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ADFD Evaluates Proposed New Projects In Morocco

Tue, 12/27/2016 - 22:45

Gulf News

Development fund targets socio-economic growth across all key sectors through grant programme

Abu Dhabi: A delegation from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), a national organisation owned by the Abu Dhabi government, is studying and assessing new development projects proposed by the Moroccan government, the fund said on Tuesday.

“The proposed initiatives of the Moroccan government will contribute to driving socio-economic growth across all key sectors and create new job opportunities,” said Mohammad Saif Al Suwaidi, Director-General of ADFD. The ADFD delegation’s visit to Morocco is within the framework of the 2013 UAE government grant contribution of Dh4.6 billion to the Gulf Development Fund, a grant programme from the Gulf Operation Council member countries to finance development projects in Morocco over a five-year period.

Daewoo E&C Receives Cost of Construction Of Safi Combined Cycle Power Plant In Morocco

Tue, 12/27/2016 - 07:30

Business Korea
Lee Song-hoon

Daewoo Engineering & Construction (E&C) Co., Ltd. announced on December 23 that the builder will collect the total 387.1 billion won (US$348 million) for construction of Safi Combined Cycle Power Plant in Morocco at the power plant in Morocco from October to December.

According to Daewoo E&C, the Korean contractor received 66 billion won (US$59 million) in October, 159.3 billion won (US$143 million) in November and will receive 161.8 billion won (US$145 million) in December so a total of 387.1 billion won (US$348 million) will be paid to Daewoo E&C in accordance with shipments of various materials, the completion of deliveries and progress in construction work.

The Moroccan Safi Combined Cycle Power Plant’s full-fledged progress this year led to a sharp increase in sales of Daewoo E&C. But unrequested construction cost amounted to 290.5 billion won (US$261 million) until the third quarter due to the unarrival of the time of the request in the agreement.

As a result, the project has been perceived as a major concern for overseas losses of Daewoo E&C.

According to Daewoo E&C, a small amount of cost of Safi Combined-Cycle Power Plant is expected to remain at the end of the year and will be paid in full early next year.

APHIS Bans Moroccan Citrus From Berkane Region

Tue, 12/27/2016 - 00:02

Fresh Plaza
Sander Bruins Slot

Recently, there has been an interception of Mediterranean fruit fly larva in a shipment of clementines from Morocco. The African country is the biggest citrus (clementines) supplier of the US, both in volumes and value.

In a letter, APHIS informed Morocco. “On December 14, 2016, the live fruit fly larva was found during an inspection of clementines from Morocco at the Port of Philadelphia. APHIS’ national fruit fly specialist confirmed this larva to be Medfly. As a result, effective immediately, APHIS is prohibiting the importation of all citrus produced in, packaged in, moved through, or shipped from the Berkane Region in Morocco. All cargo that have a bill of lading date no later than 14 days from today and have successfully completed the prescribed cold treatment and passed inspection upon arrival into a North Atlantic maritime U.S. port may still enter.

Citrus shipments from the Agadir Region of Morocco remain enterable into the United States, if the cold treatment was successfully completed and no live pests are found upon inspection at the U.S. port of entry. APHIS will not accept citrus fruit that was grown, harvested, or transferred from the Berkane Region in a shipment from the Agadir Region.”

This news is surprising, as Moroccan citrus imports was already suspended in January this year and lifted it in June after agreeing some special protocols. Berkane is seen as the capital of citrus from Morocco.

Publication date: 12/26/2016
Author: Sander Bruins Slot

‘Cloud Fishing’ Reels In Precious Water For Villagers In Rural Morocco

Mon, 12/26/2016 - 23:37

The Guardian
Celeste Hicks in Taloust

“Everyone was leaving the village where I grew up, and it was all because of water,” says Jamila Bargach, whose village in rural Morocco has steadily emptied of people amid severe water stress.

As in most of rural Morocco, climate change and population pressures have led to more unpredictable rainfall patterns and the depletion of natural water sources, such as underground aquifers, in the area around the village of Taloust. Situated in the country’s south-west Sidi Ifni region, close to the coast, the area is extremely arid as it borders the northern Sahara desert. Average annual precipitation is less than 130mm.

In recent years, repeated cycles of intense drought followed by flash floods have led to deaths and the devastation of local infrastructure. Desertification, land degradation and the advance of the Sahara also affect the area.

However, the Sidi Ifni region does have one precious resource: fog. “We began to read about ‘fog harvesting’ projects around the world, and we wondered if we could repeat it here,” says Bargach. “Our observations started in 2006, and we saw that on average we have 143 days of fog a year.”

The fog is caused by a unique microclimate. Warm air driven by ocean currents makes landfall on Morocco’s Atlantic coast around the town of Sidi Ifni; as the humid air rises, it hits the natural barrier of Morocco’s Anti-Atlas mountains, which start just 35km east from the coast and rise to more than 2,500m. From there, the air turns into blankets of thick fog, particularly between December and June. For years, the community saw this as a bad thing: they believed the fog prevented rainfall, turned fields to mud and made people ill.

“Lots of people were reluctant – and even negative – at the beginning of the project. Some even thought that cloud water would not be safe to drink,” says Bargach, who is now director of non-profit organisation Dar Si Hmad. “We weren’t sure if it was going to deliver and we didn’t want to disappoint people. But slowly people began to be convinced, and now the local women call the nets their ‘wells’.”

Over the past 10 years, Dar Si Hmad has erected vast mesh nets to capture the moisture at an altitude of 1,225m on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida – for what is now the largest fog-harvesting project in the world. About 600 square metres of mesh nets capture water particles from the fog, which then condense and drip into collection trays. Roughly 6,300 litres of water can be harvested daily. The water is then filtered and mixed with underground water. More than 8km of pipelines have been installed to share the water between about 400 people in five villages.

Once seen as a bad thing by villagers in Sidi Ifni, fog is now captured to provide water.

The benefits are obvious: clean water that is both instant and free. “We used to spend at least four or five hours going to collect water every day from wells in neighbouring villages, or collecting the rain in tanks during the rainy season,” says Zeyna Hamou Ali, 20, a local woman who works as a coordinator for Dar Si Hmad. “This made it very difficult for us to go to school because it’s just accepted by everyone that it’s a woman’s job to go and get water.”

The population of these areas of south-west Morocco consists predominantly of rural Berber women, the indigenous inhabitants of north Africa who speak a dialect of the Tamazight language. Rates of illiteracy among rural communities in Morocco are surprisingly high: more than 40%, with women accounting for the lion’s share of that figure. Dar Si Hmad also provides training and educational opportunities to women from the villages.

Nets capture moisture, which is collected and filtered, and then mixed with underground water
The idea of harvesting fog was first developed in South America in the 1980s and there are other projects in Chile, Peru, Ghana, Eritrea, South Africa and California in the US. In 2017, Dar Si Hmad plans to start installing the next generation of bigger and better “cloudfisher” nets, developed in Germany. These larger nets will double the amount of water collected and connect another eight villages to the network.

In recognition of its contribution to finding innovative, community-led solutions to climate change, Dar Si Hmad was awarded the 2016 UN momentum for change award. Ali and the project’s directors travelled to collect the award at the COP22 climate change conference, which took place in Marrakech in November. “This is the first time I’ve left my village,” said the wide-eyed Ali at the glittering event. “You can see how much this project has changed my life.”

Maya: Zgounder Silver Mine Poured 35,997 Ounces (1119 Kg) Of Silver Ingots In November

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 16:25

Marketwired.com
Maya Gold & Silver Inc.

Maya Gold & Silver Inc. (“Maya” or the “Corporation”) (TSX VENTURE:MYA) announced a production of 35,997 ounces of silver (1119 kg) during the month of November 2016 at its Zgounder silver mine in Morocco.

