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Full Text of King Mohammed VI’s Speech at Parliament Opening

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 17:22

On October 13, 2017, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI addressed the following speech before the members of the Parliament’s two houses (the House of Representatives and the House of Advisors), at the opening of the first session of the second legislative year of the tenth legislature:

“Praise be to God

May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Parliament,

It is with pride and joy that I address you, once again, as I do every year, on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament.

This Parliament Session follows on the heels of my State of the Nation Address, in which I mentioned some of the difficulties and shortcomings noticed in our development model, with regard to administrative services, across the board, as well as elected councils and local governments.

However, that critical analysis, which the current situation calls for, is not an end in itself.

In fact, it is the beginning of a crucial stage in which the holding public office is linked with accountability, and during which appropriate answers and solutions to citizens’ pressing problems and issues must be found.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Parliament,

I do not criticize just for the sake of criticizing, nor do I let matters go unattended. What I want is for the situation to be addressed, mistakes corrected and shortcomings remedied.

I am paving the way for an effective approach and for a March of a new kind. What I am doing is at the heart of my constitutional powers. It reflects my strong determination to press ahead with the reform process and to lead by example, for those who are in charge of public affairs.

As the guarantor and custodian of the rule of law, and the first person to respect it, I have never hesitated to hold to account anyone who has patently underperformed while carrying out his or her professional or national duties.

However, the situation today commands greater firmness in order to put an end to complacency and to disregard for citizens’ interests.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Parliament,

The problems are obvious and the priorities clear. No further diagnosis is required. In fact, the situation has been abundantly analyzed.

On many occasions, we have taken stock of the reality on the ground and of the magnitude of the shortcomings, which all Moroccans are aware of.

Is it not true that good implementation of the development projects that have been planned and launched is what is required? Is it not a fact that we have to find practical, applicable solutions to the real problems, and fulfil the reasonable, legitimate expectations of citizens in the areas of development, education, health, employment and so on?

At the same time, we have to make sure that there is judicious, continuous monitoring of the progress made in the implementation of social and development programs, and that we carry out systematic, impartial assessment throughout the implementation phases.

To this end, I have decided to create a ministerial department, within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in charge of African affairs – especially investment – as well as a monitoring unit, both at the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance.

I also call on the Court of Auditors to monitor and assess the implementation of public projects in all of the Kingdom’s regions.

Moroccans today need balanced, equitable development which ensures dignity for all, guarantees income, provides jobs – especially for our young people – and contributes to building confidence, promoting stability and ensuring integration into professional, social and family life, a goal to which all citizens aspire.

They also want health coverage for all, easy access to quality medical services and their dignity to be preserved.

Today, Moroccans want a good education for their children – one that does not simply stop at reading and writing. They want an education that guarantees integration into the knowledge and communication-based world; an education that gives access to the job market and contributes to individual and collective advancement, instead of producing large numbers of unemployed people.

Moroccans also need a fair and effective judiciary. They want an efficient public service that caters for the needs of citizens and serves public interest; a public service that promotes investment and fosters development, without any form of bribery, cronyism or corruption.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Parliament,

Although Morocco has made tangible progress, which is recognized throughout the world, we have to admit that our national development model no longer responds to citizens’ growing demands and pressing needs; it has not been able to reduce disparities between segments of the population, correct inter-regional imbalances or achieve social justice.

In this regard, I call upon the government, Parliament and all the institutions and organs concerned – each in its respective fields of competence – to reconsider our development model in order to keep abreast of changes in the country.

As far as our development model is concerned, I should like to see an integrated vision that gives it fresh momentum, that helps overcome the hurdles impeding its adjustment and that addresses the weaknesses and shortcomings revealed by past practices.

Using a participatory approach similar to the one we adopt on key issues, such as the amendment of the Constitution or advanced regionalization, I call for all national stakeholders, committed actors and the nation’s driving forces to be included in this endeavor.

I also recommend objectivity and calling a spade a spade, without flattery or embellishment. I call for innovative, bold solutions, even if that means going into uncharted territory or causing a political earthquake.

I want this to be a collective national pause to address issues and problems that are troubling Moroccans. I want it to foster awareness of the need to change mindsets that stand in the way of achieving the comprehensive progress to which we aspire.

I am keen to follow up on this matter and look forward to examining the proposals and measures that need to be implemented for this new development model to be produced.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Parliament,

Regardless of how thorough and full-fledged it is, a development model will remain limited in scope if it does not comprise effective mechanisms that allow for evolution at local and regional levels.

For this reason, I have been calling for the full implementation of advanced regionalization to be speeded up because that system provides solutions and fulfils social and development expectations in all of our regions.

Regionalization is not just about administrative regulations and procedures. It also involves far-reaching changes in state structures as well as a practical approach to local governance.

This is the most effective way to tackle local problems and respond to the demands of local populations since it involves listening to citizens and including them in decision-making, especially through their representatives in elected councils.

I realize there are no ready-made solutions to the problems encountered in the various regions. However, I insist on the need to ensure that public policies address the concerns of citizens, in the light of the needs and specific features of each region.

To make the management of local public affairs more efficient, I wish to emphasize the need to assign qualified human resources to regions and to provide them with sufficient financial resources, in addition to ensuring the devolution of powers.

In this regard, I ask the government to establish a timetable for completing the implementation of advanced regionalization.

I also urge elected councils, particularly at regional level, to shoulder their responsibility when managing affairs in their regions, and to take action to respond to the needs of local populations and answer their legitimate demands.

I also call for the preparation and adoption of an advanced administrative devolution charter, which I have long been advocating, and for a precise timetable for its implementation to be set.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Parliament,

Regrettably, the progress witnessed in Morocco does not benefit all citizens, especially our young people, whom I care deeply about and who account for more than a third of the population.

The proper training of young Moroccans and their active and constructive involvement in public life are among the most important challenges that ought to be met. I have emphasized, many a time, including in my address on 20 August 2012, that young people are our real asset. They need to be seen as the engine of growth, and not an obstacle to it.

As a matter of fact, societal developments in Morocco have made young people important new players with a significant impact on public life.

Despite the efforts made, I do not consider the situation of our youths to be heartwarming – and neither do they.  Indeed, many young Moroccans are suffering from exclusion and unemployment; many have dropped out of school and many are even deprived of basic social services.

The education and training system does not fulfil its role in terms of training young people and ensuring their integration into society.

Although they focus their attention on young people, social and sector-specific public policies have only a limited impact on the situation of young Moroccans because of a lack of efficiency and coordination, and because programs are not suited to all youth groups.

Given the close link between youth issues, economic growth investment and employment, addressing the concerns of young people requires innovative action and concrete projects that unlock their potential, provide them with jobs and a steady income, offer them stability and enable them to contribute effectively to their country’s development.

A case in point is the situation of young people working in the informal sector. Realistic solutions are needed in this regard. They do not necessarily require substantial material resources, and yet they would offer young people the means and opportunities to work legally. Both our young people and society would benefit from this.

I call for the development of a new integrated youth policy – similar to the National Initiative for Human Development – that would be based primarily on training and employment. It should be effective in terms of finding realistic solutions to the actual problems plaguing our youths, especially in rural areas and poor suburban neighborhoods.

To ensure the efficiency and success of this new policy, I recommend that inspiration be drawn from the provisions of the Constitution, that young people be able to voice their concerns, that different intellectual trends be reflected and that the findings of the reports and studies I ordered be built upon, particularly the ones on “Morocco’s overall wealth”, the “Education and Training Vision for 2030″ and so on.

As part of the measures to develop and adopt that policy, I call for the Advisory Council for Youth and Community Action to be rapidly set up as a constitutional institution and as a forum for discussion, for expressing views and for monitoring youth affairs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of Parliament,

The shortcomings plaguing the management of public affairs are not inevitable. It is not impossible to overcome them, provided there is a sincere will and good use is made of the means available.

This is a matter that lies with you as members of Parliament, as public servants and as elected officials. You are accountable before God, the people and the King for the situation prevailing in the country.

Therefore, you are expected to engage in national efforts responsibly and in good faith in order to change the situation, without regard for any political or partisan considerations.

This homeland belongs to all Moroccans, and all Moroccan citizens are entitled to benefit from progress and growth.

As I invoke Almighty God’s blessings upon you, I want you to rise to the occasion and discharge your tremendous national duties, for the benefit of the nation and citizens.

Almighty God says: “Then, when you have taken a decision put your trust in Allah. For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)”. True is the Word of God.

Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.”

The post Full Text of King Mohammed VI’s Speech at Parliament Opening appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

On Business in Morocco: French Publication Offers Up its Assessment of Opportunities in Morocco and the Maghreb – Good Advice for Any Business – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 17:27

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
October 11, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

The Affiches Parisiennes Journal of Law and Legal Information, which provides information to Francophone accounting and financial services professionals, recently produced an overview of what their profession needs to know about the Maghreb in order to serve their business clients more effectively. It has insights that are worth noting by anyone interested in doing business in the region, and particularly Morocco.

As a bit of background, the report said that “The Maghreb countries have embarked on a policy of liberalizing their economies in order to capture domestic and foreign private capital flows.” While acknowledging that the process is not consistently implemented, the report also notes that there are important investment opportunities in the Maghreb due to its “privileged geographical position” near the European Union, “the most important trading area and the biggest market of the world;” its proximity to the Middle East; and its position “at the hub of the African market which represents one of the centers of global growth.” The journal then goes into a country-by-country analysis of what to expect and how financial professionals can use this knowledge to support their clients.

What About Morocco?

Wages and shipping costs are quite competitive. Monthly labor costs of less than $500 and average export costs for a shipping container around $700 are among the lowest in the world. Given government incentives in free zones, industrial estates, and as a function of external investments, companies can look forward to tax rebates or waivers for fixed periods of time. Especially for exporting firms, the advantages of locating in Morocco are multiple, ranging from overseas logistics and unit costs to human capital expenditures and reduced import duties. Despite its large burden of energy imports, Morocco has a low inflation rate and a steadily improving growth rate.

