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New Report Shows US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement Far Exceeded ITA Expectations

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 21:42

Washington, DC, May 22, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) – In the twelve years since its implementation, the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has dramatically exceeded the predictions initially set by the United States International Trade Commission (ITA), according to a new report published today by the Moroccan American Center for Policy chronicling the origins and impact of the deal.

“In broad terms, the ITA… predicted that US exports were ‘likely to increase by $740.0 million, and US imports from Morocco [were] likely to increase by $198.6 million,’” stated the report, titled “Exceeding Expectations: The US-Morocco FTA.” “US exports were able to hit this target by 2007, in just its second year of implementation. Through mostly sustained improvement up to 2016, US exports to Morocco have actually increased by about $1.4 billion, amounting to a 286 percent boost.” Meanwhile, “Moroccan exports to the US reached their target in 2008,” and since 2010 “have seen consistent improvement,” growing by about $560 million overall.

The report notes that of the six US free trade agreements implemented between 2004 and 2010 (Chile and Singapore in 2004, Bahrain and Morocco in 2006, and Oman and Peru in 2009), “Morocco’s success stands out among this group. In the first two years following implementation, US exports to Morocco shot up by 118 percent, nearly double the percentage of the next most successful over a similar time period . Moroccan exports to the US grew by 18 percent as total bilateral trade grew by 68 percent—the highest among this group of FTA partners. In terms of jobs, the Morocco FTA was again the top performer, with an estimated 101 percent increase in US jobs supported by exports to Morocco over the same period.”

In addition to generating economic benefits for both countries, the FTA kicked off a series of initiatives further strengthening the US-Morocco bilateral relationship and Morocco’s reform trajectory, “one of the US’s primary goals” for the deal. Indeed the report offers an overview of the largely political impetus behind the FTA— the US’s first in Africa — noting that it was seen by President George W. Bush’s Administration as a reward for Morocco’s support in the war on terror and as recognition of the two countries’ centuries-old friendship. Congressional support for this view and for the possibility of opening new markets for US exports was overwhelming. In July 2004, the US Senate voted 85-13 in favor of the United States-Morocco Free Trade Implementation Act; and the House of Representatives followed suit with a 323-99 vote in favor. The momentum continued, and in 2007 and again in 2013, Morocco signed two consecutive Millennium Challenge Corporation Compacts; and in 2012, the US and Morocco launched a bilateral Strategic Dialogue—one of about two dozen such agreements in existence.

“From both a political and economic standpoint, the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement is a prime example of trade policy done right, where both sides benefit, and where the United States strengthens a relationship with a critical friend and ally,” said report author and MACP Director of Research & Policy Analysis David S. Bloom.

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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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Categories: The moroccan press

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS: THE US-MOROCCO FTA

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 18:17
EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS:  THE US-MOROCCO FTA

Report abstract:

On January 1st, 2017, the US-Morocco FTA (Free Trade Agreement) began its 12th year enforcing liberalized commercial exchange between two historic allies. The FTA has surpassed moderate expectations for its economic impact, and has been a success story for both sides. This paper will describe how Morocco became the US’s first free-trade partner in Africa, and evaluate its economic and political impact compared to expectations. Finally, avenues for improving the FTA and general US-Morocco economic cooperation will be evaluated.

Click the image below to view the report:

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s Scorecards from IMF and World Bank Detail Growth Challenges – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 17:07

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 19, 2017

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

In 2016, Morocco was granted a third two-year Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL)—a provisionary line of credit from the IMF—which Morocco uses as an insurance instrument against external risks such as severe trade imbalances while supporting its efforts to promote higher and more inclusive growth. During its annual review conducted recently, Mitsuhiro Furasawa, IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, said, “Morocco’s sound economic fundamentals and overall strong record of policy implementation have contributed to a solid macroeconomic performance in recent years. The external position remained strong in 2016, as international reserves further increased despite a higher-than-expected current account deficit. While fiscal developments were less favorable than expected, this was due in part to slower growth and accelerated value-added tax reimbursements. Growth is expected to rebound in 2017 and accelerate gradually over the medium term, subject to improved external conditions and steadfast reform implementation.”

So, on both fronts—external trade and domestic reforms—Morocco is making progress, but not without continuing challenges. Mr. Furasawa pointed out, “This outlook remains subject to significant downside risks, including from weak growth in Morocco’s main trading partners, geopolitical risks, and global policy uncertainty. In this context, Morocco’s PLL Arrangement with the IMF continues to serve as valuable insurance against external risks and supports the authorities’ economic policies.”

This comes against a backdrop of a broad program to stimulate economic growth, encourage greater participation in the economy by women, and several investment stimulus measures waiting for action in Parliament. Mr. Furasawa noted that “The authorities are committed to further reducing fiscal and external vulnerabilities while strengthening the foundations for higher and more inclusive growth. Building on progress made in recent years, further fiscal consolidation is needed… Finally, improving the business climate and governance, competitiveness, access to finance, and labor market policies is essential to raise potential growth, reduce persistently high unemployment levels, especially among the youth, and increase female labor participation.”

Similar recommendations were included in the World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum (CEM), which focused on these issues and quoted King Mohammed VI’s call to better develop Morocco’s “intangible capital” to identify other recommended policy priorities. The report notes, “Morocco stands out as an exception in a turbulent Arab world. It has considerable assets to be able to drive up its distinctiveness and become the first non–oil-producing North African country to join the ranks of upper-middle-income countries by the next generation. To achieve this goal, Morocco can take up real drivers for change on both the political level (the stability of its leadership), the institutional level (the values and principles endorsed by the 2011 Constitution), and the economic, social and environmental levels (normative convergence with the European Union) to build its intangible capital, the main source of any future shared prosperity.”

The CEM acknowledges the great progress that Morocco has made through a series of reforms that have moved sectors of the economy forward, improved the quality of life for most Moroccans, generated more jobs, and supported a range of “significant social and economic achievements over the past fifteen years.” It cautions that “Bringing Morocco’s improved development outcomes to the next level and achieving economic convergence with Southern European countries will require it to further deepen and integrate sector and governance reforms.”

So, what is this “intangible capital” to which the King referred? It refers to enhancing the productivity of the Moroccan economy through strengthening the quality of the institutional, human, and social capital of the country; in short, an advanced social contract based on more efficient and inclusive institutions, better and healthier options for individual growth, and a society that provides opportunities for better health and work outcomes.

