A Vibrant Reality: Cultural Industries in Morocco.
Lying at the meeting point of North Africa and Europe, covering more than 172 thousand square miles, where a mix of Roman, French, Arab, Spanish, and many other cultures coexist, Morocco serves as a land enriched with cultural and historical heritage.
All too often cultural heritage is conceived as a source of the community’s pride, yet its importance goes way beyond it, as it’s considered to be the lifeblood of creative and cultural industries, which are pivotal in fueling development in Morocco, which remains relatively untapped.
Following the UN creative economy report (2008), creative industries are said to have constituted a dynamic sector in world trade, as they lie at the crossroads among the artisan, services and industrial sectors. Interestingly enough, the primary inputs of this sector are two: creativity and intellectual capital. They also comprise both tangible products and intangible intellectual or artistic services, in other words they might come in the form of goods or services. Nowadays, however, many of the world’s developing countries are following an emerging trend shifting from creative goods production to delivery of creative services, which is clearly aligned with a global shift toward services as industrial and agricultural outputs decline.
In general terms, it’s worth noting that creative industries don’t only uphold creative content but also an economic value within them; as they contribute to creating jobs and economic activities that generate income. Generally speaking, the economic significance of creative industries doesn’t only come for their contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) of their countries of origin but also to the role they play as a resilient and expanding sector with export growth rates of over 7% of total world trade. Such industries however are meant to pursue many other objectives that will be discussed in the upcoming lines.
When telling the story of cultural industries in Morocco, we will be faced with many areas of concern to be touched upon, and many institutions that serve as protagonists. Association Racines, is a non governmental organization committed to integrating culture in development policies in Morocco and other countries in Africa, as it views culture as “the solution” for human and socioeconomic development. The approach towards elevating the living conditions of the Moroccan population through the use of its cultural heritage is a quite interesting stream of thought, a balance between “preserving” Morocco’s cultural heritage and “deploying it” for the purpose of societal development.
Indeed, a major part of pursuing adequate promotion and effective exercise of Morocco’s cultural industries is linked to the key role played by public governmental policies and strategies operating in this context. This is exactly the area that the “ 2012 Joint Programme in action “ of Morocco touches upon. In collaboration with each of the UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, and UNIDO , the Joint Programme has intended to recognize the positive spillovers that would be imposed on Morocco’s societal context when incorporating its wide spectrum of cultural industries into a national strategy that fosters their development , and eventually advancing inclusive economic growth and social cohesion.
The integration of gender into the community’s development plans, was one of the main goals that were to be achieved by this project. In a patriarchal society as Morocco, the inclusion of women in decision making processes, and training them to hold financial and administrative positions in the production of endogenous goods, for instance, remains a challenge. To promote and strengthen the role of women in development, the joint Programme supported the integration of gender into community development plans, through granting political representation of women in Guelmim, the training of women in administrative and financial management, the production and sale of tents by women of the Sahrawi community , and through carrying out a socio-cultural study of the values and traditions that influence the inclusion of women and enhance their role in achieving development goals in the oasis provinces.
If we took a walk into the paths of creativity in Morocco, we would find the music industry as the most evident among all others.
Moroccan music falls over a wide spectrum of genres: Arabic, chaabi, classic, and many others, with every category holding its own popular market. Indeed, With the prominent support of the UNESCO ( 2005 convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions; ratified by Morocco in 2013) to Morocco’s music industry ,in particular, and the emergence of the “new law on the status of the artist, artist mobility fund”, « Africa Art Lines » along with the creation of the Bureau of Moroccan Music Export (MoMEx), Morocco’s lavish music industry has found itself presented with a stronger wall to lean on . All too often, however, music markets in Morocco were still found to be informal and mal-structured. Woefully, this presents the market value of music at very low levels.
Another prominent problem in this context is what regards the need for some decentralization and competition to stimulate creativity and development of the recording and distribution industry, although this has been sensed in the past years the presence of a quasi monopoly is still dominant; where musicians have to get approval from Rabat to have their music recorded and distributed. In economic terms , The Ministry of Culture persists to reveal concerns regarding the value of imported music and other digital media records as it far exceeds the amount exported . In addition, there are still too few job opportunities for creators and music producers, not to mention the alleviated percentage of women taking part in the creative industries in general and in the music industry in particular; despite the adoption of a Government Plan for Equality « ICRAM » (2012-2016), which includes measures to promote the participation of women in the creative industries. Thus , in this context , Music has been perceived as “the motor” of sustainable development in Morocco; giving a pulse for its economy to dance and illustrating a source of integration, employment and income, particularly among the youth, thanks to the UNESCO and its 2 years pilot project of 2018, as it employed its efforts in the development of a national strategy, support for the professionalization of music education, implementation of pilot projects for artist residencies, and actions in favor of digital distribution.
All in all, achievements in the dynamic sector of creative industries in this North African Country are unlikely to be preserved if not balanced with sustained financial, civilian and political support. Undoubtedly, this sector serves as an adequate tool to boost local social economic development and sustainability of the Moroccan local community, but is also precious to the whole stream of world trade. On a personal note, I believe that one shall always keep in mind that building creative industries requires first an adequate understanding of an audiences consumption patterns, and an effective enactment of people’s fundamental freedoms to foster its success. In the way I view cultural industries, I find them resembling a vivid image that emphasizes human development, which revives a bridge that lies between the “bodies of knowledge” associated with social development and “aspirations” to a more inclusive and just society. This bridge could be fostered by making full use of the potential that resides in the youth , through education , social investments and training efforts.