Western sahara Major events

Sahara-Polisario: How Algerian diplomacy tries to hijack the agenda in Africa

Polisario-confidential - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 19:34
The failure of the Polisario leader to influence the UN Secretary General as to the challenge the separatist front is posing in the buffer strip of Guerguarat prompted Algerian officials to turn towards Africa and activate their diplomatic relays there. The first move was made at the meeting Monday of the African Union Peace and […]

Morocco Says Africa Able To Overcome Challenges Thanks To Vast Natural, Human Resources

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 01:41

Source: Xinhua

Morocco believes in Africa’s capacity to rise to the challenges facing it and to ensure sustainable human development for its peoples, thanks to its vast natural and human resources, King Mohammed VI said on Friday.

“Achieving the African renaissance we yearn for hinges, however, on how much belief we have in ourselves, how far we rely on our own capacities and potential, and how well we exploit them, within the framework of mutually-beneficial South-South cooperation and solidarity-based, strategic partnerships,” the king said in a message addressed to the participants in the 2017 edition of the Crans Montana Forum, which kicked off in the southern city of Dakhla.

“I am sure we can rise to these challenges,” he insisted, saying that Africa is governed today by a new generation of pragmatic leaders, uninhibited by outdated ideologies who are working with a high sense of patriotism and responsibility to achieve their countries’ stability, political openness, economic development and social progress.

The King said that South-South cooperation, which is based on the culture of sharing and solidarity, is “the mechanism that will enable our countries to exchange their expertise directly and immediately. It will help improve our field experience, make the most of our complementarities and expand our national markets.”

This cooperation “will also open up new opportunities for efficient and beneficial investment and achieve effective sustainable human development, while respecting each country’s national sovereignty, as well as the principles of mutual esteem and equality,” the Sovereign noted.

Crans Montana Forum is attended with the participation of more than 150 countries represented by high-level personalities.

Crans Montana Forum holds 3rd edition in Dakhla to the great displeasure of the Polisario

Sahara News - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 19:29
The Crans Montana Forum has kept its promise and opened on Friday its third edition in Dakhla in southern Morocco, despite the manoeuvers of the Polisario and Algerian leaders who failed in their attempt to prevent the holding of the Forum. More than a thousand participants, including heads of state, ministers, economic operators and NGOs […]

Morocco Trade Deficit Up 21.7 Pct Y/Y In Jan-Feb

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:27

by Samia Errazzouki

Morocco’s trade deficit rose 21.7 percent to 26.71 billion dirhams ($2.66 billion) year-on-year in January and February, the foreign exchange regulator said on Friday, citing increased imports.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Morocco’s Saham Assurance Reports 17 Pct Fall In 2016 Net Profit

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:19

by Samia Errazzouki

Morocco’s Saham Assurance on Friday reported a 17.2 percent fall in 2016 net profit to 282 million dirhams ($28.2 million), the insurance company said in a statement.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; writing by Aidan Lewis; editing by Jason Neely)

Will Smith: ‘Morocco Is The Truth!’

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 09:48

Middle East Monitor

“Morocco is the TRUTH!” Hollywood actor Will Smith wrote on Facebook after his recent trip to the North African country earlier this month.

In a post published on Wednesday, Smith said: “Special Shout Out to photographer Hassan Hajjaj and all my people in Marrakech. Morocco is the TRUTH!”

Images accompanying the comment showed a number of locals in traditional dress and Smith himself wearing a multi-coloured outfit and traditional Moroccan shoes. Unfortunately, he had the shoes on the wrong foot and instead of the Arabic writing reading “biladi”, my country in Arabic, the shoes read “di” “blah”.

Smith paid a visit to Morocco’s artists’ residence of Al Maqam, outside of Marrakech, where he appeared in a YouTube video dancing to the traditional rhythms of Gnawa in traditional dress.

Smith’s Morocco visit comes after a trip to Egypt where pictures emerged on local media showing excited fans taking selfies with the actor at Cairo’s International Airport.

Morocco’s King Replaces PM Benkirane Amid Post-Election Deadlock

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 17:17

By Samia Errazzouki

Moroccan King Mohammed VI is replacing Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and will ask another member of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) to form a government after five months of post-election deadlock, a statement from the royal cabinet said on Wednesday.

The king took the decision “in the absence of signs that suggest an imminent formation” of a government and due to “his concern about overcoming the current blockage” in political negotiations, the royal statement said. It did not say who he would name to replace Benkirane.

Benkirane had been reappointed after the PJD, which first came to power in 2011, increased its share of the vote in October elections, maintaining its position as the biggest party.

Under Morocco’s election law, no party can win an outright majority in the 395-seat parliament, making coalition governments a necessity in a system where the king still holds ultimate power.

But the PJD’s relations with a former coalition partner, the conservative Istiqlal party, soured over economic reforms, and talks over formation of a government with the centre-right National Rally of Independence (RNI) stalled.

Benkirane’s efforts have met with resistance from parties that critics say are too close to the palace. Royalist supporters have been reluctant to share power with Islamists since the king ceded some powers in 2011 to ease protests.

