The moroccan press

European Men’s And Ladies’ Tours Join Forces In Morocco

Western Sahara Worldnews - Mon, 04/10/2017 - 09:43

Iseekgolf.com
Bruce Young

The European Tour is back in business this week when the Trophee Hassan II is played at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat in Morocco, the event being played for the seventh consecutive year but the prize money has jumped by €1 million euro to €2,500,000.

The European Tour event will be played concurrently with the Ladies European Tour event, the Lalla Meryem Cup, although the LET event is to be played on the 36-hole venue’s alternate layout, the Blue Course.

Similar concepts have been adopted on the Japan Tour and the Australasian Tour where men’s and women’s events are played at the same venue and, in the case of the Australian events, the men’s and women’s Victorian Opens at Thirteenth Beach, are actually played on the same layouts.

The Ladies European Tour event pales in comparison in terms of prize-money with the women playing for only €450,000.

The increase in prize money for the men has not really worked in terms of attracting a stronger field and the event’s position in the schedule the week after the Masters makes it difficult to attract any of the game’s elite.

Australians currently entered in the Trophee Hassan II are Wade Ormsby, Richard Green and Nathan Holman.

Ormsby has a strong record in the event with two top-10s from two previous appearances, has shown improved form in recent starts and the chance to play a venue that he clearly enjoys might help to continue his improvement.

Holman is in Morocco for the first time and has missed five of six cuts in 2017 and will need a significant turnaround.

Defending champion, Korea’s Jeunhung Wang, is the leading world-ranked player in the field (48th) having also won the Mauritius Open and Qatar Masters in the last 12 months in addition to a runner-up finish at the Nedbank Challenge.

21-year-old Wang is considered one of the game’s rising stars and his return to the scene of his first European Tour victory will be watched with interest despite his missed cut last week at the Masters.

Amongst the field for the Lalla Meryem Cup, Suzann Pettersen is the standout especially given her impressive recent showing at the ANA Inspiration.

Australians Whitney Hillier, Sarah Kemp, Stacey Peters and rookie Celina Yuan are also in the field.

PLAYER PROFILE: SARAH KEMP

About The Author : Bruce Young
A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce’s extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia’s leading golf journalists and commentators.

More Articles from Bruce Young

Morocco Lets 17 UN Civilian Staff Back In Sahara

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 04/08/2017 - 09:37

The North Africa Post

“17 employees of the civilian component of the MINURSO are preparing to join their offices in the UN mission’s headquarters in Laayoune,” a source that requested not to be named told Moroccan news website, le360.

The same source added that “talks between Morocco and the new UN Secretary General created common ground concerning the return of the 17 UN employees.”

In March 2016, Morocco expelled the 84 international civilian personnel staffed on MINURSO, after verbal blunders by the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who visited the separatist rear-base of Tindouf where he referred to Morocco’s retrieval of its southern provinces as “occupation”.

The MINURSO was established following an UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991 that put an end to a guerrilla war waged by the Algerian-based Polisario front on Moroccan troops. The UN mission was tasked with organizing a referendum, which never took place because of disagreements over who is eligible to vote. Ceasefire monitoring remains the main task of the MINURSO.

After more than a decade of failed attempts to organize a referendum on the status of Western Sahara, the UN decided in 2002 to abandon the idea and instead pursue a negotiated political solution to the conflict. In 2007, Morocco proposed a compromise solution based on broad autonomy for the Sahara under its sovereignty.

POSTED BY NORTH AFRICA POST
North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.

Morocco Attracts 207 Mln U.S. Dollars Green Funds

Western Sahara Worldnews - Sat, 04/08/2017 - 01:14

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua Editor: ying

Morocco continues to attract green funds as the first Green Climate Fund (GCF) agreed to contribute to the financing of a new water conservation project in Morocco worth 207 million US dollars, local media reported on Friday.

The program is also financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with 127 million US dollars and the Moroccan government with 47 million U.S. dollars.

It consists of building a 135 km primary transmission pipe from the Mdez dam to the Saiss plain in Northern Morocco.

The project’s objective is to replace water abstraction from the local aquifer and water resources of the Saiss plain, which is currently over exploited.

Business Brief: Good News on Morocco’s African Outreach – Jean R. AbiNader

Morocco on the move - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 21:19

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 7, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Morocco’s leadership in Africa was a dominant news item in recent weeks following King Mohammed VI’s visits to various African countries and the signing of additional bilateral agreements and MOUs. Coverage included the need for greater South-South integration as promoted by the King, updates on the Nigeria-Morocco fertilizer deal, and Morocco’s ranking in the most recent Africa Capacity Report.

What’s Not to Like? African Business Magazine has contracted Morocco fever! A recent article encourages readers to think beyond sub-Saharan Africa when assessing Africa’s potential. It points to Morocco’s economic diplomacy as “redefining the continent’s North–South relations.” Referencing Morocco’s joining the African Union in January and King Mohammed VI’s recent visit to Ghana, it notes that his activities are benefiting many countries. From the MOUs “on deepening economic ties, it has become a familiar routine for the monarch, who has toured much of the continent in the past year promoting the merits of partnership with the kingdom. Other countries visited include Rwanda, Nigeria, Zambia, and Ethiopia.”

It goes on to praise Morocco’s strategy as more than “a break from a historical focus on Europe. Moroccan companies, especially banks, have been investing south of the Sahara for years. Today, an estimated 85% of the country’s foreign direct investment is in the region. The country is also driving Africa’s sustainability agenda, positioning itself as the leader in promoting green investment and development. It is building the world’s largest solar power plant, the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, or Noor.”

