The moroccan press
The New Arab
The 25 accused were handed sentences ranging from 20 years to life in 2013 [AFP]
Retrial of Sahrawis accused of killing Moroccan security forces resumes three years after the accused were handed hefty sentences in a trial described as ‘unfair’.
A Moroccan court on Monday resumed the trial of of 25 Sahrawis accused of killing 13 people, mostly security forces, in the contested Western Sahara’s Gdeim Izik camp in November 2010.
The killings are alleged to have occurred as Moroccan security forces cleared the camp near the city of Laayoune after a riot had broken out.
Outside the court of appeal in Sale, near the capital Rabat, supporters of the defendants and victims exchanged slogans, separated by a line of police.
“No to impunity for killers!” shouted dozens of victims’ relatives, waving Moroccan flags and pictures of soldiers killed.
“Freedom for political prisoners!” shouted a crowd of Sahrawi activists.
Inside the courtroom, a giant screen broadcasting of the hearing played for the security forces, lawyers, victims’ relatives and reporters present.
A military court sentenced all of the defendants in 2013 to a range of punishments, ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.
International observers and NGOs, however, slammed the trial as “unfair,” causing the court of cassation in July to order a new trial in a civilian court.
On Monday, defence lawyers expressed their lack of faith in the new trial.
The trial “is taking place in very unfair conditions, but we remain at the defendants’ side”, they said.
Ahmed Atertour, president of an association for families and friends of the victims, said he had “confidence in Moroccan justice to commemorate the memory of our… martyrs”.
Morocco says Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony under its control, is an integral part of the kingdom.
The Algeria-backed Polisario Front, meanwhile, demands a referendum on self-determination for the territory.
Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 13, 2017
2017 marks a special year for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Morocco – the 60th anniversary of its partnership in the Kingdom. According to the agency, “Since 1957, the United States has placed Morocco at the heart of its foreign diplomacy. Throughout this proud shared history, the American people, through USAID, have invested in the human, economic, and institutional development in Morocco. Hand in hand with the people and government of Morocco, we have achieved major milestones.”
USAID officially launched its programs in Morocco on April 2, 1957, when the two countries signed an agreement for the US to provide Morocco with economic and technical assistance. Since that time, the US has invested over $2 billion in Morocco working on a range of issues, including education, health, and economic development, with a special emphasis on reaching women and youth.
Some of the highlights of the last 60 years include:
- The construction of dams and water systems to make more land available for productive use;
- Family planning and reproductive health programs that have drastically reduced infant and maternal mortality rates;
- Job creation programs and support for the creation of microcredit institutions to provide capital hundreds of thousands of small businesses owners; and
- Teacher training programs to improve education at all levels.
As a result of this support and cooperation with the Moroccan government, the Kingdom has witnessed profound change, leading USAID to conclude its overview of the last 60 years by noting:
Today, Morocco remains a stable Monarchy and a vital ally to the United States. The Government of Morocco and its citizens show clear commitment to democratic change and are working towards enhanced citizen participation in achieving greater social and economic opportunity for all citizens through targeted and progressive reforms.
USAID plans to honor this anniversary with a special celebration every month of the year, focused on “past and present successes in a specific sector: from civil society engagement, to agriculture, to youth opportunity.” Stay tuned to MOTM as we cover the anniversary and celebrate this special relationship!
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Upon High Instructions of HM the King, Major General, Inspector General of FAR Receives Chief of Staff of the French Army
Upon high instructions of HM the King, Supreme Commander and Chief of General Staff of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), Major General, Inspector General of FAR, received, Monday in Rabat, General of the Army Jean-Pierre Dosser, Chief of Staff of the French Army, who is leading a large military delegation on a working visit to Morocco (March 12-14).
For the second year in a row Morocco was ranked among the top 50 best countries by US News & World Report's Best Countries listing, released earlier this week.
Produced in partnership with Y&R's BAV Consulting group and the Wharton School of Pennsylvania, the listing evaluates 80 countries based on a survey of more than 21,000 respondents worldwide in nine sub-categories: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power, and Quality of Life.
Morocco's ECOWAS Adherence Request, Additional Step in HM the King's Ambitious African Strategy, Jeune Afrique
The request of Morocco to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is an additional step in the ambitious African strategy elaborated by HM King Mohammed VI, wrote weekly "Jeune Afrique".
"After the Addis Abeba event, Morocco made another big announcement, on Feb. 24 from Guinea," the magazine recalled in an article entitled "Marocafique (acte II)", noting that HM the King gave his orders to submit Morocco's request to join ECOWAS, a regional grouping bringing together 15 countries in the continent.
Inside Development Produced In Partnership: Smart Cities
By Christin Roby
CASABLANCA, Morocco — A short distance outside Casablanca, the bustling city turns into open fields, grazing animals and remnants of an industrial site.
Kids run between tall, white apartment buildings where clothes hang from the windows, as adults walk to Friday prayer service at the pink and blue mosque that serves as the neighborhood focal point.
Not far away, construction workers lay gray bricks as a new residential area takes shape.
