Will Morocco’s Youth Be Served by Restarting National Military Service?

Plans to reinstitute national military service for young Moroccan men and women should be a centerpiece for a national discussion on what to do about the country’s discontented youth. But the who, what, where, why, and how remain unanswered.

Part 1 of a two-part article sets out the questions and dilemmas posed by the proposed new law.

The renewal of national conscription announced by King Mohammed VI in a speech following presentation of a draft bill to the Council of Ministers on August 20 has been greeted with confusion and concern. Although there is a backlog of pending legislation, it appears that this bill became a priority in part due to the king’s dissatisfaction with how youth were responding to the government’s lack of momentum in resolving long-standing grievances.

While there are great benefits in building strong values of citizenship, in the U.S. and elsewhere, it may be useful in determining the merits of such a program to consider four topics: What, Why, Who, and How before the law is finalized so that it can be part of a larger strategy that contributes to Morocco’s development rather than a tool for tamping down dissent and promoting false expectations.

WHAT? According to media reports, the initial statement from the Royal Palace said, “Female and male citizens aged between 19 and 25 years are obliged to do military service for 12 months. The military service aims to promote patriotism among the young, within the framework of the correlation between the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

It is hardly a coincidence that the proposed law follows several years of demonstrations in different parts of the country mostly led by young people fed up with the slow pace of economic development, alleged high levels of corruption among government officials, and a general lack of confidence in policies designed to give greater authority of decision-making to local authorities.

In his speech, referring to national service, the King once again spoke forcefully about the need for the government to do more to curb unemployment and improve the educational system and vocational training. “We cannot let our education system continue to produce unemployed people, especially in certain branches of study, where graduates – as everyone knows – find it extremely hard to access the job market,” he said.

While the king has made this a centerpiece of his speeches for several years, the government has not been effective in aggressively moving ahead with projects, reforms, and policies that both broadly promote economic development and are inclusive of groups who are politically and economically marginalized. There is plenty of blame to go around – from the inability of Parliament to use its powers to make government ministries more accountable, the impact of corruption on project awarding and implementation, the mismatch between skills acquired in schools and the demands of the market, and the complex challenges of a country in transition from a largely commodity-based economy to one more diverse and rewarding.

WHY? On the surface, there are two goals in renewing military conscription: engendering a commitment to citizenship and building a sense of patriotism. These goals may overlap, but they are not necessarily congruent. For example, where is citizenship focused – on country, king, local community, or elsewhere? Does patriotism shift one towards more conservative values or is it inclusive of all Moroccans, built on a shared-perspective of the country’s priorities? Or is the project, as some critics claim, a means to delay and defuse acculturation that could lead to radicalization or dropping out?

An insight into the government’s strategy, reflecting the king statements, is that in addition to military conscription, “The council also approved the draft framework law on the education, training, and scientific research system, which is part of the high royal guidelines, aimed at adopting a genuine and irreversible reform of the national education system. This law sets out the principles and objectives establishing the system of education, training and scientific research, and those aimed at ensuring synergy between its various components so that they can fulfill their missions of ensuring quality education based on equity and equal opportunities,” according to the North Africa Post.

If the government is seriously committed to programs that will empower youth with values and skills to become more able citizens and economic engines, then the development of a viable, sustainable, and action-based comprehensive strategy for youth development should be based on a broader-based vision integrating military service, national service, and educational reform to achieve these outcomes.

WHO? When the king abolished the previous mandatory military service in 2006, it was said that conscription had led to a climate of apathy and did not meet “the requirements of professionalism and scientific and technological training.” How the proposed law will remedy this is unclear, along with the content of the service, how it will handle male and female recruits? Who will be exempted, and what are the indicators of a successful policy?

With Parliament returning to session, details such as these will be discussed and debated. Hopefully, more public input and recognition will focus on additional concrete benefits that can be achieved from this program beyond its aims of patriotism and good citizenship. It will be a disservice if the politicians end up enacting a program that favors certain socio-economic or ethnic classes either by conscription or exemption.

Other considerations that are being raised include: how will binational Moroccans living in Morocco or abroad be affected, will there be differentiation between university, high school, and primary school graduates? Will literacy play a role in qualifying for the program and will there be a remedial component? Is there any thought to a skills component to the program? These and other questions are some examples of the complexity of bridging the announcement and the implementation of mandatory military service.

HOW? And in all of this, what does the military itself think? Given that this could mean an intake annually of anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 youths, how will it set priorities, expand existing facilities, develop whatever new or revised regulations are needed to manage the program, and will it be sufficiently funded with an initial build-up period rather than thousands showing up without a systematic and comprehensible intake process?

These considerations are already being debated on social media. It will be telling to gauge the role it will play in connecting the opinions of Moroccans with their members of Parliament, whether groups concerned about the proposed law will organize beyond chat rooms, if the government will use social media to build its case for the benefits of compulsory military service for youth, and what coalitions are formed for and against the program under what perspectives.