Echoing the King’s theme, “The disconnect between North and sub-Saharan Africa is nonsensical, undermining regional integration efforts and costing Africa in lost investment and trading opportunities. Not to mention its corrosive effect on any claims to pan-Africanism.” The article notes that Morocco’s strategy is probably “part of a long-term vision” to encourage greater trade between North and South, as “Morocco is arguably also well positioned as a regional and continental hub for trade and investment to and from Europe. The potential for North African commercial centres like Casablanca and Cairo to perform such a role is virtually unexplored, for no good reason.”

It’s clear that there is strong agreement in Morocco with this position.

Fitch Group Names Morocco as Regional Manufacturing Hub. Morocco World News covered a study prepared by BMI Research and incorporated into an assessment by Fitch Group, which demonstrates Morocco’s growth as a manufacturing center. In fact, the BMI study predicted that Morocco’s GDP growth will outperform the region in the coming years. It says that “Morocco will remain favoured by international investors over the coming years, benefitting from positive reforms to the business environment and policy continuity. This will support the country’s ambitions to become a manufacturing and exporting hub between Europe and Africa, which will in turn result in GDP growth outperforming the rest of the MENA region.”

The BMI report goes on to note the long term benefits of the strategy that accrue due to the steps that the country is taking in terms of business incentives, skills training, and political stability. Becoming the “area’s primary hub for manufacturing and export between Europe and Africa, [has] turned it into the investment darling of the MENA region. Researchers are expecting this trend to continue indefinitely.”

The report cites the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, in which Morocco has climbed from 129th to 68th in less than 10 years, and the adoption of Morocco’s new Investment Charter, adopted in 2016, as factors “expected to support the continuation of this upward trend over the coming years.” “Investors are responding positively to improvements Morocco has made to its business environment, including online platforms for the registration of businesses and properties. These reforms and Morocco’s status as the most politically stable country in the region bode well for the future investing,” BMI’s research noted.

In conclusion, the BMI report points to the underlying stability of the country as a key factor. “We believe that Morocco’s relative political stability compared with the rest of the region will continue to support policy continuity and investment-friendly reforms over the coming years.” And the Fitch Group commented, “Over the coming years, Morocco’s GDP growth is predicted to be faster-than-average keeping it well on track to become the region’s primary hub for manufacturing and export.”

Nigeria-Morocco Fertilizer Deal on Track. In addition to the Atlantic gas pipeline project, Morocco and Nigeria signed a MOU for the supply of phosphates from Morocco to support the development of an industry devoted to crop-specific fertilizer in Nigeria. As detailed in an article in Nigeria newspaper The Guardian, shipments of phosphates have already begun and are expected to yield 1.3M tons of fertilizer, adapted to the soil and crop conditions in the country. As the article points out, “Access to fertiliser, which is added to soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants, has remained a big issue for farmers, especially for the rural farmers who are unable to buy the product at exorbitant cost.”

Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru, noted that “The Moroccans have already supplied a cargo of phosphate which has been delivered to various blending plants across the country. Already, eleven blending plants have come into production because of the supply. I am happy to inform you that this development has translated to the creation of about 50, 000 jobs and led to the production of about 1.3 million tonnes of fertiliser in the country.”

Africa Capacity Report Highlights Morocco. According to the 2016 Africa Capacity Report (ACR), Morocco “is the leader in the area of Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI).” An article in the Ghana Business News provided details on the report released by the African Capacity Building Foundation, which surveyed 44 countries on the continent to determine how their development agendas measured up against their capacity for development in key indicators. Morocco was one of the “high” performers with a score of 71.6 out of 100, the leader in North Africa. The 224-page report measures four critical categories supporting global innovation: the policy environment, development results at the country level, capacity for development outcomes, and processes for implementation. Morocco’s results provide a measure of satisfaction as well as the basis for continued progress.

The post Business Brief: Good News on Morocco’s African Outreach – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Fitch Affirms Morocco at ‘BBB-‘ Outlook Stable

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 09:17

Reuters

(The following statement was released by the rating agency) HONG KONG, April 07 (Fitch) Fitch Ratings has affirmed Morocco’s Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at ‘BBB-‘ with a Stable Outlook. The issue ratings on Morocco’s senior unsecured foreign- and local-currency bonds have also been affirmed at ‘BBB-‘.

The Country Ceiling has been affirmed at ‘BBB’ and the Short-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency IDRs at ‘F3’. KEY RATING DRIVERS Morocco’s ratings are driven by its economic performance, public finance and external finance metrics in line with ‘BBB’ medians and structural features (as reflected in development and governance indicators) that are weaker than peer medians. Economic policy focuses on maintaining macroeconomic stability and is unlikely to change much as a result of the parliamentary election in October 2016.

The Justice and Development Party (PJD), the main governing party in the previous parliamentary term, remained the biggest party but differences between parties meant it took until March 2017 for a new government to be formed. The main parties in the new government are the same and there is little indication that the addition of one smaller party will change the direction of policy. However, the prolonged negotiation has meant little progress was made on reform projects under the care taking government and it is likely that the reform momentum will take some time to return. GDP growth fell to 1.6% in 2016, from 4.5% in 2015, mainly because of the worst drought in 30 years following a bumper harvest in 2015.

As a result, cereal production fell by more than 70% and agricultural value added decreased by 9.6%. Confidence effects from the weak agricultural performance and low growth in the euro area as the key export market depressed the non-agricultural economy, which grew 3.1%, after 3.5% in 2015, illustrating the limited effect of the industrial strategy on growth so far. Rainfall for the 2017 agricultural season has been favourable, suggesting that there will be a significant rebound in the agricultural sector and this should help lift growth to 4.3% in 2017. In 2018, base effects will no longer boost GDP growth, leading to a deceleration to 3.2%. Despite the weakening economy, the central government deficit decreased to 4.1% in 2016, from 4.3% in 2015, although it stayed well above the budget target of 3.5%.

