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Business Brief: Morocco Expands Global Trade Networks; Aims to be in Top 50 Countries for Doing Business; Will Host Global Conference on Women in Agriculture; and Launches Effort to Attract Overseas Moroccan Business Leaders – Jean R. AbiNader

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 20:11

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 24, 2017

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

While summer may bring its fair amount of heat to Morocco, it has not slowed the country’s economic and business activities. Delegations from Argentina and visits to Brazil and Ireland, and a new outreach effort to enlist Moroccans abroad in entrepreneurial initiatives are among the most recent announcements coming out of the Kingdom.

Government sets goal to bring Morocco into the top 50 for Doing Business. Last week, at the 9th meeting of Morocco’s National Committee on the Business Environment (CNEA), head of government Saad Eddine Othmani made a pledge to continue efforts to  improve Morocco’s business climate to attract investors and encourage business expansion. For example, ranking in the World Bank’s  annual Ease of Doing Business reports, Morocco’s rank has risen steadily, from128 out of 183 countries in 2010 to 68 out of 190 countries this year. And the CNEA goal is to be in the top 50 by 2021.

Among the initiatives announced are efforts to improve dialogue between the public and private sectors, streamlining administrative procedures, greater use of digital technology to enhance business development, and continuing reform of business laws and regulations.

Attending the CNEA meeting were Miriem Behsaleh Chaqroun, president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Business (CGEM), and other notables from the public and private sectors who share CNEA’s goals and support 22 upcoming projects to enhance the role and voice of the business community.

These include, according to a Morocco World News report, “the development of legal and regulatory framework of business, the development of mechanisms to listen to the private sector and maintaining the image of Morocco in international reports from the perspective of developing a strategy to improve the business climate, the simplification of administrative procedures and the creation of single points of contact, and the development of mechanisms and the methodology of the CNEA’s functioning.”

Underlying these projects will be “a survey to determine obstacles facing the private sector, creating a digital platform to receive comments (both grievances and suggestions) from entrepreneurs, and determining a…2018-21 plan of action to integrate Morocco into the Doing Business reports’ top 50 nations.”

Business development efforts continue apace. Among key developments these past weeks were high level interactions with leaders from Brazil, Argentina, and Ireland. As reported in several sources, Morocco is committed to expanding its presence on both sides of the Atlantic, most recently hosting Argentinean Vice-President Marta Gabriela Michetti for wide-ranging discussions related to bilateral business ties and opening new markets for Argentinean investments in Morocco as a business platform for Africa.

In Brazil, a bilateral business conference was held in Sao Paulo to explore current relations and prospects for increased Brazilian trade in Africa using Morocco as an intermediary. The seminar, “Assessing and Redefining Policies towards Africa in a New Global Scenario: Intersecting Perspectives between Brazil and Morocco,” emphasized the many opportunities in bilateral trade and investment. While the bulk of the current trade centers around sugar from Brazil and fertilizers from Morocco, participants noted expanding opportunities for both countries. One of the more intriguing ideas was a Mercosur-Morocco trade agreement to facilitate Brazilian access to both Africa and the Middle East.

One of the immediate consequences of the growing business between Morocco and Brazil is that Royal Air Maroc announced that it would expand its flights to Sao Paulo from four times a week to daily flights from Casablanca. This will serve increased business ties, as well as growing tourism options for both countries.

In Ireland, a delegation from Morocco engaged in wide-ranging talks that included opportunities in dairy, agriculture, food processing, and agri-technology that would enhance bilateral commercial relations. The visit was a follow-up to an Irish visit to Morocco last year. Local reports noted that there has been “phenomenal” growth in bilateral trade, which has doubled in the last five years, with only more opportunities ahead.

Another Sea Link to Africa. Following on the success of the Wazzan I maritime transportation link from Tangier and Casablanca to Africa, Morocco recently launched Wazzan II, to enable Moroccan exporters to connect both by sea to West African countries on the coast including Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, and Liberia, and by overland links to Mali and Burkina Faso. It will be a weekly service from Casablanca to support the Kingdom’s 12% growth in annual exports to the continent.

And Concerning Women in Africa. The international NGO Believe in Africa (BIA) announced that it will hold its second conference in Marrakech in September. Morocco was chosen for this year’s “Women and Agriculture” conference, in large part in response to the leadership role of King Mohammed VI in promoting the role of women in development. More than 500 delegates are expected from across Africa to discuss politics and business with regional and international experts in financing, technology and innovation, climate change, and access to markets. The voices of members of non-governmental organizations and institutions will also be included, According to the event press release, “By bringing people together, BIA 2017 will be the place where the pivotal role African women play, and contribute, in agriculture and sustainable development will be discussed and honored.”

Mrs. Angelle KWEMO, president of the association and of the conference said that “Morocco is one of the most economically dynamic African countries. Geographically and strategically located, Morocco is a bridge to Europe and the U.S. for Africa and a leader for South-South trade. It is certain that during this Conference we will learn a lot from the Moroccan experience in developing and expanding its agriculture sector.”

Outreach project to attract overseas Moroccans. In February, CGEM and the Moroccan Ministry of Moroccans Abroad signed an agreement to create a special public-private partnership to attract overseas Moroccans to invest in their home country. As a result of that agreement, the Moroccan Business Bridge symposium opened today in Rabat, with around 300 Moroccan business leaders from around the world who will share their experiences and hopefully create opportunities for business development.

According to the event press release, the program will initiate a digital network “for professional exchange between Morocco’s world entrepreneurs and those based in Morocco. It aims also to encourage Moroccan investors living abroad to invest in the Moroccan market and to contribute to the development of the Kingdom by enhancing its image abroad.”

In a survey taken earlier this year, it was found that more than 50% of Moroccan entrepreneurs living abroad would invest in Morocco given the opportunity. It is estimated that there are more than 300,000 Moroccan business owners in the overseas community of more than 5 million.

 

The post Business Brief: Morocco Expands Global Trade Networks; Aims to be in Top 50 Countries for Doing Business; Will Host Global Conference on Women in Agriculture; and Launches Effort to Attract Overseas Moroccan Business Leaders – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Celebrating 230 Years of US-Morocco Friendship – A Lasting Partnership

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 21:25

Washington, DC, July 20, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) – This week officially marked 230 years of friendship between the United States and Morocco, with the anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the longest-lasting treaty in US history.

Morocco played a critical role in the early days of the US republic as the first country to officially recognize the fledging American nation in 1777. In 1780, General George Washington and the Sultan of Morocco began an official correspondence that quickly led to a mutual interest in negotiating a “Treaty of Amity and Commerce” to set out the conditions of trade relations between the two. It took persistence on the part of the Sultan, as the colonies were still fighting a war, and there were few American diplomats charged with negotiating treaties. The final draft of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was approved by the Confederation Congress in July 1787.

Other milestones include the first US consulate in Africa and the Middle East, inaugurated in Tangier in 1797, and the first multilateral treaty, signed by the US and nine other countries in 1865, to erect a lighthouse in Tangier as a navigational aid.

More recently, Morocco assisted the US and its allies during World War I and II; our economic and commercial ties were enhanced through the 2004 bilateral Free Trade Agreement; and Morocco continues to provide strong counterterrorism cooperation, as well as participating in Strategic Dialogue and joint military training exercises with the US.

“The Treaty of Peace and Friendship is a remarkable document with an enduring legacy,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “Our long friendship with Morocco continues to this day, based on shared values and a common vision.”

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Reaches for Stronger Trade Ties with Russia; Islamic Financing Legislation Inches Forward; and African Development Bank Ups Support – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 21:00

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 19, 2017

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

Even though it’s summer, Morocco’s leaders are still actively promoting stronger economic relations globally. The African Development Bank extends additional support for industrial growth in the Kingdom; and the Chamber of Deputies authorizes expansion of Islamic financial services.

Morocco-Russia ties set to increase. Since King Mohammed VI visited with President Vladimir Putin in March 2016, talks aimed at increasing trade between the two countries have continued. Most recently, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita co-chaired the sixth Mixed Moroccan-Russian Commission for Economic, Scientific, and Technological Cooperation in Moscow. He noted that the King was “keen on boosting partnership with Russia on all levels, as it plays an important geo-political and economic role” that Morocco welcomes. It is now Russia’s second largest trading partner in the Arab world and Africa, with a total bilateral trade value of $2.5 billion.

Minister Bourita continued, “Morocco aspires to be Russia’s major Arab and African [trading] partner. We are ready to put all our efforts to reach that goal. The kingdom also wants Russia to be among the ten major trading partners of Morocco.” To this end, he identified several sectors for cooperation, including existing partnerships in agriculture and fishing, and opportunities in new technologies, pharmaceuticals, and the automotive sector. He also mentioned Morocco’s potential role as a gateway for Russian investors to West Africa.

