The moroccan press
The United Nations announced, On Friday afternoon, that Christopher Ross has ceased, since April 30, to hold the position of the United Nations Personal Envoy for the Sahara.
"Concerning a question asked at the daily press briefing, we wish to clarify that Christopher Ross has ceased, since April 30, 2017, to assume the role of the personal envoy of the secretary-general for the Sahara," said UN spokesman Farhan Haq in a clarification sent to journalists accredited to the UN.
Foreign minister Nasser Bourita underlined, on Sunday in Riyadh, the need and the importance of solid ties between countries of the Arab-Islamic World and the United States to address the challenges facing the region.
In a statement to MAP, on the sidelines of the Arab-Islamic-American Summit, Bourita underscored the importance of inaugurating a new era in relations between the Arab-Islamic World and the United States given the challenges facing the region and linked mainly to terrorism and the meddling by some states in the domestic affairs of Muslim countries.
Russia commends the economic, social, and political reforms undertaken by Morocco, a country known for its stability in the MENA region and worldwide, said Russia's ambassador to Rabat Valery Vorobiev.
Russia also welcomes the foreign policy of Morocco, Vorobiev said in a speech on Friday at a ceremony held at the Russian embassy on the occasion of his country's national day, noting that the entire world has witnessed the enormous efforts made by HM King Mohammed VI for the return of the Kingdom to the African Union (AU) after a long absence.
The actions of HM King Mohammed VI in Africa have always been in favor of a continent more responsive to changes, more present on the international scene and more attentive to diversities, said Youssef Amrani, Chargé de mission at the Royal Cabinet, who was speaking, on Friday in Casablanca, at a forum on "The rise of nationalisms: What future for globalization?"
By Julia Payne
U.S. private equity firm Carlyle Group is suing a group of its insurers over $400 million worth of oil it claims it lost when Morocco’s sole refinery went bankrupt two years ago, court documents show.
Carlyle claims in a suit filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York that insurance underwriters led by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Underwriting (now known as MS Amlin) have reneged on their obligations when refusing to cover the losses, according to documents on the court’s website.
Insurers have said in response to the suit that the nature of Carlyle’s dealings with Samir, the refinery’s operator, mean that its losses are not covered by the type of insurance it had.
They also say Carlyle did not alert them early enough about the plant’s financial troubles.
The rare public case provides an insight into dealings between insurers and commodity trading firms, which take big risks when supplying raw materials to clients in financial difficulty.
The case also sheds more light on the collapse of Samir, which became the biggest casualty of the oil price crash of 2014-2015, leaving some of the world’s biggest trading firms including Carlyle with unpaid debts of over $1 billion.
Carlyle declined to comment on the position of the insurers. Samir and the Moroccan state-appointed liquidator for the refinery declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Carlyle Commodity Management, a subsidiary of Carlyle Group formerly called Vermillion Asset Management, said in the court filing it had about 7 million barrels of crude and oil products stored at Morocco’s 200,000 barrel per day refinery in Mohammedia in 2015 prior to its stoppage.
The refinery was shut down in August 2015 after the Moroccan government imposed a $1.35 billion unpaid tax bill on Samir and froze its accounts.
The crisis at the refinery unfolded as oil prices crashed from the middle of 2014, drastically reducing the value of oil Samir bought and held in its tanks for refining purposes.
Carlyle says that during 2015 Samir emptied the tanks without its consent.
Carlyle filed the first request for cover to its insurers in January 2016 concluding that the oil could not be recovered.
In late February this year, Carlyle’s insurers denied any cover, leading Carlyle to launch a lawsuit against the underwriters in early March, according to the court documents.
The litigation is still ongoing.
In their answer to the claim, the underwriters said Carlyle’s position in relation to Samir was as a lender and not as an oil supplier since the group never actually owned the oil it claims was stolen.
Therefore, insurance cover for physical loss did not apply, the insurers argued, according to documents.