 

Part 2 will explore the possibilities of recasting the military service program into a national service program that not only promotes patriotism and citizenship, but also has the capacity to bridge rural and urban constituencies, develop marketable skills, encourage team building and leadership qualities, and add meaning to the lives of the participants, their families, and others.

 

Leading in an Agile World – Can We Usefully Redefine Leadership?

A colleague of mine recently circulated an email asking several of us to respond to his juxtaposition of leadership and catalyzing, reflecting the notion that the former is passé and the future is ‘catalyzing’ as the key concept. The response was quick and definitive…although “Concepts of leadership are evolving to keep pace with the disruption, transformation, and agility demands of today’s organizations,” as I noted in my last blog, most respondents believe that leaders still need skills grounded in experience while integrating catalyzing skills  for existing and future challenges.

This I believe is the core of agility: recognizing, mobilizing, enabling, empowering, and sharing leadership throughout the organization so that the culture reflects a blend of human and digital capacity geared toward innovation and collaboration. Now the challenge comes in several forms: the first is that not all companies are equal, in size, complexity, structure, and business model. Some are client or customer centric and have high brand recognition. Others offer specialty products that require strong R&D components to be competitive; while others are service-providers to emerging niche markets. Mixtures of bricks and mortar and virtual POS and distribution are not uncommon.

So while the structures and operational priorities may be dissimilar, the missions and goals can be reduced to “make money, keep customers happy,  stay happy.” This core of profitability and satisfaction are at the center of how leadership, whatever styles are effective, is exercised. Why “styles?” We learned ages ago that leadership defined by functions can range from directing and evangelizing to coaching and coercing, and at least a dozen more characteristics.

Leadership is a shortcut to conflate those traits that enable leaders in whatever context to lean forward, lead from behind, and construct and organizational culture that emphasizes continual innovation, adaptation, and a competitive edge, mirroring Jack Welch, former CEO of GE’s mantra of change leadership.

Michael Hamman and Michale K. Spayd put it this way in their White Paper, “The Agile Leader.” “An organization’s agility is not a function of “‘scaling’ current team-based delivery practices…Simply put, agile leadership entails a move from driving to results to creating environments that generate results.

Agile leadership is no accident. There is a clear methodology for enacting agile leadership.” They use the phrase ‘enterprise agility’ to express their assumption that “At the heart of sustainable enterprise agility is an adaptive, agile leadership.”

To value leadership in both its complexity and its simplicity, it is vital to remember that at the heart of leadership principles are, at least for now, human beings who make assumptions every day about how to succeed in a fluid and competitive environment. Back to Hamman and Spayd, “Fundamentally, it is as much about the interior—of individuals, of organizations—as it is about the exterior. It is as much about developing people as it is about building systems. It is as much about creating an agile culture as it is about adapting structures and processes.”

Catalyzing in this context is about aligning talent, resources, systems, objectives, and expectations to support agility, so that a catalyzing leader is an agile leader dedicated to mobilizing a coherent, consistent spirit of innovation shared by company teams that have transparent, respectful, reliable, and valued communications with their counterparts in- and outside the organization.

One could argue that because of the impact of technology and the yet to be understood tsunami called ‘AI’ that leadership is more difficult in today’s environment. On the other hand, it is also reasonable to point out that leadership in the past did not have the data, modelling options, robust algorithms, and highly developed technologies as learning aides. The uncertainty, complexity, and fluidity of today’s competitive environments, at all levels, demand a differently tuned skill set, which is why sometimes the strong survive, and sometimes they don’t. Change management has to begin within the individual, which is why companies have to seriously invest in driving agility throughout their organization and its processes and relationships.

The difference I believe is enabling the agility of leaders, teams, policies, communications, and the workforce to recognize, embrace, and capture change capabilities in order to survive and thrive. For success, mindsets need to be rewired to accept the inevitability of change and the acquisition of skills required to master its impact. These skill sets must extend beyond their particular silos and empower staff to collaborate across boundaries – and be rewarded for it. As employees recognize and accept agility as a means to mobilize and execute, they then become team members whose communications with others both assume and reflect the cultural values of the organization.

So for me, this is the role of leadership at all levels: to build consensus and collaboration around company strategies and communications that build agility internally and in its external relations.

 

Can Promoting Arab Women as Entrepreneurs Make a Difference?

Or will age-old stereotypes relegate them to secondary roles?

The economic and business roles of Arab women have been discussed for more than two decades and initiatives have been launched on the consensus that their participation is worth promoting. With electoral quotas in several Arab countries to promote their political participation and with more women appointed to significant positions in the private sector, there are indicators that the roles of women are being taken more seriously. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, while there is a great deal of focus on women driving and flying, much less has been published about those women who make up the majority of Saudis enrolled in medical and pharmacy schools, teaching and research programs, and a number of scientific concentrations.