Jean-Pierre Chauffour, World Bank Lead Economist and author of the report, believes that Morocco’s youth bulge can be turned into a long-term asset by reforms that remove obstacles to business development; an overhaul of the educational system to produce a qualified workforce of men and women operating in a mobile labor market; and a progressive market-oriented economy that eschews obstacles to trade in order to boost productivity and promote conditions that support fair market conditions for investors small and large, domestic and foreign.

Specific measures related to education and health are proposed “to achieve an ‘education miracle’ and give Moroccan students the needed skills to integrate into a more competitive job market.” According to the CEM, “Morocco’s ability to empower and mobilize greater economic opportunities for women will be instrumental to significantly enhance economic growth.” Finally, the CEM views the strengthening of institutions and the country’s governance model as key preconditions to reinforce the rule of law and place the Moroccan citizen at the heart of its development model. This ranges from more accountable and efficient public services to giving voice to citizens and enhancing respect, interpersonal trust and civic duty.

Among challenges highlighted in the report are the following:

  • Although barely 15 kilometers separate the kingdoms of Morocco and Spain, the average Moroccan’s purchasing power stood at only 22.5% of its immediate European neighbor in 2015.
  • The country is ranked 126th worldwide out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index and 91st of 157 countries on the World Happiness Index, a more subjective index measuring well-being, trust in society, solidarity, and the feeling of freedom.
  • Whereas the unemployment rate for unskilled young people is 4.5%, the rate is 21.7% for young technical college graduates and 24.6% for young university graduates, even as growing numbers of young people are entering university. Moreover, approximately 90% of young people who do have a job do not have an employment contract and work in the informal economy, indicative of the insecurity of their employment situation.
  • On average, over the last five years (2012–2016), only 26,400 net new jobs were created per year for a working-age population (15–65 years old) that grew by a net 270,000 people on average per year, according to Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP).
  • All in all, the Moroccan economy has not managed to make any significant efficiency gains despite its structural reforms, economic openness, improved business environment, imported technologies and increase in school enrollment rates.
  • With regard to raising the level of social capital, the report calls for ensuring greater respect for, and improved application of, the rule of law; promoting a sense of civic duty and exemplarity in all decision-making spheres; encouraging engagement in associations and the development of civil society; and supporting a change in attitudes and sociocultural norms through targeted information campaigns.

While someone unfamiliar with Morocco may think these remarks and others in the report reflect a “tough love” perspective, the recommendations actually echo many of the points made by the King in his speeches going back to Throne Day 2014, if not before. It is remarkable that a sovereign has the vision to measure what has been accomplished without hesitating to spell out what needs to be done. The recommendations highlighted by the CEM require a comprehensive strategy to advance Morocco’s future growth. There may be no better starting point than the King’s own words.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Mixed Economic News as Morocco Moves Forward in Key Sectors – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:11

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 17, 2017

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

Fitch Ratings issued a cautionary assessment of Morocco’s banking exposure in Africa. Fez takes center stage in business and economic news with several initiatives announced. The aeronautics sector gets new public-private partnership to boost capacity. And a government agency issues updated statistics on the role of technology in the Moroccan economy.

Looks good on paper. According to a recent bulletin released by Fitch Ratings, Moroccan banks must be careful not to be over-exposed in acquiring assets in Africa. Both the recent acquisition of Barclays Bank in Egypt and greater activity in sub-Saharan Africa were included in the assessment. According to the bulletin, “Moroccan banks that establish or acquire banks in markets with lower sovereign ratings are exposed to the large portfolios of local government bonds that these subsidiaries will typically hold.”

The concern, most recently tied to Attijariwafa Bank’s purchase of Barclays, reflects the quality of domestic sovereign bonds in most African markets, which are below the quality of similar bonds in Morocco, exposing the banks’ bottom lines to greater asset risk as well as to regulatory standards that may be less developed than Morocco’s.

Attijariwafa paid almost three times the book value for the Barclays operations, justified by the value that its African subsidiaries generate: 32% of 2016 net income for BMCE (Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur), 29% for Attijariwafa, and 12% for GBPC (Groupe Banque Populaire Centrale), offsetting weak earnings in the Moroccan market. Profits are also threatened by weak loan portfolios if the assets were to decline in value, or in the case of government bonds, fail to maintain their face valuation. Currently, BMCE has operations in 19 African countries, Attijariwafa in 13, and GBPC in eight.

Fez takes center stage in economic spotlight. As part of the country’s continuing effort to geographically diversify its economic growth, the First Economic Forum of the Fez-Meknes Chambers of Commerce and Services (CCIS) featured an address by Moulay Hafid Alalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy, in which he reminded the audience that the government had instituted a series of mechanisms to support local industrial development and balanced geographic growth.

The Minister highlighted the country’s success in industrial manufacturing and pointed out that traditional sectors such as textiles and leatherwork are important in adding jobs to the economy. “Thanks to the Industrial Acceleration Plan,” the Minister explained, “Morocco is committed to an integrated and inclusive approach and an irreversible and mastered insertion in global value chains.” He added that “world leaders are opting for Morocco and are developing major projects here. With the integrated and innovative system put in place, these operators will now have more visibility and will be able to carry out their projects under more advantageous conditions.”

While in Fez, the Minister attended the announcement by ALTEN Group, a French company prominent in technology engineering in the ITC sector, that it was moving ahead with expanding its operations in Morocco. According to a story in Morocco World News, the company currently has more than 200 engineers and technicians working on information technology and telecommunications projects for a number of European clients. Its newest project, “The Embedded Systems Automotive and Aeronautics,” will provide outsourcing of engineering services that will create more than 300 engineering positions, mainly in automotive and aeronautical embedded systems.

The ultimate goal is to set up “a competence center of 500 engineers in Fes by 2020, with the goal of reaching 1,000 full-time employees in Morocco.” Pascal Amore, member of the Executive Committee of the ALTEN Group, stressed the importance of the group’s presence in Morocco and the strategic nature of its activities initiated at the Fes Shore Park. “ALTEN, as a global leader in engineering and technology consulting, develops design and engineering projects for major global companies in the fields of information technology, telecommunications, aeronautics, space and the automobile industry,” he said.

Auto sector receives financing boost. At the automobile value chain fair held in Tangier, Minister Alalamy signed an agreement with Société Générale du Maroc and AMICA, the trade association for the automobile sector, which would provide specific financing services for value chain supply companies in the sector.