“As the transactions were financings rather than true sales of the commodities and Carlyle did not take title to the commodities, the loss or losses allegedly suffered by Carlyle was an uninsured credit loss,” the insurers said in a response filed at end-April to the court in New York.
The insurers also allege that Carlyle breached its contract by not notifying the underwriters of payment problems.
“Carlyle has breached its contractual duties … by failing to take any steps to mitigate the alleged loss or losses upon becoming aware that Samir had been processing the commodities,” the counterclaim said.
“To the contrary, Carlyle entered into numerous additional transactions with Samir, thereby exacerbating the size of the alleged loss or losses by hundreds of millions of dollars.”
(This version of the story has been refiled to add dropped word to name of court)
(Additional reporting to Samia Errazzouki in Rabat; Editing by David Evans)
Panama authorities have released a Moroccan phosphate shipment from the disputed Western Sahara territory after it was temporarily held by a legal challenge from the Polisario independence movement, officials said on Monday.
The vessel was held on May 18 and is the second tanker carrying phosphate cargo from Moroccan exporter OCP stopped this month by a Polisario challenge. Polisario claims the cargo was transported illegally, a new tactic in its dispute with Morocco.
Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975, when Morocco claimed it as part of the kingdom and the Polisario fought a guerrilla war for the Sahrawi people’s independence. A 1991 ceasefire split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern provinces and an area controlled by Polisario.
A source in the OCP said the Danish charter vessel Ultra Innovation, carrying 55,000 tonnes of phosphate rock through Panama to the Port of Vancouver for agricultural products supplier Agrium, was released, but did not comment further.
In a statement, Agrium said the shipping company posted a bond for the release of the ship. The phosphate cargo’s estimated value was around $6 million, Polisario had said.
A Panamanian judicial source said the ship was released after the bond was placed.
Morocco’s OCP, or Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP), is the world’s leading phosphate exporter and operates in the Moroccan-held areas of the disputed territory.
Earlier in the month, the Marshall Island-flagged NM Cherry Blossom, also carrying phosphate from Laayoune in the Moroccan part of the disputed territory for OCP, was detained in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth under a civil maritime court order.
On Thursday, the South African court reserved a judgment on the case and extended the hold on the vessel to June 9.
In a statement on MAP state news agency, the OCP has called Polisario’s charges in the South African court a “misplaced and inappropriate attempt to circumvent the current international political process actively pursued by the United Nations Security Council.”
The United Nations Security Council has called for fresh negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario, which runs its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR.
Talks have failed for years to end the dispute. Morocco wants the region to have autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Polisario wants to hold a referendum on self-determination, including on the question of independence.
(Editing by Patrick Markey and Mark Potter)
Construction companies from China and Morocco will set up a joint venture to build Africa’s tallest skyscraper in Morocco’s capital Rabat, local media reported on Saturday.
The joint venture will be set up by China Railway Construction Corp and Morocco’s leading construction company Travaux Generaux de Construction de Casablanca, which won the bid for the project.
Moroccan news site Alyaoum24.com reported that the 250-meter skyscraper will cost $375 million.
The 45-story tower, which will adopt ecological and sustainable design concepts, will include offices, hotels and luxury apartments, the news site said.
The tower will be the highlight of a large project to develop the capital’s Bouregreg valley, a key component of the 2014-18 Integrated Development Program dubbed “Rabat, City of Light, Moroccan Cultural Capital.”
The project also involves building several innovative facilities, including the Grand Theater of Rabat, the Arts and Culture House, the National Archives of the Kingdom of Morocco and a business center.
by Ali Haidar
The Sahara issue continues to poison relations between Algeria and Morocco, to the extent that an Algerian official has physically assaulted a Moroccan diplomat during a meeting of a UN body held Thursday (May 18) in St. Lucia.
Soufiane Mimouni, Director General of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assaulted the Deputy Chief of Morocco’s Mission in Saint Lucia who was hospitalized for medical treatment. The incident dismayed the members of the UN Special Committee of 24 that was convening in this Caribbean island.
Reacting to this unprecedented aggression in a UN meeting, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita expressed indignation at the Algerian official’s behavior.
