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Morocco’s Magic Carpet From Marrakech To Agadir

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 14:36

Limerickpost.ie
Morocco’s magic carpet, from Marrakech to Agadir
Rose Rushe

WHO CAME first to Morocco, the Arabs or the Berbers? “Morocco was our land before the Arabs ever came,” our irascible guide to Marrakech, Boushab El Attar states. In long kilim dress, as many are in this heart-stoppingly beautiful city, he helps negotiate the medina’s good-humoured miles of trade, showmanship and hustle, on foot and by horsedrawn carriage.

Night and day, Marrakech’s sunset-pink magnificence has to be witnessed. At 460m above sea level and beyond the Atlas Mountains, it heaves with a hot pulse, 25 celsius in February and 45c in summer. Shade is plentiful.

Wide and wealthy streets connect quarters that host parks and clubs and mosques with equal embrace, as with street hawkers and banks.

Stroll through Les Jardonelles, Yves St Laurent’s shady oasis; and the sprawling Palace Bahia. Here the changing of the guard was sounded by jumping on wooden sentry points as the Sultan entertained in gorgeous chambers intact today. A busy chap, plenty on his hands.

Do you know of ‘sexual ablutions’ as prescribed by the Koran? Boushab the Berber explains them to our mixed-faith group, ritualistic washing of body parts according to decree and repetition. The Sultans at the Palace must have been fragrant for their four wives each, seven concubines and 24-strong harem comprised of chosen girls Miss Almond, Miss Orange Blossom, Spice Girl.

“It was a great honour to be chosen from your village, representing the harvest of life. Her family was elevated socially”. A year beyond her induction, the Misses were married forward into a secure life with Palace staff.

Continue reading below…

Morocco’s longstanding King Mohammad V1 and his engineer wife Princess Salma have changed the legacy of millennia to introduce free education for women into university level. It’s one of many egalitarian initiatives put in place by the respected monarch.

In the Jewish quarter, mosaic arches and bellydancers balancing candles at El Chwarma wrap around feasting and Berber musician singers. Another banquet in a Touareg tent near Agadir. This time we are welcomed by milk and dates and horsemen firing rifles. Traditional high octane dancing fills the scene, robes and instruments and limbs building intensity.

The white city of Agadir curves around a 10-mile sweep of golden sand. The promenade is phenomenal, Le Bleu Pavilion lined with beach parasols, hotels, a marina. Electric skateboards traverse its length if jet skis intimidate. There’s a laidback, strolling vibe.

Restaurant life is rich on the ocean front, divided between the cheaper but quality non-alcohol serving (three courses €8; lamb tagine €5) and those with a bar. Le Jetée has delicious Moroccan soup and Atlantic views for €1.50, or go downtown for the 1001 Nights restaurant and L’Etoile off Rue President Kennedy. Anticipate three courses for €4 and BYO takes care of alcohol.

Restaurants and hotels with full service are many and a source of live music by night. Le Nil Bleu attracts fine local singers. Its neighbour Camel has rosemary scented olives, glass of wine at €2 and beach beds on the sand.

The Golden Gate on tourist strip Boulevard de 20 Auot offers fish and pasta that wake the dead, singer Adou and a plush karaoke lounge that lures in songbirds. As everywhere, the welcome is sunny.

Rose Rushe was a guest of Sunway.ie at Hotel Kenzi Europe (4*). Season ends April 29, Dublin to Agadir direct.

Morocco Looks For Prime Minister After King’s Surprise Move

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 06:54

News from The Associated Press

Negotiations are under way to find a new prime minister for Morocco following the king’s decision to oust the previous premier in a surprise intervention into the country’s politics.

The general secretariat of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development party met Thursday to decide its next moves after King Mohammed VI ordered Prime Minister-designate Abdelilah Benkirane to leave office. The king was frustrated with Benkirane’s five months of failed efforts to form a coalition government.

The PJD is expected to propose a new prime minister Saturday. Names that have surfaced include Saadeddine El Othmani, a former foreign minister, outgoing Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid and outgoing Transport Minister Abdelaziz Rebbah.

The deadlock was weighing on Morocco’s economy and reputation for political stability after years of upheaval in the Arab world.

North Africa’s Steadiest Country Is Quietly Unraveling

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 14:00

Stratfor
Analysis

Forecast

Losing money fast amid low energy prices and declining output, the Algerian government will work to trim its expenses.

Despite popular pressure to ease up on austerity measures, Algiers will have no choice but to continue implementing its much-needed reforms.

Algeria will look to foreign investors for help in overhauling its energy sector, making incremental progress toward liberalizing its economy in the process.

Analysis

Since the Arab Spring swept across North Africa in 2011, Algeria has been an immovable anchor in a region struggling to find stability in the face of wave after wave of change. Many of Algeria’s Mediterranean neighbors, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, are still recovering from the cataclysmic upsets that political and economic reforms have brought over the past six years.

Morocco, meanwhile, has just reclaimed its seat in the African Union after a decades long absence, and it is working furiously to re-engage with its African neighbors while preserving its friendship with the West. Morocco’s quest to improve its standing on the African continent could soon pose a threat to its longtime rival, Algeria, if Algiers does not move quickly to match Rabat’s ambitions.

But unlike its neighbors, Algeria has kept a fairly steady course in the two decades since its bloody civil war ended. Despite serious and persistent health issues, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has held onto his seat in power. The country’s approaching parliamentary elections — the sixth since Algeria adopted a multiparty political system in 1989 — will do little to empower the legislature to mount a more effective challenge to the longtime leader and his entourage.

Even so, change is on the horizon for Algeria’s economy, despite the government’s reluctance to risk the unrest reforms would likely bring. The country’s economic growth and diversification have lagged in recent years, and in the face of persistently low oil prices and declining output, Algeria cannot afford to delay the overhaul of its lucrative but flagging energy sector any longer. And as it cautiously reshapes its economy, Algiers will gradually abandon its historical preference for isolation by courting foreign investors — a shift that could someday lead to a more open foreign policy as well.

Time (and Money) Is Running Out

Few North African economies can claim to be faring well at the moment, but Algeria’s financial problems are especially burdensome. The country depends on oil and natural gas for 94 percent of its total exports (most of which go to Europe) and 60 percent of its budgeted revenues. When oil prices plunged in 2014 before leveling out below $40 per barrel, Algiers was forced to drain its coffers to keep paying for its imports, pushing its budget deficit to a record high of 16.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2015. Of course, Algeria still holds a massive amount of oil wealth, boasting a higher GDP per capita than even its more diversified competitor, Morocco. But high levels of income inequality continue to plague the country.

Algeria’s foreign exchange reserves, moreover, are being rapidly depleted. Tucked away in the Revenue Regulation Fund, these reserves currently stand at just over $112 billion, down from $143 billion in 2015 and $177 billion in 2014. According to the International Monetary Fund, this figure will probably keep falling in the years ahead, dropping to $91 billion in 2017 and to $76 billion in 2018.

Keeping Up With the Times

Algeria’s spending decisions over the past few years matter less than the choices it makes next. Algiers will have to funnel some of its oil wealth into diversifying the economy, even as it keeps existing social spending programs and state industries afloat. (It will also maintain its defense spending, which the government is not eager to shrink amid its ongoing rivalry with Morocco.) Despite being Europe’s second-largest supplier of natural gas, behind only Russia, Algeria has had a tough time making ends meet as prices and demand in Europe have dropped. Declining output in Algeria’s own energy sector over the past decade has only made matters worse.

