Morocco on the move
Morocco See Gains in International Business Ties; Tourism Sector Faces a Shake-up – Jean R. AbiNader
Although 2016 was not a bad year for Morocco, key indicators look like 2017 will show significant growth in important sectors including agricultural, financial services, manufacturing, and tourism. Although the government agency responsible for tourism development has come under criticism, private leisure and recreation developers and promoters continue to post good results. Bilateral ties with Pakistan are showing improvement, and so is Morocco’s overall profile to international investors.
African Business Magazine gives Morocco a thumbs-up. In a recent overview of business prospects in North Africa, the magazine gives Morocco high marks for its outreach to sub-Saharan Africa via economic diplomacy. The article describes Morocco’s special status: “Morocco is the big exception [to the lack of North-South investments in Africa], banking on growth across the entire continent to help fuel its own development. Rabat calculates that 85% of Morocco’s foreign direct investment goes to sub-Saharan Africa, with Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon the top three destinations.”
It goes on to say that “If anything, Morocco is likely to become more prominent as an entrepôt for African investment over the next few years. Tanger Med, one of the African continent’s most important container ports, already serves as a transshipment port for trade between Europe, Asia and North America but is likely to become increasingly valued as a dropping off point for cargo bound to and from West Africa’s modernising ports over the next few years.”
Of particular significance is Morocco’s activity in the banking sector, where Attijariwafa and Banque Centrale Populaire have taken leadership roles in investing in the local banking sector. The opening of Islamic finance in Morocco presents other opportunities to attract investors and consumers in Central and West Africa, where the sector is underserved. The Gulf partners of the Moroccan banks in the Islamic ventures name Morocco’s reach into largely untapped African markets as a strong incentive for the tie-ups.
Of course, Morocco is fast becoming a model for renewable energy development in Africa. African Business Magazine noted that “Morocco and South Africa have been the two biggest investors in the CSP sector in the world over the past two years and appear to be driving each other on in competition to develop CSP technology that can be exported to many different markets. Companies from the two countries are competing for influence in a growing number of sectors.”
Morocco’s economic strategy, led by King Mohammed VI, reflects the reality that growth opportunities in Africa are immensely attractive as EU markets have slowed. As one analyst mentioned in the article put it, “Morocco has banked its economic strategy on trade with the European Union but the EU is stagnating. African growth prospects over the next ten or 20 years are much bigger and so the government wants to add a second string to its bow: looking north to Europe and south to Africa at the same time. It’s a no brainer.” And while the magazine did look at Tunisia’s and Egypt’s interest in pursuing business in Africa, the article concluded that they had much to learn from Morocco’s leadership in building ties with the continent.
Tourism Agency faulted for passive promotional efforts. According to multiple sources, despite the uptick in tourism in Morocco in 2016, little of the progress is due to the efforts of the agency responsible for tourism development, SMIT. While the Ministry of Tourism is responsible for promotional efforts, SMIT is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the government’s role in building, sustaining, and incentivizing private sector participation in the industry.
The chief criticism from the Court of Auditors is that SMIT has an outdated business model, relying more on selling real estate than innovative and creative leadership in providing for-pay consulting and engineering services in the tourism sector. The Auditors said that “The SMIT should develop a genuine and marketable tourism engineering and consulting trade, since it is the only way to allow it an independent survival from the land sales and State subsidies.”
It also noted that SMIT has the personnel in place to implement these types of services but was not aggressive in reaching out, relying instead of government support. In addition, it recommended that the agency work more proactively to solicit investors for the tourism sector, as it has the expertise and the strategic mandate to take the lead in this effort on behalf of the government.
Islamic finance leaders to converge on Morocco. More than 250 financial institutions, analysts, company and Islamic advisory council leaders, and experts will join together in July for a conference in Marrakech. The theme of the 2017 Edition of the Islamic Business Forum Network Series is “The potential of an Islamic Economy for Entrepreneurs and Business in Africa.”
The importance of Islamic finance on the continent is critical to generating new pathways for investment and support for entrepreneurs. Under Islamic financial principles, risk and profit sharing are keys to relationships between lenders and recipients, because they entrepreneurs to attract investors through equity participation.
