Morocco Research: OCP Policy Center by Andrew Nassar

by tuftsigl
May 31

After spending last week visiting Marrekech, an old city in the south of Morocco with geometric architecture and design, we traveled to a more urban landscape in Casablanca. Although we had low expectations when we mentioned that we would travel there to research contacts and people we met in Marrakech, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Casablanca wasn’t just an industry town with little culture and few activities. Even more so than Casablanca, our last stop on our trip, Rabat, is incredibly urban and centralized, and coincidentally, where most of our contacts for research on economic, political, and environmental issues are based.

My research attempts to analyze the unique determinants and structural components of unemployment among educated youth in Morocco and their sector preferences (public vs. private). One of my fellow NIMEP participants on the trip, Ria, is also interested in economic perspectives; she is studying the role of education, poverty and radicalization, so our individual projects have some synergy points.

In Rabat, we managed to find a policy think tank specializing in macroeconomic and fiscal issues—the OCP Policy Center. In Morocco, we have found it difficult to attempt to schedule meetings weeks in advance like any formal research meetings would take place in an increasingly rigid formal academic atmosphere in the United States. Rather than give up when our contacts failed to commit to meeting times in email conversations taking place weeks before our arrival in Morocco, we set out to the universities, think tanks, and institutes where these leaders and policy makers work in order to follow up on our emails.

So, Ria and I tracked down contacts in a few organizations and headed to interview them! After scheduling a time to meet at the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (IESCO), Ria and I walked to the OCP Policy Center, located in the opposite direction from where we spent the first ten minutes walking, but alas, we found it. Situated in the same building as the Ministry of Tourism and the Delegation from the European Union, the OCP Policy Center boasts a staff which conducts research and policy analysis on areas including finance, geopolitics, and international relations, in Morocco and throughout the MENA region.

In addition to providing analyses to government agencies and private enterprises, the center has publications and reports available to the public at its office, as well as open conferences and seminars. We were able to meet with a staff member about out research to set up meetings with potential economists and researchers at the center to discuss topics related to our own work, and we are stopping by again in a few days to attend a presentation on fiscal policy and over- optimism by Prof. Jeffrey Frankel from Harvard. It seems especially ironic, yet serendipitous that we attend a talk in Rabat by a Red Line neighbor in Cambridge, but I look forward to the opportunity to hear views from across the Atlantic applied specifically to an environment on which I am conducting economic research. What chance!

As we continue through a hectic schedule of interviews, appointments, and tours in Rabat, I am understanding how local research in Morocco has the potential to augment my studies. Beyond just reading articles and journals which address my topics, I have the opportunities to meet with the authors and sense a less tangible part of the current situation of high youth unemployment. The frame by which I approach this research widens as I talk face-to-face with the scholars and policy makers who have dedicated their careers toward answering these questions, and I am incredibly grateful for their wisdom.


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