As the Minister put it, “Our ambition through the signing of this agreement is to enable the automotive sector to pursue the exceptional dynamics it shows, through financing offers adapted to the actors of the automotive ecosystems.” This financial support is essential to meet or exceed the goal of 65% of locally produced materials for the industry. “Through this agreement,” according to the Morocco World News story, “Société Générale du Maroc says that it is committed to supporting the automotive industry throughout the value chain of financial and banking services dedicated to companies: financing offers in the form of operating loans, investment credits, industry DEVcredits (tailored financing), currency financing, leasing, factoring, long-term leasing of vehicles, cash management solutions and also offers dedicated to the employees of companies in the automotive sector.”

Aeronautics sector finds new partners to build workforce competency. Casablanca recently hosted a national conference on “Developing Aeronautical Skills: A New Approach to a New Vision.” The central theme of the program was the need for initiatives to boost the number of qualified workers and how to provide sustainable training efforts in the sector. The event was organized by Mundiapolis University, which signed two partnership agreements with Bombardier and the Moroccan Aeronautics and Space Industries Group (GIMAS). Both agreements focus on developing certification programs for employees in the aeronautics sector and upgrading the support for engineering students at the University through internships, case studies, apprenticeships, and final projects.

The growth of the sector has been quite rapid, with more than 12,000 jobs created and 120 companies generating a turnover of nearly USD 1 billion each year, according to a press release from Mundiapolis. With growing interest from international investors, it is incumbent that the sector has a robust training regime to meet industry needs. Mundiapolis President Amine Bensaid said that, through this partnership, the university’s ambition is to be the best companion for both students and companies by continuously adapting their training programs to the expectations of the job market and the needs of companies.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Confronts Difficulty of Workforce Development – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 16:42

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 12, 2017

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

It has become a nostrum in international development, especially in Africa and the Middle East, that job creation is the number one goal for ensuring greater domestic stability. For example, the latest reports from the World Economic Forum and Ernst and Young strongly emphasize the critical need for employment opportunities for the burgeoning youth population, including women. Having spent time on workforce development last year in Jordan, and having met this month with consultants in Jordan and Lebanon who deal with youth employment and related issues, it was useful to compare their insights with those on youth employment in Morocco as described in a recent article by the Oxford Business Group (OBG).

That there has been limited success, despite the various initiatives being launched, is hardly the fault of the agencies and companies hard at work to generate more employment opportunities. First of all, there are just too many unemployed university, secondary school, and primary school graduates for any single solution or group of solutions to provide the needed jobs. Creating jobs requires domestic and foreign investments in diversified sectors, so that while the employment base for university graduates grows (assuming there is a match between their studies and the available jobs – a big assumption), you are also addressing opportunities for the vocational-technical (vo-tech) and unskilled worker pools. This is quite a challenge in Morocco, where around 40% of the workforce is seasonal and employed in agriculture, while another 40% fills service sector jobs that have high turnover, low wages, and few benefits for retaining and upgrading workers.

What’s left? The article begins with a case study of what Peugeot is doing as part of its commitment to workforce development in Morocco: using a public-private partnership (PPPs), consistent with Morocco’s 15-year strategy to reform the education sector. According to OBG, “PSA Peugeot Citroën (PSA) entered into an agreement with higher education institutions to open a series of design labs called OpenLabs,” in partnership with five Moroccan universities, including an engineering school, two US universities based in Morocco and a technology transfer center at the quasi-public International University of Rabat (UIR). This is not PSA’s first innovative effort to bring together the best brains available to promote skills acquisition for the new economy. “The OpenLabs are part of Science Technologies Exploratory Lean Laboratory (StelLab) – an international network of academic chairs and research laboratories launched by PSA in 2010 to develop more innovative collaboration with the global academic community.”

In Morocco, the program is called Sustainable Mobility for Africa, a four-year effort to develop mobility systems with “a focus on renewable energy, electric cars and logistics.” Focusing on future trends in the automotive sector reflects PSA’s commitment to the industry in Africa. It has launched a $90 million investment in the Kenitra region focused on the African markets. “By drawing on the professional and scientific experience of PSA and the expertise of the educational institutions involved, the initiative also targets the development of a labour force that has the skill set required by the automotive industry.”

It is not surprising that “Morocco’s expanding automotive segment posted record levels of exports for the third straight year in 2016, with the 316,712 units shipped abroad representing a 22.4% rise on the previous year.” This is the largest export category by value for Morocco. It is projected that the total number of employees will reach approximately 200,000 by 2020. All of this is good news, but is dwarfed by the reality of 1.3 million unemployed men and women of varying skills, ages, and education. Last year’s WEF human capital index noted that Morocco declined three spots to 98th out of 130 economies.

Helpful Initiatives Fall Short of Meeting Needs

It is expected that the number of students in Morocco will peak at 1.23 million by 2021. This poses structural as well as resources issues for the country. According to US government figures, “Although more than 95 percent of school-aged children in Morocco are now enrolled in primary school, the education system in Morocco faces significant challenges. Drop-out rates are still high and only 53 percent of students enrolled in middle school continue on to high school and less than 15 percent of first grade students are likely to graduate from high school.”

USAID is doing its part by opening vo-tech training centers in six locations. Known as Career Centers, the institutes provide soft skills and job preparation workshops. These are linked to an online platform for career services that has high hopes of improving the employability of its clients.

The national authority for vocational training, OFPPT, is setting up training centers in regions around the country to promote entrepreneurship and diversify the available vocational training. Morocco realizes that it lags in innovation and entrepreneurship, as highlighted by the “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Global Report 2016/17,” which ranked Morocco 59th of 65 economies for early-stage entrepreneurial activity.

Morocco’s efforts have yet to achieve the level of coordination called for in the Strategic Vision 2015-2030 announced in May 2015. Lack of experienced leadership at all levels of the education system, the need for coordination among various international donors, training for NGO and civil society groups supporting educational reform, and the incremental nature of changes encompassing teacher training, curriculum development, the continuing conflict over languages of instruction, and adequate resources allocated to rural and urban areas, are some of the more obvious issues to be resolved. King Mohammed VI has made education for jobs a key priority for the country, which needs steady, progressive, and proactive professionals guiding education for his goals to be realized.

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Categories: The moroccan press

US Energy Coalition Honors Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with Energy Efficiency Visionary Award

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 22:51

Washington, DC, May 11, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — Earlier this week, the Alliance to Save Energy honored Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with the Energy Efficiency (EE) Visionary Award, which recognizes “pioneering leadership in energy efficiency.” US Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) were also awarded.

“Morocco’s leadership in adopting ambitious efficiency policies sets an example for other countries and will pay tremendous dividends for the Kingdom,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan in a statement. “His Majesty and the entire Moroccan government are truly energy efficiency visionaries and we are thrilled to present them with this award.”