November 2016 Operations Highlights

  • 35,997 ounces (1119 Kg) of silver ingots were produced from 5012 tonnes of processed dry material having an average head grade of 299.7 g/t Ag;
  • A total recovery rate of 74.48% was achieved.

The silver production fell off by 8.2% over the previous month primarily due to lower concentrations of the mineralized material processed as well as a lower rate of recovery. The head grade of material processed during the month achieved 299.7 g /t Ag against 403 g/t obtained during October. The head grade decrease is principally related to accrued underground development work preparing mining sites to provide sufficient mineralized material which will be able to feed at full capacity the flotation cells a near future.

Principal location and level of the extraction zones during the month of November

*Total Ag weighted average

Qualified Persons

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

ABOUT MAYA

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

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

Forward looking information

Zgounder Silver Mine

The decision to commence production at the Zgounder Silver Mine was not based on a feasibility study of mineral reserves demonstrating economic and technical viability, but rather on a pre-feasibility study. Accordingly, there is increased uncertainty and economic and technical risks of failure associated with this production decision. Production and economic variables may vary considerably, due to the absence of a complete and detailed site analysis according to and in accordance with NI 43-101.

Forward-looking statements

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

CONTACT INFORMATION

Maya Gold & Silver Inc.
Guy Goulet
Chief Executive Officer
450-435-0700 ext. 204
ggoulet@mayagoldsilver.com

Nathalie Dion
Investor Relations
450-435-0700 ext. 202
ndion@mayagoldsilver.com
www.mayagoldsilver.com

IFC: Addressing Climate Change Can Unlock $23 Trillion-Dollar Investment Opportunities In Emerging Markets

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 13:28

Capital Finance International
By Christian Grossmann and Thomas Kerr

The historic Paris climate change agreement entered into force in record speed last November, committing countries to a decarbonized future. This means that new markets for climate-smart investments are set to grow, as governments put in place policies that operationalize their climate commitments.

To date, a total of 189 countries have submitted national plans that target aggressive growth in climate solutions—including renewable energy, low-carbon cities, energy efficiency, sustainable forest management, and climate-smart agriculture. These plans offer a clear roadmap for investments that will target climate-resilient infrastructure and offset higher upfront costs through efficiency gains and fuel savings.

“The message is clear: if governments make good on the promise of Paris by implementing a set of clear, investment-friendly policies, business will help to unlock trillions of dollars of investment for sustainable infrastructure.”

There has never been a better time to invest in climate solutions and not only because of the international agreement on climate but also the current energy landscape. As a result of massive cost reductions, solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power are now mainstream. Global investment in clean energy last year—nearly $350 billion—more than doubled the amount invested in coal- and gas-fired power generation. At the same time, farmers are investing in more productive, climate-resilient agricultural practices and the green buildings market has doubled every three years for the past decade.

The hundreds of companies in Marrakech at last year’s climate talks represent the sea change that is happening: business is finding profit in climate-friendly investments. Investors and businesses need to ask: Where are the best investment opportunities?

To understand just how big these opportunities are and help locate the most promising markets, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group and the world’s largest private sector development bank, analyzed the national climate commitments made in Paris by 21 rapidly growing emerging market economies, where we expect to see major investment in infrastructure and climate-smart solutions. If these countries make good on their ambitions to scale up solar and wind energy, increase green buildings and put in place clean transport and implement waste solutions—there is a $23 trillion investment potential to 2030.

Morocco is just one example of a country that is seriously focused on getting the policies right so that it can grow in a greener manner, without increasing greenhouse-gas emissions. We have seen similar success stories in a number of emerging markets, including Chile, Jordan, South Africa and Brazil. The message is clear: if governments make good on the promise of Paris by implementing a set of clear, investment-friendly policies, business will help to unlock trillions of dollars of investment for sustainable infrastructure.

This message came out loud and clear in Marrakech at COP22, where we saw major global businesses announcing targets to purchase 100 percent of their power from renewables, and China – the world’s clean energy leader – moving to further ramp up investment by greening their financial system and putting a price on carbon by implementing the world’s largest carbon pricing system in 2017.

To continue this momentum and unlock the $23 trillion in investment potential, we will need hard work to put in place more of these sorts of policies, including removal of fossil fuel subsidies and carbon pricing to level the playing field for cleaner alternatives; targeted use of public finance to de-risk investments and leverage much larger sums of private finance; and a focus on investor-friendly policies and financial regulation. It will also require more partnership, coordinated action and leadership among government, business and civil society. By working together, we can address climate, while creating profitable new markets for the private sector.

Christian Grossmann is the Director of Climate Change at IFC and Thomas Kerr is a Principal Industry Specialist.

As one example, Morocco, the host of this year’s climate talks, is already an attractive renewable energy hub, with several wind and solar projects in development. If the government realizes its climate targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste and urban transport operations, there is $83 billion in additional investment potential between now and 2030. To realize this potential, Morocco will need to strengthen its domestic banking sector by building capacity among financial institutions to invest in these new climate-smart opportunities. It can also attract more investment by accelerating the implementation of its renewable energy law by streamlining permitting and approval procedures. Another solution Morocco can use to attract more private investment is the greater use of public-private partnerships to design and finance new urban infrastructure. The good news is Morocco is not starting from scratch: last year, the country attracted $2 billion in investment for solar and wind power. Morocco’s flagship solar project – the Noor Concentrated Solar Thermal Plant – has been referenced as a model for the region’s ability to capture its enormous solar capacity, and has begun changing the country’s status as an energy importer.

European Court Dismisses Morocco’s Claim To Western Sahara, Throwing EU Trade Deal Into Doubt

Wed, 12/21/2016 - 17:11

Forbes

Morocco’s relations with the European Union (EU) have suffered a potentially significant setback, after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Western Sahara cannot be treated as a part of Morocco, meaning that no EU-Morocco trade deals can apply to the territory.

The December 21 court ruling was welcomed by Western Sahara’s liberation movement, the Polisario Front. Its representative to Europe, Mohamed Sidati, was in Luxembourg to receive the results of the ruling and said afterwards “The ruling confirms the long-established legal status of Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory, and upholds existing international law…We call on EU member states and institutions to now comply with the ruling and immediately cease all agreements, funding and projects reinforcing Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara.”

Others also welcomed the ruling, including Bodil Valero, vice-chair of the European Parliament intergroup on Western Sahara. “We welcome today’s ruling, which makes absolutely clear that Western Sahara is not a part of Moroccan territory and that no bilateral EU-Morocco agreements apply to this territory,” said Valero. “We expect to see immediate action from the [European] Commission and member states to bring this ruling into practice.”

A Sahrawi refugee prepares tea on July 8, 2016 at the refugee camp of Dakhla, 170km southeast of the Algerian city of Tindouf, in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. (Photo: FAROUK BATICHE/AFP/Getty Images)

The court ruling was not a complete surprise. In mid-September Melchior Wathelet, an advocate general at the Court of Justice in Brussels, issued a statement in which he said “Western Sahara is not part of Moroccan territory and therefore … neither the EU-Morocco Association Agreement, nor the Liberalisation Agreement are applicable to it.” Advocates general provide independent legal opinions to judges at the Court of Justice. These opinions are advisory and non-binding but are often influential.

In response to the court ruling, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Salaheddine Mezouar issued a joint statement in which they said they “took note” of the judgement and would “work together on any issue relating to its application”.

Just what that will involve remains to be seen, but the Moroccan government has reacted angrily to similar legal setbacks in the past. In December 2015, the European Court of Justice ruled that a four-year-old deal between the EU and Morocco covering trade in agricultural and fishery products (also known as the Liberalisation Agreement) should be scrapped because it included products from Western Sahara. In response, Morocco suspended cooperation with the EU for several months. It also fell out with the US over the issue of Western Sahara’s status in May 2016.

