Thanks to diaspora remittances and a longstanding culture of everyday luxury, the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Morocco are not exactly slumming it in quality of life terms. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact that today’s Morocco is a little bit like China in the pre-Deng Xiaoping 1970s: a once-great power experiencing a tricky 100-200 year period. Moreover, with a GDP/capita of just US$8,460, those remittances are far more important than they should be; it is safe to say that the country as a whole is underachieving.
It was therefore with some surprise that our Creative Director & CSO recently came across three eco-friendly initiatives – all of which can be filed under ‘cutting-edge’ – which are being implemented in a country that most people think of as a little more than a cute tourist destination on the periphery of Western Europe. While none of these policies are, technically-speaking, original, Morocco is nevertheless breaking new ground in deploying them; this sparsely-populated North African nation should inspire both far wealthier countries and its continental neighbours to copy Maghrebian best practice in the following domains:
- High-speed rail. In partnership with France’s SNCF, the Moroccan state railways company ONCF is presently constructing the beginnings of an HSR network; the first line will start in the port city of Tangier before eventually terminating at Marrakech, turning what is presently a ten-hour slog into a <three-hour trip. The initial section of the network is scheduled to go live at some point in 2018, well before planned HSR lines in the US; no other African country is presently attempting anything resembling this level of rail infrastructure.
- Bike-sharing. Another first for Africa is Marrakech’s Medina Bike cycle-sharing programme, recently installed as part of the hosting for the COP22 international environmental conference and another Franco-Moroccan partnership, this time between Smoove and Estates Vision respectively. As with HSR networks, bike-sharing schemes can direct the trajectory of economic development away from automobiles, and therefore help preserve the best bits of urban fabric.
- Solar power. Morocco is currently constructing the world’s largest free-standing solar power station, a facility that will power no less than 1m homes and which has seen the country receive broader international recognition for its ecological efforts: the kingdom was the only non-European country in the top ten of the Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe’s 2016 Climate Change Performance Index. Most countries in Africa and many far beyond stand to benefit greatly from replicating this technology; for particularly poor countries, investment in solar can slash their energy import bills and enable them to take a more sustainable path to development altogether.