The convener, Imam AbdulRasheed Abubakar, the President of the African Islamic Economic Policy Foundation (AFRIEPF) said, “It’ll also focus on Islamic banking and finance, halal travel, tourism and lifestyle space, halal food and digital Islamic services. It’s going be a platform to assess the potential and challenges of Islamic economy and its development in Africa.”
Morocco builds stronger ties to Ghana, Pakistan. As an outcome of King Mohammed VI’s visit to Ghana, there was a MOU signed to harmonize trade on the stock exchanges of the two countries. In addition to giving investors in both countries access to each others’ markets, it also enable traders to have full, transparent dealings in either country. Tying together the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE) with other exchanges on the continent has been a consistent feature of the king’s visits. By linking markets and opening cross-border investments in equities, both countries will benefit from increased participation of investors.
Karim Hajji, the head of CSE, mentioned during a visit to Ghana that “You need also to harmonize listing rules among markets to facilitate listing. That is why we are here to sign an agreement with the Ghana Securities and Exchange Commission to harmonize listing rules and other relevant procedures.” From the Ghanian side, Kofi Yamoah, Managing Director added that “We should be able to have dealers across the various jurisdictions having access to all the securities that are listed in the entire West African Market and vice versa.” According to him, this will facilitate the easy access to various securities for investors across the region.
Pakistan was also a source of good business news for Morocco. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, exports to Morocco rose 81% in the third quarter of 2016 compared to 2015. Importantly, this represented the highest growth in exports to any country while Pakistan’s overall exports are declining. Pakistan has been aggressive in promoting its products in Morocco. In fact, Nadir Chaudhri, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Morocco said in a briefing, “Our mission has gone to every corner of Morocco for highlighting our products by holding trade and business road shows in every major city and I regularly meet and brief all the chambers of commerce and top importers and business leaders.” He mentioned that Morocco is a valued destination both for its domestic markets and as a platform for doing business in Africa.
In addition, the Moroccan Ambassador to Pakistan is working hard to make sure that this is not a one-way street. Ambassador Mohmed Karmoune recently visited the national trade office of Pakistan to meet with its newly elected officials and to strengthen plans for bilateral trade visits.
Ambassador Karmoune noted recent the increases in bilateral trade and encouraged the role of commercial delegations in mutual promotion efforts. Pakistan will host several trade festivals in key cities in Morocco in 2017 covering a range of products, and reciprocal visits are in the works by Moroccan companies and agencies.
Ambitious Polytechnic University is Latest Step for First-Class Higher Ed in Morocco – Jean AbiNader
January 19, 2017
Morocco’s higher education system is getting more sophisticated in addressing the need to create R&D facilities, as well as to link education to the global economy. Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, which King Mohammed VI inaugurated last week, is an integral part of this educational development and is the spearhead for building a comprehensive knowledge economy in the country. Located between Marrakech and Settat, the University is made up of an engineering school, the School of Industrial Management (EMINES), and a School of Governance, Economic Science, and Social Science located in Rabat. The Polytechnic has a research center for scientific and social research, promoting innovation and best practices, in cooperation with other Moroccan and international universities.
The Polytechnic University, initiated by King Mohammed VI, has been a special project of OCP, the country’s largest industry and world leader in phosphate mining and production of its derivatives. OCP is playing a major role in the King’s economic diplomacy on the African continent and has signed a number of bilateral agreements to enhance the production, distribution, and use of fertilizers and other phosphate derivatives tailored specifically for the continent.
On its website, OCP notes that research at the Polytechnic has two main components: a broad focus on industrial processes, in particular innovative industrial processes that lie at the heart of manufacturing added value – thus pivoting Morocco into a downstream leader in the global agricultural industry; and research into social, economic and political developments that affect human development. The research aims to develop insights into the impact of changes ongoing in Morocco’s political, economic, and social transformations, how this affects Moroccans, and the implications for public policy.