In response, Alexander Tkachev, Russia’s agriculture minister seconded the importance of boosting agricultural trade and said that there are also plans to increase Russian tourists threefold, from 50,000 to 150,000 per year.  The Russian minister also affirmed that Moscow wants to boost its oil and gas exports to Morocco.

Islamic financial instruments approved. Since the approval of five joint ventures to provide Islamic financial instruments in Morocco, the government has been putting in place the various elements needed to make this a reality. The most recent steps, according to Morocco World News, have been the adoption of two decrees by the government council charged with implementation. The decrees cover what is termed “participatory finance,” i.e. financing in which the borrower and seller are both involved in the investment. One governs Sukuk, which are investment certificates; the other governs Takaful, which is insurance coverage. For those who are not familiar with Islamic finance principles, the basic tenet is that both parties share in the risk, with no one guaranteed benefit over the other (as in paying interest on a loan).

The provision on Sukuk provides for how the securitization of assets in an investment are to be certified and then placed with local investors, and under what conditions. The Takaful bill spells out the authority of the government agency responsible for Islamic finance to define the provisions of insurance contracts, types of insurance, and the terms and conditions. It empowers the Ministry of Finance and Economy to “set the criteria and terms of remuneration of the insurance and reinsurance undertaking for the management of the Takaful account, as well as the arrangements for distributing technical and financial surpluses between participants in the Takaful operations.” It is on the basis of this remuneration and distribution that business benefits both partners in the transaction.

The Minister of Finance and Economy, Mohamed Boussaid stated that the effective launching of participatory banks in the Moroccan financial sector will allow diversification of sources of financing, stimulating the collection of financial savings, particularly that of households, and promoting investment by those who currently avoid western style commercial banks.

African Development Bank (AfDB) gives more support for Morocco’s industrial drive. In launching the Support Program for the Acceleration of Industrialization in Morocco(PAAIM 1), the AfDB approved a $200 million loan aimed at consolidating the “foundations for sustainable and shared growth” as Morocco’s industrialization moves apace. The goal is to increase industry’s GDP share to 23% and create half a million jobs by 2020.

In addition, the Board also approved an APA risk-sharing agreement amounting to $50 million to the Central Popular Bank (BCP) to meet the demand for greater trade financing. This will be used to “hedge a portfolio of transactions up to $100 million supporting a cumulative value for $700 million in intra-African business operations over a three-year period.”

A story in North Africa Post noted that “According to the AfDB, the APA will meet the growing demand of African markets for trade finance in vital economic sectors such as agri-food, health, services, and industry. In addition, it will promote regional integration and financial sector development and help generate additional tax revenues for several African States. This agreement will support in particular Moroccan exporters as well as banks and SMEs on the continent.”

Trade and project financing is especially critical to Morocco’s economic growth. The article pointed out that “To date, 32 transactions amounting to USD 2.3 billion in commitments are registered under the partnership between Morocco and the African Development Bank Group. The projects concern the transport, energy, water, and sanitation and agricultural sectors.”

Pick a card, any card. Morocco’s Interbank Monetary Center (CMI) reported that in the first six months of 2017, credit card activity rose by more than 84% over the same period in 2016, 3 million vs. 1.6 million. The largest increases were registered by domestic users. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) recorded a total of 134.5 million transactions from both national and international credit cards. Cards from Moroccan banks dominated transactions in the kingdom at 98.2 percent. Wow, they’re loving their plastic!!

The post Business Brief: Morocco Reaches for Stronger Trade Ties with Russia; Islamic Financing Legislation Inches Forward; and African Development Bank Ups Support – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Western Sahara – Resolve? and Resolutions? – Robert M. Holley

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 19:57

Photo: United Nations

Robert M. Holley
July 19, 2017

Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Adviser, MACP

It has been ten years, a decade, since Morocco offered an initiative in the Security Council to provide a generous autonomy to the population of Western Sahara.  Ten years is a long time to wait for action, especially for a problem that already has been around for more than four decades.

It has been 15 years, a decade and a half, since the Security Council began passing yearly “resolutions” calling on the Parties to achieve a mutually acceptable “political solution” to this problem. Morocco’s ten-year-old initiative was a response to the Security Council’s encouragement to offer some kind of reasonable political compromise, and has been praised as “serious, credible and realistic.”.  It was also a response to much additional encouragement from Washington, which took a long hard look at the Moroccan initiative and decided it was more than generous by the international standards of other such autonomy arrangements. Thus, the certificate of approval from successive US Administrations both Democrat and Republican since it was first presented in 2007.

It has been nearly 18 years, approaching two decades, since the United States Government set this dynamic in motion when it decided that efforts to conduct a referendum to determine the fate of the territory were both futile and ill-advised and “resolved” to put its diplomatic weight behind ending this problem with a fair-minded political solution that gave both parties what they needed, even if it denied them all they might want.

Much pondering, thorough discussion, wide internal consultations and numerous meetings preceded the State Department decision in early 1999 to abandon the failed United Nations effort to hold a vote on the future of Western Sahara.  Eight long years had already elapsed trying to bring the Parties to agreement on who should be allowed to vote in a referendum. It was perfectly clear by late 1998 that neither eight more years nor eighty would ever bridge the divide.  I know. I was there. Time to move on to something more practical and realistic. Good American logic.

But after all the milestones now passed since that original decision in the corridors and conference rooms of Foggy Bottom, decades of them, you have to wonder what has become of the original U.S. “resolve” and what is the value of all those Security Council “resolutions” calling for a political solution.

Unfortunately, what now seems most clear, after all these years, is that U.S. “resolve” is maybe less firm than the word suggests, and that “resolutions” carry less weight than the Security Council might wish.

We hear frequently these days, with political speech increasingly scrutinized for meanings both evident and implied, that “words have meaning.” If so, maybe it is also time to take some actions that demonstrate just how meaningful words can be.

In Western Sahara, a demonstration of our resolve to settle this matter through a fair-minded political solution could well start with some unambiguous words in a U.S. statement that not only is Morocco’s initiative “serious, credible and realistic,” but, in fact, this kind of trade-off between sovereignty and autonomy offers the only way to resolve this issue.  Backing up that kind of statement with some concrete and visible actions to support Morocco’s current and ongoing efforts to prepare the region for such autonomy might also begin to persuade other Parties that our “resolve” does finally have real meaning, and that we plan to become more visibly resolute in its pursuit.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Oxford Business Group Makes the Case for Morocco’s Membership in ECOWAS – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 19:05

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 12, 2017

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

Last month, the regional economic cooperation body for West Africa, ECOWAS, approved in principle Morocco’s request for membership. This step opens the door to final approval, pending studies to determine the implications of Morocco’s membership. As noted in a number of stories, Morocco’s entry into ECOWAS can only strengthen the organization. The current 15 member bloc would move from 21st to 16th in terms of GDP with Morocco’s participation.  “With its strategic geographic and economic position, Morocco would be a vital platform for ECOWAS countries to secure European, American and Arab markets,” according to Front Page Africa.

An analysis of the benefits of the potential union was done by Oxford Business Group (OBG). The report looked at Morocco’s membership in terms of its continued expansion of economic ties in West Africa and how those diverse ties will have a positive impact there. Morocco’s platform as a regional economic driver, thanks to its preferential trade agreements with the EU, US, and Mediterranean countries, among others, will enable greater access to these markets for ECOWAS countries.

In addition, Morocco itself, already the second largest African investor in Africa, is building partnerships to undertake even more projects in Africa, as witnessed by the more than 950 bilateral agreements signed with African partners since 2000. OBG made particular mention of two MoUs with Nigeria as signs of future prospects. The first covers a joint venture to govern, manage, and finance a gas pipeline from Nigeria, along the west coast of Africa, to Morocco and then beyond to Europe. Some 13 countries and 300 million people will be directly affected and benefit from the badly needed access to non-polluting energy supplies.  The second project, similar to one with Gabon, covers cooperative ventures in the fertilizer and chemical sectors to upgrade Nigeria’s access to fertilizers specially blended for that country’s needs.

The OBG analysis points out that this expanding effort in Africa does not mean less emphasis on Morocco’s traditional partners in Europe. “While Morocco looks to bolster ties on the African continent, its largest trading partner remains the EU, which accounted for 55.7% of trade and 61.3% of exports in 2015. Trade in goods between the two markets has risen steadily in recent years, from €29.3bn in 2014 to €30.6bn in 2015 and €34.6bn last year, according to IMF data. Of Morocco’s €13.8bn worth of exports to the EU in 2016, machinery and transport equipment made up 40.4%, followed by agricultural products (23%), and textiles and clothing (20.3%).”

