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Western Sahara: Who Should Be Watching? Why Not Us? – Robert M. Holley

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 20:54

MINURSO Monitors Ceasefire in Western Sahara. Photo: UN

Robert M. Holley
March 9, 2017

Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Adviser, MACP

Where tensions are running high and opposing armed forces are facing off with one another, separated by only a couple of hundred meters, the risk of an accident with unpredictable and potentially terrible consequences also runs equally high.

Such has been the case for the last several months in Western Sahara, where, until very recently, substantial deployments of the armed forces of Morocco and the Polisario Front nervously eyed one another across only a couple of hundred meters of no man’s land.

Despite many years of the Polisario’s bombastic threats of a return to war, no one seriously believes that Algeria would green-light its Polisario client to pull the trigger on a new war with Morocco.

Nevertheless, when excitable soldiers are facing off with live ammunition in their weapons, the risk of an accident is a dangerous possibility.  And once someone fires that first round, you never really know what happens next. If you doubt that, just review the consequences of that first single shot fired in Sarajevo, Concord or Fort Sumpter to refresh your memory of just how quickly things can get totally out of hand.

Fortunately, after a phone call from King Mohamad VI to the new UN Secretary General, Morocco did the responsible thing and withdrew its forces from the area. The Polisario, however, remains in place, locked and loaded and refusing to budge, despite the repeated urgings of the international community to withdraw its forces and reduce the tensions in this volatile dispute.

This four-decade-old problem has been ripe for resolution since the United States changed its policy in early 1999 and called for a mutually acceptable political solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. Most of the international community followed suit, and the UN Security Council has since repeatedly urged a fundamental political compromise. The United States has repeatedly called Morocco’s compromise plan to offer the region a generous autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty serious, credible and realistic. Indeed, in a letter to King Mohamad VI, former President George W. Bush made clear that he viewed Morocco’s initiative as the only viable solution and reiterated longstanding US policy to support such an outcome.

That policy has not changed, despite vigorous efforts to resist its implementation in the bowels of the State Department and from former senior members of the National Security Council during the last four years of the Obama Administration.

Much has changed on the ground in the Moroccan Sahara over the last 15 years to lay the groundwork for granting the local population both a better quality of life and preparation for the autonomy that Morocco has offered under a negotiated political solution. The US Congress has applauded those efforts and, through bipartisan legislation, has obliged a reluctant State Department to provide material assistance to support Morocco’s efforts in the Sahara.

Unfortunately, for reasons that are almost impossibly difficult to credit, or even understand, the State Department continues to refuse permission for the US Ambassador in Morocco to visit the region to see, listen and report on those developments from a personal perspective.  It’s as though the State Department simply doesn’t care to have the personal views of the President’s own personal representative. This makes no sense at all.

The US Ambassador in Algiers has recently visited the Polisario enclaves in southern Algeria and presumably provides her personal views on the local circumstances in her reports back to Washington.  This despite the fact that the United States does not recognize the Polisario’s fictional Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or its claim to Western Sahara.

Washington should also have the views of its most senior diplomat in Morocco on developments on the other side of the military berm separating Moroccan and Polisario armed forces.

It is absurd that the State Department continues to hide behind some bogus argument that allowing the US Ambassador to visit Moroccan Sahara might signal US recognition of their claim to the territory, when our Ambassador in Algeria meets directly with the senior-most “officials” of a fictive state that we most certainly do not recognize.

Tensions in the region are growing. Military forces from both sides have recently faced off. One side, the Polisario, continues to threaten war and remains deployed for it. The President and senior US policy makers deserve the views and counsel of the US Ambassador in Morocco. It’s time to bring this charade to an end.  Hopefully, new leadership at State will do just that.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Innovation on the Uptick on Morocco; South African Investor Looking to Add Morocco to Portfolio; Islamic Finance Moves a Step Closer; Tangier Grabs Headlines for Place to do Business and Have Fun – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 15:28

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 9, 2017

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

Recent figures released by the government of Morocco show increases across the board in new business start-ups, patent and trademark applications, and other signs of a maturing private sector, while Islamic finance readies final steps for debut later this year. A major US investment fund announced plans to spread its activities in Africa, while the wonders of Tangier were given a thumbs-up by a major business magazine.

Statistics Indicate Morocco Moving Ahead in New Business Development. The Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), responsible for foreign and domestic licensing companies, patents, trademarks, and legal registrations, recently provided statistics for 2016..

Moroccan companies continued to grow in all categories. A record 12,800+ trademark applications were submitted, 56% of them from Moroccan companies. This is important to the country’s international business rankings, as it illustrates the growing business capabilities of domestic companies, maturity of relevant regulations, and the impact on the market. For example, Morocco is now ranked 42nd worldwide in the 2016 edition of industrial property indicators.

Another area of growth is renewal of trademarks, which is an indicator of the longevity of local firms. The rate was 30% for 2016. And almost 60% of the industrial designs submitted were Moroccan, which makes Morocco 22nd internationally.

Similar strength was shown in a 21% increase in patents, of which 20% were of Moroccan origin. Having a growing number of patents is one of the most important indicators of local innovation that has staying power rather than relying largely on foreign sources. If Morocco is to continue to expand its manufacturing and services capabilities, a strong intellectual property regime is a must, and these statistics clearly illustrate that Morocco is on the right track – upwards!

Major South African Investor Looking at Morocco. Looks like a firm from the number one investor in Africa is looking to invest in the number two! Alexander Forbes recently announced its interest in looking for acquisitions on the continent, and Morocco is one of its priorities. The company is looking to invest in small existing companies that give them ready-to-go projects and businesses. As a diversified financial services company, Alexander Forbes has a keen interest in companies that are pension fund administrators, as well as smaller financial services companies that serve large corporate entities.

Islamic Finance on Course for 2016 Launch. The central bank of Morocco has approved the use of five types of Islamic banking transactions, according to a story in Arab News, and also a central board of Islamic scholars to oversee the sector. Any category of Islamic transaction must gain preliminary approval from the board.   The five types of transactions are
Murabaha (joint ventures), Musharaka (partnership between investor and agent), Ijara (leasing), Mudaraba (financing acquisitions) and Salam (advanced payments). The central bank also set regulations for conventional banks to open windows selling Islamic products.

The initial regulations establish conditions and frameworks for banks to manage deposits, funds and investments under Shariah principles, which ban interest and pure monetary speculation. Morocco’s government plans to issue its first Islamic bond in the domestic market in the first half of 2017; experts said that would stimulate business in the sector. Still awaiting approval from the Parliament is a bill regulating Islamic insurance.

Tangier – More than a Pretty Face. No longer the refuge of hippies, Beat poets, and European bohemians, Tangier – with the development of TangerMed Port, the revival of the old medina, and tourism promotionhas emerged, particularly with the support of King Mohammed VI, to reclaim its role as an attractive entrepôt bridging two continents and myriad cultures.

Tangier’s renaissance began with reviving its role as an international center for trade. TangerMed Port is now the largest shipping port in Africa, with a capacity to process more than 8 million TEUs a year. It is drawing business from its competitors around the Mediterranean basin, especially Algerciras, which has not been able to keep up with the state-of-the art facilities available across the straits. Despite Algeria’s commitment to build a deep water port, it will be years before it matches the productivity and efficiency that make TangerMed Port attractive to companies.

On the tourism front, Tangier continues to build its visitor base by more than 5% annually, despite the downturn in the region due to security fears emanating from attacks in Tunisia and Algeria. The addition of a high-speed TGV train next year will likely double traffic between Tangier and Casablanca. Continued improvements in infrastructure throughout the north, easy access by ferry to Spain, the draw of the old medina, and the increasingly attractive regional tourism destinations are several of the reasons why some are saying that the northwest of Morocco could rival more traditional tourism spots such as Marrakech and Fez.

Among the star performers in the regional economy, largely based in Tangier, are the automotive and aerospace industries, which, according to the Oxford Business Group (OBG) are accelerating their large-scale development. The signing of an MoU with Boeing to develop an industrial park focused solely on the aeronautics sector should create close to 9000 direct skilled jobs while generating $1B in exports. There are currently 120 companies in the sector.

Like aerospace, the country’s automotive industry has surged in recent years, reaching record export levels for the third straight year in 2016, with the 316,712 units shipped abroad representing a 22.4% year-on-year rise, the OBG underlined.

The post Business Brief: Innovation on the Uptick on Morocco; South African Investor Looking to Add Morocco to Portfolio; Islamic Finance Moves a Step Closer; Tangier Grabs Headlines for Place to do Business and Have Fun – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

News Brief: Polisario Fuels Standoff in the Sahara – Jordana Merran

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 22:19

By Jordana Merran
March 8, 2017

Since last summer, Moroccan troops and Polisario fighters have stood “within 200 meters (yards) of each other in a narrow strip of land near the Mauritanian border.”

On Sunday, February 26, days after a phone call between Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Morocco announced “‘a unilateral withdrawal from the zone’ in conformation with the UN Secretary General’s recommendations,” as reported by Reuters.

The same day, the US Embassy in Rabat tweeted, “We welcome Morocco’s decision to withdraw personnel from the buffer zone in the region of Guerguerate in support of SecGen’s request.”

Over the weekend, Special Representative for the Sahara and Head of MINURSO Kim Bolduc, accompanied by MINURSO Force Commander Wang Xiaojun, met with Polisario officials in Tindouf urging them to withdraw from the area. However, they refused.

