As the World Bank gets to Marrakech for its 2023 Annual Meetings, the recent IEG evaluation of the  partnership with Morocco offers a great opportunity to reflect on what worked and what did not.  Especially as the World Bank’s engagement in Morocco epitomizes in several ways what the institution is striving to do with the Evolution Roadmap—including to better serve the needs of its Middle Income Country clients.

IEG used innovative evaluation techniques to tell a rich story on the engagement with Morocco over the 2011-2021 period, based on robust data and evidence. With Morocco’s evolving circumstances, the report sheds light on how the World Bank adapted its engagement to remain relevant. It pulls back the curtain on how the World Bank navigated political economy dynamics, learned from both success and failures, and leveraged its suite of instruments to make a unique contribution to country outcomes. As such, the report also demonstrates how outcome-orientation can be strengthened.

Focusing on comparative advantages in a crowded field

As in many Middle-Income Countries, the World Bank was one among many development actors in Morocco. In this crowded field, Moroccan authorities carefully picked which partners to turn to for policy advice. Over time, the Bank learned how to be impactful on policy reforms, and how to effectively pair flexible policy dialogue with just-in-time data and knowledge work. For example, the World Bank capitalized on its management of global benchmarking, such as the Changing Wealth of Nations indicators, the Human Capital Index, and the Doing Business rankings to initiate dialogues and inform Morocco’s policy agenda on public sector governance, early childhood development, and market competitiveness and the business environment.

At times, the World Bank also traded recognition for impact. This was the case when it strategically used the preparation of the 2017 Country Economic Memorandum as a platform to engage authorities on sensitive reforms, and ultimately inform Morocco’s reshaping of its development model. In other areas, such as the complex subsidy and pension reforms, the World Bank was willing to limit its role to providing just-in-time analytics when a more prominent role might have jeopardized reforms.  

A One World Bank approach to catalyze private sector growth

Realizing that limited competition stymied private-sector-led growth and hindered economic development, the Moroccan authorities set out to create a more robust business enabling environment.

The World Bank and IFC complemented each other in strengthening domestic organizations that promote fair competition. The Bank’s unwavering support to the Competition Council, empowered the institution to investigate antitrust cases and make sanctioning deci­sions. IFC built the central bank’s capacity in credit supervision, helped create two private credit bureaus, the first movable collateral registry, and alternative credit access mechanisms.

Tackling global challenges

In recent years, the World Bank helped Morocco address both the pandemic and its vulnerabilities to climate change by introducing new practices.

Capitalizing on years of policy dialogue, the World Bank became the government’s partner of choice to build the foundation of a modern social protection system, starting with creating a social registry. The Bank facilitated an effective South-South learning exchange to introduce cutting-edge biometric identification technology. When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted further reforms, the World Bank’s preparatory analytical work, continuous technical assistance, and investments in social protection systems became the backbone of the ongoing reform.

The World Bank played a key role in bringing new solutions across a range of sectors to help Morocco address climate change. For instance, the World Bank partnered with the Ministry of Interior to codevelop a financing and capacity-building mechanism, which enabled local authorities and civil society organizations to carry out disaster preparedness projects. The World Bank also used its convening power, partnership with other MDBs, and financing options to mitigate Morocco’s innovation risks as a regional first mover into Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).

 Learning and Adapting

The evaluation also identified several areas where the World Bank made little headway and adequate solutions are yet to be found. The group had limited success promoting public-private partnerships and struggled to translate the findings of its comprehensive diagnostics on youth employability and low female labor force participation into effective operations. There is plenty of scope for continued learning and adapting.

The Moroccan government had a clear opinion of the World Bank’s comparative advantage, citing its innovativeness, capacity to bring high-quality expertise across a range of topics, ability to frame solutions for cross-sectoral challenges, readily available analytics, and knowledge-brokering power that facilitates South-South learning. As the World Bank and its shareholders gather in Marrakech to determine how the World Bank can enhance its contribution to global development, especially in MICs, its engagement with Morocco offers many lessons on how to fulfil this promise.


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