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A Victory for UN Peacekeeping – Robert M. Holley

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 18:18

Photo: United Nations

Robert M. Holley
April 28, 2017

Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Adviser, MACP

Generally, the first step in solving a problem is ensuring not to make it any worse. They say, if you are in a hole, stop digging. Doctors enjoin their professional colleagues to first “do no harm.” Grandpa always says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Lately, there is something of a renewal of an idea we have heard before, now again in some fashion among certain influential quarters in Washington and New York, that United Nations peacekeeping is a broken thing. It needs to be put under the microscope and the scalpel and subjected to some radical surgery or given a good scrubbing.

While no one disputes that any large scale endeavor, like most UN peacekeeping missions, that are subject to the competing priorities of multiple alpha bosses with often conflicting agendas could likely do with some efficient fixing, we need to be very careful here that we do not violate one of those other time honored truths to “not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Case in point, MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara.

Last August, in the interest of facilitating commercial traffic between sub Saharan Africa, through Morocco to Europe, the Moroccan government began to pave a several kilometer stretch of rutted dirt track connecting the Kingdom with Mauritania through a demilitarized buffer zone established by UN peacekeepers from the MINURSO mission, there to maintain the 1991ceasefire between Morocco and the insurrectionist Polisario Front.

In a matter of days after Morocco began to pave the track, Polisario soldiers arrived to prevent this bit of commercial road work. When Polisario troops also began to impede commercial trucking across the border, Morocco also dispatched armed elements to the location. Tensions, predictably, began to mount with Moroccan and Polisario troops separated by less than 200 meters and Polisario threatening war.

Eventually, the King of Morocco became sufficiently concerned by Polisario’s escalating aggressive behavior and hostile threats of a resumption of hostilities, that he requested a direct intervention of the new Secretary General of the United Nations to calm the situation and reduce the threat of another armed conflict in an already fragile Saharan security climate.  Responding immediately to the Secretary General’s request, Morocco withdrew its military from the border and buffer zone, but Polisario refused to back away and continued to threaten further escalation.

Only the UN’s MINURSO peacekeepers were present to attempt to calm tensions on the ground.

As this is written on the morning of Friday, April 28, the Security Council is considering the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate for another year and demanding that Polisario withdraw its forces from the buffer zone or face further, and presumably more pointed, consideration from the Council. I am confident that Polisario will see discretion here as the better part of valor and withdraw.

However, without the presence of those MINURSO peacekeepers on the ground and the attention they brought to the issue in the Security Council, I could just as easily see other more dramatic and unwelcome consequences from this dangerous development in the issue of Western Sahara.

Kudos to the King of Morocco for requesting a United Nations intervention and abiding by the Secretary General’s request.  Kudos to the Security Council for backing up its peacekeeping mission with a firm stand. And Kudos to MINURSO for doing its job and doing it well. They likely just helped prevent another  ruinous war in the increasingly dangerous Sahara/Sahel region of North Africa.

Now, the Security Council needs to work a bit more seriously to prevent more such potential explosions and insist on the political solution it says it favors, reached in a spirit of compromise and realism — two other terms that figure prominently in the UN’s deliberations.

That solution is on the table in the form of Morocco’s generous autonomy initiative, which Washington continues to describe as “serious, credible and realistic.”

And of course, the Council also needs to renew MINURSO’s evidently quite useful peacekeeping mandate and take careful note, following these developments, of the sound purpose it has served, while the Council itself tries to figure out, amongst its members with competing agendas, how to persuade Polisario and its supporters what terms like realism and compromise mean these days.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Celebrates Earth Day Every Day

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 15:05
As COP 22 President, North African Country Continues Pushing Climate Action

Washington, DC, April 22, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — Morocco has long been a climate advocate, becoming the first African and Arab country to host a Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) in 2001. In November 2016, the country—dubbed a “perfect place for the world’s biggest climate change conference,” according to Quartz—again hosted world leaders in Marrakesh for COP 22, this time with the task of implementing the historic Paris Agreement from the year before.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI urged participants at COP 22 to move beyond promises to “tangible initiatives and practical steps,” and to respect and support the priorities and resources of developing countries.

“Holding this conference in Africa,” he said, “is an incentive for us to give priority to tackling the adverse repercussions of climate change, which are growing worse and worse in the countries of the South and in insular states whose very existence is in jeopardy.”

Since November, Morocco has ensured that the climate action agenda moves forward as COP 22 President, hosting a number of events and workshops with members of Moroccan civil society as well as international stakeholders on capacity building, sustainable industrial areas, and more. Morocco sent a delegation to the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington, DC this month to address issues of climate finance, and is working closely with the incoming Fiji COP 23 Presidency in advance of the Bonn Climate Change Conference in May.