According to The Arab Weekly, “Polisario Front fighters re­main in the buffer zone of the Guerguerat region, in­timidating Moroccan truck drivers despite the United Nations’ call for unconditional withdrawal.”

We are following the situation closely.

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Categories: The moroccan press

On International Women’s Day, a Reflection on the Past Year in Morocco – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 16:06

Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 8, 2017

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

International Women’s Day – observed every March 8 – is an occasion to celebrate the achievements of women and the successes of the fight for gender equality while reflecting on the challenges that remain. In Morocco, the last year certainly brought some progress worth mentioning, as well as some reminders about the need for continued advancement.

Most notably, the percentage of women in Parliament increased from 17% to 21% after the 2016 legislative elections. Women now hold 81 of the 395 seats in the House of Representatives (Lower House) – 71 of them thanks to a quota system introduced in 2011 that encourages women’s representation. The other 10 were elected through the general election process, and though that number is still small, the fact that political parties are putting more women on the top of their lists augurs well for future progress.

And last year’s newly nominated Ambassador class made the country a leader in the Arab and Muslim world for the representation of women in diplomacy:  13 of the 65 new Ambassadors named were women, “a strong signal that reflects the importance of Moroccan women in diplomacy,” as noted by the Maghreb Arab Presse. Among them are Morocco’s Ambassadors to the United States (the country’s first female Ambassador to Washington), Tunisia, Panama, Angola, Ethiopia and Djibouti, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Macedonia, Colombia and Ecuador, Hungary, Norway and Iceland, Denmark and Lithuania, Chile, and Sweden and Latvia.

This progress is not limited to the political realm – women continue to excel in Morocco’s boardrooms, too. According to a newly released ranking from Jeune Afrique, 13 businesswomen from Morocco ranked among the top 50 most influential businesswomen in francophone Africa, with eight of them placing in the top 10.

Despite the presence of high-profile women business leaders, Morocco nevertheless continues to face challenges with women in the workforce. A recent International Monetary Fund study on the implications of gender equality for growth found that the country is missing out on significant growth because of the limited role of women in the labor force. With women’s participation at just 25% — a rate that has declined over the past decade due to falling participation for women over 25 — Morocco lags behind other countries at a similar income level. And this is happening in spite of significant improvements in closing the gender gaps in education and literacy. While the report praises Morocco’s efforts to boost women’s participation in the economy through measures such as gender budgeting and a progressive maternity leave policy, it calls for more to be done to integrate women in order to improve the country’s growth. Policy recommendations include lifting legal restrictions on inheritance, investing in public childcare facilities to make it easier for women to work outside the home, and removing gender-discriminatory tax practices.

Other challenges, such as gaps between existing legislation and implementation and continued cultural conservativism also remain; there has been little progress on those issues over the past year because they require a more long-term approach. The latest debate is over the need for improved legislation on domestic violence. Women’s groups and the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) have advocated for sweeping changes in both law and practice to address this issue. As a result, there is a draft law before the upper chamber of Parliament that increases penalties for existing criminal offenses and provides guidelines for protecting victims of violence. But many in the advocacy community believe that it doesn’t go far enough in addressing the needs of Moroccan women, as it does not criminalize marital rape or provide guidelines to police, judges, and lawyers in prosecuting offenders. And though the law was put forth in March and adopted by the lower chamber in July, there has been little movement on it since, highlighting challenges in both the content and the legal process.

This reality of successes achieved and obstacles remaining is all the more reason to join women in Morocco – and the rest of the world – in celebrating today and committing to the achievement of full gender equality.

For more on the topic, please see our issue brief.

The post On International Women’s Day, a Reflection on the Past Year in Morocco – Caitlin Dearing Scott appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

So Many Reasons Why Morocco Should be your Tourism, Trade, and Investment Destination – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 19:01

Casablanca Port in the Morning. Photo: Nathan Guy

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 7, 2017

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

Here are 13 good reasons why Morocco should be your priority for travel, whether for business or pleasure. And it’s getting better all the time!

  1. Morocco is the only country in Africa with both Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean coastlines. Stop almost anywhere on either coast and you will find welcoming cities, towns, and villages, not to mention world class resorts, and access to incredible historic sites and cultural treasures in the interior.
  2. The culture and geography are varied, from the mountainous Rif, to the urban population of Casablanca, to the areas adjoining the Sahara, to the exciting seascapes of the South.
  3. More than 60% of Moroccans live in urban areas, so the country is constantly upgrading its transportation systems, with trams in Rabat and Casablanca and motorways that connect most of the major cities.
  4. Over 56% of Moroccans are employed in the services sector, most are bilingual (French & Arabic), and they all have a strong sense of hospitality.
  5. Since 2014, Morocco has been the most popular tourism destination in Africa, with more than 10 million visitors a year.
  6. Morocco is a primary destination for new project (greenfield) investments, ranking second in Africa after South Africa, which has a much bigger economy. France and Spain are the primary sources of investment, although the US is catching up quickly due to its financing of projects in aerospace, energy, and tourism.
  7. Morocco’s y-on-y “doing business” scores have improved annually since 2012.
  8. The largest car factory in Africa is in Morocco, operated by Renault; soon to be joined by a major Peugeot facility.
  9. Morocco hosts some of the largest wind farms and solar energy projects in Africa, determined to provide 50% of its domestic energy consumption by 2030. It is the only country in North Africa with virtually no fossil fuel resources, yet!
  10. While the US share of the Moroccan market has increased, it is its 5th largest trading partner, after India.
  11. According to the World Bank, Morocco is the 3rd easiest place to do business in Africa.
  12. One of its business strengths is overall infrastructure. Morocco is the top North African country and #4 in Africa for overall quality of infrastructure, with one of the most extensive transport networks on the continent. Its ports are rated the best-connected in Africa.
  13. Morocco is also #4 in ICT infrastructure, with one of the lowest costs for broadband in Africa. More than 99% of the population is covered by a mobile network with a cost of 3₵ per minute.

So what are you waiting for? Morocco is a year-round destination waiting to entertain, impress, and make you their partner.

The post So Many Reasons Why Morocco Should be your Tourism, Trade, and Investment Destination – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Briefs: Tourism Takes Spotlight in Several Reports; Casablanca Shines; and Allianz Launches New Offices – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 14:42

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 1, 2017

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

While much of the region continues to face declining tourism, Morocco holds steady due to its commitment to constantly upgrade its facilities and offerings. Speaking of which, Casablanca is profiled by Africa.com and is looking quite attractive to investors and visitors, including insurance giant Allianz, which recently opened offices there to serve the region.

Morocco Benefits from Sustainable Tourism Efforts.  A recent report on sustainable tourism development by fDi Markets included a look at how Morocco’s efforts are attracting interest, and investors. It is understandable that tourism is so important to the country, as it is the third or fourth largest component of GDP. Tourism has benefited from several national plans, including Vision 2020 and Plan Azur, which focus on the overall state of the sector, as well as specific projects for seaside resort developments.

Now with its leadership at COP22, sustainable tourism is becoming even more prominent in Morocco’s plans, as the UN has declared 2017 the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.” According to Taleb Rifai, the secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this designation recognizes the critical role tourism plays in economic growth, social inclusion, cultural and environmental preservation, as well as in increasing “our understanding, tolerance, and empathy for our fellow man.”

For Morocco, tourism has many benefits. It enables a higher percentage of women and youth to enter the job market; supports social entrepreneurship projects such as artisanal crafts and food preparation; and diversifies economic growth geographically across many attractions in the kingdom.

Although the majority of investors are from industrialized countries, the projects are primarily in the developing world. According to fDi Markets, nearly 80% of the $352.2bn invested since 2003 has gone into such markets, including emerging European countries. However, the study cautions that investments are not enough. Without political and social stability, tourist dollars avoid risky destinations, as with Lebanon and Tunisia.

In the period 2003-2016 covered by the report, which tracks the years of Morocco’s heightened tourism promotion efforts, Morocco is second in the world (after Macau) in terms of investments in tourism facilities. Few countries in the Middle East and Africa have experienced a high correlation between the amount of investments and tourism spending. Morocco is one of the best success stories, attributed to its assets such as natural beauty, regional stability, location as a hub to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and tourist-centric infrastructure.

Morocco Strikes Ahead to Diversity Tourism Markets. The kingdom is engaged in a multifaceted campaign to draw in new tourists as visitor numbers from Europe stagnate. As an article in the Daily Star in Lebanon noted, “While political turmoil and militant attacks have battered the sector in Egypt and Tunisia, Morocco registered 10 million visitors last year, according to the Moroccan Tourism Observatory. That was a barely perceptible rise of 1.5 percent from 2015, it said. But 2016 was better than the previous year and the outlook for 2017 is very positive.”

In addition to Moroccans living abroad, who make a significant impact on the tourist numbers, and Europeans who are quite familiar with the country’s attractions, Morocco has abolished visas for Chinese to encourage their visits. The story notes that “Tourism remains a vital pillar of the Moroccan economy and the country’s second biggest employer, after agriculture. The sector accounts for 10 percent of national income and, along with exports and remittances from Moroccans overseas, are among the country’s main sources of foreign currency.” While many factors seem to be obstacles to the goal of 20 million visitors a year by 2020, Morocco is committed to doing whatever it can to achieve continued growth in the sector.

Casablanca – Great Profile.  Africa.com has published a profile of Casablanca that underscores the vitality and importance of Morocco’s commercial center. It points out that there are thousands of expats in this city of four million people, and that “Behind these realities is a city full of history with an architectural heritage, ancient and recent, a dynamic city, proud of its past and confident in its future.”