Consistent with Morocco’s goal to be a global leader in renewable and green energy projects, the Polytechnic buildings and infrastructure are environment-friendly and adapted to the local environment, including an ecology area. There are facilities for entertainment, cultural events, and recreation. It is the first campus of its kind in Africa, integrating green technologies and sensibilities across all components including the school for industrial management, a research center, student and faculty residences, a sports center, and a range of laboratory and testing facilities, all designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient.
Mohammed VI Polytechnic University is working with OCP and international partners such the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on research in water, agriculture and the environment; natural resources and food security; biotechnology and biomedical engineering; architecture, urbanism, and land use; industrial and chemical engineering; and renewable energy. The goal is to develop best practices and offer solutions to challenges facing the African continent.
The University, which will train Moroccan and foreign researchers and entrepreneurs, intends to promote higher education and applied research in Africa through partnerships with African universities, mainly at the post-graduate and doctoral levels.
The king is a keen advocate of improving education in Morocco. He supports a wide range of educational initiatives, from improved and market-oriented vocational and technical instruction in English and encouraging student exchanges, to instituting more science and technology courses in secondary schools and universities. He has made it abundantly clear that Morocco’s national education policy must prepare citizens to be full and productive participants in a strong and growing economy, both at home and globally. The Mohammed VI Polytechnic University is helping Moroccan – and African – students make great strides toward that goal.
Washington, DC, January 19, 2017 (MACP) — Morocco was again named among the 50 most innovative economies in the world and one of just two such economies in Africa by the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index released Tuesday.
The Index evaluated over 200 world economies before trimming the list to 78 that had data on at least six of seven factors: research and development (R&D) intensity, defined as research and development expenditure as a percentage of GDP; manufacturing value-added; productivity, defined as the GDP/GNI per employed person age 15+; high-tech density, capturing the proportion of domestically domiciled high-tech public companies such as aerospace and renewable energy companies; tertiary efficiency, reflecting enrollment in tertiary education; researcher concentration, or the percentage of the population involved in R&D; and patent activity per the population.
Morocco’s highest rankings were in the areas of R&D intensity, manufacturing value-added, and high-tech density, reflecting the North African country’s success in implementing its longtime strategy to develop its auto and aerospace manufacturing sectors, as well as its leadership in renewable energy development.
According to Morocco’s Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Morocco’s aeronautics industry has grown by a factor of six in just a decade, and today boasts 121 companies. In September 2016, the Kingdom and Seattle-based aerospace company Boeing announced plans to establish a Boeing industrial ecosystem in Morocco that will bring 120 Boeing suppliers to the country, create 8,200 skilled jobs, and generate $1 billion in exports. Meanwhile, Morocco is now home to the world’s largest solar power plant. Indeed the 2016 Climate Performance Index ranked Morocco among the top ten countries making the most progress in addressing climate change and number one among “newly industrialized countries,” citing the country’s commitment to generating 42% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. (This number was since raised to 52% by 2030.) And reflecting Morocco’s commitment to R&D, King Mohammed VI just last week inaugurated the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, a hub for research, training and innovation in Benguerir, Morocco.
The Bloomberg Index is also just one of many industry and business reports of recent years awarding Morocco high marks. In September last year, the World Bank’s 2017 “Doing Business” report ranked Morocco 68 out of 190 countries in ease of doing business—a two-spot gain over the previous year—making it number one in North Africa and fourth overall in the greater Middle East/North Africa region. KPMG International and Oxford Economics’ 2015 Change Readiness Index (CRI) ranked Morocco as the most “change-ready” country in the Maghreb, with particularly positive results in the category of “enterprise capability.” And in 2014, the Wall Street Journal’s Frontiers/FSG Frontier Markets Sentiment Index reported that Morocco is among the top ten frontier markets—and the only one in the Maghreb—most favored by foreign corporations.
“It’s no surprise that Morocco’s economy was ranked among the most innovative in the world,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “Under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco has been implementing an aggressive, long-term economic vision to enhance its business environment, improve citizens’ quality of life, and become an engine of growth and development in Africa.”
Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049
The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
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January 18, 2017
Starting last Wednesday, Moroccan police officers added a new element to their uniforms – a metal badge that makes it possible to identify them by both name and number. In a statement announcing the reform, the Directorate General of National Security (DGSN) stated that the goal of the uniform addition is to “increase transparency in the work of the national police services.” According to Jeune Afrique, “Bike police, intervention units, urban brigades, traffic officers, and border police will have specific uniforms, inspired by the same model.”