The palace says the king maintains the equal distance from all parties and dismisses claims of royal interference.

Concern has mounted about the impact of the political impasse on Morocco’s economy. This year’s budget, which should have been approved by parliament by the end of 2016, cannot be passed until a government is in place.

Speculation had been building that King Mohammed would attempt to break the political deadlock following his return on Tuesday from a tour of African states.

The palace statement said the king would receive the new prime minister soon, and would task him with forming a government.

The king thanked Benkirane for his service as prime minister, praising him for his “effectiveness, competence and self-sacrifice”.

A source in the PJD told Reuters the party will be meeting Thursday morning to discuss the king’s decision, which Benkirane said he accepted.

“This is our king and he came to a decision under the framework of the constitution, which I’ve always expressed support for,” he told Reuters.

“I’m going to perform ablution, pray, and continue working on the ground.”

(Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by James Dalgleish and Lisa Shumaker)

Moroccan Miner Managem Reports 41 Pct Jump In 2016 Net Profit

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 14:56

by Samia Errazzouki

Top Moroccan miner Managem reported a 41 percent rise in annual net profit to 289 million dirhams ($29 million) on Thursday helped by higher output and a rebound in metals prices.

Managem said significant discoveries had led to higher production, including a 32 percent rise in silver, 4 percent in cobalt, and 8 percent in zinc.

Increases in copper and silver production mitigated a decline in gold production in the Bakoudou mine in Gabon, it said.

Operating profit rose 9 percent to 673 million dirhams on consolidated sales up 1 percent at 4.377 billion dirhams.

Managem subsidiary Imiter Metallurgical Co (SMI), which operates in the Imider area, said its net profit rose 25 percent to 293 million dirhams.

The world’s seventh-biggest producer of silver, SMI said it saw a 32 percent increase in production in the second half of the year.

Managem said it would propose a dividend of 21 dirhams per share, while SMI said it would propose a dividend of 150 dirhams.

Managem produces gold, silver, cobalt and copper in Morocco and Gabon and is controlled by SNI, the Moroccan royal family’s holding company.

It recently signed a $100 million mining contract with Guinea which is projected to produce 100,000 ounces of gold a year.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; editing by Aidan Lewis and Jason Neely)

Morocco Looks For Prime Minister After King’s Surprise Move

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 06:54

News from The Associated Press

Negotiations are under way to find a new prime minister for Morocco following the king’s decision to oust the previous premier in a surprise intervention into the country’s politics.

The general secretariat of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development party met Thursday to decide its next moves after King Mohammed VI ordered Prime Minister-designate Abdelilah Benkirane to leave office. The king was frustrated with Benkirane’s five months of failed efforts to form a coalition government.

The PJD is expected to propose a new prime minister Saturday. Names that have surfaced include Saadeddine El Othmani, a former foreign minister, outgoing Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid and outgoing Transport Minister Abdelaziz Rebbah.

The deadlock was weighing on Morocco’s economy and reputation for political stability after years of upheaval in the Arab world.

North Africa’s Steadiest Country Is Quietly Unraveling

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 14:00



Losing money fast amid low energy prices and declining output, the Algerian government will work to trim its expenses.

Despite popular pressure to ease up on austerity measures, Algiers will have no choice but to continue implementing its much-needed reforms.

Algeria will look to foreign investors for help in overhauling its energy sector, making incremental progress toward liberalizing its economy in the process.


Since the Arab Spring swept across North Africa in 2011, Algeria has been an immovable anchor in a region struggling to find stability in the face of wave after wave of change. Many of Algeria’s Mediterranean neighbors, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, are still recovering from the cataclysmic upsets that political and economic reforms have brought over the past six years.

Morocco, meanwhile, has just reclaimed its seat in the African Union after a decades long absence, and it is working furiously to re-engage with its African neighbors while preserving its friendship with the West. Morocco’s quest to improve its standing on the African continent could soon pose a threat to its longtime rival, Algeria, if Algiers does not move quickly to match Rabat’s ambitions.

But unlike its neighbors, Algeria has kept a fairly steady course in the two decades since its bloody civil war ended. Despite serious and persistent health issues, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has held onto his seat in power. The country’s approaching parliamentary elections — the sixth since Algeria adopted a multiparty political system in 1989 — will do little to empower the legislature to mount a more effective challenge to the longtime leader and his entourage.

Even so, change is on the horizon for Algeria’s economy, despite the government’s reluctance to risk the unrest reforms would likely bring. The country’s economic growth and diversification have lagged in recent years, and in the face of persistently low oil prices and declining output, Algeria cannot afford to delay the overhaul of its lucrative but flagging energy sector any longer. And as it cautiously reshapes its economy, Algiers will gradually abandon its historical preference for isolation by courting foreign investors — a shift that could someday lead to a more open foreign policy as well.