The government has dipped into its considerable reserves to pay the bills and prop up the Algerian dinar, with the unfortunate side effect of boosting inflation. In an effort to stanch the bleeding, Algiers recently slashed its spending by 14 percent, deepening the cutback of 9 percent outlined in last year’s budget. In 2017 alone, Algeria will try to reduce its imports by $5 billion, in keeping with the more than $10 billion in imports it has trimmed over the past two years. Though Algeria intends to remedy the situation in the long run by investing in growth beyond the oil sector, it has been slow to follow through with its plan.

Part of the problem is that restructuring the energy industry would threaten the patronage networks that have been built up around Algerian oil and natural gas giant Sonatrach. Since 2007, Algeria’s consumption of oil and natural gas has risen by more than 50 percent while its oil production has fallen by 25 percent. With less oil available for export, the government’s revenues have been hit hard — as have the payouts and perks that the ruling elite dole out through Sonatrach to keep their supporters satisfied. Leaders have moved hastily to invest in shale and enhanced recovery projects in an effort to counteract declining output in oil, but so far they have had little success in turning the energy sector around. All the while, Algiers’ fears of stoking unrest by revamping the country’s long-standing economic norms have grown.

An Unsustainable Status Quo

For the first time in decades, Algeria has turned to the international community for help. Algiers is eagerly seeking foreign investment into its agricultural industry to help offset its hefty import bills and spur development in what was once a significant sector for the country. And this is but one of many small steps the government is taking to bring in money from abroad. In 2013, for example, Algeria tried to stave off drops in hydrocarbon production by reforming its regulatory laws. Though the country’s infamous rule capping foreign ownership of any business operating in Algeria at 49 percent is still alive and well, calls to remove barriers to foreign investment are growing louder.

The country’s new constitution, which was updated early last year, also includes several clauses designed to open the Algerian economy to external funding. For example, the document explicitly prohibits the formation of new monopolies and directs lawmakers to “improve the business climate” of Algeria. Nevertheless, the decrees’ vagueness doesn’t inspire confidence in the government’s ability to see them through. After all, Algeria is known for bungling one of the most expensive infrastructure projects in the world, the East-West Highway, and ultimately tripling the expected cost of $6 billion with rampant graft. (The debacle has become even more embarrassing in light of Morocco’s success in championing its own public-private infrastructure project over the past decade.)

Algeria has had similar trouble keeping its economy up to date in the realm of Islamic finance, an increasingly favored option for diversifying financial sectors in the Muslim world. Like many other Muslim countries, Algeria is toying with the idea of issuing its first sukuk, or Islamic bond that pins its value to an asset without accruing interest. But the country lacks a legal framework to support Islamic finance, an area of growth that nearby Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia have recently and readily embraced. In fact, Algeria’s entire banking sector is woefully out of touch with modern banking standards, and its central bank has a reputation for being one of the most opaque institutions of its kind in the world. Hoping to skirt these issues while still attracting much-needed investment, Algerian officials have proposed a plan to issue interest-free bonds. This would bring in the immediate funding the government needs without labeling it an Islamic finance instrument.

Over the past two years, Algerian leaders have shown their willingness to implement unpopular reforms, especially those that target fuel subsidies and taxes. Algiers has already bumped up the national sales tax from 15 to 17 percent, sparking protests in several provinces. If the government deepens its resolve to double down on subsidy cuts and tax hikes, the demonstrations could certainly grow and spread. Though Algiers is trying to pare down its massive subsidy payments, which currently top $45 billion, at a reasonable pace, Algerian citizens are unhappy with the effect the cutbacks will have on their own pocketbooks and standards of living.

The government has encountered pushback from the ruling elite as well. As Algiers moves to modernize its energy sector — and, in doing so, disrupt the entrenched patronage networks within it — high-ranking officials have taken steps to ensure that the reforms do not impact their access to state wealth. But they are only delaying the inevitable. No matter who follows in the footsteps of Bouteflika, a president known for his aversion to reform and equated with national stability, the country cannot protect the status quo for much longer.

Morocco’s King To Appoint Another PM From Islamist Ruling Party

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:30

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI will appoint another Prime Minister from the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) after its leader Abdelilah Benkirane failed to form a new government, a statement from the king’s office announced.

In October, the king re-appointed Benkirane as a PM with the task to form a new government, but he has not been able to achieve this goal after five months.

Given his constitutional powers to ensure respect for the constitution, the proper functioning of institutions and the supreme interests of the homeland and citizens, the king decided to appoint as a new PM another member from PJD, the statement said.

The king took notice that the negotiations, which lasted for five months, has not resulted in the formation of a governmental majority and that there is a lack of any prospects suggesting its near formation, the statement noted.

Maya Gold & Silver Reports Monthly Silver Production And Update On Installation Of Flotation Cells At The Zgounder Silver Mine

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:19

Yahoo Finance
March 15

Maya Gold & Silver (“Maya” or the “Corporation”) (TSX VENTURE:MYA) is pleased to report the production of silver for the month of February 2017 as well as an update of the mining operations at its Zgounder Millenium Silver Mine.

Development highlights at the Zgounder Mine

During the month of February 2017, underground exploration and development consisted of 351 metres of percussion drilling in seven mine workings. Highlights of the work completed are:

Percussion drilling was carried out at the 2030 level on three separated drifts.

Panel 1 was extended in the western zone of level 2100. The mineralization lies at the contact of the dolerite dyke and Neoproterozoic metasediments and at the intersection of EW- and NS-oriented structures. The mineralization consists of disseminated sulphides (sphalerite, galena and pyrite) accompanied by trace amounts of native silver within fractures and quartz veinlets.

A percussion drilling program is set to confirm the extension of the mineralization.

Other percussion drill holes have confirmed the presence of silver mineralization at the 2006 level.

Installation of the Flotation Cell Units

Maya was informed by the supplier, of the completion of the Flotation Cell Units during the months of January and February. The engineering and technical representatives of Maya inspected the cells and gave their approval of the completed work. The basic engineering and infrastructures related to the installation of the cell units at the Zgounder mine are completed and ready.

The Flotation Cell Units were packed into shipping containers and the equipment is currently being transported to the Zgounder Millenium Silver Mining site located in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of central Morocco. Management expects the equipment to arrive on site during the month of April, anticipates the Flotation Cells will be assembled, undergo testing, design basis and optimization during the year, and be commissioned before year end. The Management expects the Flotation Cell Units, once integrated to the processing circuit will increase the tonnage of the ore processed from 187 t/day to up to 500 t/day.

Qualified Persons

The technical content of this news release has been provided by Zgounder Millenium Silver Mining and has been reviewed and approved by Michel Boily, PhD, geo from GÉON; an independent Qualified Person under NI 43-101 standards.

ABOUT MAYA

Maya Gold & Silver Inc. is a Canadian publicly listed mining corporation focused on the exploration and development of gold and silver deposits in Morocco. Maya is initiating mining and milling operations at its Zgounder Mine owned by Zgounder Millenium Silver Mining (“ZMSM”), a Maya 85% owned joint venture with l’Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (“ONHYM”) of the Kingdom of Morocco (15%).

