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

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 15:44

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The post Business Brief: Morocco’s Success in Rejoining African Union Strengthens Commercial Role in Africa; and Rural Development in the Spotlight – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

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

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 15:47

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

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

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

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

 

“Praise be to God

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

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

Distinguished Heads of State and Government,

Honourable Chairperson of the Commission,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A family we had not really left!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moroccan forces are still present today in CAR and DRC.

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

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

We are proud to see history has proved us right.

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

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

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

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

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

Thank you for your kind attention.

Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Rejoins African Union with Overwhelming Majority of AU Member Votes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

The post Morocco Rejoins African Union with Overwhelming Majority of AU Member Votes appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

The post Mississippi State University, International University of Rabat Honored by Institute of International Education for Innovative Partnership Program appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

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

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 18:00

António Guterres. Photo: United States Mission Geneva

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

Promoting Conflict Prevention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco See Gains in International Business Ties; Tourism Sector Faces a Shake-up – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 17:17

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 24, 2017

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

Although 2016 was not a bad year for Morocco, key indicators look like 2017 will show significant growth in important sectors including agricultural, financial services, manufacturing, and tourism. Although the government agency responsible for tourism development has come under criticism, private leisure and recreation developers and promoters continue to post good results. Bilateral ties with Pakistan are showing improvement, and so is Morocco’s overall profile to international investors.

African Business Magazine gives Morocco a thumbs-up. In a recent overview of business prospects in North Africa, the magazine gives Morocco high marks for its outreach to sub-Saharan Africa via economic diplomacy. The article describes Morocco’s special status: “Morocco is the big exception [to the lack of North-South investments in Africa], banking on growth across the entire continent to help fuel its own development. Rabat calculates that 85% of Morocco’s foreign direct investment goes to sub-Saharan Africa, with Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon the top three destinations.”

It goes on to say that “If anything, Morocco is likely to become more prominent as an entrepôt for African investment over the next few years. Tanger Med, one of the African continent’s most important container ports, already serves as a transshipment port for trade between Europe, Asia and North America but is likely to become increasingly valued as a dropping off point for cargo bound to and from West Africa’s modernising ports over the next few years.”

Of particular significance is Morocco’s activity in the banking sector, where Attijariwafa and Banque Centrale Populaire have taken leadership roles in investing in the local banking sector. The opening of Islamic finance in Morocco presents other opportunities to attract investors and consumers in Central and West Africa, where the sector is underserved. The Gulf partners of the Moroccan banks in the Islamic ventures name Morocco’s reach into largely untapped African markets as a strong incentive for the tie-ups.

Of course, Morocco is fast becoming a model for renewable energy development in Africa. African Business Magazine noted that “Morocco and South Africa have been the two biggest investors in the CSP sector in the world over the past two years and appear to be driving each other on in competition to develop CSP technology that can be exported to many different markets. Companies from the two countries are competing for influence in a growing number of sectors.”

Morocco’s economic strategy, led by King Mohammed VI, reflects the reality that growth opportunities in Africa are immensely attractive as EU markets have slowed. As one analyst mentioned in the article put it, “Morocco has banked its economic strategy on trade with the European Union but the EU is stagnating. African growth prospects over the next ten or 20 years are much bigger and so the government wants to add a second string to its bow: looking north to Europe and south to Africa at the same time. It’s a no brainer.” And while the magazine did look at Tunisia’s and Egypt’s interest in pursuing business in Africa, the article concluded that they had much to learn from Morocco’s leadership in building ties with the continent.

Tourism Agency faulted for passive promotional efforts. According to multiple sources, despite the uptick in tourism in Morocco in 2016, little of the progress is due to the efforts of the agency responsible for tourism development, SMIT. While the Ministry of Tourism is responsible for promotional efforts, SMIT is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the government’s role in building, sustaining, and incentivizing private sector participation in the industry.

The chief criticism from the Court of Auditors is that SMIT has an outdated business model, relying more on selling real estate than innovative and creative leadership in providing for-pay consulting and engineering services in the tourism sector. The Auditors said that “The SMIT should develop a genuine and marketable tourism engineering and consulting trade, since it is the only way to allow it an independent survival from the land sales and State subsidies.”

It also noted that SMIT has the personnel in place to implement these types of services but was not aggressive in reaching out, relying instead of government support. In addition, it recommended that the agency work more proactively to solicit investors for the tourism sector, as it has the expertise and the strategic mandate to take the lead in this effort on behalf of the government.

Islamic finance leaders to converge on Morocco. More than 250 financial institutions, analysts, company and Islamic advisory council leaders, and experts will join together in July for a conference in Marrakech. The theme of the 2017 Edition of the Islamic Business Forum Network Series is “The potential of an Islamic Economy for Entrepreneurs and Business in Africa.”

The importance of Islamic finance on the continent is critical to generating new pathways for investment and support for entrepreneurs. Under Islamic financial principles, risk and profit sharing are keys to relationships between lenders and recipients, because they entrepreneurs to attract investors through equity participation.

The convener, Imam AbdulRasheed Abubakar, the President of the African Islamic Economic Policy Foundation (AFRIEPF) said, “It’ll also focus on Islamic banking and finance, halal travel, tourism and lifestyle space, halal food and digital Islamic services. It’s going be a platform to assess the potential and challenges of Islamic economy and its development in Africa.”

Morocco builds stronger ties to Ghana, Pakistan. As an outcome of King Mohammed VI’s visit to Ghana, there was a MOU signed to harmonize trade on the stock exchanges of the two countries. In addition to giving investors in both countries access to each others’ markets, it also enable traders to have full, transparent dealings in either country. Tying together the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE) with other exchanges on the continent has been a consistent feature of the king’s visits. By linking markets and opening cross-border investments in equities, both countries will benefit from increased participation of investors.

