The moroccan press
by Matthew Amlôt
The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group is leading a roadmap to strengthen the Arab – Sub-Saharan Africa in the next three years.
The IsDB roadmap includes identifying business opportunities and the areas of finance, building logistics platform, supporting trade, credit and insurance, and developing the necessary infrastructure to facilitate trade.
IsDB Group President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, and Mr. Mamoun Buhedod, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy in charge of Microenterprises and the Integration of the Informal Sector in the Kingdom of Morocco, inaugurated the Arab-African Trade Bridges (AATB) forum, held on February 22-24 in Rabat.
Addressing the event, the IsDB Group President said that the volume of Bank’s support for development programmes and infrastructure projects in Africa has reached more than $43 billion, which included funding for projects in infrastructure. He added that the volume of trade financing granted to Arab and African member countries since the establishment of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), which is IsDB’s trade financing arm, has reached about $15 billion, in addition to cooperation with many strategic partners to design and implement a number of programmes and activities for the development of trade amongst member countries.
The IsDB Group President then urged Arab and Sub-Saharan African countries to take advantage of capacity development programmes to be available thanks to the “Arab-African Trade Bridges” programme over the next three years.
The participants in the forum and side events were trade ministers, directors of trade promotion agencies, presidents of the chambers of commerce and industry representing OIC Arab and Sub-Saharan African member countries, as well as international financial institutions and banks.
A number of memorandums of understanding were signed between the main participants during the forum’s inauguration ceremony.
The initiative of the “Trade Bridges between Arab and Sub-Saharan African countries” forum was proposed by ITFC during the seventh meeting of the Coordination Group to support cooperation in the field of foreign trade and export credit. Besides ITFC, the Coordination Group includes: the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICD), the Arab Trade Financing Program, the Arab Monetary Fund, the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Saudi Fund for Development and the Arab Investment & Export Credit Guarantee Corporation.
While in Morocco, Dr. Bandar Hajjar also visited two major projects funded by IsDB in the city of Kenitra. The first was Kenitra Power Station with a capacity of 315 MW which practically supports the National Electricity Office meet the growing demand for electric power and support the economic and industrial growth in the country. The second project, still under construction, was the high-speed train, to which IsDB has been funnelling funds for construction of the rails for three new stations:
Kenitra, Tangiers and Casablanca.
Furthermore, the IsDB Group Chairman also attended a workshop of potential partners in a pilot programme launched by the IsDB in partnership with the World Bank, known as “Education for Competitiveness (E4C).” This initiative aims to modernise and strengthen the educational systems in the Middle East and empower young people in the region to get better jobs in a world of increasing competition through harmonising education outputs with labour market requirements.
During IsDB Group President’s visit to Morocco, the Bank organised, jointly with the Federation of Moroccan Entrepreneurs and the Union of Moroccan Consultants, a workshop on job opportunities provided by IsDB for contractors and consulting firms through its portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa. The workshop reviewed the procurement and funding mechanisms, methods of supporting the private sector, and mechanisms of communicating offered opportunities.
Moroccan Head of government, Adbelilah Benkirane, arrived on Monday in Doha to take part in the fourth edition of the Qatar ICT Conference and Exhibition – QITCOM 2017, at the invitation of Qatar's Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani.
The networking conference will be held at Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) on March 6-8, under the theme: "Qatar – towards a smart future."
This year, the event is projected to host more than 90 local and international exhibitors.
The US State Department highlighted in its human rights report for 2016, the freedom of speech and expression in Morocco, as well as the welcome reserved to Sub-Saharan refugees and the efforts made by the Kingdom to implement the advanced regionalization plan.
Regarding freedom of expression, the State Department recalls that the new Press Code "limits punishments for journalistic infractions to fines", welcoming that authorities "did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet".
Moroccan entrepreneurs topped the ranking of the 50 most influential businesswomen of Francophone Africa, published in the latest issue of French weekly magazine ‘Jeune Afrique’.