Chief among its business attractions are the Casanearshore, which provides the infrastructure needed for off-shoring back office business services, the Technopark, which serves as the center for many international ITC companies,  and the nearby OCP, the national phosphates company, the country’s largest business and its largest employer. And, of course, the Casablanca Finance City is rapidly expanding as the preferred platform for doing business in Africa.

The article goes on to list the many cultural attractions of the city, including the Hassan II Mosque, the seaside walkway or cornich, an attractive downtown area accessible by tram, red taxis (with meters), and Uber, as well as quality hotels, restaurants, and wonderful shopping areas.

Allianz Takes Its Turn. The international insurance giant, Allianz, has launched Allianz Maroc, which has set a goal of becoming the country’s market leader by 2021. It joins global firms RSA and Aon that had earlier opened regional offices based in Casablanca. The company intends to replicate its successful model of providing offerings to multiple market segments rather than be limited initially to a few products.

The press release noted that “Allianz Maroc will focus on digital channels to communicate with customers in real time and quickly handle claims. It will also develop synergies with other Allianz entities, including Euler Hermes, to better serve business customers interested in expanding or exporting to other African markets. The company is also launching a communication campaign to boost its brand reputation.” Allianz said Morocco is an important growth market in its strategy in Africa, as the country has positioned itself as a hub for the continent. It is a natural fit for Casablanca Finance City’s role as the financial services center for Africa.

The post Business Briefs: Tourism Takes Spotlight in Several Reports; Casablanca Shines; and Allianz Launches New Offices – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: King Continues Building Strong African Economic Ties – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 21:11

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 23, 2017

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

Not content to slow down after his victory in achieving admission to the African Union, King Mohammed VI visited Ghana and Zambia, extending his economic diplomacy by presiding with his hosts over the signing of more than three dozen agreements and MOUs. Nigerians seem to be attracted to Moroccan interiors for residential and institutional buildings. And a prominent Moroccan businessman speaks out on his support for the King’s economic policies in Africa.

Ghana to Develop Significant Projects with Morocco. With a large group of business leaders in tow, King Mohammed VI presided over the signing of 27 MOUs with the government of Ghana that highlight the kingdom’s leadership in key sectors such as agriculture, agro-processing, energy generation, infrastructure, real estate development, information and communications technology, pharmaceuticals, banking, insurance, and tourism. The Moroccan private sector delegation was led by Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, the CEO of CGEM.

She and Clement Osei Amoako, Vice President of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), held a joint meeting attended by Finance Minister Minister Ken Ofori-Atta on behalf of the government, with a reported 210 companies. President of Ghana Nana Appiagyei Dankawoso pointed out that “proposals made during the meeting included the need for government to improve the macro economic situation in the country, encourage private-public partnership initiative across the Ghanaian economy and streamline businesses rules and regulations.” “The Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry remains resolute in protecting commerce, trade, industry and manufacturing,” he added.

Zambia Signs 19 Agreements with Morocco. King Mohammed VI continued his outreach on the continent by visiting Zambia and participating in the signing of eight government-to-government agreements and presiding over 11 MOUs between the two countries’ private sectors. The bilateral agreements covered economic, scientific, cultural, industrial, investment protection, agricultural, flight, and mining sectors. Signing for the government were Acting Ministers  Saleheddine Mezouar of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Mohamed Boussaid, Finance and Economy; Moulay Elalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy; Aziz Akhannouch, Agriculture and Fisheries; and the Director General of ONHYM, Amina Benkhadra.

Meriem Bensalah Chaqroun, once again led the private sector delegation and initialed agreements to set up a bilateral business council as well as provide expertise in mining, renewable energy, tourism, and insurance. Speaking during the event, Mrs. Bensalah Chaqroun commented that “Our common challenges and objectives draw us together as two countries. We have a duty for the future to take the continent to greater heights.”

She further noted that that Zambia provided an opportunity for Morocco to enter the southern and eastern parts of Africa through its membership in regional bodies. And, on the other hand,
Morocco was a getaway for Zambia to Europe and Asia. The King’s delegation was made up of 589 people from the government, private sector, and media.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Moroccan Décor Opening Doors. A former journalist, with Moroccan and Nigerian citizenship, is pioneering the introduction of Moroccan décor items into Nigeria, on projects ranging from a mosque and church to high-end residential buildings. Mohammed Tijjani Sabiu, who is based in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, began his career in Morocco and then decided that traditional Moroccan interior designs would get a great reception in Nigeria.

In an interview with the Daily Trust, Mr. Sabiu credits the pervasive cultural influences of Moroccan design in all kinds of structures in the kingdom that encouraged him to introduce the same sensibility into Nigeria. Beginning in the north of the country, where the Islamic influence is more pronounced, Mohammed is extending his operations into the capital and southern areas. His company imports ecologically friendly paints from Morocco and is setting up a paint factory near the capital. There are more than 200 Nigerians undergoing training in the finishing and installation of the décor, including moldings and the use of different types of paints.

Moroccan Business Leader Speaks on the Country’s Leadership. Saad Bendidi is not ordinary businessman. He participates in many of the King’s overseas trips as a representative of the private sector, and is quite committed to strengthening Morocco’s presence in Africa. In a recent interview with Benzinga, he says that the growth in Moroccan business in Africa will continue to increase because of its favorable demographics creating a growing consumer pool, the expanding middle class, extensive natural resources, and desire for more consumer products and services. He predicts that renewable energy, food and consumer products, mining, and housing will be strong performers for the next 25 years.

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Categories: The moroccan press

What’s Wrong with the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU)? – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 17:30

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 21, 2017

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

Nearly 30 years after its 1989 founding,   the AMU is still unable to further its initial mission – to build economic cooperation among its member countries: Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia — let alone move towards greater integration of its transportation, communications, and energy sectors. While analysts point to the political tensions between members over issues such as the Western Sahara, migration, and regional leadership on counterterrorism efforts, lack of progress on the economic front is of particular concern.

In his recent speech at the Annual Heads of State Summit of the African Union (AU), King Mohammed VI lamented the failure of the AMU to promote economic and social progress in North Africa. “It is however clear that the flame of the Arab Maghreb Union has faded, because faith in a common interest has vanished! …Today, we regret to see that the Maghreb Union is the least integrated region in the African continent, if not in the whole world.”

The King then went on to note the lack of trade among the partner countries, especially in comparison to other sub-regions in Africa. “If we do not act, by following the example of neighboring African sub-regions, the Maghreb Union will crumble in its chronic incapacity to live up to the ambitions of the Marrakesh Treaty, which gave birth to it 28 years ago.”

Since there is very little reason to be optimistic about the future of the AMU, it is only natural, according to the King, that Morocco prioritizes its relations with sub-Saharan Africa, with which it has signed, since 2000, some 949 bilateral agreements covering a broad spectrum of programs, from finance and tourism to education, energy, training, power, housing, and agriculture.

To appreciate the King’s perspective, it is worth considering the economic status and structural weaknesses of the other members of the AMU that inhibit economic cooperation and collaboration on transnational projects. For the most part, there is little utility to looking at member-states Libya and Mauritania — the former non-functioning as a national entity, and the latter at a low level of development outside of its capital. Libya relies primarily on sporadic hydrocarbon exports to fund its partially functioning ministries and faces deep-seated challenges to its reintegration as a country. Mauritania has overcome previous political instability and is now embarking on a modernization program but lags behind Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco on most human development indicators.

Tunisia, struggling to meet the expectations of being the first successful example of the Arab Spring, has recently announced a series of measures to attract foreign investment at an ambitious international investors conference. The US was criticized for not sending a high-level delegation, and the reality is that Tunisia has many challenges in place before it can be considered on a par with Morocco in terms of projects and regulations that support a fully functioning investment regime. Also, Tunisia has less than a third of Algeria’s or Morocco’s population, a critical factor in growing domestic markets.

Algeria, with a large land mass, extensive hydrocarbon resources and reserves, a dynamic urban population, with a population of 39 million compared to Morocco’s 33 million, could and should be an economic powerhouse but continues to woefully underperform across the board.

With the dramatic fall it oil prices, it must draw down foreign reserves to support its budget. Algeria can no longer be assured of a capacity to spend without a negative effect on Algeria’s future. According to Reuters, “Oil and gas earnings, which make up 94 percent of total exports and 60 percent of the state budget, fell to $18.8 billion in the first nine months of 2016, down 26.3 percent from the same period a year earlier.”

This rentier economy has been further unsettled by measures put in place earlier this year, including cuts to subsidies, restrictions on imports, new taxes, and currency controls. Currency controls are of growing concern because the gap between the official exchange rate and the black market promotes the growth of inflation, smuggling, and hoarding of circumscribed imports.

According to European sources, additional measures taken since the initial announcements late last fall have not reduced the impact of the informal financial market. In fact, government attempts to raise funds pegged at the official rate have fueled currency speculation, leading to a 10% loss in the value of the Algerian dinar. It is feared that the planned introduction of Islamic banking, which prohibits lending under conditions that require interest payments, may do little to offset the decline of the dinar.