Legal regimes support growth strategies. From a legal perspective, Morocco has become very business-friendly, which is backed up by free trade agreements that allow duty-free access to key markets in Europe and the US.

Infrastructure is built to international standards. “Morocco, for example, is considered the first in Africa in terms of infrastructure quality according to Global Competitiveness Index – WEF 2016-2017. For more than a decade, it has launched large-scale projects aimed at raising its infrastructure to international standards, notably the Tangier-Med port, which entered service in 2007 with a global capacity of 9 million containers and an industrial platform close to 15,000 acres.” Tangier-Med will soon become the largest port in Africa and will be among the top five Mediterranean container ports. In addition, the high-speed rail system from Tangier to Casablanca will roll out next year, as will port upgrades in Kenitra, Casablanca, Dakhla, Laayoune, in conjunction with openings of free zones and industrial manufacturing hubs.

Human capital is a strong asset. The report points to human resources as “a major asset in the service of competitive investment and the creation of added value. The population is young and active. Human resources are qualified with thousands of graduates per year and diversity of training and public or private training institutions. A population is also characterized by great linguistic abilities.”

An improving business environment. Morocco is now ranked 2nd in Africa and 4th in the MENA region in the World Economic Fund Doing Business 2017. This will only improve as pending legislation regarding competition and price guidelines, labor standards, intellectual property protections passed and implemented. Simplifying administrative procedures, extending broadband services and protections, and continuing to adopt international business standards will make Morocco even more attractive to investors.

Well-defined national sectoral plans. The well-detailed and substantive government priorities defined for key sector plans provide guidance to investors and businesses regarding government initiatives and investments. For example, in Morocco, the Industrial Acceleration Plan, which supports the development of supply chains and industrial hubs, also includes infrastructure, logistics, financing, and training components in the projects listed.

The Vision 2020 plan for Tourism not only identifies potential tourism developments in various categories but also defines financing and legal options to encourage investors. This same kind of comprehensive package is found in the Renewable Energies 2020 and 2030 Plans, which set out goals for the sector and provide legislative references to the regulatory and pricing regimes of concern to investors.

For the agriculture sector, the Plan Maroc Vert 2020, identifies projects, financing, goals both for traditional and modern sectors, and integrated strategies for reaching benchmarks. In the Mining Sector 2025, the plan is to create 30,000 new jobs, backed up by licenses for specific types of projects and potential government and private sector partnerships.

The article also includes examples in the logistics sector, IT, and communications technologies.

The key to success for the accountancy firm. As in most of the countries in Africa and the MENA, the top concern reflects the bottom line reality. How does this knowledge prepare me to best serve my client, making the right decisions regarding projects, partners, financing, and meeting government requirements?

The article offers the following guidance:

  • Determine project feasibility and decide if it is appropriate for the client.
  • Don’t assume that what is written is the case for your client; investigate, analyze, become familiar with the factors that influence success and profitability, from tax codes and export licenses, to labor costs and trends, the regulatory environment, and managing local VAT and other considerations.
  • Make sure all the legal issues are covered, from choice of company structure and location, to set-up and maintenance cost, local hires, and the fine points of the investment codes related to the business and its potential location, partners, and operational needs.
  • Know the banking laws, exchange regulations, rules governing repatriation, the correspondence banking laws, and ownership and divestiture codes.
  • Understand how land regulations work. Morocco is working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation to devise policies for land ownership/use in industrial estates, free zones, and similar commercial arrangements. As the article points out, “Land is a higher risk in the Maghreb due to the lack of comprehensive legal coverage of land use; special attention must be paid to avoid surprises.”

About the business culture. Importantly, the final section of the article deals with what one might expect, given the rapid digitalization of the business environment. “The culture of business in the Maghreb is based essentially on relationships and networks…In order to implement the client’s project successfully, it is necessary to prepare the ground by adopting an effective commercial strategy. We must be attentive to the interlocutors. It is better to begin by understanding the Maghreb business world and take the time to discover the local culture.”

And finally, there is good advice for any international business going into Morocco or elsewhere in the region: “The best advice we give to French accountants to support their clients in the Maghreb is to be helped by a local professional who has mastered the various and varied regulations in these countries.” Yes, we second that recommendation.

The post On Business in Morocco: French Publication Offers Up its Assessment of Opportunities in Morocco and the Maghreb – Good Advice for Any Business – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco keeps its World Cup dreams alive with a 3-0 win over Gabon – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 20:47

Caitlin Dearing Scott
October 10, 2017

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Programs, and Policy, MAC

Morocco’s national soccer team, the Atlas Lions, moved to the top of Group C with a 3-0 win over Gabon on Saturday, coming one step closer to achieving its World Cup dreams for the first time since 1998. After missing a golden opportunity to claim the top of the table from Ivory Coast after the last match – a draw with Mali after Gabon’s stunning upset of the Ivory Coast – the Lions bounced back and now find themselves up one point over Ivory Coast in the Group. To qualify, they will need to win or draw against Ivory Coast at the November 11 match in Abidjan.

Speaking after the match, coach Hervé Renard said, “The team has lived up to the national jersey…The national team has recovered its effectiveness against Gabon thanks to the hat-trick of Khalid Boutaib, but also thanks to Casablanca public, which was wonderful.” Moroccan national star Hakim Ziyech echoed this sentiment, crediting the Moroccan public for its support of the team.

 A win on the field would certainly support Morocco’s off-field ambitions of becoming a more prominent sports leader in Africa. In addition to bidding to host the 2026 World Cup and taking on a greater role in the Confederation of African Football, Morocco announced its bid to host the 2018 African Nations Championship late last month, after Kenya lost the right to host for being unprepared. In its bid, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation stated,

The decision of the Kingdom of Morocco to host this continental competition is part of the policy of openness towards African countries, guided by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, and whose pillar is to welcome the youth of the continent and contribute to its flourishing. Through its candidacy, Morocco puts the experiences and expertise it has accumulated in recent years at the disposal of the Confederation of African Football, in order to guarantee the success of this continental sports competition. Morocco is committed to putting all the necessary means and potentials to accommodate the selections to participate in this great football event, and provide adequate conditions of competition and excellence.

Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia also bid to host and a vote is expected in the coming days.

As for those dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, fans in the Kingdom will have to wait another month.

The post Morocco keeps its World Cup dreams alive with a 3-0 win over Gabon – Caitlin Dearing Scott appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Blog: Update on Clean Energy Projects in Morocco – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
October 10, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

As part of the country’s national energy strategy, Morocco has initiated several high profile solar powered desalination projects and is meeting its targets for installing renewable energy in place of expensive oil and gas imports. Its clean energy strategy is diversified, drawing on solar, wind, and hydroelectric projects to make the goal of 52% of the national energy needs by 2030 within sight.

Details are offered on the Solar-Desalination project announced in June. It is a BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer) contract between Abengoa, a Spanish multinational financed jointly with the InfraMaroc investment fund. Since Morocco is one of the top 30 countries worldwide threatened by climate change, it cannot take its water resources for granted. The project, located in the southern Agadir region, will use solar power for desalination and irrigation and have a production capacity of 275,000 cubic meters (m3) of desalinated water per day, with an eventual capacity of 450,000 m3.

According to the latest report from the Oxford Business Group (OBG), “The plant will initially serve two clients, with 150,000 m3 allocated to the National Office of Electricity and Water Supply (ONEE), and 125,000 m3 going to the Ministry of Agriculture, Sea Fisheries, and Rural Development, to be used for irrigating 13,600 hectares of land. It is anticipated that with the necessary distribution infrastructure the plant will supply more than 2.3 million people with drinking water by 2030, 20% living in rural areas.” Abengoa will operate and maintain the plant for 27 years.

The energy-intensive facility will be entirely powered by the 580-MW Noor solar complex in Ouarzazate, located some 250 miles east of Agadir. This will be the second project of its kind in the Kingdom; the Aquasolar project, powered by photovoltaic (PV) and solar technology, has a capacity of 120,000 m3 a day. It was financed by Morocco’s Research Institute for Solar Energy and New Energies, and developed by the Universities of Moulay Ismail and Hassan II, along with Moroccan firm LSA Industrie and Spain’s Plataforma Solar de Almería.

Desalination capacity is on the rise, according to the OBG report: “The new plants are part of a growing number of desalination plants in the country. Other recent developments [using different technology] include two new seawater reverse osmosis plants, which came on-line in January in Boujdour, southern Morocco. The projects – conducted as public-private partnerships between ONEE and Saudi firm Abunayyan Holding subsidiary Wetico – produce 7000 m3 of drinking water per day.”

The government realizes the critical impact of the water supply — on the overall economy and the livelihoods of 35-40% of the workforce. In 2015, annual GDP growth decreased from 3% to 1.5% due to inadequate rainfall for agriculture, and it recovered to more than 4.3% in 2016 due to sufficient rain. “Thus, the desalination projects have become central to the government’s sustainability policies in recent years, as the depletion of water resources jeopardizes future water security,” according to the OBG report.

“In the last 30 years water supplies in Morocco have fallen by 15-30%, according to figures from ONEE. They are expected to drop even further by 10-15% in the run-up to 2020, due to rising demand and shorter supply. In 1960 rainfall amounted to 3500 m3 per inhabitant per year. In 2000 that figure was down to 1000 m3 and is now projected to decline to 490 m3 by 2020.”

Another alternative being used to secure a stable water supply is an innovative wastewater treatment plant in Laayoune to process 40% of southern Morocco’s wastewater for reuse in irrigation. The project falls under the country’s National Water Strategy, a $2.8 billion program that the government hopes will result in 140 wastewater treatment plants by 2020 and improve water yields by up to 96%.