These results are indicative of the shifts in the Moroccan economy as it diversifies beyond tourism and agriculture to its growing manufacturing base, which has added great value to its exports. “Recent developments in Morocco’s automotive, aeronautics and electronics sector also bode well for its trade prospects,” says the OBG. From global giants Renault, Peugeot, Boeing, and Jacobs Engineering, to the many supply chain companies that make up the technology and manufacturing ecosystems, Morocco is reaping the benefits of strong economic incentives, prime geographic location, and political stability. This is a great incentive for the ECOWAS members that are keen to step up their industrial sectors.

While the economic and business advantages of Morocco’s membership are a big part of the story, a more complete narrative would include the human development dimension of Morocco’s ties in the region. From scholarships for African students, to extensive technical and foreign assistance programs, to innovative policies towards sub-Saharan migrants, to festivals celebrating common cultural roots, Morocco provides an array of collaborative and cooperative initiatives to more closely knit together the region. Both Morocco and ECOWAS members will benefit greatly from greater regional economic integration, and possibly provide examples to other states and regions of the continent.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Tops North Africa in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Countries for Immigrants” Ranking

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 22:00

Washington, DC, July 11, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) – Morocco ranked No. 1 in North Africa and second on the continent in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking this week of “Best Countries for Immigrants” – part of its Best Countries survey series.

According to the outlet, more than 21,000 people from across the globe assessed 80 countries, and in the immigration aspect of the survey ranked them based on four elements: “economically stable,” “good job market,” “income equality,” and “is a place I would live.”

“Countries also were scored in relation to others on the share of migrants in their population; the amount of remittances the migrants they host sent home; and graded on a United Nations assessment of integration measures provided for immigrants, such as language training and transfers of job certifications, and the rationale behind current integration policies,” according to U.S. News.

In 2013, Morocco became the first country in the Arab world to adopt a liberalized immigration policy that provides protections for migrants and asylum seekers. In 2014, the country successfully regularized the status of about 25,000 migrants, providing them with residency papers; and in December 2016, launched a second phase of the program.

Earlier this month in a speech delivered to the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI lamented the struggle of migrants on the continent. “Africa is losing its youths to legal and illegal migration. There is no way such a loss can be justified… Thousands of young Africans try clandestinely to reach the northern shore of the Mediterranean in search of a better life, with all the risks involved. They are precious men and women and are part of our continent’s human resources.”

He urged attendees, “What we need to do, above all, is to change our perception of migration and see it not as a constraint or threat, but as a positive element. Since time immemorial, has migration not been a factor of rapprochement between peoples and civilizations?”

“We must work together to develop an African Agenda on this question that includes a common vision of the ways and means of dealing with the question of migration, both within our continent and in international forums,” he said.

“Morocco has been a leader on the issue of migration for many years,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “King Mohammed VI long ago recognized that a welcoming, humanitarian approach offers the best solution. Challenges remain, of course, but Morocco has made great progress in integrating immigrants into its society.”

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 Contact: Jordan Paul, 202.587.0855

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Sources See Positive 2017 Growth in Morocco and Renewable Energy Project in the Headlines – Jean R. AbiNader

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 19:48
Morocco continues to receive positive news about its 2017 economic prospects and gains international attention for its renewable energy projects, internet penetration, and regional economic leadership. Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 10, 2017

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

Working Hard to Succeed. The North Africa Post elaborated on a report on Proshare, an African economic intelligence wire, which noted Morocco’s positive outlook for 2017.  Proshare based its prediction of a 4.3% GDP growth on several factors: recovery in the agricultural sector from the disastrous drought in 2016, “sustained efforts to improve the business environment and political stability [that] will continue to boost investor sentiment, which bodes well for the kingdom’s ambitions to become a manufacturing and exporting hub between Europe and Africa.”

The North Africa Post article opined that the steps Morocco has been taking will ensure its continued strong economic performance in the region. It pointed out that Morocco’s strong manufacturing sector is a cause for optimism as it continues expansion and exports. At the same time, the piece cautioned that the tourism industry, which is growing more slowly than predicted, “Severely suffered from the regional security turmoil affecting the MENA region.” However, it points out that the sector is in recovery mode this year with an uptick in visitors from Russia and China, key targets on King Mohammed VI’s economic diplomacy outside of Africa. In fact, most tourism receipts have recovered, and the restaurant and hotel sector expanded 9.6% in real terms in Q4’16.

North Africa Post.com also carried a story reporting that Morocco is now ranked “the second most connected country in Africa and the 33rd globally in a study by the Internet Live Stats website.” With more than 20 million users in a country of some 35 million people, the penetration rate is 57.6%, second to the Seychelles with 57.9%” with a population of 97,000! This puts Morocco far ahead of fellow Maghreb countries Algeria – 19.7% penetration and more than 39 million people — and Tunisia  — 48.1% penetration in a population of 11 million.

Live Internet Stats said that around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today, compared to 1% in 1995. The number of internet users has increased tenfold from 1999 to 2013. The first billion was reached in 2005; the second billion in 2010; and the third billion in 2014.

Renewable energy projects continue to draw attention, as Morocco will soon launch the world’s largest renewable energy power desalination plant for both drinking water and irrigation. As previously noted in Business Brief, the first phase of the $350+ million project was initiated with Abengoa, an international firm specializing in innovative and sustainable technology solutions in the energy and environmental sectors. The project will be in the Agadir region in partnership with the National Office of Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE) and BMCE Bank.

The plant will have a daily output capacity of 275,000 cubic meters of desalinated water, the largest ever for drinking water and irrigation. It can later be expanded to 450,000 m3 per day. The plant can be operated on wind power and critically protects existing underground aquifers from overuse.

Dreaming about Rugs. Raised in a francophone home, Abby Delaney from Winchester VA, near Washington, DC, found it natural to be involved in international business. Returning to Boston after a two-year stint overseas, she wondered what would come next, until a friend mentioned that he was starting a Moroccan Berber (Amazigh) rug company.

According to the article, “Oum Rugs was created by Ismail Tazi and his mother in March 2017. The stated mission, according to the company website, is to make authentic, one-of-a-kind, handwoven Moroccan Berber rugs more accessible to the world market, while also empowering the women who weave them. Oum, which means ‘mother’ in Arabic, pays homage to the Berber women who design and create the Moroccan rugs.”

Fluent in French, DeLaney has been a key player in building ties with weavers in Morocco and promoting their work over the internet. Having worked for an international company, she dove in and started the business end of the company in the US, creating the website, handling logistics and customer service, and coordinating rug production with Tazi and his mother as they traveled across Morocco finding the weavers.

DeLaney emphasizes that women weavers see their product as service items whereas overseas they are regarded as works of art. She says that “In the regions of Morocco where the rugs are made, young people don’t have access to formal education, only to the skills that are handed down. Oum’s method of compensation will allow parents to give their children a choice in their future.” She sees her efforts as part of a larger mission to satisfy demands for weaving as art while enabling the weavers to build futures for their families.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Moroccan CEOs Bullish on Short Term Growth; Concerned about Access to Credit – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 16:45
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 5, 2017

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

While other countries in the region struggle to compound their annual growth rates, Morocco’s private sector leadership indicates, in a recent poll, that they believe prospects for continued growth are quite strong. It is common in developed countries to routinely poll purchasing managers, C-suite executives, financial officers, human capital recruiters, and others, to take the pulse of what is happening in their particular business activity.

So, it should come as no surprise that other countries, with evolving economies, are also hard at work taking the pulse of their public and private sector leaders when it comes to economic trends. The Oxford Business Group (OBG), which publishes an annual assessment of Morocco’s overall economy, recently conducted its first “Business Barometer: Morocco CEO Survey,” a self-described “study of almost 70 CEOS in the country that provides strong local insight into current C-suite business sentiment.”

In a frontier market economy like Morocco, it is sometimes challenging to identify leadership that is not either quasi-state run or dependent on the government for its revenues, which may influence the responses. In this survey, OBG sought out a broad spectrum of companies based on a number of criteria, including annual sales, size of workforce, customer base, and ownership. In this poll, 53% were international companies, 28% were local, and 83% were in the private sector.

The results released in a summary of the report show that in the near-term the business community is committed to operating in Morocco and expect that their business will grow over the next year. Data gathered shows that 86% said that they have positive or very positive expectations, while 62% said that they were likely or very likely “to make a significant capital investment in the next year.”

Given recent concerns with business conditions in Morocco captured in World Bank and World Economic Forum reports, it stood out that 77% of respondents said that relative to the region, the level of transparency for conducting business was high or very high. Two areas of the business environment were less satisfactory. Less than 45% expressed satisfaction with local suppliers and service providers, and only 40% labeled the tax environment competitive. Another area of concern to the CEOs surveyed was access to credit, which 53% indicated was difficult or very difficult.

The study echoes concerns raised by the World Bank report, in that the economy would benefit as a whole from more tax reforms and an upgraded and market-focused educational system. This comes at a time when the MCC-US is launching with its counterpart in Morocco a $120 million project to enhance secondary schools in all aspects, from physical plant to curriculum and staff development.