Bilateral trade between the EU and Morocco is worth €37bn a year and 63 per cent of Moroccan exports go to the EU. In addition, the EU is providing aid worth €728m-890m a year over the period 2014 to 2017. Morocco also sells fishing rights in its Atlantic waters to EU boats. If trade is to grow further in the future, Morocco will have to accept that any free trade deal will have to exclude Western Sahara – including the fruit and vegetables growing in and around Dakhla, grown by companies including Les Domaines Agricoles, which is part-owned by King Mohammed VI.

EU-Morocco Trade Accords Still Valid – EU Court

Wed, 12/21/2016 - 15:40

Thomson Reuters Foundation
by Michele Sinner

The European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that two political and trade deals between Morocco and the European Union did not apply to Western Sahara and are still valid, avoiding a diplomatic dispute with Rabat.

The court said the two agreements from 2000 and 2012 “do not concern” the Polisario Front, which wants independence for Western Sahara and had challenged the accords on the grounds that Rabat was benefiting from the disputed territory.

The top court’s decision overrules a 2015 decision by the lower General Court that the trade deals were void, at the time prompting Morocco briefly to suspend contact with EU institutions and the EU to lodge a legal appeal.

A court adviser said in September the annulment should be overturned, and EU judges decided to follow that opinion. The court also rejected the Polisario Front’s right to appeal.

The EU and Morocco have struck agreements allowing duty-free quotas for agricultural products such as tomatoes and granting access for European vessels to fish in Moroccan waters in return for financial assistance. The two sides also began negotiations in 2013 to form a deeper and broader free trade agreement.

Morocco has controlled most of Western Sahara since 1975 and claims sovereignty over the sparsely populated stretch of desert to its south, which has offshore fishing as well as phosphate and possibly oil reserves.

But its annexation of the region led to a rebellion by the Polisario Front backed by Morocco’s neighbour Algeria. The Front and Morocco have been at loggerheads ever since.

(Reporting by Michele Sinner, writing by Robin Emmott; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

IFAD To Provide $46.5m To Reduce Poverty And Revitalize Mountain Areas In Morocco

Wed, 12/21/2016 - 07:40

Worldstagegroup.com

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Morocco today signed a financing agreement to improve the living conditions of rural people in mountain areas and reduce poverty by 30 per cent by 2030.

The Atlas Mountains Rural Development Project will benefit 182,000 people in 18 rural communes in the provinces of Ouarzazate, Tinghir and Beni Mellal. The total project investment is US$61.3 million, including a $45.1 million IFAD loan and a $1.4 million grant. The project is cofinanced by the Government of Morocco ($13.6 million) and by the beneficiaries themselves ($1.2 million).

The financial agreement was signed in Rome by Michel Mordasini, Vice-President of IFAD and Morocco’s Ambassador to Italy, Hassan Abouyoub.

In Morocco, the agricultural sector remains key for national macro-economic stability and economic and social development. Provinces located in mountainous areas are among the poorest, due to devastating floods and prolonged droughts from the impact of climate change, the high illiteracy rate and lack of access to financial services.

The project will focus on areas that are prone to extreme effects of climate change and socio-economic vulnerability and where there are poverty hotspots.

“Through this project, IFAD aims to also benefit landless people, women-headed households and youth to revitalize rural areas and limit rural exodus. It aims at achieving essential developmental impacts through income-generating activities, irrigation, the adoption of improved farming techniques and value chain development,” said Naoufel Telahigue, Country Programme Manager at IFAD.

The project incorporates a number of innovations, especially through a shift towards a value chain approach for products, such as saffron and cherries, to improve storage, processing and transformation technologies. In addition, it will introduce innovative implementation tools (field schools and business schools) and promote conservation agriculture.

The project will also promote South-South and Triangular Cooperation by sharing with sub-Saharan African countries the Moroccan experience in smallholder agriculture and value chain development.

Why Morocco’s Islamists Struggle To Manage Economy

Wed, 12/21/2016 - 06:59

Al Monitor
Joseph Hammond
Contributor

Nearly two months after its parliamentary elections, Morocco has not yet assembled a governing coalition. Meanwhile, its economic problems are piling up and causing anxiety among American and European investors.

The gross domestic product (GDP) in the North African nation was $100 billion in 2015, an almost 10% decline from $110 billion in 2014.

The long-term economic trend has not been positive. Morocco’s GDP is slightly lower today than it was in 2011, when the ruling Justice and Development Party, an Islamist party, won a plurality in the national elections and built a governing coalition with smaller parties.

The economic downturn was partly caused by a drought last year that reduced farm production in an economy where agriculture accounts for about one-third of economic output.

Tourism, a major source of foreign currency, is down 5.6% over the first half of 2016 compared with 2015. Tourism and agriculture woes have contributed to an unemployment rate of 10%.

Even earnings from phosphates, which are usually an economic bright spot for Morocco, have declined roughly 26% in the past year. Morocco has the world’s largest phosphate reserves.

The economic stagnation is wearing on Moroccan voters. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) won re-election with a plurality of votes in the recent election. It is expected to form Morocco’s next government. But negotiations among the parties have been stalled by horse-trading and clashing personalities.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, who also leads the PJD, has struggled to provide economic growth. This is the second time that Benkirane was forced to create a new Cabinet. The first shake-up occurred in 2013, when his coalition unraveled. He then saved his government by recruiting the more free-market-oriented National Rally of Independents (RNI) into the governing coalition. In exchange, the RNI was given several important ministerial portfolios, including finance, which it awarded to Paris-educated Mohamed Boussaid. “By being in a coalition government with the PJD, we have tried to improve the economic situation,” Boussaid said. “In 2013, when I took over, the International Monetary Fund was very angry with the government. The PJD had pledged in 2012 that we would make a deficit target of 5.5% of GDP. In January 2013, when it was 7.2%, they were not pleased.”

Nevertheless, it doesn’t appear that the RNI is willing to join the Islamists in forming a new government.

“I’ve had Prime Minister Benkirane here in this very office, and my sense in talking to him is that he is an economic liberal at heart,” Boussaid said of his decision to become minister of finance and economics. “I don’t think that’s the case with most of the PJD leadership, which doesn’t really have any knowledge or interest in economic issues.”1

Morocco’s deficit dropped to 4.3% of the GDP in 2015. Government debt is 64% of GDP, a large figure for a developing country and an amount that Morocco will struggle to pay down.

Boussaid oversaw a period in which the current account deficit, money owned by the kingdom of Morocco, was reduced by 75%, from 9.2% of GDP in 2012 to 2.3% in 2015.

Morocco’s previous government had approved a plan to abolish fuel subsidies, but the move proved unpopular, and the government postponed plans to implement similar reforms of food subsidies.

The RNI has indicated it is not willing to join in a new PJD government due to ideological differences. Boussaid told Al-Monitor he is unlikely to join the government as an independent.

Boussaid has earned grudging praise across the Moroccan spectrum. “Yes, we can say Boussaid has done a good job,” said Ilyas El Omari, governor of the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, the northernmost in Morocco. “But in the context of a PJD-led government, his efforts to improve the economy are like pouring water into sand.”

Not all of Morocco’s economic news is negative. The French car maker Renault, which already has two plants in Morocco, announced plans in April to invest $1 billion more in the country. Ford opened a buying office in Morocco. Peugeot Citroen will open a factory in Morocco by 2020. Moroccan officials say that the country will become the world’s 19th-largest automotive producer by 2017. Earlier this year, Boeing signed a deal to develop an industrial zone near Tangier, where as many as 120 Boeing suppliers and subcontractors are planning to operate.