Apart from the impact of weaker growth, the under performance relative to the budget reflected a higher execution of investment projects, an acceleration of VAT refund payments and another fall in disbursements of grants from GCC countries. The budget for 2017, submitted to parliament in October, foresaw a deficit of 3% of GDP, but due to the lower starting point we expect the deficit will come in at 3.8% of GDP. The improvements will partly reflect the economic recovery, although the tax take from the agricultural sector is quite small. In addition, improved budget administration as a result of the Organic Budget Law (OBL) will also help to contain expenditure. Fitch estimates that the fiscal deficit of the general government, which also includes social security, local governments and special treasury accounts, was 1.7% of GDP in 2016, down from 1.8% in 2015, with a further decline to 1.3% in 2017.

In addition to the improved central government, the improvement reflects the impact of pension reforms approved last year. The delay in forming a new government and in approving the budget for 2017 has had only limited impact on fiscal execution. The OBL has streamlined fiscal management for periods where no approved budget is in place, and under a government decree the draft budget 2017 is being implemented with the exception of civil service recruitment and the implementation of new projects. Fitch estimates general government debt peaked at 49.6% of GDP in 2016 and is likely to decline gradually in subsequent years. The government faces significant additional contingent liabilities from guarantees mainly for infrastructure projects managed by state-owned enterprises, estimated at 19% of GDP in 2016.

The guarantee exposure is expected to continue rising moderately, but the track record suggests a low likelihood that the liabilities will move to the government balance sheet. The current account deficit deteriorated substantially in 2016 to 3.9% of GDP, from 2.1% in 2015 despite the beneficial effect of lower oil prices. The deterioration primarily reflected a sharp rise in capital goods imports, which rose by 27% in MAD terms. The deficit was also affected by soft prices for phosphates and phosphates-based fertilisers, one of Morocco’s main export commodities (accounting for 18% of exports). We expect the government’s policy of attracting foreign investment to lead to a continued high demand for capital goods, but the deficit should gradually decline as growth in exports will remain solid. This could help net external debt, which at 11.5% of GDP remains higher than the BBB median of 0.6% of GDP end-2016, to decline gradually.

However, significant capital inflows meant that the Bank al-Mahgrib was able to raise international reserves USD2.3 billion to USD24.4 billion or 6.5 months of current external payments at end-2016. The currency is considered to be broadly aligned with fundamentals and the authorities are still planning to gradually move to a more flexible exchange rate arrangement. Fitch believes this will initially only mean wider fluctuation against the currency basket against which the dirham is pegged. Capital account liberalisation, reducing restrictions on Moroccan investments abroad, will be phased in only gradually. Development and governance indicators are weaker than ‘BBB’ medians. In particular, GDP per capita and the World Bank’s human development indicator are lower than both the ‘BBB’ and the ‘BB’ category medians. Exposure to financial shocks is moderate, due to a developed and broadly sound banking sector.

SOVEREIGN RATING MODEL (SRM) and QUALITATIVE OVERLAY (QO) Fitch’s proprietary SRM assigns Morocco a score equivalent to a rating of ‘BBB-‘ on the Long-Term FC IDR scale. Fitch’s sovereign rating committee did not adjust the output from the SRM to arrive at the final LT FC IDR. Fitch’s SRM is the agency’s proprietary multiple regression rating model that employs 18 variables based on three year centred averages, including one year of forecasts, to produce a score equivalent to a LT FC IDR. Fitch’s QO is a forward-looking qualitative framework designed to allow for adjustment to the SRM output to assign the final rating, reflecting factors within our criteria that are not fully quantifiable and/or not fully reflected in the SRM.

RATING SENSITIVITIES The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch’s assessment that upside and downside risks to the rating are currently balanced. The main factors that may, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action are: – Continued fiscal consolidation and reduction in public debt-to-GDP – Structural improvement in the current account balance consistent with declining net external debt to GDP – Over the medium term, improvement in development indicators illustrating rising debt tolerance The main factors that may, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action are: – A widening of twin deficits, leading to rising public and external debt burdens – A weakening of medium-term growth prospects – Political and security developments that affect macroeconomic performance KEY ASSUMPTIONS Fitch assumes that Brent crude prices will average USD52.5/b in 2017 and USD55/b in 2018. Fitch assumes that the eurozone economy will grow by 1.7% in 2017 and 1.6% in 2018.

Contact: Primary Analyst Jan Friederich Senior Director +852 2263 9910 Fitch (Hong Kong) Limited 19/F Man Yee Building 68 Des Voeux Road Central Hong Kong Secondary Analyst Amelie Roux Director+33 144 299 282 Committee Chairperson Michele Napolitano Senior Director +44 20 3530 1882 Media Relations: Peter Fitzpatrick, London, Tel: +44 20 3530 1103, Email: peter.fitzpatrick@fitchratings.com; Wai-Lun Wan, Hong Kong, Tel: +852 2263 9935, Email: wailun.wan@fitchratings.com. Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com Applicable Criteria Country Ceilings (pub. 16 Aug 2016) hereSovereign Rating Criteria (pub. 18 Jul 2016)here Additional Disclosures Dodd-Frank Rating Information Disclosure Form here_id=1021856 Solicitation Status here.

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Morocco’s CIH Says Eyes Growth From Currency Reform, Islamic Finance

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 09:08

Nasdaq
By Samia Errazzouki

Morocco’s Credit Immobilier et Hotelier (CIH) bank is positioning for growth as the North African country prepares to introduce a more flexible exchange rate system and expand its Islamic banking sector, its chief executive said.

