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Happy Anniversary, USAID Morocco! – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 16:53

Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 30 2017

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

This Sunday is the 60th anniversary of the United States Agency for International Development’s work in Morocco! USAID officially launched its Morocco programs on April 2, 1957, when the two countries signed an agreement for the US to provide economic and technical assistance. Today, USAID Morocco is focused on advancing Moroccan initiatives for peaceful reform by targeting the following development objectives:

  • Enhancing Youth Employability
  • Increasing Civic Participation in Governance
  • Enhancing Education Attainment at the Primary Level

Here is a closer look at some of USAID’s current programming, which continues USAID’s longstanding work to advance political and economic development in the country.

Enhancing Youth Employability

USAID works with public and private sector partners to enhance economic opportunities for Moroccan youth.

In 2015, USAID launched a program to assist “young people’s transition from education to employment” through the creation of Career Centers in key metropolitan areas. The Career Centers, in Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Tangiers, provide career services in both higher and vocational education institutions. Services include work readiness training, networking, and a virtual career center that provides on-line access for all Moroccans. For more on the Career Centers, check out this video.

Another USAID program, the Workforce Training Academy, provides specific vocational training to meet the needs of Volvo Group’s operations in Africa for drivers, technicians, and operations. In partnership with Volvo, UNIDO, the OCP Foundation, and the Moroccan government, the specialized academy is training Moroccan, Ivorian, and Senegalese students, highlighting Morocco’s key role in spurring economic development throughout the region.

Increasing Civic Participation in Governance

USAID’s democracy and governance efforts focus on helping political parties, government entities, and civil society “build their capacities, facilitate citizen participation, and ensure sustainable participatory governance.” Several programs focus on “addressing the challenges of marginalized youth by building on the capacity of relevant local and national partners to work with at-risk youth and promote their engagement in their communities.”

The Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth (FORSATY) program, launched in 2012, works to increase the social and economic inclusion of at-risk youth living in marginalized neighborhoods in order to prevent youth delinquency and reduce recidivism. Activities range from education and vocational training to improving the capacity of public and NGO youth-serving organizations. According to a mid-term evaluation completed in February 2016, FORSATY is on track to reach its objectives, having already improved the lives of over 12,000 marginalized youth. One such success story is that of Najlae Lachkar, a girl who dreamed of being an auto mechanic despite the objections of her family. In 2014, she and her sister enrolled in a USAID-supported auto mechanic training program at her neighborhood training center where they learned both the technical know-how and soft skills necessary to find employment. Lachkar is now interning at a local auto garage and one day hopes to open her own business.

The Community Oriented Policing Activity (COPA) program works to build trust between citizens, local police, and community leaders to improve community-oriented policing and citizen-focused security. The project includes strengthening community capacity to resolve crime and safety issues; training police commanders in crime prevention; and facilitating joint activities between police-citizen “Core Teams.”

Enhancing Education Attainment at the Primary Level

USAID supports the Moroccan government in its ambitious reform program to increase access to and improve the quality of education by targeting early-grade reading and teacher capacity.

The Reading for Success program “is designed to develop and test the most effective approaches for strengthening children’s Arabic reading skills in targeted primary schools.” Activities include developing and testing Arabic reading methods, developing training guides and reading lessons for teachers, and reducing summer learning loss by supporting civil society summer reading programs. Since 2016, USAID has taught an innovative approach to reading to 5,737 first grade students and trained 181 teachers in the new method.

USAID is also in the process of developing reading software that “bridges the gap between Moroccan Sign Language and Modern Standard Arabic so deaf and hard of hearing students can learn to read” through the “Reading for success-improving deaf children’s reading through technology” (IDCRT) program.

After 60 years, USAID continues to provide invaluable programing to support reform and improve living standards in Morocco.

For more on what USAID is accomplishing in Morocco, including personal stories from those positively impacted by USAID programming, check out the USAID-Morocco Facebook page.    

The post Happy Anniversary, USAID Morocco! – Caitlin Dearing Scott appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Dakhla and Sahara Featured at Crans Montana Forum; The Life of a Pink Shirt Dress from Morocco – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 19:40

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 29, 2017

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

The Crans Montana Forum’s annual foray in Morocco highlighted the Sahara region and the future of Morocco’s Africa strategy while creating a platform for the international exchange of ideas and deal-making. The BBC was busy tracing the lineage of a dress from Inditex, a­­­­ Spanish company, illustrating the global nature of the textile industry.