Welcome to the beginnings of Zenata Eco-City, an innovative urban development project in Morocco that aims to present a possible solution to African urbanization issues and also to the broader international community, as many nations across the globe attempt to respond to growing urban populations. Developing new cities in African countries could pose a high rewarding potential where urban populations are expected to increase by 15 percent by 2030, according to the World Bank.
Zenata is a locally designed and managed city created on the basis of three fundamental sustainable development pillars: environmental, social and economic. Within this framework, designers put a focus on air quality, sewage, transport, and most importantly, job creation. Leaders at the Zenata Development Company — known by its French name Société d’Aménagement Zenata, or SAZ — say their systemic approach is unique in building a sustainable, environmentally friendly and well-connected city all the way from conception to realization.
What also makes Zenata distinct, its creators and backers say, is an ecologically responsible design that maximizes use of natural resources at a city scale. Thirty percent of the city’s first development phase has been set aside as green space, with a central park to promote biodiversity. Wind directions have been modelled to allow natural cooling from the Atlantic Ocean, which borders the community. A mixed sewage collection system that redirects rainwater toward retention ponds contributes to the development of the naturally green landscape.
Zenata is one of many planned cities sprouting up in Morocco, thanks to a national agenda introduced by King Mohammed VI, which includes major institutional reform and an expansive development plan. Since 2009, strategic plans, environmental impact assessments and technical feasibility studies shaped the project until 2012, when the first phase of the commercial center began and land plots for hotels, services and facilities were sold.
SAZ focused strictly on what concerned the project locally, Mohamed Naciri, SAZ business development director, told Devex, and from there developed a framework that answered exactly the needs of their project. “We benchmarked and we looked at all the international standards but we realized they were not fit to us, they did not fit the environment and local issues,” said Naciri.
Although Zenata is a 30-40 year project, SAZ has already moved from conception to realization. For the first development zone — an area of 2,000 acres (800 hectares) — the major sewage system is complete. The first interchange and major roads provide access to the area and the first phase of the retail center is open, with an IKEA store welcoming customers daily.
Zenata expects to be a family and leisure destination. “We hope to have 15 to 18 million visitors per year that will spend at least half a day, up to a weekend with us,” Naciri said.
Alongside visitors, Zenata has an ambition to attract up to 300,000 residents via their economic model, which includes the construction of an integrated health care and biomedical center, an international university campus, and Morocco’s largest shopping center. These facilities are expected to create 100,000 jobs. An industrial zone will provide manufacturing jobs, while the shopping center will offer retail opportunities. Zenata will feature more than 20,000 meters of walking lanes, as well as internal trams, buses and taxis.
Building a city is not easy, Naciri told Devex. Urbanization can have positive or negative impacts on societies. In some cases, urbanization leads to economic growth, a greater exchange of ideas/talents and poverty reduction. Urban living is also usually associated with a higher standard of living. But at times, it can stymie progress and cause further inequality, housing shortages and social impacts surrounding lack of opportunities for the entire population. The development team at Zenata has tried to minimize the negative impact by intertwining solutions to these problems into their master urban plan.
The most complex part, Naciri said, was working with the vast numbers of partners at the state, national and international levels. Swiss experts helped develop the internal traffic plan. European funders invested and private local companies made plans for relocation and installation. “It’s what we call in French ‘la gouvernance’ and it’s the overall management of all parties and it’s not an easy issue, but it’s essential to work with everyone at the same time, so you face it head on,” he said.
Zenata also focused on the social inclusion of people who resided in the area prior to development. The land was inhabited by roughly 40,000 people living in slums. As preparations began for phase one, local inhabitants were relocated to temporary housing in apartments nearby, and as part of the urban master plan, Zenata has designated a portion of land for residents to rebuild. Zenata Marketing Project Officer Sakina Agoumi said job creation and attracting businesses to Zenata was a major part of the development plan.
Agoumi told Devex they considered the local populations in their plans, including in building additional schools and mosques. However, in the future, she expects Moroccans to relocate to Zenata based on the economic opportunities it offers and its proximity to the nearby major cities of Casablanca and Rabat.
This ambitious undertaking was made possible, in part, by the financial support of the European Investment Bank and the Agence Française de Développement, who have financed the first development zone each with 150 million euros.
“As long as the project, in fact, actually follows the plan of modern services which will make it possible to maintain the social equilibrium and to promote social skills through job creation, this project will strengthen the country,” said AFD Morocco President Eric Baulard.
In October 2015, Zenata Eco-City was acknowledged as a model project and awarded an exclusive Eco-City Label by French international HQE certification agency, Cerway, which applauded the project’s ability to minimize its environmental impact throughout its entire lifecycle. The eco-city label now serves as a performance assessment model for comparable urban projects in a similar contexts, nationally and internationally, alike.
According to Naciri, receiving an HQE label, the equivalent to LEED or green building standards, illustrates the feasibility of such large-scale development projects in Africa.
“The fact that Zenata received the recognition of an international significator about the work being done for the first time in the development of a sustainable city, in Morocco, in Africa, is an innovation on it’s own,” Naciri told Devex. “That’s what’s exotic about Zenata, it will show the way for urban projects that are similar to ours in emerging countries, and especially Africa.”
