Western sahara Major events
by Samia Errazzouki
The king of Morocco expressed his condolences to Spain on Friday over the deadly attack in Barcelona, over which three Moroccans have been arrested.
King Mohammed VI also condemned what he called an “odious criminal act, contrary to all human values and religious precepts”.
“His Majesty the King expresses to King Felipe VI, and through him, to all the families of victims and to the Spanish people, his sincere condolences and solidarity and compassion,” said a statement carried by state news agency MAP.
Thirteen people were killed and scores more wounded on Thursday when a van ploughed into crowds on a central boulevard in the Spanish coastal city.
Spanish police say they have arrested four people in connection with the attacks, three of them Moroccan and one from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Morocco’s northern coast.
Moroccan authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Three Moroccan nationals were among those injured during the attack and were being treated in a Barcelona hospital, according to MAP. (Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Angus MacSwan)
Business Insider UK
Lucy Pasha-Robinson, The Independent
In this photo provided by the Moroccan Royal Palace Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, King Mohammed VI, center, is flanked by the Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, left, during a courtesy visit to Saudi King Salman in his residence in Tangier, northern Morocco. Moroccan Royal Palace via AP.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman reportedly spent $100m (£77m) on his annual summer holiday to Morocco.
The royal was greeted by Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani at Tangier airport in July as he made his way to his 74-acre purpose-built summer palace, according to local media.
King Salman arrived for his annual break with an entourage of over 1,000 people, according to the Haaretz newspaper. Ministers, advisers and relatives were booked in to the city’s most luxurious hotels.
In 2016, vast renovation works were carried out on the property, including the addition of new buildings, helipads and a big top tent to entertain guests.
This year’s visit is being hailed as a welcome boost for the local economy and the holiday is expected to account for 1.5 per cent of the country’s foreign tourism revenue, according to Spanish paper La Vanguardia.
Last summer, 100 black Mercedes and Range Rovers were on call to escort the King and his royal party around town, according to The New York Times.
His sprawling Tangier complex near Cape Spartel, above the beaches of Jbilia, also includes its own medical facilities and luxury restaurants.
King Salman owns properties around the world including several apartments in Paris, a chateau on the Côte d’Azur in France and a palace in Marbella.
But his summer hideaway in Tangier is said to be his favourite, of numerous properties around the world.
The sprawling complex includes multiple helipads and overlooks the beaches of JbiliaGoogle Maps
Middle East Monitor
UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced yesterday the appointment of former German President Horst Köhler as the UN envoy for Western Sahara.
Köhler has more than 35 years of experience in the government sector and international organisations, according to a UN statement.
The proposal to appoint Köhler came as the Security Council voted on a resolution to extend United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO)’s mandate for one year.
A few days after Köhler’s name was tipped for the role, the Polisario Front announced its approval of his appointment.
Köhler was director-general of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) between 2000 and 2004, and president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London in 1998-2000.
He also served as Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry of Finance (1990-1993), before being appointed president of the German Savings Bank Association (1993).
The former German president will succeed the outgoing UN envoy American Christopher Ross.
The Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is a contested territory which Morocco believes to be part of its sovereignty whilst the Polisario Front is fighting for its independence for the Sahrawi people.
Times of India
by Samia Errazzouki
Morocco’s government said on Wednesday it was expecting the economy to grow by 3.2 percent in 2018, down from 4.8 percent this year.
The forecast is more ambitious than that of Morocco’s planning agency, which had said the North African kingdom’s economy would grow 2.9 percent in 2018.
The government is forecasting that its budget deficit will shrink slightly to 3 percent of gross domestic product, down from 3.5 percent in 2017, added the statement published by state news agency MAP.
It gave no details or explanations for the projections, but growth is expected to bounce back this year because of the recovery of cereal harvests after a drought in 2016.
Agriculture accounts for more than 15 percent of the country’s economy.
Morocco started to repair its public finances three years ago after huge deficits in 2012 when the government spent billions to calm Arab Spring-like protests.
It has done more than most countries in the region to make painful changes required by international lenders, such as ending fuel subsidies and freezing public sector hiring.
