Western Sahara Worldnews

Subscribe to Western Sahara Worldnews feed
Updated: 2 hours 10 min ago

First Shipment Of Moroccan Fertilizers Heading For Nigeria

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 06:06

The North Africa Post

Nigeria will receive in the few coming days the first shipment of Moroccan fertilizers following the deal sealed lately during King Mohammed VI’s visit to this African country.

According to press reports, the first shipload is made of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) fertilizers. It will enable the Nigerian government to alleviate farmers’ burden as the commodity will be sold at N5,000, which is half the current price.

Nigerian minister of agriculture Audu Ogbe, who disclosed the news, said his country targets about 700,000 to 800,000 tons of fertilizers per year.

Last December, King Mohammed VI and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari presided in Abuja over the signing ceremony of a partnership accord to build a fertilizers plant in Nigeria.

The new plant, to be built by Morocco’s state-run phosphates company OCP, seeks to promote the use of agricultural inputs including access to adequate fertilizers, which is expected to improve agricultural productivity and farmers’ income.

OCP, a world leader in phosphate and its derivatives, is committed to the development of agriculture in Africa. This landmark project has been launched within the frame of win-win partnerships with African countries and south-south cooperation.

During the royal visit to Nigeria, the two African countries also agreed to build a gas pipeline that will stretch along the coast connecting Nigerian gas wells with West African countries all the way up until reaching the Kingdom.

The pipeline will add momentum to economic integration in West Africa and will help promote efforts to boost electrification in the region. The project is also meant to help Nigerian gas reach Europe.

Posted by North Africa Post

North Africa Post’s news desk is composed of journalists and editors, who are constantly working to provide new and accurate stories to NAP readers.

Morocco Rejoins African Union After 33-Year Absence Despite Rift Over Western Sahara Territory

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 05:28

By Fiona Keating

A general view taken shows the 26th presidential summit of the African Union held in January 2016 in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaTONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

After months of intense lobbying, Morocco has been readmitted as a member of the African Union (AU). The North African country left the organisation after an acrimonious row in which the AU recognised the independence of Western Sahara, which was viewed by Morocco as part of its historic territory.

After the backing of a huge majority of states, Morocco regained its membership within the AU on Monday (30 January). Previously it was the only African country that was not a member of the body.

More from IBTimes UK

  •  Kenyan troops to rejoin UN mission in war-torn South Sudan as fighting continues
  •  HRW urges African Union to release probe into ‘unlawful’ killing of 14 civilians by Ethiopian forces

Enigmatic government notice sparks debate about the sale of burqas in Morocco

“There was a very long debate but 39 of our 54 states approved the return of Morocco, even if the Western Sahara question remains,” Senegalese President Macky Sall told the media.

Member states decided to leave the question of the disputed territory of Western Sahara for another time, and take Morocco “back in the family,” according to AFP.

“From the moment that Morocco did not impose conditions … we take their word for it and accept that Morocco be admitted to the African Union,” said Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, foreign minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which claims sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Morocco left what was then known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 after the organisation admitted the former Western Sahara as an independent member.

There were concerns that Morocco would seek the expulsion of the SADR as a condition for returning to the AU.

Summit delegates at the 28th AU summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa held a tense and emotional debate. South Africa and Algeria were vehemently opposed to the re-entry of Morocco.

Morocco has been mooting a return to the AU for many years, hoping to enhance its economy and recognising that being a member of the pan-African body would be financially beneficial. For the AU, the return of Morocco, the sixth largest economy in Africa, will be highly profitable.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, who has been lobbying hard for his country’s return, will deliver a speech on Tuesday (31 January) in front of the African leaders in Addis Ababa.

In June 2016, the chair of the summit, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, visited Rabaat, where he received Morocco’s highest state decoration.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar has led a concerted diplomatic campaign in recent years, meeting with the presidents of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Senegal, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and the prime ministers of Libya and Ethiopia to strengthen its economic and diplomatic relations with those nations.

Chad’s Foreign Minister Secures Top Post At African Union

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 13:19

By Ed Cropley

* New chair replaces outgoing South African commissioner

* Morocco gains sufficient support for readmission – sources

* The Hague-based court has split continent (Adds details on Moroccan readmission)

African Union leaders chose Chad’s candidate to chair the 54-nation body on Monday at a summit where the divisive issues of Africa’s relationship to the International Criminal Court and Morocco’s readmission to the AU were on the agenda.

In the last round of voting, Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat beat Kenya’s top diplomat Amina Mohamed to secure the post as head of the commission of the AU, which is headquartered in the Ethiopian capital.

A Chadian official told a group of reporters that his nation’s candidate had secured 39 votes in the final round.

Faki, born in 1960, has served as foreign minister since 2008. His previous posts also included a stint as prime minister.

In a race usually resolved in behind-the-scenes talks before a summit vote, three of the AU’s four major regions vied for the post – the south, the east and the largely Francophone west – with some regions pushing more than one candidate.

Outgoing commissioner, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, stayed in post an extra six months after leaders failed to agree a candidate in July. She is now tipped as a contender to succeed her ex-husband, Jacob Zuma, as South Africa’s president.

The question of Morocco’s re-admission was also divisive, although by Monday evening, two delegates leaving the talks said it had the support of 39 nations, enough to provide a guarantee. However, reservations held by 10 AU members meant the confirmation of its new status would have to wait until Tuesday.

The North African kingdom quit the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, three decades ago amid a dispute over the body’s recognition of Western Sahara, most of which has been controlled by Morocco since 1976.

Western Sahara’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Salem Ould Salek called progress on Morocco’s readmission a “positive step” since it would put it on equal footing with a region it has until now refused to acknowledge as anything other than its own territory.


However, King Mohammed VI has been making diplomatic efforts over the last year to try to win Rabat’s readmission.

Continental heavyweights Algeria and South Africa have been backers of the Sahrawi Republic, the domestic political movements that lays claim to the territory along the northern Sahara’s Atlantic seaboard. Neither has said explicitly it will oppose Morocco’s re-entry.

Preliminary meetings have also been dominated by disputes over the International Criminal Court (ICC), which countries such as South Africa and Kenya say is a tool of Western imperialism that unfairly targets the continent.

Conversely, Nigeria, Botswana and other states say the Hague-based court is an important legal backstop for countries whose domestic justice systems have been compromised by civil conflict.

“You have all these calls for unity but actually if you look at the AU now, it is more divided than ever – over Morocco, the regional divisions and the ICC,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, an AU expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. “It’s unprecedented.”

During Dlamini-Zuma’s time in charge of the AU, the medical doctor has focused on reforming the AU’s dysfunctional internal bureaucracy and drawing up a long-term plan for improving the lives of Africa’s underprivileged citizens, especially women and children.

However, she has been criticized for failing to heal the rifts created by her election and not doing more to prevent conflict in countries such as South Sudan, which the United Nations says is tilting towards genocide. (Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Edmund Blair and Toby Chopra)

Morocco To Rejoin African Union Despite Western Sahara Dispute

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 08:57


Forty years in a refugee camp

Morocco has been readmitted as a member of the African Union (AU) after months of intense lobbying.

Morocco left the organisation in 1984, after it recognised the independence of Western Sahara, regarded by Morocco as part of its historic territory.

It was the only country in Africa that was not a member of the continental body.

AU leaders also voted for Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat to be the next head of the AU commission.

Mr Faki Mahamat beat Kenya’s top diplomat Amina Mohamed.

The race is usually settled behind the scenes before the vote but this went to seven rounds of voting.

Outgoing commissioner, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, stayed in the job an extra six months after leaders failed to agree a candidate in July.

Africa Live: Updates on this and other stories

Could Dlamini-Zuma be South Africa’s next leader?

Find out about Western Sahara

Mr Faki garnered 39 votes in a hotly contested election at the ongoing heads of state summit in the city.


Moussa Faki Mahamat was at the forefront of the fight against Boko Haram

While campaigning for the job, he said he dreamt of an Africa where the “sound of guns would be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories” and pledged to streamline the bureaucratic AU during his four-year term in office.

Analysts say he was considered an outsider but being at the forefront of the fight against Islamist militants in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel may have worked in his favour.

Western Sahara is the last African case on the United Nations decolonisation committee.

A referendum was promised in 1991 but never carried out due to wrangling over who is eligible to vote.

BBC World Service Africa editor James Copnall says the issue is likely to remain contentious despite Morocco’s readmission to the AU.

Western Sahara row

1975-76: Morocco seizes two-thirds of Western Sahara after colonial power Spain withdraws.

1975-76: Polisario Front declares the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), with a government-in-exile in Algeria. Thousands of Sahrawi refugees flee to western Algeria to set up camps.