This latest move is part of a broader effort at police reform, initiated in 2015 under the leadership of Director of the DGSN Abdellatif Hammouchi, aiming to bring the security services closer to citizens, increase trust and address concerns of some of the populace about police behavior.
In September of last year, Morocco began requiring police officer’s helmets to be fitted with video cameras – both to fight corruption and to ensure that officers respect human rights. Security expert Mohammed Akdid, quoted in Deutsche Welle, noted that the cameras not only promote responsibility and accountability in the security services, but also help improve transparency and the image of the police.
Police reform is just one of the myriad reforms Morocco is undertaking to improve governance, advance democratization, and empower citizens. In the past year alone, Morocco adopted a new press code, passed a law advancing the rights of domestic workers, and began implementing the second phase of a campaign to regularize illegal immigrants. These recent initiatives have added further momentum to Morocco’s evolutionary reform process.
HM King Mohammed VI inaugurated, on Thursday in Benguerir Green City, the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, a hub for research, training and innovation, and a real bridgehead between Morocco, Africa and the world.
This world-class university is the core of the Mohammed VI green city of Benguerir, first city of its kind in the African continent to offer adapted infrastructure, an ecological zone, an organized social life and a lifestyle that promotes its inhabitants’ well-being, diversity and and social and cultural blossoming.
The next generation university has five founding principles: applied research, innovation and entrepreneurship, addressing Africa’s socio-economic development challenges, adopting a partnership approach, openness on the world with national focus, social equity and merit.
The university seeks, through well-targeted research programs (water, agriculture and environment, natural resources and food security, biotechnology and biomedical engineering, architecture, urbanism and territory development, industrial and chemical engineering and renewable energy), to bring answers to the main challenges facing the African continent as food security, economic development, sustainable industrialization and public policy.
The establishment, which adopts a teaching and research model based on innovation and experiments, hosts a number of facilities notably a school for industrial management, a research center, university residences, and a sports complex. All of them designed according to modern architecture in conformity with the concepts of sustainability and energy-saving and offering all conveniences necessary for students.
It includes also experimentation sites which are open to the scientific community and enable student-researchers from partner universities to test solutions at the real scale in key areas.
The Mohammed VI Polytechnic University offers its academic model regionally by gaining a foothold in several sites as in Casablanca through the Africa Business School, and in El Jadida and Safi as well as Laayoune via the Foum El Oued Technology Park.
The city of Rabat is hosting the faculty of governance and social and economic sciences which is aimed at training top executives on the management of public policies.
The Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, which will contribute to the training of Moroccan and foreign researchers and entrepreneurs, intends to promote higher education and applied research in Africa through partnerships with the African university fabric mainly in doctoral training.
The university possesses innovative education methods as online courses and contents using high-tech digital technologies and employs eminent Moroccan and foreign professors and researchers.
The institution, which is based on citizenship and responsibility, practices in its student admission process a policy of scholarships for academic excellence and social equality. It also offers grants of applied research projects for candidates bearing projects in the service of community. The university gets its revenues from research products, schooling fees and land-grant.
In line with the spirit of Smart City of the green city, the university’s building was awarded the international label of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a first in Morocco.
The inauguration ceremony was marked by the screening of an institutional movie on the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, with testimonies by Moroccan and foreign students, as well as professors.
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J. Peter Pham, Vice President of the Atlantic Council and Director of its Africa Center, recently published a blog on the Center’s assessment of the continent’s economic prospects in 2017. It listed ten countries, both strong and weak performers, and Morocco is one of the stars. What Pham says about Morocco highlights why companies should take the country seriously as they think about growing their presence in Africa.
The first sector he addresses is energy. “Fresh off hosting the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change two months ago in Marrakech, Morocco continues to forge a role as an African—and, indeed, a global—leader on renewable energy. The kingdom is on track to meet more than 40 percent of its needs through renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, by 2020— which is an extraordinary turnaround given that just a few years ago the country was, according to the World Bank, the Middle East’s largest energy importer, depending on fossil fuels for over 97 percent of its energy.”