But I believe that the emphasis across the region on building up women on entrepreneurs will only bear fruit if the term applies broadly to women who create and run small and medium-size enterprises as businesses as well as their counterparts engaged in IT, programming, hi tech, and similar sectors where entrepreneurs tend to concentrate.

Recent enterprise program initiatives recognize that empowering rural communities, co-ops, neighborhood associations, and similar groups will enable them to act as proto-incubators for bringing greater business literacy to those who have been largely marginalized economic players. The cost of not including women as serious economic actors is severe and largely unnoticed. A Brookings Institution article noted that “The World Bank recently said that globally we are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of the gender gap in earnings, including $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.”

Yet changes in legal codes, allocating more funding to female-centric programs, and building friendly ecosystems to support women in business still has to overcome the most significant barrier to women in the workforce – social and cultural stereotypes driven by a patriarchal society. As the Brookings article puts in, “In order to address the cultural barriers and the deep-rooted gender stereotyping concerning the division of labor, we must work closely with communities and with men specifically to raise the desirability and legitimacy of women working.”

Perhaps the reason that there is so much emphasis on promoting women entrepreneurs in hi tech is that these sectors are outside those traditional jobs tied to crafts and food processing or more male-dominated areas. An IFC article says it clearly. “It may surprise some to learn that one in three start-ups in the Arab World is founded or led by women — a higher percentage than in Silicon Valley. Indeed, women are a force to be reckoned with in the start-up scene across the Middle East. Because the tech industry is still relatively new in the Arab world, there is no legacy of it being a male dominated field. Many entrepreneurs from the region believe that technology is one of the few spaces where everything is viewed as possible, including breaking gender norms, and is therefore a very attractive industry for women.”

Digital platforms that are the backbone of many high-tech projects are one option for enabling women to spend time both at home and on the job. For example, “these digital platforms allow women to be unimpeded by cultural constraints or safety issues and lowers the implicit and explicit transaction costs of transportation, child care, discrimination, and social censure,” according to the IFC article.

So the future for highly educated women in the Arab world is not as regressive as for those with less education and access. In fact, “According to UNESCO, 34–57% of STEM grads in Arab countries are women, which is much higher share than universities in the US or Europe.”

Yet other statistics are not as supportive of a bright future for women. According to the IFC article, “In fact, 13 of the 15 countries with the lowest rate of female participation in the workforce are in the Arab World according to the World Bank. Restrictive laws in many countries across the region put women who wish to join or start their own businesses at a disadvantage, including prohibitions against women opening up a bank account or owning property, limited freedom of movement without a male guardian, or constraints on interactions with men who are not in their family, in addition to cultural and attitudinal stigmas.”

So it makes sense that the emphasis should be three-fold: opportunities for women at the community level through initiatives in traditional areas of crafts, niche foods, and specialty items (think argan oil and Zaatar); building ecosystems at the high end for university graduates who are well-versed in the digital economy and may apply those skills to upgrading those women at the community level (e.g. https://www.asilashop.com/, or http://deden.co.uk/heritage-natural-soap-by-tradition/), and those in-between who are eager to be active in their local economies and will excel if given training, resources, mentoring, and encouragement.

 

Expanding the Utility of Entrepreneurship in Jordan

My first training assignment in Jordan was with the AMIR 2 project in 2002. The emphasis at the time was on the ITC sector and its applications from e-government to health care, transportation, education, and communications, among others. Being an entrepreneur then was thought possible due to the low cost of entry and relatively easy access to Internet marketing. Startups focused more on obtaining needed broadband and programming equipment than investors with deep pockets. Jordan was a pioneer in building the IT sector and spreading it throughout the region.

Today, the emphasis on entrepreneurship continues to be a constant message to young people. Yet times have changed, and we need to rethink whether or not conditions are still favorable to entrepreneurs and whether or not they can create the jobs needed to offset some of the country’s employment needs.

Successful entrepreneurs exist because of three sets of factors. The first is a supportive eco-system: infrastructure, financing, available human resources, market access, positive regulatory environment, and an opportunity-driven marketplace. The second set focuses on scale of opportunity and the competition: entrepreneurs make profits, reinvest in their companies, attract new financing, and survive in a competitive environment driving more growth.

These two groups of factors characterized Jordan’s early IT successes but eventually led companies to set up facilities abroad, mostly in the Gulf, since Jordan could not keep up with incentives offered elsewhere. Today, the third set, related to sustainability, is difficult to achieve in Jordan since the IT market is largely saturated by local and foreign firms, leaving an uncertain future growth in the technology sectors. Workforce demand, reflecting Jordan’s growing population, no longer favors university graduates and engineers but has many opportunities for those who can wed technology with more technical and vocational skills in services, manufacturing, assembly, and productive sectors.