Her Highness Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United States, accepted the Award and delivered remarks on behalf of the King at the Alliance’s 10th Annual EE Global Forum on May 8.

“In my vision for socio-economic development, energy efficiency plays an important part in enhancing the fundamental rights of citizens, in environmental protection, in the preservation of public health, in curbing dependence of energy and in rationalizing public spending,” read the King’s statement.

“The pressing challenge for our world today is not so much to confront the lack of energy resources as to mobilize the investment needed in this field,” he said. “It is, therefore, necessary to build the energy infrastructure required and to develop alternative technologies… The security of energy supply, energy availability, energy efficiency and environmental protection are the bedrock of my country’s energy strategy.”

The King noted his country’s commitment to generate 42% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 and 52% by 2030; as well as Morocco’s role as President of the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22) last November.

“Our commitment in this field does not stop at Morocco’s borders,” he explained. “I pledge to keep up efforts at the national, regional and continental levels and do all I can to promote an environment conducive to the sustainable development of energy efficiency, renewable energy, technological innovation and green jobs in general.”

Morocco has long been a climate advocate, and was recognized last year as among the top five countries doing the most to combat climate change by the Climate Change Performance Index—landing among the top 10 three years in a row. The country’s NOOR solar power complex is the largest in the world – so large it is visible from space; and by completion, will be capable of producing 2,000 megawatts of energy.

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 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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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Continues to Lead Economic Growth in the Region – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 20:05

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 11, 2017

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

Two major studies released this month, the African Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, and the Africa Attractiveness Report from Ernst and Young (EY), point out that Morocco leads the other members of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) in many indicators of economic resilience. Unlike Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, and Tunisia, perhaps the most singular factor contributing to its success is Morocco’s stability, which allows it to grow without risking inflation and massive debt from overspending, or overreliance on select sectors resulting in unbalanced growth. This does not mean that there is an easy way forward. Challenges remain, including high unemployment and the mismatch between educational outputs and market needs to the need to balance economic growth among different regions of the country.

In the World Economic Forum Report focusing on Africa, data from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN, Moroccan public and private sector sources, and extensive interviews with company executives are used to rank countries along 12 indicators of the Global Competitiveness Index. These are: institutional performance, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and capacity for innovation. The focus of this edition of the biennial report is Addressing Africa’s Demographic Dividend, highlighting the policies that need to be implemented to take full advantage of the burgeoning youth population.

Morocco has several bright results. It places fourth overall in Africa and number one in North Africa. In specific categories, it placed sixth in institutional performance in all of Africa. In North Africa, it is above the average in health and primary education as well as higher education and training, and second only to Egypt in market size. Of the challenges to economic growth identified through company surveys, the top six are: access to financing, inadequately educated workforce, inefficient government bureaucracy, tax rates, insufficient capacity to innovate, and corruption. While the country can measure its progress with some satisfaction, there is still a long way to go in terms of facing its toughest tests of creating jobs for well-trained workers in an economy that supports and nurtures innovation and utilizes extensive broadband capacity.

The WEF report also makes special note of Morocco’s innovative approach to eradicating slum housing. “In Morocco, a small tax on cement is used to constitute a guarantee fund for low-income housing and to support the program of slums elimination (‘Villes sans bidonvilles’). This fund has been successful in increasing mortgage access for households in the informal sector and reducing the number of slums in the country.” It is this capacity for innovation outside traditional economic boundaries that will enable Morocco to achieve even better results in the future.

The EY report “highlights areas requiring policy action and investment to ensure that Africa lays a solid foundation for sustained and inclusive growth.” It spends the first part of the report looking at Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and how it reflects the confidence that investors have in each country’s capability to manage its future.

Regarding Morocco, it points out that there were 81 FDI driven projects in 2016, up 9.5% from the previous year, garnering 12% of the overall projects in the Kingdom. As the report notes, “Aided by a stable administration, even during the Arab Spring, Morocco has increasingly marketed itself as an export base for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The country’s automotive sector has especially attracted investor interest, with FDI projects increasing from 5 in 2014 and 10 in 2015 to 14 in 2016.”

To date, this has created more than 19,000 jobs, critical to overall stability. Additionally, Morocco does well on what is called the Africa Attractiveness Index (AAI), which details the strengths and weaknesses perceived by international investors. Morocco placed first out of 35 countries in 2017’s ranking, with strong showings in business enabling (3rd place), investment in business (4th), economic development (5th), governance (8th), market size (9th), and macroeconomic indicators (18th). It also came in second in amount of US investment with 14 projects—a figure that should go higher as Boeing ramps up its supply chain in Morocco.

In terms of target sectors for FDI in Morocco, four areas dominated with #1 rankings: transportation and logistics, real estate and hospitality, clean tech, and automotive; while business services come in at #2. What is important about this diversity is that there are both capital and labor intensive industries. This means that the workforce must also be diverse, from large numbers of semi-skilled service workers to smaller numbers of high tech IT and industrial workers. Jobs in FDI industries are well-paying, thus boosting the overall economy, and moving Morocco towards the level of economic growth required to ensure its long-term market stability.

While all of this is good news, both reports point out that Morocco must do much more to equip its youth with market-centered skills through greater emphasis on vocational and technical training, less emphasis on university degrees unrelated to the job market, increased support for special economic zones outside the Tangier-Casablanca corridor to help reduce negative environmental consequences, and greater support for entrepreneurship, competency training, and transitioning the informal sector to boost economic growth and job creation.

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Latest Appropriations Bill Continues US Support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 20:50

Washington, DC, May 5, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — The FY 2017 Appropriations Bill passed by Congress and signed Friday by President Trump requires that “funds appropriated under title III of this Act” for Morocco “shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara,” thereby reinforcing longstanding US policy to support a negotiated solution to the dispute over the region based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

As was the case last year, the final report accompanying the bill noted this policy and gave further clarification to the provision of the law:

[The Morocco subsection] is similar to language in prior years requiring that funds made available for assistance for Morocco shall also be made available for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara. The Committee recommendation includes not less than the request for Morocco in title III of this Act and makes funds available for assistance for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara. The Committee expects funds to support democratic reforms and economic development. The Committee remains concerned by the failure to resolve the longstanding dispute over the Western Sahara and the protracted refugee situation in the Polisario-run camps near Tindouf, Algeria. The Committee believes that the Secretary of State should pursue a negotiated settlement to the dispute, consistent with United States policy to support a solution to the issue based on a formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. These redoubled diplomatic efforts can lead to a realistic and lasting settlement, the completion of a UN Peacekeeping mission that has existed for more than twenty years, and a more stable region. The Committee also encourages the Administration to support private sector investment in the Western Sahara. The Committee recommendation includes a requirement to consult with the Committees on Appropriations on all of these issues not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act.

