The moroccan press
Business Brief: Morocco’s Success in Rejoining African Union Strengthens Commercial Role in Africa; and Rural Development in the Spotlight – Jean R. AbiNader
While rejoining the AU is big political news, a huge side benefit is the strengthened business presence of Morocco on the continent. Not only does this support King Mohammed VI’s economic diplomacy, it enables investors to feel reassured that they have the right platform for entering the African market. More details emerge on the Morocco-Nigeria pipeline project, and several new projects are launched in agriculture and technology.
New Chapter for AU with Morocco on Board. Most commentators noting the successful re-entry of Morocco as an AU member describe the many benefits of its membership, from its contributions to regional security to its decade-long economic policy of broadening commercial ties among African countries. Morocco is more than a “good neighbor.” It provides scholarships for African students, enables and supports agricultural and renewable energy projects, invests in housing, banking, and tourism projects, and participates in regional economic development efforts.
This consolidation of Morocco’s role has many implications for companies that want to invest in Africa, the fastest growing region in the world. From Casablanca Finance City – set up to provide a wide range of support services to firms targeting Africa – to its strong transportation and distribution networks, Morocco is a welcome, stable platform for business outreach to the continent.
Of increasing importance is Morocco’s role in promoting North-South as well as South-South commerce. In this role, Morocco is also a gateway for African countries to access markets in Europe and the West, which are linked to Morocco by preferential trade agreements. This and many more benefits make this latest achievement by Morocco “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” that will serve the interests of all parties and the people of Africa.
According to an article in Morocco World News, the good news from the AU is having an impact in Asia as well. The largest Muslim country – Indonesia – recently commented on the reunion. Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, spoke with Morocco’s Ambassador to her country and reiterated that it was natural for Morocco to return to the AU as it has played a significant role in the organization’s early consolidation and development. Indonesia sees Morocco as a natural gateway to expanding its business in Africa.
African Pipeline Project Gathering Steam. While the skeptics take aim at the project’s feasibility, Morocco and Nigeria – who have agreed to undertake the project after a similar Nigeria–Algeria pipeline never materialized – are moving ahead with the technical and diplomatic efforts to move it closer to reality. An article in Africa Outlook provided more details that emerged after further consultations between the countries took place. The two primary next steps are: bringing on board the West African countries that will most directly benefit from the project, and developing specific operational guidelines.
The concept is to extend Nigeria’s current gas pipeline beyond its current route through Benin, Togo, and Ghana, around the west coast of Africa to Morocco and eventually Europe. Analysts have pointed out that this is an uphill challenge in that it may involve as many as 13 countries when completed. Morocco and Nigeria, however, see it as an opportunity to forge greater regional economic cooperation and development, bringing low cost energy supplies to countries that require energy imports and lack affordable energy.
As the article in Africa Outlook explained, “In West Africa, the Trans-African Pipeline is designed to support the creation of industrial hubs that attract foreign investment. The project will therefore facilitate the expansion of sectors ranging from industry to food processing to fertilisers and improve the competitiveness of exports, particularly amongst African countries.”
When completed, the pipeline will run an estimate 2,500 miles along the west coast of Africa, reaching a potential population of 350 million Africans. The agreement between Morocco and Nigeria goes beyond the pipeline to include cooperation in mining, agriculture, education, and collaboration to meet the carbon emission goals of COP22. A priority goal of the project is to create new regional initiatives that will draw needed international investments to West Africa to accelerate its regional economic growth.
Rural Development Highlighted in CESE Study. In line with its mandate to undertake regional economic development studies throughout the country, the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE) released its latest assessment of rural development in Morocco. The objective of the study, carried out by its committee on Advanced Regionalization and Rural and Territorial Development, was to formulate a national plan for advancing rural and mountain areas of Morocco, involving collaboration across sectors and stakeholders in the private and public sectors.
The vision is broad, projected out through 2050, and lays out the markers for comprehensive development in rural areas, towns, provinces, and regions. One of its main recommendations is to set up an administrative body specifically tasked with implementing the guidelines of the vision statement. The study’s text noted that “This body would be tasked with the following responsibilities: coordinating and integrating sector related measures, while strengthening decentralized governance and ensuring the integration of information systems and evaluation actions and the dynamics of rural development on a regional scale.”
On the economic front, it would look at the development profile within each area including occupations, human resources, demographic indicators, areas of potential economic development, and how these can be augmented, strengthened, and enhanced through the use of information and communication technologies.