Crans Montana Draws Record Attendance. More than 1,000 delegates attended this year’s Crans Montana Forum to discuss developments in Africa and how to support South-South cooperation. Moroccan ministers joined senior African government officials, a special delegation from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and delegates from across Asia and Africa for five days in Dakhla, which hosted the event for the third consecutive year under the theme “Towards a New Africa for the 21st Century – Stability, Cohesion and Solidarity for a Sustainable Development.” Among topics discussed were food security, sustainable agriculture, renewable energies, public health, migration to Europe, and women’s participation in economic and political development.

In his message to the Forum, King Mohammed VI made reference to Morocco’s return to the African Union, noting that it will be at the forefront of contributing to serving Africa’s interests and “consolidating its peoples’ unity and cohesion.” He made the point that with this cooperation “Morocco will not, however, give up defending its lofty interests, particularly its national unity and territorial integrity.” For Morocco, the Sahara is a region of historic and cultural import, and is now being touted as a center from which to promote communications and trade with sub-Saharan African states.

According to an article by the Indo-Asian News Service on the Forum, “Morocco has launched a number of infrastructure projects in the Western Sahara…– part of an $8 billion development plan designed to ‘make the Moroccan Sahara a hub for communication and exchange with sub-Saharan African countries.’ The projects include new ports, fish markets, desalinization and fertilizer plants, and road infrastructure improvements.”

The Daily Sabah wrote about an interesting sub-text of the gathering: improving ties between Africa and Pacific Islands, as many of them will suffer the consequences of climate change if more countries don’t take responsibility for the goals of COP22. The Forum gave these countries an opportunity to become more engaged in building solutions to avoid catastrophic results from climate change.

Another message of interest was voiced by delegates from Turkey who talked about the role their country can play to support development in Africa. Nezaket Emine Atasoy, head of the Industrialist Businesswomen and Businessmen Confederation (SANKON), told The Daily Sabah that “Turkey has the potential to make investments in Africa. ‘Construction, infrastructure and energy sectors are the main ones for investment. Moreover, farming is a growing sector and investments in this field may create an opportunity to turn African countries into exporters.’ She also added that African businessmen and politicians were very positive on Turkey’s growing interest in the continent.”

Morocco Plays Key Role in the Global World of Textiles. Morocco has escaped one of the traps of preferential trade agreements – endemic to the textile sector – which opens up growth opportunities in a sector only to see them dominated by foreign labor, which marginally contributes to the local economy. This is the case with Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain, with Free Trade Agreements with the US, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in its free trade zones. Garments are produced or assembled in these industrial parks and then shipped with little or no duty to customers around the world.

While this is a boon to manufacturers, few jobs are created for locals, even in countries where quotas are mandated. Morocco is different. Unlike the others, it has had a tradition of textile manufacturing so there are few if any cultural constraints (the “shame” factor, as it is called in Jordan) tied to working in the sector. Those working in semi-skilled jobs are seen as contributing to their families and the stability of the community.

The textile industry has changed, and Morocco is a great example of how few, if any, garments are fully manufactured in one country, similar to automobile construction. A recent BBC feature took the readers on a tour of a pink Zara-brand shirt dress to illustrate the internationalized process of clothes manufacturing.

The feature begins, “’Made in Morocco’ says the label on the pink Zara shirt dress. While this may be where the garment was finally sewn together, it has already been to several other countries. In fact, it’s quite possible this piece of clothing is better travelled than you.”

The basic material in the fabric is called lyocell, a sustainable alternative to cotton, sourced from trees in Europe. The fibers were then shipped to Egypt where low-cost factories spun the lyocell into a yarn that then went to China where it was woven into a fabric. “This fabric was then sent to Spain where it was dyed, in this case pink. The fabric was then shipped to Morocco to be cut into the various parts of the dress and then sewn together. After this, it was sent back to Spain where it was packaged and then sent to the UK, the US, or any one of the 93 countries where Inditex, the Zara brand owner, has shops.”

It’s no wonder that trade agreements which specify rules of origin – that is, the amount of content made by the trading partner, as the basis for favorable treatment – are often puzzled by how to measure value along the supply chain. “From dresses to t-shirts and trousers, most items of clothing sold around the world will have had similarly complicated journeys. In fact, they’re likely to be even more convoluted.”

According to the BBC, “Regardless of where they’re based, most factories are not owned by the fashion brands that use them. Instead, they’re selected as official suppliers. Often these suppliers subcontract work to other factories for certain tasks, or in order to meet tight deadlines.” According to a study by Christian Aid and Baptist World Aid Australia, “less than a fifth of brands know where all of their zips, buttons, thread and fabric come from.”