Even as Morocco builds its leadership role in renewables in Africa and the world, and despite depressed demand globally for hydrocarbons, international oil companies continue to show interest in Morocco, because of both business-friendly policies that encourage public-private partnerships and continued good news from exploration companies evaluating the country’s potential. Reports on recent deals by Chevron for blocks in several on and off-shore locations are strong indicators of what’s in store.
The blog goes on. “Moreover, in pursuit of the goal of making Morocco the commercial gateway to Africa as well as Africa’s bridge to Europe, King Mohammed VI has been busy implementing his strategy of making Africa the ‘top priority’ of his foreign policy, with a string of official visits across Africa, including recent forays to Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, that have resulted in agreements for multibillion-dollar cross-investments in the agriculture, energy, and financial sectors, as well as the historic announcement last month of a Moroccan-Nigerian joint venture to build a gas pipeline to connect the two countries that will eventually link up to Europe.”
In the last year alone, King Mohammed VI has presided over the signing of more than 110 agreements with various countries in central, west, and east Africa, with more coming in the first six months of this year. Building on its expertise in bringing power, roads, and supporting infrastructure into rural area – and supported by internationally respected Moroccan companies and products – electrification, construction, social housing, and community development are the subjects of many of these agreements.
Morocco’s private sector plays a role as well, with agreements in the financial, mining, health, tourism, and education sectors. All of these steps are part of the king’s strategy to build long-term partnerships for economic, social, and political development linking this North African nation with sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, King Mohammed VI consistently speaks about Africa for Africans and the need for solidarity and collaboration to build strong futures and opportunities for the next generation while improving current prospects for prosperity and well-being.
The emerging consensus is that Morocco will achieve more than 4% growth this year, as agriculture will improve on the back of good harvests; exports of automobiles will continue to climb; the government will eventually be formed and pass additional business-friendly regulations regarding labor policies and land ownership; and international investors will increase their roles in the economy to take advantage of Morocco’s many services and opportunities as a regional gateway. It is a good time to be doing business in the kingdom.
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There was good business news on several fronts, including an uptick in auto exports and increased domestic auto sales; expanded gas and oil drilling activities; growth in the exports of handicrafts; and Hilton making its presence felt in several locations. In general, there are strong indications that the Moroccan economy will continue to grow, despite the haggling over the composition of the new government, as the banking and agricultural sectors see expansion fueling growth.
Zoom, zoom goes the auto sector. According to Moroccan authorities, both domestic and export sales grew in 2016, despite a sluggish economy. A story in Morocco World News, citing a report from Morocco’s Association of Importers of Motor Vehicles (AIVAM) indicated that 2015’s record sales were surpassed by a 25% increase, as dealers sold 163,110 vehicles, including passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.
Renault continued its domination of the domestic market capturing close to 38% market share, with its Dacia brand leading the way with a 27% increase in unit sales. Renault’s exports also grew by 8.5% over 2015, shipping more than 153,000 vehicles to Africa and Europe.
US second-largest customer for Moroccan handicrafts. The Ministry of Handicrafts, Social Economy and Solidarity reported a 16% rise in exports, the first in more than 15 years, with a strong showing by US importers of Moroccan textiles, rugs, pottery, and traditional clothing. This follows a multiyear campaign to diversify market outreach and increased Moroccan presence at international trade shows and marketing venues.
Now the second largest markets after the EU, US companies are showing an increased appetite for Morocco’s artisanal products. Most recently, the World Market chain has launched a new campaign featuring Moroccan products. In its press release, it headlines products from Fez, Safi, and Marrakech, noting, “To see the entire CRAFT: Morocco collection and read more about the unique stories behind each item, go to www.worldmarket.com/morocco.”
Oil and gas prospects continue to draw investors. Qatar Petroleum, in partnership with Chevron and the Moroccan National Hydrocarbons and Mines Office (ONHYM), received an extension of its coastal drilling licenses for gas and oil in Morocco. Last year it acquired 30% interest in three deep-water blocs 60-120 miles west and northwest of Agadir, while Chevron holds a 40% share and ONHYM 30%.