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Forward-looking statements

This news release contains statements about our future business and planned activities. These are “forward-looking” because we have used what we know and expect today to make a statement about the future. Forward-looking statements including but are not limited to comments regarding the timing and content of upcoming work and analyses. Forward-looking statements usually include words such as may, intend, plan, expect, anticipate, and believe or other similar words. We believe the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable. However, actual events and results could be substantially different because of the risks and uncertainties associated with our business or events that happen after the date of this news release. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. As a general policy, we do not update forward-looking statements except as required by securities laws and regulations.

A Surfer Wants To Know: How Do You Say ‘Hang 10’ In Arabic?

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:20

travel@latimes.com
Brian E. Clark

When Bruce Brown was shooting his iconic surfing film “The Endless Summer” in 1963, he hopped around the globe. He never made it to Morocco on the northwest corner of Africa, though he did get to Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa.

Brown skipped Morocco a second time when he made “The Endless Summer II,” released in 1994.

Big mistakes. What Brown missed was a 1,000-mile coastline that hugs the Moroccan desert, with waves that form beside rocky points or off the beach and are only now being discovered by Yanks.

I first visited Morocco in the 1970s when I went to visit my older brother who was teaching English in the Peace Corps. I returned in the winter 15 years later to climb a nearly 14,000-foot peak called Toubkal outside Marrakech with photographer Mark Lorenzen— and then ski down it.

But I knew nothing of the kingdom’s burgeoning (at least among Moroccans, Europeans, Aussies and Brazilians) surf scene until I read about Jerome Sahyoun, a Moroccan who is one of the world’s top big-wave surfers.

It made this former San Diegan ponder returning to North Africa to check out a coast that looks a lot like stretches of Baja California and ride the waves that roll across the Atlantic to break on its shores.

The deal was sealed after I spoke with Nigel Cross, an Australian who operates Moroccan Surf Adventures on Taghazout Bay, Morocco, one of the top surfing spots in Africa.

Cross, who is in his 40s, came to Morocco as a toddler in the 1970s with his surfer parents who were, he says, “following the sun.”

On a misty October morning I found myself carrying a longboard down to the water at Devil’s Rock Beach, north of the coastal city of Agadir, for a refresher lesson with a dozen would-be surfers from Britain, France, Ireland and Brazil.

There was one other American in our pod, a young businesswoman from San Francisco. She was the only other Yank I met during my five days at Cross’ surfing school.

It wasn’t crowded, but there were other surfers out in the lineup and on the beach, including a group of Moroccan boys in wetsuits who were doing jumping jacks and turning cartwheels on the sand.

Brightly painted blue fishing boats, including one with a pair of cats lounging in it, were lined up above the high-tide line. Still higher was what can only be described as surf shacks.

Tamraght, the village where I was staying, was about half a mile inland from Devil’s Rock Beach and had a pair of mosques with minarets poking into the blue sky.

Behind them, arid hills rolled off to the east. Less than a mile north of Tamraght is the town of Taghazout, Morroco’s version of Santa Cruz.

Not far from the shore, a handful of surfers was lining up to hop on waves rolling in off the right-hand side of the jagged point that is Devil’s Rock.

Brahim LeFrere, one of the three instructors for our group, had us doing pop-ups on the beach before we hit the water for what would be four-plus days of instruction. We roamed up and down the coast, seeking the best conditions. At several spots, camels moved casually along the sand, reminding us that we were indeed in North Africa.

When the day’s classes and time for free surfing were over, we returned to the Moroccan Surf Adventures hostel, where the chef served us a delicious Berber tagine, a stew prepared in an earthenware pot that was brimming with onions, carrots, squash, spices and chicken and served on a bed of couscous.

Advanced surfers who were staying at the lodge hired guides and headed for more serious breaks that have gnarly reputations in Morocco and Europe, such as Dracula’s, Hash Point, Killer Point and Anchor Point, where waves sometimes break for more than a quarter mile.

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Meryem el Gardoum and watching her ride the waves. This 19-year-old Muslim woman is a native of Tamraght and the country’s top female surfer.

She learned from her older brothers, and her parents encouraged her to compete. Now she’s a part-time instructor when she’s not in school.

Anchor Point is her favorite break, she told me, because of its consistent tubes and long rides.

“I feel so free when I am out there,” she said during a chat at Devil’s Rock. “I think it’s the same [for surfers] all over the world. I’m just lucky that I grew up here and had the support of my family.

“Not all girls my age are so fortunate.”

If you go

THE BEST WAY TO RABAT, MOROCCO

From LAX, Air France, British, United and Air New Zealand offer connecting servIce (change of planes) to Rabat. Restricted round-trip airfares from $1,355, including taxes and fees.

ices from LAX to Agadir via Europe starting in September begin at around $1,100 from a number of airlines.

Moroccan Surf Adventures in Tamraght, Morocco. Weeklong lodging, food and instruction packages start at $708 and include transfers from the Agadir airport, morning yoga classes and a Moroccan cooking class. Rates for surfers who don’t need instruction, but would like to hire a guide are less. Other surf schools are based in Taghazout.

What you should know

The best time to surf off Morocco is from October through April. Morocco is a relatively liberal Muslim country. I saw skimpy bathing suits on the beaches, though most surfers were wearing wetsuits because the water was a little chilly. Nigel Cross of Moroccan Surf Adventures said both men and women are welcome to wear shorts and T-shirts but he also said it’s advisable to cover up arms and legs when visiting public places other than the beach.

travel@latimes.com

A New Global Hub For Social Impact Startups

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 09:51

US News & Word Report
By Ben Hamadi Zouhour

Some of these entrepreneurs are creating transport and health projects with the aim of compensating for insufficient government investment.

Entrepreneurs, Amr Sobhy, (L), CEO of Pushbots, and Kareem El-Shaffei, (R), CEO of Cirqy, talk about design in the office space at Flat6Labs in Cairo, Egypt. (Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images)
By Ben Hamadi Zouhour

Refrigerators in the Moroccan desert; a bracelet to prevent heart attacks in Tunisia; a source funding system for charities in Egypt. Mission-driven startups are blossoming in these three North African countries, which are now at the forefront of social entrepreneurship.

Morocco now boasts more than 250 startups. With around 100 seed-stage startups, Tunisia is ranked seventh in the world as the best place to launch start-ups by SeedStars World. Egypt broke records with the creation of thousands of startups in 2012 and 2013, according to the Egyptian bureau of statistics.

How can we explain the meteoric rise of social-oriented startups in countries where economic indicators remain weak?

[READ: These Are the Best Countries for Entrepreneurship]

According to the data company Mattermark, while for several years North African startups mainly flourished in sectors like e-marketing and online dating, since 2012, they have begun appearing in areas such as banking, health, lending, currencies and e-commerce.

New businesses and collaborative economics

This trend towards collaborative economics makes sense in emerging markets where the startup business is a little under 10 years old.

Since these countries began to attract the interest of foreign investors, several generic accelerator programs have popped up, such as Flat6labs in Tunisia, and Innov Invest and Numa in Morocco.

Foreign backing helps finance such businesses, which are seen as unstable and insecure, and consequently receive little or no funding from traditional local banks which bridle at the prospect of a slow return on investment. It should be noted that these countries have retained a European-style investment model mainly based around banking institutions. For young entrepreneurs, foreign backing may be the only available funding source.

[RELATED: Morocco’s Film Industry Gets Mixed Reviews ]

Besides the “investment gap” left by the banking sector in countries that refuse to finance startups, foreign investors have also noticed the significant opportunities for positive social impact.

