Fatima-Zahra Mansouri and the Changing Face of Leadership in Morocco

Author | Mustapha Ezzarghani

Fatima-Zahra Mansouri is one of the seven women appointed to minister positions in the government of Aziz Akhannouch in 2021. Since the beginning of Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s reign in 1999, women have been intentionally elevated into political roles at local and national levels throughout the country as part of a larger strategic effort to modernize the Kingdom. Mansouri, now the Minister of National Territory Planning, Urbanism, Housing and Urban Policy, is one of the most prominent faces of this movement.

Mansouri, a lawyer by training, became the first female mayor of Marrakech in 2009 at age 33; at this time, she was only the second female mayor of any Moroccan city. A 2013 article in Time magazine details her “Western-style” campaign approach, opting to walk through neighborhoods and discuss issues face-to-face with people. Her time as mayor is defined by its focus on anti-corruption, which was in stark contrast to her predecessor, Omar Jazouli. Mansouri also worked to facilitate investment in and modernization of in the city’s infrastructure and tourist attractions, but in a strategic way. For example, she described prioritizing sports centers to provide youth with after school activities. This was a direct response to the youth involvement in the Arab Spring, as Mansouri hoped to provide them with activities to be involved in after classes. Mansouri lost her second bid for mayor in 2015, but won in 2021.

While serving as mayor, Mansouri was elected to a Parliamentary position in 2011. She was re-elected in both the 2016 and 2021 campaigns. Mansouri remained active in the Moroccan political party, the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM), throughout her time as mayor and in the Parliament. She became PAM’s National Council President in 2015, and was the first woman to hold this position.

Since being appointed Minister of National Territory Planning, Urbanism, Housing and Urban Policy, Mansouri has prioritized revamping the laws governing affordable housing in Morocco. She has closed numerous loopholes that allowed wealthy individuals to buy subsidized housing, further safeguarding those houses for people in need. She has proposed laws reducing the bureaucracy surrounding building houses.