Karim Hajji, the head of CSE, mentioned during a visit to Ghana that “You need also to harmonize listing rules among markets to facilitate listing. That is why we are here to sign an agreement with the Ghana Securities and Exchange Commission to harmonize listing rules and other relevant procedures.” From the Ghanian side, Kofi Yamoah, Managing Director added that “We should be able to have dealers across the various jurisdictions having access to all the securities that are listed in the entire West African Market and vice versa.” According to him, this will facilitate the easy access to various securities for investors across the region.

Pakistan was also a source of good business news for Morocco. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, exports to Morocco rose 81% in the third quarter of 2016 compared to 2015. Importantly, this represented the highest growth in exports to any country while Pakistan’s overall exports are declining. Pakistan has been aggressive in promoting its products in Morocco. In fact, Nadir Chaudhri, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Morocco said in a briefing, “Our mission has gone to every corner of Morocco for highlighting our products by holding trade and business road shows in every major city and I regularly meet and brief all the chambers of commerce and top importers and business leaders.” He mentioned that Morocco is a valued destination both for its domestic markets and as a platform for doing business in Africa.

In addition, the Moroccan Ambassador to Pakistan is working hard to make sure that this is not a one-way street. Ambassador Mohmed Karmoune recently visited the national trade office of Pakistan to meet with its newly elected officials and to strengthen plans for bilateral trade visits.

Ambassador Karmoune noted recent the increases in bilateral trade and encouraged the role of commercial delegations in mutual promotion efforts. Pakistan will host several trade festivals in key cities in Morocco in 2017 covering a range of products, and reciprocal visits are in the works by Moroccan companies and agencies.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Ambitious Polytechnic University is Latest Step for First-Class Higher Ed in Morocco – Jean AbiNader

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 19:48
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 19, 2017

King Mohammed VI officially inaugurated the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Benguerir on January 12, 2017. Photo: MAP.

Morocco’s higher education system is getting more sophisticated in addressing the need to create R&D facilities, as well as to link education to the global economy. Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, which King Mohammed VI inaugurated last week, is an integral part of this educational development and is the spearhead for building a comprehensive knowledge economy in the country. Located between Marrakech and Settat, the University is made up of an engineering school, the School of Industrial Management (EMINES), and a School of Governance, Economic Science, and Social Science located in Rabat. The Polytechnic has a research center for scientific and social research, promoting innovation and best practices, in cooperation with other Moroccan and international universities.

The Polytechnic University, initiated by King Mohammed VI, has been a special project of OCP, the country’s largest industry and world leader in phosphate mining and production of its derivatives. OCP is playing a major role in the King’s economic diplomacy on the African continent and has signed a number of bilateral agreements to enhance the production, distribution, and use of fertilizers and other phosphate derivatives tailored specifically for the continent.

On its website, OCP notes that research at the Polytechnic has two main components: a broad focus on industrial processes, in particular innovative industrial processes that lie at the heart of manufacturing added value – thus pivoting Morocco into a downstream leader in the global agricultural industry; and research into social, economic and political developments that affect human development. The research aims to develop insights into the impact of changes ongoing in Morocco’s political, economic, and social transformations, how this affects Moroccans, and the implications for public policy.

Consistent with Morocco’s goal to be a global leader in renewable and green energy projects, the Polytechnic buildings and infrastructure are environment-friendly and adapted to the local environment, including an ecology area. There are facilities for entertainment, cultural events, and recreation. It is the first campus of its kind in Africa, integrating green technologies and sensibilities across all components including the school for industrial management, a research center, student and faculty residences, a sports center, and a range of laboratory and testing facilities, all designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient.

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University is working with OCP and international partners such the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on research in water, agriculture and the environment; natural resources and food security; biotechnology and biomedical engineering; architecture, urbanism, and land use; industrial and chemical engineering; and renewable energy. The goal is to develop best practices and offer solutions to challenges facing the African continent.

The University, which will train Moroccan and foreign researchers and entrepreneurs, intends to promote higher education and applied research in Africa through partnerships with African universities, mainly at the post-graduate and doctoral levels.

The king is a keen advocate of improving education in Morocco. He supports a wide range of educational initiatives, from improved and market-oriented vocational and technical instruction in English and encouraging student exchanges, to instituting more science and technology courses in secondary schools and universities.  He has made it abundantly clear that Morocco’s national education policy must prepare citizens to be full and productive participants in a strong and growing economy, both at home and globally.  The Mohammed VI Polytechnic University is helping Moroccan – and African – students make great strides toward that goal.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Bloomberg again Names Morocco among 50 Most Innovative Economies in the World

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 19:39
Results Reflect Morocco’s Success in Implementing King Mohammed VI’s Vision for Modern, Growing Economy

Washington, DC, January 19, 2017 (MACP) — Morocco was again named among the 50 most innovative economies in the world and one of just two such economies in Africa by the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index released Tuesday.

The Index evaluated over 200 world economies before trimming the list to 78 that had data on at least six of seven factors: research and development (R&D) intensity, defined as research and development expenditure as a percentage of GDP; manufacturing value-added; productivity, defined as the GDP/GNI per employed person age 15+; high-tech density, capturing the proportion of domestically domiciled high-tech public companies such as aerospace and renewable energy companies; tertiary efficiency, reflecting enrollment in tertiary education; researcher concentration, or the percentage of the population involved in R&D; and patent activity per the population.