In addition, Newsweek reported last week that the economic situation in Algeria mirrors the stagnation in its political sphere. The article started ominously, “Since the conclusion of its bloody civil war two decades ago, Algeria has been shrouded in secrecy and suspended in motion. Supported by huge oil wealth, the country’s triumvirate—the presidency, the intelligence services (DRS) and the army—has been able to maintain stability.” For a country with a high birth rate, high income inequality, a highly regulated and privileged private sector, and little initiative to open its economic sphere to greater flexibility and less corruption, it is no wonder that the Algeria is unable to make a significant contribution to enabling the AMU to achieve its stated mission of closer economic and social integration.

Furthermore, according to an AEI policy blog, Algeria’s weaknesses hold grave security implications for the EU and the US. If it is unable in execute much needed reforms, it may give openings for terrorist organizations to destabilize the country, its gas supplies to Europe, and the safely of foreign investments in the country. Although this may be a remote probability at the present time, Algeria’s lack of an effective reform regime has an impact on the other members of the AMU in their capacity to develop strategies for go-it-alone economic growth. It drives away potential investors and partners that are looking at the likely regional impact of even more instability in Algeria – the largest member of the AMU.

Given the continued challenges to the AMU in the coming decade, Morocco will maintain its presence in the regional grouping while seeking its future more proactively in strengthening ties across the continent, as the King continues his economic diplomacy.

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Categories: The moroccan press

On President’s Day, the Long History of Morocco’s Kings and America’s Presidents

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 16:00

Washington, DC, February 20, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — George Washington, whose birthday is celebrated the third Monday in February as President’s Day—holds a special place in Morocco’s diplomatic history. During his presidency, Morocco became the first country to recognize the newly independent United States, when Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah announced in 1977 that “all vessels sailing under the American flag could freely enter Moroccan ports.” The Sultan sought to formalize this friendship and corresponded with President Washington and American diplomats over the next decade, eventually negotiating and signing the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship in 1786 (of which future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were signatories).

Since then, Morocco and the United States have maintained strong relations, with many exchanges recorded between top leadership, including letters, remarks, and more. To mark President’s Day and to honor the long and fruitful relationship between the United States and Morocco, we review just a few:

  • In a December 1789 letter to Sultan Sidi Mohammed, President Washington wrote, “Within our Territories there are no Mines, either of Gold, or Silver, and this young Nation, just recovering from the Waste and Desolation of a long War, have not, as yet, had Time to acquire Riches by Agriculture and Commerce. But our Soil is bountiful, and our People industrious; and we have Reason to flatter ourselves, that we shall gradually become useful to our Friends…. It gives me Pleasure to have this Opportunity of assuring your Majesty that, while I remain at the Head of this Nation, I shall not cease to promote every Measure that may conduce to the Friendship and Harmony, which so happily subsist between your Empire and them…”
  • In a letter to President Washington following the death of Sultan Sidi Mohammed, his son and successor Sultan Moulay Slimane, wrote, “… we are at peace, tranquility and friendship with you in the same manner as you were with our father who is in glory. Peace.” (He said to US Consul in Morocco James Simpson, “… the Americans, I find, are the Christian nation my father most esteemed … I am the same with them as my father was and I trust they will be so with me.”)
  • In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt sent Sultan Mohammed V a message stating “I have been highly pleased to learn of the admirable spirit of cooperation that is animating you and your people in their relationships … with the forces of my country.” The next year, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill convened in Morocco for the famed Casablanca Conference, during which the Allies planned their strategy for the remainder of the war.
  • In November 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower welcomed Sultan Mohammed V to Washington, announcing at Washington National Airport, “Your Majesty, it is my great pleasure to speak for the American people in welcoming you to this land. It is a particular distinction that I have, because the records show that your nation was one of the very first, in the early days of our existence, to give us the encouragement and moral support of your recognition of us as a nation.” In his remarks, the Sultan said, “My desire has been realized today at the moment when my country has recovered its independence and is in a position to strengthen, by this visit, those ties of friendship which have bound our two peoples ever since the United States attained its freedom and became an independent nation.”
  • In March 1963, on the occasion of an official visit from Morocco’s King Hassan II to Washington, President John F. Kennedy said, “This is the first spring that North Africa has found peace, and a good deal of the stability which we hope to and will find, I think, in North Africa will be due to His Majesty’s efforts. So I think we are fortunate to have him here. I think he knows he is very welcome. We value our old friends and we value, particularly, those that are seeking, under great difficulty, under great pressure, to find a position for their country which advances the welfare of their people, the stability of their area, and the peace of the world.”
  • In May 1982, President Ronald Reagan remarked following meetings with King Hassan II in Washington, “King Hassan is the leader of a great nation at the crossroads of two continents, lying on NATO’s southern flank at the entrance to the Mediterranean. It has deep ties to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the whole Islamic world… I deeply value the depth of experience and breadth of vision that His Majesty brings to the issues of profound mutual concern… And I expressed to His Majesty the great value the United States places on cooperation with him and on friendship with Morocco, a country that stood with us at Our independence, fought at our side during the Second World War, and joins with us today in the quest for world peace and security.”
  • In July 1999, on the death of King Hassan II, President Bill Clinton said, “Over his 38-year reign, King Hassan II demonstrated time and again his leadership, his courage, and his willingness to embrace change. He worked tirelessly to promote the welfare of his people, and in recent years he took important steps to deepen freedom in his country. He offered wise counsel to every U.S. President since John F. Kennedy. He worked to break down barriers among the peoples of the Middle East, bravely opening a dialog with Israel, helping to arrange President Sadat’s historic journey to Jerusalem, seeking greater tolerance and stability across the region.”
  • In April 2002, President George W. Bush said in remarks following a meeting with King Mohammed VI, “No question that Morocco is a great friend of the United States of America, and for that, Your Majesty, we are very grateful. I appreciate your steadfast support when it comes to the war on terror. I appreciate your leadership in the region.” The President announced plans to broker a free trade agreement between the two countries—the first for the US with an African nation—that went into effect in 2006.

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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

Business Brief: Public-Private Partnership Launched to Promote Moroccan Business Start-ups Abroad; Initiatives Announced to Boost Construction and IT Sectors – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 20:47

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 14, 2017

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

Faced with an anemic growth rate in 2016 of around 1.6% due to an 8% drop in agricultural output because of drought, Morocco expands its efforts to diversity its economy and generate options for new business development that will mirror the success of the auto industry, which, for the third year in a row, leads all export sectors. In response to increased interest from the overseas Moroccan community, more concrete efforts are being made to benefit from its expertise and resources to support the domestic economy. These efforts and much more demonstrate Morocco’s commitment to generating the economic expansion needed for job and income growth.

Expat Moroccans and Women Push for Business Opportunities. One of the constant features of Moroccans living abroad is their interest in being more engaged in the Moroccan economy. In the past, this usually meant investing in family housing or supporting the education of family members. With the increased business sophistication of Moroccans abroad, there has been a constant clamor over the past decade for a more proactive role in the economy. That will be facilitated by a new agreement between the largest private sector business organization CGEM, and the Ministry in charge of the affairs of overseas Moroccans.

The agreement provides for setting up a virtual 13th region of CGEM, one that is specifically geared towards the integration of Moroccan Entrepreneurs of the World (MEM) into the Moroccan economy. The core project involves the creation of a cloud-based platform to enable Moroccans in country and abroad to exchange experiences, best practices, expertise, and access to government programs that support entrepreneurs.

According to Minster for Moroccans Abroad Anis Birrou who signed the agreement with Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, CEO of CGEM, “Nearly 60% of Moroccan entrepreneurs of the world want to invest in Morocco to accompany the dynamics of the Moroccan economy which offers great opportunities.” He noted that there are an estimated five million overseas Moroccans, including some 300,000 businesses.

Ms. Chaqroun noted in announcing the agreement that “This public-private partnership is in line with King Mohammed VI’s vision to bring together the Kingdom’s forces in order to encourage the emergence of the country through the creation of employment and wealth and the strengthening of the experiences and expertise exchange between Moroccans residing abroad and Moroccan entrepreneurs operating in the Kingdom.”

AFEM, the premier women’s business organization in Morocco, will hold its second South Economic Women’s Initiative (SEWI) conference in early March as part of World Women’s Day.   The theme is “Entrepreneurship Tomorrow, the Keys to Success,” focusing on critical skills and resources that enable women-owned companies to succeed. SEWI 2017 enables attendees who come from Morocco, Europe, and Africa, opportunities to engage entrepreneurs, network, and exchange ideas about their experiences.

AFEM supports and works with women from diverse communities and backgrounds, enabling, assisting, and inspiring them to set up their own projects and perform as entrepreneurs. In addition, it aims to encourage equitable leadership by reinforcing the role of women in diverse decision-making positions.

IBM, Big 5 Launch Initiatives. Recognizing the enormous growth potential in Africa, projected to have the world’s largest workforce by 2040, IBM has committed $70 million for digital skills training for 25 million young Africans in the next five years. Morocco is one of the five countries targeted. Dubbed “IBM Digital-Nation Africa,” the project will utilize a cloud-based platform with programs ranging from basic IT literacy to advanced IT skills, including social media, cybersecurity, and enhanced privacy. The e-learning platform will use IBM’s Watson, the company’s cognitive system. It will analyze users’ profiles to formulate individualized training models, even adapting the educational content of the program to suit each user.

The program includes training in business skills such as innovation, critical thinking, and entrepreneurship. By providing skills and business training, IBM hopes to raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers with the ability to access high-level programming, and enable them to build businesses around new platforms.  According to IBM, “In order to find solutions to Africa’s challenges, industries across the spectrum need to enable the existing and future workforce to perform at the forefront of technologies such as cognitive and cloud computing. This will be the key to spurring economic growth.”

