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Business Brief: Entrepreneur Culture Growing Stronger in Morocco; Kingdom Broadens Ties with Senegal; Film Sector Bullish on US Productions – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 19:26

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 16, 2017

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

Entrepreneurship is active in many sectors, and social entrepreneurship is making its mark in Morocco. The Kingdom continues to broaden its ties in Africa with business initiatives, while long-awaited film industry incentives are expected to draw major production houses from the US and elsewhere.

Study examines state of social entrepreneurship.  Although the sector’s ecosystem lacks a full complement of services, young entrepreneurs and organizations promoting social entrepreneurship are striving to make a difference in opportunities for Moroccans. The Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Enterprise (CISE), is at the center of efforts to garner more technical support, funding, better legal protections, and greater visibility to improve the outlook for their activities. Despite differences across the country, a recent study in cooperation with the British Council shows that the increasing number of incubators and support organizations are making a positive impact on social entrepreneurship.

One such change-maker, according to the report, is “Dare Inc., a social enterprise incubator based in Rabat … one of the pioneers of social entrepreneurship in Morocco. It aimed at finding a solution to boost social enterprises throughout the country … Through its one-year program, it is seeking to bring to the Moroccan market a significant flow of strong social startups which are able to attract domestic and foreign investments, that can contribute to the socio-economic development of Morocco.”

Since it started in 2015, Dare Inc.’s incubator has supported 80 projects and incubated 43 startups. The year is divided into two segments. The first six months focus on accelerating the startups from ideas into companies offering social services. The next six months includes mentoring and coaching to enable a sustainable future, including $3000 in seed funding.

According to its press release, “Today, 20 companies ­­­have been legally established as LLC (limited liability companies), 11 seed funds have been allocated to 11 startups, one million Moroccan dirhams (US$100,000) have been raised, 24 companies are making sales, and 74 jobs have been created (excluding the ones of the founders). These social startups, which are active in various fields such as energy, recycling and agriculture, are well established in their respective markets, such as Eco-Heat, Shems for Lighting, Seaskin which processes fish waste into leather, and Amendy Foods which produces quinoa made in Morocco.”

An entrepreneur’s success story.  HuffPostMaroc recently featured an interview with Niama El Bassunie, the founder of Ways to Cap, a Moroccan based company that facilitates trade between Moroccan exporters and imports. Opening for business in 2014, and initially focusing on markets in West Africa, the company sees the continent as its target of opportunity and is opening offices in the region to serve demand throughout Africa.

Ms. Bassunie has been involved with a number of entrepreneurial projects that were less than successful; yet she never gave up. Now she has created what is being called the Alibaba of Africa! Her advice to other would-be entrepreneurs, “We must not be afraid to fail,” she insists. “People think that a start-up is built overnight, they only knew those who succeeded and do not see all the work behind and the failures by which they have learned.”

Growing agricultural ties in Senegal.  A robust agricultural relationship has developed between Morocco and Senegal, according to a column in AgriMaroc; the relationship includes experimental farms testing various crops and fertilizers, induced rainfall, and rural electrification.

Aeronautics sector gets a boost. Hiolle Industries, a French company specializing in mechanical and electrical engineering, has bought out its local partner in Morocco and has decided to expand its base there to serve customers throughout Africa. The areas targeted by this new orientation are the environment and industry, in particular the maintenance of turbo-generators or the design and construction of complete waste treatment lines.

New incentive program to boost film production. The new incentives program adopted by the government and coming into effect in October will lead to a significant boost in the number of film productions in the country. According to Sarim Fassi Fihri, head of the country’s film authority, “Apart from South Africa, Mauritius, and the United Arab Emirates, Morocco will be the only country in Africa and the Arab world to set up this mechanism, which will triple foreign investment in one year. Reimbursement of certain expenditures by foreign film investors at a rate of 20% based on the same terms as for national production, and will cover most of the expenses incurred during a film shoot.”

According to Fassi Fihri, the first demands of major American studios like Universal, Miramax, and Disney to benefit from the “Cash rebate” were registered only four hours after the adoption of the government decree in July. The total amount available in the first year is $11 million.

Employment news variable. Citing government statistics, Reuters reported that, despite an increase in overall job numbers, the official unemployment rate rose to 9.3% from 9.1% in the same period last year, as the active number of job seekers rose by 107,000. Services and construction created 19,000 and 7,000 jobs respectively, while manufacturing lost 4,000 jobs.

Heavy rainfall contributed to 52,000 new jobs in the agricultural sector due to the very positive harvest outcome. The sector accounts for some 15 percent of Morocco’s gross domestic product and employs more than half its workforce, according to the report, which also noted that “informal labor abounds in Morocco, making it hard to produce reliable employment figures.”

In a related story, the government announced two decrees related to domestic work. The first covers the contracts between employers and employees, listing the terms to be included in a contract, highlighting that employees have the right to bring to the attention of officials contracts that do not include the required stipulations. There will be a transition period of six years for the law’s implementation. The second decree lists the hazardous work prohibited for workers 16-18 years of age.

The post Business Brief: Entrepreneur Culture Growing Stronger in Morocco; Kingdom Broadens Ties with Senegal; Film Sector Bullish on US Productions – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco is No Stranger to Festivals

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 19:48

August 14, 2017

Morocco is no stranger to festivals, and many of its annual events are internationally famous, including the Mawazine, Gnaoua World Music, and Fes World Sacred Music festivals.  Though many of the major music events have passed, keep these festivals in mind if you happen to be traveling to Morocco in the upcoming months:

Over a year in the making, the first edition of “Juste Pour Rire: Agadir” (Just for Laughs: Agadir) will take place August 23-26. It will bring together more than 30 artists from six countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, in what the organizers hope becomes an annual comedy event in the seaside resort of Agadir.

The 10th annual Festival of Sufi Culture in Fes will take place from October 14-21, offering a rediscovery of “artistic, intellectual, and spiritual richness” in Moroccan culture and a reaffirmation of the openness and peace embodied in Islamic mysticism.

The 8th edition of the Taragalte Festival celebrating nomadic heritage and world music will take place October 27-29 in M’Hamid El Ghizlane, an oasis town in southern Morocco. Artists will celebrate the music, poetry, and cultural traditions of the desert.

The post Morocco is No Stranger to Festivals appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Closed Borders Deepen Security Issues in North Africa – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 14:30

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 10, 2017

Without better security coordination and cooperation among Maghreb countries, effectively addressing challenges like illegal immigration, smuggling, and terrorism remains difficult.

In a previous blog, I argued that on economic grounds alone, open borders would benefit all of the Maghreb countries, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia. Three recent articles spell out the dangers as well to regional security resulting from closed borders, troubles that run the gamut from illegal migration to terrorism. While each country talks about its commitment to combating criminals, militants, and terrorism, focusing on any individual state’s security priorities is clearly insufficient in light of the multiple threats they all face.

This dilemma is compounded by the region’s age-old cigarette, fuel, and local drug smuggling routes, which are now teeming with Islamic terrorists, anti-regime militants, illicit drug trade from Latin America, human trafficking, and illegal migration. There are numerous bad guys, and the consequences of ineffective strategies are dangerous if not disastrous, as the instability spreads.