Meanwhile, Morocco continues leading the way on sustainability and renewable energy at home:

  1. Morocco has enshrined environmentalism in its governing documents. Article 31 of the country’s 2011 Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to “the access of water and to a healthy environment”; while Articles 71 and 152 address the government’s responsibility for environmental protection and oversight.
  2. Morocco has set ambitious energy goals. Morocco has committed to generating 42% of the country’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, and 52% by 2030.
  3. Morocco is a world leader in solar energy production. The country’s NOOR solar power complex is the largest in the world – so large it is visible from space; and by completion, will be capable of producing 2,000 megawatts of energy. In addition, Morocco currently maintains 13 wind farms and plans to build at least six more before 2020, capable of producing a total of 2,000 megawatts of energy.
  4. Morocco is serious about waste reduction. The Moroccan Parliament signed a bill into law on July 1, 2016 banning the use, production, or import of plastic bags; and Rabat hosts an active recycling and waste-management center that employs disadvantaged people to sort through waste for reusable, recyclable and saleable material.
  5. Morocco understands the importance of raising public awareness on climate change issues. That’s why Morocco’s  Association  of  Teachers  of  Life  and  Earth  Sciences  works  with  the  Ministry  of  Education  to  promote environmental awareness at centers in 18 different towns and cities throughout Morocco.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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

Happy (Belated) Birthday to the Moroccan Scholar who Saved Aristotle – Andrew Lubrano

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 17:23

Andrew Lubrano
April 21, 2017

 

Averroes, as portrayed in Raphael’s “The School of Athens.” Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Hanging in the Vatican, Raphael’s fresco “The School of Athens” depicts a highly anachronistic meeting of some of the greatest thinkers in human history. Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates walk through a crowd that includes a few 15th century Renaissance figures alongside ancient Greek philosophers like Archimedes and Euclid.

Seated on the left side of the fresco is a man whose style of dress starkly stands out amidst the togas and flowing robes of the Greeks. This man appears to be staring over the shoulder of Pythagoras, seemingly intensely interested in whatever the legendary Greek mathematicians is working on.

He is neither a Greek philosopher, nor one of Raphael’s Renaissance contemporaries. To Raphael and the rest of the West he was known as Averroes, the Muslim physician and philosopher famous for preserving and commenting on the works of Aristotle and Plato that were thought lost during the so-called “Dark Ages.”

However, for the Almoravid and Almohad Caliphs of 12th century Morocco, he was known as Ibn Rushd, just one of the many brilliant scholars of Islam, science, and philosophy that emerged during the Middle Ages.

Born Abu al-Walid Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Rushd‎ on April 14, 1126 in Cordoba, Spain—then part of the Moroccan Almoravid Caliphate—Ibn Rushd was the third generation of an influential family of scholars that had served the ruling Moroccan dynasty as religious leaders and judges in Cordoba for almost a century. At the time, Cordoba was a cultural center of the Morocco-ruled Caliphate, where a diverse population of Muslims, Jews, and Christians influenced the nascent Islamic law and philosophy with their legal, scholarly, and cultural traditions.

It is in this multicultural environment that Ibn Rush received his education in science, religion, Islamic jurisprudence, and medicine. Ibn Rushd especially excelled at the latter, and prior to his foray into philosophy was primarily known as a talented physician and scholar of medicine, writing several medical textbooks that would be used throughout Europe and the Middle East for generations to come.

After completing his studies and earning distinction in Spain, Ibn Rushd moved to Marrakesh to work more closely with the ruling Almohad Caliphate after the Almoravids were deposed. He was initially appointed as a judge, but soon became close with the Caliph’s advisors and eventually the Caliph himself, Abu Yaqub Yusuf.

Yusuf had become curious about the works and philosophy of Aristotle, but felt that the Greek philosopher’s writings were too complicated and that the available Arabic translations were of poor quality. To fix this, he commissioned Ibn Rushd to write a series of translations and commentaries on Aristotle’s works.

This initial assignment inspired Ibn Rushd to translate and write commentaries on not just Aristotle, but on Plato, Ptolemy, and several other Classical philosophers. The Caliph’s casual demand for the “Sparknotes” of Aristotle ended up being the reason that these writings were preserved and later promoted for generations of Middle Eastern and European Renaissance scholars (and freshman philosophy majors) to come.

Though Europe would lionize him for preserving and popularizing the Classics, Ibn Rushd wrote many of his own treatises on philosophy, often comparing and contrasting Greek and Islamic thought.