According to the report, the CESE “Called for the implementation of gender equality in rural development policy and the implementation of positive measures for the empowerment of rural women. This approach would help eliminate structural and cultural obstacles. It would also eradicate discriminatory practices women experience in the family and in society, increase women’s participation in decision-making, access to land and material assets. The issues of marriage of minor rural girls, child labour and the exploitation of women in the workforce would also benefit.”
Despite Morocco’s success in bringing power to almost all of the country, there is still a lag in access to social services and infrastructure, including education, health, and family support services. The report also mentioned the need for better integration in the rural areas in support of cultural and sports activities as well as ensuring that development funds were spent through local organizations and in response to local needs.
The CESE had earlier done a similar landmark study on conditions in the Southern Provinces (Western Sahara) and proposed a comprehensive development strategy for that part of Morocco.
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President Salva Kiir: 'Sahara Issue is Different in its Genesis, Legal and Political Background from that of South Sudan'
President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, said that the "issue of Sahara is different in its genesis, legal and political background from that of South Sudan,” hailing “Morocco's serious and credible efforts” to reach a political solution to this dispute.
Religion, economics, and demographics are a potentially explosive mix.
A remarkable series of barely noticed counter terrorism operations, labor strikes, and social protests in Algeria in January showed that the North African country may be facing a year of upheaval. Six years after leaders in the fellow North African states of Tunisia and Egypt were ousted, simmering instability in Algeria could lead to the ouster of its longtime president as well.
The consequences for the U.S. of a failed Algerian state must not be minimized. The U.S. State Department considers Algeria to be an important counterterrorism partner.
First, the military junta imposed a state of emergency on Algeria’s border with Tunisia upon the return of 800 Tunisian jihadists who had been fighting for jihadi groups abroad, including the Islamic State.
Second, cities in northwest Algeria and the coastal province of Bejaia experienced several days of labor unrest and riots. It began at the start of 2017, when the regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who is nearly 80 years old and has been largely incapacitated by a stroke, implemented a robust austerity plan, cutting spending by 14 percent and increasing taxes on consumer products. In response to the protests, Algeria’s security forces arrested about 100 people, half of whom were under 25.
The political and labor disorder has led the regime to call on religious leaders to quell the dissent. The Ministry of Religious Affairs has issued directives to imams to promote in their Friday sermons the maintenance of national stability as a religious duty. Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal warned that the regime will block any attempt aimed at “destabilizing” the country and asserted that the protests “are not related to the Arab Spring.”
Social unrest has also hit Algeria’s southern Saharan region because of a significant spike in electricity prices. In the February 1, 2016, issue of The Weekly Standard, John Schindler and I noted:
Together with the struggling Algerian economy, the fight to succeed Bouteflika may very well produce a series of increasingly public convulsions within Algeria’s formidable security and intelligence establishments, who are the country’s real rulers.
Our analysis has not changed. Indeed, the case is even stronger now, as the price of natural-gas and oil exports — the foundations of the nation’s economy — have not recovered enough to satisfy the demands of Algeria’s 40 million people.
To make matters worse, Algeria continues to squander significant resources on the so-called “Bouteflika mosque.” The $1.4 billion price tag on the mosque, with a capacity for 250,000 worshippers and the world’s tallest minaret, has diverted funds away from health care and social services. One purported rationale for building the Bouteflika mosque (or the Djamaa El Djazair mosque, as it is more properly known) is that it will serve to contain radical Islam. But that argument does not hold water in a country with 30,000 mosques.
The $1.4 billion price tag on the ‘Bouteflika mosque,’ with a capacity for 250,000 worshippers and the world’s tallest minaret, has diverted funds away from health care and social services.
Despite all its troubles, Algeria remains a key oil supplier to Europe and could help save energy-starved European countries from dependency on Putin’s Russia, not to mention the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hence the U.S. has an important interest in maintaining a stable Algeria. Moreover, American oil and agricultural companies have recently secured deals with Algeria, and there is plenty of room for growth for U.S. companies in Algeria’s energy sector.
But the dangers of Algerian jihadism are alive and kicking. Mokhtar Belmokhtar — dubbed the “one-eyed sheik” after his injury in a botched explosion — is believed to still be active in Algeria. The U.S. has sought multiple times to liquidate him, but Belmokhtar — also known as “the Uncatchable” — has evaded all assassination attempts.
Belmokhtar, who named his son after Osama bin Laden, allegedly engineered the attack on the Tigantourine gas plant in eastern Algeria in January 2013. The terrorist assault resulted in the deaths of 40 oil workers, including three Americans.