No country can address these problems alone. Although Morocco and Algeria have built up impressive internal security apparatuses, only Morocco has actually joined, and is leading, an active and cross-border security effort. The reality is that Algeria, which borders six countries, and Morocco, which is facing external threats as well as the Polisario Front’s continual refusal to join negotiations for a realistic solution to the Sahara issue, can only achieve long-term stability in the region through unified, consistent, multifaceted efforts shared by countries in North Africa and the Sahel, to its south.

A recent HuffPost story about France’s continuing commitment to fighting terrorism in the Sahel is illustrative of the problem. Because of the uprising in Mali in 2012 and other destabilizing factors in West and Central Africa, the Macron government finds itself embroiled in an area France vacated officially decades ago. Now it is trying to set up a regional security force, the G5, to combat terrorism wherever it threatens in the Sahel.

In order to address the issue in the affected countries of Mali, Chad, Niger, and others, the article points out, “to be fully effective and to really make a difference, the G5 needs to be able to cooperate more efficiently with some key-countries in North Africa, such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Of these, Algeria and Morocco are key-players, being on the front-lines of both countering violent Islamism and trying to put the lid on the increasing smuggling of people and goods across the region and into Europe.”

While Morocco moves ahead with a broad-based approach to countering terrorism, including domestic education efforts, training of religious leaders, and regional and international security cooperation, Algeria’s reluctance stands out.

The Algeria-Morocco standoff over the Sahara, mutual accusations of political meddling, Morocco’s successes in broadening its outreach in sub-Saharan Africa, and Algeria’s phobia about participating in regional security arrangement it does not lead, feeds its aversion to treating Morocco as a partner in any regional security efforts.  As the HuffPost article notes, “The real challenge here will be to rise above some of the bi-national conflicts bedeviling the region (such as the conflict between Morocco and Algeria concerning Polisario) and get beyond those to concentrate on the more long-term threat that the Islamists presents.”

The global challenge of terrorism requires international efforts, according to the article. “Finally, it is worth emphasizing that since the threat from militant Islamism is regional and transnational, so the efforts to combat that threat must be equally transnational. This will take some serious diplomatic foot-work to be effective and so it is to be hoped that the meeting in G5 launch in Bamako in June [of Macron with the Sahel countries] will be the first of many more, and that next time, more countries will be present.”

Algeria shuts out cooperation

A North Africa Post column also scolds Algeria for its non-cooperative stance towards Morocco that undercuts regional security, taking issue with Algeria’s chauvinistic attitude towards the countries in the region — “my way or the highway,” is a simple characterization. “Algeria, Africa’s largest country, shares borders with 6 countries, all of them are closed with the exception of its land frontiers with Tunisia. This closed-border attitude is reflective of a lack of a neighborhood policy in an increasingly integrated continent where collective efforts are the best means to countering trans-border challenges.”

Although Morocco consistently calls for normalization of ties with Algeria open borders, and lifted visa requirements for Algerians more than a decade ago, the borders are closed. Many reasons are offered, from the need to eliminate smuggling to controlling border access to combat security threats; but the author wonders if this is an effective approach, given that both countries face similar threats, and that they both possess the most experienced and effective security forces in the Maghreb.

The article is clear that “Using the security issue to prevent the freedom of movement of people and goods in the region is flawed. Fighting terrorism in the region should be a collective endeavor as national approaches have long proved their inefficiency. Yet, there is a silently brewing lack of trust between Sahel countries and Algeria on the issue of terrorism. Algeria . . . has shown ambivalence in tackling the terrorist threats, which feeds suspicions and erodes trust in Algeria’s willingness to combat terrorism.”

Also troubling, according to the column, is that the formation of the G5 regional security forces by the French created an Algerian backlash against sub-Saharan migrants. Another article in North Africa Post notes that “It is no coincidence that the anti-Sub-Saharan migrant rhetoric is on the surge following the formation of the G5 force. Anti-migrant rhetoric verging on blatant racism is uttered by senior officials who come to shamefully associate illnesses, AIDs, and economic hardships with the arrival of a few thousands of poor Sub-Saharans fleeing difficult conditions and conflict.”

Once again, regional instability is the culprit, as these migrants traverse Algeria to reach Libya on their road to Europe. Algeria’s recent resumption of deportations of sub-Saharans is only adding to regional instability and reinforces charges of colonialism and racism against Algeria’s political leadership.

Regional insecurity and instability can be greatly reduced if the countries of the Sahel and North Africa work together with their international partners to face the mounting issues of violence, migration, and trafficking. Only through a concerted and integrated push that includes domestic and regional initiatives will future prospects for growth and stability be secured.

The post Closed Borders Deepen Security Issues in North Africa – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Biz Brief: Manufacturing across Sectors Shows Continued Growth: Government Policies in Partnerships with Private Sector Make Buildup of Key Supply Chain Companies Supports Growth in Textiles Industry – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 17:57

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 9, 2017

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

Positive economic news in the manufacturing sectors highlights the latest business reports for Morocco, as it launches a textile promotion tradeshow, sees a jump in tourism, and notes the success of its Industrial Acceleration Plan focusing on building industry eco-systems.

After several starts, Morocco seems to have the ‘right’ industrial strategy. Launched in 2014, the Industrial Acceleration Plan (IPA) is paying growth dividends for Morocco. It is based on supporting supply-chain and related manufacturing that feeds into the larger auto and aeronautics industries. These “eco-systems” are not limited to these sectors but can also be part of the agri-food, textiles, and medical devices sectors.

According to the Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment, and the Digital Economy, Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the results to date have exceeded initial projections. Focusing on the high-tech sectors, the IPA identified sourcing needs and worked to attract those companies and technologies to Morocco.

For example, this strategy was instrumental in attracting group PSA Peugeot-Citroen, Boeing, and others to set-up eco-systems for their sectors, creating thousands of high-value jobs. The eco-system has many moving parts – available and service-ready land at reasonable or incentivized prices, competitive financing, sufficiently qualified human resources, full service and well-located logistics systems, and local suppliers with efficient support capabilities. So, although it may be targeting a specific sector, the extended benefits of an eco-system are attractive to other industries as well.

In Morocco, the article points out, “In terms of human resource training, careful work was done to accurately break down the 485,450 jobs to be created per year, by skill profile and by region.” This, and reforms being enacted by the government, are crucial to the strategy’s long-term success. “Significant progress has been made in the Industrial Integration Plan (2014-2020). At the mid-term, no fewer than 47 “ecosystems” have been launched in various industrial sectors, which have already secured 97% of the expected job creation target (500,000 jobs).

Can the textile sector remain vibrant? Despite Morocco’s strong presence in the global textile sector, its companies face increased competition from many countries, increasingly from Africa where low wage rates make production relatively inexpensive. Morocco is working to emphasize the quality and time-sensitive responsiveness of its products to entice new buyers and keep current clients.

A key effort is the upcoming “Maroc in Mode – Maroc Sourcing” to be held in Marrakech in October. More than 175 exhibitors from Turkey, Tunisia, China, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, and Egypt will participate in this 15th edition of Maroc in Mode and the 14th edition of Maroc Sourcing.