Morocco’s highest rankings were in the areas of R&D intensity, manufacturing value-added, and high-tech density, reflecting the North African country’s success in implementing its longtime strategy to develop its auto and aerospace manufacturing sectors, as well as its leadership in renewable energy development.

According to Morocco’s Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Morocco’s aeronautics industry has grown by a factor of six in just a decade, and today boasts 121 companies. In September 2016, the Kingdom and Seattle-based aerospace company Boeing announced plans to establish a Boeing industrial ecosystem in Morocco that will bring 120 Boeing suppliers to the country, create 8,200 skilled jobs, and generate $1 billion in exports. Meanwhile, Morocco is now home to the world’s largest solar power plant. Indeed the 2016 Climate Performance Index ranked Morocco among the top ten countries making the most progress in addressing climate change and number one among “newly industrialized countries,” citing the country’s commitment to generating 42% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. (This number was since raised to 52% by 2030.) And reflecting Morocco’s commitment to R&D, King Mohammed VI just last week inaugurated the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, a hub for research, training and innovation in Benguerir, Morocco.

The Bloomberg Index is also just one of many industry and business reports of recent years awarding Morocco high marks. In September last year, the World Bank’s 2017 “Doing Business” report ranked Morocco 68 out of 190 countries in ease of doing business—a two-spot gain over the previous year—making it number one in North Africa and fourth overall in the greater Middle East/North Africa region. KPMG International and Oxford Economics’ 2015 Change Readiness Index (CRI) ranked Morocco as the most “change-ready” country in the Maghreb, with particularly positive results in the category of “enterprise capability.” And in 2014, the Wall Street Journal’s Frontiers/FSG Frontier Markets Sentiment Index reported that Morocco is among the top ten frontier markets—and the only one in the Maghreb—most favored by foreign corporations.

“It’s no surprise that Morocco’s economy was ranked among the most innovative in the world,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “Under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco has been implementing an aggressive, long-term economic vision to enhance its business environment, improve citizens’ quality of life, and become an engine of growth and development in Africa.”

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Promoting Responsibility and Accountability in Morocco’s Security Services – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Wed, 01/18/2017 - 17:19
Caitlin Dearing Scott
January 18, 2017

A police station sign in Casablanca, Morocco. Photo: Holly Hayes on Flickr.

Starting last Wednesday, Moroccan police officers added a new element to their uniforms – a metal badge that makes it possible to identify them by both name and number. In a statement announcing the reform, the Directorate General of National Security (DGSN) stated that the goal of the uniform addition is to “increase transparency in the work of the national police services.” According to Jeune Afrique, “Bike police, intervention units, urban brigades, traffic officers, and border police will have specific uniforms, inspired by the same model.”

This latest move is part of a broader effort at police reform, initiated in 2015 under the leadership of Director of the DGSN Abdellatif Hammouchi, aiming to bring the security services closer to citizens, increase trust and address concerns of some of the populace about police behavior.

In September of last year, Morocco began requiring police officer’s helmets to be fitted with video cameras – both to fight corruption and to ensure that officers respect human rights. Security expert Mohammed Akdid, quoted in Deutsche Welle, noted that the cameras not only promote responsibility and accountability in the security services, but also help improve transparency and the image of the police.

Police reform is just one of the myriad reforms Morocco is undertaking to improve governance, advance democratization, and empower citizens. In the past year alone, Morocco adopted a new press code, passed a  law advancing the rights of domestic workers, and began implementing the second phase of a campaign to regularize illegal immigrants. These recent initiatives have added further momentum to Morocco’s evolutionary reform process.

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Categories: The moroccan press

HM the King Inaugurates Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Benguerir Green City | MAP

Thu, 01/12/2017 - 21:07

HM King Mohammed VI inaugurated, on Thursday in Benguerir Green City, the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, a hub for research, training and innovation, and a real bridgehead between Morocco, Africa and the world.

This world-class university is the core of the Mohammed VI green city of Benguerir, first city of its kind in the African continent to offer adapted infrastructure, an ecological zone, an organized social life and a lifestyle that promotes its inhabitants’ well-being, diversity and and social and cultural blossoming.

The next generation university has five founding principles: applied research, innovation and entrepreneurship, addressing Africa’s socio-economic development challenges, adopting a partnership approach, openness on the world with national focus, social equity and merit.

The university seeks, through well-targeted research programs (water, agriculture and environment, natural resources and food security, biotechnology and biomedical engineering, architecture, urbanism and territory development, industrial and chemical engineering and renewable energy), to bring answers to the main challenges facing the African continent as food security, economic development, sustainable industrialization and public policy.

The establishment, which adopts a teaching and research model based on innovation and experiments, hosts a number of facilities notably a school for industrial management, a research center, university residences, and a sports complex. All of them designed according to modern architecture in conformity with the concepts of sustainability and energy-saving and offering all conveniences necessary for students.

It includes also experimentation sites which are open to the scientific community and enable student-researchers from partner universities to test solutions at the real scale in key areas.

The Mohammed VI Polytechnic University offers its academic model regionally by gaining a foothold in several sites as in Casablanca through the Africa Business School, and in El Jadida and Safi as well as Laayoune via the Foum El Oued Technology Park.

The city of Rabat is hosting the faculty of governance and social and economic sciences which is aimed at training top executives on the management of public policies.

The Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, which will contribute to the training of Moroccan and foreign researchers and entrepreneurs, intends to promote higher education and applied research in Africa through partnerships with the African university fabric mainly in doctoral training.

The university possesses innovative education methods as online courses and contents using high-tech digital technologies and employs eminent Moroccan and foreign professors and researchers.

The institution, which is based on citizenship and responsibility, practices in its student admission process a policy of scholarships for academic excellence and social equality. It also offers grants of applied research projects for candidates bearing projects in the service of community. The university gets its revenues from research products, schooling fees and land-grant.