The OBG study is good news for Morocco’s business promotion efforts, emphasizing both the assets of the economy and the challenges the country faces if it is to meet the growth rates necessary to absorb its human capital, generate needed tax income, and continue the diversification of the economy that to date has achieved important progress.

In addition, the results can be used for regional comparisons to see how Morocco measures up across North Africa or with other countries. A detailed survey, infographics, and OBG analysis are available from OBG at https://www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/blog/category/obg-business-barometer.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco, a Majority-Muslim Nation, the First to Recognize Newly Independent United States over Two Centuries Ago

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 16:00

Washington, DC, June 30, 2017 (MACP) — America’s Founding Fathers may have ratified the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; but the document signaled just the beginning of the United States’ long and bloody battle for freedom from British rule. With years of war ahead of them, the colonists needed allies. While the French are perhaps most well-known for taking arms alongside Americans, it was the majority-Muslim nation of Morocco, in northern Africa, that first signaled its recognition of the newly independent U.S.

On December 20, 1777, Morocco’s Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ben Abdullah declared that all ships sailing under the American flag could freely enter Moroccan ports. “This action, under the diplomatic practice of Morocco at the end of the 18th century, put the United States on an equal footing with all other nations with which the Sultan had treaties,” explains the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Historian. “By issuing this declaration, Morocco became one of the first states to acknowledge publicly the independence of the American Republic.”

The following year, Moroccan and American diplomats began correspondence that would eventually lead to the negotiation of a formal treaty between the two countries. On July 18, 1787, Congress ratified the U.S.-Morocco “Treaty of Peace and Friendship,” which set forth the framework for diplomatic relations, assurances of non-hostility, access to markets on “most favored nation” basis, and protection of U.S. ships from attack by foreign vessels in Moroccan waters.

As U.S. President in 1789, George Washington wrote to the Sultan, “This young nation, just recovering from the waste and desolation of a long war, has not, as yet, had time to acquire riches by agriculture or commerce. But our soil is beautiful, and our people industrious, and we have reason to flatter ourselves that we shall gradually become useful to our friends… I shall not cease to promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony which so happily subsist between your empire and [the US].”

Today, the U.S.-Morocco Treaty of Peace and Friendship remains the longest standing U.S. treaty of its kind still in force. July 18 will mark its 230th year.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Financial Sector Continues to Strengthen and Morocco Reaches Out to New Markets – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 22:39

Women processing argan seeds in Morocco. Photo by “Jessica on Paper” on Flickr.

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 29, 2017

Three developments—in funding for environmental projects, Islamic banking, and currency reform—will help tie Morocco to international markets; Argan oil’s growth has turned remote villages into economic engines; and Morocco’s solar energy agency, MASEN, is working to attract Swedish partners.

Morocco hones financial instruments to strengthen economy. An initiative announced at COP22 to provide financing for green projects is gaining momentum. As reported in Energy Live News, Banque Central Populaire (BCP) has already received more than a $100 million investment from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, and another $40 million from private sector financing group Proparco. The funds support a 10-year maturity bond that will enable participating banks to “support long term investments in green assets by channeling private funding  into climate finance.”

The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by some 938,000 metric tons a year. It is reported that the IFC has identified $68 million in green investment opportunities in Morocco alone. Mouayed Makhlouf, IFC Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Addressing climate change is a priority for IFC in the region and Morocco is an active player in this area.” “By building on our long term partnership with BCP, we aim to encourage more private sector investment in long term renewable energy projects, paving the way for more sustainable economic development and growth.”

Islamic finance is taking shape in Morocco. In a recent interview in the Gulf Times, Abdulbasit Ahmad al-Shaibei, the CEO of Qatar Islamic Investment Bank (QIIB), spoke about his company’s intention to open 10 branches in Morocco by the end of the summer. QIIB is one of the five approved partners for introducing Islamic banking into the Kingdom. The bank brand is Umnia Bank, and al-Shaibei is bullish on Morocco as a gateway to North Africa.

“There is a huge potential for Islamic banking in North Africa. There is a huge market waiting to be tapped in North Africa, which is in need of Shariah-based, value-driven banking,” al-Shaibei told Gulf Times. Umnia Bank is the result of a partnership among QIIB, Credit immobilier et hotelier (CIH) and Moroccan Deposit and Management Fund. Its plan is to expand in key cities, offering innovative products beyond deposits and savings, which include banking solutions, financing, and investments. It sees a potentially broad client base beyond government projects, using sukuk, Islamic bonds, to finance projects that will add value to the economy by catering to those who currently do not deal with conventional banks because of restrictions on borrowing based on interest repayments.

As part of its long term financial sector reforms agreed with the IMF, Morocco will shortly announce its plans for liberalizing its currency, the dirham. Since Morocco has solid foreign reserves, a balance in currency accounts, and gradually improving public finances, it is ready to move to a flexible exchange rate to be followed by other reforms including inflation targeting. Currently, the dirham is fixed to a peg weighted 60% to the euro and 40% to the dollar. Easing that peg will allow the dirham to trade in a gradually expanding range vis-à-vis the global market.

As the currency begins to fluctuate in response to the market, it is expected that the central bank will introduce hard currency interbank trading and use foreign reserves to insure liquidity in the system. But Morocco has done more than other North African countries to adopt economic reforms, curbing its deficit, ending fuel subsidies, and freezing public sector hiring. According to Reuters, “Aleksander Berentsen, a University of Basel professor of economic theory, said Morocco’s macro-economic stability meant it was a good moment to liberalize the dirham and the central bank was in a position to adjust to changes. It’s a recipe for success.”

Go ahead, try argan oil for a change. Markets are growing for the nutty liquid that has become a byword in everything from cooking to cosmetics. Some claim that it has been used in regional cooking since the Middle Ages, eaten with bread or as a garnish for tagines and couscous.

Argan is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, making it one of the most sought-after and costly cosmetic ingredients in the world. Until the end of the last century, extracting the oil was an arduous process, and now the process has been partially mechanized, making it into an industry that is paying dividends for the many women’s cooperatives that are the backbone of the sector.

Today, this “women’s work” has enabled the more than 150 cooperatives, employing thousands of women, to emerge as a genuine economic force in the southwest regions who, until now, had few options other than raising livestock or household farming.  Another major benefit of this industry is that women are in charge, despite early resistance from men, and are gradually transforming the economic landscape in the region through empowering women and building role models for young women.

MASEN visits Sweden to promote renewable energy collaboration. The growth of potential cooperation in renewable energy projects was underscored in recent meetings of a Moroccan delegation to Sweden headed by the President of the Moroccan solar authority MASEN, Mustapha Bakkoury. The delegation met with the country’s energy agencies and several companies to discuss current and potential collaborations.

The visit was in response to an invitation from the Swedish government, which wants to take advantage of Morocco’s leadership in the field of renewable energy and pair it with innovative technologies being developed in Sweden. Among the companies visited was Cleanergy AB, a private high-tech firm specializing in the application of Stirling engine-based renewable energy solutions.

Among the topics discussed were Sweden’s energy goals and the role of renewable energies in its strategy; Morocco’s goals in becoming a global leader in the sector; and, potential areas for collaboration. Cleanergy provides concentrated solar power (CSP) technology to Morocco, which is the operating system for Noor 1. The next step is for the partners to “launch collaborative innovation activities on thermal energy storage systems” throughout the Africa market, according to a company statement.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Most Democratic Country in Arab World According to Latest Arab Democracy Index

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 21:26

Washington, DC, June 26, 2017 (MACP) — Morocco ranks as the most democratic country in the Arab world according to the Arab Democracy Index, released earlier this month by the Arab Reform Initiative and The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. This fifth iteration of the report examines survey data to measure the democratic transition process in Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco.

While the report showed an overall decline in democratization in the Arab world, Morocco posted gains to remain in the lead for the fourth time since the Index first launched in 2008. The North African country showed improvements in a number of indicators, particularly in the data “related to surveillance of the press, the hindering of political party activity, personal safety, and school dropout rates,” according to the report’s Executive Summary.

Tunisia and Jordan followed Morocco as second and third most democratic countries in the Index. Among its many recommendations, the report “highlights the urgent need to strengthen the monitoring functions of [Arab] political systems, enhance the ability of parliaments to ensure accountability, promote judicial independence, and strengthen oversight of the security services. It also recommends supporting the role of women in the [labor] force, reforming education, and giving more freedom to the media to contribute effectively to public debate and raising awareness.”

“Morocco’s rank in the Arab Democracy Index is a testament to King Mohammed VI’s vision for a stable, prosperous, and democratic Morocco—a vision which he laid out nearly two decades ago,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “Morocco should be proud of and encouraged by these results.”