1984: Morocco leaves the Organisation of African Unity (which later became the African Union) in protest at the SADR’s admission to the body.

1991: UN-monitored ceasefire begins in Western Sahara, but the territory’s status remains undecided and ceasefire violations are reported. The following decade sees much wrangling over a proposed referendum on the future of the territory but the deadlock is not broken.

March 2016: Morocco threatens to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions in Western Sahara, after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon uses the term “occupation” when referring to the territory.

May 2016: Long-time Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz dies aged 68

Morocco Rejoins The African Union After 32 Years

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 08:10

The Associated Press
by Elias Meseret

Western Sahara and African Union sources have told the Associated Press that Morocco has officially been admitted back in to the continental body after 32 years of isolation.

The decision for Morocco to rejoin the AU came Monday at the African leaders summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“Morocco has been admitted to join the AU with a view that it will become the 55th member of the continental body. That’s made with the understanding that Western Sahara will remain a member of the AU,” said Lamine Baali, ambassador of Western Sahara to Ethiopia and the African Union. “All the debates were focused on (the issue) that Morocco should respect the internationally recognized border of Western Sahara.”

An African Union source who followed the debate for Morocco to return to the continental body told the Associated Press that 39 countries supported Morocco’s bid but 9 countries voted against it.

The nine “were countries in Southern Africa, except Swaziland,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. “Most of the debate was related to the border (with Western Sahara). But the decision has finally been made for Morocco to rejoin the AU and become the 55th member. It is now adopted.”

Morocco left the pan-African bloc in 1984 after a majority of the member states recognized the disputed territory of Western Sahara as a member. It claims the territory in defiance of U.N. resolutions for a referendum on the independence.

This story was corrected to show that Morocco left the African Union in 1984.

Morocco Could Have Half A Million Green Jobs By 2040

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 07:23

Clean Technica
by Saurabh Mahapatra

Originally published on CleanTechies.

Morocco’s thrust in the renewable energy sector could yield the additional benefits of creating numerous green jobs.

A new report published by the Mediterranean Forum of Institute of Economic Sciences claims that Morocco could have up to half a million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2040. Most of the renewable energy jobs are expected to originate from the Noor-Ouarzazate solar complex, which will host a number of projects based on different solar power technologies.

The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) recently increased its target to set up 4 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2020 up to 10 gigawatts by 2030. The Noor-Ouarzazate solar power complex will likely be the backbone of such large-scale expansion.

Saudi Arabia-based ACWA Power is aggressively working on several power projects that will form part of the solar power complex. The company has already commissioned a 160 megawatt concentrated solar project based on parabolic trough reflectors — Noor I — and is working on Noor II (also based on parabolic trough reflectors) and Noor III (based on solar tower technology).

Additionally, ACWA Power is also working on a 120 megawatt wind energy project. The company signed an agreement with Vestas for the supply of 40 units of its V90-3.0 turbine for the Khalladi wind park being developed in Tangiers.

Morocco’s enormous investment in renewable energy is completely justified as the country is almost entirely dependent on imported fuel. Morocco spends 10-12% of its gross domestic product to import energy. The possibility that Morocco could have half a million renewable energy jobs by 2040 is remarkable as, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), globally around 8.1 million renewable energy jobs existed in 2015.

African Union Re-admits Morocco After 33-year Absence

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 06:55

Zacharias Abubeker

African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017.

The African Union decided Monday to allow Morocco back in the fold after a 33-year absence, despite stiff resistance from some member states over the status of Western Sahara.

After an emotional and tense debate, member states decided by consensus to leave the question of the disputed territory of Western Sahara for another day, and resolve it with Morocco “back in the family.”

“From the moment that Morocco did not impose conditions … we take their word for it and accept that Morocco be admitted to the African Union,” said Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, foreign minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara.

Morocco quit the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 after the bloc admitted the former Western Sahara as a separate member.

Some had feared Morocco would demand the expulsion of the SADR as a precondition for its own return to the AU.

Morocco maintains that the former Spanish colony under its control is an integral part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front, which campaigns for the territory’s independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.

Salek said that having Morocco in the same room would allow the SADR to pressure them into fulfilling their obligations and allowing a referendum in accordance with a 1975 decision by the International Court of Justice.

“Now (if) Morocco is blocking (it) will be questioned by the head of states: why are you afraid of a referendum? “Why don’t you allow the Sahrawi to choose their future freely?”

– Family solutions –

Delegates attending the summit in the Ethiopian capital described an emotional and tense discussion, with heavyweights like Algeria and South Africa against the re-admission of Morocco.


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres gives a press conference on the sidelines of the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017

“Morocco is now a full member of the African Union. There was a very long debate but 39 of our 54 states approved the return of Morocco, even if the Western Sahara question remains,” Senegalese President Macky Sall told journalists.

“As we have said, if the family grows bigger, we can find solutions as a family,” he added.

Morocco has been angling to return to the AU for several years and King Mohammed VI formally announced his intention to do so in July last year. Since then he has criss-crossed the continent lobbying for support.

Morocco is increasingly looking southwards to expand its economy and has realised it cannot drive an agenda on the continent without being in the AU, observers say.

The membership of affluent Morocco — the sixth biggest economy in Africa — could be a boon for the African Union, which lost a key financier in late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi and is working on ways to become financially independent.

– Chad takes helm –

The 28th African Union summit began with the swift election of Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, 56, as the new chairperson of the AU Commission, beating four other candidates.

Faki won in a final battle against his Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed after seven rounds of voting, the Kenyan government said in a statement.

Faki, a former prime minister, has been at the forefront of the fight against Islamists in Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel and has promised “development and security” will be top of his agenda as chief of the 54-member continental bloc.

Meanwhile Algerian diplomat Smail Chergui was re-elected to the key post of peace and security commissioner.

Faki takes over from South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who is credited with advancing women’s issues and moulding the ambitious Agenda 2063, but is seen to have dropped the ball on peace and security.

– ‘Turbulent times’ –

The choice of a new leader is crucial for the future of a bloc which is undergoing deep introspection on how to reform to become more relevant and better respond to crises on the continent.


Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame criticised “chronic failure to see through African Union decisions (which) had resulted in a crisis of implementation and a perception that the AU was not relevant to Africans”.

Tasked with leading the reforms, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame delivered a “biting” report to heads of state on Sunday, according to a statement from the Kenyan government.

He criticised “chronic failure to see through African Union decisions (which) had resulted in a crisis of implementation and a perception that the AU was not relevant to Africans”.

Kagame also slammed “over-dependence on (donor) funding” which accounts from 70 percent of the AU budget, according to the Institute for Security Studies.

The AU is also grappling with its relationship with US President Donald Trump’s administration, sounding the alarm over an immigration ban affecting three African nations.

“The very country (where) our people were taken as slaves… has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries,” outgoing AU Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told some 37 heads of state and leaders from across the continent.

“It is clear that globally we are entering very turbulent times,” she added.

AU To Mull Divisive Morocco Bid To Rejoin Bloc

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 12:59

New Vision Ug

The African Union will mull a divisive bid by Morocco to rejoin the bloc at a summit next week where stagnating South Sudan peace efforts will also top the agenda.

The AU’s 54 member states will gather in Addis Ababa on Monday for a packed two-day meeting in which they will also have to elect a new chairperson — after failing to do so at a summit six months ago.

Analysts say the election is likely to be complicated by fractures over key issues such as membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and whether Morocco should be allowed back in the club.

Morocco quit the bloc 33 years ago in protest at its decision to accept Western Sahara as a member, but announced its intention to rejoin last July. King Mohammed VI has since been criss-crossing the continent lobbying for support.

“Morocco’s economic expansion on the continent is important for it… the AU has become more and more relevant so Morocco realises it cannot drive an agenda on the continent without being in the AU,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a consultant with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Addis Ababa.

‘Not a done deal’

The membership of affluent Morocco could also be a boon for the AU, which lost a key financer in late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi and has long sought financial independence. Currently foreign donors account for some 70 percent of its budget, according to the ISS.

However, Louw-Vaudran highlights that “it is still not a done deal”, with heavyweights such as Algeria and South Africa lobbying hard against the move.

Both have long supported the fight for self-determination by Western Sahara’s Polisario independence movement. Morocco maintains that the former Spanish colony which it annexed in 1975, is an integral part of the kingdom.

“The question now is whether Morocco’s reintegration means Western Sahara will now be excluded. This is where there are very clear divisions in the AU,” said Senegal-based political analyst Gilles Yabi.

Another issue which has divided leaders on the continent is growing anger with the ICC. Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia decided late last year to pull out of the court, claiming it unfairly targets African nations.

Others such as Kenya have threatened to follow suit while Botswana and Senegal have argued in favour of the court.