“The assault by a senior official, third in the hierarchical order of the Algerian Foreign Ministry, transgresses all diplomatic customs,” said Nasser Bourita, describing the incident as “very serious”. He pointed out that going as far as attacking physically a diplomat at an official meeting is certainly unique in the annals of diplomacy.
The Moroccan Foreign Minister expressed amazement that the physical assault was made by an Algerian official, at a time Algeria constantly claims it plays a mere observer role in the Sahara issue.
Actually, Algerian officials’ nervousness has been growing since Morocco reintegrated last January the African Union (AU), where a majority of member states no longer recognize the Polisario.
And the feverishness of Algerian diplomacy has redoubled since the end of April when the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2351.
This resolution enshrines negotiation as the only way to achieve a political and mutually acceptable solution to the Western Sahara conflict and definitively excludes, like the other resolutions adopted since 2001, any reference to the referendum, so fiercely defended by Algeria and the Polisario separatist movement.
In 2016, Morocco was granted a third two-year Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL)—a provisionary line of credit from the IMF—which Morocco uses as an insurance instrument against external risks such as severe trade imbalances while supporting its efforts to promote higher and more inclusive growth. During its annual review conducted recently, Mitsuhiro Furasawa, IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, said, “Morocco’s sound economic fundamentals and overall strong record of policy implementation have contributed to a solid macroeconomic performance in recent years. The external position remained strong in 2016, as international reserves further increased despite a higher-than-expected current account deficit. While fiscal developments were less favorable than expected, this was due in part to slower growth and accelerated value-added tax reimbursements. Growth is expected to rebound in 2017 and accelerate gradually over the medium term, subject to improved external conditions and steadfast reform implementation.”
So, on both fronts—external trade and domestic reforms—Morocco is making progress, but not without continuing challenges. Mr. Furasawa pointed out, “This outlook remains subject to significant downside risks, including from weak growth in Morocco’s main trading partners, geopolitical risks, and global policy uncertainty. In this context, Morocco’s PLL Arrangement with the IMF continues to serve as valuable insurance against external risks and supports the authorities’ economic policies.”
This comes against a backdrop of a broad program to stimulate economic growth, encourage greater participation in the economy by women, and several investment stimulus measures waiting for action in Parliament. Mr. Furasawa noted that “The authorities are committed to further reducing fiscal and external vulnerabilities while strengthening the foundations for higher and more inclusive growth. Building on progress made in recent years, further fiscal consolidation is needed… Finally, improving the business climate and governance, competitiveness, access to finance, and labor market policies is essential to raise potential growth, reduce persistently high unemployment levels, especially among the youth, and increase female labor participation.”
Similar recommendations were included in the World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum (CEM), which focused on these issues and quoted King Mohammed VI’s call to better develop Morocco’s “intangible capital” to identify other recommended policy priorities. The report notes, “Morocco stands out as an exception in a turbulent Arab world. It has considerable assets to be able to drive up its distinctiveness and become the first non–oil-producing North African country to join the ranks of upper-middle-income countries by the next generation. To achieve this goal, Morocco can take up real drivers for change on both the political level (the stability of its leadership), the institutional level (the values and principles endorsed by the 2011 Constitution), and the economic, social and environmental levels (normative convergence with the European Union) to build its intangible capital, the main source of any future shared prosperity.”
The CEM acknowledges the great progress that Morocco has made through a series of reforms that have moved sectors of the economy forward, improved the quality of life for most Moroccans, generated more jobs, and supported a range of “significant social and economic achievements over the past fifteen years.” It cautions that “Bringing Morocco’s improved development outcomes to the next level and achieving economic convergence with Southern European countries will require it to further deepen and integrate sector and governance reforms.”
So, what is this “intangible capital” to which the King referred? It refers to enhancing the productivity of the Moroccan economy through strengthening the quality of the institutional, human, and social capital of the country; in short, an advanced social contract based on more efficient and inclusive institutions, better and healthier options for individual growth, and a society that provides opportunities for better health and work outcomes.