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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

Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Report Highlights Transnational Cooperation – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 18:37

Flags of member countries outside UfM headquarters in Barcelona. Photo by: Jordiferrer on Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 22, 2017

While a great deal has been written about the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) to realize its potential for making North Africa a regional powerhouse, little is known in the US about the UfM and how it is creating new cooperative relationships across the Mediterranean basin. Led since 2012 by Secretary General Amb. Fathallah Sijilmassi, it pulls together its 43 member countries to develop projects that serve the people of the region despite political obstacles.

Ambassador Sijilmassi is a Moroccan diplomat who is best known to Americans as the first head of the Moroccan Investment Development Agency (AMDI), which initiated many of the incentives, databases, and relationships that have been central to Morocco’s economic growth. He also participated in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the US, as well as agreements with Europe and Arab and African countries. As a result, he is a recognized leader on Moroccan-Euro relations, especially in investment, regional cooperation, and development.

UfM recently released its 2016 annual report, highlighting previous accomplishments and initiatives and spelling out its 2017 agenda. According to its website, the UfM “serves as a framework for policy dialogue and exchange of project ideas, experiences and best practices among governments, key international institutions and cooperation structures. The UfM provides a unique platform to formulate regional priorities and decide on specific cooperation initiatives to be put in place.” It also places a special emphasis on improving conditions for women and youth.

The UfM bills itself as “an ecosystem. In a collaborative approach…stakeholders contribute decisively to the effectiveness of regional cooperation, with significant benefit for the overall objective of mutual understanding, development, peace and stability.” This positive message is backed up by millions of dollars of capital to fund projects in four areas: enhancing political dialogue among UfM members; ensuring the contribution of UfM activities to regional stability and human development; strengthening regional integration; and consolidating UfM capacity for action. In other words, despite whatever obstacles exist, UfM projects provide a platform on which the members can engage each other in cooperative efforts to build prosperity for their citizens.

A few examples of projects in which Morocco participates, along with other Mediterranean South countries, illustrate the vital role that UfM plays in the region:

  • YouMatch, funded by the German development agency GIZ and the German government, brings together an array of experts from governments, the business sector, and civil society to develop better employment services for youth. Based on the notion that lessons learned and shared can improve the employment practices of the six participating countries, it seeks to build tools that will “help assess and improve existing labour market tools and will encourage peer learning and the exchange of expertise and best practices….” Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are involved in this project.
  • Euro-Mediterranean University in Fez opened its campus in 2016 with 300 students in its first cohort. Targeting students from the Mediterranean region as well as Africa, it offers a multilingual and multidimensional program focused on development issues in the Mediterranean basin. Working with a consortium of Euro-Med universities, it is committed to advancing student employability and entrepreneurial skills. It is envisioned as a laboratory for creating the next generation of regional leaders.
  • At the EMUNI University in Slovenia, professionals from Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Ghana are enrolled in a one-year program to “equip would-be entrepreneurs with the skills they need to turn a bright idea into an innovative and sustainable business.” In collaboration with universities in Egypt, Italy, and Morocco, young professionals under the age of 40 with a background in science, math, engineering, or business are asked to come up with ideas for new businesses.
  • Projects that support women as leaders and entrepreneurs include “Promoting Women’s Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development” and the “WOMED Next Generation of Leaders.” The first works to increase access for women entrepreneurs to coaching, investments, business partnerships, and matchmaking. The latter, which has been active since 2015, works to facilitate networks of female leaders interacting around ideas, resources, and research to support women’s empowerment.
  • Morocco has played a leading role in UfM renewable energy projects under the SEMed Private Renewable Energy Framework, the first being a 120MW wind farm near Tangier, one of the country’s first private projects for producing renewable energy.
  • An example of UfM’s infrastructure focus is the LOGISMED-TA project. It involves government and private sector trainees from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, who will upgrade their skills through specifically designed courses to “create a network of logistics platforms meeting recognized quality standards” in such areas as customs, border and port management, logistics administration, and ultimately a regional free trade zone.

Other UfM projects can be found in the 2016 annual report. Suffice to say, it highlights concrete programs that are realizing actual results through collaborative means to achieve economic growth and integration. For example, a conference was held in December 2016 on issues of regional partnerships among universities and how to manage migrant and refugee credit recognition. Hopefully, by reducing barriers to cooperation and providing sustainable projects for its members, UfM will continue its successful efforts and enhance prospects for regional economic integration.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: President Macron Makes Morocco First Stop in North Africa; Moroccan Entrepreneurs Shine; and MCC-MCA Morocco Gets Going – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 16:06

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 21, 2017

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

It did not go unnoticed in the region that French President Emmanuel Macron visited Morocco on his first visit to North Africa. While it was a private visit, with a concurrent announcement of a pending visit to Algeria, it reinforces the special relationship that exists. Good news for Moroccan entrepreneurs who forge ahead with innovation for low-cost cooking; and MCC-MCA Morocco announces public meetings.

Macron to King Mohammed VI, solid and reliable partnership. Though it was a private visit, with no business or political delegation to accompany him, President Macron made sure to visit Morocco to make up for skipping the country during his campaign and to continue the strong bond that exists between the countries. Commentaries were consistent in pointing out the strong economic, political, and security relationship that continues to serve the best interests of both.

In a wide-ranging discussion on France24, it was noted that the US has passed France as the largest investor in Morocco, while Spain is now the number one trading partner, despite the extensive investments made by Renault, Peugeot, Airbus, and others in highly visible projects encompassing the auto, aerospace, rail, and ports sectors, among others. Contention in the Gulf and continued terrorism threats in the EU may have topped the agenda, but Morocco’s economic and commercial partnerships with France clearly speak to the permanence of the bilateral ties.

In fact, a Times of India.com blog following the visit was headlined “Important Axis: The France-Morocco relationship is slated to become a global asset,” and went on to detail the diverse and substantial ties between the two allies.

Macron and King Mohammed share a common vision of supporting Africa’s economic growth as an antidote to instability — and as a rich source of market opportunities. The blog noted, “But for a strong Macron presidency to formulate a new Africa policy, Paris needs a stable African partner. And that partner can be no other than the North African nation of Morocco.” It mentioned that “Today, Morocco is not only the most dynamic economy in North Africa but has also become the second largest investor on the continent. Add to this Morocco’s King Mohammed VI’s vision of pushing South-South cooperation among sister African nations…It is with this principle in mind that Morocco has over recent years boosted its economic engagements with countries of the Sahara and Sahel regions.”

It is in this regional context of building security through prosperity that France and Morocco are the ideal partnership for advancing growth and stability on the continent.

From big ideas, smart innovations. As noted in various publications, “The Global Innovation Index 2017 ranked Morocco as the first innovative economy in North Africa and the third on the continental level preceded only by South Africa and Mauritius.” We have discussed the report on our website and thought it might be interesting to look at a case study of how a simple idea turned into a pragmatic solution can yield many benefits.

As reported in Morocco World News, a group of university students in Morocco have pioneered an insulated isotherm bag that slow cooks food using retained heat. Food is initially heated in the usual manner, and then the dish is placed inside the bag to continue the cooking process without an external heat source.

Called Eco-Heat, the low-tech bag saves energy, reduces pollution, and frees the food preparer for other tasks. Three students at EHTP, the engineering college in Casablanca, came up with the concept while visiting rural villages in Morocco and observing how much energy was wasted in simple food preparation. Given that the dominant fuels are wood, coal, and butane gas, there were also health concerns associated with the cooking process. ­The students were part of Enactus, which bills itself as “A community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better and more sustainable world.” Active in 36 countries, Enactus enables students to test ideas, garner support, and launch projects.

The students developed the isotherm bag, patented the technology, and began marketing, with more than $20,000 in start-up funds from various sponsors including Ford, Enactus, and OCP.

The bag has broad utility beyond rural areas. As Marwane Fachane, who worked with the startup during their time with the incubator Dare Inc., explained, “The average Moroccan consumer needs the product for two reasons: In urban areas, because he no longer has time to cook, and in rural areas, because he can no longer afford other alternatives such as gas, wood or electric furnaces.”

MCC-MCA Morocco focus on education. MCA, the Moroccan partner of MCC, which administers the $250 million second compact, is working hard to start up after delays caused by the lack of a formal government earlier this year. The first item on the docket is a competitive process to solicit ideas and proposals for improving existing secondary schools in Morocco and launching new ones. Each awardee must have a partnership with a Moroccan entity, creating important opportunities for advancing educational consulting in the Kingdom. For full details and contact information, visit http://charaka.mcamorocco.ma.

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Categories: The moroccan press

How Many More World Refugee Days before Sahrawis See Justice? – Robert M. Holley

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 18:23

Photo: Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Robert M. Holley
June 20, 2017

 

Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Adviser, MACP

It is once again World Refugee Day and tens of thousands of, as yet uncounted and unidentified, Sahrawi refugees remain sequestered in Polisario Front camps in southwest Algeria. They have been there for more than four decades – and counting. Algeria and the Polisario Front still refuse to comply with repeated requests from the UN Security Council to allow a headcount. No particular reasons are offered for this continued stonewalling. They seem to believe that saying “no” is enough to keep the Security Council at bay. And so far, they have been right. It has been.