Women can play a key role through skills and technology

Women can play a key role through skills and technology

So a useful question is “Can Jordan, with its well-developed human IT capacity, power non-IT based employment?” Yes, if one sees IT as a tool and enabler for driving non-high technology entrepreneurship. The key is empowering human capital to use IT for achieving market access for newly configured products, aggregating services for rapid, customer-centered delivery, and improving traditional manufacturing and production operations. IT in the hands of semi-skilled yet aware vocational and technical skilled labor can be used for setting up plumbing and HVAC service companies, home health care and maintenance services, as well as catering and hospitality services, among opportunities. All can become efficient and profitable using IT tools, and it is a very rich area for marrying entrepreneurial skills with talented labor.

As importantly, entrepreneurs using IT solutions can provide numerous training and education programs to integrate and improve the quality of the workforce, either for their own staff or for employers committed to making investments in people and processes. Using IT to grow companies that blend university and vocational graduates to enhance service delivery or improve manufacturing processes is a good starting point for a new brand of entrepreneurs.

Another area of great promise where IT can facilitate job placement and a road to entrepreneurship is certification for skills acquired through experience. There are numerous European models that use hands-on testing aided by technology assessments to measure the competence of workers who lack high literacy levels. Certification programs are especially critical in a country like Jordan where more than 60% of the workforce is in the informal sector and the small member companies of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, some 70,000 firms, have five or less employees.

Entrepreneurs can figure out how to drive this competency-based training and work with micro and small enterprises (MSEs) to develop strategies for upgrading and providing more predictability to their marketing and production. This will strengthen the middle stratum of businesses, growing the SME contribution to GDP. And this brings us back to the original set of conditions for successful entrepreneurship – an eco-system that is user friendly.

Bottom line – Jordan has to rethink and recalibrate what it means by entrepreneurship and motivate the unemployed and underemployed university graduates to utilize their IT skills to develop solutions with MSEs to relaunch the lower 90% of the Jordanian economy. This partnership would redefine entrepreneurship beyond high tech applications and instead bring IT back to its roots as a facilitator for growth through more efficient processes.

Entrepreneurship cannot be viewed solely as the preserve of the brilliant and the educated. It is the achievement of aspirations through a combination of luck, timing, passion, and workable ideas. Jordan needs some great ideas now, and bringing together those with IT skills and others with hands-on talents to provide solutions utilizing vocational and technical jobs and processes can only benefit the country as a whole.

Progress Requires Empowering Youth, Not Deriding Them

Need to rethink assumptions about Arab work ethic

Jessica Ashooh, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force, took aim at several of the comments about Arab youth made by President Obama in his now famous interview in The Atlantic. While decrying the overall dismal state of the political life in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the president remarked that Arabs, frankly, weren’t up to par with their counterparts in Southeast Asia, which, he said, “is filled with striving, ambitious, energetic people who are every single day scratching and clawing to build businesses and get education and find jobs and build infrastructure.”

The president is, of course, entitled to his opinions. But given his stature, these somehow get translated into truth, which, in this case, supports stereotypes that disparage a generation of Arab youth, who are similarly engaged in a significant struggle to build value, create jobs, and improve their quality of life. This feeds into the common misperception that somehow “Arabs” do not share American interests in the MENA region.

Yet time and time again, from the high level of joint military cooperation such as the annual African Lion exercises to the multitude of education, training, capacity-building, and entrepreneurship projects the US supports though economic assistance funding, we indeed find significant alignment with our friends, such as Morocco, in the region. Despite the fact that being a “friend of America” entitles you to be on the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh hit list, we find youth throughout the Arab world actively engaged in challenging the status quo and building quality life options.

Contrast what the president had to say with a recent World Bank blog posting. “As you walk through the ancient market in Fes or that of any other medina in Morocco, pass a vibrant hair salon in downtown Casablanca with the feel of a beauty mega-factory, or see young people on a street corner in Rabat waiting to be picked up for a day job in construction, you cannot but be impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit on display. The young people hard at work across the country are part of a huge army of Moroccan youth, many of whom have less than secondary school degrees, stuck  in the informal sector with limited opportunities for a good, steady income.”

women cashiers WBThroughout Morocco, which is emblematic of the vast majority of Arab youth, young people are striving to find the means to acquire skills, financing, teams, and markets that will change their futures for the better.  As Ashooh writes, “Beyond the noise of the ISIS horror show, young Arabs are seeking education and starting companies at record levels, using technology to improve not only their personal prospects but also their societies.”

Morocco provides a multitude of examples of start-ups that are nurtured in facilities and labs with resources that support entrepreneurial teams of men and women working in collaboration to redefine how technology can benefit sectors from small-hold farms to mature information systems. Combined with the country’s dedication to renewable energy and improved health services, opportunities for enhancing quality of life are increasing daily.