In related energy news, the government has earmarked some $240 million specifically for solar power projects to support the agricultural sector. The strategy involves promoting the use of solar energy to power water pumps for irrigation in order to expand access to agricultural water to 100,000 hectares of new land by 2021. Importantly, it will likely reduce the consumption of butane gas in farming operations, helping achieve the country’s clean energy goals.

The OBG report notes that “In 2009 Morocco generated just 1.7% of its electricity from renewables, but by last year this had risen to 34%,” well on its way to changing the energy power equation in the Kingdom. “The case for renewables in Morocco is compelling, given high solar irradiation and rising demand. The kingdom is among the sunniest countries in the world, with around 3000 hours of sunshine per year.”

Although solar power grabs the headlines, wind power is slated to provide the second largest share of renewable energy. Africa’s largest wind farm is located on the Atlantic Coast at Tarfaya in the south of Morocco, with an installed capacity of 300 MW, generating power for 1.5 million homes. While Morocco’s energy, agriculture, and water projects are ambitious, the King and government see them as critical to maintaining a viable economy and quality of life for Moroccans.

The post Business Blog: Update on Clean Energy Projects in Morocco – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s Automobile Sector Set for New Manufacturer; Wind Power Continues to Move Ahead; Another International Company Sets Sights on Morocco; EBRD Ups Support for Morocco; Moroccan Team to Compete in International Social Entrepreneurship Challenge;...

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 17:37

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
October 5, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Fiat has joined other major automobile manufacturers in setting up shop in Morocco; Siemens discloses progress on wind blades production; Spanish media giant selects Morocco as its African platform; and EBRD continues its support for growing small and medium enterprises. Elsewhere, Moroccans will compete to demonstrate green projects and begins training programs for local officials from Africa.

Fiat-Chrysler will establish its Magneti Marelli subsidiary in Morocco to produce automotive components, beginning with shock absorbers. Located in Tangier Automotive City, the facility covers an area approximately 20,000 square meters with optional expansion space. According to the announcement, full capacity will be six million pieces, starting in 2019 with a workforce of 500 by 2025. Overall investment, including government support, will be around $44 million.

For Magneti Marelli, “the creation of an industrial site in Morocco represents an opportunity to further expand its business, responding to the demands and needs of a number of key clients that are making important investments in the area.” The Magneti Marelli production will also benefit the network of the local suppliers. For example, Magneti Marelli supplies Renault and PSA, which have factories in Morocco.

“The shock absorbers are only the first step of our implantation in Morocco. We intend to secure this activity initially before embarking on the diversification of our production,” explains Pietro Gorlier, CEO of Magneti Marelli. “In addition to diversification, it is in our interest to encourage local sourcing,” Gorlier said.

Siemens wind turbines plant will be inaugurated on 11 October 2017.

The investment agreement for the project, signed in March 2016, cost almost $12 million, and the facility will supply the 200MW wind farm in Boujdour and export 85% of its production. The manufacturing of the blades — made of composite materials, are the heaviest in the world — employs some 600 people, slated to increase to 1200 in the long term. In addition, Siemens has established a training center for its facility.

Spanish editing, communications, media, and audiovisual entertainment company Grupo Planeta has chosen Morocco for its foray into Africa. The group, which owns shares in many media and editing houses all over the world, is considered the leader in the editing and media sector in Latin America and Portuguese-speaking countries. Grupo Planeta will start its activities in Africa in the higher education sector; and it plans to add book editing and entertainment projects in the coming months in Morocco.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has awarded Morocco a loan of more than $24 million to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The funds will be managed by CaixaBank Succursale au Maroc (CBM) in two tranches. Since local financing remains a challenge for SMEs, EBRD has initiated this effort to strengthen the financial access of these companies, which make up more than 80% of the formal private sector in Morocco. The program will also improve CBM’s balance sheet maturity and upgrade its SME financing capacity.

Alain Pilloux, EBRD Vice President for Banking, said, “We are pleased to partner with CaixaBank, to provide this much-needed funding in local currency. SMEs are the backbone of the Moroccan economy and supporting them will increase employment in the country and contribute to economic growth.”

Hassania School of Public Works’ Enactus Team will participate in the Enactus World Cup in London. It is the world’s largest social entrepreneurship competition and showcases “an international network of student academic and business leaders to showcase entrepreneurial action and shared innovation that intends to transform lives and create a better future,” according to a story in Morocco World News.

There will be more than 300 judges representing leading multinationals from different sectors. The Moroccan team will showcase three green business projects. Mistomar is a circular buried structure of 14 cubic meters, whose architecture and construction materials allow it to function as a cold room designed for preservation of agricultural products for periods of up to six months.

Com’pom aims to take advantage of the apple surplus in the M’semrir region by introducing new products derived from applesauce. Ecodome is a “revolutionary” project that has developed a new construction material made by stacking polypropylene bags filled with a mixture of natural dirt and cement. Using this method will lead to a 50% savings in construction time and 70% savings in energy compared to the traditional methods.

According to the Enactus Morocco announcement, this year’s competition involved 4000 students across Morocco, who developed over 250 projects benefiting more than 195,000 beneficiaries throughout the country. In previous years’ competitions, Morocco has qualified several times for the finals or semi-finals.

Morocco initiates a program to train African local officials as part of its commitment to enable better governance through better training for government workers. The first forum of its kind took place WHEN on the campus of the International University Rabat (IUR) in Sale.  Dedicated to the theme, “Human Resources in African Local Governments: The Time to Act … is Now!” it was sponsored by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG-Africa)  and its African Local Government Academy (ALGA).

The more than 400 participants from 58 countries, 46 from Africa, included ministers, presidents of local government associations, heads of training institutes, local government senior officials, civil society representatives, experts in local governance, and the general public.

Top themes included the role of human capital in decentralization efforts, networking and peer learning for local government senior staff, and quality education and training for local government administration.

The post Morocco’s Automobile Sector Set for New Manufacturer; Wind Power Continues to Move Ahead; Another International Company Sets Sights on Morocco; EBRD Ups Support for Morocco; Moroccan Team to Compete in International Social Entrepreneurship Challenge; and Country Launches Training Program for African Officials – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

The Challenges of Migration in North Africa – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 14:45

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
October 4, 2017

A recent event at CSIS and several lengthy articles focused on challenges resulting from migration from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and beyond. It is a complex issue involving definitions and concepts that stretch across human conditions and political events, and has regional and international implications related to economic development, terrorism, border control, and prejudice, for a start.

At CSIS, Kirsten Schuettler, a senior program officer in the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank, and Anaïs Elbassil, director of the multi-country migration program for West, Central, and North Africa for Mercy Corps, shared experiences on the topic “The Maghreb as a Migration Source, Transit Point, and Destination.” 

Most of Ms. Schuettler’s remarks reflected her research and data from Morocco, with some input about conditions in Algeria. Ms. Elbassil presented information on Mercy Corps programs in Tunisia and her previous work in the region. The key takeaways began with sorting out distinctions, often muddled, between refugees, migrants, and “irregular” migrants, those who migrate outside the legal criteria.

As defined in most dictionaries, a migrant is one who moves to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions, while a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. There have always been migrant flows from sub-Saharan to North Africa and then irregular migration to Europe, but over the last 20 years, the numbers have increased due to political conditions, climatic changes, and lack of opportunities The composition has also changed, as more skilled and trained migrants are leaving home to find jobs and support their families either in Morocco or in the EU.

The article from the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) posted on ReliefWeb, “Refugees or Migrants? Difficulties of West Africans in Morocco,” makes the case that “The migration landscape in Morocco is complicated, and ultimately constrained by the 1951 Convention, which, with its narrow definition of a refugee, fails to adequately address today’s forced migration phenomenon.” Article 1 of the Convention defines a refugee as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, ofr political opinion.” The problem is that this does not include what today is called “forced” migration, resulting from economic, political, climatic, social, religious, or other factors The CSIS speakers stressed that faced with the world’s largest refugee population, the international community must develop new norms to address the needs of people who fall outside of that definition.

Morocco is both an “emigrating country” whose citizens move abroad and a “transit country” that is a bridge for other migrants to reach Europe. After a number of disasters with irregular migrants attempting to reach Spain via vessels, and the uprisings associated with the Arab Spring, King Mohammed VI addressed the situation of these transit migrants, pushing for reforms that were promulgated in 2013 with implementation starting in 2015. According to the MERIP article, Morocco’s “regularization program” made “Morocco the only country in the North Africa and Middle East region to attempt to address the issue of irregular migration through a regularization program. Subsequently, some even began to refer to Morocco as a  ‘destination’ country for migrants. ” However, there is still legislation pending regarding other related legal issues: human trafficking, asylum, and non-transit migration.

As the article pointed out, “The distinction between a refugee and a migrant is an important one—much of the international legal framework that has been put in place since 1951 and continues to this day centers on making this distinction. Refugees may be registered with the UNHCR and then obtain residency and work authorization in Morocco…Migrants, on the other hand, are not owed these protections.” Morocco has registered more than 42,000 migrants to date, which makes them eligible for work permits, but they are not entitled to benefits that are assigned to refugees by international guidelines.

Progress that is being made was the subject of a study from the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa. Citing mounting pressures on Morocco and Algeria from sub-Saharan migrants hoping to transit to Europe, both countries are working with the EU on two fronts: legalization of migrants to access economic opportunities, and repatriation schemes for returning irregular migrants to their home countries. Both options are a means of incorporating labor into the local economy and reducing the attraction of terrorism and crime.

Although Morocco has been active since 2013 in legislative efforts on these fronts, it was only in July of this year that Algeria announced plans to grant residency rights and work permits to irregular sub-Saharan African migrants, with the benefit of addressing the country’s labor shortage in agriculture and construction. The article notes “The Algerian Ministry of Interior has yet to decide how many of the estimated 25,000–100,000 irregular migrants, mainly from Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, will benefit from this arrangement.”

