Marrakech: Beyond the World Bank, IMF meeting rooms

The world recently gathered in Marrakech, Morocco for the annual World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings.

The meetings, which had been scheduled for 2020 were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and came 50 years after similar meetings were last hosted on the African continent, the 1973 meetings in Nairobi, Kenya.

Little wonder the organisers did not allow the devastating earthquake that affected Marrakech and some other parts Morocco in September to derail the hosting right as the organisers decided to go ahead with the meeting.

In a joint statement ahead of the meeting, the World Bank President, Ajay Banga, IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva; and Kingdom of Morocco Minister of Economy and Finance, Nadia Fettah Alaoui said the meetings will hold by “adapting the content to the circumstances”.

They said that since the Sept. 8 earthquake the World Bank and the IMF staff had worked in close coordination with the Moroccan authorities and a team of experts to thoroughly assess Marrakech’s capacity to host the Meetings.

“In undertaking this assessment, key considerations were that the meetings would not disrupt vital relief and reconstruction efforts, and that the safety of the participants can be assured.

“Based on a careful review of the findings, the Managements of the World Bank and IMF, with the Moroccan authorities, have agreed to proceed with holding the 2023 Annual Meetings in Marrakech.

“The meetings will be conducted in a way that does not hamper the relief efforts, and respects the victims and Moroccan people.

“At this very difficult time, we believe that the annual meetings also provide an opportunity for the international community to stand by Morocco and its people, who have once again shown resilience in the face of tragedy.

“We also remain committed to ensuring the safety of all participants,” they said.

Hosting of the meetings by Morocco apparently brought relief to Moroccans, especially residents of the beautiful city of Marrakech, many of who took advantage of the influx of visitors to make brisk business.

At the Marrakech Menara Airport, hundreds of residents came with vehicles to convey delegates to their destination at exorbitant fees.

As it turned, the city is also a huge tourism destination, with hordes of visiting tourists, mostly Asians and Europeans jostling for space with delegates for annual meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions.

Some home owners in the city also vacated their homes and rented them out to delegates and tourists, charging between 300 dollars to 3000 dollars for the one week duration of the meetings.

A taxi driver, Abubakar Awal, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that residents of Marrakech were happy WITH the presence of many participants from across the world for the meetings.

“Welcome to Marrakech. We are happy to have you all here. Morocco is a beautiful country and I am sure you will enjoy your stay,” he said.

Adil Imam, another resident of the city, said that the influx of people into the city was a huge relief from the recent tragic earthquake.

“We are happy that people are coming in here from all over the world. We will do everything to make you enjoy your stay here,” he said.

And they did. The city is beautiful, with working social amenities like electricity, potable water and a good road network, and warm, friendly citizens, always eager to engage visitors and show them around.

All houses are beautifully painted brown; every single house in Marrakech! And as Abubakar, said, the city is called “brown city”.

He said that other major Moroccan cities like Rabbat and Casablanca also have their different colour codes.

The roads are good and very busy, accommodating every moving vehicle, from exotic cars to motorcycles, bicycles and even carts that are pulled by horses.

Every conversation with a “Marrakechian” easily drifts towards the “gulugulu”, a local aphrodisiac, that they are all proud of.

As they say, “gulugulu makes homes happy. When you take gulugulu lock the door with your wife inside and throw away the keys.”

The multiplier effect of the meetings on the city, no doubt will linger for years in the minds of the locals.

Marrakech in Morocco is proof that Africans can make Africa work. It is worth visiting.

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