The government senses that it has a key role to play but, rather than regulate how entrepreneurism should evolve, instead is listening to the youth and their allies in the private sector to encourage and abet an entrepreneurial eco-system. With increased access to early and second stage financing, business fairs to demonstrate new applications and technologies, and increased attention from private investors, youth are reaching for opportunities that simply did not exist even five years ago.

And while developing and using technology require a defined skill set, there are many other technologies that can be applied by those with a less formal education in areas such as agriculture, hospitality services, small-scale energy, home and health care, and artisanal crafts. These latent skills are accessible to previously illiterate village women, poorly educated rural youth, and those enmeshed in the informal economy. It is about options; it is about change. Remarkably, women make up some 35% of the start-ups in Morocco, 10 times the ratio of women-led tech startups in the US.

So if President Obama wants to see what the majority of MENA youth are focusing on, he should visit one of the dozens of tech fairs held each year in Morocco; or visit incubators that are borne of university-private sector partnerships. He should listen to the aspirations of those who every day are striving to make a difference in their lives and their communities.

Nizar Baraka Details how “Advanced Regionalization” is Advancing Democracy in Morocco

Plan for the Sahara only the Beginning for Empowering All Moroccans

At a recent roundtable discussion in Washington, DC, The Honorable Nizar Baraka, former Minister of Finance and Economy, who serves as president of the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE) in Morocco, provided his analysis of the regionalization program being rolled out in Morocco, and how this is already changing the political space in the country.

Mr. Baraka began by reviewing the CESE process for developing the first study of “the South” (the Saharan provinces), which included public hearings with testimony from some 1500 people as well as dozens of studies prepared by experts, which resulted in recommendations for extensive restructuring of local government and a robust economic development strategy. He explained that what is being done in the South is the beginning of “advanced regionalization” for all of Morocco.

He believes this is part of the implementation of shared decision-making and devolution of power promised in the 2011 Constitution. Mr. Baraka emphasized that the credibility of regionalization will only become real when citizens participate in local decision-making that affects their daily lives.

For example, the Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) is currently debating bills that give Civil Society the capacity to submit proposals and petitions directly to Parliament.

There is great economic disparity among the regions in Morocco, he explained. For example, 52% of Morocco’s GDP is produced in four regions, while 53% of its doctors practice in two regions. Similarly, the rate of joblessness in the South is twice the national average. Baraka insists that the direct election of the region’s presidents (the highest locally elected officials), and the five-fold increase in budgets for regional development are strong incentives for citizens to be more involved in local affairs.

So the CESE efforts have focused on how the government can create an environment for greater political responsiveness, and part of this campaign is a new economic development model for the region based on public-private partnerships. This includes large-scale investments in diversifying the economy, a new university focused on local needs, particular attention to conservation, and positioning the Sahara as a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa.

Economic Diversity to Drive Economic Growth

The Sahara is well poised for economic growth. Its GDP is 60% higher than the national average, but some 30% of that is generated by government programs. So the strategy going forward is to deeply engage the private sector to increase investments and jobs. One critical target is to diversify the local economy while protecting the environment. The focus is on empowering individuals to more fully participate in the economy; for example, raising the rate of women in the workforce from a woeful 14% to at least the national average of 25%, and doubling the number of employed youth..

Sectors slated for diversification include fishing, aquaculture, value-added farming, renewable energies, downstream phosphate industries, and eco-tourism. Plans have been finalized for a local university focusing on the needs of the region, including professional development of medical personnel, educators, managers, and lawyers; tourism and hospitality; and research and development supporting local industries. Given that the South’s literacy rate is already 20% higher than the national average, targeted efforts to build on their capabilities through focused programs of higher education should reap short and long term benefits, in terms of jobs and meeting future employer needs.

Conserving the environment is also a prime consideration, especially well water, which is overused. Desalination, reuse of gray water, greater efficiency of energy utilization, treatment regulations for well water, a new dam, and a comprehensive campaign to preserve the eco-system in the Bay of Dakhla are the headline items in this effort.

Looking at both the supply side, which pushes the growth of the local economy, and the demand side, which is the pull of market needs, Africa is the obvious market. Building a new expressway from Agadir to Dakhla onwards to Mauritania and Senegal, high speed digital connectivity, expanded port facilities, and the export of solar power along an interconnected grid are all in the plans for the next 10 years. It is anticipated that 75% of the targeted $10 billion of investment will come from national government public-private sector partnerships, while the regional governments will contribute the remaining 25%. The goal of these efforts is to create 120,000 jobs and cut unemployment in half.

Mr. Baraka provided discussed other plans underway, which he believes will create a seismic shift in how citizens see their roles in relation to the government. Empowering proactive, engaged, and contributing citizens is the core mission of advanced regionalization, which will require a different mix of incentives in Morocco’s different regions. The most important impact, according to him, is that the political space in Morocco has changed forever. This is clear in viewing the evolving role of the media and civil society, debates in Parliament over legislative initiatives, and the pressure on political parties to restructure their governance to reflect issues and priorities. More importantly, advanced regionalization will continue this process and move Morocco towards its goal of a new social compact based on engagement and respect.