Editor’s note: The Agence Française de Développement facilitated Devex’s travel and logistics for this reporting. However, Devex maintains full editorial control of the content.
Over six weeks, Devex — along with our partners Agence Française de Développement, BearingPoint, UN-Habitat, and XII Metropolis World Congress — will explore what it takes to build a successful smart city, how climate resilient and environmentally friendly infrastructure and technologies are being implemented, and how actors in the global development community are working together toward common goals and engaging local communities in an inclusive way. Join us as we examine what it takes to create our smart cities of the future by tagging #SmartCities and @Devex.
About the author
Christin Roby is a West Africa correspondent for Devex based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where she covers global development trends, health, technology and policy-related topics. Before relocating to West Africa, Christin spent several years working in local newsrooms, and earned an MSJ in videography and global affairs reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Her informed insight into the region stems from her diverse coverage of more than a dozen African nations
Female farm labourers pick strawberries in the Kenitra province country side of Morocco as the world marks the International Women’s Day, in this March 8, 2017 photo. (AFP)
RABAT: The World Bank (WB) says it has approved $150 million in financing to support small enterprises in Morocco and improve social programs in the North African country.
The funds, approved on Friday, will help the government “modernize its national identification system and provide financing to promote innovative startups and job creation,” a statement said.
According to the WB, almost 5.3 million Moroccans “live under the threat of falling back into poverty due to their socioeconomic conditions.”
Friday’s statement said that $100 million will “aim to develop systems to ensure that social programs are better targeted and reach the most vulnerable Moroccans.”
The remaining $50 million “will help address a market gap in the supply of equity financing for innovative young small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” it said.
Washington, DC, March 10, 2017 (MACP) — For the second year in a row Morocco was ranked among the top 50 best countries by US News & World Report’s Best Countries listing, released earlier this week. Produced in partnership with Y&R’s BAV Consulting group and the Wharton School of Pennsylvania, the listing evaluates 80 countries based on a survey of more than 21,000 respondents worldwide in nine sub-categories: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power, and Quality of Life.
Ranking at 48th overall, Morocco showed especially strong performances in the Movers sub-category, which identifies “up-and-coming economies,” coming in at 14th; the Heritage sub-category, which identifies those countries “most readily associated with a unique identity,” ranking 16th; and the Adventure sub-category, signaling destinations most likely “to fulfill your wanderlust,” ranking 24th.
Of the remaining nine sub-categories, Morocco also placed in the top 50 in the categories of Open for Business (“market-oriented” countries that are “a haven for capitalists and corporations”), ranking 40th; and Cultural Influence (countries that serve as “cutting-edge centers of art, entertainment and fashion”), ranking 41st.
The report, now in its second year, used other combinations of survey responses to identify additional “Best Of” lists wherein Morocco also figured prominently but that were not accounted for in the overall rankings. Morocco ranked 39th among Best Countries to Travel Alone; 41st in Best Countries for a Comfortable Retirement; 43rd in Most Forward-Looking Countries; and 48th in Most Transparent.
In many categories, Morocco emerged as a leader in Africa and the Middle East. Morocco was number one in the Open for Business and Best Countries for a Comfortable Retirement categories among African and Middle Eastern countries; number one in North Africa for Forward-Looking Countries; and second in Africa in the Movers category.
“Morocco’s overall success and its exemplary performance in business and cultural sub-categories are a testament to the country’s strengths and vision for itself as a diverse, modern, and innovative world leader,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel.
The US News & World Report findings echo the results of many other industry indices over the years. Earlier this year, Morocco was again named among the 50 most innovative economies in the world and one of just two such economies in Africa by the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index. In September last year, the World Bank’s 2017 “Doing Business” report ranked Morocco 68 out of 190 countries in ease of doing business, making it number one in North Africa and fourth overall in the greater Middle East/North Africa region. Meanwhile, Marrakesh, Morocco was named the most popular travel destination in the world by TripAdvisor last year; and the World Tourism Organization’s 2016 Tourism Highlights report cited Morocco as the top tourist destination in Africa.
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
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The well will be drilled to a vertical depth of 2,977 metres.
Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) said its latest well on the Tendrara licence in Morocco has reached the final casing point.
TE-8’s liner is being cemented at a depth of 2,603 metres and is just two metres from the main reservoir in the TAGI formation. The well will be drilled to a vertical depth of 2,977 metres.
Assuming gas is encountered in the main well bore, a further 30-day side-track will be drilled to prove a potentially deeper gas contact 900 metres to the north-west.
TE-8 is around 12 kilometres from the last successful hole and is what’s called a step out well because it will test the lateral extent of gas that has been discovered in the TAGI reservoir.
Whatever comes in the next two months, the firm has already enjoyed considerable success at Tendrara.
Results from TE-7 were revealed on January 19 with the company telling investors that over a 56 day period of continuous flow the well has yielded just under 1bn cubic feet of gas.
