As Morocco grapples with issues of gender equality and sustainable development, a new African consulting company is making waves and helping push the country into the future.
Rabat – After working extensively across North Africa for over five years, sustainable development consulting agency IBIS Consulting recently established its first permanent regional headquarters in Casablanca, Morocco.
IBIS consultants work with businesses to improve their environmental and social impact, specializing in the areas of Sustainability Reporting, Resource Efficiency, and Social Performance. Since its conception in 2015, the firm has grown to employ over 35 full-time consultants in five countries.
Meryem Lakhssassi will head IBIS’ new Casablanca office. Lakhsassi previously worked as an associate director at Themis Energy, a Morocco-based investment firm focusing on renewable energy.
Lakhssassi also spent six years at MASEN (Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy), where she managed approximately €3.6 billion (MAD 39 billion) worth of investments. She is a citizen of both Morocco and France.
IBIS’ new Casablanca office joins pre-existing headquarters in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nairobi, Singapore, and Paris.
Women in Leadership
Lakhssassi comes to IBIS Casablanca at a time when many in Morocco are calling for greater representation of women in prominent leadership positions.
In 2019, the United Nations’ Gender Equality Index ranked Morocco 121 of 189 countries based on factors including educational access for women, maternal mortality rates, and labor force participation.
The study quantifies that only 21.5% of Moroccan women over the age of 15 are active in the workforce — compared to 70.1% of men — and women hold only 18.4% of seats in the Moroccan Parliament.
Many women’s rights activists in Morocco point to Article 19 of the Moroccan Constitution in demanding greater access for women to educational, political, and professional resources. The article, adopted in the 2011 referendum on constitutional reforms, establishes that “the man and the woman enjoy, in equality, the rights and freedoms of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental character.”
Despite the government’s commitment to equality, the Wilson Center — a US-based think tank focused on international development — explains that there are many obstacles to realizing true equality between the sexes in Morocco.
Women continue to face the pressure of conservative mindsets that view them as inferior to men, as well as traditional views that emphasize women’s reproductive or caretaker roles at the expense of participation in the workforce, the report shows. It adds that some hurdles are even more institutionalized: Women in Morocco face far lower rates of financial independence and literacy and are far more likely to fall into poverty than male counterparts.
However, greater representation of women in leadership roles may be the key to confronting these long-seated societal challenges. The World Economic Forum notes that, in addition to being good for business, when women are placed in high-visibility leadership roles in the professional world, they inspire the next generation of girls to pursue careers in business, politics, tech, etc.
Morocco’s Sustainability Needs
IBIS also comes to Casablanca, Morocco at a time when sustainability and environment remain hot-button issues in political and daily life.
The Ministry of Energy, Mining, and Sustainable Development has a goal to produce 52% of Moroccan energy through sustainable sources by 2030, up from only 35% in 2018.
To meet this goal, the ministry announced in 2018 plans to invest over $40 billion (MAD 357 billion) in the energy sector over the next decade, $30 billion (MAD 268 billion) of which will go to renewable energy sources.
Helping businesses transition to renewable energy sources is one of IBIS’ key sustainability goals. The firm aids companies in identifying sources of energy waste, improving resource efficiency, and disclosing accurate carbon emission figures.
The need for new energy sources in Morocco is dire, as the country remains heavily reliant on imports for over 90% of consumed energy. Most of that energy still comes in environmentally destructive forms, such as gas, oil, and coal.
However, as the country sets its sights on solar, wind, and hydropower, many see sustainable energy as Morocco’s key to achieving energy independence.