Morocco has increased its textile exports over the past five years, largely as a result of introducing a series of eco-systems that support specialized production for both companies and their suppliers. Operating at international standards, companies agree to invest in new machinery and R&D to enhance the industry’s future. This has a positive impact on the companies, as well as on suppliers, which benefit from adapting to modern techniques.

According to the drapersonline.com article, “Morocco is recognized as a major player in ‘fast fashion’ with regards to its longstanding and established experience with the biggest vertical fast fashion brands and retailers in the world. One of its major competitive advantages lies in its proximity to Europe, and therefore its ability to react immediately to new trends, allowing them to be delivered with a very quick turnaround.”

Mohamed Tazi, Director General of the Moroccan Textile and Apparel Industry Association (AMITH), emphasized that “The advantage of quick response has made Morocco an important partner in the business as permanent changes and new programs have to be delivered to the stores all over the year. But also the united power of the fashion industry together with governmental support assists to steadily improve the high standards of fashion. Speed, acceleration and frequency of new fresh fashion are a key condition for success.”

A new feature of this year’s show is an area focusing on leather goods and footwear. “For the first time, around 20 Moroccan companies from the leather and footwear sector will be participating. Alongside the 175 exhibitors, around 1,500 specialist visitors are expected – from Europe, Africa, and the US.” A great opportunity for Morocco to step up its textile game.

Tourism moves on. Another sector experiencing positive results is Morocco’s tourism industry, which is outperforming its neighbors and attracting new overseas visitors. According to Oxford Business Group (OBG), in reference to a report from the General Directorate for National Security (DGSN), which tracks incoming visitors, Morocco’s visits are up 10% from the same period last year. “In April alone, both international arrivals and the number of expatriates visiting home increased, up 18% and 9.5%, respectively, year-on-year (y-o-y). Overall, visitor numbers for the month were up 14.7% y-o-y.”

“According to Mohamed Sajid, the Moroccan minister of tourism, the industry is on track to expand by 5.5% y-o-y in 2017, with overall visitor numbers reaching 10.9m. Revenue, meanwhile, is forecast to reach $6.5bn, up from $6.4bn in 2016.”

Now that it has relaxed entry requirements for Chinese nationals, an increase of more than 200% is expected in 2017, from 42,000 to 100,000 visitors. An increase in direct flights between the two countries will lead to additional travelers. “In another initiative, a delegation from China visited Morocco in June to evaluate the country’s tourism potential. Representatives from travel agencies based in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and the media visited several of Morocco’s best known cities, including Marrakech, Tangiers, Casablanca, Rabat, and Fez.”

The post Biz Brief: Manufacturing across Sectors Shows Continued Growth: Government Policies in Partnerships with Private Sector Make Buildup of Key Supply Chain Companies Supports Growth in Textiles Industry – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s King Is Serious About Reform – Kristen Kouttab

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 17:30

Kristen Kouttab, MAC
August 3, 2017

To observers of a country undergoing democratic reform, it may seem curious when the person most invested in shifting power away from the monarchy is the monarch.

And yet, that is exactly what we are witnessing in Morocco, where King Mohammed VI delivered a strikingly unusual speech last Saturday on the occasion of Throne Day, marking the 18th anniversary of his reign.

In the post-Cold War era, there has been consensus in the international community on the importance of democratic reform. Governments in the Middle East and North Africa have often been – legitimately – criticized for introducing token elements of democracy in a bid to stay in power without effecting any real change. Some of those countries, including Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, were eventually engulfed in upheaval during the Arab Spring, as citizens finally said, “enough is enough.”

Morocco has taken a different path under King Mohammed VI, who has been championing democratization ever since he assumed the throne in 1999. Over the past two decades, Morocco has introduced serious reforms intended to dilute the concentration of power away from the monarchy and toward representative institutions. The country has passed laws and introduced initiatives to improve human rights and encourage citizen engagement with government and civil society. The King’s support has been central to these advancements.

Recently, however, movement forward in Morocco has been slow, and progress on social and economic development has been challenging. With several months of ongoing demonstrations in the north, the King was widely anticipated to address these persistent issues in his Throne Day speech last Saturday. He did, and he went even further than expected. This time, it was the King’s turn to say, “Enough is enough!” Literally.

Saturday’s speech was remarkable in that the King not only bluntly acknowledged criticisms of the democratization process in Morocco, but also embraced them. “All in all,” he said, “our development policy choices remain sound. The problem lies with mentalities that have not evolved, as well as with the inability to implement projects and to innovate.” He demanded swift implementation of development projects and regional initiatives, and he harshly criticized the failure of the public sector to actually serve the public.

He also expressed disdain for self-serving bureaucrats whose unaccountability and incompetence have been damaging the Moroccan people’s trust in democratic institutions. “When results are positive,” he said, “political parties, politicians and officials vie for the spotlight to derive benefits from the achievements made… However, when matters do not turn out the way they should, they hide behind the Royal Palace [and] as a result, citizens complain to the King about government services or officials…”

I imagine it must be tiring to be widely considered Morocco’s only responsible – and responsive – public servant.

It is true that the democratization process in Morocco has not been flawless, but it should be more than clear that the King and the country are absolutely committed to moving that process forward. Saturday’s speech seemed to indicate a new chapter in Morocco’s democratization: a shift to maturing the institutions and processes already in place and making them function properly through a new focus on good governance.

The King used his speech to firmly outline his expectations for such governance going forward but also promised to continue safeguarding the interests of the country and the rights, freedoms, and interests of the people. “I will not accept any backtracking on democratic achievements,” he said, “nor will I tolerate any obstruction.”

Democracy is more than just a purple thumb. It is a complex system of performance-related government activities and public servants working for the benefit of the country and the people. Morocco’s King has an unmistakable long-term vision for the country and is actively committed to real democratic reform. The Moroccan people are lucky to have him.

Kristen Kouttab is the Deputy Communications Director at the Moroccan American Center

The post Morocco’s King Is Serious About Reform – Kristen Kouttab appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Nears Major Human Development Goal; Builds Stronger Ties with UAE, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ethiopia; Enjoys Better Tourism Numbers; and Sees Launch of Solar-Powered Cooking Project, among Other News – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 15:30

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 3, 2017

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

Morocco’s investments in providing drinking water to all its citizens are paying dividends. Several African and Arab countries are highlighting their ties to Morocco, while tourism opens opportunities in the real estate sector. Several Islamic banking instruments have come on line in the financial sector, and several companies up their presence in the Kingdom.

Drinking water for all. The latest report from Charafat Afilal, the Secretary of State in charge of Water, says that access to drinking water in rural areas will reach 96.5% by the end of this year, reflecting the success of the more than $100,000 spent annually on development projects,  including developing potable water from reservoirs created by dams, the installation of regional drainage canals, better management of surface water resources, deepening wells, and public education campaigns on water use. The goal is to end the existing water deficit by 2019.

Islamic finance debuts. This past week, “halal” credits and accounts became available through banks in Morocco following approval of Parliament and under the guidance of the Higher Council of Ulemas. Five Moroccan banks are authorized to open accounts according to Islamic finance principles. This will soon be followed by the availability of real estate and automobile financing. Further ahead are insurance products and Islamic financing bonds, sukuk, to support financing these and other products. According to the Council’s decree, “This ‘participatory’ finance [in which risk is shared by the parties to the transaction] prohibits investments in sectors considered illicit: alcohol, sports betting, tobacco, and pornography, as well as the practice of interest and speculation.” Standard & Poor’s believes that Islamic Finance could come to represent between 10 and 20% of the Moroccan banking system.

