The Future of Skills in Morocco
As part of its ongoing work on the future of skills, as digitalisation, globalisation, migration and climate change impact the world of work, the ETF has released three reports on how partner countries are managing the transition in particular sectors. Interviews and workshops are an important part of the research methodology of the studies. Continuing the conversation, we caught up with two stakeholders who took part in the Moroccan study, which concentrates on the country’s Agri-food sector.
Hamid Felloun is the director of the Fédération Nationale de l’Agroalimentaire (Fenagri), which represents 20 national federations and more than 100 companies, including some of the big players in the sector. It is currently supervising the government’s development programme for agribusiness 2017-2021. Professor Amar Kaanane is director of the Agricultural and Food Industries department at the Institut Agronomique et Véterinaire Hassan II in Rabat.
Mr Felloun, what are the main skills challenges for the agribusiness sector in Morocco today?
To ensure food security and health security for Morocco we need to improve our competitivity very quickly. The main challenge is due to the rapid evolution of technology. Digitalisation, environmental urgency, genetically modified crops and the 4th industrial revolution demand new skills at a great pace.
What is needed to keep pace with these changes?
Human capital is the entry point. The strategy is there, but we must strengthen synergies between academic and professional training institutions and professional institutions, federations and associations.
Morocco is strong on industrial strategies, is it not? How are these strategies implemented on the ground?
In the agri-industrial sector that is one of Fenagri’s roles. We helped develop the Contrat Programme de Development de l’Industrie Agroalimentaire 2017-2021. This programme forms a technical bridge between the Plan Maroc Vert 2008-2020, and Plan d’Accéleration Industrielle 2014-2020. We coordinate between the industry and agriculture ministries who are responsible for those strategies, and oversee the implementation of aspects of them, including training. Fenagri has a partnership with the Groupement Interprofessionel d’Aides au Conseil (GIAC), and we advise them on skills needs. There is one for each sector and it organises work-based training in companies.
Is there a need for training at all levels of the value chain and levels of education?
The value chain starts with agriculture and ends with distribution, so we need training for each link in this chain. Upstream of the value chain, and all along the chain, jobs are evolving, so training must follow this dynamic to respond to the needs of the market.
Fenugri also advises the Cités des Métiers et des Competences – there are 12 of these professional training establishments implanted in the regions.
How important are environmental issues to Morocco’s future skills?
All the aspects of sustainable development are very important at the moment – energy, both qualitative and quantitative, and energy sources too. In the industrial recovery plan, one of the three drivers is green growth. This includes energy sources and their use – natural gas, other renewable sources of energy – also the circular economy, waste management, packaging, research and development. Companies are devoting thought and energy to these issues in order to confront tariff barriers in the future because a low carbon and environmental footprint are essential to compete in the European market.
You are optimistic that Morocco can develop the skills needed?
Yes, because human capital is at the centre of our growth strategy. And we don’t have the choice: we have to come up to speed and strengthen our human capital to be competitive, or we will be overtaken. Morocco is an open country, it is competing in local and international markets. Traceability and quality control are very important. In Morocco people are more and more conscious of quality and if our products don’t meet the standards they will choose to buy imports.
Professor Kaanane, from an educational standpoint what needs to happen for Morocco to increase its competitivity in the agro-industrial sector?
Like many developing countries we don’t have a lot of research and development (R&D) and it is mainly in the universities. But in 2012 the [Masters] cursus was cut from six to five years, and this is detrimental because the sixth year was devoted to research. So, for agriculture you have to restructure training to restore Bac + 6. And change it to include new technology, digitalisation and so on.
Secondly, we need to train technicians, which is a two-year training. This is no longer done in the universities, and the teaching in the training institutes is not up to standard. They are needed in biochemistry, for equipment maintenance, everything to do with fertilisation, irrigation. Remember that 70-80% of farmers in Morocco have under 5 hectares. They need technicians to show them how to use the new technology and methods.
The third problem is linguistic: in the 1980s the government opted for Arabisation of primary and secondary education. Students arrive at university and the medium is French, but their level of French impedes their studies. It will take a generation to sort this out. Beyond this, the language of science is English, and soon it will be Chinese, so these language skills are important.
So you believe that R&D is the key to creating new jobs in the future?
I will give you an example: in 2012 I met with the federation that covers the fish and seafood canning sector. They said we’ve found a new product in Japan – canned grilled mackerel. I searched and found nothing on the market. We did the research, we hired a young engineer and developed the material and, by September 2016, 450,000 tins a day were being made. The next year we were building a factory. That enabled us to train 10 or so engineers. So that is why research and development is so important.
The new Generation Green 2020-2030 strategy shifts the focus from productivity towards human capital development and sustainability in agriculture. What does this mean for higher education?
The major problem for agriculture is water. Already Morocco has a scarcity of drinking water. We need to train engineers and technicians in the treatment of wastewater and waste materials, and in how to preserve and manage water for agriculture. The private sector is doing well in this, but they will come to me and say: ‘Do you have anyone who can work on the treatment of wastewater?’ and we don’t have engineers in this area right now.
Are there any partnerships between the private sector and education?
Yes, there are, but we need fiscal incentives to support innovation because if you have to pay VAT on the research costs with no guarantee of a result it doesn’t encourage this kind of investment.