Jean-Pierre Chauffour, World Bank Lead Economist and author of the report, believes that Morocco’s youth bulge can be turned into a long-term asset by reforms that remove obstacles to business development; an overhaul of the educational system to produce a qualified workforce of men and women operating in a mobile labor market; and a progressive market-oriented economy that eschews obstacles to trade in order to boost productivity and promote conditions that support fair market conditions for investors small and large, domestic and foreign.
Specific measures related to education and health are proposed “to achieve an ‘education miracle’ and give Moroccan students the needed skills to integrate into a more competitive job market.” According to the CEM, “Morocco’s ability to empower and mobilize greater economic opportunities for women will be instrumental to significantly enhance economic growth.” Finally, the CEM views the strengthening of institutions and the country’s governance model as key preconditions to reinforce the rule of law and place the Moroccan citizen at the heart of its development model. This ranges from more accountable and efficient public services to giving voice to citizens and enhancing respect, interpersonal trust and civic duty.
Among challenges highlighted in the report are the following:
- Although barely 15 kilometers separate the kingdoms of Morocco and Spain, the average Moroccan’s purchasing power stood at only 22.5% of its immediate European neighbor in 2015.
- The country is ranked 126th worldwide out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index and 91st of 157 countries on the World Happiness Index, a more subjective index measuring well-being, trust in society, solidarity, and the feeling of freedom.
- Whereas the unemployment rate for unskilled young people is 4.5%, the rate is 21.7% for young technical college graduates and 24.6% for young university graduates, even as growing numbers of young people are entering university. Moreover, approximately 90% of young people who do have a job do not have an employment contract and work in the informal economy, indicative of the insecurity of their employment situation.
- On average, over the last five years (2012–2016), only 26,400 net new jobs were created per year for a working-age population (15–65 years old) that grew by a net 270,000 people on average per year, according to Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP).
- All in all, the Moroccan economy has not managed to make any significant efficiency gains despite its structural reforms, economic openness, improved business environment, imported technologies and increase in school enrollment rates.
- With regard to raising the level of social capital, the report calls for ensuring greater respect for, and improved application of, the rule of law; promoting a sense of civic duty and exemplarity in all decision-making spheres; encouraging engagement in associations and the development of civil society; and supporting a change in attitudes and sociocultural norms through targeted information campaigns.
While someone unfamiliar with Morocco may think these remarks and others in the report reflect a “tough love” perspective, the recommendations actually echo many of the points made by the King in his speeches going back to Throne Day 2014, if not before. It is remarkable that a sovereign has the vision to measure what has been accomplished without hesitating to spell out what needs to be done. The recommendations highlighted by the CEM require a comprehensive strategy to advance Morocco’s future growth. There may be no better starting point than the King’s own words.
The post Morocco’s Scorecards from IMF and World Bank Detail Growth Challenges – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.
Fathallah El Ouarrak, the Inspector General of Morocco’s army held here on Thursday talks with United States Marine Corps General Thomas D. Waldhauser, Commander of the United States Africa Command.
They two generals examined the various aspects of military cooperation between the two countries as well as the perspectives of its development, the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces (FAR) said in a statement.
The military cooperation between Morocco and U.S. concerns particularly the areas of training, joint exercises, exchange of visits and expertise aimed at improving the interoperability of the two armies, the statement noted.
The U.S. military command in Africa (U.S.-AFRICOM) is one of the U.S. Unified Combatant Commands under the U.S. Department of Defence. It is responsible for the U.S. military operations in and relations with 53 African countries.
Press Image via
Riad means garden. At least, it does in the original sense of the Arabic word. In general terminology, you probably know it as a traditional Moroccan home built around a courtyard – one of those beautiful zelige-tiled spaces filled with sunlight and the soft tinkle of water in a fountain, adorned by pot plants.
The fact Morocco’s houses came to be known by the word for garden probably encapsulates the importance of keeping the natural world central to life here. It’s fair to say: if an Englishman’s house is his castle, a Moroccan’s home is his oasis.
