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Morocco Capitalises On Early Lead In Renewables

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 09:09

Financial Times
Siona Jenkins

Nation’s expertise in local solar and wind technology counts in sub-Saharan market.

Big ambitions: Morocco is home to one of the largest solar power plants © Youssef Boudlal/Reuters.

Karim el-Alami thinks big. Since finishing university two years ago, the young Moroccan engineer and a friend have developed software that uses artificial intelligence to manage renewable energy costs. Their company, Elum Energy, will start deploying the software in telecoms towers around Morocco this summer. They are considering exports and are in talks with operators in a number of countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

“My hope is to deploy our software in every solar storage [unit] that is launched in Africa in the next five years,” says Mr Alami.

He and his business partner, Cyril Colin, are well placed to succeed. They are part of a small band of entrepreneurs that has spotted an opportunity in a new but growing field of energy storage for renewables.

Big Green Bang for renewables

Morocco’s government is keen to support them. The country is fossil-fuel poor and has won attention for its success in developing renewable energy. In 2009, 1.7 per cent of its electricity came from renewable sources. By 2012, this had risen to 32 per cent and is projected to be 42 per cent by 2020 and 52 per cent by 2030. Last year Morocco opened the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant, Noor 1, and hosted the UN’s COP22 climate change summit.

Mustapha Bakkoury, head of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen), which is responsible for renewables development in the country, told the FT in 2015 that the state was looking to do more than just reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce emissions: “We are working to create the conditions for future exports,” he said.

To do this, the Moroccan government is looking south. According to 2014 figures, two-thirds of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity and some energy experts are hoping that the region could leapfrog traditional electricity generation infrastructure with renewables.

The innovation is in tailoring the product so that it is suited for local needs

Morocco appears well placed to help. It has more than 20 trade agreements with African countries. Casablanca, the country’s commercial capital, is establishing itself as a hub for investment in Africa. Moroccan banks and insurance companies and the national airline, Royal Air Maroc, have a strong presence across the continent. Rabat, the seat of national government, hopes that the nascent renewables sector can build on these ties.

Targeting African markets “makes sense within the Moroccan economy”, says Dana Younger, chief renewable energy specialist at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank. The Moroccans “have a comparative advantage in terms of sharing expertise and experience with other parts of Africa”, he adds.

A subsidiary of Morocco’s national utility, the Office National de l’Electricité, with funding from IFC, won a concession to bring power to rural Senegal back in 2010.

Moroccan companies have begun to expand south with European partners. French energy giant Engie, which built Morocco’s Tarfaya wind farm — Africa’s largest — with local company Nareva Holding, last year announced a partnership agreement to jointly develop 5GW-6GW of power generation and energy services projects in countries including Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana, and Cameroon.

Bruno Bensasson, chief executive of Engie Africa, says that Morocco has “specific strengths” thanks to its strong institutional and diplomatic relations with countries such as Senegal or Ivory Coast. So it made sense, he says, to work with Nareva.

Moroccan experts hope that partnerships with companies like Engie, coupled with a requirement for domestic content in Moroccan energy projects, will help local businesses compete for contracts in the renewables market.

“We have a big chance in Morocco right now,” says Mohamed Bernannou, chief executive of the Moroccan Climate Innovation Centre (MCIC), created in 2014 to develop green technology industry and entrepreneurship. He says conditions in Morocco can replicate those found in many sub-Saharan African countries, giving local companies a competitive edge over those from other parts of the world. “You have extreme heat, you have dust. You are working with a local population that may not be able to look after the maintenance.

“The innovation is not in, for example, a photovoltaic panel,” he adds. “It’s in small technical adaptations that can tailor the product so that it is suited for local needs.”

Mr Alami’s company received MCIC support. In his talks with companies in Nigeria, Ghana and Congo, he has found that Morocco’s experience in building up its own renewables capacity is a big advantage.

“Morocco is not exactly the same as Ivory Coast or Senegal, but its issues are similar. You cannot imagine these problems and issues if you are in Europe or in America.”

Deer Jet Unveils The Universe Of Moroccan Craftsmanship

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 09:00

Canada Newswire

Deer Jet, first private jet company of China, flies the 787 Dream Jet to Marrakech, to uncover and display the history, culture and arts of this faraway lands. Deer Jet used the same “Majorelle blue” and “Marrakech red” to decorate the 787 Dream Jet.

The exhibition on board the 787 Dream Jet included 100% Moroccan handcrafted objects using 16th century Islamic art patterns and motives from the Jardin Majorelle. Textiles, precious tableware, exotic leathers and other objects of design decorated the splendid 220 sq metres of the Dream Jet’s cabin.

The display is part of a series of showcases across the globe in Deer Jet’s “Dreams Encounter the World” tour of emblematic destinations. On its mission to serve premium business travellers worldwide, Deer Jet had already displayed the 787 Dream Jet at Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Dublin and Seattle; showcasing its brand philosophy of “Making Travel an Art”.

Deer Jet has a history of serving a clientele of premium business travellers, including Middle East royal families. The company is now set to serve the market across the globe.

Frank Fang, Vice President of Deer Jet said: “Marrakech is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations, from its ancient walled Medina and bustling markets, it is a cultural fest. With the 787 Dream Jet, we want our customers to discover a stylish and culture-rich travel experience.”

The 787 Dream Jet can fly continuously for 18.5 hours, or 16,000 kilometres, reaching any major city in the world non-stop from Casablanca, Marrakech or Rabat. Additionally, it comes with the comforts of unlimited luxury amenities on board.

After the global success of the first 787 “Dream Jet”, HNA group, Deer Jet’s parent company has announced the acquisition of the second B787 VVIP for Deer Jet to build up the largest 787 Dream Jet fleet in the world. “We will dedicate ourselves to serve the global premium travellers the ultimate travel experience through this fantastic fleet.” added Fang.