‘Regional interests’

Fragmented regional interests are likely to make it harder for one of five candidates from Kenya, Senegal, Chad, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea to win a two-thirds majority and be elected chairperson of the AU Commission.

Half the bloc abstained from a vote in July last year with many claiming the candidates suffered from a “lack of stature”.

Kenya’s foreign minister Amina Mohamed, Chad’s former prime minister Moussa Faki Mahamat and Senegal’s veteran diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily are the newcomers and frontrunners in the race.

They are vying to replace South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who is credited with advancing women’s issues, but is seen to have dropped the ball on peace and security.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has been tasked with overhauling a lumbering bloc weighed down by bureaucracy, and is set to present his first report on suggested reforms during the summit.

‘Out of ideas’

As usual several crises on the continent will be on the summit agenda, such as turmoil in Libya, radical Islamism in Mali, Somalia and Nigeria and ongoing political tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the most pressing is the conflict in South Sudan, where ethnic violence continues with no solution in sight. Tens of thousands have died since war broke out in 2013 and more than 3.1 million have been displaced.

A 4,000-strong regional protection force mooted at the last AU summit has been mired in delays and disputes as South Sudan’s government insists the force is no longer needed.

“There hasn’t been a sense of urgency to save lives and get this force up and running. I think it is just South Sudan fatigue, they are out of any ideas of how to solve this,” said Louw-Vaudran.

A new era

The summit comes after several shake-ups on the international stage: the election of US President Donald Trump and a new head of the UN, Antonio Guterres, who will be at the summit.

Louw-Vaudran said even though it wasn’t an official agenda item, the Trump presidency — whose vow to put America first has raised fears of how it will approach its relationship with Africa — will be a hot topic at the summit.

The US is one of the main contributors to the fight against Shabaab in Somalia, and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has already been hit by funding cuts from the EU.

How To Make America’s Robots Great Again

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 05:41

Doug Chayka
Farhad Manjoo

Factories play a central role in President Trump’s parade of American horrors. In his telling, globalization has left our factories “shuttered,” “rusted-out” and “scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.”

Here’s what you might call an alternative fact: American factories still make a lot of stuff. In 2016, the United States hit a manufacturing record, producing more goods than ever. But you don’t hear much gloating about this because manufacturers made all this stuff without a lot of people. Thanks to automation, we now make 85 percent more goods than we did in 1987, but with only two-thirds the number of workers.

This suggests that while Mr. Trump can browbeat manufacturers into staying in America, he can’t force them to hire many people. Instead, companies will most likely invest in lots and lots of robots.

And there’s another wrinkle to this story: The robots won’t be made in America. They might be made in China.

Industrial robots — which come in many shapes and perform a range of factory jobs, from huge, precisely controlled arms used to build cars to graceful machines that package delicate pastries — were invented in the United States. But in the last few years the Chinese government has spent billions to turn China into the world’s robotic wonderland.

In 2013, China became the world’s largest market for industrial robots, according to the International Federation of Robotics, an industry trade group. Now China is working on another big goal: to become the largest producer of robots used for factories, agriculture and a range of other applications.

Robotics industry experts said that goal could be a decade away, but they see few impediments to China’s eventual dominance.

“If you look at the comparisons in investment between China and the U.S., we’re going to lose,” said Henrik Christensen, director of the Contextual Robotics Institute at the University of California, San Diego. “The investments in China are billions and billions. I’m not seeing that investment in the U.S. And without that investment, we are going to lose. No doubt.”

There’s a way to address this problem, but it’s politically perilous: The United States should invest in robots. Mark Cuban, the internet and sports entrepreneur (and Trump nemesis), recently called on the president to offer $100 billion in funding for robotics. Frank Tobe, the publisher and editor of a trade magazine called The Robot Report, said government investment was imperative.

“We better do something, or we’re going to be behind the gun,” he said. “We should be in the robot business, not just users of foreign robots.”

If we don’t, robot scholars said the president’s plans for a resurgence in manufacturing could backfire. Today, we buy a lot of stuff made in China by Chinese people. Tomorrow, we’ll buy stuff made in America — by Chinese robots.

How China learned to love robots is instructive. For years, China’s chief selling point was cheap labor. But over the last couple of decades, its population has gotten older and richer, and its workers’ wages rose faster than the rate of economic growth. Chinese leaders worried that manufacturers would get priced out. In the same way that America lost manufacturing to China, Chinese manufacturers would lose work to India, Vietnam and other developing Asian economies.

So the Chinese did what the Chinese do: They centrally planned a revival. Over a succession of five-year economic plans, the government pushed a series of manufacturing reforms. One of its central ideas is automation. Local governments have offered billions in subsidies for companies to buy and manufacture robots. The government has been especially interested in building robots that can be installed in China’s car factories, which have been criticized for poor workmanship. Robots that build cars would not just save labor costs; the government also believes they would build better cars. In 2014, Xi Jinping, China’s president, called for a “robot revolution.”

Like other centrally planned initiatives, China’s robotics initiatives have not proceeded without trouble. There have been overinvestment and waste, and many Chinese robotics companies aren’t making very good robots.

“Many are low quality, and safety and design standards are really not good,” said Dieter Ernst, a senior fellow at the East-West Center, an organization that aims to improve Asian-American relations. “There are supposedly a bit more than 100 Chinese robot companies. I would say about 50 of these companies may survive.”

But the Chinese government and its companies are persistent. Mr. Ernst expects slow, steady gains in the Chinese robotics industry. And in five to 10 years, he predicts, China’s robot business will be producing industrial robots that are on par with those from Germany and Japan.

Pushing a robotics revival in the United States would be more difficult than in China, where there hasn’t been much outcry from workers over the government’s embrace of automation.

“There is not a public conversation in China about the pluses and minuses of automation,” said Scott Kennedy, a China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They don’t talk about the losers in society from globalization or potential automation.”

In the United States, on the other hand, losing is all we seem to talk about. Mr. Trump rose to power in part because he crystallized a feeling among voters that we have lost our edge to China. He promised to bring jobs back to America. In a hot-take political climate that can’t stomach nuance, an investment in robots would be seen as a betrayal of the manufacturing workers he promised to save.

But that would be a mistake. Mr. Christensen of the University of California, San Diego, pointed out that even the most automated of factories still employ people. To the extent that an investment in robotics might make it easier for companies to build their factories in the United States rather than in China, it might well create new jobs in the United States.

What’s more, America enjoys many advantages in robotics that China lacks. Some of the world’s leading roboticists work at American universities. The United States has a start-up culture that knows how to create big new companies. And America has a head start in the most advanced robotics technologies. For instance, American companies are the leading purveyors of surgical robots, and they are at the forefront of “collaborative robotics,” in which robots can work side by side with humans.

“All of this robotics technology was invented in the U.S., but we basically let other companies take it from us and make it cheaper, and now we’re buying it from them,” Mr. Christensen said. “In some sense, we’re not being very good at making sure we remain competitive in areas that we’re leading.”

And that’s how huge government funding can help, the robot experts said. As in China, an infusion from Mr. Trump could turn some of the most far-out ideas in robotics into a structural advantage for the American economy.

“What we can learn from the Chinese example is that the government plays a nurturing and fostering role for developing the robotics industry,” Mr. Ernst said. “We can do the same. We must do the same.”

Email: farhad.manjoo@nytimes.com; Twitter: @fmanjoo

Step Into A Blue City Of Beauty And Life

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 05:12

The Straits Times

The city of Tangier (above) boasts both the ancient, such as the old walls of the medina (left), and the modern, in the form of new construction projects in the main city district. The city of Tetouan (far left) in northern Morocco and a souk (left)

The town’s water comes from the surrounding mountains and tastes subtly sweet.PHOTOS: GURVEEN KAUR, MOROCCAN TOURISM BOARD

Mountains meet the sea in the Moroccan city of Chefchaouen, where the buildings are painted blue, while history comes alive in Tetouan and modernity sneaks up on Tangier.

I have stepped into an all-blue realm inside Morocco.

The walls, doors and even window grilles of houses in the medina, or ancient quarters, of Chefchaouen are awash in vivid shades of azure, cornflower blue and cyan.

The soothing palette runs across staircases, narrow pathways, central squares and even flower pots.

A few steps ahead is a diminutive figure, cloaked like a wizard, waiting for me, aware that I will get lost in the silent, labyrinthine lanes.

Drenched in blue, Chefchaouen (pronounced shef-sha-wehn) is like a beautiful illusion.

The ancient quarters of Chefchaouen are awash in shades of azure, cyan and cornflower blue.

Yet Chaouen, as the locals call it, has been continuously inhabited since it was founded in 1471.