A major challenge, as in other host countries, is that “high unemployment in Algeria (30%) and Morocco (25.5%) and limited livelihood prospects have prompted tensions aimed at irregular migrants in these countries.” On the other hand, Morocco’s effort to regularize the status of migrants is especially germane to its position as a regional leader. The country took significant steps following its announcement that Africa is the ”top priority” of its foreign policy in 2014. After being absent for 33 years, Morocco was readmitted to the African Union in January; and its request to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as the first North African member has been accepted in principle.

The article concludes that the challenge of integrating migrants, either through regularization or as emigrants to Europe, requires all segments of society to “work on enhancing societal awareness on accepting migrants. However, if their regularization move is only motivated by political considerations, it may not be sustainable.”

With the proposed legislation pending in Morocco’s Parliament this session, the country has the opportunity to make tremendous strides not only in addressing migrant issues but also in clarifying asylum criteria and creating the needed instruments to combat human trafficking.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Highlights from Morocco’s Participation in the 72nd UN General Assembly – Kristen Kouttab

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 17:30

Kristen Kouttab, MAC
October 3, 2017

As always, Morocco was an active participant during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York from September 12-25. Here is more detail into the highlights from Morocco’s participation. The country remains focused on four key issues:

Security and Counterterrorism

  • Morocco was re-elected for another two-year term as a Co-Chair (with the Netherlands) of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which serves as a mechanism to implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and to “complement and reinforce” existing multilateral counterterrorism efforts.
  • GCTF announced that the US and Morocco would launch a new initiative, “The Initiative to Address Homegrown Violent Extremists,” with the aim of developing a new set of “Good Practices” that will help guide a more effective response to these threats.
  • At a meeting of the Global Coalition against Daesh, chaired by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Morocco was recognized for its international security assistance, and noted that a key to the success of its multidimensional approach is a program launched in 2015 that trains imams to preach, practice, and teach moderate Islam. The program has trained hundreds of imams from Morocco as well as from across Africa and Europe.

Africa and South-South Cooperation

  • In his speech to the General Assembly, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita reaffirmed Morocco’s commitment to Africa and described the country’s return to the African Union as a crowning achievement.

Sustainable Development and the Environment

  • Morocco presided over a debate, “Placing the human being at the heart of efforts for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet,” that examined the link between peace, development, and the environment. Morocco’s Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale said the choice of Morocco to preside was “a great honor and a great moment for our country.”
  • Morocco and the UN Office for South-South Cooperation organized a meeting on climate change, “South-South Cooperation for Climate Action,” to discuss collaboration among developing countries on implementation of NDCs under the Paris Agreement.

Western Sahara

  • In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Minister Bourita reiterated that Morocco seeks a realistic resolution to the Western Sahara conflict and will continue to engage in cooperative discussions within the African Union and more broadly to advance a resolution within this framework.
  • The framework is based on Morocco’s compromise formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, and has earned the support of multiple US administrations and the US Congress. The 2017 UN Secretary General report and Security Council resolution also called for talks based on this formula as a framework for discussion.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: All good news in the energy sector; Cyber-security and cloud computing ramp up services in Morocco; growth in Aquaculture by the numbers; Steel Industry Opens Global Portal – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 16:08

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
September 27, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Recognizing that solar and wind are only two components of its energy mix, Morocco presses forward on nuclear energy. A Moroccan firm is making a big splash in the region with cloud computing services while another focuses on cyber security. Latest reports project an increase in aquaculture’s growth potential.

The energy sector continues successful expansion. A close reading of Morocco’s energy strategy, beyond renewables, shows a diverse and complementary approach to meeting the country’s energy needs. As a result of around $40 billion worth of investment by 2030, 50% of Morocco will meet 50% of its demand from renewables, the balance from a mix of nuclear, coal, hydrocarbon, and other sources.

At a recent energy conference in Bahrain, Moroccan Minister of Energy Aziz Rabbah said, “The Kingdom has succeeded, through an ambitious strategy, to turn its challenges into genuine investment opportunities, through its commitment to projects aimed at developing the energy sector by 2030, 75% of which [investments] are devoted to renewable energies.”

By 2016, wind and solar energy production had already reached 30% of the country’s total energy output. In addition to energy production, Morocco is strengthening its interconnectivity to neighboring countries, most recently demonstrated by feasibility studies for reaching Portugal, an additional link with Spain, and the Trans-Africa offshore gas pipeline from Nigeria around West Africa to Morocco, linking to Europe.

LNG Gas supplies and production projects are garnering attention in the meantime, as the largest Russian energy companies, Gazprom and Novatek, are negotiating liquefied gas supply contracts with Morocco. This new thrust into the gas market in Morocco also has implications for the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline. Russia has extensive experience in the production and export of LNG that can be very useful to Morocco, which has the added benefit of inserting Russia into the region’s energy market.

While the size of the deals is not clear, media reports indicate that Morocco would import at least five billion cubic meters (m3) Russia once Morocco’s current agreement with Algeria ends in 2021. How this would play out with Algeria, Russia’s oldest ally in the Maghreb, is hard to tell at this point, given the uncertainty in Algeria’s energy industry. The point is that this large a deal would make Morocco a major client for the Russians. Of course, the US and Qatar are also well positioned to be players in this niche market.

Nuclear energy, meanwhile, is still on the agenda, according to reports out of the most recent conference of the IAEA. Director General of Morocco’s Center for Energy, Science, and Technology Khalid El Mediouri signed an agreement with the IAEA at the conference to expand their bilateral technical cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including triangular cooperation with developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. Morocco has similar agreements with partner institutions in the US, France, and Hungary.

A digital hub opens in Morocco with intentions of serving a regional market. The company behind the Morocco Data Center project is Medasys Group of Medafrica System, a Moroccan company started in 1995 that specializes in highly sophisticated IT based on cloud computing. Initially designed to handle sensitive data for the Moroccan government, it has the capacity to expand its services to other West African countries.

Medasys has already formed a partnership to do that with the UK company Zircom, which specializes in the construction and operation of data centers, with the goal of building a “Morocco International Gateway Datacenter” to address both the Moroccan and African markets. At a cost of some $85 million financed by European funds, the planned mega datacenter will be five times the size of the existing Datacenter. Feasibility studies begin shortly, and the Center will be commissioned no later than spring 2019. Medasys wants to serve public organizations and private companies, including small and medium-sized firms.

Moroccan entrepreneurs are already making a name in cyber-security, as became evident when the recent epidemic of “WannaCry” virus affected more than 230,000 companies in Europe and Asia. Fortunately, since the virus was launched on a Friday, Mohamed Amine Belarbi and Mohamed Zakariae El Khdime—founders of boutique cybersecurity firm, VUL9— had the “chance to secure the frontline throughout the weekend, preparing their clients for a virus-free week ahead, according to an article in Forbes.”

Since they had already inventoried the software used by their clients, they were able to install a protective shield before anyone was targeted. “As tech guys, we are always expecting the worst-case scenario, so our minds are wired to be prepared efficiently,” explained El Khdime. El Khdime, the winner of the 2015 Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World held at the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi, met Belarbi there; they decided to work together and immediately designed the VUL9 platform.

Having successfully held two rounds of funding, the company is poised to extend its reach beyond Morocco and the UAE. “Barely a year old, VUL9 has entered the market at a time when the growing threat of cyberattacks is causing disruption across the world on a regular basis.” According to the Forbes article, “Figures from PwC’s Global Economic Crime Survey show that in 2016 cybercrime was the second most reported economic crime that Middle East organizations fell victim to, with 30% of businesses being targeted.”  “It’s a never-ending story because no one company is immune. Everyday can bring a whole new virus we’ve never encountered before,” says Belarbi.

Aquaculture in Morocco has a great future, according to the National Agency for the Development of Aquaculture (ANDA), targeting 200,000 tons of production, 40,000 jobs, and revenues of some half-billion dollars by 2020.  Morocco has some distinct advantages: more than 1100 miles of coastline; a commercially attractive fish stock; access to diverse markets; and an expanding aquaculture industry. Currently, there are 19 shellfish farms, a fish farm, a seaweed farm, and a shell mill, in addition to 5 marine aquaculture development stations, with other projects being introduced.

Iron and steel sector launches a publication for greater industry awareness. Called “Steel Impulse,” it will provide a portal for information and exchange to promote and develop the iron and steel sector in Morocco. With the continued growth in large-scale projects including social housing and tourism, it was considered critical to have a platform for to expose the sector more widely.

On the occasion of the launch, President of the iron and steel association (ASM) Amine Louali said, “Our sector is at the heart of the major structuring projects and the strategy of industrialization of the Kingdom. It is our duty to be proactive and to find solutions to the various problems encountered by our sector and to better contribute to the socio-economic development of Morocco. Steel Impulse is a value-added reflection tool and therefore represents an original initiative that must meet these objectives. “

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Categories: The moroccan press

More on Morocco’s Efforts to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 15:00

Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 22, 2017

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Programs, and Policy, MAC

Over the past week, Morocco has undertaken a number of initiatives to advance regional and global cooperation on countering terrorism and violent extremism. From deepening intelligence cooperation with European countries to analyzing the roots of radicalization in coordination with the United States, these latest initiatives underscore once again the country’s leadership in confronting one of today’s most pressing challenges. Here is a summary of the latest developments.