In line with the spirit of Smart City of the green city, the university’s building was awarded the international label of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a first in Morocco.

The inauguration ceremony was marked by the screening of an institutional movie on the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, with testimonies by Moroccan and foreign students, as well as professors.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco will be among Top Economic Performers in Africa in 2017 – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 01/10/2017 - 21:18

 

Moroccan Dirham. Photo: Martin Kalfatovic

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 10, 2017

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

J. Peter Pham, Vice President of the Atlantic Council and Director of its Africa Center, recently published a blog on the Center’s assessment of the continent’s economic prospects in 2017. It listed ten countries, both strong and weak performers, and Morocco is one of the stars. What Pham says about Morocco highlights why companies should take the country seriously as they think about growing their presence in Africa.

The first sector he addresses is energy. “Fresh off hosting the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change two months ago in Marrakech, Morocco continues to forge a role as an African—and, indeed, a global—leader on renewable energy. The kingdom is on track to meet more than 40 percent of its needs through renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, by 2020— which is an extraordinary turnaround given that just a few years ago the country was, according to the World Bank, the Middle East’s largest energy importer, depending on fossil fuels for over 97 percent of its energy.”

Even as Morocco builds its leadership role in renewables in Africa and the world, and despite depressed demand globally for hydrocarbons, international oil companies continue to show interest in Morocco, because of both business-friendly policies that encourage public-private partnerships and continued good news from exploration companies evaluating the country’s potential. Reports on recent deals by Chevron for blocks in several on and off-shore locations are strong indicators of what’s in store.

The blog goes on. “Moreover, in pursuit of the goal of making Morocco the commercial gateway to Africa as well as Africa’s bridge to Europe, King Mohammed VI has been busy implementing his strategy of making Africa the  ‘top priority’  of his foreign policy, with a string of official visits across Africa, including recent forays to Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, that have resulted in agreements for multibillion-dollar cross-investments in the agriculture, energy, and financial sectors, as well as the historic announcement last month of a Moroccan-Nigerian joint venture to build a gas pipeline to connect the two countries that will eventually link up to Europe.”

In the last year alone, King Mohammed VI has presided over the signing of more than 110 agreements with various countries in central, west, and east Africa, with more coming in the first six months of this year. Building on its expertise in bringing power, roads, and supporting infrastructure into rural area – and supported by internationally respected Moroccan companies and products – electrification, construction, social housing, and community development are the subjects of many of these agreements.

Morocco’s private sector plays a role as well, with agreements in the financial, mining, health, tourism, and education sectors. All of these steps are part of the king’s strategy to build long-term partnerships for economic, social, and political development linking this North African nation with sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, King Mohammed VI consistently speaks about Africa for Africans and the need for solidarity and collaboration to build strong futures and opportunities for the next generation while improving current prospects for prosperity and well-being.

The emerging consensus is that Morocco will achieve more than 4% growth this year, as agriculture will improve on the back of good harvests; exports of automobiles will continue to climb; the government will eventually be formed and pass additional business-friendly regulations regarding labor policies and land ownership; and international investors will increase their roles in the economy to take advantage of Morocco’s many services and opportunities as a regional gateway. It is a good time to be doing business in the kingdom.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Moroccan Auto Exports Roll On; Hilton Plans Expansion – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 01/10/2017 - 17:43

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 10, 2017

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

There was good business news on several fronts, including an uptick in auto exports and increased domestic auto sales; expanded gas and oil drilling activities; growth in the exports of handicrafts; and Hilton making its presence felt in several locations. In general, there are strong indications that the Moroccan economy will continue to grow, despite the haggling over the composition of the new government, as the banking and agricultural sectors see expansion fueling growth.

Zoom, zoom goes the auto sector. According to Moroccan authorities, both domestic and export sales grew in 2016, despite a sluggish economy. A story in Morocco World News, citing a report from Morocco’s Association of Importers of Motor Vehicles (AIVAM) indicated that 2015’s record sales were surpassed by a 25% increase, as dealers sold 163,110 vehicles, including passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

Renault continued its domination of the domestic market  capturing close to 38% market share, with its Dacia brand leading the way with a 27% increase in unit sales. Renault’s exports also grew by 8.5% over 2015, shipping more than 153,000 vehicles to Africa and Europe.

US second-largest customer for Moroccan handicrafts. The Ministry of Handicrafts, Social Economy and Solidarity reported a 16% rise in exports, the first in more than 15 years, with a strong showing by US importers of Moroccan textiles, rugs, pottery, and traditional clothing. This follows a multiyear campaign to diversify market outreach and increased Moroccan presence at international trade shows and marketing venues.

Now the second largest markets after the EU, US companies are showing an increased appetite for Morocco’s artisanal products. Most recently, the World Market chain has launched a new campaign featuring Moroccan products. In its press release, it headlines products from Fez, Safi, and Marrakech, noting, “To see the entire CRAFT: Morocco collection and read more about the unique stories behind each item, go to www.worldmarket.com/morocco.”

Oil and gas prospects continue to draw investors. Qatar Petroleum, in partnership with Chevron and the Moroccan National Hydrocarbons and Mines Office (ONHYM), received an extension of its coastal drilling licenses for gas and oil in Morocco. Last year it acquired 30% interest in three deep-water blocs 60-120 miles west and northwest of Agadir, while Chevron holds a 40% share and ONHYM 30%.

Moroccan companies expand business in Africa. EuroNews.com looked at Morocco’s role as a “business bridge to Africa” in its Target business profile series. They interviewed several businesses in Casablanca about the country’s strategic efforts to increase its economic presence in regional markets. They believe that Morocco’s cultural awareness and reputation for quality are factors in the country’s success.

