Mouhcine Fikri and the Bitter Taste of the Dignity Revolution

North Africa is mourning today the loss of its beloved Mouhcine Fikri, a fisherman crushed to death in a garbage truck — an incident that linked itself naturally to the death of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia back in 2011.

The Arab Spring in Tunisia started in Sidi Bouzid, a southern city with a local economy based on agriculture, where Mohammed Bouazizi, a young street vendor of agricultural goods burnt himself to death out of protest of the inequalities he was enduring, the act have since become a catalyst of the Tunisian Revolution known as ثورة†الكرامة†(The Revolution of Dignity). Although Mouhcine Fikri didn’t kill himself, this wholesale fish vendor was in possession of almost 500 kilograms of swordfish, a prohibited species for fishing at this time of year, which has led the authorities to confiscate and destroy the merchandise. According to a statement released on Sunday, October 30th by the local branch of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) in Al Hoceima, the incident occurred at 10pm near the district court of the city.

“The authorities have brought a dump truck and ordered the destruction of the goods, Mouhcine Fikri did not bear to witness its revenue stream being destroyed before his eyes, and threatened to commit suicide if the seizure was destroyed”.

North Africa has experienced many cases of vendors burning themselves to death out of protest of inequalities (called Hogra locally), the fear of losing their source of income and finding themselves unemployed in countries in the incapacity to provide them with one has led them to react in this irreversible way. The region in general is experiencing a high rate of youth unemployment, this policy issue has raised major economic and demographic concerns, which encourages, in countries like Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia the expansion of informal activities (called the Black Market).

Unemployment in North Africa occurs because of the rise of population beyond the economy’s capacity of creating jobs. There are insufficient decent-jobs available in the private and foreign investment sectors in labour-intensive areas. The inadequate supply of skills by educational systems is also a major hindrance to youth accessing the labour market. In the short term, the lack of access to the labour market has driven up poverty and inequality, despite a significant rollout of social services. Besides the risk of political unrest, the worst effect is the loss of human capital associated with the under-utilisation of human resources. As the lack of access to income is the main driver of poverty, we are now witnessing a sharp increase in inequality.

The heavy role of the state has led the area to suffer from an underdeveloped capital and financial market, low rate of return on human capital, and a weak national transportation system that is preventing an efficient labour mobility.

How can we escape it?

From a governmental perspective, significant effort needs to be invested in giving youth an opportunity to fully participate in the country’s economy and welfare. These efforts include: policies for the enhancement of economic growth, development and implementation of youth entrepreneurship programmes, and innovative labour policies with the restructuring of the education system. From an industrial perspective, businesses and social enterprises specifically, should help the educational system to adjust the curricula to the constantly changing economy.

Written by Nawal Allal

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