Time (and Money) Is Running Out

Few North African economies can claim to be faring well at the moment, but Algeria’s financial problems are especially burdensome. The country depends on oil and natural gas for 94 percent of its total exports (most of which go to Europe) and 60 percent of its budgeted revenues. When oil prices plunged in 2014 before leveling out below $40 per barrel, Algiers was forced to drain its coffers to keep paying for its imports, pushing its budget deficit to a record high of 16.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2015. Of course, Algeria still holds a massive amount of oil wealth, boasting a higher GDP per capita than even its more diversified competitor, Morocco. But high levels of income inequality continue to plague the country.

Algeria’s foreign exchange reserves, moreover, are being rapidly depleted. Tucked away in the Revenue Regulation Fund, these reserves currently stand at just over $112 billion, down from $143 billion in 2015 and $177 billion in 2014. According to the International Monetary Fund, this figure will probably keep falling in the years ahead, dropping to $91 billion in 2017 and to $76 billion in 2018.

Keeping Up With the Times

Algeria’s spending decisions over the past few years matter less than the choices it makes next. Algiers will have to funnel some of its oil wealth into diversifying the economy, even as it keeps existing social spending programs and state industries afloat. (It will also maintain its defense spending, which the government is not eager to shrink amid its ongoing rivalry with Morocco.) Despite being Europe’s second-largest supplier of natural gas, behind only Russia, Algeria has had a tough time making ends meet as prices and demand in Europe have dropped. Declining output in Algeria’s own energy sector over the past decade has only made matters worse.

The government has dipped into its considerable reserves to pay the bills and prop up the Algerian dinar, with the unfortunate side effect of boosting inflation. In an effort to stanch the bleeding, Algiers recently slashed its spending by 14 percent, deepening the cutback of 9 percent outlined in last year’s budget. In 2017 alone, Algeria will try to reduce its imports by $5 billion, in keeping with the more than $10 billion in imports it has trimmed over the past two years. Though Algeria intends to remedy the situation in the long run by investing in growth beyond the oil sector, it has been slow to follow through with its plan.

Part of the problem is that restructuring the energy industry would threaten the patronage networks that have been built up around Algerian oil and natural gas giant Sonatrach. Since 2007, Algeria’s consumption of oil and natural gas has risen by more than 50 percent while its oil production has fallen by 25 percent. With less oil available for export, the government’s revenues have been hit hard — as have the payouts and perks that the ruling elite dole out through Sonatrach to keep their supporters satisfied. Leaders have moved hastily to invest in shale and enhanced recovery projects in an effort to counteract declining output in oil, but so far they have had little success in turning the energy sector around. All the while, Algiers’ fears of stoking unrest by revamping the country’s long-standing economic norms have grown.

An Unsustainable Status Quo

For the first time in decades, Algeria has turned to the international community for help. Algiers is eagerly seeking foreign investment into its agricultural industry to help offset its hefty import bills and spur development in what was once a significant sector for the country. And this is but one of many small steps the government is taking to bring in money from abroad. In 2013, for example, Algeria tried to stave off drops in hydrocarbon production by reforming its regulatory laws. Though the country’s infamous rule capping foreign ownership of any business operating in Algeria at 49 percent is still alive and well, calls to remove barriers to foreign investment are growing louder.

The country’s new constitution, which was updated early last year, also includes several clauses designed to open the Algerian economy to external funding. For example, the document explicitly prohibits the formation of new monopolies and directs lawmakers to “improve the business climate” of Algeria. Nevertheless, the decrees’ vagueness doesn’t inspire confidence in the government’s ability to see them through. After all, Algeria is known for bungling one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in the world, the East-West Highway, and ultimately tripling the expected cost of $6 billion with rampant graft. (The debacle has become even more embarrassing in light of Morocco’s success in championing its own public-private infrastructure project over the past decade.)

Algeria has had similar trouble keeping its economy up to date in the realm of Islamic finance, an increasingly favored option for diversifying financial sectors in the Muslim world. Like many other Muslim countries, Algeria is toying with the idea of issuing its first sukuk, or Islamic bond that pins its value to an asset without accruing interest. But the country lacks a legal framework to support Islamic finance, an area of growth that nearby Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia have recently and readily embraced. In fact, Algeria’s entire banking sector is woefully out of touch with modern banking standards, and its central bank has a reputation for being one of the most opaque institutions of its kind in the world. Hoping to skirt these issues while still attracting much-needed investment, Algerian officials have proposed a plan to issue interest-free bonds. This would bring in the immediate funding the government needs without labeling it an Islamic finance instrument.

Over the past two years, Algerian leaders have shown their willingness to implement unpopular reforms, especially those that target fuel subsidies and taxes. Algiers has already bumped up the national sales tax from 15 to 17 percent, sparking protests in several provinces. If the government deepens its resolve to double down on subsidy cuts and tax hikes, the demonstrations could certainly grow and spread. Though Algiers is trying to pare down its massive subsidy payments, which currently top $45 billion, at a reasonable pace, Algerian citizens are unhappy with the effect the cutbacks will have on their own pocketbooks and standards of living.