The post Business Brief: Dakhla and Sahara Featured at Crans Montana Forum; The Life of a Pink Shirt Dress from Morocco – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

What to Make of the Latest Jihadi Reorganization in the Sahara/Sahel – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 22:05

Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 27, 2017

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

Earlier this month, three of the Sahel’s leading  jihadist groups – Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun, and Katiba Macina — announced a merger with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) under the leadership of Ansar Dine chief Iyad Ag Ghaly and the banner “Nusrat ul-Islam” (group for the victory of Islam and Muslims). In a video announcing the merger, Ghaly appeared with Yahya Abou Hamam, emir of AQIM’s Sahara emirate; Amadou Kouffa, head of the Katiba Macina; Al-Hasan Al-Ansari, vice-emir of al-Mourabitoun; and Abu Abdul Rahman Senhadji, AQIM judge.

There has been no reaction from AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel or the infamous leader of al-Mourabitoun Mokhtar Belmokhtar, but the newly-merged group has pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. So it appears that the merger was sanctioned by the powers that be.

The announcement is just the latest move in the tangled, ever-changing web of jihadist alliances in the Sahel. The last few years alone witnessed Belmokhtar leaving AQIM only to return and Abou Walid Al-Sahraoui, formerly of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and al-Mourabitoun, forming a splinter group and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State under the banner of “the Islamic State in the Grand Sahara,” in direct contravention of Belmokhtar’s firm opposition to the Islamic State. (For a thorough overview, see Marc Memier’s recent report, AQMI et Al-Mourabitoun from the French Institute for International Relations.

For now, the merger doesn’t appear to signify a fundamental shift in the terrorist threat to the region, but rather a formalization of ties. These groups have worked together in the past, notably collaborating on the attack against the Raddison Blu hotel in Bamako in November 2015, the Ouagadougou attack in Burkina Faso in January 2016, and the Grand Bassam attack in Côte d’Ivoire in March 2016 — three of the deadliest and most high-profile attacks of the last two years. Though those attacks did signify to some degree the “Africanization” of AQIM — with its expansion  beyond  the Maghreb and the “core” group of Algerian combatants to now include fighters from virtually every country in West Africa — they didn’t result in a grand unification, on strategy or otherwise. By all accounts, the jihadi landscape is still fragmented; but it does operate across a larger swath of territory. It seems likely that individual brigades will continue to operate both autonomously and opportunistically – seeking external alliances when it appears beneficial and resorting to fragmentation and competition when it’s not. The same goes for individual jihadis.

So perhaps the bigger question is why now? What is it that led these groups to merge at this time? The most obvious answer is competition from the Islamic State (IS), which is not only seeking to expand its presence in the region after defeats in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, but also taking potential recruits from jihadi groups with their historic base in the Sahara/Sahel.  Over the past few years, a number of groups operating in the region have pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State – in some cases breaking off from AQIM in the process (Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria, for one) – leading AQIM to try to reverse the trend by encouraging IS fighters to defect.

This answer, however, flies in the face of other reports about collusion between Belmokhtar and the Islamic State in Libya. In early March, Libyan Minister of Defense Mahdi Barghathi (of the UN-backed government) claimed that the Islamic State was regrouping in southern Libya with the support of al-Qaeda, particularly Mokhtar Belmokhtar. As The Telegraph notes, “The unholy alliance of the world’s two most dangerous terrorist groups in Libya is at odds with the public animosity between al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) leadership.” In Mr. Barghathi’s view, the situation on the ground belies the hostile rhetoric between the two groups, and they are in reality “actively co-operating,” with al-Qaeda “providing logistics and support to help Isil re-group and launch attacks.”

Whether that is true – and whether it means something more than just the latest round of opportunism by Belmokhtar (and thus with few implications beyond southern Libya) – remains to be seen. What is certain is that Belmokhtar has always maintained larger ambitions than the Sahara/Sahel – seeking to unite “Muslims from the Nile to the Atlantic.” This merger may be a part of that – with Belmokhtar playing his preferred role behind the scenes – or it may mean very little. The announcement was nevertheless successful in putting al-Qaeda back in the spotlight, if only for a moment.