As part of financial reforms, the kingdom is preparing to introduce a flexible exchange rate system this year, including possibly widening the official bands for fluctuation of the dirham by around 5 percent as a first phase.

Earlier this year, Morocco’s Central Bank also approved requests to open Islamic Banks, including regulatory approval for CIH, who has partnered with Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) to open its Islamic bank dubbed Umnia Bank. “I can announce that our Islamic bank is ready to go, we are simply waiting for its birth certificate to be released in the Official Bulletin to begin the activities,” CIH CEO Ahmed Rahhou told Reuters in an interview.

CIH’s assets make up less than 5 percent of Morocco’s banking sector, reporting a 434.5 million dirham ($43.12 million) net profit in 2016. Earlier this year, Fitch rated CIH BB+ with a stable outlook, the bank’s first rating from Fitch. CIH and its majority shareholder, Caisse de Depot de Gestion (CDG), a public sector establishment, will hold 60 percent of the shares in Umnia Bank, while QIIB will hold the remaining 40 percent shares, Rahhou said.

CIH is among five banks to receive regulatory approval from the Central Bank to open Islamic banks in the country after Morocco long rejected Islamic banking due to concerns about the influence of Islamist movements. Islamic finance is also seen as a way to draw more foreign investment to the domestic financial market. Moroccan dirham exchange rate is currently fixed by a peg that is 60 percent weighted to the euro and 40 percent to the dollar.

The central bank is planning to ease the peg and allow the currency to trade within a narrow range. As an emerging bank, CIH hopes to use the liberalization of Morocco’s currency regime to position itself as a key intermediary between the central bank and the market, the chief executive said. “There will be certified banks authorized by the central bank as intermediaries and we will do all that we can to be among the banks to have this privilege,” Rahhou said.

Economic and financial reforms, including the passing of the budget, were delayed after the country was left without a government for six months due to stalled party negotiations following October’s election. On Wednesday, King Mohammed VI appointed the government under the leadership of Islamist Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani in a coalition of six parties. “The government has to move fast to make up for lost time,” said Mohammed Boussaid, Minister of Finance and Economy.

Morocco has already done more than most North African countries to make tough changes required by international lenders to curb its deficit, such as ending fuel subsidies and freezing public sector hiring. The IMF last year said that it agreed with authorities that the current situation was suitable to move toward a flexible exchange rate and an inflation-targeting regime despite the risks from global financial instability.

(Reporting by Patrick Markey) ((pat.markey@thomsonreuters.com; +213-661-692993; Reuters Messaging: pat.markey.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Morocco’s Economy Grows By 4.3 Pct In First Quarter

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 07:01

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua

Morocco’s economy grew by 4.3 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with 1.7 percent in the same period a year earlier, the official High Commission for Planning said on Thursday.

The commission said in a note on the Moroccan economy that this growth was mainly due to the rise in agricultural output by 12.9 percent in the first quarter this year, up from nine percent last year.

Apart from the agriculture sector, which accounts for more than 15 percent of the country’s economy, the non-agricultural sector grew three pct in the first quarter from a year ago, the commission added.

As for the second quarter of 2017, the official planning agency expects the economy to grow 4.6 percent in compared to 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The Moroccan economy has been hit hard by a drought in the fall of 2015, which compromised the 2016 agriculture production.

Morocco, Fourth In World Destinations Per Flights To Or From Europe- Euronews

Western Sahara Worldnews - Fri, 04/07/2017 - 01:53

The North Africa Post

Morocco was ranked in 2016 fourth in world destination per flights to or from European airports after the United States, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, said Euronews.

In an article on the increasing airport security cooperation between Morocco and Europe, Euronews shed light on the importance of Casablanca’s airport as a hub that hosted 8 million passengers in 2016 and as a bridge between Europe, Africa and Latin America.

The same news outlet noted that at the Casablanca International Airport in Morocco between 150 and 200 flights take off to or from Europe daily.

Morocco, said Euronews, “was also the first non-European state to be fully integrated into the working structures of EUROCONTROL, an international organization for safety in air navigation.”

The same source added that EUROCONTROL experts are often in Morocco to coordinate a common workflow and data exchange with their Moroccan colleagues and to provide better services to airlines and passengers.

Quoting Zouhair Mohammed El Aoufir, CEO, Moroccan Airports Authority, Euronews said that Morocco guarantees air space continuity, with the same standards, safety, fluidity and security between Europe and the rest of the world.

POSTED BY NORTH AFRICA POST
North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.

Energy News in Morocco: Getting Better All the Time – Jean R. AbiNader

Morocco on the move - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 21:57
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 6, 2017

King Mohammed VI launched Noor IV on April 1, 2017. Photo: MAP

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Morocco’s commitment to derive 50% of its domestic energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 took another giant step forward with the launch of the fourth and last stage of the Noor solar energy facility in Ouarzazate. Unlike the previous three segments, which use CSP technology, this 72MW facility will use the more common photovoltaic process for producing energy. Projected to cost $220M, it will serve the needs of 1.1M people in the region, and eventually will provide power to other parts of the country and possibly other African countries.

Once again, the project is led by ACWA Power, a Saudi company that has been the consortium leader on the three other Noor segments working with partners from European and Asian countries. MASEN, Morocco’s solar authority, will provide funding for the expansion. Amazingly, the target price under the agreement is 4.79 cents per kilowatt hour, whereas earlier projects were in the 7-8 cents range.

“This programme will not only focus on the delivery of green electricity at a low cost, but it will also deliver on the strategy of employment creation and eco­nomic development from renewable energy capacity deployment,” said Mohammed Abunayyan, the chairman of ACWA. When completed in 2020, the Noor complex will have a combined capacity of 2000MW.