According to the Tunisian National Institute of Statistics (NIS) and the Moroccan National Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics, these companies are made up of people whose mean age ranges from 25 to 32. Young people, especially qualified young people, are terrified by rampant unemployment rates in the region. According to the NIS, there were 267,700 out-of-work graduates in Tunisia in the third quarter of 2016, amounting to 31.9 percent of the total number of unemployed people.

These young unemployed people are for the most part talented, ambitious, unfazed by change and interested in new technologies – skills sets that represent real value for investors speculating on the new economy.

While the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions were not necessarily responsible for the rise of these startups, they helped drive their proliferation. The new generation has realized that it can play by a new set of rules. The Arab Spring freed up young people and taught them that change is not impossible and they are capable of controlling their own destinies.

An emphasis on social projects

My research on startups and young entrepreneurs has revealed one striking common attribute: whether Tunisian, Moroccan or Egyptian, they are overwhelmingly socially oriented. Knowing their countries’ economic difficulties, they are driven to fight unemployment, not just by launching their own businesses, but also by improving the lives of their fellow citizens.

[MORE: Thailand Is the Best Country to Start a Business]

A great number of these startuppers are creating transport and health projects with the aim of compensating for insufficient government investment.

For example, Tunisian startup BeThree, the brainchild of three students from the Esprit engineering school, has succeeded in developing a smart bracelet that detects abrupt changes in cardiac rhythm and arterial blood pressure in order to prevent heart attacks.

A few months ago, this startup was in talks with Wonka Lab, a Los Angeles-based startup accelerator. “Wonka Lab offered to help us develop our product for the American market,” one of the entrepreneurs told French newspaper Le Monde.

Casablanca startup Carmine facilitates car sharing, a solution for young professionals who cannot afford to buy their own vehicle. As it is still in operation, with an increasing number of available stations, the business is thinking about expanding its mission to include other Moroccan cities.

[RELATED: Cuba’s Startup Path to Entrepreneurship]

There are also startups in the crowd-sourcing sector, such as Egyptian company “Bassita” (“simple” in Arabic), which found an innovative way to raise money to provide access to clean drinking water for more than a thousand households. In 2014, this same model was used to raise the funds needed to buy a thousand pairs of glasses for embroiderers in one of the poorest regions; in 2015, it allowed thirty children who had never seen the ocean to spend a day by the Red Sea.

Moroccan startup Safa, also created by students, at the Mohammadia engineering school, developed a clay-and-wood water filter. They decided to employ housewives to build the filters and gave them a share in the profits.

Regardless of country or industry, today’s startups are vulnerable because of their heavy dependence on private investment during the seed phase, which can discourage backers.

Startups will have a significant role to play in the economic future of these countries. They now have to attract the attention of policy makers in order to obtain better regulatory and fiscal conditions for their development.

Translated from the French by Alice Heathwood for Fast for Word.

This article was written by Ben Hamadi Zouhour, Enseignant chercheur en finance comptabilité contrôle de gestion, École de Management de Normandie, for The Conversation on March 13, 2017.

CMA CGM Launches A New Direct And Faster Service Without Any Stopover Between Morocco And Russia

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:12

AJOT
By: AJOT
Liner Shipping

Ideal for Moroccan fruit and vegetable exports.

CMA CGM launches the newly enhanced service AGAX, which will allow the delivery of fruits and vegetables from Morocco to Russia in only 8 days without any stopover.

CMA CGM, and its subsidiaries OPDR and Comanav, now offer a weekly direct link between Morocco and Russia without any stopovers, providing perfect conditions for the shipment of fruits and vegetables. CMA CGM thus provides the fastest transit times on the market by linking Agadir and Saint Petersburg.

Southbound, the ports of Hamburg and Rotterdam still act as important hubs and offer various transshipment and intermodal opportunities.

Beside its NEW AGAX service, CMA CGM Group maintains a strong position on the Morocco-Northern Europe/Russia trade with two other weekly lines: DUNKRUS and CISS.

From March 16th, the following rotation will be operated in partnership with SEAGO with 3 x 868 TEU vessels (two being operated by CMA CGM and one by SEAGO): Casablanca – Agadir – St. Petersburg – Hamburg – Rotterdam – Casablanca.

Separately, CMA CGM is changing its DUNKRUS line to include a call in Rouen. The port was previously served by the AGAX line.

Morocco Tries 25 Over Western Sahara Killings

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:32

The New Arab

The 25 accused were handed sentences ranging from 20 years to life in 2013 [AFP]

Retrial of Sahrawis accused of killing Moroccan security forces resumes three years after the accused were handed hefty sentences in a trial described as ‘unfair’.

A Moroccan court on Monday resumed the trial of of 25 Sahrawis accused of killing 13 people, mostly security forces, in the contested Western Sahara’s Gdeim Izik camp in November 2010.

The killings are alleged to have occurred as Moroccan security forces cleared the camp near the city of Laayoune after a riot had broken out.

Outside the court of appeal in Sale, near the capital Rabat, supporters of the defendants and victims exchanged slogans, separated by a line of police.

“No to impunity for killers!” shouted dozens of victims’ relatives, waving Moroccan flags and pictures of soldiers killed.

“Freedom for political prisoners!” shouted a crowd of Sahrawi activists.

Inside the courtroom, a giant screen broadcasting of the hearing played for the security forces, lawyers, victims’ relatives and reporters present.

A military court sentenced all of the defendants in 2013 to a range of punishments, ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.

International observers and NGOs, however, slammed the trial as “unfair,” causing the court of cassation in July to order a new trial in a civilian court.

On Monday, defence lawyers expressed their lack of faith in the new trial.

The trial “is taking place in very unfair conditions, but we remain at the defendants’ side”, they said.

Ahmed Atertour, president of an association for families and friends of the victims, said he had “confidence in Moroccan justice to commemorate the memory of our… martyrs”.

Morocco says Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony under its control, is an integral part of the kingdom.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front, meanwhile, demands a referendum on self-determination for the territory.

An Inside Look Into Africa’s First Eco-city: Zenata, Morocco

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 09:41

Devex
Inside Development Produced In Partnership: Smart Cities
By Christin Roby
@robyreports

CASABLANCA, Morocco — A short distance outside Casablanca, the bustling city turns into open fields, grazing animals and remnants of an industrial site.

Kids run between tall, white apartment buildings where clothes hang from the windows, as adults walk to Friday prayer service at the pink and blue mosque that serves as the neighborhood focal point.

Not far away, construction workers lay gray bricks as a new residential area takes shape.

Welcome to the beginnings of Zenata Eco-City, an innovative urban development project in Morocco that aims to present a possible solution to African urbanization issues and also to the broader international community, as many nations across the globe attempt to respond to growing urban populations. Developing new cities in African countries could pose a high rewarding potential where urban populations are expected to increase by 15 percent by 2030, according to the World Bank.

Zenata is a locally designed and managed city created on the basis of three fundamental sustainable development pillars: environmental, social and economic. Within this framework, designers put a focus on air quality, sewage, transport, and most importantly, job creation. Leaders at the Zenata Development Company — known by its French name Société d’Aménagement Zenata, or SAZ — say their systemic approach is unique in building a sustainable, environmentally friendly and well-connected city all the way from conception to realization.

What also makes Zenata distinct, its creators and backers say, is an ecologically responsible design that maximizes use of natural resources at a city scale. Thirty percent of the city’s first development phase has been set aside as green space, with a central park to promote biodiversity. Wind directions have been modelled to allow natural cooling from the Atlantic Ocean, which borders the community. A mixed sewage collection system that redirects rainwater toward retention ponds contributes to the development of the naturally green landscape.

