The moroccan press
European Parliament president Antonio Tajani received, on Wednesday in Brussels, speaker of the House of Representatives (lower house), Habib El Malki, who is leading a parliamentary delegation for high-level contacts in the European institution.
On this occasion, the two officials held a working session on relations between Morocco and the European Union and on means to strengthen exchange links between parliamentarians of the two institutions.
With the new year marking the halfway point in Morocco's ambitious 2014-20 Industrial Acceleration Plan, efforts are accelerating to develop both burgeoning and established industries in the country, according to Oxford Business Group (OBG).
by Samia Errazzouki
Attijariwafa Bank, one of Morocco’s biggest banks, has signed two agreements with Ivory Coast’s Ministry of Defence, according to a statement from the bank.
The agreements includes participating in financing of two new military camps as well as establishing a line of credit to finance housing for members of the Ivory Coast’s Armed Forces.
Like other large Moroccan companies, Attijariwafa Bank has been expanding in Africa. It has subsidiaries in Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Mali, among other countries, as well as branches in Europe.
The bank, controlled by Moroccan royal family holding SNI, said in a statement this week that the two agreements would “improve working and living conditions” for the Ivory Coast army.
No details about the total costs of the agreements were immediately available. The deals come over a month after soldiers in Ivory Coast reached an agreement with the government resolving a dispute over bonus payments that sparked a mutiny.
Morocco’s King has also been on a tour of Africa since last year, campaigning for Morocco to rejoin the African Union, which it did at an AU summit in January. Morocco is pushing its own solution for its Western Sahara dispute with the Polisario independence movement.
Due to problems left over from years of civil war and political turmoil, the Ivory Coast government has failed to bring significant reform to the army, which remains a patchwork of former rebel fighters and troops who stayed loyal to the government during the 2002-2011 crisis.
(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; editing by Patrick Markey and Louise Heavens)
By Joseph Hammond
China’s President Xi Jinping (L) and Moroccan King Mohammed VI wave during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China (May 11, 2016).
Morocco is actively courting more Chinese investment and closer ties.
It’s the night before Morocco’s 2016 parliamentary elections, yet all one of the kingdom’s most influential bankers wants to talk about is China. Chinese-Moroccan relations have blossomed in the last year, and Brahim Benjelloun Touimi, the director general of BCME Bank and the chairman of the Bank of Africa, hopes to benefit from the change.
Seated inside a restaurant that was once a palace, Touimi enjoyed a traditional Moroccan stew over couscous and offered his views on China. BCME, he said, has over 500 branches in Morocco and recently opened its first full branch in Shanghai. “We are in Asia because of Africa; we opened the Shanghai branch because of Africa. Morocco can be China’s gateway into West Africa and beyond, where Moroccan companies and businessmen are already playing a leading role,“ he said.
Moroccan banks are interested in China, and Chinese banks are interested in Morocco. The Bank of China, China’s oldest financial institution, opened its first branch in Morocco this year. The bank seeks to manage its involvement in various African markets from Casablanca. Morocco’s largest city, Casablanca, is increasingly recognized as an important African financial center. This year Casablanca surpassed Johannesburg to be ranked the number one financial center in the Global Financial Centers Index, a survey of financial centers.
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Other countries such as Mauritius and South Africa have been hailed as China’s gateway to Africa, but few countries have positioned themselves aggressively for the position in the way that Morocco has. Last year, the government of Morocco hosted the first Sino-African Entrepreneurs Summit in Marrakech, where Morocco later hosted the COP22 summit. Similar forums are planned in the future.
The relationship dates back to November 1958, when Morocco became only the second country in Africa to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Ties deepened last year when Morocco’s King Mohammed VI made a state visit to China. It was the second such trip to China during his reign. Mohamed Boussaid, Morocco’s minister of economy and finance, believes that king’s trip in May 2016 played a major role in moving the relationship forward. “His majesty’s visit certainly helped open up business in the development of Tangiers as an export zone but, also in other sectors such as tourism,” Boussaid said.
The trip resulted in the signing of some important agreements, including the signing of a China-Africa investment fund and plans for a $10 billion industrial city to be built in Tangiers, Morocco’s northern hub. China sees in Morocco an opportunity to develop factories for export to the European Union, just across the straights of Gibraltar.