“The Dream Jet is a tremendous feast of aeronautics and represents everything that is luxurious and impressive about our industry, as I’m convinced anyone who experiences it will agree. We are delighted to support Deer Jet on its “Dreams Encounter the World” exhibitions across the globe, and proud to be the exclusive charter sales partner for the Dream Jet in the MENA region.” said Mr. Mohammed Husary, Co-Owner/Founder and Executive President of UAS.

Deer Jet is also launching exclusive, bespoke travel packages aboard the 787 Dream Jet starting with the “Hong Kong to Tahiti Dream Journey”. It plans to add more itineraries in the future as part of its goal to create seamless travel to fulfill its vision of “Making travel an art”, through best-in-class service inspired by Deer Jet’s values of “elegance”, “performance” and “distinction”.


For further information: Dan Feng, 18610131198, danfeng@hnair.com; Cui Qi, 3606020300@qq.com; dudu_cq@126.com; q.cui@hnair.com

Morocco Reopens Centuries-old Religious Schools To Enrich Cultural Heritage

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 06:18

Source: Xinhua

Morocco has recently reopened a number of centuries-old religious schools after rehabilitation with the aim to enrich the tangible and intangible heritage of the North African kingdom.

Most of these schools, or Madrasas, were founded in the 13th century to teach Islamic studies, Arabic literature, logic and mathematics in a number of Moroccan old cities, particularly Fez, Marrakesh and Sale.

Funded by charitable endowments, Madrasas offered students from different parts of Morocco and neighbouring countries free tuition and dormitories.

For centuries, these Madrasas had been the kingdom’s prestigious educational institutions, but with the establishment of modern universities, they have gradually lost their place and many of them were closed.

In recent years, Morocco has launched several programs to reopen a number of these educational institutions, especially in the city of Fez, Morocco’s spiritual capital.

On Tuesday, three Madrasas in Fez, the Mohammedia, the Seffarine and the Bouaanania, were reopened after a year of restoration.

The three schools will be used to accommodate students of al-Qarawiyyin University, which is considered by UNESCO the oldest continuously operating degree-granting university in the world.

As part of the Madrasas rehabilitation program in Fez, three other schools, the Mesbahiya, the Sbaiyyine and the Sahrij Madrasa, are scheduled to be restored. They will provide dormitories to al-Qarawiyyin students. In addition, the Sahrij Madrasa will also be reserved for students enrolled in the Moroccan Calligraphy Department of Al Qarawiyyin.

The rehabilitation of Madrasas is an integral part of a large-scale rehabilitation program of the ancient medina of Fez founded in the 7th century.

Launched in 2013, the program involves restoring monuments and historical sites dating back to the period between the 10th and 13th century.

Among the monuments renovated are the al-Qarawiyyin library, which was opened last year and is considered one of the oldest libraries in the world, and Dar al Mouaqquit tower, which was recently reopened and is used to monitor the astronomical map.

Founded in 859 by a devout and wealthy Muslim woman called Fatima al-Fihri, and nestled in the old medina of Fez, the al-Qarawiyyin library is home to unique Islamic manuscripts treasured by historians.

Serving as an observatory for astronomers observing the lunar crescent and the establishment of prayer times, the Dar al Mouaqquit tower features a museum housing ancient Moroccan and Arab astronomical instruments, which offers Moroccans and foreign visitors great opportunities to discover the kingdom’s scientific heritage.

What The Algeria-Morocco UN Drama Means For Regional Stability And The Fight Against Terrorism

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 07:57

Javier Hasse

Diplomats at the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization meeting in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines witnessed an unprecedented event last week. According to a Moroccan official, a heated discussion ended with the director general of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hitting the deputy of the Moroccan ambassador to Saint Lucia in his face, reportedly knocking him out and sending him to the hospital.

A couple of sources claim to have seen the medical and police reports that confirm this version. However, Algerian government officials argue the fight was staged. Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita told the French Press Agency (AFP) that Algeria should “contribute to a solution and assume responsibility in the matter (…) assume the consequences of its actions.” Leaving all questioning about how things went down in this particular meeting aside, the relationship between Morocco and Algeria has been tense for years.

This derives from a long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of Western Sahara and, most recently, from Morocco’s return to the African Union and its allegations that Algeria was forcing Syrian refugees out of the latter and into the former. So what does this mean for stability in the Northern African region and for the fight against terrorism on a global scale? See Also: Morocco And The U.S.: Top African Businessman Talks About Bilateral Relationship Under Trump.

The Rising Temperature Dr. Magnus Norell, a Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD), adjunct scholar of The Washington Institute, and former senior analyst and project leader at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, said this kind of altercation was unprecedented in a U.N. diplomatic setting. However, “[it says] something about the tension between these two countries.”

“On a wider scale, the attack reflects the frustration Algeria must be feeling due to the fact that it has lost some traction in the last year, especially when it comes to dealing with the issue of Western Sahara [and the Polisario Front they support, which is opposed to the Moroccan government’s presence in the territory],” said Dr. Norell.

“If you want to measure the temperature here, I think that this is a good sign of where things stand.” “I think this also reflects the fact that Morocco has been gaining some traction within the African Union [in detriment of Algeria’s power] and in the E.U. In fact, they recently presented ideas for a diplomatic solution to the Western Sahara issue. This has not made Algeria very happy.”