It has an otherworldly allure, which I also discover in two neighbouring cities, Tetouan and Tangier, during a five-day trip to northern Morocco.

Each town offers a portal into the mysterious past through the medina, a significant microcosm of Moroccan life.

A hop, skip and a jump away from Spain, there might be no iconic Sahara Desert in this part of the African continent, but it is rich in other natural wonders and European influences.

Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, northern Morocco is also home to the Rif Mountains, a gargantuan chain of rolling ranges I encounter each time I travel between the three cities.

My starting point is the luxurious Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay (www.banyantree.com) in Fnideq, a seaside town popular with wealthy Moroccans in the summer – akin to the Hamptons in the United States.

Launched in September last year, the resort is the home-grown Banyan Tree hospitality brand’s first outpost in Africa and Morocco’s first all-pool villa resort where all 92 villas come with a private pool.

Any prior wish to stay in a riad (traditional Moroccan house) for an authentic experience is forgotten the moment I step into my spacious villa. It is an opulent space with Moorish and Andalusian touches paying homage to its surroundings.

The city of Tetouan (above) in northern Morocco and a souk withstalls selling fresh produce and more. PHOTOS: GURVEEN KAUR, MOROCCAN TOURISM BOARD

I try out a hammam or bathhouse experience – a routine among Moroccans who visit public hammams – as part of the resort’s signature Rainforest Indulgence spa treatment, and leave the room feeling cleaner than I have ever been before.

As I lie naked across a marble slab, the sweet-looking masseuse vigorously scrubs every part of my body. I am reduced to being a helpless child who has spent too much time jumping around in mud and is now being purified at the mother of all baths.

From the resort, when we embark on a 11/2-hour drive to Chefchaouen for a day trip, I spy endless rows of palm trees lining the sparkling clean roads.

Security on the roads is tight and we are regularly stopped by the police as the area is in such close proximity to Europe.

There are existing concerns of illegal immigration: Africans have sought to enter Europe through Spain, and Morocco is its closest African neighbour.

Nature is never too far away here. There are many glimpses of the sea as we drive through the Rif Mountains, home to villagers including the Berbers, the original inhabitants of the country from as far back as 4BC.

We come across a pair of Berber women, easily recognisable by the red-striped “fouta” – or piece of cotton cloth worn sarong-style across their waists – as we stop to take photos of the landscape.


We meet our guide for the blue city, Mr Ahmed Achtot, 62, who is wearing a pale yellow djellaba (traditional loose-fitting outer robe with a distinctive conical hood) and a red tarboosh (a hat shaped like a truncated cone with a tassel).

A resident of Chefchaouen all his life, Mr Ahmed takes one look at this city slicker and says the people here live a “pure life”, free of work stress.

Within the medina, its serene residents walk everywhere, including up steep staircases and slopes.

I notice a significant elderly population here as they slowly go about their business, oblivious to curious tourists.


There is no direct flight from Singapore to Tangier, Tetouan or Chefchaouen in northern Morocco.

Fly Qatar Airways (www.qatarairways.com) to the neighbouring Moroccan cities of Casablanca or Marrakech, then transfer to a domestic flight to Tangier or Tetouan. Chefchaouen does not have an airport.

Alternatively, after flying to the airports of Casablanca or Marrakech, catch a train, taxi or bus to the three northern cities.


The resort Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay (www.banyantree.com/en/em-morocco-tamouda-bay) is located less than two hours by car from Tangier, Tetouan or Chefchaouen.

It can organise tours to this trio of cities plus the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. It also arranges recreational activities such as scuba diving, biking and crafts for children at its Kids Club.

Banyan Tree, which opened in September last year, has 92 luxury villas with a private pool each. Villa rates start at 4,260 Moroccan dirham (S$604) for the Bliss Pool Villa, which has a king-size bed and a spacious living room.


• The best time to visit the northern part of Morocco is spring (mid-March to May) and autumn (September to October).

Try to avoid summer as that is when Europeans travel to Morocco and the locals also head to the cooler north.

• Money-changers in Singapore do not supply Moroccan dirham so it is best to convert Singapore dollars into US dollars, euro or British pounds, which can be exchanged for dirham when you arrive in Morocco. Cash is the preferred method of payment across the country. Before leaving Morocco, exchange remaining dirham for US dollars, euros or pounds.

• Unlike in Tangier, the residents of Tetouan and Chefchaouen dress conservatively. Female travellers are advised to wear loose clothing that are not too revealing and to carry along a scarf, in case there is a need to cover up further.


The cuisine of northern Morocco is hearty and bursting with flavour. A traditional meal is well-balanced, with healthy portions of vegetables and meats or seafood dressed with a blend of aromatic spices.

Moroccan mint tea
Upon touching down, travellers will love a cup of soothing Moroccan mint tea. Made with green tea and mint leaves, it can be drunk at all hours of the day and is a good accompaniment with meals to aid digestion. It is customarily served in an elegant Moroccan metal teapot.

This refers to both the distinctive cone-shaped casserole dish and the food that is prepared in it – a hearty slow-cooked stew.

The tagine dish has meat or fish and vegetables, all beautifully marinated in fragrant spices such as saffron, turmeric and paprika. The stew either sits atop a bed of fluffy cous cous – another Moroccan staple – or is served with Moroccan flat bread.

Make sure to mop up the remnants of the sauce at the bottom of the pan. That is where the most intense flavours lie.

Pastilla or b’stilla
Considered the north African nation’s version of a meat pie, the savoury flavours of the meat intermingle with the sweet dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon on the flaky filo pastry.

Pigeon meat is typically used, but chicken is a popular alternative. Along with the meat, the pastry is stuffed with almonds and onions.

Pair the main course with zaalouk, a refreshing, summery salad of Mediterranean flavours: eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spices. It can be served hot or cold and is best scooped up with slices of flat bread.

I ask Mr Ahmed about the origin of the town’s colour and he says it is to keep flies away; the insects dislike clear, flowing water, which is how the blue-washed walls here presumably appear to them.

Not the most poetic answer, but after I do my own research online, I discover that there are other explanations too. One theory is that the idea came from the Jewish community, which had settled there in the 1930s. The colour mirrors the sky, with its allusion to divinity, hence bringing the Jews closer to God.

Look upwards and the top floors of buildings are in white, however, as the residents do not have ladders tall enough to reach that high.

I discover a hole-in-the-wall bakery where women send their kneaded dough daily to bloom into fluffy Moroccan flat bread that is eaten at almost every meal.

The town is a good place to look for souvenirs such as exquisite handwoven Berber rugs and straw hats adorned with colourful pom- poms.

The air is comfortably cool within the medina and the water is from the surrounding mountains. I drink straight from a hose randomly perched on a ledge and the water is subtly sweet.

As we prepare to depart, I notice an elderly man staring off into space with a smile. Surrounded by such beauty, I would be content too.


We move from blue to pristine white in Tetouan, a bigger city with more of a Moorish charm.

Early Berber dynasties and the Andalusians battled for control of Tetouan as it was destroyed and rebuilt before it became the capital of the Spanish protectorate of Morocco from 1912 to 1956.

What has emerged is a harmonious relationship among the Muslims, the biggest religious group in Morocco, and the Jews and Christians here.

Though the Jewish and Christian communities are minute today, there are still traces of them in Tetouan.

Look out for the stately Iglesia de Bacturia, the sole surviving Roman Catholic church built in 1926.

The streets are unmistakably busier in Tetouan than in Chefchaouen as we manoeuvre through the hectic roads to meet our guide Rashid, who is accompanied by a muscular and stoic man who does not say a word.

I learn that he is part of the tourist police force. I wonder if this is necessary as I have not been feeling unsafe – the Moroccan people I have met are courteous. But the locals must know better.

Along the way, I notice that the cafes lining the streets are packed with only men – no women – seated outdoors with their chairs arranged such that they face the road, an echo of European sidewalk cafes.

I feel watched and question Amine, the resort’s recreation supervisor who accompanies me on all day trips. He jests that they are there “to ogle at the ladies”.

We head into an important portal to Tetouan’s past – the medina, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Filled with twisting alleyways with no end in sight, I am thankful for Rashid’s presence. One wrong turn and I will probably still be finding my way out.

Mountains of fruit and vegetables are placed on mats on the ground and piles of Moroccan bread greet me as we enter the souk or open-air marketplace. It is a cacophony of bargaining, heckling and chatter.

I gleefully spot a stall selling tagines, the conical earthernware pots in which Morocco’s most popular dish of the same name is stewed. A trip to Morocco would not be complete without a customary photo of these distinctive vessels.

There is plenty more to see as there are souks centred on non- food products too.

In one, locals peddle pre-loved items that range from wind-up toys to pagers.