The government has encountered pushback from the ruling elite as well. As Algiers moves to modernize its energy sector — and, in doing so, disrupt the entrenched patronage networks within it — high-ranking officials have taken steps to ensure that the reforms do not impact their access to state wealth. But they are only delaying the inevitable. No matter who follows in the footsteps of Bouteflika, a president known for his aversion to reform and equated with national stability, the country cannot protect the status quo for much longer.

Sahara: Polisario appalled by its powerlessness to hinder holding of Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla

Polisario-confidential - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 12:00
A feeling of helplessness has overwhelmed the Polisario leaders because of their powerlessness to undermine the holding of the renowned Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla, a seaside city of Western Sahara in southern Morocco, as of March 16 through 21. Their failure is all the bitter as the Crans Montana Forum is being held for […]

Morocco’s King To Appoint Another PM From Islamist Ruling Party

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:30

Source: Xinhua

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI will appoint another Prime Minister from the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) after its leader Abdelilah Benkirane failed to form a new government, a statement from the king’s office announced.

In October, the king re-appointed Benkirane as a PM with the task to form a new government, but he has not been able to achieve this goal after five months.

Given his constitutional powers to ensure respect for the constitution, the proper functioning of institutions and the supreme interests of the homeland and citizens, the king decided to appoint as a new PM another member from PJD, the statement said.

The king took notice that the negotiations, which lasted for five months, has not resulted in the formation of a governmental majority and that there is a lack of any prospects suggesting its near formation, the statement noted.

Maya Gold & Silver Reports Monthly Silver Production And Update On Installation Of Flotation Cells At The Zgounder Silver Mine

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:19

Yahoo Finance
March 15

Maya Gold & Silver (“Maya” or the “Corporation”) (TSX VENTURE:MYA) is pleased to report the production of silver for the month of February 2017 as well as an update of the mining operations at its Zgounder Millenium Silver Mine.

Development highlights at the Zgounder Mine

During the month of February 2017, underground exploration and development consisted of 351 metres of percussion drilling in seven mine workings. Highlights of the work completed are:

Percussion drilling was carried out at the 2030 level on three separated drifts.

Panel 1 was extended in the western zone of level 2100. The mineralization lies at the contact of the dolerite dyke and Neoproterozoic metasediments and at the intersection of EW- and NS-oriented structures. The mineralization consists of disseminated sulphides (sphalerite, galena and pyrite) accompanied by trace amounts of native silver within fractures and quartz veinlets.

A percussion drilling program is set to confirm the extension of the mineralization.

Other percussion drill holes have confirmed the presence of silver mineralization at the 2006 level.

Installation of the Flotation Cell Units

Maya was informed by the supplier, of the completion of the Flotation Cell Units during the months of January and February. The engineering and technical representatives of Maya inspected the cells and gave their approval of the completed work. The basic engineering and infrastructures related to the installation of the cell units at the Zgounder mine are completed and ready.

The Flotation Cell Units were packed into shipping containers and the equipment is currently being transported to the Zgounder Millenium Silver Mining site located in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of central Morocco. Management expects the equipment to arrive on site during the month of April, anticipates the Flotation Cells will be assembled, undergo testing, design basis and optimization during the year, and be commissioned before year end. The Management expects the Flotation Cell Units, once integrated to the processing circuit will increase the tonnage of the ore processed from 187 t/day to up to 500 t/day.

Qualified Persons

The technical content of this news release has been provided by Zgounder Millenium Silver Mining and has been reviewed and approved by Michel Boily, PhD, geo from GÉON; an independent Qualified Person under NI 43-101 standards.


Maya Gold & Silver Inc. is a Canadian publicly listed mining corporation focused on the exploration and development of gold and silver deposits in Morocco. Maya is initiating mining and milling operations at its Zgounder Mine owned by Zgounder Millenium Silver Mining (“ZMSM”), a Maya 85% owned joint venture with l’Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (“ONHYM”) of the Kingdom of Morocco (15%).

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Forward-looking statements

This news release contains statements about our future business and planned activities. These are “forward-looking” because we have used what we know and expect today to make a statement about the future. Forward-looking statements including but are not limited to comments regarding the timing and content of upcoming work and analyses. Forward-looking statements usually include words such as may, intend, plan, expect, anticipate, and believe or other similar words. We believe the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable. However, actual events and results could be substantially different because of the risks and uncertainties associated with our business or events that happen after the date of this news release. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. As a general policy, we do not update forward-looking statements except as required by securities laws and regulations.

A Surfer Wants To Know: How Do You Say ‘Hang 10’ In Arabic?

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:20

Brian E. Clark

When Bruce Brown was shooting his iconic surfing film “The Endless Summer” in 1963, he hopped around the globe. He never made it to Morocco on the northwest corner of Africa, though he did get to Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa.

Brown skipped Morocco a second time when he made “The Endless Summer II,” released in 1994.

Big mistakes. What Brown missed was a 1,000-mile coastline that hugs the Moroccan desert, with waves that form beside rocky points or off the beach and are only now being discovered by Yanks.