The government still controls the prices of wheat, sugar and cooking gas.
(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Pritha Sarkar)
More stories by Tarek El-Tablawy
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika fired the nation’s prime minister only appointed in May, replacing him with a veteran politician who had already held the office three times since the mid-1990s.
The ouster of Abdelmadjid Tebboune came hours after his return from a lengthy vacation, Ennahar TV, a private channel, reported on its website. He was succeeded by Ahmed Ouyahia, state-run APS news agency said.
The rapid turnover at the top of the administration adds to the political and economic uncertainty in the OPEC member as it attempts to strengthen an economy hit by falling oil revenue. As crude prices declined, Algeria dipped into its foreign reserves, which have plummeted by about 45 percent since April 2014. Health concerns have surrounded Bouteflika, 80, since he suffered a stroke in 2013 and campaigned for a fourth term from a wheelchair.
Tebboune “didn’t measure up, and he didn’t measure up pretty quickly,” said Crispin Hawes, managing director of research firm Teneo Intelligence. “Ouyahia is a very familiar face, and in Algeria, familiarity is arguably the most important quality a politician can bring.”
Coming shortly after legislative elections, Tebboune’s appointment was part of a sweeping government reshuffle that soon brought in new oil, finance and foreign ministers. The tourism minister was fired within days of being named to the post.
Ouyahia inherits plans to further curb energy subsidies — while introducing cash transfers for those most in need — as the government moves cautiously toward living within its means. Generous spending on housing, health care and basic foodstuffs helped suppress dissent in the years following the Arab Spring. Oil and gas exports account for nearly 60 percent of the economy.
“This new appointment demonstrates that the entire political system does not know where it is going,” said Ferhat Ait Ali, an independent political analyst in Algiers. “They have no course.”
Morocco purchased the second largest number of French arms in Africa in 2016, behind Egypt, local media reported on Monday.
Morocco spent 127 million euros(150 million USD) on French weapons in 2016, the Moroccan daily l’Economite said, citing a report from the French Defense Ministry.
Egypt topped African countries in terms of buying French arms with 1.3 billion euros(1.53 billion USD) in 2016, the report said.
Morocco comes ahead of Algeria, which spent 108 million euros (127 million USD) on French arms last year, while Tunisia only spent 23 million euros (27 million USD), the source said.
While Morocco has made an effort to diversify its sources of purchasing arms, France and the United States remain its top arms suppliers, the report said. Enditem
Spain says around 700 migrants have tried to storm the border crossing between Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta and Morocco, but none managed to make it across.
The Interior Ministry’s office in Ceuta said the migrants also tried to scale the six-meter-tall (20-foot) barbed-wire fences around Ceuta after the early Thursday crossing attempt at the Tarajal post failed, but were again repelled by Moroccan and Spanish police.
Spain and Morocco on Wednesday agreed to close the Tarajal post to freight traffic for a week because of recent migrant crossing attempts. Pedestrian and passenger vehicles were still allowed.
Every year, thousands of sub-Saharan African migrants living illegally in Morocco try to scale the border fences surrounding Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other North African enclave, in a bid to enter Europe.
Morocco saw a drastic growth in the number of Chinese tourists during the first six months of the year, with an increase of 565 percent recorded compared to the same period in 2016, according to the latest data released.
The Moroccan tourism office said the figure has broken the country’s tourist growth rate record, while at the same time the per capita expenditure of Chinese tourists far surpassed that of other countries, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The growth has been attributed to the north African country offering Chinese citizens visa-free entry (as of June 1, 2016), following King Mohammed VI’s visit to China last May.
Statistics supplied by Morocco’s tourism office show that the overall number of tourist visits to Morocco rose by nine percent in the first half of 2017, with the biggest year on year growth coming from Asian countries, including Japan (46 percent), South Korea (42 percent) and China.
According to an Oxford Business Group (OBG) report, 42,000 Chinese tourists visited Morocco in 2016 and the number is expected to double to 100,000 this year.
Sourcing Journal Online
by Tara Donaldson
Morocco has played a major role in providing fast fashion for the likes of Zara and other European retailers, like H&M and Burberry, thanks to its proximity, but now the country is looking to expand the capabilities it’s known for.