The construction sector, which is projected to rise by a compounded annual rate of 4.7%, has drawn the attention of one of the world’s leading construction conferences, the Big 5, which will hold its Big 5 North Africa event in April at Casablanca’s Parc Des Expositions de l’Office des Changes. The sector is one of the most important in the country, employing some 1 million people. Big 5 will draw on its global network of more than 35,000 exhibitors to give visitors from Morocco and the region a look at the latest technology and methods from around the world.

According to Big 5 Portfolio Exhibitions Director Andy Pert, “The Big 5 Construct North Africa in Morocco will promote the long term growth opportunities, and development of the Moroccan construction industry, along with creating new export partnerships for local Moroccan companies. By sharing global best practices and innovative ideas, beyond providing networking, business and learning opportunities through our internationally recognized Continued Professional Development (CPD) workshops, we are confident The Big 5 will support the Moroccan economy catering to the needs of the local manufactures and construction professionals.”

The Big 5 is the largest, most influential and renowned portfolio of construction industry events spanning the Middle East, India, South East Asia, and Africa. In 2016, it connected over 35,600 exhibitors, 195,500 visitors, 1000 speakers and 20,000 conference and summit attendees.

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Categories: The moroccan press

The Family Grows Bigger: Reactions to the African Union’s Historic Decision to Admit Morocco – Jordana Merran

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 19:30

By Jordana Merran
February 9, 2017

King Mohammed VI delivers a speech to the African Union on Tuesday, January 31.

It’s been just over a week since an overwhelming majority of African Union (AU) member states (39 of 54) agreed to admit Morocco to the pan-African organization after a 33-year hiatus. The historic decision is a crowning achievement for Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who has made Africa a foreign policy priority during his reign. As he outlined in a speech to the AU the day after the news broke, Morocco’s African links “have remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us.” Indeed he cited his 46 visits to 25 African countries and noted that “since 2000, Morocco has signed nearly a thousand agreements with African countries, in various fields of cooperation”—almost twice as many as during the period between 1956 and 1999.

Not surprisingly, world leaders, institutions, and policy observers welcomed the widely-reported decision. Here’s a sampling of what’s been said:

  • “Both the African Union and Morocco are key partners for the EU. We look forward to working with both the African Union and Morocco to consolidate the EU’s growing partnership with Africa.” - European External Action Service
  • “If the family grows bigger, we can find solutions as a family,” Senegal’s President Macky Sall in a Voice of America report
  • “… the return of Morocco in the AU family would further enhance African voice and weight at the international level and would facilitate the resolution of critical challenges facing the continent” – Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen
  • “With Morocco, the AU gains a well-connected—and deep-pocketed—member as it seeks to move away from international funding and become more self-reliant in the face of isolationist tendencies in the U.S. and Europe. Rabat, meanwhile, gets a seat at the table of an increasingly influential AU that is likely to open up investment opportunities across Africa.” – Wall Street Journal
  • “Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU) is a welcome move that is likely to strengthen the unity of the bloc and possibly lead to more African involvement in regional disputes. It was high time that a country as big a player in Africa as Morocco reclaimed its rightful place in the union.” – Gulf News

While nine AU member countries were against Morocco’s return (and six countries abstained from the discussion) King Mohammed VI spoke candidly: “We know that we do not have unanimous backing from this prestigious assembly. Far be it from us to spark off a sterile debate! We have absolutely no intention of causing division, as some would like to insinuate!” With enthusiasm he countered, “You will see: as soon as the Kingdom becomes a member and is able to contribute to the agenda of activities, its action will, on the contrary, help bring about unity and progress. We participated in the creation of this beautiful pan-African edifice and we naturally look forward to regaining the place that is ours within it.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Strengthens Ties with Gulf Countries – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:27

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 9, 2017

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

Morocco’s role as a platform for business in Africa does not only benefit Western companies. The Gulf countries have been major investors in the country and are poised to expand their activities on the continent via Morocco. As Islamic banking is rolled out later this year and next with three Gulf partners, hoped-for investments from the Gulf become even more viable.

Saudi Arabia to Boost Business Ties with Morocco. Saudi Arabia and Morocco are looking to develop economic ties as strong as their political and security relations. ME Confidential reported on the recent meeting of the Morocco-Saudi Arabia Business Council and outlined its results. Among other agreements, the partners will hold two events in 2017, a business delegation from Saudi Arabia to Morocco in February, and a meeting of the two countries’ joint high commission in May. And they are working out the final details of the proposed joint public-private investment fund of some $500 million to support SME investments in both countries.

To support more efficient agricultural trade access, the Business Council has proposed a new direct maritime link that would enable Moroccan exports to compete more effectively with a fast and direct link to Saudi markets. Currently, trade is quite lopsided in an 8:1 ratio in favor of Saudi Arabia because of Morocco’s need to import energy and downstream products.

Another High-Profile Finance Conference Scheduled. Dawood Al Shezawi, CEO of the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) headquartered in the UAE, has indicated that his organization will hold its annual meeting in Marrakech October 29-31, 2017. The theme is The Future Investment Landscape of Africa: Sustainable Investment through Innovation and Partnership. The objective is to “direct international investments to the continent and other promising markets in Africa.” It will be the first time that AIM is being held outside of the UAE.

Prior to its being held in Morocco, the 7th Investment Meeting (AIM) is set to run from April 2-4, 2017, at the Dubai World Trade Center, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with the theme “International Investment, Path to Competitiveness and Development.”

Mr. Al Shezai said, “We are delighted with our new partnership and the signing of the agreement with Marrakech-Safi to host the Annual Investment Meeting for the first time outside the UAE. This reflects the prospering UAE–Morocco relations, especially at the economic level and direct investments. The agreement also demonstrates the great importance attached by international and UAE investors for the African market and their quest to expand investment there, which was evident over the past few years through numerous visits by delegations of the investment companies to a number of African countries.”

From the Moroccan side, the host is HE Ahmed Akhchichine, President of the Marrakech-Safi region, who commented “As the host destination for the Annual Investment Meeting, Marrakech-Safi believes this is a great opportunity for the Kingdom of Morocco to boost its presence on the map of international investment and diversify the aspects of direct investment into the country and other African countries. This will provide new avenues for the diversification of industries, which is already pursued by the major global investment companies, led by leading UAE companies.”

The UAE has had a very special relationship with Morocco in recent years, signing eight bilateral agreements, 11 trade protocols, and four cooperative agreements including the establishment of a joint free-zone and economic and trade cooperation in telecommunications and IT. The UAE was the first investor in the Casablanca Stock Exchange in 2014, with an investment of 55 billion Moroccan dirhams ($6 billion). The UAE is the fourth largest investor in Africa.

Islamic banking poised for strong start. Reuters reported on Morocco’s plans to reach out to international debt markets via its newly sanctioned Islamic banking sector to raise $1 billion in bond issues. Morocco has a $3 billion anticipated deficit in 2017, about 3% of GDP, and Islamic banking is providing an attractive option for raising funds. It is expected that this first-ever offering will see light in the first half of this year due to favorable market conditions.

OIC welcomes Morocco‘s rejoining the AU. Yousef bin Ahmed al-Othaimeen, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, issued a statement soon after Morocco was voted into the AU last week. He said that the decision was in the best interests of both parties and would enable Morocco to play a constructive and vital role more broadly on the continent.

As the statement read, “During its absence from the AU, Morocco, thanks to its location, was the intersection of global markets and forged closer relations with countries of the continent through a strategy called South-South in Morocco. That strategy is based on promoting Africa’s self-reliance on its resources and capacities. The strategy also aims to consolidate Moroccan-African relations through initiatives in the religious, humanitarian and development fields. Morocco’s strategy, backed by a strong local banking sector as well as human development programmes, has enabled it to become the second biggest African investor on the continent behind South Africa.”

The OIC is composed of more than 50 Muslim-majority countries worldwide and serves as a forum for discussing common issues and projects at all levels – local, national, and regional.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco’s Success in Rejoining African Union Strengthens Commercial Role in Africa; and Rural Development in the Spotlight – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 15:44

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 3, 2017

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

While rejoining the AU is big political news, a huge side benefit is the strengthened business presence of Morocco on the continent. Not only does this support King Mohammed VI’s economic diplomacy, it enables investors to feel reassured that they have the right platform for entering the African market. More details emerge on the Morocco-Nigeria pipeline project, and several new projects are launched in agriculture and technology.

New Chapter for AU with Morocco on Board. Most commentators noting the successful re-entry of Morocco as an AU member describe the many benefits of its membership, from its contributions to regional security to its decade-long economic policy of broadening commercial ties among African countries. Morocco is more than a “good neighbor.” It provides scholarships for African students, enables and supports agricultural and renewable energy projects, invests in housing, banking, and tourism projects, and participates in regional economic development efforts.

This consolidation of Morocco’s role has many implications for companies that want to invest in Africa, the fastest growing region in the world. From Casablanca Finance City – set up to provide a wide range of support services to firms targeting Africa – to its strong transportation and distribution networks, Morocco is a welcome, stable platform for business outreach to the continent.

Of increasing importance is Morocco’s role in promoting North-South as well as South-South commerce. In this role, Morocco is also a gateway for African countries to access markets in Europe and the West, which are linked to Morocco by preferential trade agreements. This and many more benefits make this latest achievement by Morocco “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” that will serve the interests of all parties and the people of Africa.