Zenata is one of many planned cities sprouting up in Morocco, thanks to a national agenda introduced by King Mohammed VI, which includes major institutional reform and an expansive development plan. Since 2009, strategic plans, environmental impact assessments and technical feasibility studies shaped the project until 2012, when the first phase of the commercial center began and land plots for hotels, services and facilities were sold.

SAZ focused strictly on what concerned the project locally, Mohamed Naciri, SAZ business development director, told Devex, and from there developed a framework that answered exactly the needs of their project. “We benchmarked and we looked at all the international standards but we realized they were not fit to us, they did not fit the environment and local issues,” said Naciri.

Although Zenata is a 30-40 year project, SAZ has already moved from conception to realization. For the first development zone — an area of 2,000 acres (800 hectares) — the major sewage system is complete. The first interchange and major roads provide access to the area and the first phase of the retail center is open, with an IKEA store welcoming customers daily.

Zenata expects to be a family and leisure destination. “We hope to have 15 to 18 million visitors per year that will spend at least half a day, up to a weekend with us,” Naciri said.

Alongside visitors, Zenata has an ambition to attract up to 300,000 residents via their economic model, which includes the construction of an integrated health care and biomedical center, an international university campus, and Morocco’s largest shopping center. These facilities are expected to create 100,000 jobs. An industrial zone will provide manufacturing jobs, while the shopping center will offer retail opportunities. Zenata will feature more than 20,000 meters of walking lanes, as well as internal trams, buses and taxis.

Building a city is not easy, Naciri told Devex. Urbanization can have positive or negative impacts on societies. In some cases, urbanization leads to economic growth, a greater exchange of ideas/talents and poverty reduction. Urban living is also usually associated with a higher standard of living. But at times, it can stymie progress and cause further inequality, housing shortages and social impacts surrounding lack of opportunities for the entire population. The development team at Zenata has tried to minimize the negative impact by intertwining solutions to these problems into their master urban plan.

The most complex part, Naciri said, was working with the vast numbers of partners at the state, national and international levels. Swiss experts helped develop the internal traffic plan. European funders invested and private local companies made plans for relocation and installation. “It’s what we call in French ‘la gouvernance’ and it’s the overall management of all parties and it’s not an easy issue, but it’s essential to work with everyone at the same time, so you face it head on,” he said.

Zenata also focused on the social inclusion of people who resided in the area prior to development. The land was inhabited by roughly 40,000 people living in slums. As preparations began for phase one, local inhabitants were relocated to temporary housing in apartments nearby, and as part of the urban master plan, Zenata has designated a portion of land for residents to rebuild. Zenata Marketing Project Officer Sakina Agoumi said job creation and attracting businesses to Zenata was a major part of the development plan.

Agoumi told Devex they considered the local populations in their plans, including in building additional schools and mosques. However, in the future, she expects Moroccans to relocate to Zenata based on the economic opportunities it offers and its proximity to the nearby major cities of Casablanca and Rabat.

This ambitious undertaking was made possible, in part, by the financial support of the European Investment Bank and the Agence Française de Développement, who have financed the first development zone each with 150 million euros.

“As long as the project, in fact, actually follows the plan of modern services which will make it possible to maintain the social equilibrium and to promote social skills through job creation, this project will strengthen the country,” said AFD Morocco President Eric Baulard.

In October 2015, Zenata Eco-City was acknowledged as a model project and awarded an exclusive Eco-City Label by French international HQE certification agency, Cerway, which applauded the project’s ability to minimize its environmental impact throughout its entire lifecycle. The eco-city label now serves as a performance assessment model for comparable urban projects in a similar contexts, nationally and internationally, alike.

According to Naciri, receiving an HQE label, the equivalent to LEED or green building standards, illustrates the feasibility of such large-scale development projects in Africa.

“The fact that Zenata received the recognition of an international significator about the work being done for the first time in the development of a sustainable city, in Morocco, in Africa, is an innovation on it’s own,” Naciri told Devex. “That’s what’s exotic about Zenata, it will show the way for urban projects that are similar to ours in emerging countries, and especially Africa.”

Editor’s note: The Agence Française de Développement facilitated Devex’s travel and logistics for this reporting. However, Devex maintains full editorial control of the content.

Over six weeks, Devex — along with our partners Agence Française de Développement, BearingPoint, UN-Habitat, and XII Metropolis World Congress — will explore what it takes to build a successful smart city, how climate resilient and environmentally friendly infrastructure and technologies are being implemented, and how actors in the global development community are working together toward common goals and engaging local communities in an inclusive way. Join us as we examine what it takes to create our smart cities of the future by tagging #SmartCities and @Devex.

About the author

Christin Roby
@robyreports
Christin Roby is a West Africa correspondent for Devex based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where she covers global development trends, health, technology and policy-related topics. Before relocating to West Africa, Christin spent several years working in local newsrooms, and earned an MSJ in videography and global affairs reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Her informed insight into the region stems from her diverse coverage of more than a dozen African nations

World Bank Approves $150m For Morocco

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 08:14

Arab News
AFP

Female farm labourers pick strawberries in the Kenitra province country side of Morocco as the world marks the International Women’s Day, in this March 8, 2017 photo. (AFP)

RABAT: The World Bank (WB) says it has approved $150 million in financing to support small enterprises in Morocco and improve social programs in the North African country.

The funds, approved on Friday, will help the government “modernize its national identification system and provide financing to promote innovative startups and job creation,” a statement said.

According to the WB, almost 5.3 million Moroccans “live under the threat of falling back into poverty due to their socioeconomic conditions.”

Friday’s statement said that $100 million will “aim to develop systems to ensure that social programs are better targeted and reach the most vulnerable Moroccans.”

The remaining $50 million “will help address a market gap in the supply of equity financing for innovative young small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” it said.

Exploration Group Sound Energy Closes In On Gas Reservoir In Morocco

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 13:21

Proactive Investors
Ian Lyall

The well will be drilled to a vertical depth of 2,977 metres.

Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) said its latest well on the Tendrara licence in Morocco has reached the final casing point.

TE-8’s liner is being cemented at a depth of 2,603 metres and is just two metres from the main reservoir in the TAGI formation. The well will be drilled to a vertical depth of 2,977 metres.

Assuming gas is encountered in the main well bore, a further 30-day side-track will be drilled to prove a potentially deeper gas contact 900 metres to the north-west.

TE-8 is around 12 kilometres from the last successful hole and is what’s called a step out well because it will test the lateral extent of gas that has been discovered in the TAGI reservoir.

Whatever comes in the next two months, the firm has already enjoyed considerable success at Tendrara.

Results from TE-7 were revealed on January 19 with the company telling investors that over a 56 day period of continuous flow the well has yielded just under 1bn cubic feet of gas.

That figure is made all the more impressive given that the gas flow was constrained in test conditions, at a maximum of 40% drawdown, in order to protect the integrity of the well completion to date.

No formation water was produced during testing – as the company had expected – and there were no indications of barriers.

As such Sound said that the result had confirmed a “significant connected volume” of gas is present at Tendrara, and it would now monitor pressure across past wells to confirm the physical connectivity of the reservoir.

The programme on TE-8 is scheduled to last 40-50 days, according to the City research firm Capital Networks.

It is one of a number of value-accretive catalysts expected in 2017, said Capital’s analyst, Lionel Therond.