No matter what your nationality, anyone would surely feel at home at Le Jardin des Douars. This boutique hotel, a 15-minute drive from the port town of Essaouria, doesn’t surround a garden; here it’s the trees and flowers and bushes that do the surrounding. They envelop the self-contained lodgings, as do the sounds of the countryside: the rustle of leaves in the breeze, the singsong of swallows and wagatils swooping between the palm trees, and the occasional croak of a frog.
Arrival might seem unprepossessing, especially at night; our cab turns off the main road and begins making its way around, and sometimes unavoidably over, some of the biggest potholes you’ve ever seen. After a minute or so we start wondering where we’re heading in the darkness on this bumpy route to who knows where. But then we see the lanterns illuminating the lane to the romantic hideaway.
With a warm welcome, we’re led on a pathway through the garden to our cosy abode. The door opens to a living room that’s rustic in the very best sense of the word: whitewashed walls decorated by Berber handbags, a carved wooden table sitting on a rug, a log fireplace.
One of the bedrooms at Le Jardin des Douars
Enjoying the grounds
With morning light comes the revelation of just how beautiful the garden is, high on the southern bank of the Ksob river. Paths lead between cacti, argan trees and vibrant purple blooms along with more than 100 different types of plants. The terraced grounds laid out in 2004 by Jean Secondi, a landscape designer who transformed it from a stony patch of land before opening the hotel, which is now run by a husband-and-wife team.
Before a breakfast of msemmen crepe, creamy French toast and scrambled eggs – I couldn’t make my mind up so I confess I had it all, with no regrets – I go for a swim in one of the two pools. Thankfully one is reserved for families where children can splash away and shout with glee as much as they like. This means I’m left in peace as I step down into the teal-tiled pool reserved for adults, happily wading into the warmest waters to ever host my breaststroke.
The family pool at Le Jardin des Douars (Photo: Rob Hastings)
Is the local area worth visiting?
Time for a taxi into town. We find Essaouira, the small port town that serves to provide Marrakech tourists with a day’s welcome break from the big city, has a similarly laid-back tone to our hotel. The backstreets of small shops and stalls have plenty of jewellery, spices and decorative plates, but not nearly as many overbearing salesmen desperate for your dirhams as Marrakech.
True, there’s not an awful lot of sights to visit, but it certainly makes for a relaxing day wandering through the medina and taking in the coastal views from the small citadel, watching waves crash against the sea wall.
Essaouira, Morocco (Photo: Rob Hastings)
Chill out time
Once you’ve spent an afternoon Essaouira, you need not leave the confines of Le Jardindes Douars. It’s perfectly feasible to spend your whole day, or several of them, simply relaxing.
You can even sample a traditional hammam session – Morocco’s equivalent to a Turkish bath – here at the spa. Ok, it’s perhaps not quite as traditional as getting bollock naked in a room full of strangers at an authentic public hammam, and the mythical black soap fails to appear. But I’m certainly far more comfortable having buckets of water thrown over me in the darkness here than I would be anywhere else.
Luckily we choose a Sunday to remain in the grounds for lunch, meaning we can enjoy the most extensive barbecue I’ve ever seen – with enough options of salads and sides for even vegetarians to feel spoilt for choice.
The Sunday barbecue at Le Jardin des Douars (Photo: Rob Hastings)
Good choice for foodies?
Food is also a reason to stay in the evening. With three dining rooms as well as patio tables, dinner feels different each night, and not purely because I alternate between the succulent lamb shank and the delectable beef wellington.
It really is hard to find any kind of fault with Le Jardins des Douars, and is perfect for a honeymoon or weekend retreat. The roadway that leads down to it may be broken and in need of repair, but once inside the tranquility means you’ll feel a long way from the metaphorical beaten track.
B&B at Le Jardin des Douars, Essaouira, Morocco, from £125 per room per night
Upon high instructions of HM the King, Supreme Chief and Chief of Staff of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), Major General, FAR’s Inspector General received, Thursday in Rabat, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser.