According to an article in Morocco World News, the good news from the AU is having an impact in Asia as well. The largest Muslim country – Indonesia – recently commented on the reunion. Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, spoke with Morocco’s Ambassador to her country and reiterated that it was natural for Morocco to return to the AU as it has played a significant role in the organization’s early consolidation and development. Indonesia sees Morocco as a natural gateway to expanding its business in Africa.

African Pipeline Project Gathering Steam. While the skeptics take aim at the project’s feasibility, Morocco and Nigeria – who have agreed to undertake the project after  a similar Nigeria–Algeria pipeline never materialized – are moving ahead with the technical and diplomatic efforts to move it closer to reality. An article in Africa Outlook provided more details that emerged after further consultations between the countries took place. The two primary next steps are: bringing on board the West African countries that will most directly benefit from the project, and developing specific operational guidelines.

The concept is to extend Nigeria’s current gas pipeline beyond its current route through Benin, Togo, and Ghana, around the west coast of Africa to Morocco and eventually Europe. Analysts have pointed out that this is an uphill challenge in that it may involve as many as 13 countries when completed. Morocco and Nigeria, however, see it as an opportunity to forge greater regional economic cooperation and development, bringing low cost energy supplies to countries that require energy imports and lack affordable energy.

As the article in Africa Outlook explained, “In West Africa, the Trans-African Pipeline is designed to support the creation of industrial hubs that attract foreign investment. The project will therefore facilitate the expansion of sectors ranging from industry to food processing to fertilisers and improve the competitiveness of exports, particularly amongst African countries.”

When completed, the pipeline will run an estimate 2,500 miles along the west coast of Africa, reaching a potential population of 350 million Africans. The agreement between Morocco and Nigeria goes beyond the pipeline to include cooperation in mining, agriculture, education, and collaboration to meet the carbon emission goals of COP22. A priority goal of the project is to create new regional initiatives that will draw needed international investments to West Africa to accelerate its regional economic growth.

Rural Development Highlighted in CESE Study. In line with its mandate to undertake regional economic development studies throughout the country, the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE) released its latest assessment of rural development in Morocco. The objective of the study, carried out by its committee on Advanced Regionalization and Rural and Territorial Development, was to formulate a national plan for advancing rural and mountain areas of Morocco, involving collaboration across sectors and stakeholders in the private and public sectors.

The vision is broad, projected out through 2050, and lays out the markers for comprehensive development in rural areas, towns, provinces, and regions. One of its main recommendations is to set up an administrative body specifically tasked with implementing the guidelines of the vision statement. The study’s text noted that “This body would be tasked with the following responsibilities: coordinating and integrating sector related measures, while strengthening decentralized governance and ensuring the integration of information systems and evaluation actions and the dynamics of rural development on a regional scale.”

On the economic front, it would look at the development profile within each area including occupations, human resources, demographic indicators, areas of potential economic development, and how these can be augmented, strengthened, and enhanced through the use of information and communication technologies.

According to the report, the CESE “Called for the implementation of gender equality in rural development policy and the implementation of positive measures for the empowerment of rural women. This approach would help eliminate structural and cultural obstacles. It would also eradicate discriminatory practices women experience in the family and in society, increase women’s participation in decision-making, access to land and material assets. The issues of marriage of minor rural girls, child labour and the exploitation of women in the workforce would also benefit.”

Despite Morocco’s success in bringing power to almost all of the country, there is still a lag in access to social services and infrastructure, including education, health, and family support services. The report also mentioned the need for better integration in the rural areas in support of cultural and sports activities as well as ensuring that development funds were spent through local organizations and in response to local needs.

The CESE had earlier done a similar landmark study on conditions in the Southern Provinces (Western Sahara) and proposed a comprehensive development strategy for that part of Morocco.

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s Return to African Union: Washington Praises HM the King’s ‘Strong Leadership’ | MAP

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 15:47

The United States has praised Morocco’s return to the African Union and the “strong leadership” of HM King Mohammed VI, the State Department said Tuesday.

The United States congratulates Morocco on its return, the State Department said, underlining that “HM King Mohammed VI’s strong leadership and the government of Morocco have returned the country to its rightful place in the institutional family of the African continent”.

“We believe Morocco’s membership in the African Union will positively contribute to the continent’s further economic, political, and social integration and to its stability and security”, the same source added.

An overwhelming majority of African countries on Monday voted in favor of Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU), during the 28th Summit of African Heads of State and Government, which is being held in Addis Ababa…[ORIGINAL STORY, SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED]

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to African Union: “I am home at last”

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 00:00
King Delivers Speech at 28th African Union Summit, Day after Historic Decision

Washington, DC, January 31, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — In a visionary speech delivered to the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Tuesday, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI reaffirmed his country’s “commitment to the development and prosperity of African citizens” and pledged to “help bring about unity and progress” to the continent. The speech came a day after an overwhelming majority of AU member countries—39 of 54—agreed on Morocco’s admission to the organization.

“It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long,” began the King, referring to Morocco’s more than 30-year hiatus from the organization. “I am home at last and happily reunited with you.” Noting the “massive, outspoken support Morocco has received,” the King referred to the organization as “a family we had not really left.”

“In fact, despite having been absent from the AU institutions for so many years, our links, which have never been severed, have remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us,” he said, citing his 46 visits to 25 African countries, and that “since 2000, Morocco has signed nearly a thousand agreements with African countries, in various fields of cooperation”—almost twice as many as during the period between 1956 and 1999.

The King spoke of the thousands of scholarships Morocco offers to African students to continue their higher education in Morocco; the recently announced Nigeria-Morocco Africa Atlantic Gas Pipeline, which will “create wealth for neighboring countries and populations” and “help build more peaceful bilateral and multilateral relations”; Morocco’s ongoing work to boost Africa’s agricultural output and food security—by building fertilizer plants in neighboring countries and the launch at COP22 of the Adaption of African Agriculture initiative to support small-scale African farming; Morocco’s many contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations on the continent and other efforts to promote stability; and the country’s highly praised immigration policy which, in the “spirit of solidarity and humanism,” has offered legal residence to more than 25,000 sub-Saharans living in Morocco “who have suffered too long due to their life in hiding.”

“All this confirms that Morocco is right to choose Africa,” he said. “By doing so, my country has opted to share and transfer its know-how; in concrete terms, it is offering to build a safe, solidarity-based future.” He emphasized that Morocco is seeking not to cause division but to bring unity, and to bolster the continent’s leadership role on the global stage, saying “It is time for Africa to benefit from Africa’s wealth”—a clear echo of similar statements he has made in recent years.

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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

King Mohammed VI Highlights Ties to Africa in African Union Speech – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 22:17
“It is time to return home” says king as Morocco rejoins the AU

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 31, 2017

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

Just a year ago, most political observers were sure that Morocco’s push to rejoin the AU had only a remote possibility of success. Yet, it has happened. Relying on a broad offensive that combined astute political outreach coupled with economic diplomacy, Morocco generated broad goodwill across the continent and entered the AU on Monday with an overwhelming majority of member votes on its first attempt.

King Mohammed VI addressed the final session of the AU Summit the day after and was clear that “In fact, despite having been absent from the AU institutions for so many years, our links, which have never been severed, have remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us.”

He went on to mention that since 2000, he has signed 949 agreements with African countries covering a broad range of activities, from finance and tourism, mining, education, and agriculture, to renewable energy. The king said that his 46 visits to 25 countries provided the backdrop for these agreements with the public and private sectors.

Most recently, Morocco and Nigeria agreed to embark on a coastal natural gas pipeline reaching 13 other countries, creating new opportunities for infrastructure, power, and economic development projects. As he noted, “It will, indeed, contribute to creating a regional electricity market and be a substantial source of energy which will help develop industry, improve economic competitiveness and speed up social development. The project will thus create wealth for neighboring countries and populations, generating crucial momentum that will stimulate the emergence and the development of parallel projects.”

It is this kind of vision that has propelled Morocco into a vanguard role as a gateway to Africa. Its extensive infrastructure links to the continent’s markets and affords it with experience that plays, as the King noted, a significant role in Morocco’s cooperative agricultural projects promoting food security and rural development that benefit the host countries as well as Africa’s wider agricultural sector.

The king mentioned the Adaptation of African Agriculture initiative, launched by Morocco at COP22, calling it“an innovative and extremely concrete response to the common challenges posed by climate change. As soon as it was launched, the initiative was backed by some thirty African countries.”

King Mohammed VI then pointed out the role that Morocco plays in ensuring security and stability in Africa, mentioning its role in UN peace-keeping missions, some of which are still ongoing; its mediation efforts to reduce conflicts; and its continued support for encouraging South-South cooperation.

“My vision of South-South cooperation is clear and constant: my country shares what it has, without ostentation. Within the framework of a clear-sighted collaboration, Morocco – which is a major economic player in Africa – will become a catalyst for shared expansion.” Of special note, he listed steps taken by the country to normalize the status of African refugees in Morocco, a first among the countries in the region. “We are acting to stop these people from living on the fringes of society, with no work, no healthcare, nowhere to live and no access to education. We are acting so couples, particularly those from mixed marriages – between Moroccans and sub-Saharans – will not be parted. All this constructive action to help migrants has bolstered Morocco’s image and strengthened the bonds we had already forged.”

