Update II – Portugal & Morocco. A return to Africa – pomegranates not potatoes.
My visit to Morocco was a welcome return to the African continent. But to North Africa whereas previously I mostly visited Eastern and South Africa. What surprised me most was how much of it was similar in context. Yes, the buildings looked different; there were lots of visits to Medinas and Souks. But the roadside businesses looked very similar to those I have seen elsewhere.
It particularly struck me as I travelled to Chefchouen – the Blue City. This was a very long drive of more than 5 hours from Fes. As we travelled through various agricultural zones I saw the same roadside businesses I see in Kenya, but instead of potatoes it was pomegranates.
In Fes we visited a tannery where they cure the leather. This was in the middle of the historical area. The smell was so bad they give you springs of mint to smell as you enter. This area has been industrial for a very long time – so you can imagine the legacy of this activity that has soaked into the surrounding environment. Certainly, I did not see where the waste water would go. It was also a sobering illustration of the challenges of the jobs of those working here – some who were spending lots of time standing in the drying pools. Each ‘circle’ was a pool contained dyes to soak leather to give it a particular colour.
We also visited a ceramics and mosaics producer. The tiles used across Morocco were spectacular – adorning the mosques, gates, water foundations, and houses. In the factory we saw how these pots, bowls, and other clay items were initially produced, fired and then adorned with the mosaics. But even here, in a fully registered business, those making the mosaics were paid on a piecemeal basis in a more informal manner. So this was again much like businesses I have seen at the interface of the formal/informal economy elsewhere.
The stop before Morocco was Portugal. We docked in Lisbon which was a lovely Port – right in the centre of the city. I had a fascinating visit to Sintra – a place dominated by castles that look like they came out of a fairy-tale.
From an informal economy perspective it was interesting to see the street traders selling fake bags on the main commercial strip. It was a good illustration for explaining the difference between the legitimate and illegitimate (criminal) informal economy.
Next stop –Spain.
Professor Diane Holt, Management Dept, Leeds University Business School. September 2022