Moroccan companies expand business in Africa. EuroNews.com looked at Morocco’s role as a “business bridge to Africa” in its Target business profile series. They interviewed several businesses in Casablanca about the country’s strategic efforts to increase its economic presence in regional markets. They believe that Morocco’s cultural awareness and reputation for quality are factors in the country’s success.
As an example, electricity infrastructure supplier “Fabrilec” has installed more than 500 miles of power lines in Burkina Faso. “The firm’s chief executive officer (CEO), Moustapha Mouchrek believes shared cultural links are the secret to its success. He said that ‘Business in Africa is an adventure and I think that as our cultures are very close we have more opportunities so we know how to adapt a bit more than others.’”
Working with Maroc Export, Fabrilec’s use of Moroccan-made products that are both high quality and competitively priced builds Morocco’s brand on the continent. In fact, Fabrilec and another Moroccan firm, Energy Transfo, recently won “Great Africa” awards for their roles in growing the Africa market. Since the continent is energy deficient in terms of meeting consumer and industry demand, Moroccan companies fill a critical need.
Energy Transfo CEO Nouzha Taarji explained to EuroNews that Morocco’s experience in building power capacity throughout the country provides a model for other countries. “The electricity sector has experienced strong growth in Morocco, which has allowed the industry to develop beyond its borders today. We have a wide range of industrial firms that make a multitude of electrical material and that’s what enables our African clients to come here and satisfy their needs.”
A similar story has emerged in the pharmaceutical sector. CooperPharma, one of Morocco’s oldest firms, is building a factory in Rwanda. According to Aymen Cheikh Lahlou, the firm’s CEO, “Investing in Africa gives the continent a chance to develop and have a positive impact on people’s lives. There can be no economic social development without investment in health care; as pharmaceutical companies we do participate to reach this end. This is materializing by job creation, by direct foreign investment, by local accessibility and availability of drugs, by lower pricing, more accessibility and also by training a pool of qualified people, because our pharmaceutical industry required higher international norms in terms of quality,” said Cheikh Lahlo to EuroNews.
Hilton rising again in Morocco. According to multiple sources, Hilton has signed a management agreement with Group Sadiki to open its first hotel in Casablanca in 2021. Slated for the rapidly growing Sidi Maarouf neighborhood, the Garden Inn will initially consist of 118 guestrooms. It will be part of a mixed-used development that includes a ballroom, Moroccan-themed restaurant, other dining options, and exhibition/meeting space. This follows the opening of Garden Inn Tanger City Center last year.
“Casablanca is a market we’ve been looking at for some time and we’re confident that we’ve now identified the right partner and the right location for our debut property,” said Carlos Khneisser, VP of development, MENA, Hilton Worldwide. “Sidi Maarouf is rapidly establishing itself as not only the gateway to the city center, with the construction of its new suspension bridge, but as a significant business district in its own right.”
Sidi Maarouf has emerged as Casablanca’s new business district, with several multinationals establishing a presence in recent years. Just 25km from Mohammed V Airport, and directly accessible by tramway, the area is an enviable location for hosting meetings and events.
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At a time when countries in the MENA are struggling to create jobs for increasing numbers of job seekers, the success of entrepreneurs promoting small scale enterprises is worth celebrating! This past month, this happened with great fanfare for Moroccans who have combined business acumen with local resources to generate opportunities for workers with basic skills, mostly women, to make a difference.
The BBC did a special report on women who have built careers designing and promoting contemporary and traditional versions of the kaftan. Ilham Benami has always wanted to produce fashionable clothing, despite being limited in opportunities to study design in Morocco. She watched tailors and learned from them the basics of working with material, and began to make kaftans for friends and family at home. Her popularity grew, and now, at 33, she employs at least 10 women, and her kaftans have a broad range of prices depending on the quality of the material and work involved in each piece.