“We believe the stock provides investors the opportunity to gain exposure to one of the few growth story in the sector, with the potential to benefit from substantial appreciation as assets get de-risked and material resources are added,” he said in a note.

Earlier this week Sound said it had begun drilling the hotly-anticipated Badile well in Italy, adding more spice to the investment story.

Sound’s Italian assets were the foundation stone on which the company was built and it has two producing wells – although their output is modest.

Badile, however, could be a changer. An independent assessment suggests the target could be host to around 178bn standard cubic feet of gas with a net present value of £400mln.

That figure is what’s called a ‘best case’, unrisked estimate. It sits at in the middle of the range with the ‘high case’ forecast being 670bn cubic feet and the ‘low case’ 46bn cubic feet.

Anyway, work on the well, located in the north of the country, around 10 miles from Milan, began on Tuesday (March 7).

The plan is to go down to a total depth of 4,445 metres with drilling and logging expected to take 100 days.

Assuming gas is found, it will take a further 25 days for completion and testing.

Ian Lyall

Morocco Arrests 2 IS-linked Suspects In Casablanca

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 05:10

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua

The Moroccan police arrested on Thursday two people with links to the Islamic State (IS) group in the city of Casablanca, the Interior ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, the suspects planned to carry out terrorist operations in Morocco and had begun to acquire devices used in making explosives.

This operation has allowed the seizure of copper cables, a thermometer, electric batteries, a bottle containing a suspect liquid, a bag of powder and other equipment suspected of being used in manufacturing explosives, the statement pointed out.

The arrested people will be brought to justice once the investigation is completed, it noted.

The north African kingdom has seen a growing threat from terror groups, especially IS.

According to official figures, Morocco busted 19 terrorist cells and arrested 273 suspects in 2016, most of them linked to the group, which control large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

Morocco Applying To Join ECOWAS – Issues To Consider

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 08:32

Ghana Business News
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi

Morocco has recently expressed interest in joining the West African regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The news was received with mixed feelings across the region, and questions are being asked.

Located in North Africa between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the distance between Morocco and Ghana in West Africa is some 2714km.

A country that takes pride in its Arab heritage and culture, in spite of the mixture of Berber and the influence of European culture, Morocco is more Arab than anything else.

With a population of some 35 million people, Morocco until recently wasn’t even a member of the African Union (AU). The country left the continental organization for more than 30 years over the AU’s recognition of Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco laid claims to. Early this year, it reapplied to the AU and was readmitted. That wasn’t surprising, but Morocco’s recent expression of interest to join the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS is raising eyebrows.

ECOWAS is a regional bloc of some 15 countries close to each other, and mostly sharing borders. The countries are Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Benin and Cape Verde.

While this won’t be the first time that north African countries have joined organisations originally meant exclusively for countries in other regions of Africa, as Libya and Egypt are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a group of countries in East and South Africa, Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS sounds bizarre.

The country Morocco

With its diverse Arab, Berber and influence of European culture, Morocco describes itself as a constitutional monarchy. In 2011 it adopted a new Constitution, which laid the grounds for what it describes as a more open and democratic society, with separation of powers and increased decentralization. Despite the claim to democracy, the monarchy has a tight grip on the country.

Its economy

The World Bank reports that after a good performance in 2015, the Moroccan economy is decelerating in 2016. Economic activity slowed to 1.4 per cent in the second quarter as a result of a 12.1 per cent contraction in agriculture production, while growth outside the agriculture sector remained sluggish at around 2.5 per cent. Inflation has remained muted at under 2 per cent, reflecting prudent monetary policy and the fall in international commodity prices.

The Bank further indicates that based on performance since the beginning of 2016, Morocco is expected to reduce its fiscal deficit to 3.5 per cent of GDP.

“This would be the result of strong revenue performance and the continued reduction in consumption subsidies. Morocco should thus be able to stabilize its central government debt at around 64 per cent of GDP,” it said.

The country’s trade deficit narrowed down in recent years as a result of fiscal consolidation efforts and the emergence of Morocco’s new industries, especially automobiles. The current account deficit should not exceed 1.5 per cent of GDP for 2016, and Morocco’s international reserves reached $24.9 billion—the equivalent of 7.3 months’ worth of imports at end-June 2016, the World Bank said.

Considering its sound economic performance, despite all the headwinds, which is an indication that Morocco might be seeking to take advantage of the West African economy – with a population of 335 million, West Africa has a GDP of $345 billion, and Morocco already has bilateral relations with almost all the 15 countries of the ECOWAS.

While Morocco might be a good trading partner as it is also one of the leading producers of phosphate in Africa, there are already existing trade relations with these countries, raising questions about the exact reasons behind Morocco’s interest in becoming a member of ECOWAS.

The ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Governance

The ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance Article 1, emphasizes on separation of powers, and among others the independence of the Judiciary and judges.

The Protocol is also clear on the secularism and neutrality of the State in all matters relating to religion, but does not preclude the right of the State to regulate with due respect to human rights.

Besides, ECOWAS protocols such as this one are binding. What that means is that, for a constitutional monarchy that operates quite differently, it remains to be seen how Morocco can subject itself to these universal principles of this particular ECOWAS protocol.

African integration dynamics

In March 2006, at an AU Summit in Banjul, the African Union — in its wisdom — decided and resolved to rationalise the numerous regional economic communities (RECs) from 14 to 8, so that each region would have its own “regional” reference. This meant that, for example, West Africa’s REC would be recognised as ECOWAS (even as there is UEMOA / etc); and in Central Africa (where discussions to rationalise the groupings there are far advanced than in West Africa), the only REC would be ECCAS.

Now, something seismic is happening in Africa’s integration. The request by North Africa’s Morocco to join ECOWAS does not only complicate Africa’s integration efforts, but makes nonsense of that 2006 decision as it will set a horrible precedent for any country to find justifiable and self-serving reasons to join any REC they want. We do know Rwanda re-joined ECCAS last year, and now belongs to both the East African Community and ECCAS. This may be problematic but not at the scale of Morocco wanting to join ECOWAS.

This Moroccan request has been troubling since the news broke. Algeria, long-term nemesis of Morocco, is deeply-troubled by Morocco’s request. In articles in both the Moroccan and Algerian press, it is clear there is no love lost between the neighbours, and that Algeria remains confused by Morocco’s apparently, inexplicable turn to West Africa.

In the event that Morocco’s adhesion to ECOWAS happens, it will serve a bad precedent for Africa’s integration by allowing any AU Member State to subject the flawed AU to its whims and caprices. Already, that Chad got the AU Commission position over Kenya’s Amina Mohammed by just two votes reflects, it is speculated, how Idris Deby used his influence as AU Chair to leverage and rally support for the dark horse that was Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Although one has yet to read of or detect any resistance from the West African diplomats in Abuja, what we now know is that, the Togolese government has registered its opposition. In a faux pas by the state-supporting republicoftogo.com, it posted days after the request to join ECOWAS on February 24 that the Togolese government “is not hostile to the adhesion” of Morocco. Now, an article on the same site that was posted March 3, explained that the Presidency had denounced the assertion that he would use all his influence to support Morocco’s bid.

A recent interview of ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza to RFI sounds neutral in its opinion of the fate of Morocco. When you read between the lines, de Souza’s insistence that it will be up to the Authority of Heads of State to decide, — and that admitting Morocco will set a “precedent” — speaks volumes about the fate of Morocco.