I first visited Morocco in the 1970s when I went to visit my older brother who was teaching English in the Peace Corps. I returned in the winter 15 years later to climb a nearly 14,000-foot peak called Toubkal outside Marrakech with photographer Mark Lorenzen— and then ski down it.

But I knew nothing of the kingdom’s burgeoning (at least among Moroccans, Europeans, Aussies and Brazilians) surf scene until I read about Jerome Sahyoun, a Moroccan who is one of the world’s top big-wave surfers.

It made this former San Diegan ponder returning to North Africa to check out a coast that looks a lot like stretches of Baja California and ride the waves that roll across the Atlantic to break on its shores.

The deal was sealed after I spoke with Nigel Cross, an Australian who operates Moroccan Surf Adventures on Taghazout Bay, Morocco, one of the top surfing spots in Africa.

Cross, who is in his 40s, came to Morocco as a toddler in the 1970s with his surfer parents who were, he says, “following the sun.”

On a misty October morning I found myself carrying a longboard down to the water at Devil’s Rock Beach, north of the coastal city of Agadir, for a refresher lesson with a dozen would-be surfers from Britain, France, Ireland and Brazil.

There was one other American in our pod, a young businesswoman from San Francisco. She was the only other Yank I met during my five days at Cross’ surfing school.

It wasn’t crowded, but there were other surfers out in the lineup and on the beach, including a group of Moroccan boys in wetsuits who were doing jumping jacks and turning cartwheels on the sand.

Brightly painted blue fishing boats, including one with a pair of cats lounging in it, were lined up above the high-tide line. Still higher was what can only be described as surf shacks.

Tamraght, the village where I was staying, was about half a mile inland from Devil’s Rock Beach and had a pair of mosques with minarets poking into the blue sky.

Behind them, arid hills rolled off to the east. Less than a mile north of Tamraght is the town of Taghazout, Morroco’s version of Santa Cruz.

Not far from the shore, a handful of surfers was lining up to hop on waves rolling in off the right-hand side of the jagged point that is Devil’s Rock.

Brahim LeFrere, one of the three instructors for our group, had us doing pop-ups on the beach before we hit the water for what would be four-plus days of instruction. We roamed up and down the coast, seeking the best conditions. At several spots, camels moved casually along the sand, reminding us that we were indeed in North Africa.

When the day’s classes and time for free surfing were over, we returned to the Moroccan Surf Adventures hostel, where the chef served us a delicious Berber tagine, a stew prepared in an earthenware pot that was brimming with onions, carrots, squash, spices and chicken and served on a bed of couscous.

Advanced surfers who were staying at the lodge hired guides and headed for more serious breaks that have gnarly reputations in Morocco and Europe, such as Dracula’s, Hash Point, Killer Point and Anchor Point, where waves sometimes break for more than a quarter mile.

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Meryem el Gardoum and watching her ride the waves. This 19-year-old Muslim woman is a native of Tamraght and the country’s top female surfer.

She learned from her older brothers, and her parents encouraged her to compete. Now she’s a part-time instructor when she’s not in school.

Anchor Point is her favorite break, she told me, because of its consistent tubes and long rides.

“I feel so free when I am out there,” she said during a chat at Devil’s Rock. “I think it’s the same [for surfers] all over the world. I’m just lucky that I grew up here and had the support of my family.

“Not all girls my age are so fortunate.”

If you go


From LAX, Air France, British, United and Air New Zealand offer connecting servIce (change of planes) to Rabat. Restricted round-trip airfares from $1,355, including taxes and fees.

ices from LAX to Agadir via Europe starting in September begin at around $1,100 from a number of airlines.

Moroccan Surf Adventures in Tamraght, Morocco. Weeklong lodging, food and instruction packages start at $708 and include transfers from the Agadir airport, morning yoga classes and a Moroccan cooking class. Rates for surfers who don’t need instruction, but would like to hire a guide are less. Other surf schools are based in Taghazout.

What you should know

The best time to surf off Morocco is from October through April. Morocco is a relatively liberal Muslim country. I saw skimpy bathing suits on the beaches, though most surfers were wearing wetsuits because the water was a little chilly. Nigel Cross of Moroccan Surf Adventures said both men and women are welcome to wear shorts and T-shirts but he also said it’s advisable to cover up arms and legs when visiting public places other than the beach.


A New Global Hub For Social Impact Startups

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 09:51

US News & Word Report
By Ben Hamadi Zouhour

Some of these entrepreneurs are creating transport and health projects with the aim of compensating for insufficient government investment.

Entrepreneurs, Amr Sobhy, (L), CEO of Pushbots, and Kareem El-Shaffei, (R), CEO of Cirqy, talk about design in the office space at Flat6Labs in Cairo, Egypt. (Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images)
By Ben Hamadi Zouhour

Refrigerators in the Moroccan desert; a bracelet to prevent heart attacks in Tunisia; a source funding system for charities in Egypt. Mission-driven startups are blossoming in these three North African countries, which are now at the forefront of social entrepreneurship.