Morocco Central Bank Sees Growth Recover In 2017, Keeps Rates Unchanged

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 11:49

Yahoo News
Reuters
by Aziz El Yaakoubi

Morocco’s economic growth will jump to 4.2 percent next year from an estimated 1.2 percent in 2016 on the back of sharply rising agricultural output, the central bank said on Tuesday.

The bank made the bullish projection as it kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2.25 percent.

Abnormally dry weather across North Africa slashed the cereal harvest last season to 3.35 million tonnes, down 70 percent from the previous record 11 million tonnes. Last year’s drought was the worst in 30 years, the government said.

But early season rainfall this year is up 22 percent from a normal year and up 107 percent from last year.

The bank, known as Bank al-Maghrib, revised down this year’s overall growth estimates to 1.2 percent from 1.4 percent.

It lowered its key interest rate to 2.25 percent from 2.5 percent in March, its first cut in more than a year, to support the economy, in which agriculture accounts for more than 15 percent.

The bank said it expected inflation to remain around 1.6 percent in 2016 and fall to 1 percent in 2017.

Based on an average global oil price of $43.1 a barrel, the current account deficit should reach 2.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2016, slightly higher than expected, and 2.1 percent in 2017.

Bank al-Maghrib has been preparing to introduce a flexible exchange rate system in 2017. Governor Abdellatif Jouahri said the Moroccan dirham is at a balanced level and he does not expect a devaluation before or after the move.

“In our inflation forecast for 2017 and 2018, we have included the effects of introducing a more flexible exchange rate system,” Jouahri told reporters.

The International Monetary Fund had said earlier this month it does not predict volatility as all the conditions to manage a smooth transition to the dirham flotation have been prepared.

The trade deficit widened by 18 percent to 166.03 billion dirhams ($16.43 billion) in the first 11 months of 2016, reflecting a significant rise in imports.

The bank said the budget deficit would narrow to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2016 if the government maintained its current fiscal policy, and fall to 3.1 percent in 2017, as planned by the government in 2017 draft national budget.

Foreign exchange reserves will continue to increase, it said, though at a slower rate than previously expected. It should stand at around six months and 21 days of import needs at the end of 2016, and seven months at the end of 2017, the bank said.

(Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Morocco To Provide Resident Permits To Thousands Of Migrants

Mon, 12/19/2016 - 21:47

Africa News
with Reuters

Morocco launched the second phase of a campaign to ‘regularise’ the status of thousands of undocumented migrants on Thursday. The first phase was launched in 2014. The permits will allow them to work, enroll their children in school and have access to medical care.

The first phase was launched in 2014. More than 23,000 undocumented migrants have been given resident permits in the pat few years, authorities say. Of those, 23 percent were from Syria, 21 percent from Senegal and 19 percent from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the interior ministry said.

The permit allows people to work, enroll their children in school and have access to medical care.

Special offices have been opened in all Moroccan prefectures and provinces to receive the applications from foreigners.

Morocco has long been a transit to Europe, but as European countries have increased border security to check an unprecedented wave of migration, those who could not enter Europe, have put down roots in the country.

The applications for resident permits will be examined by prefectural and provincial committees who will decide which undocumented migrants are entitled to stay.

“There is no time limit for this operation that is open to everyone. All foreigners from every nationality who are staying illegally in Morocco and do not have resident permits have the opportunity now to submit their request in this office and also in all prefectures and provinces in Morocco. These requests will be examined and we will decide later on who are the people who fulfill the criteria and those who don’t,” said Khalil el Kay, the head of security at Rabat prefecture.

The scheme will cover foreigners married to Moroccan nationals, foreigners who are working or living in the country legally, those with five years of continuous residence in Morocco and those who have a chronic disease.

Kamara Gumbo Dimafa is hoping to be second time lucky.

“Today, I came here to apply for a permit. I did it the last time but I was refused a resident permit. I don’t know why I did not get it first time. I asked myself this question and it was probably because I did not have the document of the water board. Otherwise, I have all the proofs. I’ve been now in Morocco for nearly five years. I came to Morocco in 2011,” he said.

A majority of the migrants are from other African countries. But Morocco has also become home to thousands of Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country.

Walid al-Ahmad has been in Morocco only for a month. But he hopes to get the permit, as his mother is ill.

“They tell us that we should be living at least five years here to apply but we have been here only for a month. Yet, one of the criteria for applying is a chronic disease. My mother is chronically ill. She suffers from heart and blood vessels diseases,” he said.

“It is very refreshing because for me, it is not good to roam around Morocco illegally. That’s why I want to be legal in this place. I love Morocco, I love this place. It is good for the Filipinos and for the migrants like me. We are very thankful for the King. He gave us amnesty,” said Kyle Santos, a migrant from The Philippines.

The migrants from Africa, Syria and The Philippines all hope they will be able to get their papers, with some thanking the Moroccan King for giving them ‘amnesty’.

EU Approves Projects Worth EUR 37 Million To Tackle Migration Challenges In North Africa

Mon, 12/19/2016 - 07:34

ENPI INFO CENTRE

The EU, through its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, adopted a EUR 37 million package to increase protection of migrants and to strengthen effective migration management in North Africa. The package will address migration challenges in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.

In Libya, this new EU support will better protect and assist the most vulnerable migrants, such as the persons rescued at sea and disembarked in Libya, and will help their host communities. In Tunisia this programme will tackle the root causes of migration by boosting the creation of economic opportunities. In Morocco an EU programme will support the fight against racism and xenophobia against migrants by strengthening their legal protection. This funding brings the EU support to Northern African countries through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to a total of EUR 64.5 million in 2016.

“The new EU assistance package meets both, the very concrete needs of migrants on the ground, and those of our partner countries. Migrants stranded in Libya will receive assistance and protection, including support to return decently to their home country if they wish to do so. By supporting our partner countries in developing their capacities, the EU will also contribute to a safer, more orderly and efficient management of migration flows in our Neighbourhood, which is very much in our interest,” said Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

The ‘North of Africa Window’ of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa covers the following five countries: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. This EUR 37 million envelope comes in addition to the first three programmes worth EUR 27.5 million that have already been adopted in June 2016 under the ‘North of Africa Window’ for actions in Libya, Egypt and the region as a whole. The underlying priority is to strengthen stabilisation in areas particularly affected by migration and forced displacement flows.

Read more

Press release

EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

EU Migration Response – Factsheets

Finding solutions to migratory pressures

Refugee Crisis: European Commission takes decisive action

EU Neighbourhood Info Centre webpage – migration

U.S. And Morocco Elections: An American’s View From Afar

Mon, 12/19/2016 - 07:06

Minnpost.com
Community Voices
by Mark Mahon
REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

PJD leader and current Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, a folksy mix of Jimmy Carter (deep faith) and Bill Clinton (feel their pain) connected with like-minded voters in a genuinely ground-breaking manner: passion.

Within one month of each other, Morocco and the United States held federal elections. For the Kingdom of Morocco, it was the first post-Arab Spring parliamentary election. The Oct. 7 election was a mini-referendum on the current coalition government in a nation that is similar in both size and population to California. Viewed from Morocco, the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8 seemed to serve as a barometer for the health of the nation’s civil society.

As a political junkie, I have enjoyed querying my Moroccan colleagues and neighbors about politics, from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the minutiae of Morocco’s electoral system. Moroccans, generally, greeted news of Trump’s victory (explaining the Electoral College system is the very definition of diplomacy) with either slight bewilderment or casual indifference. “The people will always be friends,” said one friend from the Sahara Desert region. Here, both Moroccans and Americans like to boast that – way back in 1777 – Morocco was the first nation to recognize the independence of the American colonies. The long friendship has more than endured.