Morocco’s Proposal Norell explained why Morocco’s proposed solution to the Western Sahara conflict isn’t making Algeria happy. “In essence, Morocco’s plan would keep Algeria out of Western Sahara, giving the Sahrawi people self-determination,” he said. “This would not mean they would be fully independent, although they would be self-ruled, in a sense, while still protected by King Mohammed VI of Morocco. And, of course, that would be detrimental for the Algerian interest, because they would love to have a Polisario presence there, which means that they get an access to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Interestingly, Morocco’s proposal has been gaining traction among African states, especially since the country’s return to the African Union – and also due to the positive influence the Kingdom has had over the region in recent decades, Norell said. See Also: The Challenges Of Conducting Business In Africa: ‘We Are Facing Global Competition For Talent’

International Security Norell, an expert on international security issues like terrorism and radical Islamic extremism, went into the implications of this conflict for the safety of the Western world. “In Western Sahara, Morocco has been filling a hole,” he said. “Formerly, a lot of bad people, extremists, were coming into Europe through Western Sahara, but that is not the case any longer. Now, these people are getting into Europe through Algeria and Libya. So, Morocco’s role in the security of Europe and Northern Africa is seriously important.”

“Clearly Morocco is not afraid to take the lead in being the progressive leader in moderate Muslim countries and in combating fanaticism,” Norell said, pointing out some examples that back this statement, like Morocco’s recent capture and delivery [to the U.S.] of a couple of fugitive terrorists. One expert Benzinga spoke with who asked not be named said “Morocco is like the canary in the coal mine,” highlighting the efforts of Driss El Yazami, Chairman of Morocco’s National Council of Human Rights, to improve the situation in Western Sahara.

A Bet On Stability Investors often ask how they can invest in African companies. While most of them don’t trade in the NYSE or Nasdaq because, as prominent businessman Saad Bendidi explained, the market would likely grant discounted valuations to these companies, a few are either listed in these major exchanges or trade over-the-counter in the U.S. Africa-focused ETFs include:

iShares MSCI South Africa Index (ETF) EZA, +1.09%

Market Vectors Africa (ETF) AFK, +0.79%
Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF EGPT, +0.04%
SPDR S&P Emerging Middle Est & Afrca ETF GAF, +1.20%

SDX Sets Out North African Growth Plans

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 15:43

Your Oil and Gas

SDX Energy reported income of US$26.9 million for the first quarter of the year, although this was largely based on its acquisition of Circle Oil’s Egyptian and Moroccan businesses, which provided a US$29.5 million gain.

Netbacks from production for the period, meanwhile, were US$6.1 million, generating US$3.1 million of net cash.

Setting out its results on May 19, the company said production from Egypt’s North West Gemsa and Meseda assets had provided 1,904 boepd and 646 bpd respectively, while Morocco contributed another 441 boepd.
SDX completed the acquisition of Circle on January 27, for US$28.1 million.

“We were pleased to announce a successful drilling result at South Disouq, making a gas discovery in the first target and encountering reservoir horizons and evidence of a working petroleum system at the second target,” said SDX’ president and CEO, Paul Welch. “We have also made strong operational progress in Morocco and given the attractive local gas market, [we] are on track to drill seven additional wells this year to further grow our high margin production in the region.”

On the Meseda asset, SDX reported that a six-well workover programme had been completed, intended to improve future production. The company also acquired a two-phase separator for the project, which is being shipped to the block from the United Arab Emirates. A tender for six electrical submersible pumps (ESPs) was launched and these should contribute to increased production in the third quarter of this year.

On the South Disouq licence, the company drilled the SD-1X exploration well, making a gas discovery but failing in its hopes for a deeper oil find.

Despite this, the well did demonstrate that a working petroleum system was present. Testing on the gas discovery is planned, while the company is also working on development ideas, with the aim of achieving commercial production by the first quarter of 2018.

Furthermore, it has not abandoned its hopes for the deeper oil potential in the area.

SDX intends to drill a well on the South Ramadan concession in 2018 and has asked the government for an extension to allow this work to proceed.

Plans ahead

SDX intends to drill three development and two exploration wells on the Sebou permit, in Morocco, in the first half of 2017. Two exploration wells are planned for Lalla Mimouna, on which the permit has been extended until March 2018.

In addition to the Morocco plans, SDX also intends to carry out a substantial work programme in Egypt. A 12-well workover programme is planned on North West Gemsa, continuing its ESP installation work, intended to improve future production at the site.

On Meseda, it plans to drill two development wells and two exploration wells, in addition to its ESP work and waterflood programme.

The statement went on to make it clear that its acquisition of Circle’s Egyptian and Moroccan assets were not the end of its ambitions, noting it was interested in further expansion in North Africa.

UK-Based Sound Energy Bolsters Morocco Estimates

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 15:29

Aberdeen Journal
Written by Rita Brown

UK based Sound Energy this morning doubled its estimates for first phase volumes from its Moroccan play.

It comes after it completed the drilling of its third well at Tendrara in Eastern Morocco, TE-8, achieving Target Depth at 3,120 metres.

Chief executive James Parsons said: “I am delighted to confirm our third well in Eastern Morocco as the definitive Paleozoic play opener with thick Westphalian sands which should be producible across the region.

“Despite a relatively tight TAGI reservoir, the confirmation of the Gas Water Contact at 1,350 metres has enabled the Company to double its internal TAGI estimates and materially increase first phase development volumes.

“We eagerly look forward to commencing the 2D exploration seismic programme in August and continuing operations in Eastern Morocco once we have finished at Sidi Moktar.

“In the meantime, we are focused entirely on the rapidly approaching results at Badile and Sidi Moktar.”

Separately, the firm appointed Brian Mitchener, Sound Energy’s executive vice president of exploration, to the Sound Energy board of directors as exploration director.

Morocco Opens First Islamic Bank Branch Months After Approval

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 12:15

by Samia Errazzouki

The first Islamic bank in Morocco, Umnia Bank, has opened its doors five months after the country’s central bank approved requests to open Islamic financial institutions.