Where tourism goes, hospitality and real estate follow! The rise in 4Q tourism results has greatly improved the sector’s 2017 performance. The upcoming conference of Hotelier Summit Africa (North) “Will serve as an important event for real estate and hospitality professionals looking to build and operate new hotels across the country,” according to the organizers. They also point to “an overall international trust in the Morocco as a holiday destination” that has led to several new facilities being launched in the country, with expectations for even greater growth. Their press announcement noted that “The tourism sector in Morocco experienced significant growth at the beginning of this year. According to the data from Moroccan Ministry of Tourism, the number of visitors that entered the country in February went up 10.6 per cent with overnight stays in hotels increasing to 18.8 per cent.”

Friends in deed.  Morocco’s commitment to its African policy is underscored with an investment of more than $350 million in various projects in the Côte d’Ivoire. This announcement was made by Mounia Boucetta, the Moroccan Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at the meeting of a bilateral trade council in Abidjan. “Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco have about 100 bilateral agreements, several of which relate to physical projects in progress, particularly those of housing.”

Ethiopia lauds cooperation with Morocco as it moves ahead with bilateral trade and investment opportunities following Morocco’s admission to the African Union. The two countries have 12 current agreements across numerous sectors, including education and human resources, renewable energy, environmental cooperation, health, agriculture, and infrastructure. One of the largest projects is a fertilizer production unit in Ethiopia to develop products especially suited for Ethiopian agriculture. The first phase will require $2.5 billion, with a total cost of $3.7 billion.

The UAE’s Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has provided the Kingdom with grants and concessionary loans worth $2.45 billion in support of 76 development projects, including transportation infrastructure, water and agriculture, education, and healthcare. The Fund also has equity in several Morocco-based companies, active in the telecommunications, real estate, agriculture and livestock, tourism, and industry sectors.

Speaking of the Emirates, the World Economic Forum’s Digital Evolution Index placed Morocco as #1 in digital economy in North Africa, following the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan among all Arab countries. The Index is a holistic, data-driven evaluation that tracks the progress of the digital economy across 60 countries, taking into account more than 100 different indicators across four key drivers: Supply Conditions, Demand Conditions, Institutional Environment, and Innovation and Change. It reflects the state and rate of digital evolution, while also identifying avenues for investment, innovation, and policy priorities.

2017 exports up. YonY comparison shows that Moroccan exports increased from $12 billion in the first six months of 2016 to $13.3 billion in the first six months of 2017. By sectors, this 11.2% increase breaks down into phosphates and derivatives (+8.9%), agriculture and agri-food (+8.3%), pharmaceuticals (+7.5%), electronics (+7.1%), automotive (2.9%), and textiles and leather (+1.6%). In related news, Automotive News noted that if Morocco adds, as expected, two other major car manufacturers by 2025, it will reach its goal of a 1 million car production capability. According to the story, “Morocco is encouraging its next vehicle manufacturer to produce a platform that allows it to manufacture both electrified vehicles and conventional models.”

Finally, lights, camera, action! And in a long-awaited move, Morocco has finally announced a draft decree establishing a subsidy for foreign film productions shot in Morocco, with the aim of tripling their number. This tax measure will allow production companies to recover 20% of their expenses incurred during the shooting of a film or a series in Morocco.

It’s not just power projects any more. Morocco, according to HuffPost Maroc, is working with Greenpeace to teach people to cook using solar energy. A small group of volunteers, committed to introducing environmentally friendly small-scale technologies, is training Moroccans in rural areas and small communities in solar cooking as part of the Do It Yourself program, DIY Solar Cooking.

The post Business Brief: Morocco Nears Major Human Development Goal; Builds Stronger Ties with UAE, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ethiopia; Enjoys Better Tourism Numbers; and Sees Launch of Solar-Powered Cooking Project, among Other News – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Economic Policies under King Mohammed VI Rated Highly, and Central Bank Notes 2017 Outlook – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
August 1, 2017

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

A feature story in Morocco World News highlighted the positive changes in the Moroccan economy during the reign of King Mohammed VI. As it noted, “Since the 2000s, the kingdom’s GDP has practically doubled to hit all-time records. Not only has this newfound wealth helped the country reduce its poverty rate by half, but it has also set Morocco on the road to become one of the leading developing countries in the region.”

The article attributes these changes to the government’s new approach and mentality towards business since the enthronement of the King. At the time of his accession in 1999, Morocco was very much a quasi-statist economy, a failing model that the King wasted no time in challenging. He immediately began the process of building an extensive base for attracting international investors by investing heavily in upgrading and updating Morocco infrastructure – ports, airports, highways, and access to services.

Unlike previous reliance on tourism and agriculture, with some attention to textiles, the new Morocco sought to both enhance those industries through national plans to make them globally competitive and introduce industrialization based on its competitive advantage in wages and human resources. It also anticipated the fallout from the global financial crisis of 2008 by redirecting its trading activities towards Africa, which will double its population by 2050.

Now that the country’s industrial base is expanding rapidly, the King wants to extend those benefits more evenly throughout the country by promoting free zones and industrial cities in different locations and providing incentives to attract investors. There is no better example of this than the strategy to build industrial supply-chain clusters to support its manufacturing sectors.

This proactive industrialization policy would not have been as broadly successful had not Morocco revamped its economic policies. “Over the past two decades, Morocco has taken important steps to liberalize its economy. It has implemented various incentives to attract investors, signing free trade agreements and opening up new markets. The reign of Mohammed VI is synonymous with the opening of the Moroccan economy,” according to the article.

Other proactive steps taken by the government include the soon-to-be-adopted flexible exchange rate. This will make it possible to link the exchange rate to the domestic economy, rather than be subject to the vagaries of external currencies, giving Morocco more leeway in managing fiscal and monetary policies. The analysis points out that “The liberalization of the Moroccan economy has provided positive elements in terms of the growth of national GDP, the development of foreign direct investment, the emergence of a middle class, and the modernization of the agriculture and industry and services.”

Key factors the article notes that enabled Morocco’s success include political stability, human resources, low production costs, geographic location, and consistent economic growth. At the same time, Morocco has embarked on numerous reforms to improve its business climate. An efficient regulatory framework, investment incentives, the fight against tax evasion, the modernization of the financial sector, encouragement of entrepreneurship, and more, are all projects upon which Morocco has capitalized.”

News on the Banking front

Additional insights into Morocco’s financial capacity were provided by the governor of the central bank, Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM), Abdellatif Jouahri, in his presentation to the King of BAM’s annual report on the economic, monetary, and fiscal outlook for the country.

Against the backdrop of last year’s weak performance of the agricultural sector due to a devastating drought, Morocco is making an impressive turnaround in 2017. International reserves are growing despite a slight uptick in the current account deficit (trade imbalance). To counter this, BAM has cut its key interest rate to 2¼% and is continuing its program to provide financing to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises to enable job growth.