Algeria’s formidable security apparatus has extensive institutional memory and experience in counterinsurgency warfare against jihadis. Between 1991 and 2002, at least 150,000 Algerians died in a civil war between Islamists and the military state. Most people who lived through the atrocities of this war have little appetite for another such conflict.
Youth employment hovers around 32 percent, and the younger generation’s readiness to effect change in stagnant Algeria could lead to a new revolt. The December 2016 U.N. Arab Human Development report examined Algeria and the age category 15 to 29. The Economist wrote in connection with this document: “Arabs make up just 5% of the world’s population, but they account for about half the world’s terrorism and refugees.”
Dire warnings have been issued about a pending implosion in Algeria and a flood of migrants to Europe. At least one prominent Algerian expert views this prediction as off the mark. Nonetheless, the dangerous mix of radical Islamism, economic instability, and growing youth unrest could be the recipe for a new Arab revolt in North Africa.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal
US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with King Mohammed VI of Morocco in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Nov. 22, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Jason Reed)
With a new administration in the White House, Morocco’s need for foreign political and economic support could lead it to turn away from its long and friendly relationship with the United States and look more toward China and Russia to safeguard its interests.
Morocco is a traditional ally to the United States. The kingdom was brought up multiple times during the 2016 US presidential campaign — but not for praise. At times, Morocco became the center of Donald Trump’s efforts to discredit Hillary Clinton, as he described her relations with Morocco as a “pay-for-play” policy.
The uproar resurfaced when the Trump camp used footage of immigrants crossing from Morocco into Spain in a political ad about the wall Trump intends to build on the US-Mexico border. The business mogul and former reality TV star responded with a controversial comment, dismissing Moroccan concerns by saying, “It was just footage.”
Morocco is one of the leading promoters of the United Nations’ environmental agendas, and recently hosted the Conference of the Parties to fight climate change — which President Trump has repeatedly called a “hoax.”
Other indications of deteriorating relations between Morocco and the United States emerged in April 2016, when the State Department issued its annual human rights report, which found that “systematic and pervasive corruption undermined law enforcement and the effectiveness of [Morocco’s] judicial system,” adding that “impunity was pervasive.”
Moroccan officials criticized the report, calling it “truly scandalous,” as reported by Morocco’s official news agency, Maghreb Arabe Presse.
However, military, economic and security cooperation has been the barometer of Moroccan-US relations, and each subsequent US administration has recognized the necessity of continuing to develop such an alliance, even to this date.
Samia Errazzouki, a Moroccan-American writer and co-editor of the online magazine Jadaliyya, believes the US-Moroccan connection is too important to be dismantled by the Trump administration.
“I think US-Moroccan relations are bigger than the Trump administration,” she told Al-Monitor.
“Morocco has cooperated with international intelligence agencies for the past few years when it comes to monitoring [the Islamic State], and I don’t believe the US is in a position to give that up.”
Since 2014, the United States has increased its counter terrorism military assistance to North Africa by 93%. The United States is the world’s top military arms exporter, and Morocco has been on the receiving end of numerous grants and contracts with various American companies.
In December 2016, the State Department agreed to sell Morocco $108 million worth of anti-tank missiles and related support.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that continues to be an important force for the political stability and economic progress in North Africa,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a news release. “This proposed sale directly supports Morocco and serves the interests of the Moroccan people and the United States.”
The United States also agreed to grant $7 million worth of military aid to the Moroccan Royal Army in 2016.
Morocco has international allies, including the United States, because of its strategic geographic locations, as it borders Europe. But Trump’s attitude differs significantly from that of his predecessor. Trump has explicitly expressed his determination to make foreign countries pay their “fair share” for security costs. Morocco could be included in the club that might suffer from these cuts.
During the past week, the new American administration has already shown an interest in disengaging from global trade treaties and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Morocco, however, seems to have found new heavyweight partners such as China, which has been competing with the United States to be Morocco’s third-largest external supplier. In May 2016, Morocco’s king visited Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping and sign a strategic partnership to develop bilateral ties.
“Morocco has already begun courting China, with talks of a Chinese-built industrial city in Morocco and greater trade connections between the countries. Morocco’s foreign policy is being guided by the vision that all options must remain open, and if that means courting China, it will do so,” Errazzouki said.
Spain remains Morocco’s largest trade partner, followed by France. Both European countries have supported Morocco’s controversial claim on the Western Sahara in the UN Security Council for more than 40 years.
Morocco has also sought closer relations with Russia. Moroccan King Mohammed VI paid a state visit to Moscow in March 2016 to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In December 2016, the king went to Nigeria to discuss developing a gas pipeline that would cross through Morocco to Europe. This effort also seems to be drawing the interest of Russian officials.
“So far, it seems that Trump is in support of greater American isolationism, and that could mean giving way for greater Russian influence in Morocco. We somewhat already see that happening with King Mohammed VI’s visit to Russia last year and high-level Russian officials visiting Morocco as well,” Errazzouki told Al-Monitor.
On the other hand, the Western Sahara question has also shaped Moroccan foreign policy, as Morocco seeks to maintain its control over the disputed region. On Jan. 30, Morocco was readmitted to the African Union after a divorce related to the disputed area that lasted more than 32 years.
Now one of Morocco’s priorities is to secure powerful allies on the UN Security Council to back its claims over the territory. Trump’s approach has already revealed his nationally based interests, which have caused chaos all around the world. Other factors such as the continuous rise of alt-right movements in Europe — in France in particular — could also increase the possibility of a stronger Russian-Moroccan alliance.
“With the far right on the rise in France, Morocco has to ensure support from a country with vetoing powers on the UN Security Council,” Errazzouki said. “If that means giving up on the United States and France in favor of Russia and/or China, Morocco will do whatever is necessary to ensure the support of a powerful country to maintain the status quo when it comes to the Western Sahara.”
Amid this fierce competitiveness and shifting geopolitical dynamics, Morocco could also use its tourism strength to get Trump’s attention. Morocco is relatively secure amid the instability in the region, especially compared with Tunisia, its main touristic rival. In 2014, Morocco welcomed more than 10 million tourists.
“Morocco is a major tourist hub in North Africa,” Errazzouki said. “With resorts and golf courses on the rise in Morocco, it could be an attractive site for Trump investments — but such a decision would be under heavy scrutiny both in the US and Morocco.”
Morocco has always enjoyed a special relationship with the United States and was the first country to recognize US sovereignty and its independence from England. European and American interests often intersect in Morocco. But as the United States pulls back, China and Russia stand to gain significant economic and political influence in the region.
Morocco will contribute 5.1 million dollars towards the construction of a 10-billion-dollar new capital for war-torn South Sudan, the two countries announced during a visit by Moroccan King Mohammed VI to the current capital Juba.
Located more centrally than the southern Juba, Ramciel has been planned as a new capital since South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011.
The city will be modernized and expanded starting this year, officials said after Morocco agreed to contribute to the project late Wednesday.
The expansion, which is due to be finished in 2022, is estimated to cost 10 billion dollars – a huge sum for South Sudan, where a military conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar has ravaged the oil-based economy since December 2013, analysts said.
Morocco will contribute 5.1 million dollars towards feasibility studies evaluating the possibilities of expansion, Moroccan Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said.
Morocco and South Sudan also signed other cooperation agreements in sectors including agriculture, industry, mining and vocational training.
Mohammed VI was visiting South Sudan a few days after the African Union decided to readmit Morocco as a member following a 33-year absence over the organization’s recognition of the independence of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.
Morocco reportedly wanted to rejoin the body in the hope of promoting its economic interests and diplomatic influence in sub-Saharan Africa, where it intends to lobby against Western Sahara’s membership in the AU.
We speak to oil and gas expert Malcom Graham Wood about Sound Energy PLC after the explorer estimated the potential for up to 31 trillion cubic feet of gas in Western Morocco.
The analyst discusses this week’s resource estimates, Sound Energy’s success to date in Morocco, and the exciting, upcoming TE-8 well.
Morocco has strongly condemned the abject attack perpetrated last Sunday against a Saudi frigate on patrol west of Hodeidah port in Yemen, which claimed several lives, said Thursday a statement by the Foreign ministry.
While expressing its deep condolences and compassion to the Saudi government and people, Morocco reaffirms its full solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its support to Saudi efforts aiming at restoring legality in Yemen, the ministry added.
Morocco's net international reserves amounted to 251.5 billion dirhams until January 20, 2016, recording a 7.9 pc year-on-year increase, Bank Al-Maghrib said.
During the week of January 19-25, 2016, Bank Al-Maghrib injected 14.5 billion dirhams.
As for the interbank rate, it remained at 2.25%, while the average trading volume decreased from 4.3 billion dirhams to 4 billion dirhams, the central bank pointed out in its weekly indicators.
During the same period, the Dirham depreciated by 0.27% against the Euro and appreciated by 0.42% against the dollar.
Cooperation with Morocco 'Fundamental' in Fighting Terrorism, Illicit Trafficking (Spanish Minister)
Cooperation with Morocco is "fundamental" in combating terrorism and trafficking in drugs and human beings, said on Wednesday Spanish Interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido.
The United States congratulates Morocco on its return, the State Department said, underlining that “HM King Mohammed VI’s strong leadership and the government of Morocco have returned the country to its rightful place in the institutional family of the African continent”.
“We believe Morocco’s membership in the African Union will positively contribute to the continent’s further economic, political, and social integration and to its stability and security”, the same source added.
An overwhelming majority of African countries on Monday voted in favor of Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU), during the 28th Summit of African Heads of State and Government, which is being held in Addis Ababa…[ORIGINAL STORY, SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED]
The post Morocco’s Return to African Union: Washington Praises HM the King’s ‘Strong Leadership’ | MAP appeared first on Morocco On The Move.
The European Union (EU) expressed, on Tuesday, its keenness to work with Morocco in order to consolidate the EU's growing partnership with Africa, after the return of the Kingdom to the African Union (AU).EU Keen to Work with "We look forward to working with the African Union and Morocco to strengthen the EU's growing partnership with Africa," said the spokesman of the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.
by Aziz El Yaakoubi
Morocco is considering tapping international debt markets in 2017 through around $1 billion of bond issues, a senior official in the finance ministry said.
The North African kingdom needs around $3 billion in financing this year to plug a budget deficit expected to reach 3 percent of gross domestic product. It plans its first ever Islamic bond in the domestic market in the first half of 2017.
The official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said the government sees favourable market conditions this year with attractive rates.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; editing by Patrick Markey and John Stonestreet)
Morocco on Tuesday hailed its return to the African Union (AU) after a 33-year absence from the pan-African organization.
“It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long!” Moroccan King Mohammed VI said in a speech at the 28th AU summit in Addis Ababa.
Rabat’s return bid won support from 39 of the 54 leaders attending a closed-door meeting of AU heads of state and government on Monday, Moroccan media reported.
Local media outlets hailed the readmission of Morocco to the AU as a “victory” for the country and a “demonstration of the overwhelming support the country enjoys on the (African) continent.”
Morocco left the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the AU, in 1984.
“The massive, outspoken support Morocco has received is proof of the solid bonds that unite us,” the Moroccan king said.
Last September, the North African country made an official request to rejoin the organization, and the Moroccan king toured many African countries to seek support.
During its absence from the AU, Morocco maintained strong ties with many countries in the continent, particularly in French-speaking states in west and central Africa.
Morocco is the top investor in west Africa and the second largest African investor in the continent.
In addition, Moroccan firms have a strong presence in many African markets, especially in banking, insurance, air transport, telecommunications, and housing sectors.
The Moroccan king, in his speech, said since 2000, Morocco has signed nearly a thousand agreements with African countries on cooperation in various fields.
In addition to economic ties, Morocco has also maintained strong cooperation with many African countries, particularly in the fields of security, peacekeeping, and managing religious affairs.
After its return to the AU as the 55th member, the king said, Morocco looks to expand its influence in the continent and join hands with other member states to meet the countless challenges facing the continent.
Morocco is committed to building a “safe, solidarity-based future,” the king said. “We, peoples of Africa, have the means and the genius; together, we can fulfill the aspirations of our peoples.”
World Bulletin / News Desk
Morocco was readmitted into pan-African body this week following absence of more than three decades.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Yusuf Bin Ahmed al-Othaimeen hailed Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU) following a 33-year absence, according to a Tuesday statement.
Al-Othaimeen expressed hope that the move would enhance the AU’s weight on the international level, thereby making it easier to find solutions to the continent’s myriad challenges.
The OIC chief also congratulated Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahmat for his election as new AU Commission chairman.
At the AU’s 28th Summit in Addis Ababa on Monday, Mahamat was elected to replace Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who stepped down after four years at the helm of the AU Commission.
Al-Othaimeen also commended the close ties between the OIC and AU, saying he was “looking forward to working with the new chairman with a view to cooperating in areas of mutual concern”.
Morocco was readmitted into the AU on Monday following an absence of more than three decades.
In 1984, Morocco left the Organization of African Unity — the predecessor of the AU — after the union formally recognized the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in the Western Sahara region, which Rabat considers Moroccan territory.