Morocco is still reeling from the deadly earthquake — which reached 6.8 on the Richter Scale — that hit the High Atlas Mountains on 8 September. The epicentre was near Ighil in the predominantly Amazigh — i.e. Berber — area of al-Haouz which is about 70 kms south of Marrakech. The tragedy killed 2,900 including many in remote mountainous areas while thousands more were displaced. It is said to have affected an estimated 450,000 individuals.
This was not the first lethal earthquake to strike the country. The February 1960 quake near Agadir killed 12,000-15,000 with another 12,000 injured and at least 35,000 people left homeless. In 2004 another in the north’s al-Hoceima killed over 600 people. As the latest tragedy demonstrated, however, the authorities were ill-equipped to deal with the situation and there was extensive damage.
It has also dealt another heavy blow to the already poor economy. Besides the challenges posed by the war in Ukraine, global price rises and prolonged drought, the Kingdom must now rebuild homes, villages and communities that were destroyed by the earthquake. It remains too early to say how much this will cost because the data is still partial and imprecise but the sums are going to be very significant. As one Moroccan economist observed, ‘No one dares yet to estimate how much it is going to cost.’
Some estimates have been put forward. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) approximated that damages could be as high as 8% of GDP or around US$10 billion. On 20 September, the Royal Diwan announced that the country required MAD120 billion (US$11.7 billion) over five years for the affected regions. The Hassan II Fund would provide MAD2 billion (US$195 million) of this sum with other investment funds and companies also contributing. This includes:
- the al-Mada Fund, whose main shareholder is King Mohamed VI, and which, upon his suggestion, has agreed to contribute US$100 million;
- the state-owned Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) agreed to give US$100 million with employees reported to be ready to contribute a further US$100 million;
- the central Banque al-Maghrib announced it is giving US$100 million; while
- Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch’s Akwa Group will donate US$60 million; and
- support is also coming from international institutions and foreign governments.
There are real concerns, however, about how the rebuilding will be carried out. As local economists have pointed out, it is imperative that this money is not used to simply replicate what existed before. The authorities need to come up with a way to ensure that, while the new buildings are traditional in style, they do not have the severe shortcomings that resulted in so many deaths. It is also necessary for these rural areas to be brought into the modern age, connecting them with proper services and infrastructure. The Kingdom therefore has an enormous challenge and it is going to take many years to recover.This excerpt is taken from Morocco Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Morocco. Click here to receive a free sample copy.
The September 2023 issues of Morocco Focus also includes the following:
- Earthquake triggers row over foreign aid…
- Algerian offer of aid is rebuffed
- Powerful earthquake strikes Atlas Mountains…
- More talk of a cabinet reshuffle…
- Economy faces huge rebuilding challenge
- World Bank and IMF Marrakech meeting to go ahead