Talks focused on the different aspects of military cooperation between the two countries ans the means to develop it, said a statement by the General Staff of FAR.
Moroccan Senior Official Receives NATO´s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges
In accordance with the royal instructions, minister delegate in charge of National Defence Administration Abdelatif Loudyi received, here on Thursday, NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, Sorin Ducaru, who is on a working visit to Morocco at the head of a large delegation.
During the meeting, the two sides examined the various aspects of cooperation between Morocco and NATO at the bilateral framework and under the Mediterranean Dialogue.
Speaker of the House of Representatives (Morocco’s lower house), Habib El Malki, announced on Wednesday in Rabat the creation of the Morocco-Comoros parliamentary friendship group.
During talks with minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Comorians Living Abroad, Mohamed Bacar Dossar, El Malki stressed that this group will discuss with its Comorian counterpart issues of common interest and the means to strengthen relations between the two legislative institutions.
Follow the light! Follow the light!” It sounded like a scene from the 1980s film “Poltergeist,” but it was, in fact, award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv giving some high school students sound photographic advice. The light was falling on a corner in the Berber town of Tinjad at the base of the Atlas Mountains and was fading fast. Cameras at the ready, the students trained their lenses, composed and made photographs that captured the spirit of this astonishing country.
The students, from the Ross School, a private school in East Hampton on Long Island, embark every year on what is called “M Term,” an approximately three-week educational journey to countries across the globe. This year Haviv and I accompanied them to the heart of Morocco.
“Stories transcend experience,” said Alexis Martino, dean of the Field Academy and principal organizer of the trips. “They make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. I immerse my students in storytelling to challenge them, to engage them with the unfamiliar, to encounter people whose life experiences enlarge their world, and to provide the opportunity for them to narrate their own stories of possibility and the human condition.”
A line in the sand: Fighting 40 years of exile in the desert of Western Sahara
We traveled across the country from ancient Fez through the Middle and High Atlas Mountains into the dunes of the Sahara Desert and finally, Marrakesh. Our goal was to help the students improve their vision, photographically speaking, and learn to tell stories with their images. It is always very fulfilling to see them grow over the course of the week, especially with a muse as inspiring as Morocco. This is a small sampling of what they saw.
Photos by: Hannah Dayton, Yi Pan, Michael Robinson Chavez, Leif Wood, Chun-hui Liou, Luna Wang, Ella Gatfield, Elizabeth Budge, Milo Munshin, Miles Thorsen, Leila Murphy, Lucia Robinson, Amanda Mintz, Ron Haviv/VII, Sunny Guo
Over the next few decades, Morocco will be the first non-oil producing country in the MENA region to join the emerging countries club, according to a World Bank report entitled “Morocco 2040 - Emerging by Investing in Intangible Capital”.
According to the report, which was presented in Casablanca on Tuesday by Marie-Françoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Director for the Maghreb and Malta, Morocco has achieved undeniable advances over the last 15 years, economically and socially, as well as in the fields of individual liberties and civil and political rights.
The World Bank (WB) announced, on Tuesday, a $350 million program to support wide-ranging reforms of financial intermediation in Morocco.
The loan supports new sources of financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) while improving the regulatory oversight of the banking sector, said the financial institution, adding that the operation also supports capital market development by broadening the range of instruments and strengthening the protection of Moroccan investors.
By Melody Fidelis
Morocco have sealed pacts to drive the implementation of the gas regional pipeline and fertilizer initiative. According to the Foreign Minister of Morocco, Nasser Bourita who presented the broad guidelines of the projects at the signing of the agreements in Morocco, the shared vision of the two leaders, President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari and King Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco is in favour of a sustainable, active and solidarity based joint development for Africa.
He noted that both projects were initiated during the Royal visit of the king to Nigeria in December 2016. Tagged ‘The Wonder of Africa’, the Joint Initiative on the Morocco –Nigeria Gas Regional Pipeline has been described as one designed by ‘Africans for Africans’ with a direct impact on 300 million people through the speeding up of electrification projects in West Africa; thus serving a basis for the creation of a competitive electricity regional market.