In February of this year, Moroccan-Chinese ties were further cemented when the speaker of Morocco’s House of Representatives, Habib El Malki, announced the creation of a friendship group involving parliamentarians of the two countries. El Malki is a senior member of Morocco’s Socialist Union of Popular Forces.
At the political level Morocco and China see eye-to-eye on some issues, most notably in the policy of non-intervention in state affairs. While the Moroccan press has occasionally reported on the oppression of faith in China, the government of Morocco has largely abstained from commenting on issues relating to China’s “core interests”: Xinjiang, Taiwan, or Tibet. In return, China has not commented on the Moroccan position regarding the Western Sahara.
“I think the Chinese position on the South is very pragmatic. The Chinese have looked at Dakhla and the South and taken economic opportunities where they exist,” said Foreign Minister Delegate Nasser Bourita, referring to one of Southern Morocco’s largest cities in the Western Sahara.
“Though China has contributed a lot of troops to the operation, China has no policy regarding the Western Sahara,” said a senior official UN official based in the Western Sahara. United Nations figures from August 2016 show that just 10 of the 2,639 Chinese soldiers deployed on United Nations missions abroad were in the Western Sahara.
However, the experience there has been memorable, at least for some of the Chinese officers. “In addition to the visible white bones everywhere, the black wind of the Sahara Desert is also impressive,” a Chinese officer wrote in reminiscences posted online by the Global Times.
China’s relationship with Taiwan is complicated by geopolitical rivalry with the United States and China’s territorial ambitions; in a similar fashion, the fate of the Western Sahara is closely tied to Morocco’s longstanding icy relationship with Algeria. Algeria has long-supported POLISARIO, a Socialist party that carried out a guerrilla campaign against Morocco until a ceasefire in 1991. China, for its part, has traditionally had stronger ties with Algeria than with any other country in Northern Africa.
However, the Taiwan-Western Sahara comparison can only be taken so far. In Morocco, one can easily visit and search websites linked to POLISARIO; it is far harder in China to read about Xinjiang or Tibet. That fact reflects that Morocco is a liberalized society and, since reforms implemented by King Muhammad VI, an increasingly democratic one. For its part, the Moroccan press has often reported on China’s lack of freedom of religion and restrictions faced by Chinese Muslims.
While individual Moroccans might grumble about the fate of their co-religionists, that hasn’t stopped the blossoming of ties. In June, Morocco dropped visa requirements for Chinese tourists, marking a new chapter in the long history of travel between the two countries.
In 1325, the famed traveler Ibn Battuta left Morocco for China, which he reached 20 years later after traveling far and wide. Today the journey would be less circuitous, but there are still no direct commercial air links between the two countries. The lack of a direct air link makes the sudden increase in Chinese tourism to Morocco all the more startling.
Some 42,000 Chinese tourists visited Morocco in 2016, an increase of 300 percent year-on-year. The figure is especially impressive given the visa requirement was in place for much of 2016. Before the visa requirement was lifted, Morocco received 1,000-800 Chinese tourists a month; that figure has reached as high as 7,000 per month since requirement was lifted. As such, Morocco’s goal to welcome 100,000 Chinese tourists in 2017 seems achievable. China is doing its part as well; an event held by the state-owned Global Times in February named Morocco the “best potential destination” in the world in a ceremony attended by a representative of the Moroccan government.
Not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of more Chinese tourists. Over the past two decades, roughly 2,000 Chinese citizens have moved to Morocco. The wholesale market in Casablanca’s Derb Omar district is home to many profitable Chinese-owned shops selling Chinese imports. “What does it say about us Moroccans, if Chinese can come here and sell more than us?” said Zaynab Mohamed, a resident of Casablanca. Despite the resentment, the chances of an incident like the 2009 anti-Chinese riot in Algeria remain small.
Ultimately, such relatively minor quibbles will have a minimal impact on Chinese-Moroccan relations.
“We think [Morocco] can be China’s liaison to some opportunities and we offer a stable place to do business,“ said Benjelloun Touimi, the banker. “There is room for everyone in Africa.”
Joseph Hammond is a fellow with the American Media Institute and former Cairo Correspondent for Radio Free Europe. He has been contributing as a freelancer to The Diplomat since 2010.