At this year’s Maroc in Mode and Maroc Sourcing, which will take place Oct. 26-27 in Marrakech, Morocco, the country will be highlighting a supply chain strategy it credits with its success.
Separating its capabilities into six areas of focus, or ecosystems—fast fashion, denim, knit, pre/sports/leisure, Moroccan brands, and leather and shoes—the country has separated its supply chain in a way that allows suppliers in these ecosystems to work together to boost both their own offerings and those of the country.
“Ecosystems are led by leading companies acting as locomotives for their branches and suppliers. These locomotives are committed to fulfill the requirements for modern production and required regulations and international standards,” said Mohamed Tazi, general director of the Moroccan Textile and Apparel Industry Association (AMITH). “Within the setup put in place, the ‘locomotives’ not only upgrade their own production systems, but also assist small companies within their ‘ecosystem’ to structure and build up industrial progression and modernity.”
Each ecosystem also has growth plans and targets, like the denim ecosystem, which expects to create 14,800 new jobs by 2020 as Morocco’s advancements in denim supply grow.
Morocco has been considered a champion of quick turn for European brands as it can get goods on land to Spain in one day and to Germany within two. The country is the seventh biggest exporter of apparel to the EU, according to AMITH. In 2015, the country exported 2.3 billion euro ($2.7 billion) to the region, with trousers and denim accounting for the largest share of exports, followed by shirts and dresses.
“The advantage of quick response has made Morocco an important partner in the business as permanent changes and new programs have to be delivered to the stores all over the year,” Tazi said. “But also the united power of the fashion industry together with governmental support assists to steadily improve the high standards of fashion. Speed, acceleration and frequency of new fresh fashion are a key condition for success.”
Though the U.S. market can’t benefit from the same quick-turn as the European companies get because of location, Tazi said there’s still lots of upsides for the American buyer.
“The Moroccan apparel industry and its fast fashion model bring added value to the retailer in terms of profitability, attractiveness and brand building. It is very well positioned to offer solutions for CM, FOB production, creativity, etc.,” Tazi explained. “Through Morocco as a manufacturing hub, you can also benefit from the strength of the big textile players from Portugal, Spain or Turkey, each one providing its own competitive advantage in its production chain.”
Maroc en Mode and Maroc Sourcing will feature 175 exhibitors from Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia, China, Belgium, Spain, France, Portugal and Egypt, and the show is expected to draw more than 1,500 buyers from around the world.
More stories by Ahmed A Namatalla
In five decades of importing steel wires, Zahar Benmoussa’s company never worried about currency risks — until Morocco announced plans to float the dirham.
“For the first time in our history, we started to hedge” in the currency market, said Benmoussa, managing director at Casablanca-based Grillages Marocains. Across Morocco, fears of a weaker dirham triggered a rush for dollars and euros, causing a $3 billion drop in its reserves in just three months this year.
Then in June, the government put its plans on hold again. It was at least the second time it stalled on a move supported by the International Monetary Fund and a centerpiece of Morocco’s ambitions to become North Africa’s dominant financial hub. By delaying, the country risks wasting a “perfect time” in terms of its economic health to loosen controls, according to Charles Robertson, global chief economist at London-based Renaissance Capital.
“It’s fear of the unknown and pessimism on the corporates’ part,” Robertson said after a research trip to Morocco in July. There’s also the shadow cast by Egypt, he said, which saw its pound lose half of its value against the dollar after the government removed most controls in November to end a foreign-currency shortage.
While central bank Governor Abdellatif Jouahri has repeatedly insisted that the float would be gradually introduced starting in the second half of the year, it’s now unclear when liberalization will take place. Prime Minister Saaddine El-Otmani said July 1 that the first phase will allow the currency to fluctuate within a daily range of 5 percent, up from 0.6 percent currently.
The dirham is pegged to a two-currency basket weighted 60 percent to the euro and 40 percent to the U.S. dollar. It has fallen 4.4 percent against the euro this year, and touched a three-year low of 11.1831 per euro last week.