At the back of a tannery that dates to the late 15th and early 16th centuries in the medina, Rashid points to three cemeteries in the distance. Each is linked to a different religion – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – and it is a poignant reminder that Muslim-dominated lands have tried to live harmoniously with minorities.


My final stop in northern Morocco is Tangier, an up-and-coming port city where Africa’s first high-speed rail is being built.

Fought over by the Moroccans, British, French, Portuguese and Spanish, Tangier has a chequered past.

A popular getaway for artists and writers such as Matisse and Truman Capote in the early to mid-20th century, the appeal of this rising city lies in its contrasts of old and new.

Cranes sprout high in the sky and, in the main city district, most Moroccans are dressed in Western clothes.

We first make a pit stop at one of the most popular attractions in Tangier, the Caves of Hercules, located about 14km outside the city.

The forces of nature have carved an opening in the cave that looks like the map of Africa. A wondrous sight, but perhaps not worth the detour if you have only a day in the city.

Do look out, however, for the camels resting incongruously on the beach. It may not be the Sahara Desert, but where else will one get to ride a grumpy camel by the Atlantic Ocean?

After checking the camel ride off my bucket list, we make our way to the old walled city of Tangier, with its quiet cobbled lanes and architecture with touches of European influence.

There are plenty of physical reminders of the past here as I regard the weathered bricks and peeled paint and imagine the city’s storied past.

I meekly interrupt a group of boys playing marbles as I walk between them. A few hundred metres ahead, we encounter another group of older teenage boys listening to the latest Justin Bieber hit on a smartphone.

A jolt to my senses, the contemporary song is out of sync with this ancient enclave.

Yet, this odd modern moment is of minor consequence in a country where remnants of the past are so treasured.

•The writer’s trip was hosted by Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts and Qatar Airways.

Moroccan Wheat Imports To Be Even Bigger Than Thought

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 22:19

by William Clarke

Morroco’s record wheat imports will be even bigger than previously thought, US officials said, responding to recent tender activity.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Rabat bureau lifted its forecast of 2016-17 wheat imports by 500,000 tonnes, to 5.5m tonnes.

“This change is based on increasing import demand as a result of tightening stocks and the results of the most recent tender,” the bureau said.

Tight stocks

Wheat production in Morocco plunged to a nine-year low last year, pushing imports to record levels.

Stocks have tightened dramatically, with heavy imports needed before the next harvest, which may be delayed due to slow plantings.

“As of January 1, 2017, Morocco estimates its total stock of common wheat at 150,000 tonnes, durum wheat at 60,000 tonnes, and barley at 100,000 tonnes,” the bureau said.

“According to the trade, these stocks will cover domestic demand only through the end of February, and consequently, imports are expected to increase.”

Tariff-free licences issued

Last week Moroccan grains agency awarded licences to import 390,000 tonnes of soft wheat from the European Union at a preferential tariff rate, as part of a tender process.

The volume was up from the 363,636 tonnes of licences indicated as available in the tender when it was announced last month.

The agency also last week announced 359,998 tonnes for reduced tariffs shipments from the US, in separate tender process.

Delayed crop

And the current Moroccan wheat crop has been delayed.

“The 2017-18 season started very late, due to rain delays and some areas sowing did not finish until the end of December 2016,” said the bureau.

The Moroccan agriculture minister last week saw wheat and barley plantings at a combined 4.8m hectares.

Total wheat and barley harvest area was 3.2m hectares last season, according to USDA figures.

Morocco, Turning Point In Western Sahara Case, Hearing Today

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 17:13


Trial reopens and goes to ordinary court from military tribunal.

An appeals court in Rabat is starting to examine the case of Gdeim Izik, a bloody event connected to the disputed Western Sahara. For the first time, a case so far examined by military tribunals will be tried by an ordinary court.

The case is highly controversial in Morocco’s political scenario with its indigenous Saharawi people pushing for self-determination and a call for controlled autonomy from the Palace. A former Spanish colony, the area was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then it has been at the center of a long-running territorial dispute between Morocco and the Saharawi, led by the Polisario Front.

The case dates back to 2010, when 11 Moroccan officers were killed during operations to clear a camp in Gdeim Izik, set up in protest a few kilometers from Laayoune, in the disputed Sahara.

In 2013, 25 defendants were sentenced to jail terms ranging between 20 years and life. Two defendants were set free, one was released from prison due to poor health while another was tried in absentia. Twenty one are currently in prison.

The case will be handled by an appeals court after a law was approved, banning military tribunals from dealing with cases that concern civilians. The legislation will also enable the families of victims to be plaintiffs in the case and rid the trial of any ambiguity that can be part of military sentences.

As of Monday, Morocco will be able to shed light on the case by hearing witnesses testifying and the defendants’ version of events with both State attorneys and the defense contributing to define the responsibilities of the two sides. (ANSAmed)

The World’s Oldest Library Gets A 21st Century Face Lift

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 08:00

The Daily Trust ng

The al-Qarawiyyin Library has long been a source of fascination for residents in Fez, Morocco, as few of them have ever passed through its doors. Opened in 859, it is thought to be the world’s oldest library, and the maze of rooms were closed off to all but a few scholars and students of the university where it was housed.

“We knew where it was more or less, but could not enter. It was this big, mysterious place,” recalls Aziza Chaouni, a Fez native and the architect who has overseen al-Qarawiyyin’s restoration. “I had no idea what lay behind its gigantic iron doors.”

In 2012, a woman from Morocco’s Ministry of Culture contacted Chaouni for an assessment. When the Toronto-based architect and engineer stepped inside the building, however, she was shocked to discover it was rotting.

“It was exquisite, but it was in a very bad state,” she recalls. Over the centuries, rain water poured off the roof of the neighboring mosque and infiltrated the library. After excavating, Chaouni discovered what she described as a river running underneath the floors. To rescue the structure from further damage, she built an underground canal system to lead the water into the sewer.

“When you have books and water, it’s a horrible recipe,” she says.

Though the structural changes were, she admits, a major undertaking, they pale in comparison to the work she’s done to bring the 9th century complex into the 21st century. Making it modern, and making it open to the public — and not just to researchers — are the cornerstone of Chaouni’s vision for al-Qarawiyyin.

Chaouni added a new lab to treat, preserve and digitize some of the oldest texts, which include a ninth-century Quran, written in Kufic (the oldest form of Arabic calligraphy) on camel skin. State-of-the-art machinery can mend holes in ancient paper rolls, and prevent cracks in ancient scrolls.

“Hopefully, by digitizing, we can make some of these manuscripts available online, and spread the knowledge way beyond Fez and Morocco,” she says. Though the library isn’t yet open to the public, it is expected to be in 2017.

Secret rooms

In a way, the library’s interior had an added allure for Chaouni, who grew up hearing family stories about her great grandfather, who to Fez from his village on a donkey to study at the illustrious university, and who spent many hours studying in the reading room at al-Qarawiyyin Library. What she hadn’t anticipated was the many secret nooks that lay behind boarded up walls and doors.

“We were always discovering things as we were ripping out walls,” she says. One standout discovery for her was a hidden room that had a 12th century cupola made with intricate lattice wood.

“It was this extremely refined and unusual type of roof that was hidden away,” she recalls. “It’s typical of the element of surprise you fine in Fez. You’ll have these narrow streets and find a small door that enters into an amazing courtyard.”

Women’s work

Chaouni is the latest is a line of women that have shaped the library’s history. The library was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy Tunisian merchant (she also founded the Qarawiyyin Mosque and Qarawiyyin University).

Chaouni also believes that her own role in restoring the library was made possible by the fact it was a woman at the Ministry of Culture that reached out to her.

“I was lucky that it was a lady from the Ministry who heard of me. If it was a man, he probably would have hired another man, one of his friends.”

She is quick to point out that though her gender presented challenges, they weren’t unique to Morocco.

“As a woman in Toronto, I still have to work twice as hard in a technical field to make myself heard. Sure, this gender-thing exists in Morocco, but it’s still changed immensely from when I was a young girl and the time of my mother.”

In the end, though, it was worth it to Chaouni to bring the library back to its former glory, and to make it accessible to the public for the first time.

“It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of,” she says. “The heritage needs to live. It can’t be thought of as this mummy we need to preserve.”

Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/feature/the-world-s-oldest-library-gets-a-21st-century-face-lift/181901.html#t2SLHIHMdakQHxXc.99

GSE To Sign MoU With Casablanca Stock Exchange

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 05:28

Graphic.com gh

The Ghana Stock Exchange has initiated moves to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Casablanca Stock Exchange to ensure traders on both exchange get access to each other’s market.

The MoU will also allow the sharing of information and communication and the exchange of updates on rules and regulations between the two markets.

