In Morocco, sport to “liberate the energy of youth” and escape unemployment

In the old medina of Casablanca, the classrooms of the Abdelwahed El-Marrakchi primary school no longer accommodate children and the playground has given way to basketball, football and handball fields

In Morocco, sport to “liberate the energy of youth” and escape unemployment

In the old medina of Casablanca, the classrooms of the Abdelwahed El-Marrakchi primary school no longer accommodate children and the playground has given way to basketball, football and handball fields. Converted into a “second chance establishment”, the place, hidden behind a blue gate, at the end of a dead end, welcomes young people looking for a professional future in sport. Some are athletes in transition, some want to change their lives, others dream of working in the sports industry. The majority are unemployed and not in education or training.

Made available by the Ministry of Education, the place is managed by Tibu, a Moroccan NGO which set up, in 2019, a training program for sports professions. In four years, more than 2,500 beneficiaries have become coaches, educators or entrepreneurs.

This Friday, Ikhlas Zamzoum, 26, a new employee of Tibu, is in charge of the presentations. Nine times Moroccan taekwondo champion, the young woman says she always dreamed of working in football, “but in Fez, where I was born, there was no infrastructure”. Ikhlas thus abandoned martial arts for football and followed a year's training with the NGO, at the end of which she became a coach.

In partnership with the Dutch Football Federation, it trains future female coaches, aged 18 to 30, in around ten cities in Morocco. “Some are top athletes, but being a champion is not a criterion. Above all, you must be passionate and respect values: responsibility and the desire to learn and pass on. »

“Create paths to success”

Like Ikhlas, Ghita Chafik, 23, is a martial arts specialist. But this former Moroccan and African jujitsu champion chose entrepreneurship rather than employment through an organization. In 2020, she created a “jujitsu education academy” for 6-9 year olds in a school near Casablanca. More recently, she launched a “dojo” in a school in her childhood neighborhood, Sbata, a district of the metropolis that she describes as “vulnerable”.

“We promote gender equality and the emancipation of girls. Children have access to it three times a week, free of charge. We also raise their awareness so that they know that sport can offer them a professional future if they wish,” she explains. With his association, which today employs four people, Ghita now plans to open a second academy in Casablanca.

Boys also parade in the Tibu premises. Oussama Bouizgma, 23, is from Taroudant. Trained by the NGO, he explains having learned “to write a CV, to prepare for an interview, to master IT tools and digital marketing”. He has been working for a year in a fitness club in Casablanca. Basketball player whose career was cut short by injury, Saif Eddine Daoudi, 28, directs Tibu's socio-economic inclusion programs. “Our role is to create paths to success for young people,” he says, while the integration rate of beneficiaries stands, he says, at 85%.

In a country where the unemployment rate reached 13.5% in the third quarter – unheard of since the 1990s – the professional integration of young people is a headache for successive governments. According to the High Commission for Planning, nearly 50% of 15-24 year olds in urban areas are unemployed. The question then arises of the opportunities that sport can offer to hundreds of thousands of young people?

The possibilities are certainly limited – the Moroccan Federation of Sports Professionals estimates the number of public and private jobs in the ecosystem at less than 30,000 – but entrepreneurship is a leitmotif of political speeches and the sports economy a reality of more and more concrete. Morocco will host the African Cup of Nations (CAN) in 2025, then the Football World Cup alongside Spain and Portugal in 2030.

“Growth source”

Enough to create a breath of fresh air in an industry which still only represents 0.5% of GDP, according to the Economic, Social and Environmental Council. In 2022, the institution described sport as “a source of growth”, but noted “fragilities and dysfunctions which hinder its transformation into a vector for the creation of wealth and jobs”. Among the weaknesses identified: the insufficient number of licensees, less than 1% of the population, and an activity essentially managed by associations, whose resources come mainly from subsidies.

It is therefore “systemic change” that the founder of Tibu is calling for. “With a ball, a field and the support of a man or woman, we can radically change the life of a young person,” confides Mohamed Amine Zariat, 32, whose NGO, which started in 2011, employs around a hundred employees and offers training throughout Morocco.

In addition to its inclusion program, Tibu also targets specific populations: teenage mothers, migrants and refugees, minor prisoners, populations in rural areas, etc. In 2022, around 250,000 people were supported by the NGO, whose model economic – a mix between income from paid activities and the contribution of donors – was cited as an example by the Special Commission on the Development Model, a body set up in 2019 to promote more inclusive growth.

Former player of the Moroccan basketball team, Mohamed Amine Zariat, who defines himself as a “social entrepreneur”, repeats wanting to “bring sport closer to neighborhoods and schools” and is now aiming for development in Africa. An inclusion center is being planned in a disadvantaged neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Next will come Senegal, Madagascar and Tunisia. With, as in Morocco, the objective of transmitting “the skills that sport offers to release the energy of African youth”.