The scope of the Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM), was to determine the modalities of undertaking a feasibility study and a Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) study relating to a gas pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco.
The pact also specified equal partnership in governance, management and financing of the project, with a timeline for both studies pegged at two years from the date of signing.
The second bilatéral agreement borders on the second phase of the fertiliser initiative. ‘The first phase was the supply of a cargo of phosphate by Morocco to Nigeria after eight weeks of its signing.
This supply led to the resuscitation of 11 blending plants which produced about 1.3 million tonnes of fertiliser; creation of 50,000 (direct) and 150,000 (indirect) jobs while farmers have access to the quantity of fertiliser they need.
“The second phase will enable the maximisation of local fertiliser production through the creation of platform for basic chemical products, secure the Nigeria’s market’s fertiliser supply for competitive prices and reinforce local distribution channels.
“The ceremony, held at the palace of King Mohammed VI, had him in attendance as well as a high- powered delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe, his counterpart in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Jigawa State and Chairman, Presidential Committee on Fertiliser. Alhaji Abubakar Badaru. Other African countries were also in attendance”, a statement on the pact explained.
Natural Gas World
Sidi Moktar in the Essaouira basin, onshore central western Morocco (Photo credit: Sound Energy).
UK-based explorer Sound Energy said May 17 that its rig has now arrived at its Sidi Moktar licence, onshore central western Morocco.
It will re-enter and test two existing wells (Koba-1 and Kamar-1) on the Kechoula discovery and, should sufficient qualities of gas be proven, Sound says it will complete an extended well test that if successful could produce first commercial gas for the domestic market around end-2017.
The rig, owned by Saipem, was previously used earlier this year by Sound Energy at its third well (TE-8) on its Tendrara licence onshore eastern Morocco; the latter established that a ‘Tagi’ hydrocarbon system proven in Algeria extends into Morocco.
Sidi Moktar licences, covering 2,700 km², are close to a large gas consumer: Moroccan state-owned OCP’s phosphate plant. Sound says that Kechoula was drilled by previous operators and estimated to have 293bn ft³ (gross) of unrisked mid-case gas in place. Sound has a 75% interest in the licences.
Moroccan licences held by Sound Energy; the company also has Meridja exploration acreage northwest of Tendrara (Credit: Sound)
Sound Energy CEO James Parsons said that Sidi Moktar was “one of its many exciting opportunities” and is “estimated to have significant pre-Jurassic exploration potential from the Tagi and Paleozoic [levels], similar to our Tendrara licence in Eastern Morocco. We continue to believe that Morocco is an exciting hydrocarbon province with significant upside for Sound, and look forward to updating the market on progress in due course.”
Fitch Ratings issued a cautionary assessment of Morocco’s banking exposure in Africa. Fez takes center stage in business and economic news with several initiatives announced. The aeronautics sector gets new public-private partnership to boost capacity. And a government agency issues updated statistics on the role of technology in the Moroccan economy.
Looks good on paper. According to a recent bulletin released by Fitch Ratings, Moroccan banks must be careful not to be over-exposed in acquiring assets in Africa. Both the recent acquisition of Barclays Bank in Egypt and greater activity in sub-Saharan Africa were included in the assessment. According to the bulletin, “Moroccan banks that establish or acquire banks in markets with lower sovereign ratings are exposed to the large portfolios of local government bonds that these subsidiaries will typically hold.”
The concern, most recently tied to Attijariwafa Bank’s purchase of Barclays, reflects the quality of domestic sovereign bonds in most African markets, which are below the quality of similar bonds in Morocco, exposing the banks’ bottom lines to greater asset risk as well as to regulatory standards that may be less developed than Morocco’s.
Attijariwafa paid almost three times the book value for the Barclays operations, justified by the value that its African subsidiaries generate: 32% of 2016 net income for BMCE (Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur), 29% for Attijariwafa, and 12% for GBPC (Groupe Banque Populaire Centrale), offsetting weak earnings in the Moroccan market. Profits are also threatened by weak loan portfolios if the assets were to decline in value, or in the case of government bonds, fail to maintain their face valuation. Currently, BMCE has operations in 19 African countries, Attijariwafa in 13, and GBPC in eight.