The article noted that “[t]he kaftan industry is rooted in tradition. It is a dress for women that dates back to at least the 16th Century. But it is evolving – ‘just like Moroccan women,’ says Ilham.” Her kaftans mix Moroccan and Western influences and are becoming part of a global trend towards kaftan-inspired fashions. Ilham is clear that she’s just beginning, in a country where 30% of women are unemployed. “For women’s independence these days, it’s a lot easier compared with when I was growing up,” says Ilham. “I wanted to work and fashion has always been a passion of mine, so I was going to still follow my passion no matter what my circumstances were.”
In Marrakech, the sister duo, Sana and Wafaa Redwani, have been running a kaftan business under the Vallasco Gallery label. It is an haute couture boutique with a store in the south of Morocco as well. “The kaftans have been modelled in Africa Fashion Week in New York and are exported to Portugal. Wafaa says the designs have a more Western cut with a ‘Moroccan touch,’ which explains why they are becoming more successful internationally.”
The president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, Fouzia Assouli, is optimistic about women’s opportunities in business, but says there is still a lot to be done. She points to Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, the president of CGEM, the premier business group in the country, as a stalwart force in opening doors for Moroccan women.
The BBC noted that “Fouzia believes that since Chaqroun was appointed it has opened doors for Moroccan women in the business sector. But she says there is more of an awareness of women’s rights among the elite than among the poor, who are still lagging behind. Many of these vulnerable women are now collaborating with businesswomen like Ilham, Wafaa and Sana to help make kaftans — work which can sometimes take months to complete.”
As the BBC reported, for Wafaa, the kaftan industry is a symbol of the Moroccan woman of today. “Our kaftans are like us. We are caught between the East and the West just like the designs, but we still have our Moroccan identity and we will still fight to move forward.”
Young Moroccan Entrepreneur Snares UK Prize
Another story highlighted 19-year-old Walid Ijassi from Morocco, who has won a global competition among young entrepreneurs. The annual competition was founded by 24-year-old UK-based, Queen’s Young Leader and social entrepreneur Adam Bradford, who started it in 2013. The competition supports young entrepreneurs by providing a start-up grant, mentoring, and networking opportunities. This is the first time the competition has gone international, with talent from 30 countries competing. Ijassi’s project focuses on creating consumer products from apple waste.
Adam Bradford got started by winning the BiG Challenge enterprise competition when he was just 14 years old. He is autistic and has used his experience to champion causes such as opening opportunities to autistic people and raising awareness of extreme poverty.
Upon being told the news of his win, Walid said: “It’s such an amazing opportunity that the #AdamStart Challenge has given me as a young Moroccan entrepreneur at an international level. Having received the call from the team telling me that out of more than 300 candidates I have been chosen as the winner of the challenge was just surreal and made me more confident and galvanized to take my start-up, with the help of the Challenge Team, to a global and more structured level.”
In addition to winning the competition, Walid is now the latest in the growing ranks of Moroccan role models for young people to embark upon entrepreneurship with determination and commitment. As Adam said in the article, “In light of the global youth unemployment crisis, we need more innovative entrepreneurs to tackle social problems and create an income for themselves. Walid is an exceptional young person and I am delighted to give him my backing. I can’t wait to see what he achieves next year.”
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A topsy-turvy economic year ends on positive notes for Morocco, as tourism numbers rebound, positive budget news comes on the back of a projected higher growth rate for 2017, Morocco expands its role in promoting Arab and African trade, and Islamic banking is ready to launch.
Passenger and tourism numbers up. According to Abderrafie Zouitene, director of the Moroccan National Tourism Office, annual revenues hit more than $6 billion by the end November 2016. He noted that the rise comes on the heels of a slowdown in the first five months of 2016 and was welcome news in all destinations, from Agadir to Tangier. Part of the increase is due to new visa policies for Chinese visitors, who, since June 2016, do not require tourism visas.
Citing several examples of this year’s growth, Director Zouitene said that tourism from China is up more than 600% under the new policy, while the Russian tourism flow is up more than 300% in Agadir alone. China and Russia are being targeted by Morocco, and UAE’s Etihad Airways has announced new flights for Chinese travelers through Dubai to attract 100,000 visitors annually by 2018. As reported previously, as part of the King’s visit to Russia this past year, 41 Russian journalists visited key tourist attractions in Morocco to promote the country’s many attractions to the Russian public.