Other positive results are the continued growth of the banking sector in Africa, and the capacity of the key banks to manage risks associated with expansion and diversification of services. A new banking law has been implemented, and the regulatory framework is being finalized.

The article noted that the governor pointed out that “Despite the continuing high level of investment, the various sectoral strategies launched in recent years, and the measures taken to improve the business climate, the economy has not yet found the right trajectory and the development model to permanently place it on a path to higher growth…He said it is imperative to initiate a new generation of reforms to improve productivity and strengthen the resilience of the economy amid an uncertain international environment.”

Jouahri further noted that higher growth rates are needed to meet the challenges of high unemployment, and this must be accompanied by reforms in education and training to better match market needs. He echoed the King’s insistence on more inclusive economic growth based on policies of equal opportunity, reducing barriers to economic participation, and upgrading social and economic conditions throughout the country.

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Categories: The moroccan press

On Throne Day, Moroccan King Calls on Elected Officials, Civil Servants to Uphold Citizens’ Interests

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 18:30

Washington, DC, July 31, 2017 (MACP) – In a speech to the nation on July 29 marking the 18th anniversary of his reign, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI strongly chastised civil servants and elected officials who have failed to provide strong and responsive democratic institutions equally across the country, saying, “The development projects and the political and institutional reforms carried out target a single goal: to serve citizens, wherever they may be. There is no difference between north and south, east and west, urban and rural areas.”

The King called on Morocco’s diverse political parties and civil servants to prioritize their responsibility to citizens over self-interest. “Morocco must come first: before political parties, before elections and before senior positions,” he said. “Today, however, we are witnessing glaring paradoxes that are hard to understand or accept. On the one hand, Morocco enjoys indisputable credibility at continental and international levels, the esteem and consideration of our partners and the confidence of major investors, such as the Boeing, Renault and Peugeot groups. But on the other hand, we are shocked by the end results, the facts on the ground and the modest achievements made in certain social sectors, so much so that it is shameful to admit we are actually talking about present-day Morocco.”

The King insisted, “I will not accept any backtracking on democratic achievements,” and called for the implementation, “fully and rigorously,” of Article 1 of the Constitution mandating accountability in the public sector. “It is high time this principle were implemented in full,” he said. “Just as the law applies equally to all citizens, it must be applied, first and foremost, to all officials, without distinction or discrimination, and in all of the Kingdom’s regions. This is the dawn of a new era.”

The King reaffirmed the importance of the Western Sahara as a top priority for Morocco. And, alluding to the Green March of 1975 to reclaim it from Spain, he said, “What I am seeking to achieve today, in all regions of the Kingdom, is a new [march] – a march for the achievement of human and social development; a march for equality and social justice for all Moroccans. One may come up with the most efficient development model and the best plans and strategies but:

  • without a change in mentality;
  • without having the best civil servants;
  • without the political parties choosing the best elites that are qualified to run public affairs;
  • without a sense of responsibility and national commitment; one would not be able to offer all Moroccans the free, dignified life one wants them to have.”

“King Mohammed VI’s speech shows, once again, Morocco’s steadfast commitment to staying on the path of modernization and democracy and continuing to act as a force for progress and stability in the region,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “The King’s focus on accountability, transparency, and the government’s responsibility to the citizens shows how clearly he recognizes that democracy is not just about free and fair elections, it is primarily about serving the people of Morocco.”

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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

Full Text of King Mohammed VI’s Address to the Nation Marking Morocco’s Throne Day

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 16:37

King Mohammed VI delivered a speech to the nation on the occasion of the eighteenth anniversary of Throne Day. Below is the full text thereof:

“Praise be to God,

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

Dear Citizens,

Today, we are celebrating the eighteenth anniversary of my accession to the throne, in a national environment characterized by achievements as well as challenges.

This yearly celebration is an opportunity to renew the mutual bonds of the Bei’a uniting us and to take stock, together, of the state of the nation.

The development projects and the political and institutional reforms carried out target a single goal: to serve citizens, wherever they may be. There is no difference between north and south, east and west, urban and rural areas.

It is true that Morocco’s resources are limited. It is also a fact that many regions need more basic social services.

However, Morocco has been constantly developing, by the grace of the Almighty. Progress is clear and real; it is recognized across the board and in all sectors.

Today, however, we are witnessing glaring paradoxes that are hard to understand or accept.

On the one hand, Morocco enjoys indisputable credibility at continental and international levels, the esteem and consideration of our partners and the confidence of major investors, such as the Boeing, Renault and Peugeot groups. But on the other hand, we are shocked by the end results, the facts on the ground and the modest achievements made in certain social sectors, so much so that it is shameful to admit we are actually talking about present-day Morocco.

While it is true that our action, through a number of sectoral plans – like those relating to agriculture, industry and renewable energy – has been successful, human and local development programs, which have a positive impact on citizens’ living conditions, do us no credit, nor do they match our ambitions.

In many sectors, this is mostly due to the inadequacy of joint action, the lack of a national, strategic dimension, inconsistency instead of harmony, disparagement and procrastination instead of entrepreneurship and concrete action.

These paradoxes are even more acute when we compare the private sector – which is efficient and competitive, and which is built on a governance model that has incentives, as well as follow-up and monitoring mechanisms – to the public sector, particularly our civil service, which is suffering from poor governance and weak performance.

The private sector is attracting the best human resources that are trained in our country. They are involved in the management of major international groups in Morocco as well as small and medium-sized Moroccan enterprises.

As for civil servants, many of them do not have the skills, qualifications or ambition required; moreover, they are not always guided by a sense of responsibility.

Some of them report to work for only short periods of time, preferring to settle for modest – but guaranteed – pay, instead of working hard to improve their social conditions.

One of the problems which impede Morocco’s progress is the weakness of the civil service, be it in terms of governance, efficiency or the quality of the services provided to citizens.

For instance, the regional investment centers – with the exception of one or two – are a problem. They impede the act of investing instead of serving as a mechanism that provides incentives and resolves the problems of investors at the regional level, without their having to go to central government departments.

This has an adverse impact on regions that are suffering from insufficient – sometimes inexistent – private investment and from the public sector’s weak performance. This, in turn, affects citizens’ living conditions.

The challenge is even more daunting in regions with the biggest shortage of health, education and cultural services, not to mention the lack of jobs. Greater cooperative efforts are required to close gaps and help these regions catch up with the others.

Conversely, regions with a vibrant private sector, like Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech and Tangier, are enjoying strong economic dynamism which creates wealth as well as jobs.

To put an end to this situation, governors, caids, directors, staff members, local officials, etc. should work hard, just like staff in the private sector – or even harder. They should show a sense of responsibility that does credit to the civil service and yields concrete results since these officials are entrusted with serving citizens’ interests.

Dear Citizens,

All in all, our development policy choices remain sound. The problem lies with mentalities that have not evolved as well as with the inability to implement projects and to innovate.

The evolution witnessed in Morocco in the political domain and in the area of development has not led to the kind of positive reaction you would expect from political parties, leaders and government officials when dealing with the real aspirations and concerns of Moroccans.

When results are positive, political parties, politicians and officials vie for the spotlight to derive benefits from the achievements made, both politically and in terms of media exposure.