As an example, electricity infrastructure supplier “Fabrilec” has installed more than 500 miles of power lines in Burkina Faso. “The firm’s chief executive officer (CEO), Moustapha Mouchrek believes shared cultural links are the secret to its success. He said that  ‘Business in Africa is an adventure and I think that as our cultures are very close we have more opportunities so we know how to adapt a bit more than others.’”

Working with Maroc Export, Fabrilec’s use of Moroccan-made products that are both high quality and competitively priced builds Morocco’s brand on the continent. In fact, Fabrilec and another Moroccan firm, Energy Transfo, recently won “Great Africa” awards for their roles in growing the Africa market. Since the continent is energy deficient in terms of meeting consumer and industry demand, Moroccan companies fill a critical need.

Energy Transfo CEO Nouzha Taarji explained to EuroNews that Morocco’s experience in building power capacity throughout the country provides a model for other countries.  “The electricity sector has experienced strong growth in Morocco, which has allowed the industry to develop beyond its borders today. We have a wide range of industrial firms that make a multitude of electrical material and that’s what enables our African clients to come here and satisfy their needs.”

A similar story has emerged in the pharmaceutical sector. CooperPharma, one of Morocco’s oldest firms, is building a factory in Rwanda. According to Aymen Cheikh Lahlou, the firm’s CEO, “Investing in Africa gives the continent a chance to develop and have a positive impact on people’s lives. There can be no economic social development without investment in health care; as pharmaceutical companies we do participate to reach this end. This is materializing by job creation, by direct foreign investment, by local accessibility and availability of drugs, by lower pricing, more accessibility and also by training a pool of qualified people, because our pharmaceutical industry required higher international norms in terms of quality,” said Cheikh Lahlo to EuroNews.

Hilton rising again in Morocco. According to multiple sources, Hilton has signed a management agreement with Group Sadiki to open its first hotel in Casablanca in 2021. Slated for the rapidly growing Sidi Maarouf neighborhood, the Garden Inn will initially consist of 118 guestrooms. It will be part of a mixed-used development that includes a ballroom, Moroccan-themed restaurant, other dining options, and exhibition/meeting space. This follows the opening of Garden Inn Tanger City Center last year.

“Casablanca is a market we’ve been looking at for some time and we’re confident that we’ve now identified the right partner and the right location for our debut property,” said Carlos Khneisser, VP of development, MENA, Hilton Worldwide. “Sidi Maarouf is rapidly establishing itself as not only the gateway to the city center, with the construction of its new suspension bridge, but as a significant business district in its own right.”

Sidi Maarouf has emerged as Casablanca’s new business district, with several multinationals establishing a presence in recent years. Just 25km from Mohammed V Airport, and directly accessible by tramway, the area is an enviable location for hosting meetings and events.

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Moroccan Entrepreneurs Garner Recognition and Success – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 16:44

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 5, 2017

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

At a time when countries in the MENA are struggling to create jobs for increasing numbers of job seekers, the success of entrepreneurs promoting small scale enterprises is worth celebrating! This past month, this happened with great fanfare for Moroccans who have combined business acumen with local resources to generate opportunities for workers with basic skills, mostly women, to make a difference.

The BBC did a special report on women who have built careers designing and promoting contemporary and traditional versions of the kaftan. Ilham Benami has always wanted to produce fashionable clothing, despite being limited in opportunities to study design in Morocco. She watched tailors and learned from them the basics of working with material, and began to make kaftans for friends and family at home. Her popularity grew, and now, at 33, she employs at least 10 women, and her kaftans have a broad range of prices depending on the quality of the material and work involved in each piece.

The article noted that “[t]he kaftan industry is rooted in tradition. It is a dress for women that dates back to at least the 16th Century. But it is evolving – ‘just like Moroccan women,’ says Ilham.” Her kaftans mix Moroccan and Western influences and are becoming part of a global trend towards kaftan-inspired fashions. Ilham is clear that she’s just beginning, in a country where 30% of women are unemployed. “For women’s independence these days, it’s a lot easier compared with when I was growing up,” says Ilham. “I wanted to work and fashion has always been a passion of mine, so I was going to still follow my passion no matter what my circumstances were.”

In Marrakech, the sister duo, Sana and Wafaa Redwani, have been running a kaftan business under the Vallasco Gallery label. It is an haute couture boutique with a store in the south of Morocco as well. “The kaftans have been modelled in Africa Fashion Week in New York and are exported to Portugal. Wafaa says the designs have a more Western cut with a ‘Moroccan touch,’ which explains why they are becoming more successful internationally.”

The president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, Fouzia Assouli, is optimistic about women’s opportunities in business, but says there is still a lot to be done. She points to Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, the president of CGEM, the premier business group in the country, as a stalwart force in opening doors for Moroccan women.

The BBC noted that “Fouzia believes that since Chaqroun was appointed it has opened doors for Moroccan women in the business sector. But she says there is more of an awareness of women’s rights among the elite than among the poor, who are still lagging behind. Many of these vulnerable women are now collaborating with businesswomen like Ilham, Wafaa and Sana to help make kaftans — work which can sometimes take months to complete.”

As the BBC reported, for Wafaa, the kaftan industry is a symbol of the Moroccan woman of today. “Our kaftans are like us. We are caught between the East and the West just like the designs, but we still have our Moroccan identity and we will still fight to move forward.”

