October 7th, 2010
Today was to be my last day of research. I still have six weeks until I leave Morocco but with a family visit, a friend visit, and a few visits of my own happening in between now and my leave date, I decided to make this week my final week of interviews. The rest of my free time here will be dedicated to writing my final research report and generally packing up my life from the past year.
So I woke up this morning, dressed in my business casual outfit, and walked just 15 minutes to my destination. The day before, in another interview, I had received a tip that there is a ‘My Enterprise’ (the government program I am focusing research on) representative and branch office in the new traditional crafts training center just outside Batha (the area I live in) . Seeing as the tip came from another ‘My Enterprise’ employee, I figured it was more than just rumor.
I walked into the training center and asked nicely in Arabic where the ‘My Enterprise’ office is. The receptionist kindly responded to me in Arabic that he will call the responsable to let him (or her!) know that I am visiting. No answer. The receptionist walked further into the building (which is shaped like a traditional home with an open air top and the second floor completely visible) and pointed to where the office is. “Oh, it’s closed,” he said in colloquial Arabic. “But go to the information office which is just over there (pointing to another part of the second floor) and ask about it.” I smiled, thanked him, and headed to this information office. I found a man in this office and asked again about ‘My Enterprise’. He, too, walked to look in the direction of the closed office to find that it was, yes, closed. So he walked next door to another office and he asked his neighbor about the person that works in the ‘My Enterprise’ office. At this point, it was unclear to me (and I think to them as well) whether someone actually works there full-time. On my fourth person of contact, I finally get my answer: there is a representative from the ANAPEC office (the main ‘My Enterprise’ office in town) that comes to this building from time to time. So nobody to interview. I smiled, thanked them all, and walked out.
This is not what I was hoping for on my last day of research. I was, of course, hoping for an interview. But I realized that today was a very fitting end to my research – quite representative of my research the last 8 months: people are very nice (helpful, will speak in Arabic to me), perhaps not well informed, and often the place or person I am looking for does not exist or is not in for the day.
On the ‘My Enterprise’ website (the actual name of the program is in Arabic but I figured I shouldn’t actually write the name of the program in the blog while simultaneously bashing it), the Fez-Boulmane province lists 14 branch offices in Fez. When I visited the main office in Fez (ANAPEC), I found a list on the wall of the Fez branch offices – 10 in all. When I asked one of the more candid program employees, he told me that only five of these offices are actually up and running. And I can verify for you that there are five working branch offices. So, officially Fez has 14 ‘My Enterprise’ offices when in reality it has less than half of that.
Now assuming that Fez is representative of the rest of the country (which could be completely wrong, but just go with me…), that would mean that the ‘My Enterprise’ program, a grand national initiative to fight unemployment rates, that officially has 314 offices throughout the country, in actuality has only 82 offices. And approximately 120 people work full-time for ‘My Enterprise.’
Anyways, what we learn from this lesson is that there is a lot more talk happening than actual work. (You see why government programs like this are not taken seriously by Moroccans?) There are some well intentioned people working within this program, but their efforts would be much more powerful if the program’s reality matched its official image.
Note: I apologize for the overwhelming negativity of this post…they can’t all be about awesome adventures in Europe or the Sahara desert