Islamic banks and insurers are setting up in Morocco after new legislation allowed them into the market, and the central bank has set up a central sharia board, a body of Islamic scholars, to oversee the sector.

The North African country long rejected Islamic banking because of concern about Islamist movements, but its financial markets lack liquidity and foreign investors, and Islamic finance could attract both of those.

Umnia Bank, a joint venture of Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) and Moroccan lender Credit Immobilier et Hotelier S.A. (CIH Bank), opened a total of three agencies in the country on Monday, including two in Casablanca and one in Rabat.

The bank plans to open more branches throughout the country, it said in a statement.

On Tuesday afternoon, Umnia Bank’s branch in Rabat attracted a significant amount of clients, including people simply curious about Islamic financing.

“I have an account with CIH Bank and I just came by here to learn more about what the difference is,” said one client.

Umnia Bank, attached next to a CIH Bank branch, is just a few blocks away from the forthcoming Dar Assafaa, Attijariwafa Bank’s Islamic finance subsidiary.

“As a Muslim, I’m happy we finally have Islamic banks in the country,” said Ritaj, a mother of three, who drove three hours from Tangiers to open an account.

The branch was still ironing out technical problems. The director still had not received details for a prospective client about margins for a murabaha transaction — one of the Islamic instruments that is compliant to sharia law.

Morocco is the most advanced of North African neighbours in developing Islamic finance. Tunisia and Algeria are also starting to explore the banking based on religious principles which avoid interest and pure monetary speculation.

Islamic finance has been growing over the past decade as it broadens its investor base across the Middle East, North Africa, Africa and southeast Asia, tapping into conservative religious clients.

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; editing by Patrick Markey)

Carlyle Battles Insurers in New York Over Moroccan Oil Losses

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:36

By Julia Payne

U.S. private equity firm Carlyle Group is suing a group of its insurers over $400 million worth of oil it claims it lost when Morocco’s sole refinery went bankrupt two years ago, court documents show.

Carlyle claims in a suit filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York that insurance underwriters led by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Underwriting (now known as MS Amlin) have reneged on their obligations when refusing to cover the losses, according to documents on the court’s website.

Insurers have said in response to the suit that the nature of Carlyle’s dealings with Samir, the refinery’s operator, mean that its losses are not covered by the type of insurance it had.

They also say Carlyle did not alert them early enough about the plant’s financial troubles.

The rare public case provides an insight into dealings between insurers and commodity trading firms, which take big risks when supplying raw materials to clients in financial difficulty.

The case also sheds more light on the collapse of Samir, which became the biggest casualty of the oil price crash of 2014-2015, leaving some of the world’s biggest trading firms including Carlyle with unpaid debts of over $1 billion.

Carlyle declined to comment on the position of the insurers. Samir and the Moroccan state-appointed liquidator for the refinery declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Carlyle Commodity Management, a subsidiary of Carlyle Group formerly called Vermillion Asset Management, said in the court filing it had about 7 million barrels of crude and oil products stored at Morocco’s 200,000 barrel per day refinery in Mohammedia in 2015 prior to its stoppage.

The refinery was shut down in August 2015 after the Moroccan government imposed a $1.35 billion unpaid tax bill on Samir and froze its accounts.

The crisis at the refinery unfolded as oil prices crashed from the middle of 2014, drastically reducing the value of oil Samir bought and held in its tanks for refining purposes.

Carlyle says that during 2015 Samir emptied the tanks without its consent.

Carlyle filed the first request for cover to its insurers in January 2016 concluding that the oil could not be recovered.

In late February this year, Carlyle’s insurers denied any cover, leading Carlyle to launch a lawsuit against the underwriters in early March, according to the court documents.

The litigation is still ongoing.

In their answer to the claim, the underwriters said Carlyle’s position in relation to Samir was as a lender and not as an oil supplier since the group never actually owned the oil it claims was stolen.

Therefore, insurance cover for physical loss did not apply, the insurers argued, according to documents.

“As the transactions were financings rather than true sales of the commodities and Carlyle did not take title to the commodities, the loss or losses allegedly suffered by Carlyle was an uninsured credit loss,” the insurers said in a response filed at end-April to the court in New York.

The insurers also allege that Carlyle breached its contract by not notifying the underwriters of payment problems.

“Carlyle has breached its contractual duties … by failing to take any steps to mitigate the alleged loss or losses upon becoming aware that Samir had been processing the commodities,” the counterclaim said.

“To the contrary, Carlyle entered into numerous additional transactions with Samir, thereby exacerbating the size of the alleged loss or losses by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

(This version of the story has been refiled to add dropped word to name of court)

(Additional reporting to Samia Errazzouki in Rabat; Editing by David Evans)

Panama Frees Morocco Phosphate Shipment Held In Western Sahara Claim

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:56

By Samia Errazzouki

Panama authorities have released a Moroccan phosphate shipment from the disputed Western Sahara territory after it was temporarily held by a legal challenge from the Polisario independence movement, officials said on Monday.

The vessel was held on May 18 and is the second tanker carrying phosphate cargo from Moroccan exporter OCP stopped this month by a Polisario challenge. Polisario claims the cargo was transported illegally, a new tactic in its dispute with Morocco.

Western Sahara has been disputed since 1975, when Morocco claimed it as part of the kingdom and the Polisario fought a guerrilla war for the Sahrawi people’s independence. A 1991 ceasefire split the region in two between what Morocco calls its southern provinces and an area controlled by Polisario.

A source in the OCP said the Danish charter vessel Ultra Innovation, carrying 55,000 tonnes of phosphate rock through Panama to the Port of Vancouver for agricultural products supplier Agrium, was released, but did not comment further.