That figure is made all the more impressive given that the gas flow was constrained in test conditions, at a maximum of 40% drawdown, in order to protect the integrity of the well completion to date.
No formation water was produced during testing – as the company had expected – and there were no indications of barriers.
As such Sound said that the result had confirmed a “significant connected volume” of gas is present at Tendrara, and it would now monitor pressure across past wells to confirm the physical connectivity of the reservoir.
The programme on TE-8 is scheduled to last 40-50 days, according to the City research firm Capital Networks.
It is one of a number of value-accretive catalysts expected in 2017, said Capital’s analyst, Lionel Therond.
“We believe the stock provides investors the opportunity to gain exposure to one of the few growth story in the sector, with the potential to benefit from substantial appreciation as assets get de-risked and material resources are added,” he said in a note.
Earlier this week Sound said it had begun drilling the hotly-anticipated Badile well in Italy, adding more spice to the investment story.
Sound’s Italian assets were the foundation stone on which the company was built and it has two producing wells – although their output is modest.
Badile, however, could be a changer. An independent assessment suggests the target could be host to around 178bn standard cubic feet of gas with a net present value of £400mln.
That figure is what’s called a ‘best case’, unrisked estimate. It sits at in the middle of the range with the ‘high case’ forecast being 670bn cubic feet and the ‘low case’ 46bn cubic feet.
Anyway, work on the well, located in the north of the country, around 10 miles from Milan, began on Tuesday (March 7).
The plan is to go down to a total depth of 4,445 metres with drilling and logging expected to take 100 days.
Assuming gas is found, it will take a further 25 days for completion and testing.
The Moroccan police arrested on Thursday two people with links to the Islamic State (IS) group in the city of Casablanca, the Interior ministry said in a statement.
According to the statement, the suspects planned to carry out terrorist operations in Morocco and had begun to acquire devices used in making explosives.
This operation has allowed the seizure of copper cables, a thermometer, electric batteries, a bottle containing a suspect liquid, a bag of powder and other equipment suspected of being used in manufacturing explosives, the statement pointed out.
The arrested people will be brought to justice once the investigation is completed, it noted.
The north African kingdom has seen a growing threat from terror groups, especially IS.
According to official figures, Morocco busted 19 terrorist cells and arrested 273 suspects in 2016, most of them linked to the group, which control large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
Robert M. Holley
March 9, 2017
Where tensions are running high and opposing armed forces are facing off with one another, separated by only a couple of hundred meters, the risk of an accident with unpredictable and potentially terrible consequences also runs equally high.
Such has been the case for the last several months in Western Sahara, where, until very recently, substantial deployments of the armed forces of Morocco and the Polisario Front nervously eyed one another across only a couple of hundred meters of no man’s land.
Despite many years of the Polisario’s bombastic threats of a return to war, no one seriously believes that Algeria would green-light its Polisario client to pull the trigger on a new war with Morocco.
Nevertheless, when excitable soldiers are facing off with live ammunition in their weapons, the risk of an accident is a dangerous possibility. And once someone fires that first round, you never really know what happens next. If you doubt that, just review the consequences of that first single shot fired in Sarajevo, Concord or Fort Sumpter to refresh your memory of just how quickly things can get totally out of hand.
Fortunately, after a phone call from King Mohamad VI to the new UN Secretary General, Morocco did the responsible thing and withdrew its forces from the area. The Polisario, however, remains in place, locked and loaded and refusing to budge, despite the repeated urgings of the international community to withdraw its forces and reduce the tensions in this volatile dispute.
This four-decade-old problem has been ripe for resolution since the United States changed its policy in early 1999 and called for a mutually acceptable political solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. Most of the international community followed suit, and the UN Security Council has since repeatedly urged a fundamental political compromise. The United States has repeatedly called Morocco’s compromise plan to offer the region a generous autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty serious, credible and realistic. Indeed, in a letter to King Mohamad VI, former President George W. Bush made clear that he viewed Morocco’s initiative as the only viable solution and reiterated longstanding US policy to support such an outcome.
That policy has not changed, despite vigorous efforts to resist its implementation in the bowels of the State Department and from former senior members of the National Security Council during the last four years of the Obama Administration.
Much has changed on the ground in the Moroccan Sahara over the last 15 years to lay the groundwork for granting the local population both a better quality of life and preparation for the autonomy that Morocco has offered under a negotiated political solution. The US Congress has applauded those efforts and, through bipartisan legislation, has obliged a reluctant State Department to provide material assistance to support Morocco’s efforts in the Sahara.
Unfortunately, for reasons that are almost impossibly difficult to credit, or even understand, the State Department continues to refuse permission for the US Ambassador in Morocco to visit the region to see, listen and report on those developments from a personal perspective. It’s as though the State Department simply doesn’t care to have the personal views of the President’s own personal representative. This makes no sense at all.
The US Ambassador in Algiers has recently visited the Polisario enclaves in southern Algeria and presumably provides her personal views on the local circumstances in her reports back to Washington. This despite the fact that the United States does not recognize the Polisario’s fictional Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or its claim to Western Sahara.
