Young Moroccans are creating innovative and sustainable solutions to tackle the country’s challenges

In early October, one hundred young Moroccans participated in the Youth Innovation Summit in Rabat. For five days, the young people created innovative solutions that would accelerate sustainable development in Morocco.

Just a week before the Summit, 24-year-old Khadija Amahal had graduated with a degree in applied linguistics from Agadir in Southern Morocco. Now she was stepping down from a large stage in Rabat, holding a funding offer from The African Development Bank to help finance a ‘Smart Water’ agricultural project that she and her four colleagues conceived — just a couple of days ago.

‘It’s a bit crazy, because professionally I was going in a very different direction. And then suddenly, this happens,’ Khadija says.

The first four days of the Youth Innovation Summit, the 100 young talents worked intensively on developing ideas, that could be transformed into sustainable solutions on some of Moroccos most pressing challenges.

For the preceding four days, Khadija, together with a hundred other young Moroccans, had participated in the Youth Innovation Summit in Rabat. At the Summit, the young people worked intensively on developing solutions to some of the key challenges facing Morocco in its drive to achieve sustainable development. The one hundred participants worked on topics such as green energy, climate change, urban sustainability and increasing food production.

The event culminated in a large festival, where the young people’s ideas were celebrated and evaluated by companies, NGOs and educational institutions. The festival was an occasion to kickstart the dialogue regarding the future of Morocco and Morocco’s young population.

The event culminated in a large festival, where the young people’s ideas were celebrated and evaluated by companies, NGOs and educational institutions. The festival was an occasion to kickstart the dialogue regarding the future of Morocco and Morocco’s young population.

The 100 young people at the Youth Innovation Summit were a diverse group: They came from different areas in the country and worked in different fields. Some were highly educated, others not. Some came from Morocco’s major cities, while others came from small villages in the countryside.

The organisers of the Summit ensured that the group would not be composed solely of engineers and climate researchers. Rather, these young participants all had one thing in common: the will to create positive change for their country.

‘We’ve really had some tough days, but it has also been incredibly exciting,’ Khadija says.

The process that the young people went through sought to utilize their varied experiences and backgrounds so that a range of significant issues could be identified and innovative ideas developed.

Khadija described the process: ‘After a lot of brainstorming and hard work, we settled on a problematic that we thought was very relevant — the use of water in Moroccan agriculture.’

The date trees will be irrigated intelligently

One of the other women in Khadija’s group is from Southern Morocco, where many people subsist on the production of dates. Khadija explained that in recent years this area has become dryer, making it much more expensive and arduous to pump up water from the underground. Farmers need this groundwater to grow and maintain their date trees.

‘With water being so essential for the farmers, it is important that they do not water the date trees any more than they have to,’ Khadija says.

Khadija and her group on stage during the Youth Dialogue Festival, where they are announced as one of eight groups who will receive support from the African Development Bank to realize their idea.

Khadija and her group came up with the idea of placing censors at the roots of the trees. The censors could then measure humidity and other factors, letting the farmers know precisely when the trees needed water. Khadija called their system ‘Smart Water Dripping’ (SWAD). With SWAD, the farmers can use precisely the amount of water needed to irrigate their trees.

‘Morocco is already one of the driest places on earth, and climate change may make it even worse. This is why we need to develop methods to make our water consumption more targeted and intelligent,’ she says.

The African Development Bank saw the potential in the Smart Water idea of Khadija and her group. This is why the future for Khadija — and the four other people in her group – has already changed. They have now secured thirty percent of the capital needed to realize their idea.

The African Development Bank has chosen to support eight of the ideas presented during the Youth Innovation Summit. The groups behind these ideas will now become part of the bank’s entrepreneurship programme, called ‘Souk Attanmia’.  The Souk Attanmia program, like the Summit, is also supported by the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme.

The youth is the future

The Youth Innovation Summit was organized by UNDP Denmark, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sports. Financial support for the event was provided by the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme.

The Danish ambassador to Morocco, Nikolaj Harris, is excited about the project: ‘Denmark has chosen to be involved in this project because the youth are important, youth are the future, and it is crucial to make sure that the youth contribute to development and innovation and not to frustration and instability. This is a hope that we share with Morocco. Furthermore, youth is a crosscutting priority for the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme, together with promoting gender equality,’ says Ambassador Harris.

‘The idea is to focus on the youth and to give them a platform and some tools that they can use to contribute toa positive change in Morocco. Therefore, we brought together a hundred young talented and entrepreneurial young people for four days, giving them the chance to discuss the challenges faced by the youth – and not just in Morocco, but in the entire region,’ says Ambassador Nikolaj Harris.

The Danish Crown Princess Mary participated in the festival, where she learned more about the young people’s ideas. To the right of the Princess is the Danish Ambassador to Morocco Nikolaj Harris.

The young Moroccans have significant potential. The average age in the country is only 29, but for years, Morocco has struggled with a high rate of youth unemployment, affecting both the highly educated and uneducated youth alike.