In a statement, Agrium said the shipping company posted a bond for the release of the ship. The phosphate cargo’s estimated value was around $6 million, Polisario had said.

A Panamanian judicial source said the ship was released after the bond was placed.

Morocco’s OCP, or Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP), is the world’s leading phosphate exporter and operates in the Moroccan-held areas of the disputed territory.

Earlier in the month, the Marshall Island-flagged NM Cherry Blossom, also carrying phosphate from Laayoune in the Moroccan part of the disputed territory for OCP, was detained in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth under a civil maritime court order.

On Thursday, the South African court reserved a judgment on the case and extended the hold on the vessel to June 9.

In a statement on MAP state news agency, the OCP has called Polisario’s charges in the South African court a “misplaced and inappropriate attempt to circumvent the current international political process actively pursued by the United Nations Security Council.”

The United Nations Security Council has called for fresh negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario, which runs its self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR.

Talks have failed for years to end the dispute. Morocco wants the region to have autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Polisario wants to hold a referendum on self-determination, including on the question of independence.

(Editing by Patrick Markey and Mark Potter)

China, Morocco To Build Skyscraper In Rabat

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 05:18

Global Times

Construction companies from China and Morocco will set up a joint venture to build Africa’s tallest skyscraper in Morocco’s capital Rabat, local media reported on Saturday.

The joint venture will be set up by China Railway Construction Corp and Morocco’s leading construction company Travaux Generaux de Construction de Casablanca, which won the bid for the project.

Moroccan news site Alyaoum24.com reported that the 250-meter skyscraper will cost $375 million.

The 45-story tower, which will adopt ecological and sustainable design concepts, will include offices, hotels and luxury apartments, the news site said.

The tower will be the highlight of a large project to develop the capital’s Bouregreg valley, a key component of the 2014-18 Integrated Development Program dubbed “Rabat, City of Light, Moroccan Cultural Capital.”

The project also involves building several innovative facilities, including the Grand Theater of Rabat, the Arts and Culture House, the National Archives of the Kingdom of Morocco and a business center.

UN-Sahara: Algerian Official Attacks Physically A Moroccan Diplomat

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 07:09

Sahara News
by Ali Haidar

The Sahara issue continues to poison relations between Algeria and Morocco, to the extent that an Algerian official has physically assaulted a Moroccan diplomat during a meeting of a UN body held Thursday (May 18) in St. Lucia.

Soufiane Mimouni, Director General of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assaulted the Deputy Chief of Morocco’s Mission in Saint Lucia who was hospitalized for medical treatment. The incident dismayed the members of the UN Special Committee of 24 that was convening in this Caribbean island.

Reacting to this unprecedented aggression in a UN meeting, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita expressed indignation at the Algerian official’s behavior.

“The assault by a senior official, third in the hierarchical order of the Algerian Foreign Ministry, transgresses all diplomatic customs,” said Nasser Bourita, describing the incident as “very serious”. He pointed out that going as far as attacking physically a diplomat at an official meeting is certainly unique in the annals of diplomacy.

The Moroccan Foreign Minister expressed amazement that the physical assault was made by an Algerian official, at a time Algeria constantly claims it plays a mere observer role in the Sahara issue.

Actually, Algerian officials’ nervousness has been growing since Morocco reintegrated last January the African Union (AU), where a majority of member states no longer recognize the Polisario.

And the feverishness of Algerian diplomacy has redoubled since the end of April when the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2351.

This resolution enshrines negotiation as the only way to achieve a political and mutually acceptable solution to the Western Sahara conflict and definitively excludes, like the other resolutions adopted since 2001, any reference to the referendum, so fiercely defended by Algeria and the Polisario separatist movement.

Morocco, U.S. – AFRICOM Discuss Military Cooperation

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 06:42

Source: Xinhua

Fathallah El Ouarrak, the Inspector General of Morocco’s army held here on Thursday talks with United States Marine Corps General Thomas D. Waldhauser, Commander of the United States Africa Command.

They two generals examined the various aspects of military cooperation between the two countries as well as the perspectives of its development, the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces (FAR) said in a statement.

The military cooperation between Morocco and U.S. concerns particularly the areas of training, joint exercises, exchange of visits and expertise aimed at improving the interoperability of the two armies, the statement noted.

The U.S. military command in Africa (U.S.-AFRICOM) is one of the U.S. Unified Combatant Commands under the U.S. Department of Defence. It is responsible for the U.S. military operations in and relations with 53 African countries.

Le Jardin Des Douars In Morocco’s Coastal Town Of Essaouira Is No Common Garden Hotel

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 05:50

Rob Hastings
Press Image via

Riad means garden. At least, it does in the original sense of the Arabic word. In general terminology, you probably know it as a traditional Moroccan home built around a courtyard – one of those beautiful zelige-tiled spaces filled with sunlight and the soft tinkle of water in a fountain, adorned by pot plants.

The fact Morocco’s houses came to be known by the word for garden probably encapsulates the importance of keeping the natural world central to life here. It’s fair to say: if an Englishman’s house is his castle, a Moroccan’s home is his oasis.

No matter what your nationality, anyone would surely feel at home at Le Jardin des Douars. This boutique hotel, a 15-minute drive from the port town of Essaouria, doesn’t surround a garden; here it’s the trees and flowers and bushes that do the surrounding. They envelop the self-contained lodgings, as do the sounds of the countryside: the rustle of leaves in the breeze, the singsong of swallows and wagatils swooping between the palm trees, and the occasional croak of a frog.