Business Briefs: Tourism Takes Spotlight in Several Reports; Casablanca Shines; and Allianz Launches New Offices – Jean R. AbiNader
While much of the region continues to face declining tourism, Morocco holds steady due to its commitment to constantly upgrade its facilities and offerings. Speaking of which, Casablanca is profiled by Africa.com and is looking quite attractive to investors and visitors, including insurance giant Allianz, which recently opened offices there to serve the region.
Morocco Benefits from Sustainable Tourism Efforts. A recent report on sustainable tourism development by fDi Markets included a look at how Morocco’s efforts are attracting interest, and investors. It is understandable that tourism is so important to the country, as it is the third or fourth largest component of GDP. Tourism has benefited from several national plans, including Vision 2020 and Plan Azur, which focus on the overall state of the sector, as well as specific projects for seaside resort developments.
Now with its leadership at COP22, sustainable tourism is becoming even more prominent in Morocco’s plans, as the UN has declared 2017 the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.” According to Taleb Rifai, the secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this designation recognizes the critical role tourism plays in economic growth, social inclusion, cultural and environmental preservation, as well as in increasing “our understanding, tolerance, and empathy for our fellow man.”
For Morocco, tourism has many benefits. It enables a higher percentage of women and youth to enter the job market; supports social entrepreneurship projects such as artisanal crafts and food preparation; and diversifies economic growth geographically across many attractions in the kingdom.
Although the majority of investors are from industrialized countries, the projects are primarily in the developing world. According to fDi Markets, nearly 80% of the $352.2bn invested since 2003 has gone into such markets, including emerging European countries. However, the study cautions that investments are not enough. Without political and social stability, tourist dollars avoid risky destinations, as with Lebanon and Tunisia.
In the period 2003-2016 covered by the report, which tracks the years of Morocco’s heightened tourism promotion efforts, Morocco is second in the world (after Macau) in terms of investments in tourism facilities. Few countries in the Middle East and Africa have experienced a high correlation between the amount of investments and tourism spending. Morocco is one of the best success stories, attributed to its assets such as natural beauty, regional stability, location as a hub to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and tourist-centric infrastructure.
Morocco Strikes Ahead to Diversity Tourism Markets. The kingdom is engaged in a multifaceted campaign to draw in new tourists as visitor numbers from Europe stagnate. As an article in the Daily Star in Lebanon noted, “While political turmoil and militant attacks have battered the sector in Egypt and Tunisia, Morocco registered 10 million visitors last year, according to the Moroccan Tourism Observatory. That was a barely perceptible rise of 1.5 percent from 2015, it said. But 2016 was better than the previous year and the outlook for 2017 is very positive.”
In addition to Moroccans living abroad, who make a significant impact on the tourist numbers, and Europeans who are quite familiar with the country’s attractions, Morocco has abolished visas for Chinese to encourage their visits. The story notes that “Tourism remains a vital pillar of the Moroccan economy and the country’s second biggest employer, after agriculture. The sector accounts for 10 percent of national income and, along with exports and remittances from Moroccans overseas, are among the country’s main sources of foreign currency.” While many factors seem to be obstacles to the goal of 20 million visitors a year by 2020, Morocco is committed to doing whatever it can to achieve continued growth in the sector.
Casablanca – Great Profile. Africa.com has published a profile of Casablanca that underscores the vitality and importance of Morocco’s commercial center. It points out that there are thousands of expats in this city of four million people, and that “Behind these realities is a city full of history with an architectural heritage, ancient and recent, a dynamic city, proud of its past and confident in its future.”
Chief among its business attractions are the Casanearshore, which provides the infrastructure needed for off-shoring back office business services, the Technopark, which serves as the center for many international ITC companies, and the nearby OCP, the national phosphates company, the country’s largest business and its largest employer. And, of course, the Casablanca Finance City is rapidly expanding as the preferred platform for doing business in Africa.
The article goes on to list the many cultural attractions of the city, including the Hassan II Mosque, the seaside walkway or cornich, an attractive downtown area accessible by tram, red taxis (with meters), and Uber, as well as quality hotels, restaurants, and wonderful shopping areas.
Allianz Takes Its Turn. The international insurance giant, Allianz, has launched Allianz Maroc, which has set a goal of becoming the country’s market leader by 2021. It joins global firms RSA and Aon that had earlier opened regional offices based in Casablanca. The company intends to replicate its successful model of providing offerings to multiple market segments rather than be limited initially to a few products.