Expanding Counterterrorism Efforts Abroad. In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this week, Abdelhak Khaime, director of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (also known as Morocco’s FBI), announced that the government is working on a new strategy to track Moroccans who become radicalized in Europe, part of an enhanced counterterrorism strategy by a country that is a “key player in the global anti-extremism struggle.” Responding to the threat of second generation Moroccan extremists committing attacks in Europe, Khaime noted that although the youths had no connection to Morocco beyond their family origin, “Morocco’s government now must adopt another method just to control the return of those people and keep a watch on them, try and gather intelligence on them.” Without providing specifics, Khaime emphasized the “importance of intelligence cooperation across borders, and said his agency is working on establishing offices in partner countries.” Morocco already works closely with partners in Europe, playing an instrumental role in helping French police identify the suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks and working closing with Spanish authorities after the most recent attack in Barcelona. This announced expansion seems to be an effort to further institutionalize those partnerships.

Leadership of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. On September 20, the Kingdom was reelected as the co-chair, along with the Netherlands, of the Global Counterterrorism Forum at the organization’s 8th Ministerial Plenary Meeting, extending its mandate for an additional two years. Speaking after the reelection, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita noted, “The vote to reelect Morocco as the leader of this body is an eloquent testimony to the confidence that the international community attaches to the Moroccan approach, developed in accordance with the high guidelines of King Mohammed VI, to fight terrorism. It is also a recognition of the valuable and often decisive contribution of Morocco in the fight against terrorism.”

New Initiative with the US to Address Homegrown Violent Extremists. Also at the GCTF’s annual meetings, Morocco and the United States announced a new initiative to “address the growing threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh-inspired and linked Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs), exploring ways for stakeholders to tackle these issues in a coordinated manner.” According to the State Department, The Initiative to Address Homegrown Violent Extremists, implemented in partnership with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), “will develop new Good Practices on this issue with a focus on highlighting practical steps governments and practitioners can take to detect, intervene and address HVEs.” The initiative will also “explore factors that are driving individuals to become HVEs, how these individuals can be better identified, highlight any differences in the HVE radicalization process from that of FTFs, promote interventions to dissuade or prevent individuals from becoming HVEs, and identify opportunities for stakeholders to coordinate and collaborate more effectively to prevent, detect, intervene, and respond.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

In Speech to United Nations, Morocco Prioritizes Africa, Calls for Realistic Resolution of the Sahara

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 20:41

Washington, DC, September 21, 2017 (MACP) – Speaking at the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita hailed Morocco’s return to the African Union as a crowning achievement of King Mohammed VI’s vision and underscored Morocco’s commitment to Africa’s future.

“Morocco will continue to shoulder its responsibilities within the African Union, as a founding member of the Organization of African Unity, and as a committed, dynamic and active partner who has always defended its causes and concerns in international and regional organizations,” said Minister Bourita.

Minister Bourita emphasized the importance of viewing Africa as a partner and not a burden, echoing the words of King Mohammed VI that “Morocco does not view Africa as a market for the sale and promotion of Moroccan products, or as a continent for making quick profit. We see Africa as a forum for joint action, for promoting development in the region, and for serving African citizens.”

He confirmed South-South cooperation as a major pillar of Morocco’s foreign policy vision, which includes partnerships on development, economic integration, wealth creation, and employment as part of a dynamic to ensure food security and strengthen human development. Morocco continues to engage in discussions on reform within the African Union to find solutions to these challenges in the spirit of realism and compromise.

Such cooperation will be imperative to consensus on a political settlement to the Sahara issue based on a formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, said the Minister.

Under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, and with broad bipartisan support in the US Congress, US policy has continued to support resolving the conflict based on such a formula. Both Congress and the Bush and Obama administrations have also repeatedly called Morocco’s Autonomy Initiative “serious, realistic, and credible.” The most recent UN Secretary General report and Security Council resolution also called for its examination as a framework for discussion.

Reiterating Morocco’s willingness to work with the United Nations to that effect, Minister Bourita called on the “other parties to this regional conflict to assume their responsibilities” and “seriously and constructively become engaged in the political process under the aegis of the United Nations.”

He recalled ongoing efforts to revitalize the economic and social development of Morocco’s southern provinces. The program to implement regionalization, to enable inhabitants of the Sahara to manage their own affairs in a democratic and stable framework, is also underway.

These efforts contrast sharply with the situation faced by the refugees sequestrated by the Polisario in the Tindouf camps. Minister Bourita called on the international community to pressure Algeria, the host country to meet its international commitments and to allow UNHCR to register the camp populations in accordance with Security Council resolutions.

“The Foreign Minister’s remarks at UNGA remind us that for more than 10 years the UN has called on Morocco and the Polisario Front to reach a negotiated settlement. Morocco responded to that call with its 2007 compromise solution recognized by the international community as serious, credible, and realistic,” said former US Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel. “It’s time to move on that compromise.”


 ContactJordan Paul, 202.587.0855

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco and the United States to Launch New Counterterrorism Initiative

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 19:06

Washington, DC, September 21, 2017 (MACP) – In a fact sheet issued yesterday, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) announced that the United States will launch a new initiative with Morocco, “The Initiative to Address Homegrown Violent Extremists,” to be implemented in partnership with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ).

The Initiative will “[address] the growing threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh-inspired and linked Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs), exploring ways for stakeholders to tackle these issues in a coordinated manner.”

It will also “explore factors that are driving individuals to become HVEs, how these individuals can be better identified, highlight any differences in the HVE radicalization process from that of FTFs [Foreign Terrorist Fighters], promote interventions to dissuade or prevent individuals from becoming HVEs, and identify opportunities for stakeholders to coordinate and collaborate more effectively to prevent, detect, intervene, and respond.”

The aim of the new Initiative is to develop a set of new “Good Practices” that will serve as a companion to the GCTF document The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon. The Hague-Marrakech Memorandum was established following an initiative by Morocco and the Netherlands to create the FTF Working Group within the platform of the GCTF. Morocco currently serves as a Co-Chair to both the GCTF and the FTF Working Group alongside the Netherlands.

Morocco is committed to promoting regional security and cooperates closely on counterterrorism and other security efforts with the US and countries throughout Europe and the Middle East, and, along with the Netherlands, was re-elected yesterday to an additional two year term as GCTF Co-Chair. Remarking on the re-election, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita said it was “an eloquent testimony to the confidence of the international community in the Moroccan approach, developed in accordance with the highest guidelines of King Mohammed VI, to fight against terrorism.”

Morocco is also at the forefront of efforts to counter the appeal of violent extremism within its own borders. A recent report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy concluded that “US, European, and Moroccan experts should seek to draw lessons from Morocco’s overarching success at preventing jihadist terrorism at home.”

 “Morocco has long been a leader in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and a key ally of the US in addressing these issues in Africa and the Middle East,” said former US Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel. “This latest initiative is further testament that Morocco is committed to working with the US and other partners to confront one of today’s most pressing challenges.”

For more on Morocco’s approach to countering violent extremism, see our factsheet


Contact: Jordan Paul, 202.587.0855

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Showing How It’s Done: Morocco Leads Developing Countries on Sustainable Development Efforts

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:00

Kristen Kouttab
September 21, 2017

Morocco has a proven track record of finding green solutions to its energy needs and development goals. The country continues to demonstrate that it is still a climate change champion, and its efforts have been widely recognized. According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, Morocco is “at the forefront of a renewable revolution,” and in Germanwatch’s 2017 Climate Change Performance Index, Morocco placed 8th worldwide, and led the developing world by a wide margin.

At the same time, Morocco has also made clear its commitment to Africa and has made a special effort to focus international attention on addressing development and sustainability issues in developing countries, as well as to push for South-South cooperation in tackling these needs.

As these efforts continue to intertwine, Morocco is a natural location to host conferences focused on sustainable development and renewable energy in emerging economies.

After hosting last year’s 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) – where King Mohammed VI led a side session for African leaders – Morocco maintains its strong involvement. From September 11-13, 2017, the city of Agadir hosted the 2nd annual Climate Chance Summit, when more than 2,000 non-state actors from nearly 80 countries convened to discuss their role in supporting state-level commitments to combat climate change. And this week, on September 19, Morocco organized a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to discuss South-South collaboration to address climate change and strengthen cooperation on commitments made during COP22.

The 2017 Hotelier Summit (North Africa) in Casablanca from October 4-6 will focus on sustainability in the real estate and hospitality industry, with a vision “to develop Africa in such a manner that every African has access to affordable housing and Morocco’s Africa is looked up to as the most progressive regions of growth in the global real estate map.” Morocco’s Green Building Council will serve as the Official Sustainability Partner of the Summit.

Also in Casablanca is this year’s Africa Renewable Energy Forum, which will gather the public and private sector from November 29-December 1 to “explore practical solutions on clean project financing, climate-smart solutions, and innovative community-owned projects” across the African continent in the context of COP22 commitments.

The 7th Digital Earth Summit (DES-2018) will convene April 17-19, 2018 in El Jadida, bringing together scientists and professionals from the African and international community under the theme of “Digital Earth for Sustainable Development in Africa.” It will be the first time an African country has hosted the summit.

Among developed and developing countries alike, strong leadership will be needed to address climate change and meet energy needs through sustainable development. Morocco is showing how it’s done.


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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Challenged to Build Human Capital Assets; Domestic Banking Sector Growing Stronger

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 21, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

On the heels of the recent World Bank report and workshop in Morocco on the need for increased investment in inclusive human capital development, two articles echoed the recommendations. Good news is that the domestic banking sector continues to grow and serve more customers.

Focus on Morocco’s need to build its human resources. Despite the fact that Morocco’s human capital is one of the Kingdom’s key attractions to potential investors, realities beyond the manufacturing and enterprise zones in the country remain challenging in terms of both employment and quality of life. The World Economic Forum’s recently released Human Capital Index ranks Morocco 118th out of 130 countries, with special attention focused on youth unemployment.