However, when matters do not turn out the way they should, they hide behind the Royal Palace and ascribe everything to it.

As a result, citizens complain to the King about government services or officials that take too long to respond to their queries or process their cases, asking him to intercede on their behalf.

Citizens are entitled to convincing answers – within reasonable timeframes – to their queries and complaints, including the explanation or justification of negative decisions. Requests and queries should not be turned down without a valid legal reason; they should be rejected only when they are inconsistent with the law, or when the citizen concerned has not completed the relevant procedures or met the requirements.

Given this situation, citizens are entitled to ask themselves: What is the use of having institutions, holding elections, forming governments and appointing ministers, walis, governors, ambassadors and consuls if they live on one planet, and the people and their concerns are on another one?

The practices of some elected officials induce a number of citizens, especially young people, to shun political life and take no part in elections.

Put simply, they do not trust politicians; indeed, some stakeholders have perverted politics, diverting it away from its lofty objectives.

If the King of Morocco is not convinced of the way political activity is conducted and if he does not trust a number of politicians, what are the citizens left with?

To all those concerned I say: ‘Enough is enough!’ Fear God in what you are perpetrating against your homeland. Either discharge your obligations fully or withdraw from public life. There are plenty of honest men and women in Morocco.

This situation can no longer be tolerated because the homeland’s interests and those of the citizens are at stake. I am choosing my words carefully here, and I know what I am saying because it comes after deep reflection.

Dear Citizens,

The responsibility and the privilege of serving citizens call for action that goes from responding to their basic demands to implementing projects – big and small.

As I always point out, there is no difference between small and large projects. All projects are meant to meet people’s needs.

Whether a project concerns a district, a hamlet, a city, a region or the entire country, it still has the same objective, which is to serve citizens. In the eyes of citizens, digging a well or building a dam, for instance, are equally important.

What is the meaning of responsibility if the official concerned loses sight of one of the most basic requirements of that responsibility, which is to listen to citizens’ concerns?

I fail to understand how officials who do not fulfill their duties can leave home, drive their cars, stop at traffic lights and brazenly and shamelessly look people in the face, knowing that they are aware of their unscrupulous conduct.

Are these people who took the oath before God, the homeland and the King, and who fail to perform their duties, not ashamed of themselves? Should not any official who is guilty of dereliction of duty be held to account and dismissed?

I must insist, in this respect, on the need to apply rigorously the provisions of the second paragraph of Article 1 of the Constitution, which links public office with accountability.

It is high time this principle were implemented in full. Just as the law applies equally to all citizens, it must be applied, first and foremost, to all officials, without distinction or discrimination, and in all of the Kingdom’s regions.

This is the dawn of a new era in which there is no difference between officials and citizens as far as civic rights and obligations are concerned; nor is there room for shirking responsibility or avoiding sanctions.

Dear Citizens,

I insist on the need to implement the provisions of the Constitution fully and rigorously. This is a collective responsibility which lies with all stakeholders, each in their respective area of competence – the government, parliament, political parties and all the institutions concerned.

When an official obstructs or delays the implementation of a development project or a social program, this is not simply a case of dereliction of duty; it amounts to treason because that official is harming the interests of citizens and preventing them from enjoying their legitimate rights.

Strangely enough, there are some officials who fail in their duty and still consider that they deserve a higher position.

It is attitudes and inconsistencies such as these that give substance to the widely-held belief among most Moroccans that the reason behind vying for positions is to benefit from rent-seeking and to wield power and influence to serve one’s own interests.

And since examples of such practices exist in everyday life, people unfortunately tend to give credence to this belief.

But, thank God, not all politicians and senior civil servants are like that. There are trustworthy people who genuinely love their homeland and who are known for their integrity, uprightness and commitment to serving the public good.

Dear Citizens,

The events taking place in some parts of the country have regrettably revealed an unprecedented lack of the sense of responsibility.

Instead of each party fulfilling its national and professional obligations; instead of resorting to cooperation and collaborative efforts to resolve citizens’ problems, the parties concerned have been laying the blame at one another’s door, and narrow politicking has been allowed to take precedence over the homeland. As a result, citizens’ interests have been ignored.

Some political parties believe that all they have to do is hold their general meetings, those of their political and executive committees and get involved in election campaigns.

But when it comes to engaging the citizens and solving their problems, they do nothing and are non-existent. This is unacceptable on the part of institutions whose role is to guide and represent the citizens and to serve their interests.

I never expected partisan bickering and political score-settling to go as far as to jeopardize the interests of citizens.

Running public affairs should have nothing to do with personal or partisan interests, populist discourse, or the use of strange expressions that undermine political action.

I have noted that most stakeholders have opted for a win-lose rationale to preserve or expand their political capital at the expense of the homeland, even if that means making the situation worse.

The fact that political parties and their representatives refrain from performing their mission – sometimes deliberately, and sometimes out of a lack of credibility or patriotism – has further compounded the situation.

Given this regrettable and dangerous vacuum, law enforcement services have found themselves face to face with the citizens. They have bravely and patiently fulfilled their duty, showing restraint and commitment to the rule of law as they maintained security and stability.

I am referring to Al Hoceima, but what happened there could actually occur in any other region.

This refutes what some have referred to as the ‘security approach’, as if Morocco were sitting on top of a volcano, or as if each household and each citizen were being watched over by a policeman.

Some even say there is a radical wing and a moderate one, adding that they disagree on how to tackle these events. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In reality, there is only one policy and a single, unwavering commitment, which is to enforce the law, respect the institutions, ensure the security of citizens and safeguard their property.

Moroccans know that the people behind the afore-mentioned anachronous theory are using it as a business undertaking; they also realize that what these people say is not credible.

They act as if law-enforcement services are the ones who run the country and control the government and senior officials. It is probably these services that set prices, etc.

By contrast, law enforcement officers are making major sacrifices, working day and night in difficult conditions to fulfil their duty, maintain the internal and external security and stability of the homeland, and safeguard the security, serenity and tranquility of citizens.

Moroccans have every right and ought, in fact, to be proud of their law-enforcement authorities. I say this loud and clear, without any inferiority complex: if certain nihilists do not want to admit this, or refuse to tell the truth, it is their problem – and theirs alone.

Dear Citizens,

The Moroccan institutional model is an advanced political system.

Nevertheless, for the most part, it is not properly applied. The problem concerns actual implementation on the ground. Having said that, I am particularly keen to respect the prerogatives of institutions as well as the separation of powers.

However, if officials fail to discharge their duties, and the interests of the homeland and of citizens are jeopardized, it is incumbent upon me, as per the Constitution, to ensure the country’s security and stability and to safeguard people’s interests as well as their rights and freedoms.

At the same time, I will not accept any backtracking on democratic achievements, nor will I tolerate any obstruction as far as the work of institutions is concerned. Both the Constitution and the law are quite clear, and powers need no explanation.

Officials must exercise their prerogatives without waiting for someone’s permission. And instead of repeating the same excuse – namely ‘I am being prevented from doing my job’ – it is better for them to offer their resignation, which nobody would reject.

Morocco must come first: before political parties, before elections and before senior positions.