Under the MoU, brokers in both countries would be taken through professional training programmes to deepen their professional development.

The Managing Director of the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE), Mr Kofi Yamoah, speaking to the media after receiving a delegation from the Casablanca Stock Exchange, said he was convinced the move would help both exchanges to develop better.

He said the signing of the MoU would also allow companies in Ghana to list on the Casablanca Stock Exchange and vice versa.

The Kingdom of Morocco has sent a large delegation to Ghana for bilateral trade talks and Mr Yamoah said the GSE would, therefore, seize the opportunity to sign the MoU which had been under discussion for months.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), Mr Karim Hajji, said the MoU was necessary because the CSE wanted to ensure a seamless transaction between the two countries.

“We want to provide the opportunity to share experiences between the two markets,” he stated.

“The CSE is already partners in the African Securities Exchange Association and also part of the West African Capital Integration Council as an associate member. The goal of these partnerships is to deepen the collaboration between Morocco and other African countries,” he added.


The West African Capital Markets Integration Council (WACMIC) is in the process of creating the second-largest exchange in Africa after the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

WACMIC is made up stock exchanges from Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Cote d’ Ivoire, with Morocco joining as an associate member.

The council intends to set up a common platform for cross-border listing and trading in West Africa to create broader and deeper liquidity across the region.

Mr Yamoah said the regulators and the exchanges have met and are ready to roll out the plan.

“The start of this will, however, depend on what each issuer will have to compromise. We have met as far as the exchanges are concerned and the association of regulators has also met and it is now left with the dealers to decide,” he stated.

Morocco Deepens Diplomatic Relationship With Ghana

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 04:47

News Ghana
By: Yaba Yara

The long standing mutual cooperation between the Tijajiyya Musllim Council of Ghana and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco was reenergised on Tuesday. This was made possible when the Spiritual Leader of the council led delegation to pay a courtesy call on the ambassador.

Sheikh Abul- Faidi Abdulai Ahmad Maikano expresses his gratitude to the ambassador for having time out of his busy schedule to interact with his delegation.

He praised the long standing relationship existing between the two entities. It is the prayer of Sheikh Khalifa that the coming of the new ambassador will add more value to the benefit of Islam and Tijaniya. On his part Ambassador His Excellency Mr Hamid Chabar. Deputy Head of mission.

Mr Rachid Ismaili and his counsellor of Forgein Affairs commended the great work the Council is doing for Islam and Tariqa Tijaniya and promised to work hand in hand in complimenting her effort. In another development the Tijaniyya Muslim Council of Ghana delegation under the leadership of his eminence Sheikh Khalifa was at the Iran embassy in Accra to console the family, government and the good people of Islamic Republic of Iran.

The sipirtual Leader gave a short history of the deceased in which he mentioned Former President Hashmi Rafsanjani as an out spoken personality and a man of substance whose outstanding contribution to Iran cannot be measured. He prayed for the departed soul of the great leader and later signed the book of condolence. Ambassador Mr Nosratollah Maleki made mentioned of some facilities and projects they have in the country including the Iran clinic, Islamic University among others.

He assured the council of his support to strengthen the mutual relationship.

By: Yaba Yara

Morocco To Add 4 GW Of Wind, Solar Capacity By 2020

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 04:38


The rising star of Morocco’s renewable energy market.

When it comes to clean energy projects in developing countries, Morocco stands out big time with a bold target of sourcing more than half of its electrical energy from renewable sources by 2030 and a firm plan to have 2,000 MW of wind and 2,000 MW of solar power plants by 2020.

The North African kingdom, which hosted in Marrakesh COP 22, the 2016 UN climate change conference, already has а pretty detailed plan as to how it will transform the country’s energy mix.


Noor Ouarzazate

In February 2016, Morocco was all over the news with the official launch of the 160-MW first phase of its giant 580 MW Noor solar project near the trading city of Ouarzazate.

The Noor I plant has covered 480 hectares of land with 500,000 thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs. These twelve-metre-high, crescent-shaped solar mirrors are coupled with three hours of energy storage capability and their annual output of about 500 GWh of solar power is estimated to supply the needs of over 500,000 local households.

Moroccan media valued the overall investment for this first phase at between MAD 6.3 billion (USD 652m/EUR 577m) and MAD 8 billion (USD 826m/EUR 734m), while the contracted power purchase price is MAD 1.6 (USD 0.159/EUR 0.150) per kWh.

The EUR-810-million second phase Noor II will also use thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs which will spread over an area of 680 hectares. The plant will have a nameplate capacity of 200 MW, coupled with seven hours of energy storage capability. It will sell its electricity output at MAD 1.36 per kWh.

The third phase — Noor III, will spread on an area of 750 hectares. It will have an installed capacity of 150 MW but it will employ a different CSP technology — a central tower with salt receivers, plus seven to eight hours of energy storage capability. This installation will sell power at MAD 1.42 per kWh while construction costs have been estimated at EUR 645 million.

The last phase of the complex — Noor IV, will be developed on a surface of 210 hectares with photovoltaic (PV) technology. It will have a capacity of 70 MW.

A consortium led by Saudi Arabia power and water project developer ACWA Power has been selected to develop all four phases of the project.

The launch of construction works for the second and third phase of the mega project took place immediately after the inauguration of the first. Both phases are expected to start producing electricity in 2018.

The contract for the 70-MW fourth phase was awarded to ACWA Power in November 2016, along with the contracts for 100 MW of two other PV projects. ACWA Power submitted the lowest tariff price for the project at MAD 0.46/kWh or USD 0.048/kWh. The company then said it plans to start construction in the first quarter of 2017 and complete the work within 12 months.

When fully completed, the Noor Ouarzazate complex will be the world’s largest multi-technology solar power plant with 580 MW of nameplate capacity and an overall investment of more than MAD 24 billion.

But it is the project’s funding model has been singled out as one of Morocco’s key achievements.

The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (Masen) was able to use funds borrowed by the government from multilateral agencies and banks and then lend the money on to the project company. Masen had the lead role of organising the invitations to tender for the plants at each of the five sites. It also acted as a consolidator of concessional loans provided by the Clean Technology Fund, African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the European Investment Bank (EIB), thus reducing the cost of capital for developers, and lowering the overall cost of energy generated. The Noor Ouarzazate funding and development model could work as a template for future renewable projects.

The Noor solar power programme of the kingdom kicked off in 2010 with projects to be sited near five major cities: Ouarzazate, Laayoune, Boujdour, Midelt and Tata.

After a restructuring last year, Masen has officially taken the lead for the development of all renewable energy technologies. Over a transitional period of five years Moroccan electricity and water utility company ONEE will gradually transfer to Masen all properties, including real estate, as well as contracts and employees related to renewable energy generation.

Meanwhile, ONEE is implementing its own solar power programme for 500 MW by 2020, including three large projects – the 120 MW Noor-Tafilalet, the 200 MW Noor-Atlas and the 100 MW Noor Argana.

ONEE-lead projects

Noor Tafilalt

The Noor Tafilalt (or Noor Tafilalet as the tender is also known) was announced in July 2015, initially with a capacity of 75 MWp. ONEE later decided to raise the overall capacity to 120 MWp, comprising three PV power plant projects, each with a nameplate capacity of 40 MWp, to be build in Arfoud, Missour and Zagora in the southeastern part of the country.

In November 2016, the utility named 11 pre-qualified bidders – five companies and six consortia, including Greek Aktor SA; Chinese-South Korea partnership Chint/ KT Corporation; another Chinese consortium CNTIC/Yingly; a consortium of Portuguese Efacec and Moroccan Energy Transfo; a consortium including US First Solar, Italian Belectric and Moroccan Cegelec; a consortium of Spanish Inabensa, its Moroccan unit Inabensa Maroc and Endesa Ingeneria; Chinese Sepco III; a consortium of Swiss based Sunpower Systems Sarl and Moroccan Temasol; Italian Ternienergia Spa; and a consortium of Spanish TSK and French Gensun.

The projects will be built under turnkey contracts with an additional contract for operation and maintenance over five years. Commissioning is scheduled for 2018.

Financing will be provided by the World Bank. The latter has previously said it will extend a USD-125-million loan to ONEE, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and another USD-23.95-million loan through the Clean Technology Fund.

Pre-qualification tenders for two other PV power plants of 200 MW each — Noor Atlas and Noor Argana, should be launched over the course of the current year.

Noor Atlas

According to the initially announced design, Noor-Atlas will comprise eight photovoltaic (PV) plants of 10 MW to 30 MW each. Three of the PV plants will be sited near Tata, Tahla (Bouizakarne) and Tan Tan, in the southern part of the country, and five solar farms will be located to the east at Outat El Haj, Ain Beni Mathar, Boudnib, Bouanane and Boulmane (Enjil).