First impressions

Arrival might seem unprepossessing, especially at night; our cab turns off the main road and begins making its way around, and sometimes unavoidably over, some of the biggest potholes you’ve ever seen. After a minute or so we start wondering where we’re heading in the darkness on this bumpy route to who knows where. But then we see the lanterns illuminating the lane to the romantic hideaway.

With a warm welcome, we’re led on a pathway through the garden to our cosy abode. The door opens to a living room that’s rustic in the very best sense of the word: whitewashed walls decorated by Berber handbags, a carved wooden table sitting on a rug, a log fireplace.

One of the bedrooms at Le Jardin des Douars
Enjoying the grounds

With morning light comes the revelation of just how beautiful the garden is, high on the southern bank of the Ksob river. Paths lead between cacti, argan trees and vibrant purple blooms along with more than 100 different types of plants. The terraced grounds laid out in 2004 by Jean Secondi, a landscape designer who transformed it from a stony patch of land before opening the hotel, which is now run by a husband-and-wife team.

Before a breakfast of msemmen crepe, creamy French toast and scrambled eggs – I couldn’t make my mind up so I confess I had it all, with no regrets – I go for a swim in one of the two pools. Thankfully one is reserved for families where children can splash away and shout with glee as much as they like. This means I’m left in peace as I step down into the teal-tiled pool reserved for adults, happily wading into the warmest waters to ever host my breaststroke.

The family pool at Le Jardin des Douars (Photo: Rob Hastings)
Is the local area worth visiting?

Time for a taxi into town. We find Essaouira, the small port town that serves to provide Marrakech tourists with a day’s welcome break from the big city, has a similarly laid-back tone to our hotel. The backstreets of small shops and stalls have plenty of jewellery, spices and decorative plates, but not nearly as many overbearing salesmen desperate for your dirhams as Marrakech.

True, there’s not an awful lot of sights to visit, but it certainly makes for a relaxing day wandering through the medina and taking in the coastal views from the small citadel, watching waves crash against the sea wall.

Essaouira, Morocco (Photo: Rob Hastings)
Chill out time

Once you’ve spent an afternoon Essaouira, you need not leave the confines of Le Jardindes Douars. It’s perfectly feasible to spend your whole day, or several of them, simply relaxing.

You can even sample a traditional hammam session – Morocco’s equivalent to a Turkish bath – here at the spa. Ok, it’s perhaps not quite as traditional as getting bollock naked in a room full of strangers at an authentic public hammam, and the mythical black soap fails to appear. But I’m certainly far more comfortable having buckets of water thrown over me in the darkness here than I would be anywhere else.

Luckily we choose a Sunday to remain in the grounds for lunch, meaning we can enjoy the most extensive barbecue I’ve ever seen – with enough options of salads and sides for even vegetarians to feel spoilt for choice.

The Sunday barbecue at Le Jardin des Douars (Photo: Rob Hastings)
Good choice for foodies?

Food is also a reason to stay in the evening. With three dining rooms as well as patio tables, dinner feels different each night, and not purely because I alternate between the succulent lamb shank and the delectable beef wellington.

It really is hard to find any kind of fault with Le Jardins des Douars, and is perfect for a honeymoon or weekend retreat. The roadway that leads down to it may be broken and in need of repair, but once inside the tranquility means you’ll feel a long way from the metaphorical beaten track.

B&B at Le Jardin des Douars, Essaouira, Morocco, from £125 per room per night

Young Photographers Capture The Beauty And Wonder Of Morocco

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 15:52

The Washington Post
By Michael Robinson Chavez

Follow the light! Follow the light!” It sounded like a scene from the 1980s film “Poltergeist,” but it was, in fact, award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv giving some high school students sound photographic advice. The light was falling on a corner in the Berber town of Tinjad at the base of the Atlas Mountains and was fading fast. Cameras at the ready, the students trained their lenses, composed and made photographs that captured the spirit of this astonishing country.

The students, from the Ross School, a private school in East Hampton on Long Island, embark every year on what is called “M Term,” an approximately three-week educational journey to countries across the globe. This year Haviv and I accompanied them to the heart of Morocco.

“Stories transcend experience,” said Alexis Martino, dean of the Field Academy and principal organizer of the trips. “They make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. I immerse my students in storytelling to challenge them, to engage them with the unfamiliar, to encounter people whose life experiences enlarge their world, and to provide the opportunity for them to narrate their own stories of possibility and the human condition.”

A line in the sand: Fighting 40 years of exile in the desert of Western Sahara

We traveled across the country from ancient Fez through the Middle and High Atlas Mountains into the dunes of the Sahara Desert and finally, Marrakesh. Our goal was to help the students improve their vision, photographically speaking, and learn to tell stories with their images. It is always very fulfilling to see them grow over the course of the week, especially with a muse as inspiring as Morocco. This is a small sampling of what they saw.

Photos by: Hannah Dayton, Yi Pan, Michael Robinson Chavez, Leif Wood, Chun-hui Liou, Luna Wang, Ella Gatfield, Elizabeth Budge, Milo Munshin, Miles Thorsen, Leila Murphy, Lucia Robinson, Amanda Mintz, Ron Haviv/VII, Sunny Guo

Nigeria, Morocco Seal Pact On Gas Project, Fertilizer Initiative

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 08:12

By Melody Fidelis

Morocco have sealed pacts to drive the implementation of the gas regional pipeline and fertilizer initiative. According to the Foreign Minister of Morocco, Nasser Bourita who presented the broad guidelines of the projects at the signing of the agreements in Morocco, the shared vision of the two leaders, President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari and King Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco is in favour of a sustainable, active and solidarity based joint development for Africa.