Second Millennium Challenge Compact with Morocco Gathers Steam

Initial Contracts Being Signed; Formal Approval Needed by Moroccan Chamber of Deputies

There is good news coming from Washington and Rabat as the second Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Morocco – valued in excess of $517 million ($450 US, $67.5 Morocco) — is taking off. The partnership between Morocco and the US that makes the MCC compact feasible is the result of years of collaboration across a range of projects funded by various US agencies. The mutual respect and trust engendered serves both as a model for other programs and a legacy of a friendship of shared values and interests in human, economic, and social development. The link to the compact site is http://compact2.cg.gov.ma , and the actual compact document is at https://assets.mcc.gov/documents/compact-morocco-employability-and-land.pdf

The process began in November with a “technical” signing that enables the release of funds for initial activities. The MCC press release notes that “Signature of the compact allows MCC and the GoM to begin the work necessary to ensure a successful and timely implementation of the program such as hiring staff and beginning key studies.  A larger, public ceremony to celebrate the commencement of compact activities is planned for spring 2016.”

With this “technical” signing, some $21.4 will million to be spent in the coming months to set up: financial management and procurement activities; basic administrative functions, including staffing, offices, equipment, and other items; finalizing monitoring and evaluation activities; hiring consultants for preparatory studies and activities; and other steps needed while awaiting final approval by the Chamber of Deputies.

In Morocco, the GoM will set up its MCC counterpart (in the office of the Head of Government); to establish its accounting and budgeting process; ensure that it “will not reduce the normal and expected resources that it would otherwise receive or budget from sources other than MCC for the activities contemplated under this Compact and the Program”; and continue to contribute its committed funding to existing programs that will be part of the compact.

 How the Process Works

Once Morocco was approved as a candidate for a second MCC grant, extensive consultations with stakeholders and a study by the African Development Bank identified weaknesses in workforce development and land management as obstacles to greater economic momentum. This resulted in a two-phase compact focusing on “Education and Training for Employability,” assigned $220 million; and $170.5 million allocated to “Land Productivity,” which concentrates on more effective management and investment practices for agricultural and industrial land. The rest of the grant is for monitoring and evaluation, program administration, in addition to contributions from the GoM.

Signing for the Moroccan side was the Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, while Jonathan Bloom, Deputy Vice President, Africa, represented the MCC. It was attended by representatives of the seven Ministries, who, along with a private sector representative and two from civil society, will make up the Moroccan board of directors for the compact.

Once program areas are identified, “terms of reference” are developed to describe the goals of each program in sufficient detail that companies and organizations can submit comments – through “call for ideas” conferences –and eventually bid on services. The initial “call for ideas” conference results in public RFPs (Request for Proposal) in which competitive bids and project descriptions are submitted.

This process often results in new initiatives that had not been considered initially. One example is the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program to focus on support for new and existing public-private training centers, with companies taking the lead in the training and placement of trainees. The goal is to deeply involve the private sector in curriculum development, standards for qualifications, and eventual employment.

Land development is a much trickier proposition, as titling and management issues “inhibit access to and productive uses of rural and industrial land, thus diminishing investment and the consequent demand for labor.” “In rural areas, the project develops a faster, fairer, replicable process for moving the country’s collective irrigated land into the hands of smallholder farmers. In the industrial sector, the project develops a new model for industrial zone development” enabling the government to streamline how it brings industrial land to investors.

Overall estimated beneficiaries of the program are: more than 1.7 million graduates from improved and skills-centered secondary schools; 275,000 from the workforce development efforts; more than 80,000 farmers benefiting from improved rural land management; and some 96,000 benefiting from upgraded industrial land policies.

In addition, the MCC compact emphasizes sustainability across all sectors. Secondary Education “will pilot an Integrated School Improvement Model that will demonstrate how to achieve cost-effective, quality education, and a plan will be developed during the Compact for expansion of this model post-Compact. The Private Sector-Driven TVET grant facility is intended and designed to continue functioning after the Compact. GoM co-financing during the Compact will continue afterwards and enable the grant facility to continue.” Throughout the program, GoM and MCC “will collaborate to ensure that interventions aimed at mainstreaming social and gender inclusion will include mechanisms that promote sustainability beyond the Compact Term.”

There are many additional details available on the website, and more will emerge as future “call for ideas” conferences are announced. At this point, MCC is pleased with the enthusiasm and responses to the initial conferences from both Moroccan and US entities. Hopefully, the Chamber of Deputies will approve the overall compact in time for a formal signing in conjunction with the US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue in Rabat in April

Building Global Dexterity on Company Teams

In our increasingly globalized world, more and more U.S. companies rely on local staff to help manage their international operations—and therefore need to maximize their intercultural competency and global resource management skills. From an organizational point of view, this can create significant challenges.