Morocco now boasts more than 250 startups. With around 100 seed-stage startups, Tunisia is ranked seventh in the world as the best place to launch start-ups by SeedStars World. Egypt broke records with the creation of thousands of startups in 2012 and 2013, according to the Egyptian bureau of statistics.

How can we explain the meteoric rise of social-oriented startups in countries where economic indicators remain weak?

[READ: These Are the Best Countries for Entrepreneurship]

According to the data company Mattermark, while for several years North African startups mainly flourished in sectors like e-marketing and online dating, since 2012, they have begun appearing in areas such as banking, health, lending, currencies and e-commerce.

New businesses and collaborative economics

This trend towards collaborative economics makes sense in emerging markets where the startup business is a little under 10 years old.

Since these countries began to attract the interest of foreign investors, several generic accelerator programs have popped up, such as Flat6labs in Tunisia, and Innov Invest and Numa in Morocco.

Foreign backing helps finance such businesses, which are seen as unstable and insecure, and consequently receive little or no funding from traditional local banks which bridle at the prospect of a slow return on investment. It should be noted that these countries have retained a European-style investment model mainly based around banking institutions. For young entrepreneurs, foreign backing may be the only available funding source.

[RELATED: Morocco’s Film Industry Gets Mixed Reviews ]

Besides the “investment gap” left by the banking sector in countries that refuse to finance startups, foreign investors have also noticed the significant opportunities for positive social impact.

According to the Tunisian National Institute of Statistics (NIS) and the Moroccan National Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics, these companies are made up of people whose mean age ranges from 25 to 32. Young people, especially qualified young people, are terrified by rampant unemployment rates in the region. According to the NIS, there were 267,700 out-of-work graduates in Tunisia in the third quarter of 2016, amounting to 31.9 percent of the total number of unemployed people.

These young unemployed people are for the most part talented, ambitious, unfazed by change and interested in new technologies – skills sets that represent real value for investors speculating on the new economy.

While the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions were not necessarily responsible for the rise of these startups, they helped drive their proliferation. The new generation has realized that it can play by a new set of rules. The Arab Spring freed up young people and taught them that change is not impossible and they are capable of controlling their own destinies.

An emphasis on social projects

My research on startups and young entrepreneurs has revealed one striking common attribute: whether Tunisian, Moroccan or Egyptian, they are overwhelmingly socially oriented. Knowing their countries’ economic difficulties, they are driven to fight unemployment, not just by launching their own businesses, but also by improving the lives of their fellow citizens.

[MORE: Thailand Is the Best Country to Start a Business]

A great number of these startuppers are creating transport and health projects with the aim of compensating for insufficient government investment.

For example, Tunisian startup BeThree, the brainchild of three students from the Esprit engineering school, has succeeded in developing a smart bracelet that detects abrupt changes in cardiac rhythm and arterial blood pressure in order to prevent heart attacks.

A few months ago, this startup was in talks with Wonka Lab, a Los Angeles-based startup accelerator. “Wonka Lab offered to help us develop our product for the American market,” one of the entrepreneurs told French newspaper Le Monde.

Casablanca startup Carmine facilitates car sharing, a solution for young professionals who cannot afford to buy their own vehicle. As it is still in operation, with an increasing number of available stations, the business is thinking about expanding its mission to include other Moroccan cities.

[RELATED: Cuba’s Startup Path to Entrepreneurship]

There are also startups in the crowd-sourcing sector, such as Egyptian company “Bassita” (“simple” in Arabic), which found an innovative way to raise money to provide access to clean drinking water for more than a thousand households. In 2014, this same model was used to raise the funds needed to buy a thousand pairs of glasses for embroiderers in one of the poorest regions; in 2015, it allowed thirty children who had never seen the ocean to spend a day by the Red Sea.

Moroccan startup Safa, also created by students, at the Mohammadia engineering school, developed a clay-and-wood water filter. They decided to employ housewives to build the filters and gave them a share in the profits.

Regardless of country or industry, today’s startups are vulnerable because of their heavy dependence on private investment during the seed phase, which can discourage backers.

Startups will have a significant role to play in the economic future of these countries. They now have to attract the attention of policy makers in order to obtain better regulatory and fiscal conditions for their development.

Translated from the French by Alice Heathwood for Fast for Word.

This article was written by Ben Hamadi Zouhour, Enseignant chercheur en finance comptabilité contrôle de gestion, École de Management de Normandie, for The Conversation on March 13, 2017.

CMA CGM Launches A New Direct And Faster Service Without Any Stopover Between Morocco And Russia

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:12

Liner Shipping

Ideal for Moroccan fruit and vegetable exports.

CMA CGM launches the newly enhanced service AGAX, which will allow the delivery of fruits and vegetables from Morocco to Russia in only 8 days without any stopover.

CMA CGM, and its subsidiaries OPDR and Comanav, now offer a weekly direct link between Morocco and Russia without any stopovers, providing perfect conditions for the shipment of fruits and vegetables. CMA CGM thus provides the fastest transit times on the market by linking Agadir and Saint Petersburg.

Southbound, the ports of Hamburg and Rotterdam still act as important hubs and offer various transshipment and intermodal opportunities.