The Index measures how well countries perform compared to their potential based on four indicators: capacity, capacity development, development, and know-how. “The country ranks 88th in the 15-24 age group and 78th in the 25-54 age group. It occupies the 121st position in terms of deploying the capacities of its human capital. As for infrastructure development, it is ranked at the 99th place with a score of 53.9. In addition, the Kingdom is ranked 108th in terms of the know-how of its human capital. The score of each country in the ranking is obtained by analyzing several factors, such as the volume of the labor force, the GDP per capita, and the public expenditure allocated to education or the unemployment rate.”

What this means, according to the analysis, is that Morocco is developing only 56% of its talent, while 44% are either marginalized or not enrolled in relevant programs or working in productive sectors. It is no surprise that Morocco’s agricultural sector, which represents up to 40% of the workforce, is largely informal, seasonal, and lacks pathways for workers to acquire skills and build businesses. And Morocco is not alone. Among Arab and African countries, there is a consistent trend that despite government efforts to close the gap, youth, in particular, lack the educational, technical, and vocational training that would enable them to pursue higher value employment.

“The development of human capital, through education, skills development, and deployment in the service of economic development, is considered to be the key factor, even more so than financial capital, in linking innovation, competitiveness, and growth to 21st century,” according to the Index.

Morocco has allocated and attracted from donors millions of dollars to invest in human capital development. It has made great strides in the industrial sector, creating more than 200,000 jobs in the past five years, on track to hit 500,000 by 2020. Minister of National Education Mohamed Hassad recently announced a series of measures to generate more value from the more than $6 billion spent annually on education. Among the steps he mentioned are increasing the number of teachers, improving infrastructure, introducing a broader range of vocational/technical skills classes, reducing class size, and clarifying the teaching of foreign languages.

On a related topic, an article on LesEco asked if Morocco was constrained in its capacity to achieve stronger economic growth by its dependence on agriculture, rising unemployment, and the general public mood of declining prosperity. It points out that “7.3% annual growth is the performance that Morocco will have to achieve in order to win its ticket to the club of emerging countries.”

According to the Moroccan Center of Conjuncture (CMC), this rate is achievable if Morocco accelerates its reforms, extends them to other sectors “with high added value and job creation” potential. “Significant progress is still needed to better structure, modernize, and make the national economy more competitive,” said Habib El Malki, the Center’s chair. “This can only be achieved if certain obstacles are removed. The most important are the dependence of the Moroccan economy on the agricultural sector, the profound imbalances characterizing the labor market, public finance, foreign trade, and the weight of the informal sector.”

Central Bank looks at domestic progress. Latest figures from the Bank Al-Maghrib, released during the World Forum on Financial Inclusion Policies (GPF), indicate that the rate of banking exceeds 70% in Morocco, one of the best in the MENA region. This represents a phenomenal increase over the lower-than-25% figure 10 years ago.

According to Abdellatif Jouahri, governor of the central bank, this results from the bank’s commitment to financial inclusion to support the country’s economic development in the financial sector and beyond. Jouahri told the Forum that a strong domestic banking system develops capital markets, providing investment funding and positioning the Kingdom as a regional financial hub.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Continues to Shine in the Tourism and Hospitality Sectors; Sound Energy Provides More Details on Gas Projects; BMW Brings Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program to Morocco; and Moroccans Win Four Gold Medals in Engineering and...

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 19, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Morocco expands its tourism and hospitality sector. began a recent article with the astounding fact that “there are currently 47 projects in the hotel pipeline in the tiny coastal country of Morocco.” While noting obstacles in other African countries, such as lack of infrastructure, qualified staff, and stability, the article points out that Morocco does not suffer from these issues. As it says, “One area where the hotel construction pipeline is becoming healthier is North Africa, specifically in the long-time tourism destination that is Morocco.”

Referring to the TOPHOTELPROJECTS database, the article lists Casablanca and Marrakech as two top destinations, “Both of which have roots that date back to empires in medieval times. In addition to this history, Morocco also features a French colonial legacy that gives it a fascinating mix of architecture, one that blends Moorish styles with European art deco. The coast is also part of the reason that Morocco has been a famous landing spot for tourists over the years, with Casablanca featuring buildings that extend out over the water.”

Of specific mention was the Marina Resort Chbika, a mega-tourism development to be completed in 2Q 2020 with 2,500 new rooms for guests, three or more hotels, 1800+ villas and apartments, a town center, sports facilities, medical center, world-class golf course, and a marina with berths for 100 boats. Chbika is on the AtlanticCoast, near Tan-Tan, which annually hosts one of the most storied cultural and music festivals.

JW Marriott has its crown jewel set to open in 1Q 2020 in Casablanca on the New Marina. Using a very modern design, similar to facades in Dubai, it will mark Marriott’s entry into the high-end tourism sector in Morocco.

When discussing special tourist destinations, one near Marrakech is drawing increased international attention because it is home to the annual Oasis Festival of contemporary music. The founder of the festival, Marjana Jaidi, “Wanted to create a destination festival that utilized the best aspects of events she’d covered in New York and across the United States.” Hosted at the Source Hotel in the Atlas Mountains, seven miles outside of downtown Marrakech, it features some of Europe’s top DJs and artists. Attendees can enjoy the music poolside or partake of morning yoga and henna tattoos while local vendors “provide Moroccan cuisine including traditional street food, fresh produce and sfinge, a unique regional donut.”

Jaidi says that her idea to create a destination music festival grew out of her roots in New York. “I’m half Moroccan, and I’ve spent every summer of my life there, so the original idea was always to do a festival in Morocco…Oasis’s tagline is ’dance somewhere different.’ Part of our mission is to attract people to Morocco that may not have otherwise considered traveling there.”

She chose Marrakech because it’s a fresh, exotic destination that makes for an exciting change from what’s already out there, in terms of festival destinations. There’s a lot of history and culture there, so for people coming from abroad, it gives them something worthwhile to explore, outside the festival. An important aspect of our concept is to represent the culture of Morocco in our programming. Morocco isn’t just a location for us, it’s the heart and soul of the festival, and we’re lucky to have such a rich and exciting culture to draw from. This is reflected in everything from the food and decor to programming like henna body art…”

Sound Energy is bullish on Morocco. Despite its recent setback in its gas exploration in Italy, the CEO of Sound Energy, James Parsons, insisted that its efforts in Morocco would continue as an “absolute priority. It is important to put this into context; having long shifted the axis of our activities to play-opening work in Eastern Morocco, Sound continues to rapidly build a Moroccan exploration-focused onshore gas business hinged on strong European gas fundamentals, a strategic partnership with Schlumberger and our multi Tcf opportunity set. We are clear in our goals strategically, strong financially, and on the path to firming up the very significant upside on our acreage.”

He said the company’s optimism is based on strong fundamentals, and that “Here the exploration potential is being de-risked by a combination of aerial gradiometry, reprocessed seismic, and 2,644 Km of new 2D seismic which are all underway…We continue steadfast in our belief that the Eastern Morocco TAGI and Paleozoic is a completely new play for our industry and one which will over the next year or two prove both the making of our company and the making of the Moroccan Oil and Gas sector.”

Becoming professional grade. The BMW Foundation recently brought together 45 professionals and leaders of start-ups from the Maghreb, Egypt, Lebanon, Europe, Brazil, and Chile in Morocco for a networking session and workshops on building their leadership capabilities.

The program included guided sessions and discussions on creativity, innovation, new models of leadership, and developing personal growth strategies. Two key themes were knowledge and the IT society in the service of inclusive social and political development. Participants explored the linkage between their own individual development and the importance of building teams.

One of the Moroccan participants, University of Casablanca President Amine Bensaid said that, “being a leader will always consist in ‘asking one’s intentions, why I do what I do,’ while remaining sincere and genuine on his own initiative.” He added, “Is the education system preparing our children for this?”  “Responsible leaders,” said Mr. Bensaid, “are those who will be able to unleash the potential of future leaders.” “Does this apply to the Arab world?” asked the Tunisians, Egyptians, and Moroccans present in the room.

Among the Moroccans invited to this event were former Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad, Tarik Nesh Nash and Zineb Mahrez of the startup Code for Morocco, and co-organizers of the BMW event. The practical objective of the forum, beyond intellectual exchanges and the design of appropriate management solutions, remains to promote regional and international networking.

Good news for Moroccan companies. Morocco and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) reached an agreement in Rabat to implement the “Easy Export” pilot project, including simplifying export procedures for very small, small, and medium-sized Moroccan enterprises (TMEE). “The ‘Easy Export’ program was launched by the UPU to provide assistance to member countries for the promotion and development of TMEE in the wider context of socio-economic development through postal networks.” Morocco will also join “Ecom@Africa”, a UPU project on the creation of a regional e-commerce platform, under the management of Barid Al-Maghrib Group.

A very successful year for Moroccan engineers. In the most recent iteration of the International Innovation Fair, held in Bangalore, India, Moroccans from the Moroccan School of Engineering Sciences (EMSI) won 12 international awards including four gold medals. Through its SMARTiLab, EMSI received its awards for Senstenna, a 5th generation communications system; Sensorless, which uses radio frequency waves to detect different types of physical quantities without the need for a specific sensor; EMFA, a new electromagnetic absorbent that protects human skin from the harmful effects of ionization and the thermal effect; and the Multiview Screen that allows for simultaneous viewing of multiple videos at different angles, as well as a photovoltaic plate protection system that protects against particles that can decrease the effectiveness of the plates.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco is Making Important Strides in Food Security and Human Development

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 08:00

Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 20, 2017

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Programs, and Policy, MAC

According to a new report released by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017,” Morocco has made important progress in confronting food insecurity among its population over the past decade, echoing broader trends in the country’s human development since the ascendance of King Mohammed VI.

From the 2004-2006 period to the 2014-2016 period, the prevalence of undernourishment in the total population decreased from 5.8% to 3.5%. Over the same period, the number of undernourished people decreased from 1.8 million to 1.2 million. Morocco also experienced improvements in the rate of stunting in children, with a decrease from 23.1% in 2005 to 14.9% in 2016.