Today’s global work groups (and whole offices and even companies) are often made up of people from a variety of cultures; it is vital that diversity training, expatriate management and training, and cultural competency training are given priority.

But they have to be done right. The key to overcoming these challenges is what Brandeis University’s Andy Molinsky calls “Global Dexterity[i]”—understanding that to be successful in the global business world, managers, division heads, and other leaders need to learn the “global skills of adapting behavior successfully across cultures,“ and “be attuned not only to the expectations and norms of how to behave in a situation but also the cultural background of the individuals involved.”[ii]

How Do Cultural Values Affect Your Own/the Group’s Behaviors?

In the international business context, both leadership and rank-and-file employees must hone their cross-cultural skills.

In my sessions, I like to use a group exercise to help people understand how their own cultural assumptions impact how they view new situations and other peoples, and how they react to both.

FarsideI begin by having them look at the famous “Far Side” illustration to the left. Then I ask them to think about the cultural assumptions involved with how they interpret the picture:

What does it tell you about motivation, values, behaviors, and priorities?

What role does culture play in decision-making?

The decision the chicken makes about whether to cross the road or not tells us a great deal—if we ask the right questions, such as…

Why do my staff always say “yes” when I need direct answers?

How can I build trust in my group?

Another way to look at it is, in dealing with other cultures, motives, and values are not always obvious or apparent…take a look at the iceberg image. It reflects the ratio between our conscious and subconscious minds.
Iceberg
At the top, we can observe someone’s behaviors and actions—it is all that we can “see,” and there isn’t very much of it (at most 10%). At the bottom is the subconscious: we can only guess at the opinions, assumptions, and motivations buried there (either in ourselves or for other people—or cultures).

If possible, you must try to discover—and act upon—these subconscious opinions, assumptions, and motivations through questions, presenting options, and learning about people’s interests.

Don’t guess.  

Get involved, ask questions, and learn how to communicate within a different cultural context. These are the only ways to meaningfully engage multi-culture staff and effectively motivate them to work together to create value for your company, regardless of setting.

 

[i] Andy Molinsky, Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures Without Losing Yourself in the Process, Harvard Business Review Press, March 12, 2013.

[ii] https://www.brandeis.edu/global/news/2014/molinsky.pdf

From Small Seeds, Morocco-Mississippi State University Partnership

Wide-ranging Collaboration Addresses Key Growth Sectors

It seemed like a good idea – to interview Mark E. Keenum, the president of Mississippi State University (MSU), recently named an honorary consul for Morocco in the US. It was an opportunity to discover why a partnership between a leading SEC football powerhouse and a frontier market economy makes sense, and what lies ahead for both parties. Well, along the way, I got quite an education.

First of all, I found out that MSU is not only the premier university in the state, it is, as its website proudly notes, “among the nation’s leading major research universities, according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which represents the highest level of research activity for doctorate-granting universities in the U.S.” It has an impressive array of more than 175 academic programs building on its strengths in engineering, agriculture, and arts and sciences…Quite impressive and an exceptional partner for Morocco.

msu1Gone are the days when honorary consuls were largely ceremonial opportunities to showcase visiting dignitaries. Morocco’s Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal is determined to promote his country’s ties of friendship to key communities across the US by demonstrating the mutual benefits of cooperation and collaboration that serve both countries’ interests. This partnership with MSU certainly illustrates the potential for enabling Morocco to find capable and committed partners in its efforts to realize economic growth and prosperity for the country, the region, and the African continent.

The relationship is no happenstance. There are MSU faculty members from Morocco who helped build a partnership with the International University – Rabat (IUR), a public-private partnership focused on developing skilled graduates in line with Morocco’s national initiatives. This is underscored by the joint programs that have been launched in automotive and aeronautic engineering. The undergraduate program consists of three years of study at IUR in mechanical and automotive engineering, then a senior year at MSU, with BS degrees awarded at both schools and automatic entry into the Masters programs at MSU.

The programs are off to a quick start. This fall, 21 Moroccans are enrolled in the Masters program in aeronautical engineering. In fall 2016, the first class of 49 students will complete their senior year at MSU in mechanical engineering and enter into the Masters programs. And 61 are expected in automotive engineering as undergrads in 2017. This is quite an innovative program for MSU, its first international program – and one that has the full support of President Keenum, which is where this blog started…

Mark is both a lifelong Bulldog (as MSU’s sports teams are called) and one of its staunchest supporters. He completed his undergraduate and advanced degrees in Agricultural Economics at the school, later serving as chief of staff for Senator Thad Cochran and as an Undersecretary in the Agriculture Department under President George W. Bush. While in the Administration, he oversaw the Foreign Agricultural Service, which gave him broad exposure to other countries, as well as international and multinational to agencies in the food and agricultural sectors.