Dear Citizens,

Until my very last breath, I will always take pride in serving you, for I was brought up to love our motherland and to serve its sons and daughters.

I solemnly promise, before God, to keep up my earnest endeavors and seek to meet your expectations so that your aspirations may be fulfilled.

Allow me, Dear citizens, to speak my mind and tell you exactly how I feel, eighteen years after assuming the sacred mission of leading the nation.

I cannot hide certain matters from you. You know them quite well. It is my duty to tell you the truth. Otherwise, I will let you down.

You will notice, Dear Citizens, that I have not talked about our territorial integrity, Africa, or any other foreign policy issue.

Needless to say, the question of the Moroccan Sahara is not open for discussion, and, of course, it remains a top priority.

What I am seeking to achieve today, in all regions of the Kingdom, is a new massîra, or march – a march for the achievement of human and social development; a march for equality and social justice for all Moroccans, because such a major endeavor cannot be carried out in one region and not in the others.

One may come up with the most efficient development model and the best plans and strategies but:

- without a change in mentality;

- without having the best civil servants;

- without the political parties choosing the best elites that are qualified to run public affairs;

- without a sense of responsibility and national commitment; one would not be able to offer all Moroccans the free, dignified life one wants them to have.

I do not want you, Dear Citizens, to think, after listening to this address, that I am being pessimistic.

Far from it! You know that I am a realist. I tell the truth, painful though it may be.

Pessimism is the lack of will, the absence of a forward-looking vision and the inability to see things as they are.

Thank God, our resolve is both firm and sincere, and we also have a clear, long-term vision. We know who we are and where we are heading.

Throughout the centuries, and by the Grace of the Almighty, Morocco has managed to survive countless hardships, thanks to the close, symbiotic relationship between the Throne and the people.

And here we are today, forging ahead and making progress, together, in various sectors. We confidently and resolutely look forward to making more achievements.

Almighty God says:

‘Allah does command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; and when you judge between man and man, that you judge with justice’.

True is the Word of God.

Wassalmu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh. “

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Categories: The moroccan press

What Will It Take to Make the Arab Maghreb Union Work? – Jean R. AbiNader

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 15:08

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 31, 2017

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

The Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was formed in 1989 by Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia as a vehicle to promote economic and political integration among these North African countries. Their good intentions quickly foundered on the domestic and regional conflicts that dominated the next two decades.

Mauritania faced several coup attempts, ending with the election of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in 2009;  Tunisia was under the control of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from 1987 until the Arab Spring revolution of 2011; Libya was ruled by Muammar Gaddafi who was also ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising in his country, and it has not recovered any normalcy since.

Morocco fought off the Polisario Front from 1975-1991, which sought to establish a separate state in the Western Sahara, ending with an uneasy cessation of hostilities in 1991; Morocco and Algeria closed their common border in 1994; Algeria was plunged into a civil war from 1991 to 2002, ending with the election in 1999 of current president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who came into power promising to end the civil war; and there was a transition in Moroccan leadership from King Hassan II to his son King Mohammed VI in 1999.

In short, only two of the AMU, Morocco and Algeria, have had continuity in leadership; Morocco’s based on a hereditary and immensely popular King as well as successive Parliamentary elections certified as “free and fair”; and Algeria’s through elections that are heavily influenced by the power elite in the country to avoid embarrassing or undesirable outcomes.

The AMU could not establish deep roots in this contentious environment. Despite ongoing meetings among technocrats on economic, financial, and commercial topics, the political milieu is so supercharged with tension that political discussions are next to impossible. In fact, the last heads-of-state meetings planned in 2005 has been postponed indefinitely.

As recently as 2016, Tunisia and Morocco called for recharging the AMU, but to no avail. Progress towards reconciliation and forward movement has been all but doomed by a host of issues: internal economic and political challenges in Algeria and Tunisia; regional security issues fed by domestic unrest and the growing presence of ISIL and al-Qaeda,; competing governments in Libya; and Algerian pressure on Mauritania to take sides on the Western Sahara issue..

An article on Middle East Online raised the familiar question of what could be done to achieve the potential of a working AMU.  A recent report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) criticized the lack of economic progress among the AMU’s member states. “It is crazy that goods need to transit between these neighbors via the French port of Marseilles when they could simply cross by land,” wrote Wadia Ait Hamza, head of Social Engagement – The Americas, in a paper posted of the WEF website.

The paper noted that the Western Sahara issue and the political seesaw in Libya were the two major factors “hampering the union’s economic progress.” With the recent agreement facilitated by France between the two major factions in Libya, that issue may be on its way to resolution through new elections next year, if they can agree on the modalities of a new government. The Western Sahara issue, however, shows no signs of incremental progress; Morocco’s proposal for autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty which has been widely recognized as the appropriate resolution, was introduced a decade ago.

King Mohammed VI, at the African Union (AU) heads of state meeting in February, lamented the demise of the AMU and warned of its inevitable failure if there was no progress. He said, “Today, we regret to see that the Arab Maghreb Union is the least in¬tegrated region in the African con¬tinent, if not in the whole world. Intra-regional trade has reached 10% between ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] countries and 19% between SADC [Southern African Development Community] countries, while it is still stagnating at less than 3% be¬tween Maghreb countries.”

It’s not as if the five countries do not have overwhelming incentives to retool their economies and press ahead with economic reforms, despite political stalemates. Declining oil and gas prices have hit Algeria hard, and it is struggling to diversify and rebuild its economic model. Morocco has been growing steadily due to a business-friendly environment and a vision that prioritizes public-private partnerships to drive its manufacturing sector and agro-industry expansion, but it still faces high unemployment numbers.

Libya is still in triage, while Tunisia has the right ingredients but has to overcome Ben Ali era corruption and inefficiencies. Mauritania is moving ahead with its plans but is hampered by dependence on commodities and lack of trained human resources.

In the face of these and other challenges, “The WEF called for the opening of borders between AMU members to ensure the free movement of goods and people.” This would represent a minimal yet very impactful step, allowing for the construction of a long-anticipated highway across the AMU, to be followed by a railroad, both of which would dramatically increase intra-union commerce leading to badly needed job expansion. In addition, it would give impetus to developing economic partnerships based on the complementarity of the countries’ agricultural, industrial, services, and energy sectors.

AMU integration is a critical priority for the region. The benefits of greater economic cooperation, open borders, increased commercial transactions, expanded business enterprises, and shared infrastructure linkages in transportation and energy can only better enable the member countries to meet their many development challenges.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Hopes to Score Big in AfroBasket 2017

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 18:00

July 27, 2017

Like much of the world, Moroccans are devoted soccer fans—quick to proclaim their loyalty to either Real Madrid or FC Barcelona, but also to local teams like Raja in Casablanca or ASFAR in Rabat. Soccer, however, is not the only sport that people in this country—and Africa as a whole—love to play and watch. Basketball is becoming ever more popular in the region, and interest in the continental tournament of AfroBasket is growing. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) tournament, which began in 1962, is held biannually on the continent and brings together the best players from all over Africa.