Why ECOWAS and not CEN-SAD

Even more curious is why Morocco did not opt for the 28-member CEN-SAD, which was established by the late Qaddafi in 1998.

In 2014, at the cusp of Morocco’s hosting of A CEN-SAD meeting, Carnegie Endowment wrote; “Of these alliances, CEN-SAD must be particularly attractive to Morocco, for several reasons. Its preeminence in the organization will likely go uncontested; no other member has the spur, stature, and stability to lead it. Other potential leaders (namely Nigeria and Kenya) are firmly ensconced as anchor states in existing, functional RECs—Nigeria in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Kenya in the East African Community (EAC), among others.”

It went on to argue, “Egypt remains deeply embroiled in regional diplomacy and its own internal affairs, and Algeria’s absence from CEN-SAD should allow Morocco free reign to guide the organization independent of its neighbor. Moreover, the Kingdom may enjoy novel forms of influence within a REC based on a projection of Africa’s Arab and Muslim North into the continent’s South; CEN-SAD, apparently an abbreviation taken from Arabic letters sin and sad (for al-sahil and al-sahara), covers over half of Africa’s nations, and what unites such a diverse set of countries—from the Gambia to the Comoros, and Somalia to Sierra Leone—more than any connection to ecoclimatic or environmental conditions, is Islam.”

Chad and Morocco share an important affinity: both have sought to become members of ECOWAS, and both have played instrumental roles in CEN-SAD, too.

The Chad factor

In 2011, Chad was, in fact, granted observer status of ECOWAS. Then the Mali coup happened in 2012 — and suddenly, Chad offered support to the Africa-led support mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the tune of around 3000 troops, which is around a third of what all ECOWAS troops offered.

One of the critical reasons why Chad was an important country to look out for was what happened in February 2013 when Chad’s President Idris Deby hosted some eleven leaders of the CEN-SAD regional economic community. The capital N’djamena played host to what should have been 20 members of the populous grouping. Even if a little over a third of the Heads of State showed up, it was encouraging to see that the 17 other member states dispatched representatives. Furthermore, it has shown that the raison d’être for the establishment of the grouping might still be relevant.

Some of the major outcomes included a revision of the Charter, to reflect the fact that the organisation is interested in two major things: peace and security; and sustainable development. Two permanent organs will be established to this end, and Egypt is likely to host the peace and security organ. That Egypt was, in 2016 at a CEN-SAD meeting, recommended as the headquarters of the host of Counter-terrorism Centre, speaks to a level of confidence reposed increasingly by African states of North African countries on security matters.

One wonders, given Morocco’s acknowledged world-class expertise on counter-terrorism, why it did not consider using CEN-SAD as an opportunity to reinvent itself on the continental stage — as it appears it wants to do by joining ECOWAS. The real question — as may be asked of Tunisia that has also expressed an interest in joining ECOWAS — is whether ECOWAS really needs Morocco!

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi (edogbevi@gmail.com) & Emmanuel K. Bensah ( ekbensah@gmail.com)

Morocco Says Determined To Develop Western Sahara

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 03:05

News 24
AFP

Morocco is “more determined than ever” to develop the Western Sahara, Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad said on Wednesday on a two-day visit to the disputed territory.

Rabat insists the former Spanish colony is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Algeria-based Polisario Front demands a referendum on self-determination there.

The two sides fought for control of the Western Sahara from 1974 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of the territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect.

“We are more determined than ever to continue to develop the Sahara region,” Hassad told AFP.

“Unfortunately there are many people who don’t like this, particularly the fact that we are building roads,” he said, referring to the Polisario.

Hassad spoke after Morocco pulled back from the area of Guerguerat near the Mauritanian border in late February at the request of the United Nations.

Tensions flared last year after the Polisario set up a new military post in the same area.

That was in response to Morocco starting to build a tarmac road in the area south of the buffer zone separating Moroccan troops from Polisario fighters.

Rabat sees the road as key to trade between Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa.

Hassad said Morocco has invested around $8.5bn in the territory in projects expected to create more than 10 000 jobs by 2021.

The projects include a university to teach medicine and a 1 000km highway along the coast, he said.

Morocco Tightens Border Control To Stem Illegal Migration

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 02:18

Xinhuanet
Source: Xinhua

This photo taken on February 17, 2017 shows a general view of the fence between the Moroccan city of Fnideq and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, which was built to keep out migrants, traffickers, or an enemy group. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Morocco will further tighten border control with Algeria to counter illegal migration of subsaharan Africans and arm trafficking, local media reported on Wednesday.

The regional council of Oriental (eastern) region decided to build new control points to go along with the building of 100 km border fence with Algeria, the daily Akhbar Al Yaoum said.

The same source noted that authorities have raised vigilance in the region which is regarded as a main entrance of illegal migrants from subsaharan Africa.

Sound Energy One Of The Few Companies To Be Playing And Winning In The Exploration And Production Game – Says Broker

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 20:44

Proactive Investors
Ian Lyall

WH Ireland’s comments followed news earlier the company had begun drilling its hotly anticipated Badile gas well in Northern Italy.

First to the ball? Sound is certainly ahead in the high stakes E&P game.

Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) is one of the few companies to be “playing and winning” in the exploration and production “spectrum”, according to one City broker.

WH Ireland’s comments followed news earlier the company had begun drilling its hotly anticipated Badile gas well in Northern Italy.

The house said oil services giant Schlumberger’s involvement with Sound’s projects in Italy and the successful exploration programme in Morocco has “brought technical validation” to the business.

But it added: “The bulk of the risk and reward resides with Sound.”

Earlier, the company said work on the Badile well, around 10 miles from Milan, began on Tuesday (March 7).

The plan is to go down to a total depth of 4,445 metres with drilling and logging expected to take 100 days.

Assuming gas is found, it will take a further 25 days for completion and testing.

To date the company has scored significant success at Tendrara, in Morocco, where it has discovered significant accumulations of potentially commercial gas.

However, Sound’s Italian assets were the foundation stone on which the company was built and it has two producing wells – although their output is modest.

Badile, however, could be a game changer. An independent assessment suggests the target could be host to around 178bn standard cubic feet of gas with a net present value of £400mln.

That figure is what’s called a ‘best case’, unrisked estimate. It sits at in the middle of the range with the ‘high case’ forecast being 670bn cubic feet and the ‘low case’ 46bn cubic feet.

On Badile, WHI said: “The structure is classic fault and dip bound structure as seen below.

“The key risk in our opinion relates to reservoir quality as carbonates are inherently prone to regional variations.

“Regardless of the result, we believe that getting anything done in Italy is a noteworthy achievement.

“We also note that we believe the source rock could be more oil prone than anticipated.

“A porous/permeable reservoir of this scale might need only three wells to develop and infrastructure is in the immediate vicinity.”

Sounds shares inched higher in late morning trade to 89p, valuing the business at a touch over £600mln.

A year ago the stock was changing hands for 17p with the success in Morocco driving the meteoric rise in the price.

In March 2016 the company’s future, in the minds of some investors at least, was predicated on the success or otherwise of Badile.

Now, according to natural resources boutique SP Angel, its significance has been “de-emphasised” by Sound’s success in North Africa.

“That said, for investors, we believe that even a drilling failure will be an opportunity as although Badile has been the pivot on which Sound changed direction, its value has not really been reflected in the market cap, hence we believe any weakness in share price following Badile will offer an in point,” SP Angel said.