The past three US administrations – Clinton, Bush, and Obama – and strong bipartisan majorities in Congress have supported autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for Western Sahara. In a Joint Statement after King Mohammed VI’s 2013 visit to Washington DC, the King and President Obama pledged a “shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people of the Western Sahara,” and over the past several decades, Morocco has invested billions of dollars in economic and social development in the area.

The 2017 bill also calls for the Secretary of State to consult with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme and, within 45 days, “submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations describing steps taken to strengthen monitoring of the delivery of humanitarian assistance provided for refugees in North Africa, including any steps taken to ensure that all vulnerable refugees are receiving such assistance.”

Tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees are currently living in abject conditions in Polisario-run refugee camps in southwestern Algeria. Though the UN and other organizations have repeatedly called on Algeria and the Polisario to conduct a refugee registration in the camps to better ensure accountability and delivery of humanitarian aid, Algeria and the Polisario have refused, and in 2014 Agence France-Presse revealed that the European Union’s Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) had documented “well-organized, years-long” embezzlement by the Polisario of humanitarian aid designated for Sahrawi refugees. On April 28, the UN Security Council voted to renew for another year the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), again “reiterating its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and emphasizing efforts be made in this regard.”

“The 2017 Appropriations Bill unequivocally enforces longstanding US policy on the Western Sahara issue, and helps to ensure that the humanitarian aid we provide benefits the people living in the camps rather than lines the pockets of the Polisario leadership,” said Executive Director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy Jordan Paul. “But as importantly, it supports Morocco—our oldest ally, and sets the stage for finally reaching resolution on a conflict that has gone on for far too long.”

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 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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Categories: The moroccan press

Communiqué: Morocco Notes with Satisfaction the Adoption of Resolution 2351 by UNSC on the Moroccan Sahara Issue

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 16:58

From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on April 29, 2017:

Morocco notes with satisfaction the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council (UNSC), on April 28th, of resolution 2351 (2017) on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.

This resolution extends the mandate of the MINURSO for one year, within the strict framework of its current activities.

The resolution converges on several points with the assessments and recommendations of the UN Secretary-General, contained in his latest report to the Security Council (S/2017/307).

The Council clearly reaffirms the parameters of the political process as defined since 2007. This process should be guided by “realism and a spirit of compromise”, take into consideration the efforts made by Morocco since 2006, and take into account the pre-eminence of the Moroccan autonomy initiative.

The UN body also hails once again the “serious and credible” efforts that have led to the formulation of the autonomy plan.

The resolution also reiterates the regional dimension of the artificial dispute over the Moroccan Sahara, and specifies the responsibility of neighboring countries, particularly Algeria.

Therefore, the Security Council joins the Secretary General’s appeal, stressing that “Algeria and Mauritania can and should lend an important support for this process”.

The responsibility of Algeria is also confirmed in relation to the census of the populations of the Tindouf camps. Indeed, the Council, and for the 6th consecutive year, recalls the importance of the census and -new this year- “insists that efforts should be made in this regard.”

Morocco hopes that the other parties will actively and constructively get involved in order to put an end to this regional dispute, as part of these parameters, precisely defined by the Security Council and in the light of their clearly identified responsibilities.

Morocco also hopes that the conditions for a real revival of the process will be met.

In this context, Morocco reiterates its commitment to work towards a definitive solution, within the framework of the autonomy initiative.

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Categories: The moroccan press

A Victory for UN Peacekeeping – Robert M. Holley

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 18:18

Photo: United Nations

Robert M. Holley
April 28, 2017

Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Adviser, MACP

Generally, the first step in solving a problem is ensuring not to make it any worse. They say, if you are in a hole, stop digging. Doctors enjoin their professional colleagues to first “do no harm.” Grandpa always says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Lately, there is something of a renewal of an idea we have heard before, now again in some fashion among certain influential quarters in Washington and New York, that United Nations peacekeeping is a broken thing. It needs to be put under the microscope and the scalpel and subjected to some radical surgery or given a good scrubbing.

While no one disputes that any large scale endeavor, like most UN peacekeeping missions, that are subject to the competing priorities of multiple alpha bosses with often conflicting agendas could likely do with some efficient fixing, we need to be very careful here that we do not violate one of those other time honored truths to “not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Case in point, MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara.

Last August, in the interest of facilitating commercial traffic between sub Saharan Africa, through Morocco to Europe, the Moroccan government began to pave a several kilometer stretch of rutted dirt track connecting the Kingdom with Mauritania through a demilitarized buffer zone established by UN peacekeepers from the MINURSO mission, there to maintain the 1991ceasefire between Morocco and the insurrectionist Polisario Front.

In a matter of days after Morocco began to pave the track, Polisario soldiers arrived to prevent this bit of commercial road work. When Polisario troops also began to impede commercial trucking across the border, Morocco also dispatched armed elements to the location. Tensions, predictably, began to mount with Moroccan and Polisario troops separated by less than 200 meters and Polisario threatening war.

Eventually, the King of Morocco became sufficiently concerned by Polisario’s escalating aggressive behavior and hostile threats of a resumption of hostilities, that he requested a direct intervention of the new Secretary General of the United Nations to calm the situation and reduce the threat of another armed conflict in an already fragile Saharan security climate.  Responding immediately to the Secretary General’s request, Morocco withdrew its military from the border and buffer zone, but Polisario refused to back away and continued to threaten further escalation.

Only the UN’s MINURSO peacekeepers were present to attempt to calm tensions on the ground.

As this is written on the morning of Friday, April 28, the Security Council is considering the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate for another year and demanding that Polisario withdraw its forces from the buffer zone or face further, and presumably more pointed, consideration from the Council. I am confident that Polisario will see discretion here as the better part of valor and withdraw.

However, without the presence of those MINURSO peacekeepers on the ground and the attention they brought to the issue in the Security Council, I could just as easily see other more dramatic and unwelcome consequences from this dangerous development in the issue of Western Sahara.

Kudos to the King of Morocco for requesting a United Nations intervention and abiding by the Secretary General’s request.  Kudos to the Security Council for backing up its peacekeeping mission with a firm stand. And Kudos to MINURSO for doing its job and doing it well. They likely just helped prevent another  ruinous war in the increasingly dangerous Sahara/Sahel region of North Africa.