The press release noted that “Allianz Maroc will focus on digital channels to communicate with customers in real time and quickly handle claims. It will also develop synergies with other Allianz entities, including Euler Hermes, to better serve business customers interested in expanding or exporting to other African markets. The company is also launching a communication campaign to boost its brand reputation.” Allianz said Morocco is an important growth market in its strategy in Africa, as the country has positioned itself as a hub for the continent. It is a natural fit for Casablanca Finance City’s role as the financial services center for Africa.
The recent official visit of HM King Mohammed VI to South Sudan is appreciated at its true value by the broad prospects it opens for bilateral cooperation in various fields, first vice-president of South Sudan, Taban Deng Gai, said on Tuesday in Geneva.
Speaking in a meeting with Minister of Justice and Freedoms Mustapha Ramid, the South Sudanese official said that the royal visit to Juba "is in itself an important message to Africa and the world reflecting His Majesty's determination to defend the common action and the development cause in the continent".
Morocco is urged, now more than ever, to play in the years to come the role of a platform between Europe and Africa, said, on Tuesday in Africa, speaker of the house of representatives (lower house) Habib El Malki.
El Malki, who is leading a parliamentary delegation for high-level contacts in the European Parliament, said in an interview with the MAP that "the new approach initiated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI relating to South-South cooperation, broadens and gives new meaning to North-South cooperation."
Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb called, here Tuesday, for promoting exchange of experience between Morocco and the Netherlands in the field of migration and the development of the well-being of migrants.
At a meeting with Anis Birou, Minister for Moroccans Living Abroad and Migration Affairs, Aboutaleb praised the role of Morocco in welcoming, accompanying and integrating sub-Saharan immigrants, in the wake of the new momentum created by its migratory policy.
Morocco's return to the African Union (AU) is a huge achievement for the African continent which needs the contribution of such important countries to ensure its development and face the multiple challenges facing it, said Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Vincenzo Amendola.
Policies that better integrate women into the economy could help increase overall income and significantly improve Morocco’s growth prospects, IMF study finds.
Jamila is a 12-year-old girl living in rural Morocco. She is still in school when most girls her age are not—about 78 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are no longer in formal schooling in the country’s rural areas. Her dream is to become a doctor, and if she stays on track with her education she should be able to accomplish this goal.
But significant challenges stand in Jamila’s way—a slowing economy over the past five years, limited job opportunities (22 percent youth unemployment), and fewer women in the workplace as compared to men (25 percent participation rate compared to over 66 percent).
The government has started to implement policies that better integrate women into the economy, but more still needs to be done to help young girls like Jamila achieve their dreams.
Women and the economy
As part of the assessment of Morocco’s economy, we looked at the relationship between gender inequality and growth and found that policies that better integrate women into the economy could significantly improve the country’s growth. For instance, if there were as many women working as men currently are in Morocco, income per capita could be almost 50 percent higher than it is now.
Furthermore, Morocco’s population growth is slowing, and the United Nations projects that the dependency ratio—the age population ratio of those out and in the labor force—will rise by 2040. This means that there is a potential for more people to be out of work over the next few decades. Continuing to implement policies that eliminate gender gaps—such as increasing access to education and improving public transportation (making it safer and easier to get to work) for women, vocational training and literacy programs for rural areas—could offset these negative effects.
Improving women’s rights
The government has already initiated the following steps:
The family code was revised to expand the rights of women in marriage, guardianship, child custody, and access to divorce in 2004.
A constitutional guarantee for equality was enacted in 2011.
Maternity leave of 14 weeks at full salary was introduced in 2004.
The first and most advanced gender budgeting initiative in the Middle East and Central Asia region was launched in Morocco in 2002. Gender budgeting uses fiscal policies and administration, at the national, state, or local level, to address gender inequality and women’s advancement.
More reforms needed
Even with these improvements, our research points out that stronger and better targeted measures are needed to increase female labor force participation and employment, and to address gender gaps in education in Morocco.
For instance, our study found that:
Investing in public childcare facilities could free women’s time, enabling them to undertake more educational and training activities, and join the labor market.
Tax deductions or credits are currently only available to men, who as taxpayers are able to claim a dependent deduction for both spouse and children. A female taxpayer may not claim similar tax advantages unless she proves that she is a legal guardian.
Conditional transfer programs for education, as recommended in the recently-adopted national employment strategy, can promote better access to secondary education for girls. The transfer programs could also support literacy programs for women in rural areas, female entrepreneurship, and vocational training programs for all women.