The ranking was led by chairwoman of Moroccan employers' association CGEM, Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, followed by chairwoman of the Ynna Holding Group, Mama Tajmouati, CEO of the agro-food group Diana Holding, Rita Zniber, CEO of Aksal, Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, and deputy chief executive of Saham Finances, Nadia Fettah.
Morocco’s central bank has approved the use of five types of Islamic banking transaction, giving a final regulatory nod for the country to launch an Islamic finance industry.
Islamic banks and insurers are setting up in Morocco after new legislation allowed them into the market, and the central bank has set up a central sharia board, a body of Islamic scholars, to oversee the sector.
The North African country long rejected Islamic banking because of concern about Islamist movements, but its financial markets lack liquidity and foreign investors, and Islamic finance could attract both of those.
In circulars published in the official bulletin over the weekend, Morocco’s central bank said any Islamic transaction would be subject to preliminary approval by the sharia board, called the Sharia Committee for Participative Finance.
The central bank said it was allowing five common types of transaction: murabaha, musharaka, ijara, mudaraba and salam. It also set regulations for conventional banks to open windows selling Islamic products.
It had given regulatory approval to three major Moroccan banks to open Islamic subsidiaries: Attijariwafa Bank, BMCE of Africa and Banque Centrale Populaire, as well as to smaller lenders Credit Agricole and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier.
Subsidiaries of Societe Generale of France, Credit du Maroc and BMCI have also won permission to sell Islamic products.
The circulars lay down conditions and regulatory frameworks for banks to manage deposits, funds and investments under sharia principles, which ban interest and pure monetary speculation.
Morocco’s government plans to issue its first Islamic bond in the domestic market in the first half of 2017; experts said that would stimulate business in the sector. However, parliament has yet to approve a bill regulating Islamic insurance.
Middle East Monitor
This issue will not be solved unless a solution to the problem of democracy in the region can be found.
In a unilateral move, Morocco has decided to withdraw from the Alkrkrat Sahara region, fuelling a conflict that was already on the verge of eruption in the area.
For those who do not know the geography of the region, Alkrkrat is a buffer zone between the southern border of the Sahara region and the northern border of Mauritania. It lies directly behind the sand barrier built by Morocco at the end of the 1980s to protect the cities in the Sahara from attacks by Polisario fighters. It is the longest military security fence in the world. The Moroccan army built the fence to protect the cities (and villages) of the Sahara region that were under Moroccan administration from attacks by the Polisario.
The Moroccan Army left a buffer area between the area and Algeria to the east, and between the area and Mauritania to the south, in order to avoid any friction with its two neighbours during its pursuit of fighters who used these two countries as a rear base to launch attacks against Moroccan troops. Polisario camps are still found in southern Algeria in the Tindouf area.
Morocco’s decision is judicious given that the area it has decided to withdraw from was considered a “buffer zone” and is nicknamed “Switzerland” by smugglers due to the absence of any government authority in the area. A small strip separates the last Moroccan customs point in the Saharan region and the first customs point on northern Mauritanian soil. Thus, the Moroccan decision to “retreat” is a political and a symbolic one, intended to send a message to the new UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, that the Moroccan state is extending a hand of cooperation to the UN, under the leadership of the new Secretary-General, to find a solution to the oldest conflict on the continent.
On the other side, the Polisario Front celebrated what it considered its “military victory”, exploiting it as positive publicity, particularly as this is the first major development to take place under its new leadership after the death of its former leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz. The group is facing a real test of its continued adherence to its project to establish a “Sahrawi state” in the region.
However, what it is now called the “Alkrkrat conflict” is only an echo of a diplomatic battle taking place within the corridors of the African Union, which Morocco recently rejoined more than 32 years after leaving. By sending its forces to an area considered to be an “isolated” zone, Morocco is seeking to confirm its “sovereignty” over the Sahara region, thus considering the region’s borders part of its own territory. This is in full conformity with the African Union’s Charter, which considers that the borders of its Member States are “sacred” and unchangeable. The Polisario Front is seeking to display its military force in this buffer zone to remind the African Union’s members of its struggle with Morocco, the “old/new” member of the organisation.