This progress is largely the result of development initiatives designed to confront poverty and food insecurity, particularly in economically marginalized regions of the country. From the National Initiative for Human Development, launched in 2006 to reduce poverty in rural areas and increase access to social and health services, to Plan Maroc Vert, launched in 2008 to promote socio-economic development through advances in agricultural productivity and support to small-scale farmers, the country has invested substantial sums to improve the livelihoods of all Moroccans.

Though there is still much progress to be made, when coupled with its achievements of the Millennium Development Goals in reducing extreme poverty, providing potable water to all parts of the country, promoting maternal and child health, and achieving universal primary education,  these latest statistics offer positive signs for Morocco’s future.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco is Still a Climate Change Champion

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 19:24

Kingdom Hosts 2nd Annual Climate Chance Summit

Washington, DC, September 15, 2017 (MACP) — From September 11-13 the city of Agadir hosted the second annual Climate Chance Summit. It was the largest gathering yet of non-state actors engaged in the fight against climate change. Over 2,000 participants from nearly 80 countries gathered to discuss the importance of engaging non-state actors as key stakeholders in climate negotiations. They also emphasized their capacity to support and implement action toward individual countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDC) agreed upon at COP21 and COP22.

The three-day Summit resulted in the Declaration of Agadir, which outlined nine conclusions:

  1. Non-state actors are stakeholders in negotiations;
  2. The 2018 Facilitation Dialogue is a key step in ensuring that current contributions are commensurate with the objectives of the Paris Accord;
  3. The Paris Accord was adopted by consensus and it must be supported;
  4. Non-state actors pay particular attention to the stakes of adaptation for the most vulnerable territories, especially on the African continent;
  5. Current financing pledges are not sufficient to meet the challenge;
  6. The role and participation of non-state actors is essential to action;
  7. Non-state actors highlight the importance of sectoral considerations (transportation, energy, buildings, agriculture) and long-term roadmaps;
  8. Climate science can benefit from the knowledge of non-state actors;
  9. The community of climate actors has come together in proposing a vision of the transition to be implemented with regard to the diversity of needs, means, and challenges.

The Climate Chance Summit was the second time that Morocco has hosted a major climate conference. The Summit built upon the discussions that took place during the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22), which took place in Marrakech in November 2016.

Morocco’s decades-long commitment to clean and sustainable energy is widely recognized. The 2017 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Morocco alongside France, Sweden, and the UK in the top ten most climatically conscious countries, and number one in the developing world, based on criteria including CO2 emissions, renewable energy development, efficiency, and climate policy.

“In addition to its unwavering commitment to sustainability, Morocco has a vibrant civil society and substantial experience – and a successful record – of utilizing public-private partnerships to further policy goals,” said former US Ambassador Edward Gabriel.  “Non-state actors looking to strengthen their role in combating climate change have a great example in Morocco.”

For more on Morocco’s environmental initiatives, take a look at our fact sheet.


Contact: Jordan Paul, 202.587.0855

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Categories: The moroccan press

The Latest on Morocco’s Efforts to Counter Violent Extremism

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 16:30

Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 18, 2017

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Programs, and Policy, MAC

Over the past decade, Morocco has been at the forefront of efforts to counter violent extremism – whether through training imams to preach tolerance or promoting reform and development to ensure that people susceptible to extremist influences have alternative paths. Cognizant of the role of prisons – as both a catalyst for extremism and a place to combat it – the Kingdom has focused some of its efforts on rooting out radicalization among this particularly vulnerable population.

In addition to a program run by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs that brings religious leaders directly into contact with the incarcerated, much has been done to ensure that prisoners are effectively reintegrated into society upon their release. In partnership with civil society actors, religious leaders, and international organizations, Morocco’s Penitentiary Administration (DGAPR) has been working since 2008 on the most effective ways of doing so.

One of its key programs — run jointly with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – focuses on the economic and social dimensions of prisoner reintegration. As highlighted in a just-released UNDP video, Phase I — initiated in March 2016 with funding from the Government of Japan and technical support from the Rabita Mohammedia des Oulémas — included both economic and social elements.

Economically, seven professional production centers were set up in four pilot prisons to provide 400 male and 100 female prisoners with vocational skills training and education to help them reenter the work force upon release.

Socially, peer educators conducted workshops in prisons in Meknes, Salé, Agadir, Safi, Kenitra, and Fez to promote a social discourse of tolerance among detainees. The workshops included initial training of 40 prison personnel and religious counselors and 16 peer educators on international law pertaining to prison conditions and strategies and practices for countering violent extremism in a prison environment. These peer educators then trained an additional 220 people to conduct workshops, reaching over 22,000 detainees and magnifying the future impact of the program.

Phase II of the program was officially launched on July 19, 2017 and will run until 2020. Phase II aims to consolidate the achievements of Phase I by introducing  new elements such as e-learning and the multiplication of vocational training centers, while opening up new partnership opportunities with international cooperation institutions, civil society and the private sector. Phase II will work to reinforce capacities and good governance, notably in training and prison administration.

The program on prisoner reintegration is part of UNDP/DGAPR’s broader 2016-2020 strategy to reform prison conditions, which is in itself part of a broader reform process under the leadership of King Mohammed VI. Beyond prisoner reintegration, the strategy aims to humanize the conditions of incarceration, guarantee the safety and security of detainees, and modernize prison administration and governance.


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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Prominent Companies Detail Plans for Morocco; Conferences Announced on Pipeline Infrastructure and Renewable Energy; Germans and Moroccans Talk Energy

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 18, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Major international companies are headed to Morocco as a base for doing business in Africa. Casablanca and Marrakech prepare to host conferences focused on business in Africa. Senior German and Moroccan officials discuss energy…in Mexico!

Companies look to future in Africa from Morocco. The Moroccan economy holds many opportunities for investments, a prime sector being agri-business. KWS, the giant seed company headquartered in Germany, has invested more than $10 million in Morocco over the past five years to build up its range of services. Looking at its success so far, it intends to invest at least that much again, if not more, by 2020 to build up its local operations into a hub for expanding into regional markets. Its initial foray was in developing several varieties of sugar beet adapted to Morocco’s agro-ecological conditions, providing high yields, with a high sugar content and good tolerance to disease. KWS is active in more than 70 countries, and its new investments will enable it to become a leader in Morocco and the region.

Sopra Banking Software is looking to strengthen its presence in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe from its headquarters in Casablanca. A subsidiary of Sopra Steria, the European leader in digital transformation, it believes that its experience in becoming a preferred supplier to the banking sector will enable it to succeed in other markets. Sopra recently set up facilities in Casablanca Finance City (CFC) to take advantage of its regional networks into Africa and the Middle East. Since 2014, Sopra has been building its market share on the continent, and has greatly expanded its client portfolio, in many instances following the expansion of Morocco banks abroad. It is recruiting locally and intends to have 300 employees in the Kingdom.

Not to miss out on an opportunity to extend its reach into Africa, Lloyd’s of London has announced that it will set up its Francophone African operations hub in the CFC. Currently negotiating an agreement with the Moroccan insurance regulator ACAPS, Lloyd’s is working out details regarding the transfers of premiums, and is committed to offering training and technical services to clients.

Conferences on the horizon. Two energy-related conferences will be held in in Casablanca November 29 – December 1. The Africa Renewable Energy Forum, which debuted at COP22, is a pan-African meeting for stakeholders driving forward renewable energy, including government ministers, heads of African utilities, and some of the biggest global investors in renewable energy.

The Gas Options – North and West Africa meeting will focus on gas-to-power projects in the two regions. All 12 countries involved in the Morocco-Nigeria Gas Pipeline project will likely attend to discuss next steps and the benefits of the project in developing the region. Investors and energy decision-makers will be invited to participate in discussions with the public sector on how they can contribute to the project. This meeting has the support of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) and participation from Director General Amina Benkhadra.

Speaking of energy. On the sidelines of the “World Energy Leaders” conference in Mexico last week, Secretary General of the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mining, and Sustainable Development Abderrahim El Hafidi met with German state secretary for energy Rainer Baake. The countries have a bilateral partnership agreement promoting energy projects, and this was an opportunity to discuss current progress and future plans for an energy prospects modeling center to chart potential developments. German companies, such as Siemens, are already present in the energy sector in the Kingdom. Looking ahead, the two countries are looking at the possibility of linking renewable technology with seawater desalination to enable Morocco to meet its energy and potable water needs.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Reports on Morocco’s Industrial and Education Sectors; Announcements of a New Tourism Development Partnership and Music Festival in the News

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 15:00

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 15, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

The progress of the Industrial Acceleration Plan was featured in a story that looks at the role of the African Development Bank. A World Bank officer visiting Morocco reinforced the results of a recent Bank study of youth in Morocco. On the tourism front, a major partnership was announced to pursue projects, and Agadir provided details on an upcoming Amazigh music festival.

Morocco partners with the African Development Bank (AfDB). More good news for Morocco from The African Development Bank, which will provide $200 million in 2019, in addition to the $200 million approved in July, to support Morocco’s Industrial Acceleration Plan (IAP), a comprehensive strategy to grow its manufacturing sector and other industrial sectors. The AfDB program, designed in consultation with the Ministries of Industry and Finance, “encourages the government to accelerate the structural reforms needed to diversify the economy” through investment in industries and the export of industrial products, with an emphasis on greater participation from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME).

The IAP aims to increase the GDP share of manufacturing to 23% and create a half-million jobs by 2020. It has two main objectives: to promote investments in all types of industrial activity, and to enable a higher level of participation from SMEs through greater access to financing and investment capital

According to the AfDB, the industrial sector continues to grow in Morocco, reaching 17.9% of GDP in 2016 (+ 1.5%), and exports increased by 10% between 2013 and 2016. In 2016, the automotive industry accounted for 24.8% of all exports by value, reaching some $5.8 billion. It was followed by the leather and textile sector (an 8.3% increase = to $4 billion), the agri-food industry (+7% = $2.9 billion), aeronautics (+17.7% = $1.1 billion) and electronics (up 8.9% = $900 million).