The overall investment for Noor-Atlas is estimated at EUR 300 million, which will be partially financed through German KfW and the EIB, as well as by a contribution from the European Commission.

Noor Argana

Noor Argana’s capacity will range from 200 MW to 225 MW, including areas around Tensift, Errhamna, Chichaoua and Boumalne in western Morocco, according to information by Moroccan daily Le Matin, published in July 2016.

The daily then said ONEE was negotiating with three European financing institutions to help foot the bill for the project whose price tag now stands at EUR 350 million. These are German government-owned development bank KfW, the EIB and France’s Agence francaise de developpement (AFD).

MASEN-lead projects

Noor Laayoune and Noor Boujdour

In November 2016, MASEN awarded a 20-year build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) agreement to ACWA Power for an 80-MW PV project Laayoune, and another 20-MW PV project in Boujdour.

The projects in Boujdour and Laayoune will use polycrystalline solar panels mounted on a single-axis tracking system. Financing for both of them will come from a green bond issue that Masen announced in the autumn.

At the COP22 meeting in November, Masen also said it would open the bidding for two 400 MW combined PV and CSP plants in early 2017.

The agency has already launched a call for expression of interest for the development of 400 MW at the Noor Midelt solar power complex in July 2016. The shortlisted candidates should be announced in the first half of 2017.

By design, about 3,000 hectares, some 25 kilometres to the northeast of Midelt, have been zoned for the installation of PV or CSP plants. The installed CSP capacity will range between 150 and 190 MW per power plant with a minimum of 5 hours storage capacity, according to the pre-qualification documents.

Since Morocco has raised its renewable energy target from 42% by 2020 to 52% by 2030, Masen has started talks to arrange financing for the development of 800 MW solar power in the Noor Midelt and 800 MW more at another complex called Noor Tata.


In terms of wind power development, Morocco enjoys quite favourable wind resource patterns, both in the northern part of the country near Tanger and to the west where certain regions benefit from regular trade winds.

For example, the 300-MW Tarfaya wind farm, developed by Tarec (Trarfaya Energy Company), a 50/50 joint venture of Nareva Holding and International Power Ltd of Engie Group, enjoys a load factor of 45%, one of the best in the world for onshore wind.

In 2010, the kingdom launched the development of 1,000 MW of wind power in two phases. The first phase — a 150 MW wind farm in Taza was awarded to a consortium of French EDF Energies Nouvelle and Japanese Mitsui in 2012. It is slated for completion this year.

Last year, Morocco awarded the second, 850-MW phase via a tender to Italy’s Enel Green Power SpA (BIT:EGPW), in consortium with Moroccan Nareva Holding and Siemens Wind Power AS. The consortium will build five projects — the 150 MW Tanger 2 in the northern part of the country, 300 MW at Tiskrad, Laayoune, 200 MW at Jbel Lahdid, Essaouira, 100 MW near Boujdour, and 100 MW at Midelt, some 400 km east of Casablanca.

The tender hаs attracted bids of about MAD 300 (USD 30/EUR 28) per MWh on average.

All wind farms will be developed under public private partnership and structured under the build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) scheme. Commissioning of the tender projects is expected between 2017 and 2020.


Wind power could be a major contributor in the electricity sector of Morocco. According to data presented by minister Amara in Madrid in 2015, the country’s onshore potential is estimated at 25 GW, of which 6 GW could be installed by 2030. The average wind speed is 5.3 metres per second (m/s) at more than 90% of the country’s territory, according to the wind atlas, developed by the Moroccan Renewable Energy Development Center (CDER). The Tanger and Tetouan region (North of Morocco) measured particularly high at 8 to 11 m/s, and 7 to 8.5 m/s were recorded for Dakhla, Tarfaya, Taza and Essaouira.

The wind sector has also attracted most of the private initiative for renewable energy development in Morocco under the 13/09 law that allows private producers to sell electricity directly to clients connected to the high voltage and medium voltage grid, mainly industrial companies.

According to data from Morocco’s energy ministry, a total of 220 MW of private wind energy projects have been built until the end of 2016.

Another 120 MW are to go online soon at the Khalladi wind farm in the vicinity of Tangiers, northern Morocco. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur (BMCE) have announced they will provide a financing package of EUR 126 million (USD 133.3m) for the development of the project.

Khalladi will be the EBRD’s and BMCE’s first renewable project relying on commercial offtake agreements and not on any state support.

In July 2016, developer ACWA Power Khalladi has confirmed final orders to suppliers and contractors. and Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S (CPH:VWS) confirmed in August it signed a firm and unconditional order to supply 40 units of its V90-3.0 MW wind turbines for the project.

At the close of 2016, Moroccan energy group Nareva, a subsidiary of the royal holding company Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), announced it is starting work on a EUR-400-million wind farm, its fifth as an independent power producer (IPP).

The 201.6 MW project named Aftissat is located south of Boujdour, a town near Western Sahara where trade winds are strong. It is being developed by Energie Eolien du Maroc (EEM), a company in which Nareva holds 75% and the remaining 25% are owned by Moroccan pension fund Caisse Interprofessionnelle Marocaine de Retraites (CIMR).

The cost of development has been estimated at MAD 4 billion, approximately EUR 370 million, which will be financed with own funds and with a loan provided by Moroccan banks Attijariwafa bank and Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP).

A 400-kV high-voltage power line will be built to connect the future wind farm to the national grid at Laayoune.

Commissioning is planned for December 2018.

Mariyana Yaneva
Published Jan 21, 2017 18:56 CEST
Share this story

Morocco’s Riad Hotels: Private Palaces For Travelers

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 18:30

By Sharon McDonnell and Maureen O’Hare, CNN

A number of Morocco’s riads (traditional courtyard houses) have been transformed into incredible boutique hotels in recent years, giving travelers a cultural and luxurious experience that was once off-limits.

A classic riad is built around a central courtyard with a garden and fountain.

The interior often features lavish ornamentation — glazed ceramic tiles (zellij) in colorful geometric patterns on walls and floors, carved pierced white stucco work, painted wooden ceilings (zouakt) and shiny polished plaster walls (tadelakt).

“There is extraordinary diversity among Marrakech riads, whose aesthetics range from the ornate flourishes of traditional Moroccan style to ultra-modern interiors that wouldn’t look out of place in a New York City loft,” says Cyrus Bozorgmehr, a Briton who manages several riads in Marrakech.

“With owners living as far afield as Italy, Tahiti and the United States, each brings their own vision — so each riad has a unique identity, infused with the personality and history of the person behind it and their relationship with Morocco,” adds Bozorgmehr.

El Fenn

El Fenn: A respite from the hectic outside world.

El Fenn, or “home of art,” was opened in 2004 by Vanessa Branson, sister of British entrepreneur Richard Branson.

As is fitting for a hotel owned by the founder of the Marrakech Biennale, it’s both a high-end hotel and a museum of contemporary art.

Says General Manager Willem Smit, “She’s a collector and used to have a gallery in London, so it’s very much about art. It connects all the things that we are about and that makes us stand out, I think.”

Behind an unassuming door in the Marrakech medina lies a 22-room property dotted with three inner courtyards.

After the frenetic world of the medina outside, Smit says, you’re greeted with “quietness and the birds chirping and singing, and then all these colors.”

“I remember the first time walking in here that it was one big surprise. And after every corner there was something to see and a whole new experience.”

El Fenn; Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, 2, Marrakech 40000, Morocco; +212 5244-41210; from $213
Riad de Tarabel

A few streets away from El Fenn is the Riad de Tarabel, an elegant oasis in a French colonial-style mansion.

It’s owned by French aristocratic couple Leonard Degoy and Rose Marie Fournier.

The mansion is decorated in muted shades of olive and cream and dotted with family heirlooms and bamboo and rattan furniture.

There are just 10 rooms, including three suites, along with a heated courtyard pool and a rooftop plunge pool.

Riad de Tarabel; 8, Derb Sraghna, Quartier Dar El Bacha, Marrakech Medina, Morocco; +212 (0)5 24 39 17 06; from $203

Royal Mansour Marrakech

Le Jardin is the newest addition to the Royal Mansour property.

When the King of Morocco decided to open the Royal Mansour Marrakech hotel in 2010 as the last word in opulence, he chose to build 53 brand new riads.

Each is a three-story, one- to four-bedroom jewel box, furnished in a riot of ornate zellij, carved stucco and wooden screens, painted wooden ceilings, silks and brocades in spare-no-expense fashion, with a private courtyard and roof terrace with pool and fireplace.

Giving riads the ultimate luxury twist, the recently opened Le Jardin adds 1.5 hectares of landscaped gardens, a swimming pool and a new restaurant from three-Michelin-star Paris chef Yannick Alleno, to add to the three there already.