He noted that both projects were initiated during the Royal visit of the king to Nigeria in December 2016. Tagged ‘The Wonder of Africa’, the Joint Initiative on the Morocco –Nigeria Gas Regional Pipeline has been described as one designed by ‘Africans for Africans’ with a direct impact on 300 million people through the speeding up of electrification projects in West Africa; thus serving a basis for the creation of a competitive electricity regional market.

The scope of the Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM), was to determine the modalities of undertaking a feasibility study and a Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) study relating to a gas pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco.

The pact also specified equal partnership in governance, management and financing of the project, with a timeline for both studies pegged at two years from the date of signing.
The second bilatéral agreement borders on the second phase of the fertiliser initiative. ‘The first phase was the supply of a cargo of phosphate by Morocco to Nigeria after eight weeks of its signing.

This supply led to the resuscitation of 11 blending plants which produced about 1.3 million tonnes of fertiliser; creation of 50,000 (direct) and 150,000 (indirect) jobs while farmers have access to the quantity of fertiliser they need.

“The second phase will enable the maximisation of local fertiliser production through the creation of platform for basic chemical products, secure the Nigeria’s market’s fertiliser supply for competitive prices and reinforce local distribution channels.

“The ceremony, held at the palace of King Mohammed VI, had him in attendance as well as a high- powered delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeama, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe, his counterpart in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, the Governor of Jigawa State and Chairman, Presidential Committee on Fertiliser. Alhaji Abubakar Badaru. Other African countries were also in attendance”, a statement on the pact explained.

Sound Ready To Drill In Western Morocco

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 05:27

Natural Gas World
Mark Smedley

Sidi Moktar in the Essaouira basin, onshore central western Morocco (Photo credit: Sound Energy).

UK-based explorer Sound Energy said May 17 that its rig has now arrived at its Sidi Moktar licence, onshore central western Morocco.

It will re-enter and test two existing wells (Koba-1 and Kamar-1) on the Kechoula discovery and, should sufficient qualities of gas be proven, Sound says it will complete an extended well test that if successful could produce first commercial gas for the domestic market around end-2017.

The rig, owned by Saipem, was previously used earlier this year by Sound Energy at its third well (TE-8) on its Tendrara licence onshore eastern Morocco; the latter established that a ‘Tagi’ hydrocarbon system proven in Algeria extends into Morocco.

Sidi Moktar licences, covering 2,700 km², are close to a large gas consumer: Moroccan state-owned OCP’s phosphate plant. Sound says that Kechoula was drilled by previous operators and estimated to have 293bn ft³ (gross) of unrisked mid-case gas in place. Sound has a 75% interest in the licences.

Moroccan licences held by Sound Energy; the company also has Meridja exploration acreage northwest of Tendrara (Credit: Sound)

Sound Energy CEO James Parsons said that Sidi Moktar was “one of its many exciting opportunities” and is “estimated to have significant pre-Jurassic exploration potential from the Tagi and Paleozoic [levels], similar to our Tendrara licence in Eastern Morocco. We continue to believe that Morocco is an exciting hydrocarbon province with significant upside for Sound, and look forward to updating the market on progress in due course.”


Sound Energy Gearing Up For Start Of Next Morocco Gas Well Programme

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 13:43

Proactive Investors
Jamie Ashcroft

The Koba-1 and Kamar-1 wells, drilled by former operators, will be recompleted, perforated and tested.

Sound sees ‘first commercial gas’ potentially coming from Sidi Moktar by the end of 2017.

Sound Energy PLC (LON:SOU) revealed details of its preparations for work-over programmes at the Sidi Moktar gas project onshore Morocco, where a rig has now arrived.

The closely followed oil and gas company told investors that the newly arrived SAIPEM rig with be used for the re-entry of two existing wells on the Kechoula discovery.

The Koba-1 and Kamar-1 wells, drilled by former operators, will be recompleted, perforated and tested.

Operations on Koba-1 are expected to be complete by the end of May, whereas the Kamar-1 workover programme is due to complete by mid-June.

If the well work-overs result in commercial flow rates then it is planned that Sound will have an extended well test.

The company notes that past assessment of Sidi Moktar, by past operators, yielded estimates for the asset’s potential for up to 9 trillion cubic feet of gas. As well as the Koba-1 and Kamar-1 well operations, Sound also intends to reprocess existing 2D seismic data.

Sound highlighted that it intends to wait until it has well data and findings from the new seismic data analysis before it comes to its own conclusion about the project’s resource potential.

It also noted that if well operations and testing are successful it would anticipate its ‘first commercial gas’ from Sidi Moktar by the end of 2017, given that the project is close to existing infrastructure and potential gas customers (such as the large scale Moroccan state owned OCP Phosphate plant).

CEO James Parsons excited by Morocco upside

“Sidi Moktar represents one of many exciting opportunities for operational success to add material value to our business in the near future,” chief executive James Parsons said.

“The Sidi Moktar licences are estimated to have significant pre-Jurassic exploration potential from the TAGI and Paleozoic, similar to our Tendrara licence in Eastern Morocco, reinforcing our strategy of identifying opportunities that can bring near term benefit to Sound Energy and can be progressed quickly from an infrastructural perspective.

“We continue to believe that Morocco is an exciting hydrocarbon province with significant upside for Sound, and look forward to updating the market on progress in due course.”

Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project Agreements Signed

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 07:52

Energy Global
Angharad Lock, Digital Assistant Editor

Agreements regarding the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project were signed at a ceremony chaired by King Mohammed VI in Rabat (Morocco) on Monday. The pipeline is planned to stretch from Nigeria to Morocco and, eventually, into Europe.

According to news sources, when presenting on the pipeline project, Nasser Bourita, the Moroccan Foreign Minister, claimed that the Nigeria-Morocco pipeline will have a positive impact on over 300 million inhabitants.