Washington should also have the views of its most senior diplomat in Morocco on developments on the other side of the military berm separating Moroccan and Polisario armed forces.
It is absurd that the State Department continues to hide behind some bogus argument that allowing the US Ambassador to visit Moroccan Sahara might signal US recognition of their claim to the territory, when our Ambassador in Algeria meets directly with the senior-most “officials” of a fictive state that we most certainly do not recognize.
Tensions in the region are growing. Military forces from both sides have recently faced off. One side, the Polisario, continues to threaten war and remains deployed for it. The President and senior US policy makers deserve the views and counsel of the US Ambassador in Morocco. It’s time to bring this charade to an end. Hopefully, new leadership at State will do just that.
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Business Brief: Innovation on the Uptick on Morocco; South African Investor Looking to Add Morocco to Portfolio; Islamic Finance Moves a Step Closer; Tangier Grabs Headlines for Place to do Business and Have Fun – Jean R. AbiNader
Recent figures released by the government of Morocco show increases across the board in new business start-ups, patent and trademark applications, and other signs of a maturing private sector, while Islamic finance readies final steps for debut later this year. A major US investment fund announced plans to spread its activities in Africa, while the wonders of Tangier were given a thumbs-up by a major business magazine.
Statistics Indicate Morocco Moving Ahead in New Business Development. The Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), responsible for foreign and domestic licensing companies, patents, trademarks, and legal registrations, recently provided statistics for 2016..
Moroccan companies continued to grow in all categories. A record 12,800+ trademark applications were submitted, 56% of them from Moroccan companies. This is important to the country’s international business rankings, as it illustrates the growing business capabilities of domestic companies, maturity of relevant regulations, and the impact on the market. For example, Morocco is now ranked 42nd worldwide in the 2016 edition of industrial property indicators.
Another area of growth is renewal of trademarks, which is an indicator of the longevity of local firms. The rate was 30% for 2016. And almost 60% of the industrial designs submitted were Moroccan, which makes Morocco 22nd internationally.
Similar strength was shown in a 21% increase in patents, of which 20% were of Moroccan origin. Having a growing number of patents is one of the most important indicators of local innovation that has staying power rather than relying largely on foreign sources. If Morocco is to continue to expand its manufacturing and services capabilities, a strong intellectual property regime is a must, and these statistics clearly illustrate that Morocco is on the right track – upwards!
Major South African Investor Looking at Morocco. Looks like a firm from the number one investor in Africa is looking to invest in the number two! Alexander Forbes recently announced its interest in looking for acquisitions on the continent, and Morocco is one of its priorities. The company is looking to invest in small existing companies that give them ready-to-go projects and businesses. As a diversified financial services company, Alexander Forbes has a keen interest in companies that are pension fund administrators, as well as smaller financial services companies that serve large corporate entities.
Islamic Finance on Course for 2016 Launch. The central bank of Morocco has approved the use of five types of Islamic banking transactions, according to a story in Arab News, and also a central board of Islamic scholars to oversee the sector. Any category of Islamic transaction must gain preliminary approval from the board. The five types of transactions are
Murabaha (joint ventures), Musharaka (partnership between investor and agent), Ijara (leasing), Mudaraba (financing acquisitions) and Salam (advanced payments). The central bank also set regulations for conventional banks to open windows selling Islamic products.
The initial regulations establish conditions and frameworks for banks to manage deposits, funds and investments under Shariah 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. Still awaiting approval from the Parliament is a bill regulating Islamic insurance.
Tangier – More than a Pretty Face. No longer the refuge of hippies, Beat poets, and European bohemians, Tangier – with the development of TangerMed Port, the revival of the old medina, and tourism promotion — has emerged, particularly with the support of King Mohammed VI, to reclaim its role as an attractive entrepôt bridging two continents and myriad cultures.
Tangier’s renaissance began with reviving its role as an international center for trade. TangerMed Port is now the largest shipping port in Africa, with a capacity to process more than 8 million TEUs a year. It is drawing business from its competitors around the Mediterranean basin, especially Algerciras, which has not been able to keep up with the state-of-the art facilities available across the straits. Despite Algeria’s commitment to build a deep water port, it will be years before it matches the productivity and efficiency that make TangerMed Port attractive to companies.
On the tourism front, Tangier continues to build its visitor base by more than 5% annually, despite the downturn in the region due to security fears emanating from attacks in Tunisia and Algeria. The addition of a high-speed TGV train next year will likely double traffic between Tangier and Casablanca. Continued improvements in infrastructure throughout the north, easy access by ferry to Spain, the draw of the old medina, and the increasingly attractive regional tourism destinations are several of the reasons why some are saying that the northwest of Morocco could rival more traditional tourism spots such as Marrakech and Fez.
Among the star performers in the regional economy, largely based in Tangier, are the automotive and aerospace industries, which, according to the Oxford Business Group (OBG) are accelerating their large-scale development. The signing of an MoU with Boeing to develop an industrial park focused solely on the aeronautics sector should create close to 9000 direct skilled jobs while generating $1B in exports. There are currently 120 companies in the sector.