ACWA’s chief executive, Paddy Padmanathan, said that Noor’s renewable energy capacity would be delivered at “pace-setting tariff levels to support the country’s unwavering commitment to decarbonise electricity generation without compromising the social and economic development of the kingdom,” indicating that the low rates would not affect income flowing to the government.

It is anticipated that job creation in the region will also get a much-needed boost from having a rather inexpensive power source at hand. Investors and companies from the rest of Morocco and overseas will find that the government has already put infrastructure in place to serve new projects in the region. Coming after a very effective COP22 energy summit in Marrakesh last summer, Morocco has received global attention for its domestic and regional efforts to promote sustainable and low-cost energy solutions.

Karim Chraibi, an expert in energy, regulatory frameworks, investments, and renewable energies said that “This project has given us a choice position and international visibility. If everything goes as planned, Ouarzazate – the southern Moroccan city where the Noor project is located – will indeed be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) technology center in the world. We can certainly rejoice and celebrate this unique achievement in our region.”

This new source of energy will help Morocco address its job creation challenges for the 45% of its population under 25. The government has already initiated a number of programs to provide adequate training and incentives for workers to acquire technical and vocational skills to match opportunities generated by the Noor project in the green energy field.

“Due to its ambitious energy policy, which has earned it 9th place in the global green economy, Morocco should be very pleased to have prepared the ground for the considerable development of green jobs in the short, medium and long term,” Director of the Moroccan Forum of Green Jobs (FMV) Mohamed Lamghrari said. He noted that the environmental sector represented a real source of employment, adding that by 2020, around 13,000 jobs will have been created in sustainable energy production, 50,000 in the forest sector, 35,000 in energy efficiency, 10,000 in the liquid waste management sector and about 11,000 in the management of solid waste.

Morocco’s Lone Refinery Still a Bust

Morocco’s renewable energy expansion is critical given that it imports 95% of its energy needs. That the country’s only refinery ceased operations in August 2015, and is bankrupt with dim future prospects, adds to the necessity. It is now under court supervision and Mohammad Al Krimi, the independent trustee appointed to oversee the company’s future, said that he has received about 20 offers from foreign investors.

The 200,000-barrels-per-day refinery outside of Casablanca had debts of $4.4B while its valuation is $2.1B. It was originally constructed in 1959 as a government joint venture, and privatized in 1997. A Saudi investment group, SAMIR, increased the original capacity, upgraded its range of refined products to suit the local market, and had its own distribution and marketing network. Despite the rise in Moroccan consumption of oil imports by more than 240% between 2002 and 2015, it was undone by competition from the private sector.  According to an article in Gulf News, “This situation seems to be the same when the refinery was stopped. The crude throughput of the refinery is about 55 per cent of capacity and this is very low and may have contributed to the refinery’s financial difficulties….The government may have been influenced by the availability of ports on the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea to receive imports and to optimise the internal need for transportation to the detriment of the refinery.”

The role of the refinery in the country’s overall energy strategy will eventually be defined through negotiations with the eventual new owner and the government.

The post Energy News in Morocco: Getting Better All the Time – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

New Government to Continue Reforms Initiated by Previous Cabinets: El Othmani

The moroccan press - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 12:40

The new government will continue the reform process initiated by previous governments, while "putting the Moroccan citizen's interest above any other consideration," Head of Government Saad-Eddine El Othmani said Wednesday in Rabat.

Categories: The moroccan press

Exploring The Ancient City Of Volubilis

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 11:00

Travel Pulse
Tour Operator Shoretrips Lisa Iannucci

Travelers who take excursions to Morocco often do so to visit the popular cities of Marrakesh and Casablanca.

However, not to be missed is a city that is located two hours away from Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Here lies the ancient city of Volubilis, where the ruins of the once Roman rule now stand.

Volubilis is located at the foot of the Atlas mountains, in the Meknes-Tafilalet region of Morocco. It was founded in the 3rd century B.C., and became an important base of the Roman Empire. In 1997, Volubilis had the distinct honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On your trip to Morocco, let ShoreTrips take you on a trip back in time and see what UNESCO calls ‘one of the richest sites of this period in North Africa, not only for its ruins but also for the great wealth of its epigraphic evidence.”

This wealth was generated from the local olive and wheat field production as well as the export of wild animals to the Coliseum of Rome. As a result, you have the chance to see are many residences of the rich that are still standing and open for visitors. Here you can get a feel for what the lavish area looked like, as well as learn about its history through the multiple mosaics in various buildings.

For example, check out the House of Venus, once home to King Juba II, and the House of Orpheus, which has an exquisite mosaic of Orpheus playing the lute for animals.

It is said that several of Heracles’ (also known as Hercules) feats happened in Volubilis. He had killed his own children and, to expiate the crime, Eurystheus required him to carry out 10 labors.

When he was done, Eurystheus added two more, which became the Twelve Labors of Heracles.

Other sites to see include Volubilis’ House of the Acrobat, which has a mosaic of an athlete winning a race. There are also mosaics that illustrate the Greek and Roman gods of wine, Dionysius and Bacchus, throughout the ruins.

READ MORE: The Best Of Beijing With ShoreTrips

Nearby is the holy city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, named after the man who brought Islam to the Moroccan people. This beautiful city that the faithful tourists pilgrimage to is worth a visit, especially to see the buildings built on the side of the mountain.

For a divine blessing, visit one of the most popular attractions in the area, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknès, a highly regarded architectural site as well. The Mausoleum is named after the ruler who made Meknès his capital city in the 17th century. It is said that a visit to his final resting place is to bring a divine blessing. The Mausoleum also has three brightly decorated courts, a mosque, and the tombs of the sultan and his family.