 

The post What to Make of the Latest Jihadi Reorganization in the Sahara/Sahel – Caitlin Dearing Scott appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco and China Ink Pact to Build New City; Banking Sector Continues Strong Showing – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 15:42

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 24, 2017

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

Building on King Mohammed VI’s 2016 trip to China, plans were announced for a major co-investment in an industrial city in the north of the kingdom that will provide jobs and development in the region. The Central Bank continued its conservative, and successful, management of interest rates as inflation, the national budget deficit, and the trade deficit are projected to rise slightly in 2017. Attijarawafa Bank was named African bank of the year by yet another business organization.

China Comes a Knocking. Repeating its formula for yet another successful foray into an African economy, China has agreed to form a joint enterprise with Morocco to develop an industrial and technology park, hosting hundreds of Chinese companies, to support manufacturing centers in the Tanger region. Chinese companies have previously been active in infrastructure projects such as the suspension bridge linking Rabat and Sale, among the largest of its kind in Africa. Of course, these parks also serve as zones for importing Chinese consumer electronics, textiles, parts, and housewares for sale in the local economy.

The principal partners are the Chinese aviation group Haite, BMCE’s Bank of Africa, and the government of Morocco represented by the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima regional authorities. The initial agreement calls for $1B investment annually for 10 years. The city, called “The Mohammed VI Tanger Tech City,” represents a significant escalation in Moroccan-Chinese relations. It will cover 2,000 hectares (approximately 5,600 acres) with a target of 300,000 inhabitants and a workforce of 100,000 drawn from the surrounding area.

The signing of the MOU, presided over by the King, took place in the Marchane Royal Palace in Tanger with presentations made by Moulay Hafid elAlamy, the acting Minister of Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy, and Li Biao, President of the Haite Group. Mr. Biao noted that “the park will host hundreds of Chinese companies in numerous industrial zones including auto manufacturing, aerospace, aviation spare parts, electronic information, textiles and machinery manufacturing.” Minister elAlamy pointed out that Tanger was selected by the Chinese as a “competitive platform” for its regional center for manufacturing and distribution of its products, and that work would start in the second half of 2017.

For its part, the government of Morocco will continue its economic development projects in the north, including the high speed train scheduled to begin service within the next year, expansion of the free trade zones around TangerMed Port, and additional excavation of the deepwater harbor facilities. Minister elAlamy said that these investments will attract hundreds of multinational companies in addition to the Chinese companies financing the industrial city.

Financial Indicators are Steady.  According to a report by NASDAQ, the Central Bank of Morocco, Bank Al-Maghrib, has positive economic projections for 2017, even as some indicators such as inflation and the balance of payments are slightly more negative. With a strong agricultural growing season, overall growth is pegged to increase by 4.3% and inflation will level off after a slight rise in the first quarter. Agriculture’s GDP contribution is expected to rise from 9.6% in 2016 to 15% this year. While this is good news for 2017, overall growth is expected to decline in 2018 as the price of phosphates remains low.

While inflation increased from 1.6% to 2.1% earlier this year, it is expected to drop to 1.1% later this year as the government is able to cut energy imports and subsidies and agricultural prices fall. The country’s budget deficit will reach 3.7% of GDP in 2017 before a slight decrease to 3.4% in 2018. Even though the trade deficit reached 18.2%, this still represents only 2.2% of GDP. Much of this is due to the decline in the price of phosphates, resulting in a 3.3% trade deficit. Overall, the news is good: the economy is steady and performing soundly resulting in controlled inflation, minimal increases in the trade deficit, and a more-than-manageable budget deficit.

Attijariwafa Bank continued its impressive role as a leading bank in Africa, garnering the “African Bank of the Year” award at the Africa CEO Forum. It is Africa’s fourth largest bank, operating in 24 countries with more than 7M clients and 16,000 employees. According to its website, the Forum provides a multinational platform for CEOs of African and international companies, financial specialists, investors, bankers, thought-leaders, and public sector leaders to exchange information and develop projects in Africa and internationally, and develop strategies to address the economic and industrial challenges facing the continent.

The post Business Brief: Morocco and China Ink Pact to Build New City; Banking Sector Continues Strong Showing – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco, Longtime US Counterterrorism Ally, Attends Anti-ISIS Coalition Meeting in Washington

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 23:00

Washington, DC, March 23, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, was in Washington yesterday for a meeting of the Ministers of the anti-ISIS Global Coalition, convened by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “review and accelerate the campaign for the lasting defeat of ISIS.” Morocco was the first Maghreb country to join the coalition, and was designated a non-NATO ally by President George W. Bush in 2004.