Young Moroccan Entrepreneur Snares UK Prize

Another story highlighted 19-year-old Walid Ijassi from Morocco, who has won a global competition among young entrepreneurs. The annual competition was founded by 24-year-old UK-based, Queen’s Young Leader and social entrepreneur Adam Bradford, who started it in 2013. The competition supports young entrepreneurs by providing a start-up grant, mentoring, and networking opportunities. This is the first time the competition has gone international, with talent from 30 countries competing. Ijassi’s project focuses on creating consumer products from apple waste.

Adam Bradford got started by winning the BiG Challenge enterprise competition when he was just 14 years old. He is autistic and has used his experience to champion causes such as opening opportunities to autistic people and raising awareness of extreme poverty.

Upon being told the news of his win, Walid said: “It’s such an amazing opportunity that the #AdamStart Challenge has given me as a young Moroccan entrepreneur at an international level. Having received the call from the team telling me that out of more than 300 candidates I have been chosen as the winner of the challenge was just surreal and made me more confident and galvanized to take my start-up, with the help of the Challenge Team, to a global and more structured level.”

In addition to winning the competition, Walid is now the latest in the growing ranks of Moroccan role models for young people to embark upon entrepreneurship with determination and commitment. As Adam said in the article, “In light of the global youth unemployment crisis, we need more innovative entrepreneurs to tackle social problems and create an income for themselves. Walid is an exceptional young person and I am delighted to give him my backing. I can’t wait to see what he achieves next year.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Great News for Morocco’s Tourism and Financial Sectors – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 17:39

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
January 4, 2017

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

A topsy-turvy economic year ends on positive notes for Morocco, as tourism numbers rebound, positive budget news comes on the back of a projected higher growth rate for 2017, Morocco expands its role in promoting Arab and African trade, and Islamic banking is ready to launch.

Passenger and tourism numbers up. According to Abderrafie Zouitene, director of the Moroccan National Tourism Office, annual revenues hit more than $6 billion by the end November 2016. He noted that the rise comes on the heels of a slowdown in the first five months of 2016 and was welcome news in all destinations, from Agadir to Tangier. Part of the increase is due to new visa policies for Chinese visitors, who, since June 2016, do not require tourism visas.

Citing several examples of this year’s growth, Director Zouitene said that tourism from China is up more than 600% under the new policy, while the Russian tourism flow is up more than 300% in Agadir alone.  China and Russia are being targeted by Morocco, and UAE’s Etihad Airways has announced new flights for Chinese travelers through Dubai to attract 100,000 visitors annually by 2018. As reported previously, as part of the King’s visit to Russia this past year, 41 Russian journalists visited key tourist attractions in Morocco to promote the country’s many attractions to the Russian public.

In related good news, according to the National Airports Authority (ONDA), there were close to 17 million domestic and international passengers in Morocco in the first 11 months of 2016. The busiest airport, with almost 8 million passengers, was Mohammed V International in Casablanca, equal to 47% of all traffic. The pre-winter travel was especially noticeable, with a total of more than 13,000 flights in November – a 49% increase in Casablanca traffic, 21% in Marrakech, and 7% in Agadir.

This growth, and the impact of a good rainfall this season, has led the central bank to project a 4.2% growth rate in 2017, which is great news considering that the rate in 2016 was only 1.2% due to poor agricultural results from scant rainfall. This positive projection has enabled the central bank to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2.25 percent, and inflations is expected to remain around 1.6 percent in 2016 and fall to 1 percent in 2017. Overall, the budget deficit is expected to narrow to 3.5% to close out 2016 if the government can stay on target with its fiscal reforms, with a fall to 3.1% in 2017.

The push for greater regional trade. Morocco World News carried an article about the selection of Maroc Export to organize and host the 2017 Arab and African Businesswomen Forum, which provides a platform for attendees to share perspectives and highlight the trade and business in their countries. This was not the only designation Maroc Export garnered at the annual meeting of the Arab League’s business development division. It was also named “Project Leader” for the Arab Training Institute for Arab Market Experts, which will be launched in 2017 and headquartered in Morocco; and will host the ninth board of directors of the Arab Union for Industrial Exports Promotion. A founding member of the Arab Network for Trade Promotion Organizations, Maroc Export is generally recognized as a leader in efforts to diversify Morocco’s export profile.

Argan oil a hit for British entrepreneur. Darren Smith, an attorney in Manchester, sold his finance business to start selling a range of argan beauty products, now growing from an online business to stores in multiple UK locations. . His company, Simply Argan, was born out of a visit that he and his wife Jane made to Morocco where they experienced the benefits of argan oil, the “liquid gold” famous for its moisturizing, anti-ageing, and skin toning qualities, among other things. They brought some back home for friends, whose desire for more products gave him the impetus to sell his business and switch careers. He says that the response from customers has made the hard work of building a start-up from scratch worthwhile. In just a few years, the online store “has sold hundreds of thousands of products which include face masks, night rejuvenating oils, coffee scrubs, shampoos, conditioners, shaving and beard oils.”

Let the sun shine. The Euro Mediterranean Forum of Institutes of Economic Sciences (FEMISE) issued a report at COP22 that has significant implications for investors in renewable energy. It projects that renewable energy ventures can generate between 270,000 and 500,000 jobs by 2040: “Interest and investment in renewable energy business is growing in an impressive manner. Such growth does not only create more jobs, but also creates self-sufficient and independent local communities.”

The report’s preliminary findings were presented at COP22 in Marrakech on November 15th, 2016. The final copy reflects on a number of issues, including the risk of population displacement due to rising sea levels, the unexploited potential and resources in the Southern Mediterranean, new economic and social realities following the Arab Spring and, most importantly, opportunities for green energy in the Mediterranean.