Start your unforgettable visit to the ruins of Volubilis, Morocco through the entrance of the recently built visitor center.

Michael Rubin: Spain’s Land Grab In Gibraltar Is Pure Hypocrisy

Western Sahara Worldnews - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 00:50

Yahoo! News
Newsweek
Michael Rubin

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

The European Union’s leadership, bitter over the British government fulfilling the democratic mandate of its public to exit the European Union, has given Spain veto power over any future relationship between Gibraltar, a British territory, and the European Union.

Spain has long resented British possession of Gibraltar, which an Anglo-Dutch force captured in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession and which Spain ceded to Great Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht seven years later.

Today, just over 32,000 people live in the territory, the vast majority of whom have repeatedly voted overwhelmingly both for their own autonomy and to reject any sharing of sovereignty with Spain.

Spain may very well return to the days when it effectively embargoed Gibraltar, denying easy access to tourists and forcing residents to rely on air links to Great Britain to run their economy. The bureaucrats in Brussels frankly may also cheer on Spain’s punishment of the population and economy of Gibraltar as a means to signal its annoyance with Great Britain for turning its back on the European experiment.

Related: Conflict likely despite polite start to Britain-EU divorce

Spain, however, is playing with fire and risks creating a precedent which will burn it several times over. Here’s the problem:

While Spain might object to Great Britain maintaining sovereignty over a 2.6-square-mile territory that Madrid sees as its own, Spain has its own enclaves on the Mediterranean carved out of what should be, but for historical accidents of centuries past, sovereign Moroccan territory.

People entering the British territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, at its border with Spain, in La Linea de la Concepcion, Spain June 24, 2016. Michael Rubin writes that if Spain uses the Brexit negotiations to land grab the Rock, the Spanish colonies in Morocco of Ceuta and Melilla will instantly demand freedom from Spanish rule. Jon Nazca/reuters

Ceuta is only 7 square miles. In 1415, the Portuguese captured Ceuta and, during the next century when Portugal and Spain briefly united, Spaniards flocked to the city. The 1668 Treaty of Lisbon formally ceded Ceuta to Spain to whom it has belonged ever since. Spain, along with France, was a colonial power in Morocco but, in 1956 when Spain withdrew from northern Morocco (it would leave the Western Saharan in 1975), it continued to hold Ceuta.

Related: How Scotland and Northern Ireland could stay in the EU

Melilla, only 4.7 square miles, has a similar history. Spain conquered the city in 1497 and rebuffed subsequent Moroccan political and diplomatic efforts to win it back. Spain may consider it an autonomous territory but, in reality, it is a colonial outpost and an accident of history.

Spain may seek advantage from Brexit going forward in order to reclaim Gibraltar; that’s Madrid’s prerogative. However, so long as Spain continues to hold Ceuta and Melilla, instead of allowing an extension of Moroccan sovereignty, then Spain and the European Union’s case will be both hypocritical and weak.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A former Pentagon official, his major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy.

Spain Wants Britain To Hand Back Gibraltar Yet No Intention Of Giving Up Morocco Enclaves

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 14:07

Express.co.uk
By Dominic Midgley

It is a tiny coastal enclave, part of a foreign state, surrounded by the country that lost it hundreds of years ago.

As its economy is much healthier than its neighbour, thousands of workers flock across its border every day to work.

And the nation on whose land mass it sits has been desperate to get it back for centuries but the vast majority of the population are virulently opposed to the idea. Sound familiar?

Very probably. However it’s not Gibraltar but Ceuta, a Spanish possession 17 miles across the Mediterranean from the Rock in Morocco. And Spain has not one but two Gibraltar-like enclaves there, with Melilla 250 miles down the coast in exactly the same position.

Their existence throws into sharp relief the hypocrisy of Madrid, which has capitalised on the invoking of Article 50 to reassert its claim to the territory it ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Morocco King Names New Cabinet, Islamists Lose Key Post

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 13:15

Voice of America
Reuters

Morocco’s new Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, center, gives a news conference next to Driss Lachgar, left, of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces party (USFP), Aziz Akhannouch, second left, of the National Rally of Independents (RNI), Mohamed Nabil Benabdallah, third right, of the Progress and Socialism party (PPS), Mohammed Sajid, second right, of the Constitutional Union (UC) party, and Mohand Laenser, right, of the Popular Movement, in Rabat, Morocco, March 25, 2017.

After six months of post-election deadlock, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Wednesday named a new cabinet led by the main Islamist party, which lost a key ministry after protracted negotiations with rivals in the ruling coalition.

The Islamist Justice and Development (PJD) party won elections in October, but the formation of a government was delayed during wrangling with parties who critics say were too close to royalists uneasy with sharing power with Islamists.

Under Moroccan law no party can win an outright majority in the 395-seat parliament, making coalition governments a necessity in a system where the king holds ultimate power despite ceding some authority during protests in 2011.

The PJD’s Saad Eddine El Othmani, a former foreign minister, was appointed premier last month by the king to replace PJD leader Abdelilah Benkirane, after his efforts to form a government had been frustrated.

The new cabinet includes members from six political parties.

The PJD, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the Popular Movement (MP), and the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) were in the last government.

Also part of the new cabinet are the Constitutional Union (UC) and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), whose participation became a source of conflict between Islamists and the rival RNI party, led by a close friend of the king.

MAP state news agency said several key ministerial posts remain unchanged and under the control of the RNI, which clashed with the PJD during party talks over its insistence on including the USFP in the coalition. The PJD had resisted under Benkirane.