“Together, we share a resolve to deal ISIS or Daesh a lasting defeat,” said Secretary Tillerson in his remarks. “Our coalition is united in stopping an ISIS resurgence, halting its global ambitions and discrediting its ideological narrative. And we’re ready to grow stronger and stay aggressive in this battle.”

Secretary Tillerson outlined four countermeasures to “stay ahead of” ISIS: persisting “with in-country counterterrorism and law enforcement operations”; “greater intelligence and information sharing within our own domestic intelligence agencies and among our nations”; combating “a warped interpretation of Islam”; and breaking “ISIS’s ability to spread its messages and recruit new followers online.”

The countermeasures shared by Secretary Tillerson reflect the many ways Morocco has sought to tackle extremism and the threat of terrorism over the past few years. In May 2015, the country strengthened its counterterrorism operations by creating the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation to bring different elements of the security sector under a central institution. That same year, Morocco’s Parliament enacted laws to criminalize “joining, or attempting to join a terrorist group; receiving terrorist training; and terrorist recruiting.” In addition to the anti-terrorist activities of its security forces, Morocco is taking steps to block terrorists’ access to financial resources and monitor religious organizations to ensure that donations are not used to finance terrorist activities.

Morocco has been a strong proponent of greater intelligence sharing and maintains close intelligence relations with the US and countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Morocco provided the intelligence that enabled French police to locate the mastermind of the attacks and arrest a Belgian national with direct links to the Islamist gunmen and bombers.

Morocco has also been at the front lines of the ideological battle against religious extremism. Since the early 2000s, the country has reorganized its religious structures—upgrading mosques, publishing an official bulletin of imams, creating a Directorate of Religious Education within the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, training both men and women as religious preachers, among other steps—to protect against radicalization. In a scathing rebuke of Islamic extremism, King Mohammed VI said in a speech delivered to the nation in August 2016, “Those who engage in terrorism, in the name of Islam, are not Muslims… They have strayed from the right path, and their fate is to dwell forever in hell.”

“The meeting was an opportunity to highlight the vision of His Majesty the King to fight the terrorist threat,” said Minister Bourita. “It is a multidimensional approach that includes preventive and repressive aspects.”

Representatives from all 68 member countries and organizations attended the meeting; from North Africa, Minister Bourita was joined by representatives from Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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

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

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Continues Local and African Leadership on the Environment – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:26

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 23, 2017

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

While some may question the durability of commitments made at COP22 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, there is no doubt that Morocco takes these responsibilities seriously. Recent news coverage on two development projects indicate that Morocco is all about the business of building a better future for itself and for Africa.

Two articles reported the latest developments in Zenata Eco-City, located between Casablanca and Rabat. When announced in 2012, Zenata was to be the pilot for a number of new cities planned by Morocco to relieve the urban overcrowding that is continuing at an accelerating pace. By 2030, urban populations in Africa are expected to increase by 15% and it’s worse in densely populated cities like Casablanca, where overcrowding leads to poor health and environmental outcomes, not to mention pockets of poverty and inadequate social services.

Aside from its famous IKEA, which opened in March 2016, Zenata boasts several locally designed and developed urban spaces featuring open land, apartment buildings with recreational areas for young people, a community mosque, as well as shops and transportation. The city, planned for 300,000 inhabitants, is growing based on a master plan that focuses on public utilities, air quality, ease of movement, and jobs. According to a story by Devex (“the media platform for the global community”), they key for the government is that planning be done with heavy local input and stress three development pillars: environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Additional information, provided by Dr. Zakia Belhachmi, a senior international development advisor, pointed out that “Prior to its recent development as an eco-city, it was home to nearly 40,000 people living in slums whose inhabitants were relocated to temporary housing in apartments nearby as part of the region’s urban master plan. Zenata not only maximizes the use of natural resources of the city, but is also allocating 30% of the first phase as a ‘green space’ and a central park conceived to promote biodiversity.”

Dr. Belhachmi raises critical questions about whether the education system in these new cities will incorporate the concept of sustainability in its curricula and about the role of parent-teacher associations. “After all, new modes of living involving a transition from slums into an eco-city are educational at their core simply because of the sustainable principles involved. Development in this context includes a socialization process that addresses the mind-set of the people not just their physical habitat.”

Congo Receives Attention

Further afield, a direct outcome of COP22 was the recent signing in Congo of a “Congo Basin Blue Fund.” The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) says that the “Blue economy concerns all water bodies, including lakes, watercourses and groundwater, not forgetting seas and coasts. The main economic activity domains of Africa based on marine and aquatic resources include fishing, fish farming, tourism, transport, the port sector, mining and energy.”