Appropriate or not, I looked for some commonalities between the election cycle and results in the United States and Morocco. Morocco has become a close U.S. ally in the tumultuous Middle East-North Africa region. The Kingdom of Morocco navigated the tumult of the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2012 fairly well. This year, automaker Renault announced a $1 billion investment for an automotive ecosystem in northern Morocco, and Boeing is planning a similar aerospace hub investment. Add to this Morocco’s growing cache as a leader in Sunni Islamic scholarship and religious tolerance. Imams and Muslim scholars from at least seven countries – France to Nigeria – come to study at Mohammad VI Institute in Rabat. 2014 was a record year for foreign film/TV production inside Morocco. Exciting times.

Was there angst among the Moroccan electorate, too? Yes. We have more in common than you’d think. Angst. In Arabic: qalaq.

Shake up the system

The entire Middle East-North Africa region is in the midst of a demographic youth bulge: Roughly half of the population of the region is under 30. The growing private sector economy is struggling to find jobs for all the country’s young college graduates (and those who decide to leave middle- and high school early). Voter turnout on Election Day was 43 percent, down from 46 percent during the previous round of parliamentary elections in 2011. Over half of my 20- and 30-something friends told me they hadn’t voted — a reflection of the ambivalence held by unemployed or underemployed young adults. They wanted to know that their voices would be heard, and that the government would have concrete plans to train young adults and provide them with career opportunities. They wanted service. Now.

In the U.S., nationwide voter turnout was just over 55 percent, the lowest in 20 years. Rising personal incomes and relative peace abroad didn’t seem to diminish a sense of national malaise. It was difficult to explain American angst to my Moroccan friends and counterparts. The socioeconomic and political fractures within the U.S. are not lost on citizens across the globe, but American soft power (YouTube, Hollywood) has more staying power among many young adults than hard problems like racism and inequality. During the U.S. presidential campaign, I sensed more shouting past one another than dialogue with one another. A Pew Center survey of partisan attitudes conducted this past summer indicated that 49 percent of Republican respondents and 55 percent of Democratic respondents said they were “afraid” of the other party.

One U.S. election exit poll survey question was very telling and one that would yield a similar response among the Moroccan electorate: Which candidate quality matters most? Of four given choices, the top response (garnering 39 percent) was a candidate who can bring change. 83 percent of that 39 percent chose Trump. Change, again. It showed itself in a slightly different way here, too. The current governing party, the Party of Justice and Development (PJD) surpassed all expectations and actually increased its percentage of the vote, from 26 percent to 32 percent (it picked up 19 seats in the 395-seat parliament). Impressive by Moroccan electoral standards as coalition government is the norm and most leading parties rarely if ever break the 20 percent threshold. The moderate Islamist party had governed Morocco for five years, instituting painful subsidy rollbacks and pension reforms, faced on and off criticism from the mainstream media. Yet it outperformed expectations. JDP supporters showed up on Election Day. One big reason, a friend told me, was that the JDP says what it means, and it does what it says. It was shaking up the system.

Straight talk resonates with Moroccans. PJD leader and current Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, a folksy mix of Jimmy Carter (deep faith) and Bill Clinton (feel their pain) connected with like-minded voters in a genuinely ground-breaking manner: passion. He campaigned as an outsider who promised supporters that he would continue to reform the nation’s public and administrative institutions while protecting disaffected young people and the poor. Several Moroccan friends told me that they admired the party’s desire to upend the old rules of the game. Sound familiar? Whether PJD delivers on its lofty promises is yet to be determined. The opposition countered that the system overhaul advocated by PJD was ill-suited to Morocco’s collaborative political heritage and stewardship of Morocco’s diversifying economy should be the top priority. The PJD certainly has everyone’s attention here.

Polarized electorate

The other half of the shake-up-the-system election story here in Morocco is the equally impressive performance of the second-place finisher, the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM). The centrist party, with an impressive social media machine and a program promoting experience and competence, more than doubled its seat total, from 47 to 102. It now takes on the role as the loyal (and large) opposition. Morocco’s modern political tradition includes a collection of 30 registered parties. Historically, perhaps four or five parties would dominate the vote during an election cycle, each receiving about 50 or 60 seats in the lower house of parliament. Not in 2016. PJD and PAM broke from the pack and each will hold more than 100 seats, more than doubling their respective historical averages. They have given Moroccan voters something new: clarity. PJD: faith, reform and transparency. PAM: inclusion, economic growth and competence. Both parties claimed mandates in their own right because both had genuinely connected with a significant number of voters who felt inspired by the message. The self-congratulating by both parties was so pronounced that it was hard to know at times, as a non-Moroccan, who finished first and who finished second.

In the U.S., the mildly curious red-state-blue-state phenomenon that I relished discussing with my Moroccan friends over the last three years has become a slight drag on my deep pride for being American. Especially when viewed from a more communal society that engages in heated political discourse more sparingly. Here political arguments, like family arguments, are often settled by dinnertime. Even bitter small town rivals will cross paths and share an occasional tea break. It seems Americans are politically segregating themselves, by town, by city, by state. The average margin of victory in U.S. Senate races this year was 22 percentage points. The average House victory margin was almost 37 points. In reference to President Obama’s selection of Judge Garland to be the next Supreme Court Justice last spring, a good friend here asked me, “Is it Obama’s job to pick a new Supreme Court Justice, or the new president next year?” Um …

Candidate charisma

I saw Twin Cities’ media coverage of Trump’s brief campaign rally at MSP airport on Nov. 6. Why, I wondered, was he in Minnesota? At a last-minute rally held in an aircraft hangar? Now I know. The mass rally spectacle trumped field offices in 2016. Here, too, in Morocco, large and medium-sized campaign rallies held by the leading parties have taken on a rock-concert feel. There are no TV attack ads here, so parties rely on a mix of old-fashioned door knocking, social media saturation and candidate rallies.

During the 2016 election cycle, Morocco’s political parties registered some 9,000 activities and events with the national electoral commission. That’s double the number of the 2011 election cycle. The stump speech messages were more macro-level “I feel your pain, change is coming …” than party platform recitations. Party leaders connected with supporters using real emotion: PJD leader Benkirane, overwhelmed by the size and passion of the crowds, was moved to tears at several campaign rallies. PAM leader Ilyas El Omari, using populist rhetoric, sought to make the election a referendum on PJD’s stewardship of both the economy and Morocco’s civil society over the last five years. He was certain that voters were not better off than they were five years earlier. That message yielded a strong second-place finish and it created a new narrative in Africa’s fifth largest economy: economic opportunity fuels social equality and a stronger civil society. “We will drive the Moroccan train back to its original rails,” he said in one interview.

Moroccans didn’t vote in large numbers this year, but they did take notice and there was real passion among voters who perceived Morocco to be at a social and economic crossroads. And Moroccans aren’t shy. In the next round of elections they’ll be ready with the local version of an American classic: What have you done for me lately?

The coalition-building process is still under way in Rabat. PJD needs the support of at least two second-tier parties to form a governing coalition. It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t exist in winner-take-all Washington, D.C. But it’s definitely a process that would benefit the American psyche in such a bitter political climate. Were the legendary tales of after-hours fraternizing by House Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Reagan true? I hope so.

I stayed up all night on Nov. 8 in Rabat glued to my smartphone, watching America select a new president from afar. Tired and dazed the next day, I talked about the results with a Moroccan friend. He consoled a weary Golden Gopher with some timeless Arab wisdom:

Winds do not blow as the ships wish.
Mark Mahon is a community engagement professional and writer from Minneapolis. He currently lives in Rabat and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco for 29 months (2013-15). He currently works as a cultural facilitator for higher education study abroad organizations.