“The move to a more flexible exchange rateregime, not a float, is still in the cards but the rollout will take place at the appropriate time,” government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi told reporters on July 6. The premier wants to investigate what volatility or depreciation would mean not only for the purchasing power of Morocco’s 34 million people, but also for companies doing business abroad, he said.
Some see opportunities from a weaker currency. Abdelhai Bessa, chief executive of textile and garments producer Somitex, said he hoped for an “orderly depreciation” of the dirham that would help Moroccan products compete with Turkish and Chinese goods.
“The authorities say they want Moroccan companies to boost exports and expand in sub-Saharan Africa, but right now we’re simply not competitive enough,” Bessa said. “Currency reform might change that.”
Yet it could also aggravate unrest which has been building in Morocco since a fish seller was crushed to death in a garbage compacter in October following a run-in with police. The incident became a focal point for a protest movement demanding political and economic reform. This week, the first protester since the unrest started died from head wounds suffered in an anti-government march in the northern city of Al-Hoceima in July.
The protests probably played a minor role in the decision to delay the float plans, according to Riccardo Fabiani, North Africa analyst at the Eurasia Group in London. More significantly, he said, was political infighting and the need for Otmani to assert his authority. He took office in March at the head of a six-faction coalition, ending a five-month political impasse that had forced King Mohamed VI to intervene.
The prime minister “had been bypassed by everyone,” with the unrest handled by the interior minister and the justice minister — both of whom are close to the monarchy, Fabiani said. The central bank was relatively the easiest target for Otmani to show that he is in charge and “not ineffective,” he said.
Even so, analysts say Morocco’s economy is in good shape for removing restrictions on the dirham. Unlike Egypt prior to its float, Morocco has an investment-grade credit rating and an expanding private sector. With growth expected to average 4.1 percent in 2017 and 2018, it is set to outperform most Arab economies including Egypt and Tunisia, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Its budget deficit is forecast to drop to 3.1 percent this year from 4.2 percent in 2016, according to economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Inflation is under 2 percent.
“It’s not at all cut-and-dried whether the dirham will appreciate or depreciate when more flexibility is allowed,” Badr Fassi-Fihri, who trades currencies for Banque Centrale Populaire, said by phone from Casablanca.
The postponement was easy for Otmani because Morocco, unlike Egypt, isn’t facing a currency crisis that requires immediate action, according to Reham El Desoki, senior economist at regional investment bank Arqaam Capital.
Authorities are “thinking long about what could go wrong simply because they can afford to do so,” she said.
The repeated delays are exacerbating volatility, said Benmoussa at Grillages Marocains. “The way the authorities seem to be hesitating raises uncertainty,” he said.
By Ben Evansky
Arab allies of the U.S. are expressing support if the Trump administration declares the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, according to statements from foreign officials and a senior administration official who spoke to Fox News.
Speaking last week at the United Nations in response to a question from Fox News, the Egyptian Ambassador to the U.N., Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta, expressed support for such a move.
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“It would be a positive step forward indeed,” he said.
Salman Al-Ansari, president of the Saudi American Public Affairs Committee, told Fox News that the West is suffering from “laziness and must do its homework.”
“The U.S. needs to confront the evils of the Brotherhood as soon as possible,” he said. “If you have Saudi Arabia saying the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist group, if you have Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) saying it’s a terrorist group, then what should stop the U.S. from designating the MB as a terrorist group as long there are hundreds of pieces of evidence that prove this fact?”
The Brotherhood is banned as a terrorist organization in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.
Fox News previously reported on the internal debates and deliberations in the Trump White House on the move to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO.)
“The fight is far from over,” a senior administration official told Fox News.
“The commitment inside the West Wing to the question of designating the Brotherhood has not waned,” the official told Fox News.
“The White House completely understands how the modern global jihadi threat, which the president has rightly described as radical Islamic terrorism, can be driven back at its roots to the Brotherhood.”
“This president is unprepared to follow the disastrous policies of prior administrations, especially the Obama White House’s empowering of the Brotherhood that led to the catastrophic consequences of the so-called Arab Spring and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from the Sinai to Sinjar,” the official concluded.