The Congo Basin Blue Fund was one of the three priorities raised by King Mohammed VI at the Africa Action Summit held during COP22. One of the major concerns is the deforestation in the Congo Basin forests, which are second only to the Amazon Basin as a natural carbon storage system. This is a joint project of the Brazzaville Foundation and nine countries, including Morocco, which participated in the signing of an MOU this month to formally launch the fund.

According to several sources, “The fund will finance projects in river transport, dredging and infrastructure, renewable energy, irrigation, fishing and ecotourism to foster sustainable industries based on the Congo’s renewable resources.” Given Morocco’s commitment to advancing its own water management as well as its outreach to share with African countries valuable expertise on renewable energy, agriculture, and fisheries, it is not surprising that it has joined this group.

Next steps include tapping climate change financing facilities such as the one raised by the World Bank and Morocco, and attracting funding from other international agencies, investors, and philanthropic organizations.

Cécilia Attias, member of the Brazzaville Foundation, commented that the fund “marks a huge step forward in delivering economic and environmental sustainability to the Congo Basin and surrounding communities. We are delighted by the support of these nine nations who have united in peaceful cooperation on this vital mission.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco, US Conclude Tenth Annual Flintlock Military Exercise

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 20:56

Washington, DC, March 17, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — United States forces yesterday concluded Exercise Flintlock 2017, a three-week military training exercise in Morocco and six other African host nations sponsored by US Africa Command. More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations participated in the tenth iteration of the exercise, which was established in 2005 to “[strengthen] security institutions, [promote] multilateral sharing of information and [develop] interoperability between counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.”

In Morocco, Marines from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) trained with their Moroccan counterparts “on small unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control and force protection.” An opening ceremony was held February 27 at the Tifnit training base in Morocco’s Southern Zone area of operations.

“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” said Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, in remarks delivered at the ceremony on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.

“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries,” said MARSOC’s exercise instructor.

A press release announcing the exercise stated, “In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco. Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.”

Since the 1990s, Morocco has also served as host of African Lion, the largest annual US joint military exercise in Africa, “designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures.” Military exercises like Flintlock and African Lion are just one of the many ways the US and Morocco coordinate on security measures. Designated as a “major non-NATO ally,” Morocco was the first Maghreb country to be a member of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. And this year, Morocco served as co-chair with the Netherlands of the US-established Global Counterterrorism Forum.

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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

Moroccan King Concludes Five-Country Africa Tour on Heels of African Union Decision

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 19:03

Washington, DC, March 14, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) —Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has concluded a five-country tour of Africa that took him to South Sudan, Ghana, Zambia, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire. The tour immediately followed the African Union’s (AU) decision to readmit Morocco to the continental bloc after a 33-year hiatus. Since ascending the throne in 1999, the King has made Africa a foreign policy priority, making over 50 visits to nearly 30 African countries and signing approximately one thousand bilateral agreements on economic, political, security, religious, and educational issues.

  • From February 1-2, the King visited South Sudan, overseeing the signing of nine bilateral agreements with President Salva Kiir Mayardit in the areas of urban development, investment promotion, agriculture, industrial cooperation, mines, and vocational training. The King also committed funds to a feasibility study for the building of a new capital city in Ramciel; as well as to a field hospital in Juba operated by Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces.
  • From February 16-19, the King visited Ghana, where he and President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo oversaw the signing of 25 governmental and public-private partnership agreements. The agreements center on investment, industrial cooperation, electricity, insurance, banking, agriculture, renewable energy, mining, tourism, and partnerships to promote business and engage the private sector in favor of climate action.
  • From February 19-23, the King visited Zambia – his first visit to the country. The King and Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu chaired a signing ceremony for 19 political and economic partnership agreements covering air services, investment promotion and protection, finance and banking, insurance, education, tourism, agriculture, technology, industry, and mining and renewable energy.
  • From February 23-24, he visited Guinea-Conakry, where he oversaw the signing of eight bilateral agreements in agriculture, sanitation, fertilizers, and technical assistance; visited a vocational training complex funded by the Mohammed VI Foundation for Sustainable Development; and undertook a number of measures to strengthen religious ties between the two countries. In addition to donating 10,000 copies of the Quran to the Secretary General of Religious Affairs in Guinea, the King performed Friday prayers at the Ahl Sunna Wal Jamaa mosque, launched construction on the “Mohammed VI Mosque,” and met with imams who were part of the first class of Guinean imams to receive training at the Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat.
  • From February 24-March 14, King Mohammed VI visited Côte d’Ivoire, presiding with President Alassane Ouattara over the signing of 14 economic agreements covering pharmaceuticals, public transportation and road security, women-managed small businesses, and the creation of a “Technocenter” in Abidjan. During the visit, the King and President Ouattara also chaired a ceremony presenting the progress of the Cocody Bay rehabilitation project, which the King launched in a June 2015 visit to the country. It was during that visit that the two countries established the Côte d’Ivoire-Morocco Economic Impetus Group to reinforce private sector cooperation; since then, Côte d’Ivoire has become a premier destination for Moroccan foreign investment and trade has increased threefold.