“This is one of those rare moments where the term often applied to drilling, that it is ‘better to travel than to arrive’ actually isn’t true, as the journey has been impressive and the destination (Badile’s result) will (ultimately) be positive for investors for the aforementioned reasons, no matter what.”

Cairn Hones Senegal, Acquires New Atlantic Acreage

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 07:09

Natural Gas World
Mark Smedley

After SNE-5, drillship Stena DrillMax is proceeding to Cairn’s next offshore Senegal well, VR-1 (Photo credit: Cairn Energy)

UK independent Cairn Energy foresees producing first oil from Senegal in 2021-2023, expects first oil this year from two UK North Sea projects and has expanded its Atlantic acreage offshore Ireland with two new farm-ins there announced March 8.

Cairn reported a smaller net loss of $95mn last year ($516mn loss in 2015) including unsuccessful well costs of $70mn chiefly in Mauritania and Norway’s Barents Sea (down from 2015: $97mn). CEO Simon Thomson said: “Cairn continues to deliver positive progress across its balanced portfolio… against a backdrop of increased financial flexibility” with net cash at end-2016 of $335mn.

Offshore Senegal where it announced its positive SNE-5 well result on March 7, Cairn said it expects to choose a development concept this year and from 2018 onwards with partners to submit the Exploitation Plan and proceed to a final investment decision, with first oil expected in 2021-2023.

Woodside’s entry to the Senegal venture “brings extensive experience in developing and operating floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities,” argued Cairn; its Australian junior partner FAR though has contested the way in which ConocoPhillips sold its Senegal stake to Woodside.

In the UK, Cairn’s 20% and 29.5% stakes respectively in North Sea Catcher and Kraken developments are “on track for first oil from 2017” with peak net production to Cairn of some 25,000 boe/d.

Cairn’s frontier prospects lie on what 175mn years ago was the dividing line between continents (Map credit: Cairn Energy presentation, March 8 2017)

Off Western Sahara, with Kosmos as operator, Cairn expects to start 3D seismic acquisition this year in Boujdour Maritime. Norway’s Oil Fund divested from both firms mid-2016 as it considers Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara as illegal. Kosmos has proven significant gas off nearby Mauritania.

Farm into two Irish Atlantic blocks

Off Ireland’s Atlantic coast, Cairn secured one licence as operator last year and March 8 announced an additional farm-in (with operatorship and 70% interest) to Europa Oil & Gas’s adjacent block, with plans for 3D seismic there in 2017. Cairn will fully fund up to $6mn of Europa’s work programme,

Also March 8, Cairn became a 30% partner in a Providence Resources-operated FEL 2/14 block in the southern Porcupine basin off southwest Ireland, where one firm well is planned this year. In return for its stake, Cairn will pay 45% of costs of drilling 53/6-A well there in June 2017, subject to a gross well cap of $42mn. The block lies in 2,250 meters water depth. Cairn will also pay $2.82mn to Providence and partner Sosina, that being 30% of their sunk costs to mid-2016. If the trio agree to a subsequent appraisal well, Cairn will drill for 40% of its costs up to a gross cost of $42mn. The new equity stake in FEL 2/14, subject to Irish government approval of the farm-in, will be operator Providence 56%, Cairn 30% and Sosina 14%.

Stena ICEMax will drill the mid-2017 exploration well for Providence Resources off southwest Ireland (Photo credit: Sosina/Thomas Aanundsen)

Mark Smedley

Increasingly Violent Migrants Attacking Border Guards With Iron Bars, Spanish Minister Says

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 06:53

Breitbart News
by Antonio Sempere/AFP/Getty Images
by Nick Hallett

Attempts by migrants to break through the border into the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are becoming increasingly violent, the country’s security minister has warned.

José Antonio Nieto said attempts to cross the border fence at Ceuta had become “more dangerous and violent” in recent months, with migrants not only using sticks but even iron bars and wire cutters to attack border guards.

The Interior Ministry revealed 3,144 immigrants had illegally entered Spain so far this year, half of them by crossing into Ceuta and Melilla, which have the European Union’s only land border with Africa.

In one incident last month, 496 immigrants managed to get across the border fence leaving 15 police officers injured.

However, TV station Cuatro reports Mr. Nieto said there would be no radical change in migration policy to deal with the influx. Instead, the Interior Ministry will consider using drones to patrol the border and increasing the number of officers in each of the territories.

Footage released in February showed migrants celebrating in the streets of Ceuta after breaking through the fence, some holding EU flags and others chanting “Freedom! Freedom!”.

The territory’s migrant processing centre was already struggling to cope with the heavy number of new arrivals and had to put up tents at a local sports centre to deal with the influx.

Analysts believe thousands of sub-Saharan Africans may have travelled up through Morocco in a bid to reach the Spanish exclaves. Once on EU territory, it becomes much easier for them to travel across Europe.

In January, more the 1,000 tried to storm the border in a single night. However, none successfully managed to break through.

Spanish government officials at the time reported migrants trying “to force open some of the doors in the external fence, using iron bars, wire cutters and large stones with which they assaulted Moroccan forces and (Spanish) Guardia Civil (police) agents”.

Flintlock 2017 Exercise Enhances Interoperability In Africa

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 06:41

Defense.gov
By Marine Corps Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler
U.S. Africa Command

SOUTHERN ZONE, Morocco — Military representatives from Morocco and the United States held an opening ceremony Feb. 27 for the Flintlock 2017 exercise at the Tifnit training base here, marking another milestone in a relationship between their nations that began in the 1700s.

Members of Morocco’s special operations forces clear buildings during a direct action raid as part of the Flintlock 2017 exercise in Chtouka Ait Baha province, Morocco, March 3, 2017. The operators partnered with Marines from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command throughout the exercise to build interoperability and support their common goal of countering violent extremism across the region. Portions of this photo have been blurred for security purposes. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Nick Mannweiler

More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations are participating in the 10th annual iteration of the exercise, which continues until March 16 across seven African host nations.

The exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information and develops interoperability among counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.

Deep U.S.-Morocco Roots

African partner special operations forces and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa jointly plan and execute the exercise, highlighting the sense of shared purpose across the continent as partners strengthen themselves and their regional network against violent extremists. For Morocco and the United States, the roots run deep in this partnership.

Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786 between U.S. Minister Thomas Barclay and the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Muhammad, in Marrakesh, according to the U.S. State Department website. The relationship matured with the naming of James Simpson as the first American consul in 1797 in Tangier. Sultan Mawlay Suleiman gifted the consulate a building and grounds to use, marking the first property owned by the U.S. government on foreign shores. In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco. Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.

“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks,” Morocco’s special operations command exercise instructor said.

‘A Golden Opportunity’

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, delivered remarks on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.

“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. “We will stand ready and willing to take maximum benefit from this period of training to further promote our knowledge and know-how in the field of special forces,” he said.

Marines from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command are training alongside their Moroccan peers, refining tactics, techniques and procedures across multiple full-mission profiles. The two forces specifically are training on small-unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control, and force protection.

The shared training experiences will develop the two partners’ ability to plan, coordinate and operate as an integrated team and will strengthen the bond between the two countries. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces have contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world and provide a center of stability and security across the Sahel region.

Countering the threat posed by violent extremist organizations around the world demands proficiency, coordination and enhanced interoperability. While regional security is the main focus of Flintlock 2017, the lessons learned and investments in relationships will allow participants to share the burdens of managing conflicts and improve their ability to provide security solutions that meet threats at their origin, exercise officials said.

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