Christopher Holton of the Center for Security Policy, a group that has been at the forefront of efforts to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization, told Fox News, “It is an absolutely essential step. As the Egyptian ambassador well knows, the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood are identical to those of all the jihadist organizations, such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hamas: the establishment of an Islamic state ruled by Sharia.”
Holton blamed what he called “The Swamp in the State Department” for stopping the designation so far. He blamed some members of the Trump administration, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
“Combined with all the other distractions that have largely paralyzed so many initiatives on Capitol Hill, the effort to block the designation has thus far succeeded,” he said.
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News that during the early weeks of the Trump presidency a large number of analysts warned that the move was, “ill-advised,” arguing that the move “would alienate the Muslim world and encumber diplomacy.”
Schanzer, a former terrorism finance official at the Treasury Department, said he does not believe the administration has given up on designation of the Brotherhood but he suggested it would be easier to target certain Brotherhood groups through the U.S. Treasury’s targeted sanctions program.
“The way forward is not to pursue the FTO approach at the State Department, primarily because the initiative is likely to fail,” Schanzer said. “The State Department will remain opposed…the Muslim Brotherhood is not a homogeneous organization, rather, it is made up of disparate affiliates, some of which could likely be classified as terror groups, and some not.”
“The right move is to pursue these designations in the less-politicized Treasury process in a way that is incremental and pragmatic. From there, additional affiliates can be added,” Schanzer said.
David Reaboi, the senior vice-president for strategic operations at the Security Studies Group, added, “Designating the Muslim Brotherhood would be a tremendous step in the right direction. The Muslim Brotherhood has been identified, rightly, as a threat by the countries that know it best — like Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia — among others.”
“These countries understand that the MB isn’t just another political or religious movement,” Reaboi added. “It’s the main engine driving the terror radicalization process. Any effort to combat Islamist terrorism needs to take the MB’s global network into account.”
Ben Evansky reports for Fox News on the United Nations and international affairs. He can be followed @BenEvansky
Ben Evansky reports for Fox News on the United Nations and international affairs.
He can be followed @BenEvansky
Ingeteam has commenced the supply of its equipment to three solar photovoltaic power plants in Morocco, totaling 170 MW of output power. These three PV plants, which will be amongst the largest in North Africa, are expected to be operating within a year and to have a service life of at least twenty years.
The power produced is to be supplied to the Moroccan power distribution grid, serving to cover the energy demand of thousands of homes in Morocco. This will make it possible to slightly reduce the country’s heavy reliance on foreign energy sources, given the fact that this North African country imports 90% of all the energy it consumes.
The execution of this project comes within the framework of the target set by Morocco, to produce 52% of all its energy from renewable energy sources by year 2030.
The solution supplied, namely Inverter Station, features Ingeteam’s new dual photovoltaic inverters and a medium voltage skid that integrates all the necessary components in order to inject to the grid the solar output power after transforming it from low to medium voltage.
Thus, the power transformer, the oil deposit, the medium voltage switchgear, the ancillary services transformer and the low voltage switchgear are supplied integrated into a single metal platform or skid.
Ingeteam’s dual PV inverters belong to the INGECON® SUN PowerMax B Series and are able to provide up to 2.55 MW at 1,000 Vdc. On the other hand, the 1,500 Vdc inverter version can supply up to 3.6 MW in a single 5,600 x 890 x 2,260 mm equipment, which makes it one of the market leaders in the field of power density thanks to its 317 kW/m3.
The solution supplied achieves up to 4.66 MW per Inverter Station, featuring dual inverters with 1,000 Vdc technology. These new inverters have been especially designed to withstand adverse ambient conditions.
On the other hand, in the African continent Ingeteam is responsible for the operation and maintenance of 230 MW divided into five different South African PV plants. Moreover, Ingeteam has been recently awarded the supply and commissioning of the protection, control and metering systems for three substations in Malawi.
Scope of supply
For this project Ingeteam is supplying:
- 35 inverter stations fitted with all the necessary equipment to inject medium voltage power: dual photovoltaic inverters, LV/MV transformer, medium voltage switchgear, auxiliary services transformer and low voltage switchgear.