Now, the Security Council needs to work a bit more seriously to prevent more such potential explosions and insist on the political solution it says it favors, reached in a spirit of compromise and realism — two other terms that figure prominently in the UN’s deliberations.

That solution is on the table in the form of Morocco’s generous autonomy initiative, which Washington continues to describe as “serious, credible and realistic.”

And of course, the Council also needs to renew MINURSO’s evidently quite useful peacekeeping mandate and take careful note, following these developments, of the sound purpose it has served, while the Council itself tries to figure out, amongst its members with competing agendas, how to persuade Polisario and its supporters what terms like realism and compromise mean these days.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Celebrates Earth Day Every Day

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 15:05
As COP 22 President, North African Country Continues Pushing Climate Action

Washington, DC, April 22, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — Morocco has long been a climate advocate, becoming the first African and Arab country to host a Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) in 2001. In November 2016, the country—dubbed a “perfect place for the world’s biggest climate change conference,” according to Quartz—again hosted world leaders in Marrakesh for COP 22, this time with the task of implementing the historic Paris Agreement from the year before.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI urged participants at COP 22 to move beyond promises to “tangible initiatives and practical steps,” and to respect and support the priorities and resources of developing countries.

“Holding this conference in Africa,” he said, “is an incentive for us to give priority to tackling the adverse repercussions of climate change, which are growing worse and worse in the countries of the South and in insular states whose very existence is in jeopardy.”

Since November, Morocco has ensured that the climate action agenda moves forward as COP 22 President, hosting a number of events and workshops with members of Moroccan civil society as well as international stakeholders on capacity building, sustainable industrial areas, and more. Morocco sent a delegation to the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington, DC this month to address issues of climate finance, and is working closely with the incoming Fiji COP 23 Presidency in advance of the Bonn Climate Change Conference in May.

Meanwhile, Morocco continues leading the way on sustainability and renewable energy at home:

  1. Morocco has enshrined environmentalism in its governing documents. Article 31 of the country’s 2011 Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to “the access of water and to a healthy environment”; while Articles 71 and 152 address the government’s responsibility for environmental protection and oversight.
  2. Morocco has set ambitious energy goals. Morocco has committed to generating 42% of the country’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, and 52% by 2030.
  3. Morocco is a world leader in solar energy production. The country’s NOOR solar power complex is the largest in the world – so large it is visible from space; and by completion, will be capable of producing 2,000 megawatts of energy. In addition, Morocco currently maintains 13 wind farms and plans to build at least six more before 2020, capable of producing a total of 2,000 megawatts of energy.
  4. Morocco is serious about waste reduction. The Moroccan Parliament signed a bill into law on July 1, 2016 banning the use, production, or import of plastic bags; and Rabat hosts an active recycling and waste-management center that employs disadvantaged people to sort through waste for reusable, recyclable and saleable material.
  5. Morocco understands the importance of raising public awareness on climate change issues. That’s why Morocco’s  Association  of  Teachers  of  Life  and  Earth  Sciences  works  with  the  Ministry  of  Education  to  promote environmental awareness at centers in 18 different towns and cities throughout Morocco.

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 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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Categories: The moroccan press

Happy (Belated) Birthday to the Moroccan Scholar who Saved Aristotle – Andrew Lubrano

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 17:23

Andrew Lubrano
April 21, 2017

 

Averroes, as portrayed in Raphael’s “The School of Athens.” Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Hanging in the Vatican, Raphael’s fresco “The School of Athens” depicts a highly anachronistic meeting of some of the greatest thinkers in human history. Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates walk through a crowd that includes a few 15th century Renaissance figures alongside ancient Greek philosophers like Archimedes and Euclid.

Seated on the left side of the fresco is a man whose style of dress starkly stands out amidst the togas and flowing robes of the Greeks. This man appears to be staring over the shoulder of Pythagoras, seemingly intensely interested in whatever the legendary Greek mathematicians is working on.

He is neither a Greek philosopher, nor one of Raphael’s Renaissance contemporaries. To Raphael and the rest of the West he was known as Averroes, the Muslim physician and philosopher famous for preserving and commenting on the works of Aristotle and Plato that were thought lost during the so-called “Dark Ages.”

However, for the Almoravid and Almohad Caliphs of 12th century Morocco, he was known as Ibn Rushd, just one of the many brilliant scholars of Islam, science, and philosophy that emerged during the Middle Ages.

Born Abu al-Walid Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Rushd‎ on April 14, 1126 in Cordoba, Spain—then part of the Moroccan Almoravid Caliphate—Ibn Rushd was the third generation of an influential family of scholars that had served the ruling Moroccan dynasty as religious leaders and judges in Cordoba for almost a century. At the time, Cordoba was a cultural center of the Morocco-ruled Caliphate, where a diverse population of Muslims, Jews, and Christians influenced the nascent Islamic law and philosophy with their legal, scholarly, and cultural traditions.

It is in this multicultural environment that Ibn Rush received his education in science, religion, Islamic jurisprudence, and medicine. Ibn Rushd especially excelled at the latter, and prior to his foray into philosophy was primarily known as a talented physician and scholar of medicine, writing several medical textbooks that would be used throughout Europe and the Middle East for generations to come.

After completing his studies and earning distinction in Spain, Ibn Rushd moved to Marrakesh to work more closely with the ruling Almohad Caliphate after the Almoravids were deposed. He was initially appointed as a judge, but soon became close with the Caliph’s advisors and eventually the Caliph himself, Abu Yaqub Yusuf.

Yusuf had become curious about the works and philosophy of Aristotle, but felt that the Greek philosopher’s writings were too complicated and that the available Arabic translations were of poor quality. To fix this, he commissioned Ibn Rushd to write a series of translations and commentaries on Aristotle’s works.

This initial assignment inspired Ibn Rushd to translate and write commentaries on not just Aristotle, but on Plato, Ptolemy, and several other Classical philosophers. The Caliph’s casual demand for the “Sparknotes” of Aristotle ended up being the reason that these writings were preserved and later promoted for generations of Middle Eastern and European Renaissance scholars (and freshman philosophy majors) to come.

Though Europe would lionize him for preserving and popularizing the Classics, Ibn Rushd wrote many of his own treatises on philosophy, often comparing and contrasting Greek and Islamic thought.