Experts at the AfDB noted that “Despite these results, the competitiveness of the Moroccan industrial fabric remains limited in relation to its potential, and export products are not very diversified, with limited added value, in comparison with other emerging countries.” The IAP is the strategy to change that, according to Moroccan authorities.

World Bank encourages greater focus on youth. As its report outlined in May, the World Bank believes that Morocco will benefit significantly from investments in youth education, training, and mobilization. The Bank’s director of operation in the Maghreb, Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, reiterated that message at a roundtable in Morocco on “Innovation in Education, Which Schools for Tomorrow?” She noted that the country will benefit from investing today in youth since Morocco’s age pyramid will begin to reverse itself from 2040. She said, “Morocco must become rich before becoming old,” investing in skills and inclusive strategies that enable young Moroccans to drive economic growth.

One of the key demographic measures is the ratio of dependent population – the non-working young and elderly – to the overall population. Currently less than 50%, projections show that by 2040, the overall population will begin to age with fewer workforce age citizens. Referring to the latest World Bank report on the economic memorandum, the director said that if Morocco is to achieve its expected emergence, it will have to “significantly improve its productivity by investing in the human factor, education.”

The issue of investments in education was further explored in an article in Medias24, which noted Marie-Nelly’s point that the bulk of the money spent on public education is for salaries for administrators and teachers, with little left for student and teacher resources, infrastructure, and educational reform. She called for greater investment in the pedagogical content and quality of education, with a view to ensuring a thorough reform of the education system.

Recognizing that educational reform is a long process, she encouraged the country to mobilize parents, restructure the learning calendar, and develop an integrated educational strategy combining all the necessary elements. “Ms. Marie-Nelly also noted that Morocco has succeeded in ensuring full access to primary education for both girls and boys, adding that efforts are still needed to improve access for pupils to secondary education, which is limited to 80% in urban areas and 40% in rural areas.”

Big news on the tourism front. Moroccan sovereign fund Ithmar Capital was created primarily to channel Gulf investments into the tourism sector. Now, according to le360, it has joined with the Qatari Investment Bank Qinvest to launch three joint mega-tourism projects.  A newly formed entity, Oryx Capital, with an initial budget of $5.5 million, will carry out initial feasibility studies.

In May 2016, Ithmar, formerly the Moroccan Fund for Tourism Development (FMDT), received the approval of Moroccan public authorities to launch such a venture. The three projects include “a resort with sports and entertainment services around a medina in the mountainous region of Oukaimeden in the Middle Atlas; an amusement park in the region of Marrakech; while the third project, nicknamed Al Chatii Al Abdyad (The White Beach), will be a sea resort with leisure services catering to both local and foreign visitors.”

Jazz music set to rock Agadir. The French Institute of Agadir, in cooperation with local and regional governments, is launching the 1st edition of the “Anogoggar N Jazz” festival to be held November 24th to 26th. While the jazz scene is already present in Morocco with Jazzablanca, Tanjazz, Jazz au Chellah and Jazz sous l’Arganier, this marks the first foray for jazz events in the South. The festival will bring together diverse audiences in the Souss-Massa region around a common passion, jazz, which transcends cultural and geographic borders. This event will also be the occasion for meetings with local artists, workshops, and discussions related to jazz, its teaching, and general artistic practice.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Major 3D Printing Facility Launched; Islamic Banking Expands, and Housing Developers Make Money by Doing Good in Social Housing; Casablanca Finance City Adds Well-known Tenant

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 16:41

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 14, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Great news for Moroccan manufacturing as it adds a cross-sector capability in 3D printing. Bahrain’s Al Baraka sets its sights on Morocco’s Islamic banking sector, while the impact of social housing construction benefits both companies and needy families, thanks to government incentives.

Thales makes an impression. Thales, a leading French electronics, technology, and IT corporation released information on the inauguration of its first industrial competence center for metallic printing outside of France. Well known for its on-board aircraft entertainment centers, Thales will supply its own units as well as its clients in the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors. The Group, which opened its local office in Rabat in 2006, is present in Morocco in the fields of defense, aerospace, transport. and security, and currently has about 45 employees.

Pierre Prigent, Country Director for Morocco, said that “This competence center will give us access to a highly capable ecosystem of industrial suppliers specializing in mechanical parts; helping us meet all our requirements in terms of material, performance, and reproducibility for the aerospace and space markets.” The Industrial Competence Center is an integrated technology platform that Thales utilizes as the core of its Industry 4.0 strategy to meet international customer needs.

Overall investment in the Casablanca facility is estimated at $16-22 million and includes real estate development, machinery, tools, and training, among other start-up costs. Currently the facility has two machines, and Thales is planning to install 10 larger units with a team of 20-25 engineers. Five Moroccan engineers have already undergone training in Belgium as part of the operations team.

Its location, near Casablanca’s international airport and seaport facilities, “Makes it possible to produce better, at a lower cost, and in a more eco-responsibly way,” according to Mr. Prigent. He noted that the existence of an aeronautical subcontracting ecosystem in the country in as asset in making Thales’s global center of expertise in 3D printing.

Its website points out that “3D printing will reduce the time it takes to develop and manufacture high-value parts in complex metal alloys for aerospace and space applications. Thales’s expertise in the materials, processes, and requirements specific to the aerospace and space sectors will enable the technology to reach maturity more quickly. With its proven industrial processes and manufacturing capabilities, the new competence centre is a further step in Thales’s ongoing pre-product investment program designed to promote the use of this innovative technology…”

Bahrain’s Al Baraka Banking Group sees Morocco as target of opportunity. In an effort to diversify assets and revenues, Al Baraka, one of the global leaders in Islamic finance with operations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, has its sights set on Morocco. A Reuters story explained that Morocco’s recent opening to Islamic banking, and a large population underserved by non-Islamic commercial banks, as well as Bahrain’s long-standing commitment to economic ties with Morocco make this a natural progression.

“We feel that since the country is not overbanked, there is room for more players to come in and play a positive role in supporting the growth targets of the Moroccan economy,” said Chief Executive Adnan Ahmed Yousif. The Reuters story noted, “There are 19 banks in Morocco with the top three accounting for two-thirds of total assets, while offshore banks represent less than 5 percent of total assets, according to an IMF report. The country also has a large pool of companies seeking financing. The number of small businesses with access to bank credit has doubled since 2007, the IMF said.”

Al Baraka has partnered with BMCE, Morocco’s third largest lender by revenue, to launch an Islamic bank under the name BTI Bank and is awaiting regulatory approvals to start operations. There are business opportunities for Islamic banks in the SME and trade finance sectors, while project finance, leasing, Islamic insurance and sukuk (Islamic bonds) are also importance, Yousif told Reuters. He also noted that Islamic finance would help diversify the balance sheet and revenue sources for the lender.

Making money, doing good. One of the more successful social housing programs in developing countries is in Morocco. Although there is always a need for more price-conscious housing due to the growth of the single families and overall youthful population, Morocco has an extensive set of incentives to make the private sector the core of the housing solution for answering the demand.

An article in the Daily Star described the program. Removing slums in urban areas was one of King Mohammed VI’s first priorities in the early 2000s. “The government put in place a number of initiatives, including loan guarantees for the poor and tax rebates for developers, making the social housing sector a popular investment.” The government launched an ambitious “cities without slums” program in 2004. It has since re-housed some 1.3m people at estimated cost of some $3.4 billion. 52 cities and towns have been declared “slum free.” Even so, in 2015 around 2.6 million, or 13% of urban Moroccans, still lived in urban slums, according to the UN.

There is a downside to the success of the program, since developers receive rebates for selling price-capped homes and are rewarded with set profits for each unit. “Ten years ago, social housing was the best asset to invest in because there was a need and there was still land,” says Faycal Temsamani, a property expert now employed by OCP, the Moroccan industrial group. “Today the price of the land is getting higher and it’s becoming more difficult to get a good yield.”

The article points out that, ”As more builders have joined the sector, increased competition has forced them to up their game and in some cases, reduce their margins to guarantee sales. Five or seven years ago, whatever was built would sell, says an employee of one large developer. Now some units are empty because they weren’t well built or were not properly marketed, while others have started to offer lifts and swimming pools to attract people.”

The article describes an emerging trend: “Some investors spy new opportunities in the space between the urban slums or bidonvilles and gated communities. They point to an under-served middle market of buyers on modest incomes who do not qualify for social housing but struggle to find affordable homes, especially in Casablanca where demand is highest. Although the city’s property market has stuttered since the financial crisis, prices are rising again. Sales volumes of residential units jumped by 7 percent in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the first, according to the central bank’s Real Estate Price index.”

Mr. Temsamani agrees there is latent demand in this segment: “It’s a specific market.

You need a particular layout and a location close to the center of the city but the price cannot be above a certain limit. If you can find this formula, you can be very successful.”

Allianz joins Casablanca Finance City. Looking at how it can best access the African market, German insurer Allianz decided to join other major companies, banks, and financial services firm in CFC.  According to a company press release, “Obtaining this status underlines the strategic vision of Allianz to increase its presence in the Moroccan market and more widely across the African continent through Marofinac, its financial services company in Africa.”

“We are pleased to have joined CFC, Africa’s leading financial center. With Marofinac’s CFC status, which will facilitate the development of Allianz in the region, our regional hub in Casablanca becomes truly operational,” said Coenraad Vrolijk, Allianz’s managing director for Africa. The Allianz group has been present in Morocco since the end of January 2017 after the acquisition of Zurich Morocco. Allianz is also present in Morocco via its credit insurance subsidiary, Euler Hermes Acmar.

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Categories: The moroccan press