- Commissioning of the system.
- Operation & Maintenance Service.
Ingeteam is a leading company specializing in the design of power and control electronics (frequency converters, process automation and control systems), electrical machines (generators and motors), electrical engineering and generating plants. To date, Ingeteam has supplied 46 GW in power converters for renewable energy plants and is amongst the TOP 10 companies dedicated to the operation and maintenance of renewable plants, with a portfolio of more than 10 GW.
The company operates in all continents, and has a headcount of 3,900 employees around the world. Ingeteam invests 5% of its annual turnover in R&D, which is the backbone of the company’s business activity.
EDITED BY: Creamer Media Reporter
by Ali Haidar
The authorities of Uruguay, one of the few Latin American countries that still support the Polisario’s separatist claims, refused to seize a ship carrying 300 tons of Moroccan phosphate from the Boucraa deposit in Western Sahara.
Following suit to Panama, which eventually released a ship carrying a shipment of phosphate from southern Morocco destined to Canada, Uruguay inflicted a new blow to the Algeria-backed Polisario Front.
The separatist front, which has seemingly exhausted all its options in the diplomatic battle it is waging over Western Sahara, embarked on a new adventure in its attempt to challenge Morocco’s exploitation of natural resources in the Moroccan southern provinces.
So far, all seizure requests made by the Polisario to the countries where ships loaded with phosphate or other products from the Sahara transit were turned down.
Only South Africa responded favorably to the separatists’ request and immobilized the vessel Cherry Blossom, loaded with 55,000 tons of Moroccan Sahara phosphates, that was heading to New Zealand.
This position, which has no legal foundation, finds its full explanation in the fact that corrupt President Jacob Zuma’s regime is fiercely hostile to Morocco and its interests and is aligned with the foreign policy of Algeria, the main supporter of the Polisario.
The request of the Polisario, which was trying to reproduce in Uruguay what it did in South Africa, was turned down by Uruguayan judicial authorities, as did Panama early June. The Panamanian Maritime Court had actually refused to seize the ship “Ultra Innovation” with a shipload of Moroccan phosphate from the town of Laayoune as requested by the Polisario and its lobbyists.
The Panamanian court simply declared itself “incompetent” to rule on “a matter of international politics”, especially since the Polisario Front was not the owner of the shipment, subject of the seizure request.
The decision of the courts of both Panama and Uruguay embarrasses South African justice and political authorities vis-a-vis not only Morocco and the owners of the Cherry Blossom vessel but also the entire international community and the World Trade Organization (WTO), because there is no justification for such a decision in maritime law and international trade law.
The 2nd edition of the China-Africa Investment Forum (CAIF) will be held in the Moroccan city of Marrakech on Nov. 27-28, local media reported on Monday.
The forum will bring together more than 400 top level Chinese and African business leaders, the Moroccan financial daily l’Economiste said.
This event will facilitate business meetings between the main stakeholders of trade and investment between China and Africa countries in order to foster the creation of sustainable partnerships with high added value, particularly in the industrial sector.
The forum dedicates two days of conferences and debates to the financial implications for African economies and making the continent a true industrial platform.
Alongside the conferences, practical workshops will provide insights and keys to understanding Chinese and African economic policies and operational environments.
After a slight growth last year amid security challenges, Morocco’s key tourism sector sees a promising surge of tourists from around the globe.
In 2016, visitor arrivals barely raised by 1.5 percent from 2015 to stood at 10.3 million tourists, falling far short of the expected increase to reach an ambitious official target of 20 million per year by 2020.
According to data from the Moroccan Tourism Ministry, some 4.6 million tourists visited Morocco between January and June 2017, a 9 percent increase year on year.
Tourists from the United States grew by 27 percent, Germany by 12 percent, the Netherlands 8 percent, Spain 7 percent and France 5 percent, which represent growth in visitor numbers from key markets of Moroccan tourism.
The increase was also driven by the surge in Morocco’s emerging tourist markets, especially China and Japan. China arrivals jumped by 565 percent, and Japanese visitors grew by 46 percent.