His influence was not limited to academia, though. For one, he served as a legal advisor to the Caliph for many years before his death in Marrakesh in 1198 CE. But he is also credited with helping to convince the Almohad Caliphs to abandon the strict and rigid Zahiri school of Islamic law and adopting the more moderate Maliki school, which focuses on consensus of judges and precedent in addition to the Quran and the Hadith. Indeed, almost a millennium after Ibn Rushd arrived in Marrakesh to serve as a judge and translate Aristotle for the Caliph, his impact can still be felt in Morocco, which still uses the Maliki school as the foundation of its religious teachings and law system.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Review: Arab Finance Institutions in Morocco, Bilateral Investments with Rwanda, Morocco Agriculture in the Spotlight, and More Tourism Kudos – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 19:21

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 20, 2017

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

While the World Bank Group prepares for its spring meetings in Washington, DC, leaders of Arab financial institutions are meeting in Morocco. Morocco’s annual Agricultural Fair is scheduled for the end of this month. And if you’re in the mood for a vacation without your laptop, don’t miss these eight reasons to go to Morocco.

Arab Finance Community Discusses Steps to Support Economic Growth. Some 350 leaders in finance and economy from around the Arab world are gathering this week in Morocco to promote greater inter-Arab financial cooperation. These meetings have become a key platform for developing policies and programs to support sustainable development in Arab countries as well as promote greater cooperation on financial and economic issues.

A message from King Mohammed VI to the meeting addressed the urgent need to ensure social justice and adequate social safety nets for the Arab world’s growing populations. “Our Arab financial institutions are called upon today, more than ever, to react positively to the major changes and development needs witnessed in the Arab region, to pool efforts in order to support economic and financial reforms, to diversify and boost Arab economies and to achieve Arab integration,” he pointed out.

Included in his recommendations was encouragement for inter-Arab investments to support sustainable development and involve the private sector as an “engine for the promotion of development and a creator of wealth,” according to a report from Xinhuanet.com. He noted that a priority should be placed on development projects that support economic integration and enable Arab economies to be more open to their regional environment, as Morocco is doing in Africa. Among the sectors he mentioned were energy, power infrastructure, transport, and agricultural projects for food security.

Bilateral Ties with Rwanda Advance. The benefits of the King’s economic diplomacy received another affirmation according to an AllAfrica.com story as Rwanda approved a law removing double taxation for Moroccan investors. Since the King’s visit last October, there has been an uptick in investments from Morocco. “Investments from Morocco are coming in at a high speed; therefore, facilitating them is an opportunity for both countries to boost business and economic opportunities,” said Rwanda Private Sector Federation Chief Executive Benjamin Kasamagera.

The law removing double taxation for Moroccan investors was a major consideration for moving ahead with the 21 trade agreements the two parties signed last year. The announcement followed the visit of a business delegation of more than 100 Moroccan investors who looked at a number of projects including a floriculture project valued at $15 million in Gishari, eastern Rwanda, as well the development of a wholesale market for Moroccan goods valued at $31 million at the Kigali special economic zone.

Agricultural Sector Rebounds as Meknes Opens Annual Agricultural Fair. Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Aquatics, Aziz Akhannouch, announced that this year’s harvest is expected to reach 10.2 million tons, an increase of 203% over this period last year. He was in Meknes to kick off the annual International Agriculture Fair, which showcases all things related to agriculture, from seed selection to marketing end-products, as well as advances in ag-related research and technologies.

Agriculture accounts for more than 15% of Morocco’s GDP, and the plentiful rainfall since October has helped Morocco’s economy grow by 4.3% in the first quarter of this year, compared with 1.7% in the same period last year. In releasing its data, the High Commission for Planning said that this growth was mainly due to the rise in agricultural output by 12.9% in the first quarter this year, compared to 9% last year. Italy is being feted as the fair’s guest of honor.

Look No Further, Morocco is the Place to Go. Moroccan tourism operator Holidayme provided Trade Arabia News Service with eight good reasons to visit Morocco, “one of Africa’s most preferred tourist destinations.” They boil down to: cost (“Morocco can be an economic and delightful escape”); hiking trails; beaches; riads; shopping; food; mint tea; and… Marrakesh!  So stop thinking about it and get a non-stop flight to Casablanca from New York or Washington, DC…just seven hours away!

The post Business Review: Arab Finance Institutions in Morocco, Bilateral Investments with Rwanda, Morocco Agriculture in the Spotlight, and More Tourism Kudos – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Remains Safe despite Rise in Terrorist Activity in North Africa/Sahel in 2016

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 23:00
Study Lauds Morocco’s Counterterrorism Initiatives, Urges Resolution to Sahara Conflict

Washington, DC, April 14, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — The number of terrorist incidents in the Maghreb and Sahel regions of Africa rose 14% in 2016, according to a study released Thursday by The Inter-University Center on Terrorism Studies (IUCTS) and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, reaching the second highest level since 9/11. The eighth annual report, “Terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel in 2016,” revealed that, despite this alarming trend, Morocco and Mauritania registered zero terrorist incidents in 2016, and that Morocco has been the country least-affected by terrorism in the region over the past fifteen years.

“During 2016, Morocco continued to improve its counterterrorism capabilities, as demonstrated by multiple arrests of suspected terrorists, seizing weapons, and aborting violent plots,” said the report. “Particular mention should be made of the leadership of King Mohammed VI in denouncing terror and proposing the excommunication of Muslims who use their faith as justification for political violence. And in early 2017, Morocco banned the production and sale of the burqa out of concern that the shroud-like garment, which covers the entire face and body of Muslim women, would be exploited to mount terrorist attacks.

“In sum, Rabat’s holistic security strategies, ranging from expanded international cooperation (e.g., joining the African Union) to developing tolerant Islamic approaches, seem to serve as a practical model to bring potential terrorist threats to manageable levels.”

According to the report, the most affected countries in 2016 were Libya (with 125 incidents), Mali (with 64 incidents), Tunisia (with 16 incidents), and Algeria (with 13 incidents); while to date, Algeria, Libya, and Mali have experienced the most terrorist incidents (1,329; 578; and 218, respectively).

“Of growing concern for African security interests are the increasing links and flow of recruits between… regional extremists and the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq, as well as al-Qa’ida affiliates and allies across the region,” the reported stated, noting that “countries in the Maghreb and Sahel are not immune to the broader threat of violence emanating from Iraq and Syria.”