I was in the Sahara again a few weeks ago. As usual, as I have been doing regularly on my trips there since 2005, I took the opportunity to interview another half dozen recently escaped refugees who had managed to smuggle themselves out of the Polisario camps and back to their families in Morocco. Sadly, nothing much has changed in the story they had to tell me. Nothing in the camps has improved. Young people still have no hope for the future. And the Polisario Front is no more willing today than it has been for the last several decades to allow people there to choose their own destinies and leave.

I asked, as I always do, whether they had a message they would like me to take back to America. They did. Same message I have heard for the last dozen years from almost every escaped refugee I have interviewed. That message was this: it is time for this to end. We want our families united again. Tell America we need their help.

If you want to learn more of the particulars of this travesty, below is a small sample of the various editorial comments I have made on this subject in the last several years. I keep hoping something good is going to come of this. Getting the Security Council to start insisting rather than asking for a headcount and identification process is a good place to start. At least we will then know who and how many are there.

Western Sahara: Who Should Be Watching? Why Not Us? So What Next for Western Sahara? Knock, Knock….Who’s There? Some Free and Open Human Rights Counsel for the Polisario

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Leads North Africa in Latest Global Innovation Index

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 20:39
Country Ranks in Top 10 of Income Bracket

Washington, DC, June 19, 2017 (MACP) — Morocco leads North Africa and is among the top 10 countries in its income bracket according to the 2017 Global Innovation Index (GII), released last week and coauthored by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Each year, the GII surveys some 130 economies using dozens of metrics, from patent filings to education spending, according to the accompanying release. The rankings “capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities” (such as human capital and research, infrastructure, and market sophistication) as well as “the results of innovative activities within the economy.” In this latest edition, Morocco led North Africa and ranked 72nd overall out of 127 countries, and seventh out of 27 lower-middle-income economies. Morocco was also noted as a standout performer in agricultural labor productivity.

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

“It’s no accident that again and again, Morocco is recognized for its innovation and growth,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “That the country has established a track record of success in these areas is a testament to the leadership and vision of King Mohammed VI, and the hard work and determination of the Moroccan people to achieve progress.”

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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

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

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Tourism Up; Gas Exploration Up; Agadir Port Growing. What else are Moroccans doing right? – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 17:23

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 14, 2017

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

Morocco continues to see a rebound in tourism numbers this year, and expectations are that new markets in Asia will drive demand even further. Plans are unveiled for an expansion of Agadir Port, testifying to its growth from a regional fishing hub to a major tourism destination. Sound Energy looks to intensify its gas drilling operations and is optimistic. And finally, Morocco has a national budget, so now even more can get done to meet needs and grow the economy.

Rise in tourism bodes well for 2017. According to recently released government figures, Morocco is enjoying a much better year in terms of tourist arrivals. To date, some three million visitors have entered the country, with foreign tourism up 18% and expat Moroccan visits growing by 9.5%. Leading the way in this combined outcome of +14.7% were visitors from the US and Europe, particularly Spain, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. As importantly, the length of stay, measured in overnight occupancy, for non-resident tourists was up 34%, with Moroccan tourists spending 13% more time in the country. This, of course, only measures occupancy at listed accommodations such as hotels, resorts, and lodgings.

The main beneficiary cities are Tangier and Fez, where overnight stays increased more than 60% and 44%, respectively. Rabat was up 32%, while Casablanca and Marrakech posted respectable 24% increases. All of this is important as an indicator of the decreasing jitters among travelers about being in an Arab Muslim country, for which there have been travel cautions in the recent past. Overall, European tourist business is up by an average of more than 8%, while noticeable increases are coming from Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea as well.

Agadir rising. Another indicator of the growth of the value of tourism was the announcement of a $40 million project to construct a new multipurpose terminal in Agadir. According to numerous sources, the new terminal will be ready to go by 2019 and serve a number of vessels, bulk carriers, container shippers, cruise ships, and commercial vessels. It will have nine cranes of various capacities, as well as a cold-storage warehouse and distribution system.

Over the years, Agadir has grown from a regional fishing depot and tourism gateway to an important linchpin in Morocco’s national distribution and logistics infrastructure. With the increased demand in bulk cargo handling, it is more economical and efficient to move freight through Agadir than to have it trucked from Casablanca. Agadir’s marina is already attracting many foreign leisure vessels, with Europeans in particular finding it a favorite location for fall and winter docking.

Gas production moves a step closer. British exploration company Sound Energy has announced plans to continue drilling in its Sidi Moktar tract in central Morocco. Not only will be it re-entering its Koba-1 well to a deeper level, it will also have a similar effort at its Kamar-1 well. Key factors driving the projects’ renewal are the promising earlier test results, as well as their locations close to sufficient local infrastructure for transport and a nearby OCP phosphate plant looking for better energy supplies.

Parliament moves 2017 budget. One of the most important first actions of the new parliament was passing the long-delayed national budget. Now agencies can get down to business and resolve some of the bottlenecks delaying projects and frustrating contractors. Projecting a deficit of 3% of GDP, the budget continues efforts to strengthen public finances begun under the previous government. As a Nasdaq.com report noted, “Morocco has done more than most North African countries to make painful reforms required by international lenders to curb deficits, such as ending fuel subsidies and freezing public sector hiring. The government still controls wheat and cooking gas prices.”

Inflation is pegged at 1.7% with public investments expected at more than $6 billion and more than $19.5 billion allocated to state-run company investments. Public investments are targeting agricultural support at some $900 million, $370 million for the industrial sector, $1.2 billion for renewable energies, and $2 billion in port construction and rehabilitation. This robust budget offers multiple opportunities for foreign investors and companies seeking to enter or expand in Morocco.

Moroccan firm makes move to the big time. From time to time, we note how Moroccan entrepreneurs are gaining recognition and support internationally. The latest story comes from Silicon Valley, where the Moroccan B2B trading platform, WaystoCap, was well rewarded for its capacity that “allows African businesses to buy and sell products, allowing them to discover products, verify them, obtain financing and insurance, manage their shipments, and ensure payments security.” This was a result of being “a participant in the recently-concluded Y Combinator accelerator, on the back of which it has secured an undisclosed but sizeable funding round that include Y Combinator itself as well as Battery Ventures and other parties. It has also announced it is opening a satellite office in Cotonou, Benin.”

Having a satellite office in Benin makes sense to CEO Niama El Bassunie due to its strategic role as a central hub for West African trade. As importantly, the funds raised will allow WaystoCap to expand the sectors it covers and develop a new platform for more efficiently linking buyers and sellers.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: More Reporting on Morocco’s Regional and Global Standing – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 20:09

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 8, 2017

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

The United Nations and World Bank published reports that looked at global growth and projections for economic performance in the coming years. Bright spots for Morocco include progress in retooling its economy while still facing challenges in job creation, reducing urban sprawl, and enhancing overall economic performance going forward.

World Bank looks to Morocco to continue growth. Based on its continuing analysis and assessment of Morocco’s strategic and tactical steps to grow its economy, the World Bank, in its “June 2017 Global Economic Prospects – A Fragile Recovery,” noted that Morocco has benefited from fiscal consolidation programs, focusing on reducing public expenditures, reforming energy subsidies, and restructuring taxes.

The report also noted the steps the country has taken to compensate for declining tourism from Europe by opening up markets in China and other expanding sources. It pointed out that the rebound in the agricultural sector in 2016 portends greater GDP growth of 3.8% in 2017, 3.7% in 2018, and 3.6% in 2019, which will make it the top performer in North Africa and second overall on the continent.

UN Economic Report on Africa features Morocco’s ports as key to growth. The UN Economic Commission on Africa released its latest report at its headquarters in Addis Ababa entitled “Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa’s Transformation.” It includes data on the pace and quality of urbanization throughout Africa and then examines how industrial tools, such as Special Economic Zones (SEZs), can facilitate rapid and effective economic growth strategies.

More specifically, the authors looked at how Africa is growing and what policies are needed to sustain the best aspects of the changes that are taking place. For example, while Morocco has increased the gross domestic savings portion of its GDP to 34.8%, very little of these funds are made available for domestic investments. And while Tunisia and Morocco have the lowest gap between wealthy and poor (2013 figures), the Maghreb region as a whole has the lowest level of female participation in the workforce on the continent. And despite the rise in foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sectors, services continue to be the fastest growing component of the economy.