Like aerospace, the country’s automotive industry has surged in recent years, reaching record export levels for the third straight year in 2016, with the 316,712 units shipped abroad representing a 22.4% year-on-year rise, the OBG underlined.
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The Board of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group approved, on Wednesday in Abidjan, the 2017-2021 country strategy paper for Morocco.
This document outlines the program of collaboration between the AfDB and Morocco for the next five years, the AfDB said in a note published on its official portal, underlining that this strategy was designed to accompany the Kingdom in its efforts to create the conditions for the speeding up the structural transformation of its economy and the creation of jobs.
134 projects totaling 39.1 billion dirhams were launched in the year 2016 under the new development model for southern provinces which is worth 77 bln MAD and was kicked off by HM King Mohammed VI on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Glorious Green March, the interior minister announced on Wednesday in Laayoune.
Upper House Speaker Holds Talks with Finnish President in Helsinki
Speaker of the House of Advisors (upper house) Hakim Benchamach, held talks, on Wednesday at the presidential palace in Helsinki, with Finnish president, Sauli Niinisto.
The talks tackled the prospects of bilateral cooperation and a wide range of regional and international issues of common interest, Benchamach told reporters after the meeting.
Ghana Business News
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi
Morocco has recently expressed interest in joining the West African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The news was received with mixed feelings across the region, and questions are being asked.
Located in North Africa between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the distance between Morocco and Ghana in West Africa is some 2714km.
A country that takes pride in its Arab heritage and culture, in spite of the mixture of Berber and the influence of European culture, Morocco is more Arab than anything else.
With a population of some 35 million people, Morocco until recently wasn’t even a member of the African Union (AU). The country left the continental organization for more than 30 years over the AU’s recognition of Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco laid claims to. Early this year, it reapplied to the AU and was readmitted. That wasn’t surprising, but Morocco’s recent expression of interest to join the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS is raising eyebrows.
ECOWAS is a regional bloc of some 15 countries close to each other, and mostly sharing borders. The countries are Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Benin and Cape Verde.
While this won’t be the first time that north African countries have joined organisations originally meant exclusively for countries in other regions of Africa, as Libya and Egypt are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a group of countries in East and South Africa, Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS sounds bizarre.
The country Morocco
With its diverse Arab, Berber and influence of European culture, Morocco describes itself as a constitutional monarchy. In 2011 it adopted a new Constitution, which laid the grounds for what it describes as a more open and democratic society, with separation of powers and increased decentralization. Despite the claim to democracy, the monarchy has a tight grip on the country.
The World Bank reports that after a good performance in 2015, the Moroccan economy is decelerating in 2016. Economic activity slowed to 1.4 per cent in the second quarter as a result of a 12.1 per cent contraction in agriculture production, while growth outside the agriculture sector remained sluggish at around 2.5 per cent. Inflation has remained muted at under 2 per cent, reflecting prudent monetary policy and the fall in international commodity prices.
The Bank further indicates that based on performance since the beginning of 2016, Morocco is expected to reduce its fiscal deficit to 3.5 per cent of GDP.
“This would be the result of strong revenue performance and the continued reduction in consumption subsidies. Morocco should thus be able to stabilize its central government debt at around 64 per cent of GDP,” it said.
The country’s trade deficit narrowed down in recent years as a result of fiscal consolidation efforts and the emergence of Morocco’s new industries, especially automobiles. The current account deficit should not exceed 1.5 per cent of GDP for 2016, and Morocco’s international reserves reached $24.9 billion—the equivalent of 7.3 months’ worth of imports at end-June 2016, the World Bank said.
Considering its sound economic performance, despite all the headwinds, which is an indication that Morocco might be seeking to take advantage of the West African economy – with a population of 335 million, West Africa has a GDP of $345 billion, and Morocco already has bilateral relations with almost all the 15 countries of the ECOWAS.
While Morocco might be a good trading partner as it is also one of the leading producers of phosphate in Africa, there are already existing trade relations with these countries, raising questions about the exact reasons behind Morocco’s interest in becoming a member of ECOWAS.
The ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Governance
The ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance Article 1, emphasizes on separation of powers, and among others the independence of the Judiciary and judges.
The Protocol is also clear on the secularism and neutrality of the State in all matters relating to religion, but does not preclude the right of the State to regulate with due respect to human rights.
Besides, ECOWAS protocols such as this one are binding. What that means is that, for a constitutional monarchy that operates quite differently, it remains to be seen how Morocco can subject itself to these universal principles of this particular ECOWAS protocol.
African integration dynamics
In March 2006, at an AU Summit in Banjul, the African Union — in its wisdom — decided and resolved to rationalise the numerous regional economic communities (RECs) from 14 to 8, so that each region would have its own “regional” reference. This meant that, for example, West Africa’s REC would be recognised as ECOWAS (even as there is UEMOA / etc); and in Central Africa (where discussions to rationalise the groupings there are far advanced than in West Africa), the only REC would be ECCAS.