Fez takes center stage in economic spotlight. As part of the country’s continuing effort to geographically diversify its economic growth, the First Economic Forum of the Fez-Meknes Chambers of Commerce and Services (CCIS) featured an address by Moulay Hafid Alalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy, in which he reminded the audience that the government had instituted a series of mechanisms to support local industrial development and balanced geographic growth.
The Minister highlighted the country’s success in industrial manufacturing and pointed out that traditional sectors such as textiles and leatherwork are important in adding jobs to the economy. “Thanks to the Industrial Acceleration Plan,” the Minister explained, “Morocco is committed to an integrated and inclusive approach and an irreversible and mastered insertion in global value chains.” He added that “world leaders are opting for Morocco and are developing major projects here. With the integrated and innovative system put in place, these operators will now have more visibility and will be able to carry out their projects under more advantageous conditions.”
While in Fez, the Minister attended the announcement by ALTEN Group, a French company prominent in technology engineering in the ITC sector, that it was moving ahead with expanding its operations in Morocco. According to a story in Morocco World News, the company currently has more than 200 engineers and technicians working on information technology and telecommunications projects for a number of European clients. Its newest project, “The Embedded Systems Automotive and Aeronautics,” will provide outsourcing of engineering services that will create more than 300 engineering positions, mainly in automotive and aeronautical embedded systems.
The ultimate goal is to set up “a competence center of 500 engineers in Fes by 2020, with the goal of reaching 1,000 full-time employees in Morocco.” Pascal Amore, member of the Executive Committee of the ALTEN Group, stressed the importance of the group’s presence in Morocco and the strategic nature of its activities initiated at the Fes Shore Park. “ALTEN, as a global leader in engineering and technology consulting, develops design and engineering projects for major global companies in the fields of information technology, telecommunications, aeronautics, space and the automobile industry,” he said.
Auto sector receives financing boost. At the automobile value chain fair held in Tangier, Minister Alalamy signed an agreement with Société Générale du Maroc and AMICA, the trade association for the automobile sector, which would provide specific financing services for value chain supply companies in the sector.
As the Minister put it, “Our ambition through the signing of this agreement is to enable the automotive sector to pursue the exceptional dynamics it shows, through financing offers adapted to the actors of the automotive ecosystems.” This financial support is essential to meet or exceed the goal of 65% of locally produced materials for the industry. “Through this agreement,” according to the Morocco World News story, “Société Générale du Maroc says that it is committed to supporting the automotive industry throughout the value chain of financial and banking services dedicated to companies: financing offers in the form of operating loans, investment credits, industry DEVcredits (tailored financing), currency financing, leasing, factoring, long-term leasing of vehicles, cash management solutions and also offers dedicated to the employees of companies in the automotive sector.”
Aeronautics sector finds new partners to build workforce competency. Casablanca recently hosted a national conference on “Developing Aeronautical Skills: A New Approach to a New Vision.” The central theme of the program was the need for initiatives to boost the number of qualified workers and how to provide sustainable training efforts in the sector. The event was organized by Mundiapolis University, which signed two partnership agreements with Bombardier and the Moroccan Aeronautics and Space Industries Group (GIMAS). Both agreements focus on developing certification programs for employees in the aeronautics sector and upgrading the support for engineering students at the University through internships, case studies, apprenticeships, and final projects.
The growth of the sector has been quite rapid, with more than 12,000 jobs created and 120 companies generating a turnover of nearly USD 1 billion each year, according to a press release from Mundiapolis. With growing interest from international investors, it is incumbent that the sector has a robust training regime to meet industry needs. Mundiapolis President Amine Bensaid said that, through this partnership, the university’s ambition is to be the best companion for both students and companies by continuously adapting their training programs to the expectations of the job market and the needs of companies.
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