Morocco has experienced rapid urbanization—more than 60% of Moroccans live in cities, which creates demands on the social infrastructure – housing, education, access to potable water, transportation, and similar needs – that the government is striving mightily to assuage. It now ranks third in Africa in housing construction, employing some 10% of the workforce. More than 60% of Moroccans own their own homes.

The report noted that “Morocco has had notable success in upgrading slums and relocating slum dwellers…Through a three-pronged approach, the programme [Cities without Slums] has moved slum dwellers to new housing (mostly apartment blocks), provided them with serviced plots to build their own homes and conducted on-site upgrading of infrastructure and services.” This, along with tax incentives to builders, has also spurred growth in the housing construction industry through increasing demand.

On the industrialization side, Morocco gets high marks for its growing manufacturing sectors. “The [automobile] industry is now the country’s largest export sector, dethroning phosphates.” A critical side benefit of this growth is the extensive infrastructure in place for the transportation and distribution of parts and vehicles, as well as hundreds of supply chain companies. This also serves the aeronautics industry and its suppliers, as well as light-manufacturing and offshoring activities, which require easy access for both labor and supplies.

Overall, Morocco appears to have built sufficient platforms for continued growth and expansion through proactive government policies, as well as support from international donors, international investors, and public-private partnerships. The only caveat is to increase the number of skilled, market-ready workers to keep pace with growing economic expansion in the services and manufacturing sectors.

The post Business Brief: More Reporting on Morocco’s Regional and Global Standing – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

What to do with the Arab Maghreb Union? – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 16:35

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 7, 2017

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

In a previous blog, I focused on King Mohammed VI’s lament regarding the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), speaking to the African Heads of State meeting in January, when Morocco joined the African Union after an absence of 33 years. He raised it as a reason for Morocco’s emphasis on building relations with sub-Saharan Africa. Now, a recent piece from the World Economic Forum (WEF), “Five Ways to Make the Maghreb Work,” again raises the importance of cooperation and collaboration among the five countries that make up the AMU – Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia.

So, what are the solutions proposed in that article that might provide a starting point for reconciliation among the two major protagonists in the AMU, Algeria and Morocco? While not minimizing the roles of the others, it is hard to imagine that Libya, a fractious and fragile shadow of a state, or Mauritania and Tunisia, facing internal challenges as well as outside pressures of instability, are going to provide the necessary leadership to revive the AMU. Let’s take a look at the recommendations made by the WEF author and add insights from a recent article by scholar Anouar Boukhars looking at what can be done to overcome obstacles to security cooperation in the region.

The author of the World Economic Forum piece, Wadia Ait Hamza, notes in her introduction that “…trade between the Maghreb countries represents just 4.8% of their trade volume, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa – and it represents less than 2% of the sub-region’s combined gross domestic product (GDP), according to the World Bank. This region is one of the lowest-performing trading blocs in the world.”

To enable the group to reach more of its potential, she lists five steps: the implementation of the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital; security cooperation; maximizing the complementarity of their economies; greater coordinated activities in sub-Saharan Africa; and greater integration of social, education, and foreign policies.

Testing these five steps against the likelihood of some degree of implementation is a useful measure of how far the AMU remains from its goal of regional integration. Take the issue of open borders, the first step. Not only has Algeria had to erect extensive security controls along its borders with Tunisia and Libya, it is also challenged in the south, where it abuts the Sahel. In reality, the easy movement of profitable trade only lies westward to Morocco, and this border has been closed for more than 23 years. Despite repeated international concern, the border remains closed, inviting smuggling of basic goods, drugs, and arms, and eroding the safety of both countries. This is not to say that someday the ban may be negotiated away, leaving the countries to figure out how to make prosperity work for mutual benefit.

Security cooperation, the second step, is essential to promote future economic development, as well as a safe and stable environment. Foreign investment is risk-averse, and without a sense of stability beyond military force, companies will be loath to broaden their presence in the region. As Boukhars points out, Morocco has been quite successful in attracting foreign investors and would benefit from an open and secure border with Algeria where goods and services can build prosperity for both countries. Security would be greatly enhanced by cooperation between the two, as they possess the most professional military and security assets in the region. Unfortunately, Algeria continues to exclude Morocco from participating in Sahel-focused efforts, which degrades those efforts and leads Morocco to support competitive groupings that it can influence. As importantly, Morocco employs a broad range of soft-power tools to enhance security cooperation – including cultural, educational, religious, business, and media resources — to make its impact throughout the region and increasingly the continent.

Building an integrated economic powerhouse is the third step. This would entail bringing together the best features of both countries — and in this regard Tunisia as well — to exploit complementary features in their economies, build broad human capital capabilities to attract investors, and create more regional outlets for tourism, manufacturing, information technology, and other fields that can build jobs and attract investors. Yet, as Boukhars notes, beyond its strong military and security regimes, Algeria “struggles to drive, rather than react to, regional events. Observers usually attribute Algeria’s frustrated regional ambitions on its murky politics, wobbly oil-dependent economy and contentious relations with Morocco and France.” Broadening its political worldview with a contemporary economic strategy is critical if Algeria is to progress.

Boukhars is not alone in pointing out the importance of the next step, greater engagement with sub-Saharan Africa. He describes in some detail the array of soft power, and hard power when needed, that King Mohammed VI employs in Africa, achieving broad success. Algeria, on the other hand, has defined its role largely in security or hydrocarbon policies. Boukhars writes, “Algeria cannot realize its leadership goals by trying to monopolize the security agenda in the Sahel. Still, the country’s own political paralysis and stagnant hydrocarbon economy constitute another major constraint on its regional ambitions.”

The fifth step, greater regional integration, depends on building among the AMU players a common understanding of, and strategies for, actions that will most benefit their peoples and their countries. Unfortunately, with suspicion and innuendo being the common means of looking at their bilateral relations, each seeking to gain points at the other’s expense, there is little probability that the two countries will seek a modus vivendi that may satisfy the leadership and help enable the stability, security, and prosperity that both communities seek. One need only look at the plight of the Syrian refugees in the no-man’s land between Algeria and Morocco or the blame game regarding the continuation of the Rif demonstrations to recognize the challenges.

Boukhars sums it up this way. “Algeria cannot become a successful regional power if it continues to underperform domestically and clash, rather than collaborate, with its neighbors.” He draws a clear distinction with Morocco. “Morocco is illustrative of a rising power that has cannily deployed its soft power tools and domestic stability to its advantage. Now, the challenge for Rabat is to improve relations with its peers, as peace and stability in the region will require countries…[to] collaborate more efficiently.”

So, despite the best intentions of the WEF author, displaying the pragmatism and constructive engagement needed to move the AMU ahead will require extraordinary efforts from all five members, and especially Morocco and Algeria, if future challenges are to be overcome.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Sets Social Housing Goals, and Fez Prepares for the Annual Amazigh Festival – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 15:32

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 2, 2017

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

The Moroccan government updated its housing target to meet rising demand due to its growing population and growth of urban areas. The 13th annual Amazigh Festival is getting ready to display the rich culture of the Amazigh in the region. Additionally, Moroccan monthly industrial production rises while a Moroccan garners top entrepreneur honors in the region.

Severe Housing Need to be Addressed. The Secretary of State for Housing, Fatna Lkhiyel, announced that the government will move to add 170,000 social housing units a year, in an attempt to reduce the housing deficit by half in the next four years. According to a story in Morocco World News, “This program will allow for the processing of applications of half of the 120,000 families set to receive improved housing under the national program ‘Cities without Slums’ by 2021. The program will also provide for the urban regeneration of informal settlements to improve the housing conditions of more than 200,000 households and the renovation of 37,000 buildings.”

The new program will also reinvigorate the National Agency for Urban Renewal and expand the range of housing available for needy families. The middle-class housing support program will also undergo revision to encourage greater community participation in local housing affairs.

Despite long-standing incentives to provide adequate social housing, Morocco has fallen behind previous goals as demand increases and land costs soar. Most of the units are provided under a government scheme of public-private partnerships, in which the government sets the prices for housing based on size; subsidizes purchases on behalf of the consumer; and then permits private companies to sell and manage the projects. The system has long been a lucrative sector since it guarantees the outcome for development firms if they fulfill government guidelines.

Fez ready to rock Amazigh Festival. From July 14-16, the city will host the 13th annual Festival of Amazigh Culture under the theme “Amazigh and Cultural Diversity Confronting Extremism.” The Festival has both regional and international followers, and this year’s program will focus on the importance of multiculturalism and Amazigh culture in Morocco’s development. Last year, more than 30 speakers, 100 artists and performers, and 60,000 visitors attended the Festival. This year, the program will have  panels on Amazigh culture and the Moroccan identity, historical and cultural insights, and, of course, “a variety of Moroccan music styles, including Chaabi, Rai, Amazigh, flamenco dance, Mediterranean and Italian music.”