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IDB Grants Morocco 101 Mln USD Loan To Support High-Speed Train Program

Sat, 12/17/2016 - 06:28

Global Times
Source: Xinhua

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) will contribute 101 million US dollars of financing to support the high-speed train program in Morocco, local media reported Friday.

Following the signing Thursday of an agreement between the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance, the National Railway Authority (ONCF) and the IDB, the bank will provide a three-year loan to support the building of three high-speed train stations in the cities of Casablanca, Kenitra and Tangiers, said financial daily l’Economiste.

The loan represents around 88.5 percent of the overall project budget.

Sidi Mohamed Taleb, the IDB Regional Director in Rabat, said this will complete the high-speed program at the remaining stations “that will be operational by summer 2018.”

The project, launched by King Mohammed VI and the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy in September 2011, was scheduled for December of 2015. It was later postponed to 2018 because of delays caused by infrastructure projects.

The first high-speed rail line in Africa is being financed by numerous partners, including the Moroccan government, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Around 1.5 billion dollars was secured through loans.

Morocco’s King Receives Russian Security Council Secretary

Sat, 12/17/2016 - 01:56

TASS

Earlier, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev had a series of consultations on security issues with Morocco’s security agencies.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Friday received Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev who is currently on a working visit to Rabat, the press service of the Russian Security Council reported.

“The sides noted positive dynamics of the Russian-Moroccan relations and the high level of mutual understanding between the countries,” the press service said.

Earlier, Patrushev had a series of consultations on security issues with Morocco’s security agencies.

READ ALSO

Russia, Morocco sign statement on closer strategic partnership

Patrushev and Moroccan Interior Minister, Mohamed Hassad, discussed cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

“The parties discussed cooperation between the judicial authorities, special services and law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism and religious extremism, transnational crime and drug trafficking,” the Russian Security Council’s press service stated. “They exchanged experience on improving the counter-terrorism legal framework and countering threats in cyberspace. Special attention was paid to thwarting the use of Internet technologies by terrorists and attempts to spread extremist dogma in cyberspace.”

Patrushev also held a meeting with Yassine Mansouri, Director General of Morocco’s Directorate General for Studies and Documentation, which focused on regional security issues. “They discussed the situation in North Africa, the Sahara and Sahel region and the Middle East,” the Russian Security Council said.

Morocco Jan-Nov Trade Deficit Rises 18 Percent Year On Year

Fri, 12/16/2016 - 16:34

Reuters
By Aziz El Yaakoubi

Morocco’s trade deficit rose 18 percent to 166.03 billion dirhams ($16.43 billion) in the first 11 months of 2016 compared with the same period a year ago, the foreign exchange regulator said on Friday citing increased imports.

Equipment imports rose 25.5 percent to 106.71 billion dirhams, while auto imports were 31.8 percent higher at 12.92 billion dirhams, the data showed.

Wheat imports also jumped as bad weather hurt the local harvest last year, rising 37.5 percent from a year earlier to 11.22 billion dirhams at the end of November.

The energy import bill fell 20 percent to 49.19 billion dirhams compared with a year earlier, thanks to lower prices in the international market. Morocco is the biggest energy importer in the North Africa region.

Total exports rose 1.4 percent from a year earlier to 203.18 billion dirhams, led by a 8.5 percent rise in auto exports. Phosphate sales fell 12.5 percent to 35.76 billion dirhams as prices fell in the international market.

Tourism receipts rose by 4.1 percent, while remittances from the 4.5 million Moroccans living abroad were 4.2 percent up to 59.47 billion dirhams. Foreign direct investment fell 14.5 percent to 30.22 billion dirhams.

($1 = 10.1040 Moroccan dirham)

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

European Union Approves Projects Worth €37 Million To Tackle Migration Challenges In North Africa

Fri, 12/16/2016 - 06:50

Sat PR NEWS
Monika Donimirska

The package will address migration challenges in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. In Libya, this new EU support will better protect and assist the most vulnerable migrants, such as the persons rescued at sea and disembarked in Libya, and will help their host communities. In Tunisia this programme will tackle the root causes of migration by boosting the creation of economic opportunities.

In Morocco an EU programme will support the fight against racism and xenophobia against migrants by strengthening their legal protection. Today’s new funding brings the EU support to Northern African countries through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to a total of €64.5 million in 2016.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations said: “The new EU assistance package meets both, the very concrete needs of migrants on the ground, and those of our partner countries. Migrants stranded in Libya will receive assistance and protection, including support to return decently to their home country if they wish to do so. By supporting our partner countries in developing their capacities, the EU will also contribute to a safer, more orderly and efficient management of migration flows in our Neighbourhood, which is very much in our interest.”

EU is protecting and assisting most vulnerable migrants while also promoting improved migration management

The EU is strongly committed to stabilising Libya and ensuring efficient protection for Libyans and migrants. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is a key instrument for funding priority action areas, such as assistance and protection for the most vulnerable migrants and their host communities, improving protection and addressing the most urgent needs of migrants, including in detention centres, as well as humanitarian repatriation and reintegration of vulnerable migrants.

In Tunisia and Morocco, the new EU support will improve migration management and tackle the root causes of migration by strengthening the capacities of partner countries’ institutions, improving the knowledge of migratory trends, contributing to the enforcement of national policies and strategies, promoting socio-economic development. The new programme will also promote investments in Tunisia by the Tunisian diaspora, thus tapping on the development potential of migrants.

The ‘North of Africa Window’ of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa covers the following five countries: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. Today’s €37 million envelope comes in addition to the first three programmes worth €27.5 million that have already been adopted in June 2016 under the ‘North of Africa Window’ for actions in Libya, Egypt and the region as a whole. The underlying priority is to strengthen stabilisation in areas particularly affected by migration and forced displacement flows.

Background

The newly adopted €37 million EU assistance package for North Africa consists of three programmes addressing migration challenges in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.

1) In Libya, a €20 million programme will better protect and assist the most vulnerable migrants and their host communities. It will in particular support:

(i) assisting migrants rescued at sea in Libyan territorial waters and disembarked in Libya;

(ii) improving protection and address the most urgent needs of migrants in detention centres;

(iii) scaling up humanitarian repatriation and reintegration in their home countries of vulnerable migrants stranded in Libya, with a first target of assisting 5000 people.

The programme will be implemented by the International Organisation for Migration. In addition, this programme sets up a ‘Protection Fund’ to cover impellent needs on the ground. Grants under this Fund will be allocated on the basis of an independent needs’ assessment and costs’ analysis mechanism and in strict coordination with the UN-led protection and migration clusters.

2) In Tunisia, a €11.5 million programme will support the country in implementing their National Strategy on Migration. In particular, this EU support will help mobilising diasporas’ potential to create economic opportunities and thus target one main driver of irregular migration.

The programme consists of 4 main components:

(i) support the Tunisian authorities in operationalising the Tunisian National Strategy on Migration through budgeting, implementation and follow up phases;

(ii) support to diaspora’s investments;

(iii) accompany reintegration of Tunisian migrants back in their home country and make it more sustainable;

(iv) support to local inclusive integration of migrants.

3) In Morocco, a €5.5 million programme will support preventing racism and xenophobia against migrants through capacity strengthening and improved treatment of complaints. This programme complements already existing EU support to the main axes of the Moroccan policy on migrants’ integration.

Morocco is already benefiting from a large and diverse pipeline of migration programmes. E.g. in order to support the Moroccan national policies on migration, a €35 million budget support programme has just received the favourable opinion of the EU Member States.

The European Commission launched at the Valletta Summit on Migration the “EU Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa” in November 2015. The Trust Fund is made up of over €2.4 billion from the EU budget and European Develop­ment Fund, combined with contributions from EU Member States and other donors. It aims at supporting all aspects of stability and to contribute to better manage migration, as well as addressing the root causes of destabilisation and, forced displacement and irregular migration.