Aziz Akhannouch, RNI leader and a close friend of the king, remains Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. RNI members Mohammed Boussaid and Moulay Hafid Elalamy remain heads of the Ministry of Finance and Economy and Ministry of Trade and Industry, respectively.

Abdelouafi Laftit, former governor of Rabat and opponent of the PJD, was named Minister of Interior. Former interior minister, Mohammed Hassad, whose tenure saw a testy relationship with Benkirane, was appointed Minister of Education.

The PJD lost its control of the key Ministry of Justice and Public Freedoms, previously led by Mustafa Ramid, who had been critical of the security service’s record during his days as a lawyer and human right activist.

He will remain as Minister of State in charge of human rights.

Critics say since the 2011 reforms, royalists have tried to push back Islamist influence. Dismissing claims of royal interference, the palace says the king maintains an equal distance from all parties.

PJD SPLINTERS?

At the heart of the months-long political crisis were questions about the future direction of the PJD, the region’s last remaining Islamist party in power after the Arab Spring, and its relations with the palace.

Last month, members of the PJD’s national council met to discuss the party’s next steps following the replacement of Benkirane. As party members gathered, Othmani’s modest arrival was eclipsed by Benkirane, who received a hero’s welcome.

For some members of the PJD, Benkirane’s removal was a reflection of resentment toward him personally by other leaders, wary of his charisma.

Benkirane has said his party is living through a tough moment because of divisions over what some party members described in the local media as Othmani’s failure to fully consult with the party’s leadership on the cabinet makeup.

“Whatever may be said about Benkirane now regarding how he approached negotiations, he did maintain a certain advantage in that he refused … any position that would weaken his party’s agenda,” said Intissar Fakir, editor-in-chief of Carnegie’s Sada Journal.

Abdelali Hamieddine, member of the PJD’s general secretariat posted in a tweet before Wednesday’s cabinet announcement that a certain “critical distance from Othmani’s government is needed.”

Morocco Redefining Africa’s North–South Relations (African Business Magazine)

The moroccan press - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:13

Morocco, which has engaged in a genuine charm offenive throughout Africa, is redefining the continent's North–South relations, African Business Magazine writes Monday.

In an analysis titled "Morocco is reminding us that the North is also part of Africa", the magazine says that before Morocco’s engagement, North Africa’s role on the continent was routinely omitted while the likes of Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa grab the headlines.

Categories: The moroccan press

Moroccan Parliament Takes Part in 136th IPU Assembly in Dacca

The moroccan press - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:03

The Moroccan parliament participates in the 136th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, to be held on April 1-5 in Dacca (Bangladesh), under the theme "Redressing inequalities: Delivering on dignity and well-being for all."

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco, Ukraine Discuss Means to Boost Parliamentary Relations

The moroccan press - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 10:58

Speaker of the House of Representatives (lower house) Habib El Malki held, on Monday in Rabat, talks with the ambassador of Ukraine and doyen of the European Diplomatic Corps in Morocco Yaroslav Koval, on means to strengthen bilateral relations between Morocco and Ukraine, in general, and between the legislative institutions of both countries, in particular.

Categories: The moroccan press

Travel Advice: Is It Safe To Holiday In Morocco?

Western Sahara Worldnews - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 07:51

Irish Times
Joan Scales

There is a high threat of terrorism but Irish authorities have not advised against going there.

Agadir: the main resort for tourism due to its pleasant climate

Now that the Canaries are so busy, people have been looking to Morocco as an alternative destination for sun holidays. The one question everyone wants to know is: is it safe?

The advice from both the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the British foreign and commonwealth office is that there is a high threat of terrorism but have not advised against travelling there. Both recommend purchasing fully comprehensive travel insurance.

Like many countries now, including France, Spain and Germany, security services are on high alert. Security personnel may be visible particularly at sites of interest and gatherings of tourists.

Security services

In recent years Morocco substantially increased personnel in the security services and antiterrorism operations regularly flush out suspected terrorists. The country works hard to keep you safe, but it is hard to be definitive.

The main resort for tourism is Agadir on the west coast. The climate is very pleasant over the winter and spring and it attracts a lot of European tourists.

There is a very good range of hotels and prices are more competitive than the Canaries. Most people will stay on the resort and enjoy the facilities provided. There are some interesting places to visit but roads are bad and begging is a constant. Always go with a registered guide.

Five-star hotels

The city of Marrakech is a very interesting place to visit and has a great selection of accommodation to choose from. From Riads, traditional Moroccan houses built around courtyards to luxurious palace-style five-star hotels.

South of Agadir the port town of Essaouira is a popular destination for its great beaches and Moorish history. It is also a place favoured by water sports enthusiasts, because it is windy.

Sunway.ie operates package holidays to Morocco all year and Ryanair fly to Marrakech twice weekly over the winter.

Soccer in Africa: Morocco seeks to claim a place on the field – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Morocco on the move - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 20:14

Meknes, Morocco. Photo: Pablo Pecora

Caitlin Dearing Scott
April 4, 2017

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Programs, and Policy, MAC

Over the course of the past few months, the Kingdom of Morocco has ramped up its sports diplomacy in Africa, part of a broader effort led by King Mohammed VI to expand Morocco’s political and economic engagement on the continent. Morocco’s rejoining of the African Union in January (after a 33-year hiatus) has been the biggest news coming out of this renewed engagement; but Morocco has also been making headlines in the soccer world.

Last month, Moroccan Fouzi Lekjaâ was elected to the North Africa seat at the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), soccer’s governing body on the continent.  Lekjaâ won by an overwhelming majority — 41 countries out of 48, thanks in large part to Morocco’s diplomatic efforts in the sports arena. In the month leading up to the vote, Morocco signed nearly 30 partnerships with other football federations, including Burkina Faso, Gambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. According to sports politics specialist Moncef Lyazghi, these partnerships allow Morocco to organize tournaments between clubs, share infrastructure and training, and reinforce diplomatic relations.