Now, something seismic is happening in Africa’s integration. The request by North Africa’s Morocco to join ECOWAS does not only complicate Africa’s integration efforts, but makes nonsense of that 2006 decision as it will set a horrible precedent for any country to find justifiable and self-serving reasons to join any REC they want. We do know Rwanda re-joined ECCAS last year, and now belongs to both the East African Community and ECCAS. This may be problematic but not at the scale of Morocco wanting to join ECOWAS.
This Moroccan request has been troubling since the news broke. Algeria, long-term nemesis of Morocco, is deeply-troubled by Morocco’s request. In articles in both the Moroccan and Algerian press, it is clear there is no love lost between the neighbours, and that Algeria remains confused by Morocco’s apparently, inexplicable turn to West Africa.
In the event that Morocco’s adhesion to ECOWAS happens, it will serve a bad precedent for Africa’s integration by allowing any AU Member State to subject the flawed AU to its whims and caprices. Already, that Chad got the AU Commission position over Kenya’s Amina Mohammed by just two votes reflects, it is speculated, how Idris Deby used his influence as AU Chair to leverage and rally support for the dark horse that was Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Although one has yet to read of or detect any resistance from the West African diplomats in Abuja, what we now know is that, the Togolese government has registered its opposition. In a faux pas by the state-supporting republicoftogo.com, it posted days after the request to join ECOWAS on February 24 that the Togolese government “is not hostile to the adhesion” of Morocco. Now, an article on the same site that was posted March 3, explained that the Presidency had denounced the assertion that he would use all his influence to support Morocco’s bid.
A recent interview of ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza to RFI sounds neutral in its opinion of the fate of Morocco. When you read between the lines, de Souza’s insistence that it will be up to the Authority of Heads of State to decide, — and that admitting Morocco will set a “precedent” — speaks volumes about the fate of Morocco.
Why ECOWAS and not CEN-SAD
Even more curious is why Morocco did not opt for the 28-member CEN-SAD, which was established by the late Qaddafi in 1998.
In 2014, at the cusp of Morocco’s hosting of A CEN-SAD meeting, Carnegie Endowment wrote; “Of these alliances, CEN-SAD must be particularly attractive to Morocco, for several reasons. Its preeminence in the organization will likely go uncontested; no other member has the spur, stature, and stability to lead it. Other potential leaders (namely Nigeria and Kenya) are firmly ensconced as anchor states in existing, functional RECs—Nigeria in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Kenya in the East African Community (EAC), among others.”
It went on to argue, “Egypt remains deeply embroiled in regional diplomacy and its own internal affairs, and Algeria’s absence from CEN-SAD should allow Morocco free reign to guide the organization independent of its neighbor. Moreover, the Kingdom may enjoy novel forms of influence within a REC based on a projection of Africa’s Arab and Muslim North into the continent’s South; CEN-SAD, apparently an abbreviation taken from Arabic letters sin and sad (for al-sahil and al-sahara), covers over half of Africa’s nations, and what unites such a diverse set of countries—from the Gambia to the Comoros, and Somalia to Sierra Leone—more than any connection to ecoclimatic or environmental conditions, is Islam.”
Chad and Morocco share an important affinity: both have sought to become members of ECOWAS, and both have played instrumental roles in CEN-SAD, too.
The Chad factor
In 2011, Chad was, in fact, granted observer status of ECOWAS. Then the Mali coup happened in 2012 — and suddenly, Chad offered support to the Africa-led support mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the tune of around 3000 troops, which is around a third of what all ECOWAS troops offered.
One of the critical reasons why Chad was an important country to look out for was what happened in February 2013 when Chad’s President Idris Deby hosted some eleven leaders of the CEN-SAD regional economic community. The capital N’djamena played host to what should have been 20 members of the populous grouping. Even if a little over a third of the Heads of State showed up, it was encouraging to see that the 17 other member states dispatched representatives. Furthermore, it has shown that the raison d’être for the establishment of the grouping might still be relevant.
Some of the major outcomes included a revision of the Charter, to reflect the fact that the organisation is interested in two major things: peace and security; and sustainable development. Two permanent organs will be established to this end, and Egypt is likely to host the peace and security organ. That Egypt was, in 2016 at a CEN-SAD meeting, recommended as the headquarters of the host of Counter-terrorism Centre, speaks to a level of confidence reposed increasingly by African states of North African countries on security matters.
One wonders, given Morocco’s acknowledged world-class expertise on counter-terrorism, why it did not consider using CEN-SAD as an opportunity to reinvent itself on the continental stage — as it appears it wants to do by joining ECOWAS. The real question — as may be asked of Tunisia that has also expressed an interest in joining ECOWAS — is whether ECOWAS really needs Morocco!
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Emmanuel K. Bensah ( email@example.com)
Morocco is “more determined than ever” to develop the Western Sahara, Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said on Wednesday on a two-day visit to the disputed territory.
Rabat insists the former Spanish colony is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Algeria-based Polisario Front demands a referendum on self-determination there.
The two sides fought for control of the Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of the territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect.
“We are more determined than ever to continue to develop the Sahara region,” Hassad told AFP.
“Unfortunately there are many people who don’t like this, particularly the fact that we are building roads,” he said, referring to the Polisario.