Islamic banking set to go. The Central Bank has approved requests from Moroccan and French banks to launch Islamic products in 2017. Since the Moroccan banks lacked experience with Islamic finance, they have joined forces with existing companies that have demonstrated expertise in the sector. Attijariwafa Bank, which is in discussions with the Islamic Development Bank as its partner; BMCE of Africa, partnering with the Guidance Financial Group; and Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP), working with Al Baraka Banking Group are the main banks that received approval, along with two smaller lenders, Credit Agricole (CAM), tied to Qatar International Islamic Bank, and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier (CIH), which will create a subsidiary with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector.

Morocco’s BCP has chosen Guidance Financial Group, BMCE has picked Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group, while CIH is partnering with Qatar International Islamic Bank. Subsidiaries of French banks Societe Generale, Credit du Maroc, and BMCI also gained permission to sell Islamic products. It is anticipated that Morocco will issue its first ever Islamic bond (sukuk) in the domestic market in the first half of 2017. Parliament has yet to approve a bill regarding Islamic insurance, or takaful.

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Categories: The moroccan press

A New Year in Morocco-US Relations? – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 18:31
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
December 22, 2016

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

In its recent 2017 Global Forecast, the Center for Strategic and Internal Studies (CSIS) asked veteran policy analyst, security expert, and former senior government official Dr. Anthony H. Cordesman to provide his perspective on “What are the main risks we face in the Middle East?” True to form, he did not waste any words on trying to crystal-ball the incoming Administration but instead focused on “at least 12 major challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).” His clear-eyed assessment has a number of points that are particularly relevant to those concerned about Morocco-US relations and what can be done to ensure the sustainability of this dynamic and beneficial relationship.

Dr. Cordesman begins with the need for the US to “Rebuild its strategic partnership with its Arab allies.” And I am sure that the Moroccans feel the same way: “Where do we go from here?” they might be asking, wondering how to enhance an already valued tie. Well, first up is for the US to no longer delay recognizing the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Western Sahara (the “South” to Morocco) as the realistic, credible, and serious basis for comprehensive negotiations to end the conflict. Prodding Algeria and its surrogates to come to the table on the basis of “autonomy for the Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty” not only will point to a clear path forward but will also enhance another of Cordesman’s concerns – countering terrorism.

He puts it this way: “Reshape U.S. counterterrorism efforts to fight the remnants of ISIS – and the full range of other Islamic threats from Islamic extremism – in the region.” Morocco is a top tier ally in the war against terrorism, at home, in the region, and internationally. It sits alongside vast ungoverned spaces in the Sahel, borders an Algeria that has had its share of terrorism incidents, and faces increased threats from jihadists returning from Syria, active in Libya, and seeking to undermine security in Tunisia. Morocco has responded forcefully, from intelligence-sharing with a shaken Europe to participating in global coalitions to face terrorist threats. It has pioneered programs aimed at reintegrating fighters who have returned from jihadi actions abroad; is working diligently through imam and mourchidat training programs, community outreach, and promoting Maliki Islam to provide positive religious discourse to combat terrorism; and supports UN resolutions and actions to enable efforts to counter violence.

Other challenges noted by Cordesman include dealing with Russia and Turkey as powers that can support or thwart efforts in Syria and elsewhere. Here too, Morocco is playing a positive role by its efforts to strengthen relations with both countries on the basis of mutual interests in the security and safety of the region. Building long-term ties on agreed political, security, and economic goals with these countries, as well as throughout Africa, is the kind of leadership that reflects Morocco’s natural position in the region. Morocco is also forming important ties to China as that country continues to expand its role in Africa and the Middle East.

Regarding North Africa, Cordesman is straightforward. “Help other allies like Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia move toward security and stability. The United States cannot afford to focus solely on today’s problem countries. It needs to help its other regional allies prevent political upheavals, make economic progress and reforms, and establish effective security structures.”

It is clear that Morocco will continue to improve defense and security ties with the US, through the existing African Lion military exercises; training of regional security and military forces; building stronger intelligence and counterterrorism capabilities; and hosting critical regional conferences related to security concerns. Morocco has not shied away from its regional responsibility to work with allies to combat threats that can spill over from today’s hot spots.

Similarly, Morocco continues its long-term reforms aimed at economic growth for greater opportunities for jobs and prosperity, as well as a stable and inclusive democracy that reflects the values of the Moroccan people. The US and Morocco share a broad commitment to peace, security, and economic development, which will be an exceptional basis for continuing to build strong and beneficial bilateral relations.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: MCC Releases Final Results of First Compact with Morocco; Economy Plows Ahead on Expanding Exports and Push for Tourism – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 18:52

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
December 20, 2016

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

Despite lower growth in 2016 due to last year’s drought and depressed phosphate prices, Morocco continues to invest both to boost the national economy and to increase commercial ties in Africa and elsewhere. The MCC released its final report on its initial compact with Morocco, which completed in 2013, and provided more details on a portion of the second compact now being rolled out. Morocco’s culture was featured in several articles promoting the food and natural beauty of the country.

MCC reports. In the first of two recent articles, MCC highlighted the financial services project from the first compact with Morocco. “The $42.8 million Financial Services Project (FSP) …aimed to increase financial services to microenterprises in Morocco, by addressing the major constraints to the development of a deeper, broader and more market-oriented financial sector.” The project focused on increasing access to loans funds by providing funding to Jaïda, the microfinance authority, to support growth in lending to existing and new clients; increasing the capital and professionalism of microfinance associations (AMCs); the creation of new financial products and the capabilities of the AMCs; and instituting regulations and training to improve the operating efficiency and transparency of the loan-originating institutions.