If all these actions are implemented, there is no doubt that the barriers to Jamila’s economic participation would be greatly reduced, and she would have more opportunities to contribute to a more prosperous and inclusive Moroccan society.
Anta Ndoye and Vincent Dadam, Middle East & Central Asia Department Lisa Kolovich, Strategy, Policy & Review Department
The United Nations on Monday welcomed Morocco's decision of unilateral withdrawal from the Guergarate region, deeming it a "positive" move.
"We obviously welcome the move, and we see it as a positive movement", Spokesman of UN Secretary General, Stéphane Dujarric said during his daily press briefing, adding that the UN "would like to see a general easing of the tensions".
He noted that "today, Minusro observers confirmed that the Moroccan armed elements have withdrawn" from Guergarate, reiterating that "the SG welcomes this withdrawal".
The contribution of Morocco to the economic development of Côte d'Ivoire is impressive, said on Monday Ivorian president H.E. Alassane Dramane Ouattara.
Morocco's Contribution to Economic Development of Côte d'Ivoire is Impressive, Ivorian Pres.
The Ivorian-Moroccan cooperation is getting deeper and involving many sectors, president Ouattara told the press, adding that the public-private and private-private agreement signed today are a proof of that.
The integration of Morocco into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a "natural" step aimed at promoting fruitful relations between the kingdom and this African regional grouping, said vice-president of U.S. think tank "Atlantic Council", Peter Pham.
In many ways, this integration will promote the already existing fruitful relations that have been consolidated in recent years under the leadership of HM King Mohammed VI, who paid more than twenty visits to most of the countries of this African regional grouping, Pham told MAP-Washington on Monday.
The 14 agreements of public-private and private-private economic partnership, which were signed on Monday at the presidential palace in Abidjan before HM King Mohammed VI and Ivorian President H.E Alassane Dramane Ouattara, on the occasion of the presentation of the Côte d'Ivoire-Morocco Economic Impetus Group's work, are:
- A memorandum of understanding for setting up a funding for the "HEXAGONE", part of the priority projects of the 2016-2020 military programming law.
The announcement made by Morocco of a unilateral withdrawal from the Guerguarat zone is "an important step", said on Monday a European Union (EU) spokesperson.
"All parties must respect the terms of the ceasefire and continue to work for the interest and stability of the region," he said in a statement to MAP.
France welcomed Morocco’s announcement of a unilateral withdrawal from the Guerguerat region, stressing that this is an important step that eases the situation while taking into account the stability and interest of the region.
"France calls on all parties to show responsibility and to unconditionally and immediately withdraw all armed elements from the region, in accordance with the ceasefire agreements," spokesman of the French Foreign ministry, Romain Nadal, said.
The Kingdom of Morocco took note with interest of the statement made on Saturday, 25 February 2017 by the United Nations Secretary-General’s spokesman over the tense situation in the Guergarate region in the Moroccan Sahara, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation said in a statement.
Morocco takes note of recommendations and assessments made by the United Nations Secretary General, which are in line with international law, the statement added.
The United States hailed on Sunday Morocco's announcement of a unilateral withdrawal from the Guergarat region in the Moroccan Sahara.
"We welcome the Moroccan decision of a unilateral withdrawal of its personnel from the buffer zone of the region of Guerguarat in support of the request of the UN Secretary General," said the U.S. embassy in Rabat in a press release.
The embassy also said that it took note of the statement issued on Saturday by the spokesman of the UN Secretary General concerning the situation in the Guerguarat region.
MAP 27 February 2017
The Spanish government lauded the official announcement, made by Morocco on Sunday, of an immediate unilateral withdrawal from the Guerguerat region.
In a statement by the Spanish Foreign Ministry, Madrid called on the other parties to "immediately" withdraw from the said region, in response to the request of the UN Secretary-General.
HM the King's Visit to Côte d'Ivoire, 'Sign of Confidence & Friendship' (President Ouattara)
The visit of HM King Mohammed VI to the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire is "a sign of confidence and friendship towards our country", Côte d'Ivoire's President, H.E. Alassane Dramane Ouattara, said.
"We are delighted to welcome HM the King. Relations between Côte d'Ivoire and Morocco are very close", the Ivorian Head of State told the press, expressing his pride to welcome HM the King who "does us the honor to return to Cote d'Ivoire".