The new dining spot serves Asian-influenced cuisine, while guests can enjoy Moroccan, gourmet French and Mediterranean food at the others.

There are also a 2,500-square-meter spa with 13 treatment rooms, two hammams, indoor pool, gym and Pilates studio, a library with a telescope for stargazing through a retractable roof and 24-hour room service and private butlers, who travel by underground tunnels for privacy.

Guests receive stationery with their names lettered in gold.

Five-meter-high walls surround the faux medina surrounding the Royal Mansour, a short walk from the Djemaa El Fna, the raucous square alive with snake charmers, magicians, potion, food and drink peddlers and storytellers at night.

CEOs and political leaders have stayed in its biggest riad, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom Riad d’Honneur, which sprawls over 1,800 square meters.

Royal Mansour, Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti, Marrakech; +212 529 80 80 80; from around $1,100
Riad Jaaneman

Riad Jaaneman: Marble bathrooms and art deco furnishings.

Opened in 2014, Riad Jaaneman juxtaposes Italian contemporary style, art deco furnishings, marble bathrooms, iPod docks and Boffi bathroom fixtures with Moroccan-patterned headboards and tadelakt walls.

In the five-suite riad’s Partenope suite, green marble from South America, track lighting and ebony tadelakt walls adorn the bathroom.

Dark brown Emperador marble from Spain and tobacco-colored tadelakt walls decorate the bathroom in another suite; the bedroom is decorated with African artifacts and has two walk-in dressing rooms.

An outdoor pool and hammam (traditional steam bath) are here, and riad staff organize day trips to the Atlas Mountains, skiing, cooking classes and yoga.

Owner Leonardo Giangreco, an Italian-born former investment banker in London, left finance in 2010 to “reinvent myself.”

He bought the riad in 2003 to live in, spent two years restoring it and plans to display part of his contemporary art collection here.

Riad Jaaneman, 12 Derb Sraghna, Dar El Bacha, Marrakech; +212 524 44 13 23; from $187
Riad El Amine

In contrast to Riad Jaaneman, Riad El Amine in Fez boasts traditional Moroccan craftsmanship.

It has two courtyards.

One features zellij-adorned columns flanking an aqua-tiled reflecting pool.

A second with a fountain strewn with rose petals in a nine-pointed star-shaped niche and geometric-patterned ceramic tiles.

One of the 11-room riad’s eight suites features a lavender-curtained four-poster bed with silk purple and gold pillows. Others have colored-glass arched windows.

Its owner, a Moroccan travel agent, purchased two riads in 2004 and had new tile and stucco work handmade to mimic the old.

“It was the restorations of these ancient courtyard houses — mostly by expats — that really saved the ancient poverty-stricken medinas from falling into complete disuse and slums,” says Joel A. Zack, president of Heritage Tours Private Travel in New York, which custom designs tours to Morocco.

“Fifteen years ago, they were very different places. It’s the perfect example of adaptive reuse that saved an entire historic quarter, and helped grow economy and tourism significantly.”

Riad El Amine, 94, 96 Bab Jdid, Bouajjara, Fez, +212 535 74 07 49; from $62
Riad Maison Arabe

Each suite at La Maison Arabe is uniquely furnished.

The city’s first riad hotel was La Maison Arabe, a 26-room riad with a renowned Moroccan cooking school, which opened in 1997.

Marrakech’s first expatriate riad owner is believed to be oil heir J. Paul Getty Jr., who bought a deteriorated riad in the late 1960s and hired Bill Willis, an American interior designer, to decorate it.

The designer’s own Marrakech riad, an ultra-flamboyant Arabian Nights-style fantasy where he entertained guests such as the Rolling Stones and William S. Burroughs, has appeared in “Architectural Digest” and other design magazines.

Willis, who became the designer of choice for jet set Marrakech expats from Yves Saint Laurent to Fiat heiress Marella Agnelli, helped catapult Moroccan interior design to international attention.

“For those who truly want to experience authenticity, the right riad can be an amazing experience,” says Joel Zack of Heritage Tours Private Travel.

“Most do not offer the amenities of a full hotel, but they are gorgeous, each room is different, and they offer a magic and a sense of being in Morocco and its hospitality that is absolutely unbeatable.”

Discover creative Marrakech

Riads have no windows facing the street — all face the courtyard. Entryways are often plain doors on a blank wall in a tiny alley in the medina.

These unremarkable exteriors offer absolutely no clue to the wonders within.

“You see the look of terror on their faces when guests often first arrive at a riad, at a sometimes unmarked door in a dark alley,” says Bozorgmehr.

“They don’t know if they’ll ever find their way back, until they get into their comfort zone. It’s the Islamic way — no ostentation outside the house, you show your wealth inside.”

Sound Energy Looks To Buy OGIF’s Assets In Eastern Morocco

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 04:35

by Rigzone Staff

African and European focused upstream gas company, Sound Energy, has signed a non-binding heads of agreement for the acquisition of all of Oil & Gas Investment Fund’s (OGIF’s) assets in Eastern Morocco.

As part of the deal, Sound plans to acquire a further 20 percent interest in Tendrara, a 75 percent interest in Meridja and an application for a 75 percent position in the relinquished area close to Tendrara. The consideration for the acquisition will be 272 million new ordinary shares in the company, subject to shareholder approval.

OGIF is a Moroccan fund, owned by six large Moroccan financial institutions: Attijariwafa Bank Group (the largest Moroccan bank), CIMR and CDG Group (the largest Moroccan Pension Funds), Finance Com (Investment Company), Mamda-Mcma and Saham (Insurance Companies).

“Morocco is a fast growing and low risk emerging country with significant hydrocarbon potential,” Mohammed Benslimane, CEO of OGIF’s management company, said.

“This new partnership aligns the interests of OGIF and Morocco’s largest financial institutions with those of Sound Energy. We see huge short term upside potential in the equity of Sound Energy and look forward to what will certainly be a successful future together,” he added.

Norwegian Shipping Firm Denies Polisario Accusation Of Illegal Shipment

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 11:06

by Jonathan Saul in London
and Patrick Markey in Algiers

A Norwegian shipping firm on Thursday denied a tanker it manages had violated a European court ruling after Western Sahara’s Polisario movement accused it of illegally transporting an oil cargo through disputed territory it claims.

The Polisario independence movement this week called on the European Union and French authorities to seize a France-bound cargo being transported on the Gibraltar-flagged Key Bay because the tanker had made a port call to Moroccan-controlled Laayoune on Jan. 5.

The Polisario said the tanker’s call to Laayoune had rendered its cargo illegal as it had violated a ruling by the European Court of Justice last month that two trade deals between the EU and Morocco did not cover Western Sahara.

Key Bay’s Norwegian-based manager, Sea Tank Chartering, said it had acted within the guidelines set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for responsible business conduct.

“We consider the activities pursued as lawful under international law,” Sea Tank Chartering said in a statement to Reuters.

“The ruling from the European Court of Justice last month applies to the interpretation of the territorial scope of a treaty between EU and Morocco. The decision does not take a position on the regulatory framework for trade in various forms,” it said.

Mhamed Khadad, Polisario’s secretary for foreign affairs, said on Wednesday that as an “occupying force”, Morocco had no right to issue export licences.

The Moroccan foreign ministry declined to comment, and there has been no response from Brussels. The French foreign ministry could not immediately comment.

According to ship tracking data on Reuters, the 4,570 deadweight tonnes tanker is carrying a cargo of fish oil and is bound for the French port of Fecamp, where it is due to arrive on Friday.

The Polisario previously said on its Sahara Press Service that would file its complaint with the European Commission and French customs.

The vessel’s last reported position was off the coast of Spain at 1545 GMT on Thursday.

Western Sahara, which has significant phosphate reserves and offshore fishing, has been contested since 1975 when Spain, the former colonial power, withdrew. Morocco fought a 16-year war with Polisario, which established a self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Responding to an escalation in tension, U.N. peacekeeping observers have been deployed since August between Moroccan Royal Gendarmerie personnel and a unit of Polisario fighters facing off in a narrow strip of buffer zone between the two sides.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Patrick Markey in Algiers; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Moroccan Cement Consumption Falls Slightly In 2016

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 05:55

Global Cement

Cement consumption has fallen by year-on-year 0.7% to 14.1Mt in 2016 from 14.3Mt in 2015. Data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Policy shows that particular falls in consumption of nearly 10% were recorded in the Béni Mellal – Khénifra and Drâa – Tafilalet regions.

However, the country’s Dakhla – Oued Ed-Dahab region in the south-west reported a 64.3% rise in sales to 63,771t.