Overall, the project has made a positive medium-term impact on the sector, and longer term projections are all positive. Given that the FSP had to weather the downturn in the global economy, which directly affected the microfinance sector, the results were in line with projections, and the report stressed the value of involving the AMCs in the project preparation and design.

In the second article, MCC gave more details on the industrial land use improvement project that is one of the two key components of the second MCC compact. The objective is to develop strategies for improving access to industrial estates for SMEs to support their growth opportunities. As the release states, the “$127 million industrial land investment will support a sustainable approach to industrial land development, using public-private partnerships to develop, manage and maintain industrial zones that meet the needs of businesses and attract private investment.”

Developing more robust and better-managed industrial estates will benefit both Moroccan and international investors. It will enable SMEs to have access to land with quality infrastructure and business services, such as licensing, training, incubators, waste and power services, suppliers serving multiple companies, as well as partner research and development facilities. According to the release, there are currently more than 100 industrial zones in Morocco, many poorly designed and maintained. Without improving their management and logistical services,  they are not acting as magnets for investors.

MCC intends to develop land management regimes that will enhance existing industrial zones and develop approaches that are “economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.” The second compact also plans to work with the government to improve secondary education and vocational training to upgrade Morocco’s workforce, essential to the overall appeal to domestic and international investors.

Morocco’s Tangier-Med Port. Photo: mhobl on Flickr

Investing in Morocco, a safe bet. According to Frontera, Morocco has growth opportunities that are at the top of frontier market economies. Its stability and strong government support for growth, well designed economic plans and incentives, and ability to reach markets across the region, all contribute to a positive profile for investors. As the article noted, “Morocco is known as a first-rate tourist destination in Northern Africa, and is often cited as a potential hub country linking Europe with Africa and the Middle East.”

In its detailed analysis, prepared by Investment Frontier, the article covered investment opportunities by sector; the economy and its components; leading firms; and an assessment of the stock market and its listings. It notes that because of its young population and high rate of internet penetration, “mobile technology and internet usage in Morocco is among the highest in Africa, and there is a lot of potential for the country to be a leader in Africa and the Middle East in this space going forward.”

Love that food, and what views!! The Independent recently featured two articles that made the cold weather seem far away. The first looked at four tourist destinations that are touted as eco-friendly, presenting four distinct views of the country. The original eco-lodge dating back to 1995, is Kasbah du Toubkal, near Imlil in the Atlas Mountains; the Beldi Country Club, near Marrakech, blends unique design and natural beauty; the Atlas Kasbah near Agadir draws 80% of its energy from solar power; and the Kasbah bab Ourika, in the Ourika Valley is constructed primarily from pisé (rammed earth) using traditional Berber building techniques. The pictures alone are worth clicking on the link.

More comforting, and less expensive, is the article on Moroccan food. Rather than an all-inclusive list, the author chose five specialties that are identified with Moroccan cuisine. The article points out that “From the heady aromas of cinnamon, allspice and ginger emanating from a freshly baked pigeon b’stilla, to sardines dusted with cumin and coriander, and the richness of smoky, zesty chicken tagine, every mealtime in Morocco is an opportunity to delve a little deeper into the country’s rich cultural heritage, savouring culinary influences from Andalusian Spain, Arabia and France.”

The foods include: b’stilla, the incredible flaky pastry pie, originally from Fez, that can be stuffed with a variety of fillings; zaalook, a smoky eggplant pureed dip and b’sara, a dip made from broad beans; harira, a traditional soup for feasts using lamb broth as a base; tagines, the national dish of Morocco that combines steamed couscous with all variety of vegetables and/or meats; and of course desserts.

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Categories: The moroccan press

In Advance of International Migrants Day, Morocco Renews Commitment to Integration – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 20:01

Caitlin Dearing Scott
December 14, 2016

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

This year, Morocco preempted International Migrants Day – observed every December 18 to promote the protection of migrants worldwide – with an announcement launching the second phase of its campaign to regularize illegal immigrants.

To recall, Morocco adopted a new immigration policy providing protections for migrants and asylum seekers in November 2013, becoming the first country in the Arab world to develop such a policy. Implementation of the first phase of the campaign took place in 2014 and successfully regularized the status of 25,000 migrants, providing them with residency papers.

The second phase, which will begin on December 15, is expected to do more of the same. Those eligible for regularization, including foreigners with five years of residency in Morocco, those with chronic illnesses, and foreign spouses and children of Moroccan citizens, can apply at provincial and prefectural commissions throughout the country.  A monitoring and appeals committee, chaired by the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), will also be set up to review applications rejected by the prefectural and provincial committees “in order to optimize the regularization process and increase the number of beneficiaries,” according to a communiqué from the National Commission in charge of Illegal Immigrants’ Regularization.

The announcement comes on the heels of several visits by King Mohammed VI to sub-Saharan African countries, including Senegal and Nigeria, two principal countries of origin for migrants in Morocco. During those visits, Morocco was praised for its efforts to promote the economic and social integration of illegal immigrants.

It also comes just a few months after the King’s widely-acclaimed speech on the occasion of the 63rd Anniversary of the Revolution of the King and People, in which he underscored Morocco’s continued commitment to improving the lives of fellow Africans through 1) joint human development projects and social services like education and healthcare in their home countries, and 2) “humanitarian” migration policies. Long a transit country for sub-Saharan migrants en route to Europe, Morocco has in recent years become a destination country. As a result, the Kingdom has had to address the governance challenges that come along with such a shift.

Though challenges remain – one need only look at recent pictures of the border with Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla – the progress Morocco has made is worth noting, particularly as countries throughout the world grapple with increasing migration-related challenges.

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Categories: The moroccan press

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