Industrial production continues monthly climb. The Central Bank, Bank al Maghrib, released its monthly analysis of industrial growth, and everything looks positive in the immediate future, with room to grow in all sectors. The bank uses the Capacity Utilization Rate (UCA), which measures the percentage of industrial capacity in use over a certain period, in this case the month of April, which can then be plotted to describe trends by sector. The report also indicates movement in exports and local sales by sector to provide a composite view of the economy in the medium term.

Growth was uneven in April. While most of the industrial manufacturing sectors — such as chemicals, mechanical equipment, electrical components, and downstream chemicals improved — the textile and leather sectors declined slightly. According to figures reported by Morocco World News, “The Capacity Utilization Rate reached 72 percent in the agri-food sector, 71 percent in textiles and leather, 57 percent in chemistry and para-chemistry, 67 percent in mechanics and metallurgy, and 83 percent in the electrical and electronic sector.” The report concluded on an optimistic note, in that in the next 90 days, manufacturers are projecting an overall increase in sales and production, pointing to continued positive results.

Recycling the old-fashioned way. Over the years, many bio-mass projects converting waste into energy have been proposed for Morocco. The country certainly has enough trash to make these ventures profitable. It is estimated that landfills in Casablanca alone could provide eight years of energy for its four million inhabitants… but the catch is that the garbage must be dug up, sorted, and sent to recycling centers for processing. Fortunately, advances in bio-mass technology are bringing down the costs of the gas-powered units, and some even use solar power. In the meantime, here’s what’s going on in the informal sector of recycling Morocco, from a great piece called “The Small Hands of Moroccan Recycling.”

The story begins in Casablanca, where an army of largely unskilled people scour through landfills to pull out refuse that can be recycled profitably, ranging from plastic containers to metal and electronics. Anthropologist Delphine Corteel coined the phrase “waste workers” to identify these people, in many ways similar to their counterparts in Cairo and other large cities. Despite the important services they perform, they are often excluded from society due to “the uncleanliness of their work, and the nature of their living spaces. They live on the margins of legal urban areas, in slums and makeshift houses, which are regularly demolished or threatened by real estate and urban projects. While working in the streets, they are often victims of violence either committed by the authorities or other inhabitants.”

The waste workers gather cardboard, plastics, metals, glass, fabrics, and vegetable waste for selling by the pound to recyclers. Anything of value usually ends up “in one of the city’s flea markets (joutiya). Nothing that can be used is left behind. After collection and sorting, some materials have to be compacted and crushed to take up less space, which adds value. The materials will then be sold to informal sector wholesalers or to the formal sector through pick-ups or trucks sent to carry the waste.”

At the Mediouna landfill some 18 miles east of the city, “some 600 illegal waste collectors extract about 1000 tons of materials daily that will be re-injected into the informal and formal recycling circuit.” The article notes that many recycling factories and export wholesalers rely on these people for the bulk of their business; for example­­, the plastics collected by the waste collectors is compressed and sold to exporters who then sell it to China.

As one waste worker said, “We contribute to the economy of Morocco. It is thanks to us that this waste is recycled instead of being simply buried or burned. This is our livelihood, it’s our survival and it makes our community live.” Although marginalized in Morocco, it is noteworthy that “Yet, elsewhere in the world, innovative experiments, mobilisation of reclaiming communities and associations are signs that integration, access to social rights and, more broadly, recognition or informal waste collectors are possible.”

Moroccan entrepreneur makes select international list. The Endeavor organization is an international group that supports entrepreneurs by providing gateways to financing, consulting, and other key services. It has helped scale more than 800 companies in 26 countries.

This year’s London program recognized Hammad Benjelloun as an Endeavor Entrepreneur for his company Adlive, which “is a technology workplace that provides media agencies, advertisers and digital publishers with an automated way to plan, execute and optimize their digital media campaigns.” He joins a select group identified by Endeavor’s International Selection Panel (ISP).

The next ISP selection meeting of Endeavor will be held in Miami December 11-13, 2017, and will be hosted by the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor, which “now supports 1,461 entrepreneurs leading 915 companies in 30 growth markets around the world. Panelists at the event include top global business leaders and investors who are drawn from Endeavor’s extensive network of mentors and supporters.”

The post Business Brief: Morocco Sets Social Housing Goals, and Fez Prepares for the Annual Amazigh Festival – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Moves Ahead in Private Aviation Market while Renewable Energy Sector Gets Plaudits – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 20:56

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 31, 2017

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

Keen to build on its reputation as a center for aeronautics, Morocco will host a major regional meeting bringing together a number of local and international aviation companies. The country also continues to build on its reputation as a global leader across a number of renewable energy sectors. On the human development side of the ledger, African migrants are finding opportunities in Morocco, thanks to its pioneering migrant policy.

Morocco continues to garner aeronautics credentials. The Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) will hold its annual conference this year in Marrakesh. MEBAA is based in Dubai and alternates its annual conferences in different cities in the region. MEBAA’s founder and executive chairman, Ali Alnaqbi, believes that having Marrakesh as the host city will attract high-net-worth buyers who want to combine business with an ideal vacation in a great location.

More than 250 companies, including Boeing, Gulfstream, Jet Aviation, and Jetex have already signed up for the show. Alnaqbi touts Morocco as an ideal location, as its business aviation sector is rapidly growing. He says, “It has also become much easier to obtain a license to operate business aircraft there.” MEBAA is affiliated with the National Business Aviation Association that meets annually in the US. Together they work on issues worldwide that affect their industry, from regulations and taxation, to leasing and ownership opportunities, as well as highlighting the latest available private aviation equipment and services.

The Financial Times looks at Morocco’s renewable energy leadership. That Morocco is an African and global leader in renewable energy projects is well known. Less attention has been paid to both the supply chain and collateral companies that are making important contributions to the energy sector. The Financial Times took a look and came up with some great examples of how initiatives from the top can lead to opportunities for entrepreneurs and enterprises to create products and services that broaden the impact of the initial capital investments.

From innovative software programs that harness artificial intelligence to control energy costs by monitoring and adjusting for use on a timely basis (think NEST), to innovations in energy storage that make renewable energy devices more efficient, entrepreneurs are coming up with products to take advantage of Morocco’s commitment to greatly reducing its use of fossil fuels. And the government is helping through incentives and support for entrepreneurs and new enterprises, and opening new markets in Africa where less than half the population has sufficient access to power.

Given the many bilateral initiatives resulting from King Mohammed VI’s economic diplomacy, Moroccan companies are well placed to extend their expertise throughout the region, creating even more opportunities for Moroccan companies. The article, cited in Morocco World News, mentions projects in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana, and Cameroon as examples of Morocco’s capability to export its expertise.

The article quoted Mohamed Bernannou, chief executive of the Moroccan Climate Innovation Centre (MCIC), created in 2014 to develop green technology industry and entrepreneurship. “We have a big chance in Morocco right now. Conditions in Morocco can replicate those found in many sub-Saharan African countries, giving local companies a competitive edge over those from other parts of the world.”

Opportunities growing for African migrants. A recent story on AllAfrica.com highlighted several African migrants who have decided not to attempt to enter Europe but instead put down roots in Morocco. This would not have been possible, legally, even five years ago, but due to an innovative program promoted by King Mohammed VI, migrants can register to live and work in the country.

The article looks at several cases in Casablanca, where many from West Africa have begun new lives, from working in the central market to using their technical and vocational skills to start businesses. For example, “Richard Wenong is a Cameroonian electrician who works around the market, where his wife has a beauty parlor. He was one of the sub-Saharans who initially saw Morocco only as a transit country on his way to Europe. But then he changed his mind: ‘I saw it was not important for me because I got some jobs I can do since I’m a technician. I finally integrated myself here, so things are moving well with me, no need to go to Europe.’”

More than 40,000 migrants have either acquired or are in the queue for residency papers in Morocco, which allow them to work legally and avoid the uncertainty of attempting entry into Europe. It helps that many of them speak French, the business language of Morocco, enabling them to take advantage of support from NGOs that offer advice, financing, and training for small business start-ups.

Online business matchmaking firm opens in Morocco. Opportunity Network (ON) announced the opening of its offices in Casablanca, where it will offer networking, business development, and international business matching opportunities. Founded in 2014, Opportunity Network is a business matchmaking platform that partners with financial institutions to allow their corporate and private clients to find their next business partner for deals above USD 1 million around the world. It operates in more than 40 countries.

This is the third office in Africa for the company, and it will be headed by veteran business development specialist Najwa el Iraki, formerly at Casablanca Finance City Authority (CFCA) and founder of Africa Dev Consulting, which offers investor support for the African continent. ON founder and CEO Brian Pallas said on the firm’s website that “In the time of digitization and financial technology, we intend to work closely with the United Nations to contribute to African development. It is natural that we have chosen Morocco to develop our activities in the region and thus to support the growth of industrial and commercial activities of companies in Africa.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

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