For More Information

‘North of Africa Window’ of the EU Emergency Trust Fund

Factsheet: EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

European Agenda on Migration: Timeline

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Moulay Idriss, The Undiscovered Jewel Of Morocco

Fri, 12/16/2016 - 03:58

Travel & Leisure
by Anna Heyward

The holy village only recently opened to non-Muslim visitors, which is why it is one of the country’s most authentic and untrammeled outposts.

In the early spring, when I visited Moulay Idriss, the climate was at its most Mediterranean. The four-hour drive from Casablanca took me through forests of cork oaks, their bark stripped to arm’s reach to make corks for wine bottles. The greens of the countryside were muted and slightly dusty, the air was soft, and there were olive trees everywhere.

Approaching the town from the west, I saw a cluster of colorful boxes framed by bare mountain peaks. Reachable by just a pair of roads, Moulay Idriss spreads across two foothills of Mount Zerhoun, at the base of the Atlas Mountains. Edith Wharton came here in 1919, taking the same route I did. In her travel book, In Morocco, she described the “piled up terraces and towns of the Sacred City growing golden in the afternoon light across the valley.”

Left: Dinner on the terrace at Scorpion House, a private rental house. Right: A guest room at Scorpion House. Céline Clanet

Moulay Idriss was, until recently, off-limits to non-Muslims between 3 p.m. and sunrise—Wharton had to continue on to nearby Meknes to spend the night. This was because of the town’s holiness: it is a pilgrimage site, the burial place of Moulay Idris Al Akbar, a great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2005, Muhammed VI, the current king of Morocco, issued a decree to open the town to non-Muslim visitors as part of his plan of Western-oriented reform. Despite the lifting of restrictions, the tourism infrastructure that is so ubiquitous throughout the rest of the country has been slow to arrive here, and the place feels suspended in time.

Centuries before Moulay Idriss became sacred to Muslims, Romans occupied the region. To reach the town from Rabat or Casablanca, you must navigate around Volubilis, the ruin of an ancient Roman city about three miles away whose unesco listing describes architectural influences that “testify to Mediterranean, Libyan and Moor, Punic, Roman, and Arab-Islamic cultures as well as African and Christian cultures.” The farmers in the area tell stories about turning up bits of antiquity—broken relics and Roman stones—when tilling the earth. The logic of Moulay Idriss, when seen from Volubilis, becomes clear: it’s a raised, defensible outpost, surrounded by arable land, which allows occupants to see intruders approaching. The town’s history has imbued it with its own patchwork quality. After the Romans left, it became the seat of an Islamic dynasty. Then, following the French conquest of Morocco, it was remade as a weekend destination for the ruling class.

Left: A donkey in one of Moulay Idriss’s many narrow painted alleyways. Right: A young friend of the owners of Walila Farm on the property’s terrace. Céline Clanet

One reason the Romans chose Moulay Idriss was for its potential for making olive oil, which is today the town’s primary product. Once a week, a member of each family takes a bushel of olives and a jug to the local press, watches the machine churn, then collects the oil to bring home. With just under 12,000 residents, Moulay Idriss is by no means a large town, but it feels even smaller than it is.

When I arrived, I went to Dar Zerhoune, a five-bedroom inn that opened in 2009 with a multistory interior divided up by wooden beams and balconies. Its owner is Rose Button, a British expat who was one of the first non-Muslims to buy property here. As you look out onto the mountainside from the rooftop terrace, it’s easy to think of Wharton again: “The light had the preternatural purity which gives a foretaste of mirage: it was the light in which magic becomes real, and which helps to understand how, to people living in such an atmosphere, the boundary between fact and dream perpetually fluctuates.”

The only other Westerner in town is Mike Richardson, who left the London food scene to set up Café Clock in Fez, then bought a weekend home in Moulay Idriss. After renovating it to emphasize its open fireplaces, terraces, and picture windows, he opened it to guests as Scorpion House—or Dar Akrab, in Arabic—in late 2015. It hangs on a cliff just below the city’s lookout spot. The terrace where cocktail hour takes place at sunset is an excellent place from which to study the panorama of the adjacent hill and discover that various sections of town are each painted their own pastel shade. It’s also a good vantage point for observing the “promenade hour,” which in Moulay Idriss begins at about 4 p.m. and continues until nightfall. As the streets fill up, so do the windows. “People here love to sit and watch,” one local told me. When darkness arrived, Richardson and I stayed out on the terrace under a single light, eating rabbit that he had stuffed with merguez sausage and dates.

Left: A mosaic in the ancient Roman City of Volubilis. Right: The ruins of Volubilis. Céline Clanet

Moulay Idriss was built for donkey traffic. It is threaded with arteries that are less streets than openings just wide enough for a pack animal loaded with goods. One afternoon, lost in the maze of streets, I had to ask two young engineering students for directions. As they walked me home, they explained that development in Morocco follows a particular process that has remained unchanged for decades. The king arrives in a region, the people make their requests, and he allocates a budget. Several months later, he comes back in disguise to see whether what he commissioned is actually being carried out. I asked what sort of disguise. “In glasses, or with his trousers torn,” one said, in a manner that suggested the answer should have been obvious to me.

I went the following day to the town’s hammam. It is heated with burning olive wood, the scent of which floats into the street. Inside, though, the atmosphere is less like a spa than a communal bath full of screaming women. They brew afternoon coffee there while holding what could be called the town congress. I got so caught up in their interaction that I found it hard to leave.

One of the area’s best-kept secrets is Walila Farm, positioned between Volubilis and the two hills of Moulay Idriss. Built in 1920, it was once the weekend home of Michel Jobert, the French foreign minister under Georges Pompidou and François Mitterrand, who wrote a novel about the house. It had fallen into disrepair when Azzedine Zayr, a Moroccan who had spent many years working as a chef in Belgium, bought it in 2000. His renovation turned it into one of the most tranquil guesthouses I have ever visited. The Jobert family remains present in every detail, from the original tile work and furniture to the books in the library. Gardens and a copse of pine trees surround the house, with fields beyond where Zayr grows ingredients for the European-inflected traditional Moroccan dishes he serves to guests. Wild orange blossoms were flowering between the organic, hand-farmed crops when I visited. Zayr crushed a fragrant handful and held it up to my face to inhale, releasing a delicate perfume.

Pumpkin and vegetable soup at Walila Farm. Céline Clanet

Later that afternoon, he put the blossoms in a tea for me. As we sat in the garden eating a veal tagine, quinces, and dates from the trees that shaded us, a lamb grazed near a chunk of Roman stone that had rolled down the hill from one of Volubilis’s crumbling columns. If you walk to the top of Zayr’s land, you can look down on the valley and the slip of a river and see the same sweep of muted greens and patches farmed by hand and donkey that the Romans would have seen. This is a place where time unfolds and history passes, changing nothing.

photo

The Details: What to Do in Moulay Idriss

Getting There

The closest airports are Fez (a 1½-hour drive) and Casablanca (3½ hours).

Hotels and Homestays

Dar Zerhoune A five-room B&B inside a traditional Moroccan home with a dining terrace and some of the finest views in town.dar​zerhoune.com; doubles from $66.

Scorpion House Mike Richardson, the former maître d’ at the Ivy and the Wolseley, in London, has opened his weekend retreat as a guesthouse with meals he prepares himself. scorpionhouse.com; house rentals from $326.

Walila Farm A historic home in the countryside that offers accommodations as well as meals prepared from ingredients grown on the property. 212-6-520-96-373; doubles from $50.

Activities

Roman Baths Ask your host to point the way to the path leading to these ancient thermal baths, said to have curative properties.