Among the report’s ten tactical recommendations to address these regional threats were to:

  • “Strengthen U.S. and NATO intelligence assets by broadening cooperation through AFRICOM, NATO’s Partnership for Peace, and other modalities that supply and support training, equipment, and monitoring of resources throughout the region”;
  • “Continue to expand U.S. counterterrorism technical assistance and training to internal security personnel”;
  • “Work to settle intra-regional conflicts that provide openings for extremists to exploit and impede security and economic cooperation — including the Western Sahara dispute and the problem of refugees in the Polisario-run camps in Algeria. Also, collaborate with the global donor community to conduct a census of the camps to ensure that humanitarian aid is not diverted, from this location or elsewhere, for military purposes or personal enrichment”;
  • “Recognize the importance of and provide quiet encouragement to Muslim leaders in promoting the practice of a moderate Islam, as well as counter-radicalization programs that limit the appeal of extremist recruiters”; and
  • “Promote regional trade and investment by expanding the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement to include goods and products from North, West, and Central Africa.”

“As the IUCTS study shows, the situation in North Africa and the Sahel is dangerous and we cannot be complacent,” said Jordan Paul, Executive Director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy. “Morocco has emerged largely unscathed thanks to the leadership of King Mohammed VI and the vigilance of the country’s security forces. However more can and should be done, including resolving the Western Sahara issue based on the Moroccan autonomy plan.”

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 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.

The post Morocco Remains Safe despite Rise in Terrorist Activity in North Africa/Sahel in 2016 appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Vision – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 15:00
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 14, 2017

King Mohammed VI reviews a development project. Photo: MAP

A recent article in the Journal of Democracy cautioned that while Morocco was able to weather the shocks of the Arab Spring, there is some concern about the viability of monarchies over the long term. While I can appreciate the author’s perspective, I must challenge his assertion by making a distinction between heads of state who have a status quo strategy and a head of state such as King Mohammed VI who is both leading from behind and in front of Morocco’s moves toward a more open and responsive political system.

A short recitation of steps both before and after the Arab Spring events of 2011 will help frame my argument. Shortly after becoming king, Mohammed VI made a key speech calling for a giant step forward in promoting women’s rights, and subsequently addressed the need to assess the human rights abuses of the previous regime. These two initiatives, the moudawana reforms to the family law, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (often referred to as ”transitional justice”) were hallmarks of how this King intended to govern– certainly with more transparency and energy than many other Arab and African leaders.

He called for a comprehensive assessment of the country’s quality of life and then implemented a country-wide National Human Development Initiative. The King instituted both a national human rights investigatory body, the National Commission for Human Rights, and an anti-corruption agency, the Central Authority for Corruption Prevention. In addition, the 2011 Constitution has been called one of the most progressive in the MENA region for its call for separation of powers, greater power-sharing, civil and human rights protections, and protection of the country’s multi-faith heritage.

These actions and many more are just some of the reasons why the King is so popular, despite challenges in achieving a sufficient level of economic growth to generate jobs for the young and marginalized in the country. In speaking with Moroccans in the U.S. and Morocco, the key perception I have found is that the King is providing the leadership, vision, ideas, and space for greater economic and political development. How else would a country like Morocco build automotive and aeronautics industries, creating 70,000+ jobs in less than five years? Why is Morocco seen as a stable, secure, and business-friendly country that has become the leader in renewable energy in Africa? What has enabled Morocco to join the African Union after more than 30 years of absence, and soon likely to become a member of ECOWAS? How can a country survive for almost six months without a formal government and then respond quickly to a new mandate from the King?

This is not to say that Morocco doesn’t have challenges on all fronts. Implementation of new laws and procedures are slow in coming. Corruption remains troubling in many sectors. Skills sets of graduates from universities and secondary schools are still mismatched with the marketplace. Agriculture is too dominant and too variable a sector in the economy. Women’s rights must still be reinforced and supported.

But this is where “vision” comes in. Time and again the King has expressed his belief in the future of Moroccans as productive citizens invested in the success of their country and their region. His criss-crossing of Africa in search of new markets and ties to boost the economies of the continent; Morocco’s regional and international commitment to promote security through multilateral security agreements; and the King’s consistency in encouraging a viable and responsive political culture in his country are strong indictors that Morocco is moving in the right direction.

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 21:19

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morocco’s Lone Refinery Still a Bust

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

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

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

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

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 20:14

Meknes, Morocco. Photo: Pablo Pecora

Caitlin Dearing Scott
April 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:35

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

Another Pizza Chain, Papa John’s, is Coming to Morocco – David S. Bloom

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 17:57

David S. Bloom
March 31, 2017

David Bloom, Director of Research and Policy Analysis

Morocco loves pizza, and this week, Louisville-based Papa John’s International Inc. announced that its latest international expansion will take the pizza delivery chain to Morocco. The first restaurant will open in Casablanca, with an additional 19 stores planned to open in the next 5 years. The total investment is reported to be around $12 million and is expected to generate between 800 and 1000 direct jobs. The Morocco investment represents Papa John’s third foray into Africa, after Egypt in 2007 and Tunisia in 2016.

Moroccan company Planet Pizza Inc. has exclusive development rights with Papa John’s and will build and manage the franchises in the country. Planet Pizza CEO Taoufik Bensouda declared himself “honored” to participate in introducing Papa John’s to Morocco, citing “strong demand in the market for high quality pizzas and excellent service.” Papa John’s, in turn, said it is “pleased to extend our growth with Mr. Bensouda and Planet Pizza.”

Papa John’s will join competitors Domino’s and Pizza Hut, which already operate restaurants in Morocco. Of course chain restaurants are known to adapt their fare to local tastes when they expand internationally, and though Papa John’s has yet to release their Moroccan menus, a peek at their Tunisia menu suggests what they might offer. This menu offers the classic cheese and pepperoni as well as the ever-so-controversial Hawaiian—which features (the much-debated in the US) pineapple topping, with “turkey ham”. Other items include the “Mexican Ole” (chicken, onion, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato, and mushroom) and the “fisherman’s catch” (shrimp, calamari, green pepper, and onion).

“Berber Pizza”. Photo: Tom Lianza

Morocco’s Domino’s restaurants offer similar fare, including the “Tex-Mex Chicken” (marinated chicken, onion, green pepper, black olive, and jalapeno) and the “Fisherman,” which features tuna, black olive, onion, fresh tomato, and jalapeño.

Bensouda is making a smart bet on Morocco’s love for pizza. The closest thing in Morocco’s rich culinary culture is probably Medfouna, otherwise known as “Berber pizza.” Medfouna is more like a calzone: it’s a large bread stuffed with meat and veggies. Excellent, like all Moroccan food; but even the best calzone can’t match up to a pizza.

Banner photo: James

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