Hassad spoke after Morocco pulled back from the area of Guerguerat near the Mauritanian border in late February at the request of the United Nations.
Tensions flared last year after the Polisario set up a new military post in the same area.
That was in response to Morocco starting to build a tarmac road in the area south of the buffer zone separating Moroccan troops from Polisario fighters.
Rabat sees the road as key to trade between Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.
Hassad said Morocco has invested around $8.5bn in the territory in projects expected to create more than 10 000 jobs by 2021.
The projects include a university to teach medicine and a 1 000km highway along the coast, he said.
This photo taken on February 17, 2017 shows a general view of the fence between the Moroccan city of Fnideq and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, which was built to keep out migrants, traffickers, or an enemy group. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
Morocco will further tighten border control with Algeria to counter illegal migration of subsaharan Africans and arm trafficking, local media reported on Wednesday.
The regional council of Oriental (eastern) region decided to build new control points to go along with the building of 100 km border fence with Algeria, the daily Akhbar Al Yaoum said.
The same source noted that authorities have raised vigilance in the region which is regarded as a main entrance of illegal migrants from subsaharan Africa.
By Jordana Merran
March 8, 2017
Since last summer, Moroccan troops and Polisario fighters have stood “within 200 meters (yards) of each other in a narrow strip of land near the Mauritanian border.”
On Sunday, February 26, days after a phone call between Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Morocco announced “‘a unilateral withdrawal from the zone’ in conformation with the UN Secretary General’s recommendations,” as reported by Reuters.
The same day, the US Embassy in Rabat tweeted, “We welcome Morocco’s decision to withdraw personnel from the buffer zone in the region of Guerguerate in support of SecGen’s request.”
Over the weekend, Special Representative for the Sahara and Head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc, accompanied by MINURSO Force Commander Wang Xiaojun, met with Polisario officials in Tindouf urging them to withdraw from the area. However, they refused.
According to The Arab Weekly, “Polisario Front fighters remain in the buffer zone of the Guerguerat region, intimidating Moroccan truck drivers despite the United Nations’ call for unconditional withdrawal.”
We are following the situation closely.
The post News Brief: Polisario Fuels Standoff in the Sahara – Jordana Merran appeared first on Morocco On The Move.
Sound Energy One Of The Few Companies To Be Playing And Winning In The Exploration And Production Game – Says Broker
WH Ireland’s comments followed news earlier the company had begun drilling its hotly anticipated Badile gas well in Northern Italy.
First to the ball? Sound is certainly ahead in the high stakes E&P game.
Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) is one of the few companies to be “playing and winning” in the exploration and production “spectrum”, according to one City broker.
WH Ireland’s comments followed news earlier the company had begun drilling its hotly anticipated Badile gas well in Northern Italy.
The house said oil services giant Schlumberger’s involvement with Sound’s projects in Italy and the successful exploration programme in Morocco has “brought technical validation” to the business.
But it added: “The bulk of the risk and reward resides with Sound.”
Earlier, the company said work on the Badile well, around 10 miles from Milan, began on Tuesday (March 7).
The plan is to go down to a total depth of 4,445 metres with drilling and logging expected to take 100 days.
Assuming gas is found, it will take a further 25 days for completion and testing.
To date the company has scored significant success at Tendrara, in Morocco, where it has discovered significant accumulations of potentially commercial gas.
However, Sound’s Italian assets were the foundation stone on which the company was built and it has two producing wells – although their output is modest.
Badile, however, could be a game changer. An independent assessment suggests the target could be host to around 178bn standard cubic feet of gas with a net present value of £400mln.
That figure is what’s called a ‘best case’, unrisked estimate. It sits at in the middle of the range with the ‘high case’ forecast being 670bn cubic feet and the ‘low case’ 46bn cubic feet.
On Badile, WHI said: “The structure is classic fault and dip bound structure as seen below.
“The key risk in our opinion relates to reservoir quality as carbonates are inherently prone to regional variations.
“Regardless of the result, we believe that getting anything done in Italy is a noteworthy achievement.
“We also note that we believe the source rock could be more oil prone than anticipated.
“A porous/permeable reservoir of this scale might need only three wells to develop and infrastructure is in the immediate vicinity.”
Sounds shares inched higher in late morning trade to 89p, valuing the business at a touch over £600mln.
A year ago the stock was changing hands for 17p with the success in Morocco driving the meteoric rise in the price.
In March 2016 the company’s future, in the minds of some investors at least, was predicated on the success or otherwise of Badile.
Now, according to natural resources boutique SP Angel, its significance has been “de-emphasised” by Sound’s success in North Africa.
“That said, for investors, we believe that even a drilling failure will be an opportunity as although Badile has been the pivot on which Sound changed direction, its value has not really been reflected in the market cap, hence we believe any weakness in share price following Badile will offer an in point,” SP Angel said.
“This is one of those rare moments where the term often applied to drilling, that it is ‘better to travel than to arrive’ actually isn’t true, as the journey has been impressive and the destination (Badile’s result) will (ultimately) be positive for investors for the aforementioned reasons, no matter what.”