In related good news, according to the National Airports Authority (ONDA), there were close to 17 million domestic and international passengers in Morocco in the first 11 months of 2016. The busiest airport, with almost 8 million passengers, was Mohammed V International in Casablanca, equal to 47% of all traffic. The pre-winter travel was especially noticeable, with a total of more than 13,000 flights in November – a 49% increase in Casablanca traffic, 21% in Marrakech, and 7% in Agadir.
This growth, and the impact of a good rainfall this season, has led the central bank to project a 4.2% growth rate in 2017, which is great news considering that the rate in 2016 was only 1.2% due to poor agricultural results from scant rainfall. This positive projection has enabled the central bank to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2.25 percent, and inflations is expected to remain around 1.6 percent in 2016 and fall to 1 percent in 2017. Overall, the budget deficit is expected to narrow to 3.5% to close out 2016 if the government can stay on target with its fiscal reforms, with a fall to 3.1% in 2017.
The push for greater regional trade. Morocco World News carried an article about the selection of Maroc Export to organize and host the 2017 Arab and African Businesswomen Forum, which provides a platform for attendees to share perspectives and highlight the trade and business in their countries. This was not the only designation Maroc Export garnered at the annual meeting of the Arab League’s business development division. It was also named “Project Leader” for the Arab Training Institute for Arab Market Experts, which will be launched in 2017 and headquartered in Morocco; and will host the ninth board of directors of the Arab Union for Industrial Exports Promotion. A founding member of the Arab Network for Trade Promotion Organizations, Maroc Export is generally recognized as a leader in efforts to diversify Morocco’s export profile.
Argan oil a hit for British entrepreneur. Darren Smith, an attorney in Manchester, sold his finance business to start selling a range of argan beauty products, now growing from an online business to stores in multiple UK locations. . His company, Simply Argan, was born out of a visit that he and his wife Jane made to Morocco where they experienced the benefits of argan oil, the “liquid gold” famous for its moisturizing, anti-ageing, and skin toning qualities, among other things. They brought some back home for friends, whose desire for more products gave him the impetus to sell his business and switch careers. He says that the response from customers has made the hard work of building a start-up from scratch worthwhile. In just a few years, the online store “has sold hundreds of thousands of products which include face masks, night rejuvenating oils, coffee scrubs, shampoos, conditioners, shaving and beard oils.”
Let the sun shine. The Euro Mediterranean Forum of Institutes of Economic Sciences (FEMISE) issued a report at COP22 that has significant implications for investors in renewable energy. It projects that renewable energy ventures can generate between 270,000 and 500,000 jobs by 2040: “Interest and investment in renewable energy business is growing in an impressive manner. Such growth does not only create more jobs, but also creates self-sufficient and independent local communities.”
The report’s preliminary findings were presented at COP22 in Marrakech on November 15th, 2016. The final copy reflects on a number of issues, including the risk of population displacement due to rising sea levels, the unexploited potential and resources in the Southern Mediterranean, new economic and social realities following the Arab Spring and, most importantly, opportunities for green energy in the Mediterranean.
Islamic banking set to go. The Central Bank has approved requests from Moroccan and French banks to launch Islamic products in 2017. Since the Moroccan banks lacked experience with Islamic finance, they have joined forces with existing companies that have demonstrated expertise in the sector. Attijariwafa Bank, which is in discussions with the Islamic Development Bank as its partner; BMCE of Africa, partnering with the Guidance Financial Group; and Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP), working with Al Baraka Banking Group are the main banks that received approval, along with two smaller lenders, Credit Agricole (CAM), tied to Qatar International Islamic Bank, and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier (CIH), which will create a subsidiary with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector.
Morocco’s BCP has chosen Guidance Financial Group, BMCE has picked Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group, while CIH is partnering with Qatar International Islamic Bank. Subsidiaries of French banks Societe Generale, Credit du Maroc, and BMCI also gained permission to sell Islamic products. It is anticipated that Morocco will issue its first ever Islamic bond (sukuk) in the domestic market in the first half of 2017. Parliament has yet to approve a bill regarding Islamic insurance, or takaful.
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