The frustration that this creates is illustrated by a recent survey conducted by BBC News Arabic and Arab Barometer, showing that 70 percent of Moroccans under 30 have considered leaving the country. Indeed, many of those people crossing the Strait of Gibraltar for Europe are young Moroccans.

Oxfam IBIS also had a stand on the festival. Here they informed about their many activities in Morocco, which among other things consist of helping young people enter the job market.

However, according to Ambassador Nikolaj Harris, the Moroccan authorities have become acutely aware that having such a large proportion of young people who see no future for themselves in their home country is an untenable situation.

Ambassador Harris emphasizes the challenges involved: ‘As I see it, young people are crucial to the development not only of Denmark but also of Morocco, and it is important to utilise this potential. According to the Moroccan government, they are currently not doing this to the extent that they should. Some reasons are the high youth unemployment rate and an education system that does not give young people the best opportunities to fulfil their potential. Therefore, the Youth Innovation Summit is in line with the Moroccan plans for development,” says Ambassador Harris.

‘I have a duty’

The young people gathered in Rabat showed themselves prepared to play a significant part in the development of Morocco – and to ensure that their country would develop in a green and sustainable way.

Khadija elaborates: ‘At first, I was unsure about how I could contribute to fighting climate change, because I have no technical knowledge in this field. But I said to myself that if we are all going to be affected by climate change, all of us must rise to the occasion and contribute as best we can.’

DI – The Confederation of Danish Industry had taken their SDG tree to the Youth Dialogue Festival. They had also brought some of the most innovative and sustainable Danish companies with them to Morocco.

The same opinion is expressed by another young participant in the Youth Innovation Summit, 24-year-old Fatima Zahra Outaiss, who is trained as  a computer science engineer.

‘As a young woman, I believe that it is my duty to have a vision for how we can solve some of the issues that we are facing here in Morocco,’ e says.

That’s Fatima she applied to the Youth Innovation Summit, where she is working on an idea that will create employment and activities for women in rural areas so that they can become economically independent and contribute to their communities.

Fatima Zahra at Youth Dialogue Festival. The 24-year-old engineer believes that it is crucial that the youth is involved in creating change in Morocco.

Another Summit participant,  35-year-old Mustafa Mahni, emphasised the importance of finding new and sustainable solutions. Mustafa comes from an area near the town of Midelt in Central Morocco, where climate change has already had major consequences for the people living there.

‘Where I grew up and live, we are facing major issues. Less rain and snow is falling, but there is more frequent extreme weather phenomena like storms and floods. This leads to soil erosion and major vehicle accidents. Recently, a passenger bus was overturned by flood waters and over twenty people died,’ says Mustafa.

For over ten years, Mustafa has fought to make Morocco – and the rest of the world – realize that climate change needs to be taken seriously. This is one of the reasons he applied to attend the Youth Innovation Summit.

‘These forums are helpful in figuring out how to raise awareness of climate change and its consequences and to try and come up with solutions to problems related to these issues. After this summit, I hope that we are better equipped when it comes to attracting investors and raising funds to realize our ideas, and to help the people already affected by changes in the climate,’ Mustafa says.

The Danish Crown Princess Mary supports the Moroccan youth

The Youth Innovation Summit culminated in a large public festival in Rabat, where private companies and NGOs – both Danish and Moroccan – participated and helped kickstart the public dialogue about Morocco’s future, sustainable development and innovation.

At the festival, a number of the young people’s ideas were celebrated. Danish Crown Princess Mary was also present. In her speech opening the festival, she highlighted the role of the youth in reaching the SDGs.

‘These challenges are so big, complex and inter-connected, it will require partnerships and innovative solutions on a level that we are yet to see. And these challenges affect us all, but perhaps those with many more years ahead of them – the youth – more so, or at least in different ways. Because it is your future, your livelihoods, your security and your environment.’

Crown Princess Mary also mentioned the Danish-Arab Partnership’s focus on involving young people.

The Danish Crown Princess visited Morocco during the Youth Innovation Summit. In the opening speech she held at the festival, she emphasized the value, potential and responsibility of the Moroccan youth.

‘As youth, you are not as blinded by learnt patterns or existing societal structures and norms; you see the world differently – where possibilities (not limitations) abound.  And that is exactly the reason why youth has been a key target group of the Danish-Arab Partnership Program since its launching. The involvement of young people is essential – ensuring an equal seat at the table and that the voice of youth is heard and echoed in decision-making at all levels.’


Videos from the event: 

قمة الابتكار تفتح أبواب المستقبل أمام الشباب في المغرب

إنطلاق فعاليات قمة الشباب للابتكار في العاصمة المغربية الرباط بحضور السفير الدنماركي في المملكة ومشاركة أكثر من 100 شاب وشابة من عدة مدن مغربية. القمة تهدف لمساعدة الشباب لتطوير أفكارجديدة للمساهمة في النمو الاقتصادي في المغرب Embassy of Denmark in Morocco #dappdk @United Nations Development Programme – UNDP #dappdk

Posted by ‎برنامج الشراكة الدنماركية العربية Danish- Arab Partnership Programme‎ on Monday, September 30, 2019