Evidently, this conflict has not been resolved by a war that has lasted for 16 years between the two parties, claiming the lives of many victims on both sides. Given that it will not be resolved by a new war, neither of the parties is seeking to ignite one, even if they pretend to wish to do so. Thus, the natural solution to this chronic conflict that has become a burden on the Maghreb region, from Morocco to Libya, passing through Mauritania, is a return to the negotiating table to engage seriously in finding possible solutions. Such a dialogue cannot be effective without the participation of a key party, Algeria, which hosts the Polisario Front in its territory and has the ability to influence its decisions.
So far, Morocco has put forward a proposal to grant the population of the region self-rule under Moroccan sovereignty, while the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, is holding onto the right of the “Sahrawi people” to “self-determination”.
Faced with the refusal of each party to alter their position, the conflict has reached an impasse. The victims of this conflict today are the thousands living in tragic conditions in the Polisario camps in southern Algeria, as well as the millions of people in Morocco and Algeria who are paying the billions of dollars a year being spent on arms. Added to these are the millions of residents of the nations of the Maghreb region who are, on a daily basis, paying for the absence of am Arab Maghreb Union able to establish a wider Maghreb market, grant its people dignity and save them from being forced to migrate to the West and beg at its doors. Instead, the conflict has created conditions for the transformation of their countries into fertile ground for the export of immigrants, smugglers, criminals, and terrorists.
As I have written many times before, the primary cause of the Western Sahara issue since the 1970s, before it being an issue between two or three parties, is the absence of democracy in the region, especially in Morocco and Algeria at that time. The continuation of the conflict today is the continuation of this great “deficit ” in democracy that the region still suffers from. The issue will not be solved unless the problem of democracy in the region is solved. But it seems that none of the parties to the conflict or those affected are trying to do this. So the crisis will continue, along with despair until the dawn of democracy shines over the region. But that is still in the distant future.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadid , 1 March, 2017
UNSG Antonio Guterres named on Thursday Moroccan Najat Rochdi as Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Integrated Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), where she will serve as UN resident coordinator, humanitarian coordinator in the country, as well as UNDP resident representative.
The Fresh Plaza
The European Commission’s European External Action Service has proposed to find a legal basis to include Western Sahara in the EU Agreement with Morocco, which for FEPEX would entail formalising the agricultural concessions to this territory.
This proposal was made on Tuesday before the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, given the EU Court of Justice’s ruling in December, which considered the Agreement with Morocco not to be applicable to the Sahara.
The representative of the European External Action Service (SEAE), Vincent Piket, mentioned the need to respect international law and comply with the ruling of the EU Court of Justice; however, he stated that “the consequence of the ruling is not the export ban on goods from Western Sahara, but the lack of a legal basis for the application of reduced tariffs to products from the Sahara.” Consequently, the European External Action Service has proposed to find a “legally sound solution, such as the inclusion in the Liberalization Agreement of a geographical coverage extension in order to include Western Sahara.”
He explained that the solution requires an urgent and close collaboration with Morocco in both political and technical fields, and in this sense, he reported that there have already been talks with Morocco, the first in mid-February and the second on 1 March. When these talks have ensured a solid technical basis, the representative of the EEAS explained that a negotiating mandate would be requested from the Council for the legal adaptation of the Agreement.
EU fruit and vegetable imports from Morocco have been showing a positive development. Between 2010 and 2015, imports grew from 856,919 tonnes to 1.04 million tonnes; a 22% growth. In the same period, the value of these shipments increased by 53%, reaching 1,263 million Euro, according to Eurostat. Spanish imports from Morocco have also grown strongly in recent years. Between 2010 and 2015 they have grown by 69%, totalling 242,173 tonnes. For FEPEX, the strong growth of fruit and vegetable imports from Morocco constitutes a major threat to the Spanish sector, given the considerable overlap in products and seasons and the expansion strategies of Moroccan horticultural crops.
Publication date: 3/3/2017
Tools & Equipment
General Electrodynamics Corporation
In a move that signals maturity for its AN60Z platform, General Electrodynamics Corporation announced the finalization of a deal with Aerotechnic in Morocco that will see Aerotechnic acquire a set of GEC’s low profile aircraft scale system.
