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Morocco businesses hit by online boycott campaign

Moroccans come together during a demonstration demanding the fulfillment of government's projects on regional development in Jerada, Morocco on 16 March 2018 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

A boycott organised by activists on social media protesting economic grievances has started to bite some of Morocco’s biggest corporations, the Financial Times has reported.

The boycott, now in its second month, has targeted sectors dominated by oligopolies or businesses that have close ties to the royal family and the elite. As austerity measures add to financial pressures for families, many have united on social media and directed their protests at companies charging high prices.

“Moroccans are very angry and this is a peaceful way of expressing it,” said Omar Hyani, city councillor in Rabat and member of the Democratic Left Federation, an opposition party. “I think the mindset of boycotts will now become more common in the country. There are oligopolies controlling sectors of the economy and there is a big problem with the authority regulating competition which has stopped functioning.”

Centrale Danone, a subsidiary of French group Danone, issued a profit warning this week, announcing that its sales had plummeted by half after it became a target of the campaign. The company will be reducing milk purchases from farmers by a third and laying off workers on short-term contracts.

Read: Morocco revenues from Algeria gas up 52%

Afriqui petrol stations owned by the Akwa group of Aziz Akhannouch, Morocco’s richest man, is another company being boycotted by activists. Akhannouch serves as agricultural minister, heads a political party and is one of the strongest supporters of the royal family in politics. Sidi Ali, a bottled water company is a third victim of the campaign, and is headed by a prominent business family.

Morocco has been undergoing economic reforms as part of agreements with international financial institutions for several years. Whilst the changes have been met with praise in the global arena, widespread poverty and inequality in rural areas remain.

This is not just about anger, there is rage towards an establishment in Morocco which has behaved in a selfish way. It is incredibly rich, incredibly arrogant and disconnected from the rest of the country

Karim Tazi, a businessman who supported protests calling for political reforms in 2011, told reporters.

Prior to the online campaign, daily protests were held in the northern Rif region last year over poor social development and high food prices. The demonstrations were met by a government crackdown which saw the arrest of hundreds of people.

Protests against economic conditions have taken place across the region in recent months. This week, Jordan’s prime minister was forced to step down after days of demonstrations over cuts to subsidies. Last month, Egyptian authorities arrested dozens who protested over an increase in the metro fare and earlier this year in Tunisia tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets this year to demand an end to austerity measures.

Read: Jordan to push IMF to slow reforms after protests

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