According to the king, these concrete steps underscore Morocco’s commitment to act as an enabler of greater stability on the continent. “You will see: as soon as the Kingdom becomes a member and is able to contribute to the agenda of activities, its action will, on the contrary [to those who insinuate otherwise], help bring about unity and progress. We participated in the creation of this beautiful pan-African edifice and we naturally look forward to regaining the place that is ours within it.”

It was clear in the speech that Morocco was able to achieve economic progress despite limited natural resources by relying on its people and homegrown initiatives to reach its level of achievement. In the past, “Morocco has always considered that its strength comes primarily from the integration of the Maghreb sub-region.” Yet the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union to carry out its mission of regional economic integration has made it imperative for Morocco to play an instrumental role in promoting African progress.

He said, “All this confirms that Morocco is right to choose Africa. By doing so, my country has opted to share and transfer its know-how; in concrete terms, it is offering to build a safe, solidarity-based future. We are proud to see history has proved us right. Morocco is not returning to the African Union through the back door, but by the main gate. We enthusiastically invite African nations to join our country’s dynamism and to give new impetus to the whole of our continent.”

In his closing remarks, King Mohammed VI returned to his constant theme of Africa for Africans. “It is time for Africa to benefit from Africa’s wealth. We must work to enable our land, after decades of looting, to enter an era of prosperity… Africa should be proud of its resources, its cultural heritage, its spiritual values, and the future should strongly support this natural pride.”

”This is the path to solidarity, peace and union chosen by my country. We reaffirm our commitment to the development and prosperity of African citizens. We, peoples of Africa, have the means and the genius; together, we can fulfill the aspirations of our peoples.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Full Speech of King Mohammed VI at 28th African Union Summit

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 17:30
On Tuesday, January 31– the day after the African Union (AU) made its historic decision to admit Morocco to the organization– King Mohammed VI delivered a speech to attendees. Below is the full text thereof:

 

“Praise be to God

May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin.

His Excellency President Alpha Condé, Chairman of the 28th AU Summit,

Distinguished Heads of State and Government,

Honourable Chairperson of the Commission,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long! It is a good day when you can show your affection for your beloved home! Africa is my continent, and my home.

I am home at last and happily reunited with you. I have missed you all.

That is why, My Dear Brothers, Heads of State, I wanted to make this trip and to address you, without waiting for the protocol and legal procedure for the Kingdom to take its place again within the Organization to be finalized.

The massive, outspoken support Morocco has received is proof of the solid bonds that unite us.

It was necessary to withdraw from the OAU; it has enabled Morocco’s action to be refocused in Africa to show how indispensable Africa is to Morocco and how indispensable Morocco is to Africa.

We have thought it through carefully and it is now so obvious!

It is time to return home; at a time when the Kingdom is among the most developed African nations and when a majority of Member States looks forward to our return, we have decided to join our family again.

A family we had not really left!

In fact, despite having been absent from the AU institutions for so many years, our links, which have never been severed, have remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us:

•    Strong bilateral relations have thus been significantly developed: since 2000, Morocco has signed nearly a thousand agreements with African countries, in various fields of cooperation.

By way of comparison, do you know that between 1956 and 1999, 515 agreements were signed, whereas 949 agreements have been signed since 2000 – in other words, almost twice as many!

During this period I, personally, was keen to give fresh impetus to this action, by making more visits to various African sub-regions.

On each of the 46 visits I paid to 25 African countries, numerous agreements were signed involving the public as well as the private sector.

My action has been particularly geared towards the field of training, which is at the heart of my country’s cooperation with sister nations. This has enabled a number of African students to continue their higher education in Morocco, thanks to the thousands of scholarships given to them.

•    Furthermore, major strategic projects were set up during my visits to these countries:

•    Firstly, I had the pleasure of launching the Africa Atlantic Gas Pipeline project with my brother, His Excellency Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

This project will of course allow natural gas to be transported from gas-producing countries to Europe. But more than that, it will benefit the whole of West Africa.

It will, indeed, contribute to creating a regional electricity market and be a substantial source of energy which will help develop industry, improve economic competitiveness and speed up social development.

The project will thus create wealth for neighboring countries and populations, generating crucial momentum that will stimulate the emergence and the development of parallel projects.

Moreover, it will help build more peaceful bilateral and multilateral relations and thus create an environment conducive to development and growth.

•    Secondly, as part of projects aimed at improving agricultural productivity and promoting food security and rural development, fertilizer production plants have been set up with both Ethiopia and Nigeria. These projects will benefit the continent as a whole.

As we know, basic food needs cannot be met with gas or oil. But is not food security the major challenge facing Africa?

This is the objective of the initiative for the Adaptation of African Agriculture, or Triple A Initiative, which we promoted during the COP22. It is an innovative and extremely concrete response to the common challenges posed by climate change.
As soon as it was launched, the initiative was backed by some thirty African countries.

The “Triple A Initiative” is aimed at providing more significant funding for the Adaptation of small-scale African Agriculture; it will also support the structuring and acceleration of agricultural projects in Africa through four programs:

•    Rational management of soils;
•    Sustainable management of agricultural water;
•    Climate-related risk management; and
•    Solidarity-based funding for promoters of small projects.

The initiative was also one of the main axes of the Africa Action Summit, which I had the privilege of chairing last November in Marrakesh.

•    Finally, our ties have also remained strong as far as security and peace are concerned.

Do we need to point out that we have always been present when the stability of the Continent is at stake?

Since its independence, Morocco has contributed to six UN peace-keeping missions in Africa, engaging thousands of troops in various theaters of operation.

Moroccan forces are still present today in CAR and DRC.

Morocco has also conducted a number of mediations which helped achieve substantial progress towards peace, namely in Libya and the Mano River region.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My vision of South-South cooperation is clear and constant: my country shares what it has, without ostentation.

Within the framework of a clear-sighted collaboration, Morocco – which is a major economic player in Africa – will become a catalyst for shared expansion.

In my country, sub-Saharan citizens are received according to the conditions previously announced: several regularization operations have been launched; more than 25000 people benefited from the first phase.

The second phase was successfully launched just a few weeks ago, in the same spirit of solidarity and humanism. We are proud of these actions.

They were necessary, vital for these men and women who have suffered too long due to their life in hiding.

We are acting to stop these people from living on the fringes of society, with no work, no healthcare, nowhere to live and no access to education.

We are acting so couples, particularly those from mixed marriages – between Moroccans and sub-Saharans – will not be parted.

All this constructive action to help migrants has bolstered Morocco’s image and strengthened the bonds we had already forged.

Some say that, through this commitment, Morocco is seeking to gain leadership in Africa. I tell them that it is to Africa that the Kingdom is seeking to give the leadership.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We know that we do not have unanimous backing from this prestigious assembly. Far be it from us to spark off a sterile debate! We have absolutely no intention of causing division, as some would like to insinuate!

You will see: as soon as the Kingdom becomes a member and is able to contribute to the agenda of activities, its action will, on the contrary, help bring about unity and progress.

We participated in the creation of this beautiful pan-African edifice and we naturally look forward to regaining the place that is ours within it.

During all these years and without natural resources, Morocco became an emerging economy, with acknowledged expertise; today it is one of the most prosperous nations in Africa.

Morocco has always considered that its strength comes primarily from the integration of the Maghreb sub-region.

It is however clear that the flame of the Arab Maghreb Union has faded, because faith in a common interest has vanished!

The mobilizing momentum of the Maghreb ideal, advocated by the pioneers in the 1950s, has been betrayed.

Today, we regret to see that the Maghreb Union is the least integrated region in the African continent, if not in the whole world.

Intra-regional trade has reached 10% between ECOWAS countries and 19% between SADC countries, while it is still stagnating at less than 3% between Maghreb countries.

Similarly, while West African Economic Community countries are moving forward in ambitious integration projects and ECOWAS is offering a reliable space for free movement of persons, goods and capital, economic cooperation between Maghreb countries is at a low level.

Our fellow citizens in the Maghreb find this situation hard to understand.

If we do not act, by following the example of neighboring African sub- regions, the Maghreb Union will crumble in its chronic incapacity to live up to the ambitions of the Marrakesh Treaty, which gave birth to it 28 years ago.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All this confirms that Morocco is right to choose Africa. By doing so, my country has opted to share and transfer its know-how; in concrete terms, it is offering to build a safe, solidarity-based future.

We are proud to see history has proved us right.

Morocco is not returning to the African Union through the back door, but by the main gate. This is shown by the warm welcome extended to us today by our African brothers.

We enthusiastically invite African nations to join our country’s dynamism and to give new impetus to the whole of our continent.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is time for Africa to benefit from Africa’s wealth.

We must work to enable our land, after decades of looting, to enter an era of prosperity.

Admittedly, colonialism is not the sole cause of Africa’s problems. However, its negative impact persists.

For a long time, we have looked elsewhere to seek help in making a decision, a commitment.

Is it not time for this tropism to be stopped? Is it not time to look towards our continent? To consider its cultural wealth, its human potential?

Africa should be proud of its resources, its cultural heritage, its spiritual values, and the future should strongly support this natural pride.

Africa can and must validate, on its own, its elections and thus endorse its citizens’ free choice.

It has regulatory tools and legal institutions, such as Constitutional Councils and Supreme Courts, which can settle electoral disputes and appeals.
These institutions could be reinforced, if need be. But they exist! They are operational! Otherwise, what is the use of having them?

Africa is governed today by a new generation of uninhibited leaders. They are working for the stability, political openness, economic development and social progress of their peoples.

They are working with determination, resolve and conviction, without caring about being “graded” or assessed by the West.

For several decades, the growth rates achieved in some countries in the North have not exceeded those in some African countries. The failure of their opinion polls shows the extent to which they have lost their capacity to understand their peoples’ aspirations.

And yet, these countries with an ailing economy, a poor social situation and a weakening leadership, assume the right to impose their development model on us!

I repeat : I consider the notion of Third-worldism to be outdated!

Such practices bear signs of economic opportunism: the respect and benevolence shown to a country should no longer depend on its natural resources and the profit expected!

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the path to solidarity, peace and union chosen by my country.

We reaffirm our commitment to the development and prosperity of African citizens.

We, peoples of Africa, have the means and the genius; together, we can fulfill the aspirations of our peoples.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Rejoins African Union with Overwhelming Majority of AU Member Votes

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 00:45
Historic Decision Affirms Morocco’s Regional Leadership, Commitment to African Development

Washington, DC, January 31, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — An overwhelming majority of African Union (AU) member states voted on Monday to admit Morocco to the pan-African organization after a 33-year hiatus. The historic decision, in which 39 of 54 member states voted in favor, is a crowning achievement for Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s diplomatic goals and vision for the continent.

In a message to attendees of the 27th African Union Summit in July last year, King Mohammed VI had said that “By returning to the African family, Morocco aims to keep up its commitment to Africa and strengthen its involvement in all matters it feels strongly about. Morocco pledges to make constructive contributions to the AU agenda and activities.”

“My country has been and always will be guided by an unshakable faith in Africa, in a continent which derives its strength from its economic riches and potential, which is proud of its cultural and spiritual heritage, and which confidently looks to the future,” read the message.

Since ascending the throne in 1999, the King has made Africa a foreign policy priority, making 38 visits to African countries and signing more than 350 bilateral agreements on economic, political, security, religious, and educational issues. Morocco is the second largest African investor in the continent, and between 2003 and 2013, 51% of its foreign direct investment went to Sub-Saharan Africa, peaking at 88% in 2010; meanwhile, Moroccan trade with the rest of Africa increased by 12% annually in that same period.  In late 2013 the King established a program to train imams from across the continent in Morocco’s open, moderate form of Islam; and in June 2016, inaugurated the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Oulema with a mission of strengthening age-old historical and religious ties between Morocco and its African neighbors. With Morocco serving as the host country, the King also ensured that Africa’s interests on climate change policy were represented at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in Marrakesh in November 2016, hosting a special meeting for African leaders at the event.

“This is welcome news and the natural outcome of King Mohammed VI’s tireless commitment to enhancing Morocco’s strong ties in Africa,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “Since the King ascended the throne in 1999, Morocco has become a leader on existential issues for the continent, including countering violent extremism; climate change; trade and investment; social and economic development; and stability and security. Rejoining the AU will bolster those efforts and further cement Morocco’s bond with its African neighbors. I applaud the African Union for its historic decision.”

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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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Mississippi State University, International University of Rabat Honored by Institute of International Education for Innovative Partnership Program

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 18:12
Award Signals Strength, Growth of US-Morocco Educational Ties

Washington, DC, January 26, 2017 (MACP) —The Institute of International Education (IIE) honored Mississippi State University (MSU) on Monday with an Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education for its partnership with Morocco’s International University of Rabat (UIR). In 2015, the two universities launched a dual degree program in automotive and aerospace engineering that has since grown to include projects to improve primary and secondary school education and redesign workforce training in the automotive, aerospace, agricultural, and other sectors.

“We’re very proud to see MSU recognized with the Heiskell Award, recognizing the innovative program that we’ve developed with the Université Internationale de Rabat,” said MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw in a release. “We’ve made a strong commitment to globalizing our campus, and this partnership with a Moroccan institution is tangible evidence of this. We are now growing and deepening the relationship, including exploring other academic programs that might be offered and research collaborations that open up new opportunities.”

IIE’s Heiskell Awards, which will be presented at a ceremony in Miami, Florida on March 14, 2017, “showcase the most innovative and successful models for internationalizing the campus, study abroad, and international partnership programs in practice today.” IIE described the Mississippi-Morocco initiative as a “wide-ranging bi-national partnership” that “has garnered attention at the highest levels of government,” even leading the government of Morocco to invite MSU’s president, former Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Keenum, to serve as Honorary Consul to the Kingdom of Morocco.

Educational ties between Morocco and the US have strengthened markedly in recent years with a number of American schools establishing joint programs and even campuses in Morocco. In April 2013, Georgia Tech announced plans to build a research lab at UIR; in April 2014, the University of New England inaugurated a campus in Tangier, Morocco; and in May 2015, Morocco and Northern Virginia Community College signed a memorandum of understanding to orchestrate faculty and student exchanges, joint research projects, and vocational training.

According to IIE’s latest Open Doors Report, which tracks data points like places of origin, fields of study, and host institutions on international student exchanges, Morocco has been the top destination for American students studying in North Africa and the Arab world and second only to Israel in the Middle East since the 2012/2013 academic year. Before the Arab Spring, Egypt had been a destination of choice in the region for American students.

“Morocco and the US have been friends for over two centuries, and the countries have a great deal to learn from each other,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel.  “The Heiskell Award is well-deserved recognition for an educational exchange partnership that underscores that friendship and provides students with tremendous opportunities to explore and build respect for each other’s cultures.”

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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

Let’s Do It Right this Time – UN Efforts on the Environment, Western Sahara – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 18:00

António Guterres. Photo: United States Mission Geneva

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 25, 2017

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

The new UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has given speeches indicating his priorities for both the UN’s external operations and the consistent issue of internal reforms. He strongly believes that the UN must look beyond conflict resolution to conflict prevention and emphasizes a more holistic approach to its programs. For example, in an address to the World Economic Forum (WEF), he “called for a new generation of partnerships with the business community to limit the impact of climate change and to reduce poverty.”

He said, “The best allies of all those that want to make sure that the Paris Agreement is implemented, the best allies today in the world are probably in the business sector and it is very important to fully mobilize them.” Following on the broad international consensus reached at COP 22 in Marrakech, Mr. Guterres’ remarks further emphasized the need for continuous support for actions to reduce carbon emissions and re-engineer infrastructure to promote sustainable development. “Without the private sector we will not have the necessary innovation, we will not have the necessary capacity to discover new markets, new products, new services and to be able to develop new areas in the economy,” he said, adding that only the private sector can create enough jobs to stabilize societies.

Mr. Guterres called for long-term dialogue and partnerships between the private sector, international organizations, and governments to expedite the application of new technologies to accelerating human development as “the only way to allow such advances to bring ‘fantastic increase in the well-being of people’ and prevent them [technologies] from turning into “a nightmare for mankind.”

Promoting Conflict Prevention

Mr. Guterres served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a decade before becoming Secretary General. He is extremely knowledgeable about the challenges of adopting progressive policies for dealing with refugee issues. This has greatly informed his approach to human rights issues as well. According to his office, his efforts at conflict prevention and resolution will not be limited to taking diplomatic action, but will attempt a comprehensive approach based on the UN’s core principles of ensuring peace, security, sustainable development, and human rights.

“The best prevention is sustainable and inclusive development,” he said in the speech, pointing out that while the world is witnessing unparalleled technological progress, increasing volumes of trade, reduction of poverty and progress in living conditions, inequality has increased substantially. Meanwhile, the globalization of communication has made everyone aware of rising inequality, leading to frustration and fueling conflict.

The migration issue is of keen interest to Morocco, which is pioneering refugee normalization in North Africa. Guterres said at WEF that “The UN General Assembly is attempting a renewed global compact on refugee protection, which needs solidarity particularly from countries that form the first line of reception. Countries must take a fresh look at migration, which is here to stay, and is part of a solution and not a problem. It needs to be managed better, and stronger international cooperation is needed to make migration painless and a force of good for both migrants and receiving communities.”

Guterres reiterated his resolve to reform the management of the UN, including changing rules on staffing and budgeting, for instance, as well as decentralizing and streamlining systems to make the UN a more nimble, efficient and effective organization. It is not well understood that 70% of the UN’s budget is for peace-keeping operations, which greatly hampers his capacity to support new initiatives.

His early steps are being followed closely in Morocco, as it looks for his leadership to resolve the long-standing stalemate on the Western Sahara, which, according to standing UN Security Council resolutions, is to be achieved through a political settlement. This position represents the Security Council’s recognition of Morocco’s compromise proposal in 2007 to grant broad autonomy to the Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. This proposal has received extensive international support and has been called a serious, realistic, and credible approach by successive US administrations.

Despite continued threats of a return to war by the new leadership of the Polisario and a series of provocative actions — most recently its announced intention to impose settlers in the neutral zone between Morocco and Mauritania — there is hope that Mr. Guterres’ long relationship with Morocco and shared efforts to manage the migration issues of African emigrants, will give impetus to this autonomy solution rather than prolonging the crisis.

The Western Sahara will be high on the agenda of the Security Council in April, when it votes to renew MINURSO’s mandate to prevent conflict on the ground and promote Sahrawi family visits and other enabling measures. Long before that, Mr. Guterres will be naming his special envoy to the conflict to draft the assessment report for the Security Council’s review. Given his long familiarity with the conflict, the positive role that Morocco is playing on a range of UN-related issues, and the need to firmly establish a roadmap to stability in the region, Mr. Guterres has a singular opportunity to demonstrate leadership that has been absent at the UN.

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