocco’s leadership role in Africa?
King Mohammed VI has consistently reaffirmed his vision for continental stability and pan-Africanism through collaboration on economic, political, and security interests. Since making the decision to join the African Union in 2017, he has made clear his intention to solidify intraregional relationships, to the extent that Morocco is now widely regarded as an emerging power in African affairs. Given the global shortage of masks and ventilators, there is an urgent need for African nations to band together to compete for the procurement of protective gear on the international market. Because of its status as an economic and trade hub, Morocco is positioned to assist the African Union in leading this effort.
Moroccan industries are ramping up the production of locally produced surgical masks and respirators, with a view on exporting them to African countries, how could South-South cooperation help mitigate the effects of the pandemic?
The traditional donor nations have been hit hard and early by the coronavirus crisis. The coronavirus has been slow to arrive in Africa, and by the time the epidemic peaks in Africa, it is likely that most Western nations will have exhausted their resources. The Untied States in particular has shown little appetite for global leadership (it has been widely and rightly criticized for withdrawing its funding from the World Health Organization, for example). This means that South-South cooperation will be more important than ever before. The porosity of African borders makes a coordinated response essential to controlling the spread of COVID-19. Multilateralism in the Global South could strengthen responses to the pandemic, allow leaders and community members to share best practices they have found along the way, and put countries in a stronger position in the aftermath of the pandemic to move forward again.
Many countries of the Global South are stronger when they work together, and if they choose to collaborate, will likely find this partnership beneficial and continue to partner in the future. This could also begin to disrupt dependency patterns on Western countries and traditional donors, shifting the dynamic from one of reliance to one of collaboration and increased strength. If African countries successfully collaborate more during this time, they could very well come out of this pandemic as emerging leaders on the global playing field.
How could Morocco further its leadership role in the continent during this challenging times?
Morocco is the only nation in Africa that is capable of manufacturing ventilators, which are desperately needed to treat the worst-afflicted victims of coronavirus, but are in short supply across the continent. Morocco’s production and export of these devices, and of locally-produced surgical masks and respirators, would cement its leadership role on the continent. African countries who benefit from this program will inevitably look to Morocco as an ally on the continent going forward. It also could present a way for Morocco to inspire other African communities to look for and support home-grown solutions and collaborative approaches to defeating the virus. Morocco could well serve as the catalyst that brings the continent closer together and inspires increased regional collaboration.
Morocco’s online-learning platform, which benefitted from two USAID-funded projects from 2004-2014, could also present an opportunity for leadership. As Morocco has seen success in broadcasting school lessons online and on TV during the pandemic in order to continue access to education, they could lead in trying to help other African countries build such a program. This program may be more difficult to implement in other African countries, as income and access to internet or TV is on average lower, especially for youth; however, in the longer-term, this may be a valuable project and area of expertise that Morocco could share with the continent after the pandemic has subsided in order to build future resilience and increase access to education.
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