He is acutely aware of food and water issues facing the world and has developed partnerships with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program. Mark has formed six partnerships with USAID and has a program with FAO in Africa. MSU, under his tenure, has been designated as a UN Global Agricultural Health Center, where the university brings its expertise to bear on issues of food security and sustainability.

IUrabatIn discussing these issues and initiatives, it is clear that President Keenum is passionate about the challenge of feeding people. With 20 billion people expected on this earth by 2050, he says that we need smart, educated, and talented people to direct more research, resources, science, technology, and innovation to meet this challenge. He has high praise for Morocco and its efforts in Africa, and is well acquainted with OCP, since he is a member of the International Fertilizer Development Council.

He gives Ambassador Bouhlal credit for recognizing how honorary consuls can play a dynamic role in building strong bilateral bridges beyond politics, especially on issues of common concern. This past spring, he met with Morocco’s Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhannouch to discuss how MSU’s Water Resources Centers covering research, the environment, aquaculture, and water management can contribute to Morocco’s USAID triangular aid projects in Africa.

It is a beginning of a broad array of opportunities for Moroccan and American students and experts to gain valuable experience, share knowledge, and together generate innovate approaches to meeting the critical food, water, and energy security issues challenging human development.

Smarts and Skills To Help Build Their Communities

Photo credit: Twitter

How Teen Girls are Leading Their Own Revolution

Many articles have been written on the importance of including youth and women in national development and employment strategies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Despite all good intentions, however, women are still a small percentage of the labor force in Arab countries, and government programs are skewed towards young men because they are considered a priority as lifelong earners while women face the challenge, if they choose, of balancing work and families.

Successive US Administrations have made women’s empowerment, employment, and education a priority in foreign assistance programming. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the Arab Spring has not been friendly to women’s empowerment and youth enfranchisement, with few exceptions. One of them is Morocco.

Fifteen years after King Mohammed VI delivered a speech – soon after acceding to the throne – calling for extensive reforms to promote the role of women in society, the country’s commitment is continually being tested and progressing. And the US government is helping by funding programs for youth, with a strong emphasis on inclusion. One such program has just concluded in Washington, DC, and I was fortunate to meet with the group on their last day.

The program is TechGirls, “a U.S. Department of State initiative, which is an international exchange program designed to inspire and empower girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue deeper levels of training in technology through hands-on skills development,” as part of America’s continuing commitment to advance the rights of women and girls around the world. The program’s manager, since 2012, is Legacy International, which has been managing cultural exchange programs for 30 years.

According to Mary Helwig, VP of Legacy International, “While in the United States, TechGirls participate in an interactive technology and computer camp, join a tech company for a day of job shadowing, and participate in community service initiatives.” This year’s cohort included young women from seven Arab countries, and their energy and vision are great antidotes to the feelings of frustration with the lack of progress in the region.

We talked about entrepreneurship and what they want from their governments – mostly to provide the necessary eco-system of legal, financial, training, and incubating services – and how their experiences in the US gave them ideas about how to take initiatives when they return home.

 Moroccan Voices

techgirls3It should come as no surprise that the TechGirls are avid bloggers, tweeters, and Facebook users. #TechGirls provides hourly tweets of their daily activities and daily Facebook postings filled with pictures and narrative. They were able to pursue their interests in technology and community service during many of the program’s activities. On their last evening, they visited with Girls Who Code DC and General Assembly, a meeting that brought together the 27 MENA participants with 30 young women from DC who share their passion for technology.

The program involved quite a wide variety of projects. For example, they started with a traditional summer camp experience at Global Youth Village, visited Virginia Tech University for an orientation to STEM programs, and spending a day on community projects after visiting Goodwill Industries in Roanoke.

The four Moroccan participants were Amina Abou Ali (16), who wants to take her experiences back home and motivate other young women to embrace technology; 17 year-old Karima Lakouz, who plans to use her interest in technology as a driving force to help close the gender gap in engineering and technology; Khadija Chaibi (17), who will start a club at her school that will offer weekly classes to better inform her peers who might otherwise be illiterate in information technology; and 16 year-old Rihab Boutadghart, who wants to be a doctor because the area where she lives lacks medical services, and who hopes to use her medical and technology skills to develop medical materials to help people.

They all were engaging, unafraid to speak their minds, clear in their interests in serving their communities, and encouraged by the many new friends they had made both within the group and in the US. One of their most satisfying experiences was to get to know Americans beyond media stereotypes and to appreciate the diversity and hospitality they found here. In turn, they were interested in learning more about American perceptions of Morocco and its society.

To really get a sense of how the US is making very important investments in the youth of the MENA region, particularly those who have acquired English language skills and are grounded in technology, I encourage you to visit them on Facebook and experience US foreign assistance dollars well spent with young women who will change their communities.