Beside its NEW AGAX service, CMA CGM Group maintains a strong position on the Morocco-Northern Europe/Russia trade with two other weekly lines: DUNKRUS and CISS.

From March 16th, the following rotation will be operated in partnership with SEAGO with 3 x 868 TEU vessels (two being operated by CMA CGM and one by SEAGO): Casablanca – Agadir – St. Petersburg – Hamburg – Rotterdam – Casablanca.

Separately, CMA CGM is changing its DUNKRUS line to include a call in Rouen. The port was previously served by the AGAX line.

Morocco Tries 25 Over Western Sahara Killings

Western Sahara Worldnews - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:32

The New Arab

The 25 accused were handed sentences ranging from 20 years to life in 2013 [AFP]

Retrial of Sahrawis accused of killing Moroccan security forces resumes three years after the accused were handed hefty sentences in a trial described as ‘unfair’.

A Moroccan court on Monday resumed the trial of of 25 Sahrawis accused of killing 13 people, mostly security forces, in the contested Western Sahara’s Gdeim Izik camp in November 2010.

The killings are alleged to have occurred as Moroccan security forces cleared the camp near the city of Laayoune after a riot had broken out.

Outside the court of appeal in Sale, near the capital Rabat, supporters of the defendants and victims exchanged slogans, separated by a line of police.

“No to impunity for killers!” shouted dozens of victims’ relatives, waving Moroccan flags and pictures of soldiers killed.

“Freedom for political prisoners!” shouted a crowd of Sahrawi activists.

Inside the courtroom, a giant screen broadcasting of the hearing played for the security forces, lawyers, victims’ relatives and reporters present.

A military court sentenced all of the defendants in 2013 to a range of punishments, ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.

International observers and NGOs, however, slammed the trial as “unfair,” causing the court of cassation in July to order a new trial in a civilian court.

On Monday, defence lawyers expressed their lack of faith in the new trial.

The trial “is taking place in very unfair conditions, but we remain at the defendants’ side”, they said.

Ahmed Atertour, president of an association for families and friends of the victims, said he had “confidence in Moroccan justice to commemorate the memory of our… martyrs”.

Morocco says Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony under its control, is an integral part of the kingdom.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front, meanwhile, demands a referendum on self-determination for the territory.

Situation in Tindouf Camps Becoming Explosive

Sahara News - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 19:54
Dozens of unruly Sahrawis staged a new protest march in the Tindouf camps, defying the military siege imposed on them by the Polisario and the Algerian army. The armed militia sent to the scene of the protest were unable to disperse the demonstrators, who threw stones at them, as shown by the images taken at […]

An Inside Look Into Africa’s First Eco-city: Zenata, Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 09:41

Inside Development Produced In Partnership: Smart Cities
By Christin Roby

CASABLANCA, Morocco — A short distance outside Casablanca, the bustling city turns into open fields, grazing animals and remnants of an industrial site.

Kids run between tall, white apartment buildings where clothes hang from the windows, as adults walk to Friday prayer service at the pink and blue mosque that serves as the neighborhood focal point.

Not far away, construction workers lay gray bricks as a new residential area takes shape.

Welcome to the beginnings of Zenata Eco-City, an innovative urban development project in Morocco that aims to present a possible solution to African urbanization issues and also to the broader international community, as many nations across the globe attempt to respond to growing urban populations. Developing new cities in African countries could pose a high rewarding potential where urban populations are expected to increase by 15 percent by 2030, according to the World Bank.

Zenata is a locally designed and managed city created on the basis of three fundamental sustainable development pillars: environmental, social and economic. Within this framework, designers put a focus on air quality, sewage, transport, and most importantly, job creation. Leaders at the Zenata Development Company — known by its French name Société d’Aménagement Zenata, or SAZ — say their systemic approach is unique in building a sustainable, environmentally friendly and well-connected city all the way from conception to realization.

What also makes Zenata distinct, its creators and backers say, is an ecologically responsible design that maximizes use of natural resources at a city scale. Thirty percent of the city’s first development phase has been set aside as green space, with a central park to promote biodiversity. Wind directions have been modelled to allow natural cooling from the Atlantic Ocean, which borders the community. A mixed sewage collection system that redirects rainwater toward retention ponds contributes to the development of the naturally green landscape.

Zenata is one of many planned cities sprouting up in Morocco, thanks to a national agenda introduced by King Mohammed VI, which includes major institutional reform and an expansive development plan. Since 2009, strategic plans, environmental impact assessments and technical feasibility studies shaped the project until 2012, when the first phase of the commercial center began and land plots for hotels, services and facilities were sold.

SAZ focused strictly on what concerned the project locally, Mohamed Naciri, SAZ business development director, told Devex, and from there developed a framework that answered exactly the needs of their project. “We benchmarked and we looked at all the international standards but we realized they were not fit to us, they did not fit the environment and local issues,” said Naciri.