Morocco is the second largest African investor in the continent, and its trade with the rest of Africa increased by 12% annually between 2003 and 2013. 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, he 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.

“With this most recent trip, King Mohammed VI has once again put words into action and taken concrete steps to solidify his commitment to the development and prosperity of African citizens and his pledge to help bring about unity and progress on the continent,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel.

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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

When a Commitment to Economic Growth Has its Detractors – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 14:30

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 14, 2017

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

You probably haven’t seen the news about Morocco and the ECOWAS yet. In fact, you may react with “Eco-what?” I wouldn’t blame you. The ECOWAS is a regional economic group of 15 Central and West African countries, including some, like Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, and Nigeria, that you may have heard of, as well as others such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and the Gambia, that are remarkable and interesting to those who follow the continent’s activities. All are countries with long histories and intriguing cultures. Several, like Togo and Mali, are historically significant countries that once had large empires, as covered recently in the PBS special series Africa’s Great Civilizations.

Today, the ECOWAS seeks to promote regional economic integration through multistate programs for infrastructure, industrial development, energy, agricultural, natural resources, trade and investment, financial services, and cultural affairs. It is only natural that Morocco would want to be part of the ECOWAS — it currently has observer status. The major obstacle to full membership is that the regional group does not currently include North Africa in its mandate. So to address this issue, the ECOWAS heads of state will vote on Morocco’s request in April.

On the “why do it” side is the argument that because the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), which includes Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia, has been unable to effectively function, then why wouldn’t Morocco want to join a more proactive and friendly organization? It makes sense for Morocco to reach out to other francophone countries, and its trading and development partners, for economic growth opportunities. In fact, King Mohammed VI has diligently pursued stronger and more diverse ties with all of these countries for more than a decade.

According to the North Africa Post, “With the inclusion of Morocco, the ECOWAS will bolster its aggregated GDP to the 16th rank globally, ahead of Turkey and right after Indonesia. The admission of Morocco to the ECOWAS sub-region will make it the second largest economy after Nigeria (which is a member). Thanks to its geographic location and trade agreements with the EU, Turkey, the US, and several Arab countries as well as its port and airport hubs, Morocco will offer West African countries a gateway to new markets.”

Building stronger trade and investment relations to its south helps Morocco diversify commercial markets beyond its traditional ties to Europe, thus enabling reciprocal benefits with its African neighbors. It is the concept of building regional growth opportunities that underscores the MoU between Morocco and Nigeria to build an Africa Atlantic gas pipeline from the fields of Nigeria along the African coast to Morocco onwards to Europe…providing new energy supplies to fuel public and private sector development projects. For its part, Morocco will support its commitment to building the continent’s food security by sharing its expertise in the production of specialized fertilizers and agro-industries. Already announced are fertilizer plants through joint ventures with Gabon and Nigeria.

Unsurprisingly, the Algerian press is taking issue with Morocco’s ECOWAS move. According to Morocco World News, the Algerian daily El Watan “claimed that Morocco membership in ECOWAS might isolate Algeria from the African continent following the recent step of Morocco to diversify and develop its economic ties within the African continent.”

Algeria, with a badly managed, hydrocarbon-based economy according to recent articles, has often spoken about stronger ties with sub-Saharan Africa, but there are few initiatives in place. So rather than bulk up its efforts to develop its own Afro-centric economic policies, it prefers to criticize the King’s initiatives and watch as Morocco continues its outreach across Africa to build sustainable friendships and economic partnerships.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Previewing USAID’s 60 Year Anniversary in Morocco – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 21:24

Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 13, 2017

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

2017 marks a special year for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Morocco – the 60th anniversary of its partnership in the Kingdom. According to the agency, “Since 1957, the United States has placed Morocco at the heart of its foreign diplomacy. Throughout this proud shared history, the American people, through USAID, have invested in the human, economic, and institutional development in Morocco. Hand in hand with the people and government of Morocco, we have achieved major milestones.”