While terms of the deal remain confidential, the move signals industry confidence in GEC’s scales which continue to break new ground in international aerospace markets. “We are seeing more and more MROs looking for long term partners in their technology procurement process. They are not looking for short term solutions. Continued after-market product support is critical in maintaining key relationships with OEMs and established end users like Aerotechnic,” said General Electrodynamics’ Chief Executive, Harold Thomas.
The Aerotechnic deal also marks a critical expansion of market share by GEC since the hiring of its new Global Director of Sales, Joseph Karoki who has set out an aggressive market share campaign. “We are looking to increase our global scale, strengthen our competitiveness, and provide our customers with expanded access to cutting-edge platform scales, technology and after-market services,” says Joseph who led the negotiations with Aerotechnic Industries.
Aerotechnic Industries S.A. provides line maintenance services on Boeing 737, 747, 757 & 767, Airbus A320 family aircrafts. The company is based in Marrakech, Morocco. Aerotechnic Industries S.A. is a joint venture between Air France-KLM and Royal Air Maroc S.A.
Excellent prospects for the agricultural season of Morocco according to the Ministry of Agriculture which announces a good level of rainfall and a correct rate of filling of the barrages.
Morocco has recently experienced significant rainfall over its entire territory. At the end of February, the average national average rainfall reached 287 mm, an increase of 7% from the normal (264 mm) and 136% higher than the previous season (122 mm) on the same date.
The reserves of dams for agricultural use amounted to nearly 7.32 billion m3 against 7.88 billion m3 on the same date of the previous campaign, ie a filling rate of 54% against 59%. The level observed at the start of the previous season was due to an earlier rainy season.
In 2003 and 2011 Morocco was targeted by terrorist attacks in Casablanca and Marrakesh – a shock to the country in the Maghreb region. “Morocco was really surprised by those attacks, especially in Casablanca,” says Mohammed Benhammou, an adviser to the Moroccan government on how to fight terrorism.
With his help, the North African country has been pouring its resources into fighting radical Islam and terrorism to make sure such attacks are not repeated.
Investigation continues into marrakesh explosion
One of those instruments is a new law that aims to crack down on terrorism and related activities. Anyone potentially preparing terrorist activities such as traveling to countries like Libya, Syria or Iraq and carrying out attacks either in those countries or in Morocco will face jail. This is where Morocco is going a different way compared to its neighbors, keeping an eye on it nationals not only at home but also abroad.
The Moroccan FBI
To be able to do that efficiently, Morocco launched its own version of the FBI, the Bureau Central d’Investigation Judiciaire (BCJI). Since it started its work in 2015, it has reportedly uncovered 40 terrorist cells and arrested almost 600 people.
The numbers are impressive but, says Benhammou, they come as no surprise. “They work really well together with other countries. That’s important, because terrorism outside Morocco can also be dangerous for us. For example, a little while ago terrorist suspects from Chad and Tangier were arrested because they were preparing attacks there. And we share all our information with European countries, because we all have the same enemy – terrorism,” he told DW.
Indeed, Morocco was one of the countries to warn Germany about the Tunisian man who was behind the attack last year at a Christmas market in Berlin. But now more than ever the BCJI has to focus on it’s own country. Ever since the “Islamic State” (IS) group began expanding in North Africa, Morocco has been facing an increasing threat. According to Adelhak Khiame, director of the BCJI, IS is specifically targeting Morocco by sending people who are not known to the intelligence services to form sleeper cells. “They even try to brainwash young girls on the internet to recruit them for an attack here,” Khiame told DW. The BCJI says it recently uncovered a cell made up of mainly minor-aged girls.
School for imams
Marokko kämpt gegen den Terrorismus (DW/W. de Koning)
Preaching moderate Islam is part of Morocco’s strategy to prevent young people feeling the lure of extremism
The bureau is just one part of Morocco’s strategy. In an attempt to nip the problem in the bud, the country is going back to school. In an effort to stop muslims from becoming extremists, the country has been educating its own imams for the past 10 years. In 2015 they took that one step further and opened an imam school where imams from all over the world can study and teach moderate Islam.