Volubilis Once the capital of a remote corner of the Roman Empire, this partially excavated city just outside Moulay Idriss dates back to the third century B.C. and is a fascinating detour.

How To Invest In Morocco

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 05:28

Frontera News
Investment Frontier

Morocco’s main stock exchange, the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), has seen renewed activity in 2016. It had its largest IPO since 2008 with its July listing of Marsa Maroc, a state-owned port operator. This was also the first privatization of a government asset on the exchange, which could be a source of IPOs in the future.

Morocco has a GDP per capita (PPP) of around $8000 and a population of around 34 million that skews young – around 43% of the country is under the age of 25. As a result, mobile technology and internet usage in Morocco is among the highest in Africa, and there is a lot of potential for the country to be a leader in Africa and the Middle East in this space going forward. However, GDP growth has been hovering just over 4%.

Morocco is known as a first-rate tourist destination in Northern Africa, and is often cited as a potential hub country linking Europe with Africa and the Middle East. With the Western Sahara desert to its south and the Atlantic Ocean across most of its north and west border, it shares a land border with mainly Algeria, although Spain is across the Strait of Gibraltar in the north. While Arabic and Berber are the two official languages, French is prevalent as well, especially in a business setting.

The Moroccan stock market experienced a boom period from 2002 until the financial crisis of 2008 – in the 6 years from March 2002 to its all-time high in March 2008, the market gained 331% or about 27.5% annually. Its performance has been less stellar since the crisis, and here is the table of returns for the MASI Free Float Index:

Economy

Morocco’s largest trading partners are all in Europe, with Spain, France, Italy, and Germany leading the way. Despite its reputation as a conduit to Africa, very few of its exports or imports come from the African continent. Instead, almost two thirds of its exports and imports are from Europe.

As of 2014 it had an Economic Complexity Index (ECI) of -0.569; we consider any economy with an ECI of under zero to be an indicator of its frontier market status. Morocco has the largest reserves of phosphates in the world, but a breakdown of its exports can be seen below. While Morocco is still running a trade deficit, this has reduced sharply over the past few years with both the car and phosphate export sector growing.

Tourism is a significant contributor to the economy, and is estimated to provide just under a fifth of Morocco’s GDP. Another factor to Morocco’s GDP is remittances from the diaspora, which is estimated to account for around 8% of the economy.

Morocco’s credit rating is on the cusp of being investment grade with a BBB- rating from S&P and a Ba1 rating from Moody’s, both with stable outlook.

Notable Companies in Morocco:

State-owned enterprises are among the largest companies in Morocco. A significant number of large Moroccan companies are also subsidiaries of the Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI, National Investment Company), which is a holding company owned by the royal family. While many of them are not listed on the stock exchange yet, the recent listing of Marsa Maroc this year gives hope for further listings down the road:

  • Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP) (Not-listed, although there are bonds): 100% owned by the government of Morocco, OCP is the world’s largest producer of phosphates and a major global fertilizer company
  • l’Office National de l’Eau et de l’Électricité (l’ONEE) (Not-listed): the National Office of Water and Electricity is government owned, but is also one of the largest companies by revenue in Morocco
  • Maroc Telecom (aka Itissalat Al-Maghrib or IAM) (Listed on Euronext and CSE): Morocco’s largest telecommunications company, and one of the largest privately owned companies in the country
  • Attijariwafa Bank (Listed): Morocco’s largest bank by revenues, largest shareholder is the SNI
    Banque Central Populaire (BCP)(Listed): Morocco’s second largest bank
  • Wafa Assurance (Listed): Leading insurance brand in Morocco, majority owned by Attijariwafa Bank
  • Marjane (Not-listed): Morocco’s largest supermarket chain, owned by SNI
  • Addoha Group (aka Douja Prom Addoha) (Listed): leading real estate company in Morocco

Is It Safe To Invest In Morocco?

According to our Investment Safety Rankings, Morocco is ranked #86 in the world so is in the middle of the pack globally, but relatively safe when compared to most other frontier markets. Corruption is a concern in the country, but for investors investing on the CSE, these fears are much reduced with recent reforms.

Can Foreigners Invest In Morocco?

Yes. About a third of the shares on the CSE are owned by foreigners, and foreigners made up just under 15% of the volumes on the CSE over the past two years. Investors from the UAE and France are the main sources of foreign investment on the CSE.

Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE) Snapshot:

In operation since: 1929, but reformed in 1993

Location: Casablanca, Morocco

Market hours: 09:30 to 15:30

Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)

Market Capitalization (as of Nov 2016): 535 billion MAD (about $53 billion USD) for the entire market

Local Listed companies (as of Nov 2016): 75 total companies on the stock exchange: 47 on the main market, 16 on the development market, and 12 on the growth market. Note that this is about to be 74 companies since Oil & Gas company SAMIR is facing bankruptcy. There are also 42 corporate bonds, 5 debenture loans, and 20 rights offerings on the exchange.

Exchange Fees: For the exchange: 0.1% of the amount of trading in shares. The commisions on bonds are of 0.005% capped at 5000 MAD per side of the transaction. Brokerage fees are on top of this. Fees are also subject to VAT of 10%

Taxes: Capital gains are taxed at 20%, dividends are subject to a withholding tax of 15%

Foreign currency controls: Generally no restrictions

Main Index: MASI (Moroccan All Shares Index) Free Float Index, contains every share listed on the exchange but weighted by free-float capitalization.

How the Casablanca Stock Exchange is Structured:

The CSE is joint-owned by local brokerage, bank, insurance, and other large financial companies in Morocco.

The equity market is split into three markets: the Main Market, Development Market, and Growth Market in order of company size. They have varying standards when it comes to certified financial periods and financial statements.

In contrast, there is only one bond market that require a minimum of 20 million MAD notionals for listing.

Local Companies Listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange:

Here are the top 10 companies by market cap on the Casablanca Stock Exchange (as of Nov 2016):

How to Invest on the Casablanca Stock Exchange:

To trade on the Casablanca Stock Exchange, you need to trade through an authorized Moroccan brokerage firm. There are currently 17 different brokerage firms to choose from.

Step #1: Find a brokerage firm

Trading on the Casablanca exchange requires opening an account with an intermediary, mainly in the form of brokerage firms.

There are currently 17 brokerage firms listed on the official Casablanca SE website, which can be found here.

Unless you understand French, you will want to find one of the brokerages that have an English website. You’ll also want to find one that is focused more on retail customers rather than institutional clients. For example, Attijari Intermediation has the highest market share/biggest volumes executed on the exchange, but are focused on institutional clients, so unless you are a High Wealth Individual (and willing to put in enough to qualify you for that distinction in Morocco), they are probably not the right broker.

We’ve gone through all the brokers for you, and with the help of Google Translate have a handy table here:

The tricky part is that most firms that help retail customers only have French websites, while the firms with English websites are mostly for institutional clients. Another issue is that many of the firms that cater to retail clients are just big banks which happen to offer brokerage services, but may require you to have an existing bank account with them.

In the end, we found 4 brokerage firms that catered to retail clients and mentioned account opening processes for non-resident foreigners. They were:

  • BMCE Capital Bourse
  • CDG Capital Bourse
  • Upline Securities
  • Wafa Bourse

Upline Securities is the only one with an English website, but for online-trading they actually refer you to ICF Al Wassit, which turns out to be a subsidiary of theirs. That site is entirely in French. At least Google Translate seems to be getting better..

Step #2: Fill out application forms and send required documents

From checking out the account opening processes with those 4 brokers, the application process seems to be quite straight forward. For non-resident foreigners, you will need the following documents:

  • Application form
  • Passport
  • Voided check from your bank account
  • Address proof (usually a utility bill)

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