USAID officially launched its programs in Morocco on April 2, 1957, when the two countries signed an agreement for the US to provide Morocco with economic and technical assistance. Since that time, the US has invested over $2 billion in Morocco working on a range of issues, including education, health, and economic development, with a special emphasis on reaching women and youth.

Some of the highlights of the last 60 years include:

  • The construction of dams and water systems to make more land available for productive use;
  • Family planning and reproductive health programs that have drastically reduced infant and maternal mortality rates;
  • Job creation programs and support for the creation of microcredit institutions to provide capital hundreds of thousands of small businesses owners; and
  • Teacher training programs to improve education at all levels.

As a result of this support and cooperation with the Moroccan government, the Kingdom has witnessed profound change, leading USAID to conclude its overview of the last 60 years by noting:

Today, Morocco remains a stable Monarchy and a vital ally to the United States. The Government of Morocco and its citizens show clear commitment to democratic change and are working towards enhanced citizen participation in achieving greater social and economic opportunity for all citizens through targeted and progressive reforms.

USAID plans to honor this anniversary with a special celebration every month of the year, focused on “past and present successes in a specific sector: from civil society engagement, to agriculture, to youth opportunity.” Stay tuned to MOTM as we cover the anniversary and celebrate this special relationship!

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Categories: The moroccan press

US News & World Report Names Morocco among 50 Best Countries

Sat, 03/11/2017 - 00:00
Kingdom Shines in Business and Cultural Sub-Categories

Washington, DC, March 10, 2017 (MACP) — For the second year in a row Morocco was ranked among the top 50 best countries by US News & World Report’s Best Countries listing, released earlier this week. Produced in partnership with Y&R’s BAV Consulting group and the Wharton School of Pennsylvania, the listing evaluates 80 countries based on a survey of more than 21,000 respondents worldwide in nine sub-categories: Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power, and Quality of Life.

Ranking at 48th overall, Morocco showed especially strong performances in the Movers sub-category, which identifies “up-and-coming economies,” coming in at 14th; the Heritage sub-category, which identifies those countries “most readily associated with a unique identity,” ranking 16th; and the Adventure sub-category, signaling destinations most likely “to fulfill your wanderlust,” ranking 24th.

Of the remaining nine sub-categories, Morocco also placed in the top 50 in the categories of Open for Business (“market-oriented” countries that are “a haven for capitalists and corporations”), ranking 40th; and Cultural Influence (countries that serve as “cutting-edge centers of art, entertainment and fashion”), ranking 41st.

The report, now in its second year, used other combinations of survey responses to identify additional “Best Of” lists wherein Morocco also figured prominently but that were not accounted for in the overall rankings. Morocco ranked 39th among Best Countries to Travel Alone; 41st in Best Countries for a Comfortable Retirement; 43rd in Most Forward-Looking Countries; and 48th in Most Transparent.

In many categories, Morocco emerged as a leader in Africa and the Middle East. Morocco was number one in the Open for Business and Best Countries for a Comfortable Retirement categories among African and Middle Eastern countries; number one in North Africa for Forward-Looking Countries; and second in Africa in the Movers category.

“Morocco’s overall success and its exemplary performance in business and cultural sub-categories are a testament to the country’s strengths and vision for itself as a diverse, modern, and innovative world leader,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel.

The US News & World Report findings echo the results of many other industry indices over the years. Earlier this year, Morocco was again named among the 50 most innovative economies in the world and one of just two such economies in Africa by the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index. In September last year, the World Bank’s 2017 “Doing Business” report ranked Morocco 68 out of 190 countries in ease of doing business, making it number one in North Africa and fourth overall in the greater Middle East/North Africa region. Meanwhile, Marrakesh, Morocco was named the most popular travel destination in the world by TripAdvisor last year; and the World Tourism Organization’s 2016 Tourism Highlights report cited Morocco as the top tourist destination in Africa.

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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

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

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 20:54

MINURSO Monitors Ceasefire in Western Sahara. Photo: UN

Robert M. Holley
March 9, 2017

Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Adviser, MACP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 15:28

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: The moroccan press

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

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 22:19

By Jordana Merran
March 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

We are following the situation closely.

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 16:06

Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 19:01

Casablanca Port in the Morning. Photo: Nathan Guy

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 14:42

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: The moroccan press

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

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 21:11

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 17:30

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
February 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 16:00

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

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

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

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

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