Bourita’s Nigerian counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, has stressed that the conclusion of the pipeline agreements just a few months after discussions about the pipeline commenced at the UN Climate Summit COP22 in November last year, proves a successful partnership between the countries.

New US$350 Million Program Unleashes Opportunities For Financial Sector Growth In Morocco

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 05:43

World Bank org
Press Release

New World Bank program supports improved access to finance for small and young enterprises and the development of local capital markets.

The World Bank announced today a $350 million program to support wide-ranging reforms of financial intermediation in Morocco. The operation supports new sources of financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) while improving the regulatory oversight of the banking sector.

The operation also supports capital market development by broadening the range of instruments and strengthening the protection of Moroccan investors. Finally, it addresses the financial sustainability of the civil service pension fund, thereby preserving its role as a major institutional investor. The program will eventually unleash new financing solutions for small enterprises and the real economy more broadly.

To improve access to finance and promote financial inclusion, the Second Capital Market Development and Small and Medium Enterprise Finance Development Policy Loan (DPL) supports the expansion of the state’s loan guarantee schemes into Morocco’s regions. It also supports the development of credit information on new borrowers to facilitate lending decisions, as well as the provision of alternative payment services outside the traditional banking system. This will over time improve the financial lives of households and small enterprises with hitherto limited or no access to the formal financial system. With the financial sector exposed to new risks as the economy develops and Moroccan companies diversify into Africa, the DPL also supports enhanced central bank supervision of banks particularly those belonging to large financial conglomerates that could pose a risk to the entire financial system.

Stabilizing the finances of the Caisse Marocaine des Retraites, the mandatory pension fund for civil and military services, is a key part of the program. The reform gradually increases both the retirement age and contributions, as the first stage of a comprehensive reform toward restoring financial soundness to the pension system. The reform raises immediately the minimum pension payments for those at the lower end of the salary scale to protect the least well-off retirees and women survivors. Taken together, the reform safeguards the pension promises made by the State to its civil servants.

“Morocco has made significant progress over the past two decades in modernizing its financial system and creating an environment conducive to private sector development,”” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Maghreb Country Director for the Maghreb and Malta. “Global experience shows that private initiative is the engine of job creation, and better access to finance for SMEs, along with other financial inclusion efforts while safeguarding financial stability, will help unlock the immense potential of Morocco’s youth and women.”

Low-income households in particular are expected to benefit from the reforms supported by the DPL. Increased access to finance for small and medium enterprises will create more opportunities and generate jobs. The rise in pensions for those at the bottom wage scale will prevent any sudden drop in take home pay and help maintain their levels of consumption. Apart from providing new sources of financing for women entrepreneurs, the reforms create new systems for electronic payments allowing women to by-pass many social and economic hurdles that have excluded them from the economy.

“Strengthening capital markets and creating a dynamic, private sector-led economy will also allow Morocco to capitalize on new investment opportunities,” said Gabriel Sensenbrenner, World Bank Lead Financial Sector Economist and Team Leader. “This program will equip the financial system with instruments that help it allocate resources to where they are most productive, while safeguarding financial stability. This is particularly important as Morocco becomes a hub for Africa’s economic development.”

This DPL complements an operation approved in March this year supporting equity financing for innovative young and fast-growing enterprises in Morocco. It is also aligned with the World Bank Group strategy to help develop capital market solutions to mobilize private financing for infrastructure projects in client countries.


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Nigeria, Morocco Sign Two Bilateral Agreements

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 05:17

The Punch Nigeria

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Godfrey Onyeama, introduces Nigerian delegates to the King of Morocco, King Mohammed VI. Photo: Akinkugbe

Nigeria and Morocco on Monday strengthened their business relationship by signing two bilateral agreements in Rabat, the Moroccan capital.

According to a release signed by the Communication and Change Management Consultant, Mrs. Olubunmi Akinkugbe, the first bilateral agreement was the Joint Initiative on the Morocco-Nigeria Gas Regional Pipeline.

“Tagged ‘The Wonder of Africa’ the pipeline, the project has historical significance because it is designed by ‘Africans for Africans,’ with a direct impact on 300 million people through the speeding up of electrification projects in West Africa; thus serving a basis for the creation of a competitive electricity regional market,” Akinkugbe wrote.

She said the scope of the Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines, was to determine the modalities of undertaking a feasibility study and a Front-End Engineering and Design study relating to a gas pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco.

It also specified equal partnership in governance, management and financing of the project.

The timeline for both studies is two years from the date of signing.

Interested third party countries will be allowed to join, the release added.

The second bilateral agreement was on the Second Phase of the Fertiliser Initiative.

The first phase was the supply of a cargo of phosphate by Morocco to Nigeria after eight weeks of its signing.

“This supply led to the resuscitation of 11 blending plants which produced about 1.3 million tonnes of fertiliser; creation of 50,000 (direct) and 150,000 (indirect) jobs, while farmers have access to the quantity of fertiliser they need.

“The second phase will enable the maximisation of local fertiliser production through the creation of platform for basic chemical products, secure the Nigeria’s market’s fertiliser supply for competitive prices and reinforce local distribution channels,” the release stated.

According to the Foreign Minister of Morocco, Nasser Bourita, who presented the broad guidelines of the projects, the signing of the agreements reflects the shared vision of the two leaders: President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari; and

King Mohammed VI of Morocco, in favour of a sustainable, active and solidarity-based joint development for Africa.

Both projects were initiated during the Royal visit of the king to Nigeria in December 2016, the release said.

The ceremony, held at the palace of King Mohammed VI, had in attendance a delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Godfrey Onyeama; the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbe; Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; and Governor of Jigawa State and Chairman, Presidential Committee on Fertiliser, Mr. Abubakar Badaru.

Representatives of other African countries were also in attendance.