As former Moroccan Minister of Sports Moncef Belkhayat noted, “This is part of the dynamic initiated by King Mohammed VI through his various African tours. Morocco is developing several sectors of activity to extend its influence and sport is part of it” – a view echoed by Lekjaâ, who said, “The strategy of the [Moroccan Football] federation runs parallel with the African strategy of the King.”

Part of that strategy involves elevating the role of African football worldwide. Morocco recently put in a bid to host the 2026 World Cup, potentially in collaboration with Spain and Ivory Coast or Portugal. Perhaps this bid will be the lucky one, particularly since Morocco now has the support of the new President of CAF, Ahmad Ahmad. Ahmad has called Morocco a “stronghold of African and world football.” He has declared that as CAF President he would back the project “with great enthusiasm,” since, “We are convinced that Morocco could organise this competition just as was done by South Africa in 2010.” FIFA President Gianni Infantino has also noted that Morocco has the infrastructure and organizational capacity to  host the World Cup.

The vote for the 2026 World Cup won’t take place until May 2020, giving Morocco plenty of time to demonstrate its sports leadership in Africa. Morocco’s soccer diplomacy is only just kicking off.

The post Soccer in Africa: Morocco seeks to claim a place on the field – Caitlin Dearing Scott appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Islamic Finance in Morocco Supports Ongoing Growth – Jean R. AbiNader

Morocco on the move - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:35

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 3, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Almost all of the pieces are in place for Islamic finance to start offering products in the second half of 2017, adding yet another sector supporting Morocco as an investment destination. With Europe’s economic recovery still sputtering, the kingdom needs more sources to fund its impressive and ambitious economic development, from supporting consumer-focused enterprises to large-scale industrial projects. This is where Islamic finance can provide a novel funding stream.

A recent article in African Business Magazine focused on the current forces in play that will affect the future of Islamic finance in Morocco. The article mentioned that it’s no coincidence that the country is off to a strong start in this sector. According to Simon Auquier, counsel at the French law firm Gide (which has been in Morocco for years), “Morocco was somewhat of a safe haven following the Arab Spring,” he says. “Political and social stability continued while some of our neighbours struggled.” “The introduction of real constitutional reform in Morocco following the Arab Spring did a lot to placate the population,” says Wacef Bentaibi, partner at Gide. “And our relative stability in the region has continued to draw in business and investment into the country.”

Morocco has been quite active in encouraging inflows of investment capital. The government passed preferential tax legislation and other incentives to bring financial services companies to Casablanca Finance City (CFC). Its mission is to promote Morocco’s relatively cheap labor, skilled workers, distribution networks in sub-Saharan Africa, and strong relations throughout the region to attract international companies. CFC, along with Morocco’s location as a natural bridge between Europe and Africa, makes sense to firms interested in the continent.

“When we were looking at setting up shop in Morocco as early as 2006, we saw that there were real efforts made to make the environment friendly for business,” says Adil Hajjoubi, general director at AlShall Morocco, a consulting and investment firm based in Rabat. “We opened up our office in Morocco in 2008, and following the Arab Spring, we saw the government’s commitment to creating a vibrant business environment that works. Legislation in Morocco isn’t applied just for cosmetic reasons but for real reasons.”

A long-time veteran of US business in Morocco, Patrick Dupoux of Boston Consulting Group, has been quite involved in developing the country’s economic strategy as his firm has advised several government agencies dealing with trade, investment, and economic development. He said, “We chose to open up offices in Morocco and South Africa at the same time. We chose Morocco because of its political stability, its mature market and open economy. Since then, the Casablanca Finance City has further improved the ease of doing business in Africa, in particular on the recruiting process of African talents.”

To have the broadest possible options for financing growth, Morocco opened its doors to Islamic finance. While largely unknown in the US, its banking principles are based around the concept of shared risk as the basis for profit rather than making money by charging for the use of money, which we call “interest.” To make clear the distinction, Morocco has categorized Islamic banking as participatory finance, which reflects the Islamic principle that risk must be shared by all parties to the transaction.

Since Morocco already had many products in the market that complied with Islamic financial principles, the new offerings have their own special labeling. According to Ismail Douiri, co-CEO at Attijariwafa Bank based in Casablanca, one of the five banks with approved Islamic banking arms, “The authorities needed to ensure that Islamic finance was not only sharia compliant but was in line with the constitution.” A board was established within Morocco’s Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars to rule on the consistency of financial products in accordance with Islamic law, and to ensure transparency.

Although the bank penetration rate is 65% in Morocco, there is still a large part of the population that does not use conventional banks because of the Islamic prohibition on paying interest without risk-sharing. They “still rely on family loans, hiding money under the mattress and using cash for small and large transactions. Bringing them into the formal banking sector will increase deposits, bank liquidity, could potentially raise taxes and could stimulate further economic growth,” according to Douiri. Nonetheless, he concluded that “The vast majority of the population is banked (already using banks) and didn’t see contradictions between their accounts and religion then, so I’m not sure they will see any now.”

The article concludes: “As Morocco continues to roll out participatory financial products and services slowly and cautiously, the sector will remain a niche. Islamic finance may not be much more than another string to its bow in terms of what the country can offer potential partners.” Whether or not Islamic finance contributes to a growth of 5% or 15% of the banking sector, the range most mentioned by analysts, it is another demonstration of Morocco’s commitment to promoting a broad and vibrant investment and banking sector serving diverse needs.

The post Islamic Finance in Morocco Supports Ongoing Growth – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

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