Although Zenata is a 30-40 year project, SAZ has already moved from conception to realization. For the first development zone — an area of 2,000 acres (800 hectares) — the major sewage system is complete. The first interchange and major roads provide access to the area and the first phase of the retail center is open, with an IKEA store welcoming customers daily.

Zenata expects to be a family and leisure destination. “We hope to have 15 to 18 million visitors per year that will spend at least half a day, up to a weekend with us,” Naciri said.

Alongside visitors, Zenata has an ambition to attract up to 300,000 residents via their economic model, which includes the construction of an integrated health care and biomedical center, an international university campus, and Morocco’s largest shopping center. These facilities are expected to create 100,000 jobs. An industrial zone will provide manufacturing jobs, while the shopping center will offer retail opportunities. Zenata will feature more than 20,000 meters of walking lanes, as well as internal trams, buses and taxis.

Building a city is not easy, Naciri told Devex. Urbanization can have positive or negative impacts on societies. In some cases, urbanization leads to economic growth, a greater exchange of ideas/talents and poverty reduction. Urban living is also usually associated with a higher standard of living. But at times, it can stymie progress and cause further inequality, housing shortages and social impacts surrounding lack of opportunities for the entire population. The development team at Zenata has tried to minimize the negative impact by intertwining solutions to these problems into their master urban plan.

The most complex part, Naciri said, was working with the vast numbers of partners at the state, national and international levels. Swiss experts helped develop the internal traffic plan. European funders invested and private local companies made plans for relocation and installation. “It’s what we call in French ‘la gouvernance’ and it’s the overall management of all parties and it’s not an easy issue, but it’s essential to work with everyone at the same time, so you face it head on,” he said.

Zenata also focused on the social inclusion of people who resided in the area prior to development. The land was inhabited by roughly 40,000 people living in slums. As preparations began for phase one, local inhabitants were relocated to temporary housing in apartments nearby, and as part of the urban master plan, Zenata has designated a portion of land for residents to rebuild. Zenata Marketing Project Officer Sakina Agoumi said job creation and attracting businesses to Zenata was a major part of the development plan.

Agoumi told Devex they considered the local populations in their plans, including in building additional schools and mosques. However, in the future, she expects Moroccans to relocate to Zenata based on the economic opportunities it offers and its proximity to the nearby major cities of Casablanca and Rabat.

This ambitious undertaking was made possible, in part, by the financial support of the European Investment Bank and the Agence Française de Développement, who have financed the first development zone each with 150 million euros.

“As long as the project, in fact, actually follows the plan of modern services which will make it possible to maintain the social equilibrium and to promote social skills through job creation, this project will strengthen the country,” said AFD Morocco President Eric Baulard.

In October 2015, Zenata Eco-City was acknowledged as a model project and awarded an exclusive Eco-City Label by French international HQE certification agency, Cerway, which applauded the project’s ability to minimize its environmental impact throughout its entire lifecycle. The eco-city label now serves as a performance assessment model for comparable urban projects in a similar contexts, nationally and internationally, alike.

According to Naciri, receiving an HQE label, the equivalent to LEED or green building standards, illustrates the feasibility of such large-scale development projects in Africa.

“The fact that Zenata received the recognition of an international significator about the work being done for the first time in the development of a sustainable city, in Morocco, in Africa, is an innovation on it’s own,” Naciri told Devex. “That’s what’s exotic about Zenata, it will show the way for urban projects that are similar to ours in emerging countries, and especially Africa.”

Editor’s note: The Agence Française de Développement facilitated Devex’s travel and logistics for this reporting. However, Devex maintains full editorial control of the content.

Over six weeks, Devex — along with our partners Agence Française de Développement, BearingPoint, UN-Habitat, and XII Metropolis World Congress — will explore what it takes to build a successful smart city, how climate resilient and environmentally friendly infrastructure and technologies are being implemented, and how actors in the global development community are working together toward common goals and engaging local communities in an inclusive way. Join us as we examine what it takes to create our smart cities of the future by tagging #SmartCities and @Devex.

About the author

Christin Roby
Christin Roby is a West Africa correspondent for Devex based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where she covers global development trends, health, technology and policy-related topics. Before relocating to West Africa, Christin spent several years working in local newsrooms, and earned an MSJ in videography and global affairs reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Her informed insight into the region stems from her diverse coverage of more than a dozen African nations

World Bank Approves $150m For Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 08:14

Arab News

Female farm labourers pick strawberries in the Kenitra province country side of Morocco as the world marks the International Women’s Day, in this March 8, 2017 photo. (AFP)

RABAT: The World Bank (WB) says it has approved $150 million in financing to support small enterprises in Morocco and improve social programs in the North African country.

The funds, approved on Friday, will help the government “modernize its national identification system and provide financing to promote innovative startups and job creation,” a statement said.

According to the WB, almost 5.3 million Moroccans “live under the threat of falling back into poverty due to their socioeconomic conditions.”

Friday’s statement said that $100 million will “aim to develop systems to ensure that social programs are better targeted and reach the most vulnerable Moroccans.”

The remaining $50 million “will help address a market gap in the supply of equity financing for innovative young small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” it said.