The school in Rabat currently hosts 250 Moroccans (100 of them are women) and 675 students from Mali, the Ivory Coast, France, Niger and French Guinea. Students are taught to accept different opinions and values. “People have different religions and cultures. Therefore, we need dialogue and acceptance from all sides,” the director of the school, Abdessalam Lazaar, told DW.
Marokko kämpt gegen den Terrorismus (DW/W. de Koning)
Students need to be given a perspective in life if they’re not to become susceptible to the “Islamic State” group
But becoming an imam is not a cure-all. A lot of young people who are poor see life as a jihadist as an attractive alternative. The institute therefore tries to counter those developments by offering courses in economics, history, philosophy and French. And those that do go on to preach in a mosque in Morocco are under strict vigilance, says Lazaar. “If someone exceeds the limits of the state’s religious understanding, then he must be excluded.”
Morocco remains vigilant
Vigilance is key in Morocco and people on the streets are aware that it is necessary. “Not only to stop terrorism, but also to protect the monarchy,” a young man from Rabat, who wished to stay anonymous, told DW. “A friend who worked for the police, once told me that I must not talk so much about problems in the country and just do my thing.”
A young woman from Casablanca shrugs her shoulders. “Everybody in Morocco is aware that you are being watched. If they have to do that to stop terrorists, we’re okay with that, we have nothing to hide.” The young man from Rabat agrees, but confesses that sometimes he’s a bit afraid. “I have a friend who has some weird ideas and put them on Facebook. A lot of his friends unfriended him because they – like me – don’t want to be watched because of him. I have nothing to hide – but you don’t know what they think. And here you don’t have the same rights as in other countries.”
Hundreds of Tunisians joining Islamic State
Government advisor Benhammou says Morocco’s methods are working. Aside from the arrests, fewer people from Morocco sign up with IS than from other North African or Middle East countries.
According to The Soufan Group, an international strategic consultancy firm, around 1,200 Moroccans traveled to Syria as of October 2015, while 6,000 came from Tunisia. “And bear in mind that Tunisia is four times smaller then Morocco,” said Benhammou.
A survey ship has resumed prospecting for oil in Western Sahara.
Glencore risks drawing further ire over oil exploration in Western Sahara after one of its partners resumed prospecting off the coast of the disputed territory earlier this month.
A ship chartered by private firm New Age Energy spent several weeks conducting 3D seismic scans of the sea floor in what it called “early stage” exploration for hydrocarbons.
Glencore owns 18.75pc of the Foum Ognit licence area, with Moroccan state oil company ONHYM holding 25pc, and New Age the remaining 56.25pc.
Many people in Western Sahara want self-determination.
The survey reopens a debate about the sovereignty of mineral rights in the African territory.
Western Sahara’s status is regarded as “undetermined” by the British government. A large part of the country has been occupied by Morocco since 1976, but the local Saharawi people have long campaigned for self-determination.
The UN ruled in 2002 that searching for oil in Western Sahara was not illegal, but that the exploitation of any resulting discoveries would have to respect “the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara”.
A number of pension funds have sold out of companies that explore for oil in the region, on the basis that Morocco does not have the right to bestow licences. In 2015, KLP, Norway’s largest life insurer, announced it would no longer invest in Glencore, saying its activity there ran an “unacceptable risk of violating fundamental ethical norms” and was unlikely to be consistent with international law.
Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg Credit: Reuters
Resource companies have argued that helping to develop an industry in Western Sahara is the best way to create jobs and boost its economy, which had an estimated GDP of just $908.9m in 2007.
In addition to its mining operations, FTSE 100 giant Glencore is one of the world’s biggest traders of oil. It acquired parts of two blocks off the coast of Western Sahara to explore for oil in 2014, but has so far not progressed its work. Since an industry downturn two years ago, it has been looking to prune parts of its portfolio.