South Korean visitors also increased by 42 percent and Brazilian tourists by 41 percent.
The surge in Chinese visitors relates to Morocco’s new visa-free travel policy for Chinese nationals, started on June 1 of 2016. The air connectivity is also improved between the two countries.
“Growth is expected to continue through 2017, with 100,000 Chinese tourists forecast to visit Morocco throughout the year, up from 42,000 in 2016,” a recent report by the Oxford Business Group (OBG) said.
“A stable and secure political environment, combined with incentives and infrastructural development, has helped Morocco to create an attractive investment climate, resulting in a raft of new hotel projects,” the report added.
Positive performance is also seen in various tourist destinations in the north African kingdom, many of which registered two digit growth. Visitors to Fez increased by 38 percent, Tangier by 29 percent and Marrakech by 19 percent.
Morocco expects tourist arrivals to grow by 6 percent in 2017. Official Tourism observatory director Said Mouhid said earlier the kingdom could reach a record of 11 million tourists by the end of this year.
However, the rise in the number of tourists have not translated into a parallel increase in revenues. At the end of June 2017, Morocco’s tourism revenue totaled 2.77 billion U.S. dollars, a 0.7 percent decrease year on year, according to the Foreign Exchange Office’s preliminary financial flow indicators for the first half of 2017.
Tourism remains a vital pillar of the Moroccan economy and the country’s second biggest employer, after agriculture. The sector accounts for 10 percent of national income and, along with exports and remittances from Moroccans living abroad, it is one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency.
IANS | New Delhi
Morocco, a North African nation almost touching Europe, has emerged as an “island of stability” in a volatile region due to its tight control over religion, that includes training ulemas and imams “so that they do not go about preaching wrong things”, the country’s Ambassador here has said.
Ambassador Mohamed Maliki said it was not enough to leave religious affairs to mosques and preachers and that is why the Moroccan government in the Muslim country, whose basic unity was forged from its diverse influences, has established institutes for “ulemas (preachers) and imams”, who now include women as well.
“We think Islam has not been understood the way it should be. It has been used by radicalised people for political reasons,” the Ambassador told IANS in an interview.
He said Morocco has emerged as an island of stability in North Africa and was fighting terrorism with a “three pillar” strategy.
“The first one is socio-economic development, because we want to remove the sources and also the causes of the radicalisation. We have understood that most of these people, if not all, are recruited from very poor backgrounds. The socio-economic issue is quite important to alleviate the poverty of people and then also give them a way of decent living,” he said.
“The second pillar is the reform of the religious field. Because we in Morocco feel that religious field should be under the authority of the government,” said the Ambassador.
“Then the third pillar, of course, is that of intelligence and security. Sharing of intelligence both regionally and internationally. Unless there is serious cooperation and then a strong will from all countries to cooperate, we won’t be able to remove the sources of this (terrorism),” he said.
The envoy said Morocco, with its strategic geographical location, could be India’s bridge to French-speaking West Africa that has enormous untapped investment potential.
Maliki hailed India as “a great nation” that enjoys a “high profile in Asia” and “has its way of dealing with things”.
He said the two countries have come closer to translate their 60 years of diplomatic ties into a “strategic partnership” that would include, in addition to traditional sectors, new areas not covered until now by bilateral cooperation, such as security.
“My objective and idea are to encourage more investment, to explore sectors that have not been explored earlier, like energy. We can also think of maritime issues, blue economy. Why not also in fishing, agriculture, e-governance, education and air links between the two countries,” Maliki said.
India could capitalise on the business opportunities in Morocco that lies at the crossroads of continents and only 15 km from Europe.
Ties between the two countries have been growing at a slow pace even as there has been a steady upswing in relations after Morocco King Mohammed VI visited India in 2015 to participate in the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi.
“Morocco has access to more than 1.2 billion consumers free of customs duties,” Maliki said, explaining that his country has freight rate agreements with West African nations that give “us access”.
Maliki said India and Morocco can partner in sectors like agriculture, renewable energy “in which we are leading in the world now” in terms of capacity.
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at email@example.com)