Draw results for AfroBasket 2017 were announced on July 16 at The Westin Turtle Bay Resort and Spa in Balaclava, Mauritius. This year, the tournament will be hosted by Tunisia and Senegal from September 8 to September 16. During the initial Group Phase, two groups will play in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, while the other two groups play in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis. The rest of the games, the Final Phase, will be played in Tunis. Morocco has hosted the tournament four times, most recently in 2001 in Casablanca.

Morocco will be competing in Group B (playing in Dakar), alongside Angola, the Central African Republic, and Uganda. North African neighbor and host country Tunisia is in Group C (playing in Tunis), competing against Guinea, Rwanda, and Cameroon. Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and the Ivory Coast face off in Group A (playing in Tunis). To round things off, Group D (playing in Dakar) consists of five-time champions Senegal and Egypt, as well as Mozambique and South Africa. The most recent holder of the championship title of AfroBasket is Nigeria, who won in 2015.

Morocco may have a difficult road ahead, as its group competitor Angola has won the title 11 times since 1989, most recently in 2013. On the other hand, Morocco emerged victorious only once, in 1965. At AfroBasket 2005 in Algeria, Morocco placed 6th in the tournament and ranked at 8th in both 2011 and in 2013, when they defeated Rwanda, Burkina Faso, and Algeria. While they came out in 13th place in the most recent tournament, they never lost by more than six points, including two one-point games, one of which was against powerhouse Angola. Furthermore, they won against the Central African Republic that year, whom they will meet again in this year’s tournament.

Earlier in July, Moroccan power forward Abderrahim Najah expressed his wish for his country to host one of the two tournaments in the 1st Round African Qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. In an interview with FIBA.com, Najah said that Morocco’s current roster boasts “one of the best generation of Moroccan players,” and he is determined to “finish with at least a bronze medal.” Eyes will be on him and his teammates this September to see if he can follow through on his promise.

http://www.fiba.com/afrobasket/2017

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Ranked Leader in Africa and the Middle East by Risk Analysis Firm Euler Hermes

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 19:59

Washington, DC, July 26, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) – In its most recent quarterly survey of 250 countries, credit risk insurance specialist Euler Hermes ranked Morocco as the only country in the “low-risk” category in the short and medium term in North Africa, and one of only three in Africa. The rating is based on monitoring “macroeconomic imbalances, the business environment, and the stability of the political system,” according to the firm.

In its analysis under the heading “It’s oh so quiet,” Euler Hermes lists key “strengths” in the country, including the leadership and popularity of King Mohammed VI; “sound commercial and diplomatic relations with the U.S. and the EU;” the economy’s resilience in the face of last year’s devastating drought; its central geographic location near to very large potential markets; and its debt service management.

The report describes Morocco as “an island of tranquility” with a solid basis for continued growth and progress, benefiting from existing strong trade ties, geographic location, and a growing capacity for regional business leadership.

The survey pointed out that “the prudent policy-mix, as well as good management of foreign exchange reserves” underpinned the economy’s resilience. With good harvests anticipated, Euler Hermes predicts GDP growth of 4.5% in 2017, encouraged by the diversification of the economy, through both better agricultural management and use of fertilizers, and the steady growth of the industrial and services sectors.

“It is no coincidence that Morocco continues to win recognition as a trade and investment platform for Africa,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “King Mohammed VI’s vision and economic diplomacy for the past 16 years and the evolving business-friendly government policies make it ideal for international companies and investors.”

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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: Key International LPG Forum to be held in Morocco as Country Readies to Build Tallest Skyscraper in Africa. Foreign Investment Rising as Auto Sector Expansion Continues – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 16:37

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
July 26, 2017

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

The global LPG sector is coming to Morocco in the fall to examine worldwide trends and opportunities; Morocco inks an agreement with the Chinese to build tallest skyscraper in Africa for public-private occupants; country continues to be top draw for Foreign Direct Investment in Africa; and automobile sector supply chain adds to its capabilities.

30th World LPG Forum in Morocco this fall. Continuing its leadership role in the promotion of clean  energy sources, Morocco will host the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Forum (LPG) in Marrakech in October, bringing together policy makers, international agencies, companies, and researchers to map policies, view technology advances, and develop strategies affecting the future of the industry.

According to the North Africa Post, ”As a part of the Marrakech World LPG Forum, the 10th Global Technology Conference (GTC-2017) offers participants the opportunity to see some of the most important and innovative technology being discovered in the global LPG industry. The primary aim of the GTC-2017 is to showcase the most innovative and original technological ideas from around the world and create new opportunities for the LPG industry.”

Among those expected to address the forum are government leaders, such as Moroccan minister of Energy, Mines, and Sustainable Development Aziz Rebbah, who will join industry experts to discuss varying perspectives on LPG related to commercial and environment issues. Stakeholders expected to attend include industry research entities, academic partners, LPG producing companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors, and the industry supply chain and related distribution and marketing organizations.

Due to global concerns with air quality and access to clean energy, LPG demand is growing in both developed and developing countries. Included in the program is a focus on HSE Management Systems, the Health, Safety, and Environment regulations being adopted to enhance safe operations with a view towards a sustainable future for the industry.

The African LPG market, which has increased by some 30% in the last five years, will be in focus, with Morocco as a good example, having seen an increase of 20% during that period, making it now the second-largest consuming market on the continent.

Rising above the continent. Morocco has signed an agreement with a Chinese company to build Africa’s tallest skyscraper. It will be located in Rabat as part of the Bouregreg River valley development project. Although announced earlier this year, the final agreement was just initiated by the China Railway Construction Corporation, BMCE Bank of Africa, and Travaux Generaux de Construction de Casablanca, Morocco’s leading construction company.

Utilizing the latest ecological and sustainable design concepts, the 55-story tower will reach more than 820 feet in height and include offices, hotels, and luxury apartments. It is part of a larger development that involves the construction of several innovative facilities, including the Grand Theatre of Rabat, the Arts and Culture House, the National Archives of the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Archaeological Museum.

Good news on the foreign investment front. According to a report by the Arab Investment and Export Credit Guarantee Corporation, Morocco attracted $2.3 billion worth of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2016, leading all North Africa countries. According to the EU Bulletin, “FDI flows to the North African kingdom were mostly dominated by investments in the country’s major manufacturing base – in 2015 it attracted sizeable FDI amounts in the automotive industry especially from France. Much of the growth was due to investments… driven mainly by the expansion of foreign affiliates in the financial industry (CIB Bank and Citadel Capital) and pharmaceuticals (Pfizer).”

Morocco is on pace to do as well in 2017, with the announcement by French automotive supplier Faurecia that it will open a plant in the Free Trade Zone in Sale and intends to open another in Kenitra, its second at that location, to focus on interiors. Faurecia will invest some $18 million in this new plant, which will employ 1,300 people, and looks to double its production by 2019.

Kuwait reaffirms support for Morocco’s development. In a recent statement to the press at a loan agreement signing between Morocco and Kuwait, its ambassador in Morocco, Abdullatif Al-Yahya, reiterated his country’s support for Morocco’s economic development. The $50 million loan will support the high speed rail line connecting Tangier with Casablanca.

The post Business Brief: Key International LPG Forum to be held in Morocco as Country Readies to Build Tallest Skyscraper in Africa. Foreign Investment Rising as Auto Sector Expansion Continues – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

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.

 

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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!!

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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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