An industry source said that Glencore was in advanced talks to transfer ownership of its stake in Foum Ognit to New Age, as it was unclear if the block would ever produce oil.
Glencore declined to comment.
The political and social reforms carried out by HM King Mohammed VI foster Morocco’s leadership in its regional space in several areas, including sustainable development, notes "Universidad y diplomatia", a Peruvian magazine specialized in academic and diplomatic matters.
In a special feature published in its latest issue, the magazine stresses that Morocco has consolidated sustainable development under the leadership of HM King Mohammed VI, who endeavours to diversify the economy of the Kingdom, one of the most stable countries in the African continent.
The terrorist threat hangs over the whole Maghreb region, particularly given that Daesh has already set foot in Libya, said director of Central Bureau for Judiciary Investigations (BCIJ), Abdelhalk Khiame.
The danger does not only concern Morocco, but also "Algeria, which is already suffering from the threat of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the south of its territory, in addition to a problem created from nothingness by this country in the Sahara," Khiame said in an interview published Thursday by the daily "L'Economiste.”
The standoff in Guerguerat began last year when U.N. troops stepped in after Moroccan gendarmerie crossed beyond Moroccan-controlled areas in what they said was a road clearing operation, prompting the mobilization of Polisario forces.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, that King Mohammed had ordered “a unilateral withdrawal from the zone” in conformation with the U.N. Secretary General’s recommendations.
Polisario forces were not immediately available for a response.
The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General had released a statement on Saturday calling on all parties to “unconditionally withdraw all armed elements from the Buffer Strip as soon as possible”.
Polisario accused Rabat of breaking the terms of the ceasefire last year by trying to build a road in the U.N. buffer zone. Morocco says it was just a clearing operation that broke no terms of the ceasefire.
U.N. peacekeepers had been stationed between Moroccan forces and a brigade of Polisario troops who were just 200 metres apart in an area between a Moroccan-built earth wall marking Moroccan controlled territory and the Mauritania frontier.
The meeting of the Morocco-European Union Joint Parliamentary Committee will take place next April in Rabat, Abderrahim Atmoun, member of this committee, announced on Wednesday in Brussels.
"Following intense activities of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Habib El Malki in the European Parliament, it was agreed to hold the forthcoming meeting of the Morocco-European Union Joint Parliamentary Committee on April 18-19 in Rabat", Atmoun told MAP.
Policies That Better Integrate Women into Economy Could Help Improve Morocco's Growth Prospects, IMF
Policies that better integrate women into the economy could help increase overall income and significantly improve Morocco's growth prospects, an IMF study said on Wednesday.
In an article authored by Anta Ndoye, Lisa Kolovich and Vincent Dadam, the Fund said that the Moroccan government has started to implement policies that better integrate women into the economy, but more still needs to be done to help young girls achieve their dreams.
The Federal Council of Tidjanes in Cote d'Ivoire on Wednesday paid a heartfelt tribute to HM King Mohammed VI, Commander of the Faithful, for His role in promoting peace and stability in the world.
During a religious ceremony gathering several imams and followers of the Tidjaniya in the Malick Konaté mosque, prayers were raised to the Almighty to grant a long life to HM King Mohammed VI and to assist the Sovereign in His blessed efforts for peace and the promotion of the noble values of moderate Islam.
Speaker of the European Parliament (EP) Antonio Tajani underlined, on Wednesday in Brussels, the major role played by Morocco in maintaining stability in the Mediterranean.
"I would like to thank HM King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government for the work they have accomplished for stability in the Mediterranean and the region. Thanks to Morocco, we have a less dangerous situation," said Tajani in a statement to the press following the working meeting he had with speaker of the house of representatives Habib El Malki.
Minister delegate for the environment Hakima El Haite called, on Wednesday in Rabat, for setting up a network between the centers of competences worldwide and establishing a database to speed up the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
In a speech at the opening of an international workshop on capacity-building and the implementation of the Paris Agreement, El Haite noted that the setting up of a shared database that help in spreading expertize among the centers of competence will be beneficial to accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement.