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Business Brief: Prominent Companies Detail Plans for Morocco; Conferences Announced on Pipeline Infrastructure and Renewable Energy; Germans and Moroccans Talk Energy

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 18, 2017

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

Major international companies are headed to Morocco as a base for doing business in Africa. Casablanca and Marrakech prepare to host conferences focused on business in Africa. Senior German and Moroccan officials discuss energy…in Mexico!

Companies look to future in Africa from Morocco. The Moroccan economy holds many opportunities for investments, a prime sector being agri-business. KWS, the giant seed company headquartered in Germany, has invested more than $10 million in Morocco over the past five years to build up its range of services. Looking at its success so far, it intends to invest at least that much again, if not more, by 2020 to build up its local operations into a hub for expanding into regional markets. Its initial foray was in developing several varieties of sugar beet adapted to Morocco’s agro-ecological conditions, providing high yields, with a high sugar content and good tolerance to disease. KWS is active in more than 70 countries, and its new investments will enable it to become a leader in Morocco and the region.

Sopra Banking Software is looking to strengthen its presence in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe from its headquarters in Casablanca. A subsidiary of Sopra Steria, the European leader in digital transformation, it believes that its experience in becoming a preferred supplier to the banking sector will enable it to succeed in other markets. Sopra recently set up facilities in Casablanca Finance City (CFC) to take advantage of its regional networks into Africa and the Middle East. Since 2014, Sopra has been building its market share on the continent, and has greatly expanded its client portfolio, in many instances following the expansion of Morocco banks abroad. It is recruiting locally and intends to have 300 employees in the Kingdom.

Not to miss out on an opportunity to extend its reach into Africa, Lloyd’s of London has announced that it will set up its Francophone African operations hub in the CFC. Currently negotiating an agreement with the Moroccan insurance regulator ACAPS, Lloyd’s is working out details regarding the transfers of premiums, and is committed to offering training and technical services to clients.

Conferences on the horizon. Two energy-related conferences will be held in in Casablanca November 29 – December 1. The Africa Renewable Energy Forum, which debuted at COP22, is a pan-African meeting for stakeholders driving forward renewable energy, including government ministers, heads of African utilities, and some of the biggest global investors in renewable energy.

The Gas Options – North and West Africa meeting will focus on gas-to-power projects in the two regions. All 12 countries involved in the Morocco-Nigeria Gas Pipeline project will likely attend to discuss next steps and the benefits of the project in developing the region. Investors and energy decision-makers will be invited to participate in discussions with the public sector on how they can contribute to the project. This meeting has the support of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) and participation from Director General Amina Benkhadra.

Speaking of energy. On the sidelines of the “World Energy Leaders” conference in Mexico last week, Secretary General of the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mining, and Sustainable Development Abderrahim El Hafidi met with German state secretary for energy Rainer Baake. The countries have a bilateral partnership agreement promoting energy projects, and this was an opportunity to discuss current progress and future plans for an energy prospects modeling center to chart potential developments. German companies, such as Siemens, are already present in the energy sector in the Kingdom. Looking ahead, the two countries are looking at the possibility of linking renewable technology with seawater desalination to enable Morocco to meet its energy and potable water needs.

The post Business Brief: Prominent Companies Detail Plans for Morocco; Conferences Announced on Pipeline Infrastructure and Renewable Energy; Germans and Moroccans Talk Energy appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Reports on Morocco’s Industrial and Education Sectors; Announcements of a New Tourism Development Partnership and Music Festival in the News

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 15, 2017

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

The progress of the Industrial Acceleration Plan was featured in a story that looks at the role of the African Development Bank. A World Bank officer visiting Morocco reinforced the results of a recent Bank study of youth in Morocco. On the tourism front, a major partnership was announced to pursue projects, and Agadir provided details on an upcoming Amazigh music festival.

Morocco partners with the African Development Bank (AfDB). More good news for Morocco from The African Development Bank, which will provide $200 million in 2019, in addition to the $200 million approved in July, to support Morocco’s Industrial Acceleration Plan (IAP), a comprehensive strategy to grow its manufacturing sector and other industrial sectors. The AfDB program, designed in consultation with the Ministries of Industry and Finance, “encourages the government to accelerate the structural reforms needed to diversify the economy” through investment in industries and the export of industrial products, with an emphasis on greater participation from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME).

The IAP aims to increase the GDP share of manufacturing to 23% and create a half-million jobs by 2020. It has two main objectives: to promote investments in all types of industrial activity, and to enable a higher level of participation from SMEs through greater access to financing and investment capital

According to the AfDB, the industrial sector continues to grow in Morocco, reaching 17.9% of GDP in 2016 (+ 1.5%), and exports increased by 10% between 2013 and 2016. In 2016, the automotive industry accounted for 24.8% of all exports by value, reaching some $5.8 billion. It was followed by the leather and textile sector (an 8.3% increase = to $4 billion), the agri-food industry (+7% = $2.9 billion), aeronautics (+17.7% = $1.1 billion) and electronics (up 8.9% = $900 million).

Experts at the AfDB noted that “Despite these results, the competitiveness of the Moroccan industrial fabric remains limited in relation to its potential, and export products are not very diversified, with limited added value, in comparison with other emerging countries.” The IAP is the strategy to change that, according to Moroccan authorities.

World Bank encourages greater focus on youth. As its report outlined in May, the World Bank believes that Morocco will benefit significantly from investments in youth education, training, and mobilization. The Bank’s director of operation in the Maghreb, Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, reiterated that message at a roundtable in Morocco on “Innovation in Education, Which Schools for Tomorrow?” She noted that the country will benefit from investing today in youth since Morocco’s age pyramid will begin to reverse itself from 2040. She said, “Morocco must become rich before becoming old,” investing in skills and inclusive strategies that enable young Moroccans to drive economic growth.

One of the key demographic measures is the ratio of dependent population – the non-working young and elderly – to the overall population. Currently less than 50%, projections show that by 2040, the overall population will begin to age with fewer workforce age citizens. Referring to the latest World Bank report on the economic memorandum, the director said that if Morocco is to achieve its expected emergence, it will have to “significantly improve its productivity by investing in the human factor, education.”

The issue of investments in education was further explored in an article in Medias24, which noted Marie-Nelly’s point that the bulk of the money spent on public education is for salaries for administrators and teachers, with little left for student and teacher resources, infrastructure, and educational reform. She called for greater investment in the pedagogical content and quality of education, with a view to ensuring a thorough reform of the education system.

Recognizing that educational reform is a long process, she encouraged the country to mobilize parents, restructure the learning calendar, and develop an integrated educational strategy combining all the necessary elements. “Ms. Marie-Nelly also noted that Morocco has succeeded in ensuring full access to primary education for both girls and boys, adding that efforts are still needed to improve access for pupils to secondary education, which is limited to 80% in urban areas and 40% in rural areas.”

Big news on the tourism front. Moroccan sovereign fund Ithmar Capital was created primarily to channel Gulf investments into the tourism sector. Now, according to le360, it has joined with the Qatari Investment Bank Qinvest to launch three joint mega-tourism projects.  A newly formed entity, Oryx Capital, with an initial budget of $5.5 million, will carry out initial feasibility studies.

In May 2016, Ithmar, formerly the Moroccan Fund for Tourism Development (FMDT), received the approval of Moroccan public authorities to launch such a venture. The three projects include “a resort with sports and entertainment services around a medina in the mountainous region of Oukaimeden in the Middle Atlas; an amusement park in the region of Marrakech; while the third project, nicknamed Al Chatii Al Abdyad (The White Beach), will be a sea resort with leisure services catering to both local and foreign visitors.”

Jazz music set to rock Agadir. The French Institute of Agadir, in cooperation with local and regional governments, is launching the 1st edition of the “Anogoggar N Jazz” festival to be held November 24th to 26th. While the jazz scene is already present in Morocco with Jazzablanca, Tanjazz, Jazz au Chellah and Jazz sous l’Arganier, this marks the first foray for jazz events in the South. The festival will bring together diverse audiences in the Souss-Massa region around a common passion, jazz, which transcends cultural and geographic borders. This event will also be the occasion for meetings with local artists, workshops, and discussions related to jazz, its teaching, and general artistic practice.

The post Business Brief: Reports on Morocco’s Industrial and Education Sectors; Announcements of a New Tourism Development Partnership and Music Festival in the News appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Major 3D Printing Facility Launched; Islamic Banking Expands, and Housing Developers Make Money by Doing Good in Social Housing; Casablanca Finance City Adds Well-known Tenant

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 16:41

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 14, 2017

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

Great news for Moroccan manufacturing as it adds a cross-sector capability in 3D printing. Bahrain’s Al Baraka sets its sights on Morocco’s Islamic banking sector, while the impact of social housing construction benefits both companies and needy families, thanks to government incentives.

Thales makes an impression. Thales, a leading French electronics, technology, and IT corporation released information on the inauguration of its first industrial competence center for metallic printing outside of France. Well known for its on-board aircraft entertainment centers, Thales will supply its own units as well as its clients in the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors. The Group, which opened its local office in Rabat in 2006, is present in Morocco in the fields of defense, aerospace, transport. and security, and currently has about 45 employees.

Pierre Prigent, Country Director for Morocco, said that “This competence center will give us access to a highly capable ecosystem of industrial suppliers specializing in mechanical parts; helping us meet all our requirements in terms of material, performance, and reproducibility for the aerospace and space markets.” The Industrial Competence Center is an integrated technology platform that Thales utilizes as the core of its Industry 4.0 strategy to meet international customer needs.

Overall investment in the Casablanca facility is estimated at $16-22 million and includes real estate development, machinery, tools, and training, among other start-up costs. Currently the facility has two machines, and Thales is planning to install 10 larger units with a team of 20-25 engineers. Five Moroccan engineers have already undergone training in Belgium as part of the operations team.

Its location, near Casablanca’s international airport and seaport facilities, “Makes it possible to produce better, at a lower cost, and in a more eco-responsibly way,” according to Mr. Prigent. He noted that the existence of an aeronautical subcontracting ecosystem in the country in as asset in making Thales’s global center of expertise in 3D printing.

Its website points out that “3D printing will reduce the time it takes to develop and manufacture high-value parts in complex metal alloys for aerospace and space applications. Thales’s expertise in the materials, processes, and requirements specific to the aerospace and space sectors will enable the technology to reach maturity more quickly. With its proven industrial processes and manufacturing capabilities, the new competence centre is a further step in Thales’s ongoing pre-product investment program designed to promote the use of this innovative technology…”

Bahrain’s Al Baraka Banking Group sees Morocco as target of opportunity. In an effort to diversify assets and revenues, Al Baraka, one of the global leaders in Islamic finance with operations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, has its sights set on Morocco. A Reuters story explained that Morocco’s recent opening to Islamic banking, and a large population underserved by non-Islamic commercial banks, as well as Bahrain’s long-standing commitment to economic ties with Morocco make this a natural progression.

“We feel that since the country is not overbanked, there is room for more players to come in and play a positive role in supporting the growth targets of the Moroccan economy,” said Chief Executive Adnan Ahmed Yousif. The Reuters story noted, “There are 19 banks in Morocco with the top three accounting for two-thirds of total assets, while offshore banks represent less than 5 percent of total assets, according to an IMF report. The country also has a large pool of companies seeking financing. The number of small businesses with access to bank credit has doubled since 2007, the IMF said.”

Al Baraka has partnered with BMCE, Morocco’s third largest lender by revenue, to launch an Islamic bank under the name BTI Bank and is awaiting regulatory approvals to start operations. There are business opportunities for Islamic banks in the SME and trade finance sectors, while project finance, leasing, Islamic insurance and sukuk (Islamic bonds) are also importance, Yousif told Reuters. He also noted that Islamic finance would help diversify the balance sheet and revenue sources for the lender.

Making money, doing good. One of the more successful social housing programs in developing countries is in Morocco. Although there is always a need for more price-conscious housing due to the growth of the single families and overall youthful population, Morocco has an extensive set of incentives to make the private sector the core of the housing solution for answering the demand.

An article in the Daily Star described the program. Removing slums in urban areas was one of King Mohammed VI’s first priorities in the early 2000s. “The government put in place a number of initiatives, including loan guarantees for the poor and tax rebates for developers, making the social housing sector a popular investment.” The government launched an ambitious “cities without slums” program in 2004. It has since re-housed some 1.3m people at estimated cost of some $3.4 billion. 52 cities and towns have been declared “slum free.” Even so, in 2015 around 2.6 million, or 13% of urban Moroccans, still lived in urban slums, according to the UN.

There is a downside to the success of the program, since developers receive rebates for selling price-capped homes and are rewarded with set profits for each unit. “Ten years ago, social housing was the best asset to invest in because there was a need and there was still land,” says Faycal Temsamani, a property expert now employed by OCP, the Moroccan industrial group. “Today the price of the land is getting higher and it’s becoming more difficult to get a good yield.”

The article points out that, ”As more builders have joined the sector, increased competition has forced them to up their game and in some cases, reduce their margins to guarantee sales. Five or seven years ago, whatever was built would sell, says an employee of one large developer. Now some units are empty because they weren’t well built or were not properly marketed, while others have started to offer lifts and swimming pools to attract people.”

The article describes an emerging trend: “Some investors spy new opportunities in the space between the urban slums or bidonvilles and gated communities. They point to an under-served middle market of buyers on modest incomes who do not qualify for social housing but struggle to find affordable homes, especially in Casablanca where demand is highest. Although the city’s property market has stuttered since the financial crisis, prices are rising again. Sales volumes of residential units jumped by 7 percent in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the first, according to the central bank’s Real Estate Price index.”

Mr. Temsamani agrees there is latent demand in this segment: “It’s a specific market.

You need a particular layout and a location close to the center of the city but the price cannot be above a certain limit. If you can find this formula, you can be very successful.”

Allianz joins Casablanca Finance City. Looking at how it can best access the African market, German insurer Allianz decided to join other major companies, banks, and financial services firm in CFC.  According to a company press release, “Obtaining this status underlines the strategic vision of Allianz to increase its presence in the Moroccan market and more widely across the African continent through Marofinac, its financial services company in Africa.”

“We are pleased to have joined CFC, Africa’s leading financial center. With Marofinac’s CFC status, which will facilitate the development of Allianz in the region, our regional hub in Casablanca becomes truly operational,” said Coenraad Vrolijk, Allianz’s managing director for Africa. The Allianz group has been present in Morocco since the end of January 2017 after the acquisition of Zurich Morocco. Allianz is also present in Morocco via its credit insurance subsidiary, Euler Hermes Acmar.

The post Business Brief: Major 3D Printing Facility Launched; Islamic Banking Expands, and Housing Developers Make Money by Doing Good in Social Housing; Casablanca Finance City Adds Well-known Tenant appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s Africa Policy highlighted in Jeune Afrique – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 15:00

Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 13, 2017

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

Morocco’s return to the African Union in January – after a 33 year hiatus – marked a crowning achievement in the country’s decades-long leadership on the continent. Long a priority of King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s African diplomacy has only ramped up since then — on issues ranging from security and counterterrorism to trade and soccer. Last month, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita spoke with Jeune Afrique about this policy and what the Kingdom is setting out to achieve. Here are some highlights.

On the African Union

Minister Bourita noted that the “return to the AU is a turning point, but not an end it itself.” Rather, under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed, Morocco seeks both to “contribute to collective action for Africa” and to elevate Morocco’s voice on issues of importance, including the Sahara. On the collective action front, Morocco is heading up the issue of migration, and presented an “agenda for African migration” at the last summit in July in Addis Ababa. On the Sahara, Morocco has sought to correct the record on falsehoods about the conflict that had traction within the AU for far too long.

On ECOWAS

Morocco’s application to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was approved in June, with 15 members of the Community agreeing that the accession of Morocco would be beneficial for all. Minister Bourita explained how the process has been moving forward since the political agreement was reached. Negotiations are now in the legal phase, with technical negotiations to follow. The next ECOWAS summit is scheduled for December, and Morocco’s membership will certainly be a key point of discussion.

On the Sahara

In line with its objective of correcting the record on the Sahara, Morocco has engaged in renewed diplomacy with countries historically supportive of the Polisario. Minister Bourita explained that King Mohammed VI’s approach focuses on dialogue, noting that “Morocco is willing to work with all countries that do not show hostility, even if they have inherited positions of a bygone era on the Moroccan Sahara…It is not by turning our back on a country that we can explain our cause. Serenity and pragmatism are the key words of the African policy of His Majesty the King.” Recent diplomatic visits with Angola, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Sudan have all underscored this strategy – and yielded positive results. As Minister Bourita noted, “All these countries have nevertheless supported Morocco’s return to the AU and are now adopting constructive positions on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Caftans in Colorado – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 15:00

Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 12, 2017

Moroccan Caftans featured at Colorado State University’s Avenir Museum

Photo: Colorado State University

Morocco’s traditional clothing – the caftan – has been transformed over the last 20 years from a practical garment to haute couture. The Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University in Fort Collins is currently hosting an exhibition documenting that evolution. “The Allure of the Moroccan Caftan” seeks to examine “what happens when traditional attire meets high fashion,” by showcasing “how caftans are being adapted to the haute couture scene in Morocco.”

Curated by Marcela Wells with a collection on loan from Fort Collins collector Mary Biggers, the exhibit “traces how history, geography, craftsmanship, national pride, and tradition have contributed to the caftan’s contemporary allure.” In designing the exhibit, Wells and Biggers wanted to do more than just display the caftans, so the exhibit features interactive components that highlight design and construction. Visitors can try on some of the caftans and also feel the silk used to embroider many of them. Bringing the garments closer to the viewer helps “create a deeper level of appreciation for an understanding of the design and ornamentation of Moroccan caftans.”

The exhibit is on view through December 15.

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Three Moroccans on 100 Most Influential Young Africans List – Jean R. AbiNader

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 21:21

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
September 11, 2017

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

The top 100 Most Influential Young Africans list was recently announced, and three outstanding individuals from Morocco made it:, former mayor of Marrakech Fatima-Zahra Mansouri,  a prominent women in business and politics;  Mustapha Mokass, who uses technology to solve social issues; and Yasmine El-Baggari, an entrepreneur connecting people globally. Initiated in 2014 by Ghanaian Prince Akpah, the awards are devoted to bringing attention to African youth between the ages of 15 and 36 working to advance the future of Africa. The African Youth Awards go to Africans living on the continent as well as those overseas (Trevor Noah, for example, is one of this year’s awardees), with participation from more than 140 countries.

This year’s list includes 45 women and 55 men, a laudable gender balance that the organizers hope will provide role models to inspire young African women. Twenty-eight countries are represented by the 2017 winners, selected from among public nominations by a jury of African peers.

Profiles of the 100 awardees are published on www.africayouthawards.org. The project is organized in partnership with key sponsors and media organizations from across the continent. Reflecting in many ways the emphasis of King Mohammed VI on the development of young resources in Africa, and the vital importance of Africans shaping their own future, the awards are intended to encourage mentoring programs for young people to enable them to develop a vision of Africa that is inclusive, citizen-centered, focused on advancing communities, and bringing greater awareness to the potential of young Africans.

Fatima-Zahra Mansouri is no stranger to public attention. Although a well-known lawyer in her home city of Marrakech, she was relatively unknown in political circles until she ran for election in 2009, in nation-wide local elections cited as free and fair by international observers. Elected to the city council, she was then chosen by her peers as mayor, one of the first women to lead the administration of a major city in Morocco.

A 2010 profile in Jeune Afrique said that “Mansouri had adopted a transparent, participatory approach, holding meetings with the citizens every week. She had vowed to eradicate poverty and attend to the woes of 20,000 households who have no access to drinking water or electricity. She also intended to readdress the tourism policy, based more on the tourism and hotel industry than on how to assist the poor. She announced that within six months of the start of her mayorship, revenues of the city had increased by almost a third.” She continues to be involved in promoting greater access to public services and support for community development.

She was also named to the 2016 list of 100 Most Influential Young Africans.

Mustapha Mokass was also awarded the honor in 2016. He focuses his talents and energies on innovative solutions to three key challenges: poverty, food insecurity, and climate change. With his previous experience with the World Bank and the UN Environment Program, he pioneered public-private partnerships for risk-sharing approaches to decreasing carbon emissions by enabling technologies available to developing countries.

He is the founder of Climate and Poverty Innovations, which builds financial and technological models to fight poverty and climate change in the Middle East and Africa. He is the author of Fostering a Global Clean Energy Market and has garnered recognition from the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. In addition to his climate work, he is dedicated to promoting social entrepreneurship by enabling “access to finance for innovative social business models that have the potential to create sustainable jobs, especially in helping small farming goods reach high added value markets (luxury, dietetic, etc.), and developing women’s capacities in entrepreneurship and marketing,” according to an interview in the alumni magazine of his alma mater, HEC.

Yasmine El Baggari has received international recognition as the founder of Voyaj, an online platform that enables personalized global connections among students, families, travelers, and communities to promote intercultural awareness and understanding through shared experiences. She notes on the Voyaj website, “I am passionate about connecting people and bridging cultures to encourage a more peaceful and caring world.”

Yasmine has worked with the World Bank, done research at Harvard University, sat with former Vice President Joe Biden and spoke at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). She acted as an “Engage America” Ambassador for the US State Department and has spoken at numerous conferences. At the GES she remarked, “By breaking down barriers and stereotypes we can all benefit from global understanding and tolerance, in our international business dealings, and in our goals for global peace.”

Yasmine has received awards from the African Studies Association, Hampshire College’s Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, the Sander Thoenes Research Award, and two Ingenuity Awards. In 2016, she was invited to the White House as one of the 100 Most Influential Travel Bloggers, and she was on Forbes’s list of the most inspiring and promising entrepreneurs in 2016.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Shines as Business Bridge with Europe; Automobile Manufacturing Continues Growth as New Companies Enter Sector – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 18:11

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
September 8, 2017

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

Although most of the recent attention on Morocco’s growing economy focuses on the success of its outreach to Africa, Morocco still has extensive and profitable ties with Europe, as illustrated by the increasing numbers of French professional schools establishing campuses in Morocco, and the number of international companies investing in the automobile sector and bringing high value jobs to the country.

A solid base for training business professionals.

While much has been made lately of Morocco’s increasingly vibrant commercial role in Africa, very little attention has been paid to the benefits of these ties to Morocco’s traditional trading partners in Europe. A recent Le Monde article detailed how Morocco’s well-equipped infrastructure, political stability, and solid diplomatic relations with African states make it a natural hub for connecting Europe and Africa. As importantly, its role as a center for preparing African professionals is growing.

Trade ties are strong and long-standing, supported by well-trained managers and executives at home on both continents. “There is a need for a cadre hub that can provide the skills Africa needs for its development,” said Thierry Sibieude, director of the Essec Africa-Atlantic campus. High-level executives trained in Morocco or Tunisia are valuable employees as they have the bi-continental awareness to be effective immediately,  according to Christophe Elie-Dit-Cossack, vice-president in charge of international affairs at the Paris-Dauphine University.

Training Moroccans and other Africans in Morocco enables them and their companies to have a stronger understanding of the cultural, business, and social mores of how commerce is done, the technical and legal considerations, and how management can best function to achieve results. One result has been the growth of European campuses in Morocco.

“A city like Casablanca, connected by air to all African and European cities, with a dynamic economic fabric and an old multiculturalism, has the right soil to develop the economic and research programs of the professional schools,” says Eric Maurincomme, director of INSA Lyon, which opened a campus in Fez in 2014. The French institutions want to become centers for African students and professional from across the continent, and Morocco is a natural location. In Fez, the campus specializes in training cadres in developing skills relevant to business start-ups, the dominant need in Africa’s professional education.

Morocco’s cooperation is also a common response to a very active competitor, China. “Chinese economic diplomacy is very relevant in Africa,” recalls Souad Benbachir, Director General of the Moroccan commercial bank CFG Bank. He believes that training the business people of tomorrow makes sense, within the framework of Euro-Moroccan partnerships, and is vital if EU companies are to remain major players in the francophone countries of West Africa and beyond.

Automobile manufacturing builds momentum.

The success of Renault and Peugeot in Morocco is leading other manufacturers in automotive supply chains to invest there. Given its stability, infrastructure, and logistics networks, Morocco’s aspiration to become an economic tiger in Africa is in sight. Recent announcements of expansions and investments covered in the North Africa Post bear out that ambition.

According to Spanish media reports, its car parts maker, Ficosa, is planning a plant in Rabat to produce in-vehicle cameras. The estimated investment is some $26 million, with a start date of 2021 with 800 direct well-paying jobs. Last July, Canada’s auto parts manufacturer Linamar announced that it will build a $280 million plant to supply engine parts to the new Peugeot factory before expanding to new plants that should open soon in Morocco.

US auto parts maker Delphi Corp. announced plans to set up a factory making electrical distribution systems and a research and development center in Morocco; while Japanese parts manufacturer, JTEKT, will be a $17 million facility in Tangier to meet its customers’ needs.  In additional, Italian auto parts manufacturer, Sogefi, will build an engine filters plant in Tangier estimated at around $12 million.

Morocco’s goals for the sector are well defined in the latest industrial acceleration plan – a goal of 190,000 jobs by 2020, of which 100,000 currently exist, and 65% locally produced components in exported cars by that time, up from the current 40%.

The North Africa Post article mentions that Morocco’s proximity to the European market, modern infrastructures, free trade zones, qualified cheap manpower, open economy and stability have all contributed to making Morocco a regional car industry hub attracting investments by automotive giants such as Renault and Peugeot in addition to world class car parts manufacturers.”

More investment partnerships established.

Attijariwafa Bank and Sumitomo Corporation have signed an MoU to establish a long-term partnership for operations in Africa. Sumitomo, a leading Japanese energy and manufacturing conglomerate, is already active in solar energy projects and car parts manufacturing in the Kingdom and wants to leverage this experience in other African countries, something that has been part of the King’s agreements signed with various states.

An article in Morocco World News said that the purpose of the MoU, “is to promote cooperation between the two groups in the automotive, infrastructure, chemical, mining, and agriculture sectors in Morocco and Africa at large.” For example, Sumitomo Wiring Systems in Tangier employs 19,000 people, and is one of 50 Japanese companies active in Morocco. In 2016, trade between the two countries reached $700 million.

Ikari Data, Managing Director in charge of Business Development at Sumitomo Corporation Europe Limited, said that the Japanese group decided to sign this agreement with Attijariwafa bank to “support our presence and operations at the continental level and also to have access to the network and expertise of the Moroccan bank, which is now an integrated African financial group capable of supporting our new regional strategy in the countries where the Group already operates.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

The Problem of Assigning Extremist Origins – David S. Bloom

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 15:15

David S. Bloom
September 7, 2017

David Bloom, Director of Research and Policy Analysis

In the wake of the latest terrorist attacks in Western Europe, there has been much consternation in the press over who or what is responsible, as people look for patterns and try to understand what ties these incidents together. It is a natural response in the search for answers and eventual solutions. Many point to social and economic marginalization. Many more point to religion or country of origin and don’t give it another thought. Yet the obvious truth is that the problem has always been a complex one, and the root issues cannot be addressed if the presumed cause is one-dimensional and misappropriated.

After the recent attacks in Spain and Finland this month, many news articles tried to make the somewhat lazy assertion that this wave of terrorism is of Moroccan “origin.” The term itself is draws complications, in this case pooling native Moroccans together with multi-generation Europeans. Many jumped to counter the assertion, arguing that even despite their widely varying connections to Morocco, most of the perpetrators were clearly radicalized in Europe, where the vast majority spent their formative years. A microcosm of this debate played out on the pages of the Financial Times, where an article, “Spain atrocities throw spotlight on Moroccan militants,” inspired a letter to the editor entitled “Morocco is a partner in fight against terrorism,” which inspired its own letter to the editor, entitled “Beware of drawing too simple conclusions on counter-terrorism.” Morocco’s own press had a series of articles and responses as well as it grappled with the domestic implications of the issue.

A recent report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) made excellent work of this confusion. First, it dispelled the simplistic approach of much of the recent press that attempted to draw conclusions about Moroccan connections to extremism. While the perpetrators of the Finland attacks were “economically and socially marginalized” as “underemployed, transient, unsuccessful asylum seekers,” the Barcelona attackers were “relatively well integrated into their Spanish communities and did not suffer from any demonstrable economic hardships.” So there’s no simple explanation there. And while “ideology seems to have been the dominant fuel” for the Barcelona attack, some of those involved had track records of drug offenses, and their leader was radicalized relatively recently while in a Spanish prison and had “acquaintances who had been convicted of terrorism-related offenses.”

But what about Morocco? The WINEP report describes Morocco’s effective approach to violent extremism. First, sympathy for extremist groups declined sharply in Morocco following the 2003 Casablanca bombings. Morocco’s government has also adopted a comprehensive approach to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) that dovetails short-term and long-term strategies. A 2003 antiterrorism law bolstered the security apparatus and has proven effective.

Perhaps more importantly, the WINEP report notes that Morocco has “pursued a series of reforms in the religious realm aimed at reducing the influence of extremist ideologies.” From adopting school curricula to “promote Islamic teachings compatible with notions of human rights” and tolerance, to working hands-on in prisons to stymie a convenient pool of radicalization, Morocco has demonstrated an advanced understanding of the multifaceted nature of violent extremism. Morocco has also invested heavily in imam training, incorporating moderate values and emphasizing the role of women as an important weapon against radicalization. This imam training program has attracted a flow of students from across Africa and even Europe, making Morocco a global exporter of CVE.

The lesson here, according to WINEP, is:

“…the recent prominence of Moroccan expatriates in jihadist terrorism appears to reflect not the prevalence of fundamentalist extremism in their country of origin but the opposite: Morocco remains relatively inhospitable to such violence for a combination of cultural and security reasons. As a result, the small proportion of Moroccans inclined in that direction have evidently sought sanctuary abroad; others may have become radicalized in their adopted European homes, rather than importing the ideology from Morocco.”

While this is not to say that violent extremism is exclusively Europe’s problem, it does counter many of the shortsighted assertions in the media about the nature of this problem. Rather than seek to assign blame, the public would be better served by examining the deeper context and nuances of these attacks rather than putting a magnifying glass to their lowest common denominator.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s World Cup Dreams – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 17:34

Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 6, 2017

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

Morocco’s Atlas Lions made it one step further in their quest to qualify for the 2018 Soccer World Cup, drawing with Mali after having beaten the Malian squad 6-0 on September 1. For the moment, the Lions remain in second place in Group C behind Ivory Coast and will face Gabon October 7 and Ivory Coast November 6. To qualify, Morocco will need to win Group C. According to ESPN, the race between Ivory Coast and Morocco looks set to go down to the wire, with the November 6 game a “potentially explosive winner-takes-all clash.” If they can pull it off, it will be the first time Morocco has qualified in over 20 years.

Off the pitch, Morocco is also seeking big victories. In late August, FIFA confirmed Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup, putting it in competition with the joint bid from the US, Canada, and Mexico. Morocco can count on the support of the Confederation of African Football, whose President, Ahmad Ahmad, has called Morocco a “stronghold of African and world football,” but its success will depend on getting support from the European and Asian Federations (which are prohibited for bidding to host based on FIFA’s host rotation rules).

There are a few reasons for hope. As The National noted, Morocco “has plenty of merits for FIFA to consider,” including a convenient location (and time zone) for European fans, six stadiums with capacities of over 45,000 to comply with FIFA requirements, and demonstrated success in hosting the FIFA Club World Cup in 2013 and 2014. That said, billions would still need to be invested in stadiums and other infrastructure. Though the bid may be a long shot, it nevertheless demonstrates Morocco’s long-term interests in becoming a sports leader in Africa, part of a broader effort led by King Mohammed VI to expand Morocco’s political and economic engagement on the continent.

The vote for the 2026 World Cup won’t take place until May 2020, giving Morocco plenty of time to demonstrate its sports leadership. In the meantime, the hope is that the Lions will get the chance to represent Morocco – and Africa – on the field.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Popularity of Argan Oil Spurs International Competition; High-speed Train on Schedule; and Economic Indicators Improving – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 20:20

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
September 5, 2017

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

Growing demand for argan oil has spawned competitors to Morocco’s industry; latest report shows progress of high-speed train construction is on track, while the latest economic news is largely favorable for Morocco’s economic growth.

Argan market continues expansion as international competition increases. According to Grand View Research, as reported in the Digital Journal, the argan oil market exceeded 1300 million tons in 2016. Demand is increasing rapidly, with expectations of a market size of more than $1 billion by 2025.

The increased demand is due to many factors, including the growing importance of argan in medical applications, such as the treatment of certain cancers and arthritis. Given that increased population in Morocco is increasing local demand, Israel, Mexico, and Algeria have started their own production to compete for global market share.

As the press release from Grand View Research point out, “Argan oil is a developing industry in the US which is gaining importance on account of its high-performance ingredients. Growing disposable income, demand for branded luxury cosmetics, and preference for organic ingredients is anticipated to augment growth. The widening of distribution channels has made these products readily available to the consumer. Ongoing R&D investments and technological advancements in the area of processing ingredients have been the key factors responsible for driving industry growth over the past few years.”

Currently, there is a limited supply of argan oil, which has resulted in a price war among producers. “Argan oil draws its greatest demand from cosmetics, food, and medical industries. The cosmetics segment accounted for the largest market share in 2015. Argan oil is also gaining acceptance in the food industry, where it is used for seasoning salad and as cooking oil in high-end restaurants in the US.” According to the report, cosmetics accounted for almost 41% of the market volume in 2016, and the highest growth rate in the next eight years will come in the medical segment where “Argan extracts help accelerate wound healing process, lower cholesterol levels, improve digestion, protect the liver, manage diabetes, reduce inflammation, and boost heart health.”

High-speed rail from Tangier to Casablanca to have first tests in September. On time, at 92% completion, the high-speed rail system promises to be a first in Africa and the Middle East, according to the Abdelkader Amara, the Minister of Equipment, Transport, and Logistics, who recently visited the future station in Tangier as well as the nearby maintenance workshop and viaduct construction, according to a Morocco World News story.

The General Director of the railways authority, Rabie Khlie, said that the upcoming tests will involve trains traveling in excess of 200 mph on an 80 mile stretch of track.  Concurrently, training for conductors, maintenance personnel, and commercial staff is also on schedule. If steps are completed in time, the system will be fully tested in the first half of 2018 with a commercial start-up later that summer.

Minister Amara noted that “the El Hachef viaduct, with an investment of MAD 1.092 billion ($110 million), constitutes the longest viaduct of the line with 3.5 kilometers, and one of the most spectacular works of the project,” adding that it presents “impressive technical characteristics and illustrates the magnitude of the component of this large-scale project, noting that it has 12 viaducts, 169 road bridges and railway bridges, and more than 100 hydraulic structures, 80% built by Moroccan companies.”

Government statistics show economic growth. The Directorate of Economic Studies and Financial Forecasting (DEPF) released additional statistics regarding Morocco’s growth in the first half of 2017. As noted previously, the dramatic rebound of cereal production by some 203% during this year’s growing season, contributed to a sharp increase in economic growth.

As quoted in Morocco World News, “By component of cereal production, barley recorded the largest increase compared to the previous season, with a 366.2% increase year-on-year, followed by durum wheat by 166.2% and soft wheat by 166.1%, according to the DEPF.” With more agricultural supplies, it is not surprise that agricultural exports increased through July 2017 along with food and construction products.

On the industrial side, “The production of phosphate derivatives, an important component of the chemical industry, grew by 35.8% at the end of May 2017, compared to a 7.7% increase in 2016,” noted the DEPF. In the construction and building sector, a strong recovery in cement sales was measured in July by some 42.2% after a sharp decline in June by some 30.6%. “This improvement is attributable to the resumption of the activity of self-construction, as well as of the public works market,” says the DEPF.

In terms of the services sectors, there was an increase in overall tourism through June of 9.2% with overnight stays up by 17.7%. Air traffic was up by 11.5% and port traffic increased by 10.1% in the same period. Although mobile telephone activity was up only slightly, by 1.5%, Internet penetration grew by 29.3%.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Lovin’ McDonald’s in Laayoune – Jordan Paul

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 20:47

Photo: alex lines

Jordan Paul, MACP
August 31, 2017

What better symbol of being connected to the global community and America is there than McDonald’s? You can find the golden arches in more than 100 countries across the globe – from Vietnam to Croatia to Peru. Morocco’s first franchise –the first in Africa — opened in Casablanca in1992. And now there’s a McDonald’s in Laayoune, in the Southern Provinces.

That the most American of global restaurants has opened there is a testament to King Mohammed VI’s vision for – and investment in – the Southern Provinces; to the entrepreneurship of the Sahrawi people there; and to the financial support and encouragement of the US Government.  With elected national, regional, and local officials, international airports, a welcoming business climate, an increase in tourism related industries, and, of course, a McDonald’s, the citizens of the Southern Provinces are living in the 21st century.

In contrast, Sahrawis in the desolate Polisario-run camps in Algeria live on international charity (when it isn’t stolen by their “leaders”); they live in tents in the desert, forbidden to work, travel, or leave permanently. They live under Soviet-style, one-party autocratic rule, complete with sham elections. And they’ve lived that way for 40 years, with no hope and no freedom.  Morocco has offered a realistic solution that would allow them to escape this protracted international limbo – autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. The UN has now refocused on this issue and remains committed to a fifth round of negotiations between the parties based only on that compromise.  The US Government has supported the formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for almost 2 decades, over four Administrations. The US has matched words with actions by funding development assistance programs that allow those in the Southern Provinces the same access to programs as everyone else in Morocco. In a further show of support, the US has also encouraged private investment in the Sahara in the annual funding bills for Foreign Operations.

So, thanks to all this, the next time I’m in Laayoune, I look forward to having a hamburger, fries, and a Coca-Cola and thinking about how much the world has changed for the better and how much more we still have to do.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco to Host Continental Exhibition, Participate in African Conference on Knowledge Sharing; Young Inventors Garner Awards; Morocco’s FDI Role in Côte d’Ivoire Highlighted – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 15:33

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
August 31, 2017

As another example of Morocco’s commitment to the continent, it is hosting the first ever “Invest Africa Expo” this year. An important conference focusing on young African economists and their roles in economic development debuts in the fall. Moroccan inventors demonstrate their competence and win international awards.

“Invest Africa Expo” launches in Casablanca. 50 African countries are slated to participate in the first “Invest Africa Expo” in Casablanca November 1-4. The exposition, hosting some 500 exhibitors, will cover more than 200,000 square feet and facilitate B2B meetings among the attendees. It will provide a venue for presentations by officials, public and private organizations, and agencies representing some 15 sectors, including transportation, education, employment, health, energy, agriculture, security, and tourism.

In King Mohammed VI’s recent address regarding Morocco’s role in Africa, he highlighted the importance of African countries working on behalf of their peoples. This expo, with its broad participation from most of the African countries and agencies involved in trade and investment promotion is a great opportunity to move that goal forward. The organizers hope that one long-term outcome is establishing an African development forum devoted to South-South exchanges of experience and expertise, as well as business.

Morocco will join conference in Addis Ababa on African knowledge sharing. Morocco’s commitment to promoting positive outcomes across the continent is also demonstrated by its participation in the 12th annual African Economic Conference (ECA) in Addis in December. The meetings provide a platform for young African economists and researchers, their counterparts abroad, and representatives of key regional and sub-regional groups to discuss their research on the development of African economies. Knowledge management — improving access to information and research on economic issues — is considered a key factor in driving planning and implementation for better outcomes in development.

According to the organizers, “The expected 500 participants will discuss government policies, institutions, and mechanisms that can help unleash the transformation potential of African economies.” It is being coordinated by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Moroccan inventors win 5 gold medals in international competition. A recent story in Morocco World News highlighted the strong showing of Moroccan inventors at a competition in Canada that showcased teams from 33 countries. The International Invention Innovation Competition in Canada (ICAN) is part of a worldwide network of events that enable exchanges among inventors, innovators, students, and research scientists.

The awarded Moroccans came from the Moroccan School for Engineering Sciences (EMSI); Smartilab laboratory for research and development and innovation; Rabat’s Mohammed V University; Kenitra’s Ibn Tofail University; and Hassan I University in Settat. The Moroccan representatives won five gold medals and three awards in the categories of health, innovation, and technology.

Hafid Griguer, director of Smartilab laboratory, along with three other participants, earned a gold medal in the health category. The same participants also managed to score two additional awards: “Best Invention in Morocco” and “Best Invention.” Six Smartilab representatives, including Gruiger, received a gold medal in the Transport and Internet of Things categories, while the representatives of Settat’s Hassan I University scored two more gold medals for their projects.

So far in 2017, Morocco has received 49 international awards, including 24 gold medals, in competitions such as Euroinvent, Inventica, Ipitex, and SHIE.

Morocco ties to Côte d’Ivoire much more than language. According to recently released numbers, Morocco was the leading investor in Côte d’Ivoire in 2016 with $213 million invested in four projects. Next in line is France supporting nine new projects with a value of $112 million. Others include the USA ($ 22 million on three projects), the United Kingdom ($ 17 million on two projects) and China ($ 16 million on two projects). The country is one of the fastest growing in Africa at close to 7% GNP growth expected this year.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: More International Events Slated for Morocco; Country has Become Top New Hotel Location in the Region; and International Festival Promotes Pursuit of Peace – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 17:06

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
August 25, 2017

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

Several international meetings will be held in Morocco, including a symposium on regenerative medicine, a regional conference on job creation in the Arab world, and the China-Africa Investment Forum. Three new universities will open in the fall, and Morocco continues to be a very popular destination for new hotels to serve increased tourism and business visits.

A symposium on stem cell research. The Global Stem Cells Group, an international network of practitioners, doctors, researchers, and medical advocates working together to advance the study of regenerative medicine and stem cell development will meet in Rabat in September. Organized under the banner of the International Society for Stem Cells Application (ISSCA), the program brings together leading researchers and doctors who will focus on the latest developments in the field.

According to Dr. Benito Novas, founder of Global Stem Cells Group, “We are constantly developing new events, programs, and educational opportunities that provide doctors and students with the ability to learn about regenerative medicine in a live and supportive environment.” This year’s program includes modules on “Biologic and molecular basis for regenerative medicine,” “Therapeutic applications,” and “Regulations, marketing and global overview of the stem cell industry.”

A regional conference highlighting job creation. The spate of recent terrorist attacks by young people underscores the critical importance of job generation throughout the Arab World and Africa. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development (AFESD) and Government of Morocco will co-host a high-level conference in Marrakesh, January 29–30, 2018, on promoting higher economic growth, job creation, and inclusiveness in the Arab world. Titled “Opportunity for All: Promoting Growth, Jobs, and Inclusiveness in the Arab World,” the conference, according to the IMF release, “Will bring together high-level policy makers, corporate executives, academics, youth, media, and civil society representatives from countries in the Arab World and beyond to exchange their experiences, lessons and ideas on how to create millions of jobs by exploiting new sources and sectors of growth.”

Key topics to be discussed will include: how to scale-up opportunities for women and youth by promoting entrepreneurship and innovation; embracing transparency and technology to unlock the region’s potential; and designing government policies that act as enablers of higher and more inclusive growth.

Plans advancing for China-Africa Investment Forum in Morocco. More than 400 high-level Chinese and African business leaders and investment officials will gather for the second China-Africa Investment Forum to be held in Marrakech in late November. The goal of the Forum is to provide a platform for business meetings between trade and investment leaders in Africa and China to develop sustainable partnerships with high added value, particularly in the industrial sector.

In addition to presentations and discussions, there will be practical workshops to provide “insights and keys to understanding Chinese and African economic policies and operational environments.”

The Ibn Battuta Festival explores humanistic themes. This November, hundreds of participants will gather in Tangier to discuss how to promote global peace and mutual tolerance. This second edition of the International Festival of Ibn Battuta, “attempts to find answers to some of the most difficult questions of modern times revolving around intolerance and religion,” according to a blog in the Times of India. Ibn Battuta, regarded as the father of sociology for his commentaries on the societies and cultures he experienced traveling across Africa and Asia in the 14th century, explored the themes of peace and social development in his writings.

The blog notes that although philosophical and conceptual themes will dominate the agenda, economic ties are also part of the conversations, as there is much to be gained from stronger trade and investment ties, particularly between Asia and Africa.

New education and training facilities will open this academic year. Following up on the government’s pledge to do more to accommodate the increased number of university students, Minister of National Education Mohamed Hassad announced that three new university facilities will open this year: the Faculty of Law, Economic, and Social Sciences in Tetouan; the School of Technology (EST) in Kenitra; and the School of Technology in Sidi Bennour.

In addition, the Minister announced that his ministry will add 6,140 additional beds by this September to make up for the shortfall on campuses, and that four university campuses will open, in Nador, Safi, Agadir, and Meknes.

In the vocational/technical training sector, 29 new facilities will be inaugurated during the year, 22 of them to be part of the government-run training centers. This includes 796 new trainers. Vocational training institutions will also increase their capacity with the establishment of three new boarding schools, particularly for trainees from rural or disadvantaged areas.

Hotels, hotels, everywhere you travel. Morocco’s Vision 2020 goal to be in the top 20  destinations worldwide by 2020 is getting a big boost from the international hotel industry.

Hotelier Middle East spoke with Hilton development director, Middle East & North Africa Feras Hasbini, who sees huge potential for both business and leisure tourism in Morocco. “The country, which is poised to become an important African economic hub, benefits from a well-developed infrastructure that links the major cities, tourist destinations, and airports. It is also ideally located close to Europe, making it a popular destination for European tourists,” he told the magazine.

Hilton is a great example of the ongoing trend. “It re-established a presence in Morocco in March 2016 with the successful opening of Hilton Garden Inn Tangier City Center. In June 2017, it opened a second hotel in the country, Hilton Tangier City Center, and earlier this year, signaled its intention to ramp up expansion in North Africa with the establishment of a dedicated development department in Casablanca. According to Hasbini, the hotel giant sees great opportunity to further its presence in Morocco and already has a number of properties in the pipeline including Hilton Garden Inn Casablanca Sidi Maarouf and Hilton Taghazout Bay Resort & Spa.”

Similar investments are being made by Marriott International,  which opened Fes Marriott Hotel Jnan Palace. The hotel represents the chain’s entry into Morocco and Marriott International’s first property in the city of Fes. Marriott International Middle East and Africa president and managing director Alex Kyriakidis said, “We are thrilled to be opening our first Marriott Hotel in Morocco and we believe the property will play a significant role in catering to the desires of business and leisure tourists alike. Marriott is committed to the North African market, and our rapid expansion demonstrates our belief in the continent’s booming economies.”

The article provides extensive details on what US and European firms are targeting in the sector, noting that “while luxury hotels have set their sights on Morocco by focusing on the main cities of Marrakech, Casablanca, Agadir, Rabat, Tangier and El Jadida, there is still a need for branded budget and mid-market hotels.”

One solution is to attract the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events) sector during the low tourist season, a strategy that is part of the Vision 2020 plan, which supports efforts to develop the MICE infrastructure in Morocco.

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Categories: The moroccan press

North Africa and the Birth of the US Navy – David S. Bloom

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 21:02

USS Enterprise fighting the Tripolitan polacca Tripoli by William Bainbridge Hoff, 1878. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

David S. Bloom
August 23, 2017

David Bloom, Director of Research and Policy Analysis

Many people already know that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States, on December 20, 1777, while it was still in the throes of the revolutionary war. Less well known is the fact that this act of recognition was but a small chapter in the long and complicated story of one of America’s first global entanglements–which ultimately led to the birth of the US Navy. As the fledgling United States tried to cope with complicated relations with the European powers, it also had to contend with Mediterranean pirates from Africa’s northern coast as it attempted to emerge as a prominent global trader—a conflict that eventually led to the Barbary wars.

State-supported piracy was rife along Africa’s northern coast and many European powers found it expedient to simply pay tribute to the Barbary States (which included political entities based in modern-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya) rather than commit military resources to protect their ships. Before independence, vessels from the colonial states were protected by British treaties with the Barbary States and by the British navy.

Laureys a Castro – A Sea Fight with Barbary Corsairs. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

After the US became independent, however, “British diplomats were quick to inform the Barbary States that US ships were open to attack,” and warships from Algiers were “encouraged” to seize American merchant ships and hold their crews hostage. These attacks were meant to elicit negotiations and eventual tribute payments from the US, which quickly established a commission—led by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson—to negotiate treaties with Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.

Meanwhile, the Emperor of Morocco, Sidi Mohammed had “learned about the American colonies’ struggle for independence through the French consul assigned to Morocco and via European newspapers.” He is said to have admired their success in fighting the British, whom he reportedly disliked, and on December 20, 1777, he included them on a list of countries welcome in Moroccan ports and thereby recognizing the newly independent United States as a sovereign country. The US was slow to respond to this overture, however, as it was busy fighting its revolutionary war and devoting its foreign efforts to finding support from the major European powers.

It wasn’t until 1787 that the US and Morocco negotiated a rare treaty that obligated no US tribute payments. At the end of 1789, President George Washington penned a letter to the Emperor of Morocco, which he called “our great and magnanimous Friend,” to express thanks for Morocco’s successful engagement with the US:

“The Encouragement which your Majesty has been pleased, generously, to give to our Commerce with your Dominions; the Punctuality with which you have caused the Treaty with us to be observed…make a deep Impression on the United States, and confirm their Respect for, and Attachment to your Imperial Majesty.”

The rest of the Barbary Coast, however, proved to be much more hostile. In 1786, John Adams was becoming frustrated with his negotiations with Algiers, as Algiers was not as understanding as Morocco of the US’s financial difficulties. Adams was disturbed that the US needed to devote resources to forging peace with a country it hadn’t even been involved with, and that paying the requested tribute would have required fresh loans from Holland.

Map by Jan Janssonius. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

After several years of failure to complete treaties with Algiers and Tripoli—or to secure lasting protection from European powers—the US began to consider creating a naval force to protect US commerce, a subject which had been controversial at the time. Secretary of War Henry Knox eventually called for building a navy specifically to punish the Barbary States. In 1794, Congress passed the Act to Provide Naval Armament, legislating the building of six frigates. Still, a stipulation required that construction be halted upon approval of a peace treaty with Algiers, demonstrating the limited scope of this new naval force in the eyes of the US Government.

Despite this limited intent, the construction and development of the US Navy, spurred by these complicated entanglements in North Africa, put the US in a much better position for its later naval battles. These conflicts demonstrated to the hesitant US Government that a standing Navy was a necessity and prepared it for the larger battles to come. Besides the Barbary Wars, the nascent US Navy would clash with France in the Quasi-War (where it engaged French forces in the Caribbean from 1798-1800), and of course with England in the War of 1812. By then, the US Navy was well on its way to becoming a preeminent force on the seas, having honed its skills in the Mediterranean and built three world-class frigates (the USS Constitution, President, and United States).

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Categories: The moroccan press

King Mohammed VI: Africa is a Top Priority for Morocco

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 16:50

Washington, DC, August 21, 2017 (MACP) – In a speech to the nation on Sunday, King Mohammed VI reaffirmed Morocco’s commitment to Africa as a top priority. The speech marked the 64th anniversary of the King and People’s Revolution Day, which commemorates the exile of Morocco’s Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Yusef by French colonial powers – a move that proved to be a turning point in Moroccan’s mobilization for independence.

“Thanks to its spontaneous popular character, and the values of sacrifice and loyalty underpinning it, it inspired liberation movements in the Maghreb and across Africa,” said the King. “It also increased awareness of the destiny Morocco shares with the rest of the African continent, as reflected by the common struggle for freedom and independence.”

King Mohammed VI outlined his country’s long history of participation in African initiatives and organizations, most recently Morocco’s return to the African Union this year, and the agreement in principle to Morocco’s request to join the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS).

“Morocco’s commitment to – and interest in – Africa are by no means a coincidence; nor are they the result of transient considerations,” said the King, who has made more than 50 visits to over 29 African countries, 14 of them since October 2016. “They reflect a sense of loyalty to a shared history and illustrate our firm belief that ours is a common destiny.”

 The King noted that Morocco’s Africa policy has directly and positively impacted consideration of the Western Sahara at the African Union and therefore revived the United Nations process to examine the issue with a focus on realism and use Morocco’s autonomy proposal as a framework for discussion, as confirmed by the most recent UN Secretary General report and the Security Council resolution adopted last April.

 “Whereas 2016 was the year of resolve and intransigence,” said the King, “2017 has been the year of clarity and of a return to the standards and principles for the settlement of the artificial dispute over the Moroccan-ness of the Sahara. This firm, unambiguous policy has helped put the process back on the right track…be it in terms of commitment to the frame of reference for a settlement, the appreciation of the autonomy proposal as a negotiating framework, or the determination of the legal and political responsibilities of the real party concerned in this regional dispute.”

Under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations, and with broad bipartisan support in the US Congress, US policy has continued to support resolving the conflict based on a formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. Both Congress and the Bush and Obama Administrations have also repeatedly called Morocco’s Autonomy Initiative “serious, realistic, and credible.”

“King Mohammed VI clearly understands the power of Africa and is wisely preparing his African country to help make the next great era an African century,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “His decision is based on the long term strategic interests of Morocco and its commitment to the African continent, and not for short term gain.”

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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 Marks Commitment to Africa in National Address – Jean R. AbiNader

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 22:01

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 21, 2017

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

August 20 is the day Morocco marks Revolution of the King and People Day, commemorating the 1953 exile by the French colonial authorities of King Mohammed VI’s grandfather, King Mohammed V. The exile is considered the beginning of the modern independence struggle that was successful in restoring Moroccan independence in 1956.

The King chose to focus in this year’s speech on Morocco’s history in Africa, and its commitment to the continent and its future. He noted that beyond the “common struggle for freedom and independence” at that time, today, “The aim is to achieve the shared development and prosperity all African peoples are yearning for.”

This theme of solidarity and shared future has been a consistent focus of the King’s economic and diplomatic outreach on the continent, based on a strong belief that Africa must be in control of its destiny and act for all its peoples. He insisted that Morocco’s commitments “Reflect a sense of loyalty to a shared history and illustrate our firm belief that ours is a common destiny. They are the result of profound, realistic reflection which is itself governed by a long-term, strategic vision and a gradual, consensual approach.”

King Mohammed VI has proactively demonstrated Morocco’s commitment to Africa “Substantiated by more than fifty visits to over 29 countries – 14 of which I have visited since October 2016. That policy is also aimed at serving shared interests through solidarity-based, win-win partnerships.” Morocco has signed hundreds of economic, technical, and cultural agreements with its Africa counterparts, supports thousands of sub-Saharan Africa students in Moroccan universities, and has provided humanitarian and peace-keeping support in times of crisis and upheaval.

Photo: MAP

A key result of these efforts has been “Morocco’s return to the African Union and…the agreement in principle to Morocco’s request to join the Economic Commission of West African States.” No small feat, considering the “obstacles thrown in our way…This achievement attests to our African brothers’ and sisters’ perception of Morocco as a credible player – one whom they hold in high esteem.”

The King’s personal commitment to Africa has been mirrored in the growing network of institutional, organizational, and business ties between Morocco and other African states. He is greatly concerned with the “continent’s progress and the services provided to African citizens,” and emphatically noted, “We are currently in the process of building an Africa that believes in itself, is committed to solidarity and rallies behind concrete projects while being open to its surroundings.” This emphasis on ”concrete projects” reflects many initiatives in Africa over the last 15 years, ranging from agricultural programs and transportation infrastructure, health, and educational facilities, to financial and technical assistance agreements, among others.

The King clearly delineated the nature of Morocco’s long-term presence in Africa. “I have opted for a policy based on solidarity and for balanced partnerships grounded in mutual respect and the fulfilment of African peoples’ shared interests. Morocco has never engaged in influence peddling. Instead, it has opted to put its expertise and know-how at the disposal of its African brothers and sisters. Money comes and goes, unlike knowledge and skills; it is these that help meet people’s needs.”

Regarding the Western Sahara conflict, which remains controversial with some African neighbors, the King noted that “International support for the autonomy proposal has continued, as illustrated by the growing number of states which have withdrawn their recognition of the fictional entity and by the legal settlement concerning Morocco’s economic partnership with a number of influential powers.”

From his speech, it is clear that King Mohammed VI has a comprehensive and strategic vision for Morocco in Africa; and he has worked hard to make it a reality. It is based on a shared destiny, common struggle, mutually beneficial relationships, and shared values and principles that will best serve the people of Morocco and Africa and the progress of the continent.

The post King Mohammed VI Marks Commitment to Africa in National Address – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Full Text of King Mohammed VI’s Speech on 64th Anniversary of Revolution of King and People

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 15:24

On August 20, 2017, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI addressed the following speech to the nation on the occasion of the 64th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People:

Dear Citizens,

The Revolution of the King and the people, the 64th anniversary of which we are celebrating this year, is more than a national, epic event which brought together a valiant king and a resolute people, seeking Morocco’s independence and the reinstatement of its legitimate leader.

It is a bright chapter in the life of the nation. Its impact and influence reached far beyond the country’s borders and deep into Africa.

Thanks to its spontaneous, popular character, and the values of sacrifice and loyalty underpinning it, it inspired liberation movements in the Maghreb and across Africa.

It also increased awareness of the destiny Morocco shares with the rest of the African continent, as reflected by the common struggle for freedom and independence and, later on, by the founding of independent African states committed to respecting state sovereignty as well as the countries’ national unity and territorial integrity.

This solidarity-based endeavor is continuing today. The aim is to achieve the shared development and prosperity all African peoples are yearning for.

Given the values underpinning that glorious revolution we are commemorating today, it is hardly a surprise that, ever since it gained independence, Morocco has adopted unwavering stances as well as concrete measures in favor of Africa, such as:

• participation in the first peacekeeping operation in the Congo, in 1960;

• the hosting of the first meeting of the African development committee, in Tangier, the same year;

• the setting up, under the 1961 government, of the first Ministry of African Affairs, to back liberation movements.

These earnest efforts for the benefit of African peoples culminated in the 1961 Casablanca Conference, which laid the groundwork for the creation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

Therefore, Morocco’s commitment to defending Africa’s causes and interests is not new. It reflects a standard policy consistently carried out by my ancestors, and which I have been proudly and confidently pursuing.

Dear Citizens,

Morocco’s commitment to – and interest in – Africa are by no means a coincidence; nor are they the result of transient considerations. They reflect a sense of loyalty to a shared history and illustrate our firm belief that ours is a common destiny.

They are the result of profound, realistic reflection which is itself governed by a long-term, strategic vision and a gradual, consensual approach.

Our African policy is based on a thorough understanding of African realities, substantiated by more than fifty visits to over 29 countries – 14 of which I have visited since October 2016. That policy is also aimed at serving shared interests through solidarity-based, win-win partnerships.

This tangible policy is best illustrated by the flagship development projects launched, like the Nigeria-Morocco Atlantic gas pipeline project, the construction of fertilizer plants in Ethiopia and Nigeria as well as human development projects designed to improve the living conditions of African citizens, such as the creation of healthcare facilities, vocational training institutions and fishermen’s villages.

As a result of this successful policy, we have managed to strengthen our economic partnerships, ensure Morocco’s return to the African Union and secure the agreement in principle to our request to join the Economic Commission of West African States.

Morocco’s reintegration into the pan-African organization marks a diplomatic watershed moment in our country’s foreign policy.

This major accomplishment, as part of our African policy, was secured despite the obstacles thrown in our way by certain parties. This achievement attests to our African brothers’ and sisters’ perception of Morocco as a credible player – one whom they hold in high esteem.

Following this historic event, I wish to reiterate my thanks and appreciation to all African countries which stood by us – and even those which did not. I am sure the latter will change their position, once they realize the sincerity of our endeavors.

Although our return to the African organization is a highly significant event, it is not an end in itself. Africa was and always will be a top priority for us. What matters, above all, is the continent’s progress and the services provided to African citizens.

As for those who neglect Africa, play down its importance, do not care about its causes or engage in influence peddling, that is their problem, and theirs alone.

As far as Morocco is concerned, Africa is the future. And the future starts today.

Whoever thinks that we did what we did solely to return to the African Union, well, let me simply say they do not know me.

Now is the time for action. And Morocco keenly looks forward to continuing the efforts it has been exerting in Africa for more than fifteen years.

I should point out, in this regard, that Morocco’s return to its African organization will not affect its solid bilateral relations with African nations, nor mutually agreed development programs.

Reintegration into the AU is but the start of a new era of joint action with all African countries in order to build a genuine, solidarity-based partnership, ensure – together – our continent’s development and meet the needs of African citizens.

We are currently in the process of building an Africa that believes in itself, is committed to solidarity and rallies behind concrete projects while being open to its surroundings.

It is this comprehensive vision that led the Kingdom to apply officially to join the Economic Commission of West African States.

I should like, in this respect, to express my thanks to the leaders of ECOWAS Member Countries for agreeing in principle to Morocco’s request to become a full-fledged member.

ECOWAS is a natural extension of the AU. By joining both institutions, Morocco will contribute to economic prosperity and human development on the continent.

This is a historic political decision and a milestone in the endeavors made towards African integration, which can only be achieved through regional blocs, for the latter have become crucial players in international affairs.

Within ECOWAS, the Kingdom of Morocco will seek to lay down the foundations for genuine African integration that serves the continent and fulfils its peoples’ aspirations for development and for a dignified life, in an environment characterized by unity, security and stability.

Dear Citizens,

I have opted for a policy based on solidarity and for balanced partnerships grounded in mutual respect and the fulfilment of African peoples’ shared interests.

Morocco has never engaged in influence peddling. Instead, it has opted to put its expertise and know-how at the disposal of its African brothers and sisters. Money comes and goes, unlike knowledge and skills; it is these that help meet people’s needs.

African peoples understand that. They seek our cooperation and our support for their efforts in many fields – not the other way round.

They also realize that we are keen to build fruitful partnerships with them, based on well thought-out investment and development programs involving the public and private sectors in the countries concerned.

As for those who know the truth, but spread unfounded allegations to the effect that Morocco is spending huge sums of money on Africa instead of devoting those resources to Moroccans, they care little about the country’s interests.

The focus on Africa will not affect our stances, nor will it be at the expense of our national priorities. In fact, it will bring added value to our national economy and will deepen and consolidate our relations with African nations.

Our African policy has had a direct, positive impact on the question of our territorial integrity, be it with regard to states’ positions or the resolutions adopted by the African Union.

This, in turn, has given fresh momentum to the examination of this question at the United Nations Organization.

Whereas 2016 was the year of resolve and intransigence, during which we matched action with words to thwart the schemes designed to impinge on our rights, 2017 has been the year of clarity and of a return to the standards and principles for the settlement of the artificial dispute over the Moroccanness of the Sahara.

This firm, unambiguous policy has helped put the process back on the right track, thereby halting the plots designed to divert it into the unknown.

This was confirmed by the UN Secretary-General’s report as well as the Security Council resolution adopted last April, be it in terms of commitment to the frame of reference for a settlement, the appreciation of the autonomy proposal as a negotiating framework, or the determination of the legal and political responsibilities of the real party concerned in this regional dispute.

The proactive, composed and firm manner in which we settled the Guerguerat crisis thwarted the efforts to change the facts on the ground in our Sahara and helped put to rest the myth of the ‘liberated territories’ peddled by Morocco’s enemies.

In parallel with these developments, international support for the autonomy proposal has continued, as illustrated by the growing number of states which have withdrawn their recognition of the fictional entity and by the legal settlement concerning Morocco’s economic partnership with a number of influential powers.

Dear Citizens,

The 20th August Revolution is more than just a landmark event in Morocco’s history. That event reverberated across the Maghreb and the rest of Africa as well.

We need to draw inspiration today from the values of sacrifice, loyalty and generosity underpinning that event so as to continue to be torchbearers of that revolution, domestically and continentally.

By upholding those values and principles and promoting collective action, we shall be able to rise to the intricate challenges we are facing and thus achieve comprehensive development and enhance the security and stability the peoples in the region are yearning for.

I should like, in this respect, to praise the serious work and effective action undertaken by the Moroccan diplomatic service to defend the country’s best interests, enhance its credibility and increase its influence at the regional, continental and international levels.

Dear Citizens,

I remember, with reverence and emotion, the anniversary of the Royal family’s exile in Madagascar – a country I visited last year.

I saw the sincerity of the Malgasy people’s esteem and affection for the Royal family. There were emotional memories and recollections of human bonds with members of the Royal family, despite the hardships of exile and of life so far away from the homeland.

It is with deep reverence that I wish to honor the memory of our esteemed martyrs, particularly my beloved grandfather, His Majesty King Mohammed V, and his comrade-in-arms, my revered father, His Majesty King Hassan II. May they rest in peace.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Set to Host International Conferences on Aviation and Sustainable Development; Announces Large Scale Infrastructure and Renewable Energy Projects; and Looks Ahead to Building its Agricultural Sector – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 18:12

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
August 18, 2017

Several international conferences have announced plans for events in Morocco. Key transportation, ports, and highway projects have been announced, as well as further investments in urban development, desalination/solar energy initiatives, and agricultural sector improvements.

Upcoming conferences. The Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) Conference, will hold a one-day conference on September 11 in Marrakech. It has announced a full roster of speakers, demonstrations, and topics related to business aviation in the region, such as cyber security, aircraft financing and investment, market trends, and ownership options. Representing Morocco will be the Minister of Tourism, Mohammed Sajid and Zouair El Aoufir, CEO of the Office Nationale des Aeroports (ONDA).

According to Ali Alnaqbi, Executive Chairman of MEBAA, “The event will provide the attendees with an invaluable insights into many key areas of the industry, while also identifying opportunities for growth. Attendees will leave with a deeper understanding of the market and the tools to grow their businesses in conjunction with the burgeoning market.” The MEBAA Conference will be followed by the MEBAA Show Morocco, a two-day event at Marrakech Menara Airport.

The 7th Digital Earth Summit 2018, which focuses on Digital Earth for Sustainable Development in Africa, will be held in El Jadida, Morocco, at the Faculty of Science, Chouaib Douakkali University, from 17-19 April 2018. This conference will be one of the major events in the international community of Earth observation and geo-spatial information science in 2018.

The conference is being organized by the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE) and the Chouaib Douakkali University (UCD)  in partnership with the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE)  and the Moroccan Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (MARSE). Its objective is to bring together scientists and professionals from the international and African community to present recent achievements, discuss challenges, and share experiences. In addition to experts, reports on research outcomes, and discussions on operational topics, such as capacity building, Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), big data, space policy, programs, and projects, there will be commercial exhibitions showing the latest products and services in Digital Earth and geospatial information technologies.

Large scale projects take center stage. Abengoa, a Spanish energy services company, has signed an agreement with the Moroccan government to build a solar powered seawater desalination plant, essential for meeting the country’s growing demand for potable water, near the metropolitan tourist area of Agadir. Once completed, the plant is expected to start producing close to 275,000 cubic meters of water per day – 150,000 for food consumption and 125,000 for irrigating the 13,600 hectares of commercial farms near Agadir, with a goal of a maximum capacity of 450,000 cubic meters per day. Abengoa will be responsible for the development, construction, and maintenance of the plant for at least 27 years.

On the agricultural front, Morocco has allocated $2.3 billion to projects promoting the use of solar energy in agricultural production. According to Energy Minister Aziz Rabbah, the project is meant to boost the use of solar energy in pumping water, and to curb the consumption of butane gas. The solar energy will come from the Noor solar facility in Ouarzazate.
With an average consumption of 3.8 cubic meters of water per person per day, including agriculture and industrial use, the Abengoa plant will be able to cover the needs of nearly 72,500 people.

In other agricultural news, the General Directorate of Agriculture of Laayoune announced that $270 million will be spent on 92 agricultural projects in the Laayoune-Sakia-El Hamra region from 2016-2020. The allocations cover land reclamation, irrigation, water management, fertilizer utilization, demonstration projects, and similar initiatives to strengthen and modernize the agricultural sector in those areas.

Minister of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests Aziz Akhannouch recently reviewed the progress of agricultural projects in Draa, Todgha, Maider, Aliat Draa, and Bani, where some $190 million in projects, benefiting some 88,000 people is moving ahead. The projects cover date crop production, olive groves, almonds, aromatic plants, saffron, apple, henna, figs, and garlic, in addition to red meat and beekeeping. These efforts are part of various phases of the Plan Vert Maroc, the national strategy for agriculture and fisheries.

Highway construction projects move ahead. In the metropolitan area around Casablanca, perhaps the most congested in the country, a budget of almost $160 million has been allocated to highway widening projects to reduce congestion by adding additional lanes between Casablanca and Settat and Berrechid, to its south. Meanwhile, more than $75 million has been allocated to the construction of 112 miles of roads in the province of Al Hoceima, as part of the regional development plan. A report from the African Development Bank noted that it has provided some $2 billion over 20 years to support the transportation sector in Morocco.

Safi port development gathers steam. The new port of Safi is slated to be one of the largest in Morocco, and will have a great economic impact on the province, known primarily as a leading producer of ceramics. The port, to be built at a cost of some $420 million, will enable the Marrakech-Safi region to reach international markets more quickly and efficiently

And speaking of Marrakech. The municipal government recently announced that it will pioneer the use of electrical buses in Morocco. It is anticipated that replacing the current diesel-powered fleet will reduce pollution and noise, and enhance the urban transportation system. The goal is to have buses operating by the end of September.

 

The post Business Brief: Morocco Set to Host International Conferences on Aviation and Sustainable Development; Announces Large Scale Infrastructure and Renewable Energy Projects; and Looks Ahead to Building its Agricultural Sector – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Takes on Challenges of Gas and Oil Shale Exploration – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 15:15

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 17, 2017

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

Morocco is moving judiciously to ensure a balance between environmental concerns and prospective economic benefits as it approaches opportunities to exploit gas and oil shale­­ for badly needed energy. The UK company, Sound Energy recently announced that it had found commercial quantities of gas in the interior of Morocco, noting that oil and gas shale prospects were also worth considering. The company, in conjunction with its Moroccan partner, has received approval to build a transit pipeline from its sites in L’Oriental province to link into the existing Gazoduc Maghreb Europe (GME) pipeline. While traditional gas drilling technology is being used at this stage, the company believes that the possible use of shale technologies should be considered as Morocco strives to meet its national energy goals.

It is a bit of an irony that the gas and oil shale that are emerging as the first targets of opportunity are located in an undeveloped region with high levels of poverty, similar in terms of economic profiles to fields in the US in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. An article posted at equaltimes.org, describes the area in vivid terms. “Morocco’s eastern steppe is comprised of sparsely populated, immense plateaus with scant vegetation. The poverty in this region is endemic, affecting 28.5 per cent of the inhabitants, a level three times higher than in the rest of the country, according to the official figures published by the statistics office of the High Planning Commission. Desertification and persistent poverty constitute major risks for the way of life of the last remaining nomads in the province.”

The article goes on to describe the ambivalence among some of the locals towards the gas discovery. Despite the great poverty, “this population is by no means thrilled about the recent discovery of a gas field.” One issue is that locals have heard since 1966 that prosperity tied to potential gas finds was just around the corner. Gas prospecting has been going on in the area since the 1960s, and until now, the volume of gas found was not commercially viable. This shifted in April 2016, when Sound Energy and its Moroccan partner, Oil & Gas Investment Fund (OGIF) received a permit and were soon reporting gas in potentially commercial quantities.

“Morocco has 900,000 square kilometers of sedimentary basin with a high gas potential, and yet barely half of that has been seriously explored,” said previous Energy Minister, Abdelkader Amara, during the 2014 Morocco Oil & Gas Summit. As a result of Morocco’s proactive energy incentives to change that, there are now 32 companies with exploration permits, some of which are expecting promising results.

While new exploration is feeding hopes of an economic upturn that would help to address the migration of youth to nearby urban areas, the traditional lifestyle tied to grazing and sedentary agriculture will be impacted, and must be taken into consideration, according to local NGOs.

As one local official noted, “We know these discoveries will not change the region overnight. Our neglected towns and villages are, above all, in need of basic infrastructure.” For example, fully a quarter of the 400 inhabitants of Maâtarka, a small village, live under the poverty line, the health clinic has no running water, and the village school opens only intermittently.

Similar villages in the region have fallen into neglect and been abandoned. This feeds a very high rate of youth unemployment. The column notes that “Despite the huge needs in these villages, the hopes of gas being discovered are tempered by fears of the environmental consequences of this activity on land that is fragile.”

The government’s position is quite clear. A public document makes no secret of the government’s desire to utilize these potential energy resources. But it has also made clear that it recognizes the importance of protecting a fragile environment. The government and Sound Energy have held public meetings to explain that no licenses have been issued at this time for fracking or other controversial non-conventional gas prospecting methods. Sound Energy, proceeding with conventional gas exploitation, is operating “in compliance with all the country’s environment standards,” and is committed to the economic development of the area beyond the gas fields. It expects to make an announcement in 2018 regarding potential gas supplies, with production activities commencing the following year.

This is especially critical for Morocco, which currently imports more than 95% of its energy needs, and is making huge investments in solar, wind, hydro, and other technologies. With a growing population, energy demand will continue to challenge the country’s capacity to meet its energy needs without a robust and diversified energy sector.

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Categories: The moroccan press

The Maroc Talk Podcast

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 22:52
Welcome to the Maroc Talk Podcast. Follow this space for news, discussion, and interviews on Morocco:

Maroc Talk 8.16.17: Leila Hanafi on Regional Reform and Women’s Rights

Maroc Talk 8.2.17: Talking about Throne Day 2017

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Categories: The moroccan press

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