His influence was not limited to academia, though. For one, he served as a legal advisor to the Caliph for many years before his death in Marrakesh in 1198 CE. But he is also credited with helping to convince the Almohad Caliphs to abandon the strict and rigid Zahiri school of Islamic law and adopting the more moderate Maliki school, which focuses on consensus of judges and precedent in addition to the Quran and the Hadith. Indeed, almost a millennium after Ibn Rushd arrived in Marrakesh to serve as a judge and translate Aristotle for the Caliph, his impact can still be felt in Morocco, which still uses the Maliki school as the foundation of its religious teachings and law system.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Review: Arab Finance Institutions in Morocco, Bilateral Investments with Rwanda, Morocco Agriculture in the Spotlight, and More Tourism Kudos – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 19:21

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 20, 2017

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

While the World Bank Group prepares for its spring meetings in Washington, DC, leaders of Arab financial institutions are meeting in Morocco. Morocco’s annual Agricultural Fair is scheduled for the end of this month. And if you’re in the mood for a vacation without your laptop, don’t miss these eight reasons to go to Morocco.

Arab Finance Community Discusses Steps to Support Economic Growth. Some 350 leaders in finance and economy from around the Arab world are gathering this week in Morocco to promote greater inter-Arab financial cooperation. These meetings have become a key platform for developing policies and programs to support sustainable development in Arab countries as well as promote greater cooperation on financial and economic issues.

A message from King Mohammed VI to the meeting addressed the urgent need to ensure social justice and adequate social safety nets for the Arab world’s growing populations. “Our Arab financial institutions are called upon today, more than ever, to react positively to the major changes and development needs witnessed in the Arab region, to pool efforts in order to support economic and financial reforms, to diversify and boost Arab economies and to achieve Arab integration,” he pointed out.

Included in his recommendations was encouragement for inter-Arab investments to support sustainable development and involve the private sector as an “engine for the promotion of development and a creator of wealth,” according to a report from Xinhuanet.com. He noted that a priority should be placed on development projects that support economic integration and enable Arab economies to be more open to their regional environment, as Morocco is doing in Africa. Among the sectors he mentioned were energy, power infrastructure, transport, and agricultural projects for food security.

Bilateral Ties with Rwanda Advance. The benefits of the King’s economic diplomacy received another affirmation according to an AllAfrica.com story as Rwanda approved a law removing double taxation for Moroccan investors. Since the King’s visit last October, there has been an uptick in investments from Morocco. “Investments from Morocco are coming in at a high speed; therefore, facilitating them is an opportunity for both countries to boost business and economic opportunities,” said Rwanda Private Sector Federation Chief Executive Benjamin Kasamagera.

The law removing double taxation for Moroccan investors was a major consideration for moving ahead with the 21 trade agreements the two parties signed last year. The announcement followed the visit of a business delegation of more than 100 Moroccan investors who looked at a number of projects including a floriculture project valued at $15 million in Gishari, eastern Rwanda, as well the development of a wholesale market for Moroccan goods valued at $31 million at the Kigali special economic zone.

Agricultural Sector Rebounds as Meknes Opens Annual Agricultural Fair. Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Aquatics, Aziz Akhannouch, announced that this year’s harvest is expected to reach 10.2 million tons, an increase of 203% over this period last year. He was in Meknes to kick off the annual International Agriculture Fair, which showcases all things related to agriculture, from seed selection to marketing end-products, as well as advances in ag-related research and technologies.

Agriculture accounts for more than 15% of Morocco’s GDP, and the plentiful rainfall since October has helped Morocco’s economy grow by 4.3% in the first quarter of this year, compared with 1.7% in the same period last year. In releasing its data, the High Commission for Planning said that this growth was mainly due to the rise in agricultural output by 12.9% in the first quarter this year, compared to 9% last year. Italy is being feted as the fair’s guest of honor.

Look No Further, Morocco is the Place to Go. Moroccan tourism operator Holidayme provided Trade Arabia News Service with eight good reasons to visit Morocco, “one of Africa’s most preferred tourist destinations.” They boil down to: cost (“Morocco can be an economic and delightful escape”); hiking trails; beaches; riads; shopping; food; mint tea; and… Marrakesh!  So stop thinking about it and get a non-stop flight to Casablanca from New York or Washington, DC…just seven hours away!

The post Business Review: Arab Finance Institutions in Morocco, Bilateral Investments with Rwanda, Morocco Agriculture in the Spotlight, and More Tourism Kudos – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Remains Safe despite Rise in Terrorist Activity in North Africa/Sahel in 2016

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 23:00
Study Lauds Morocco’s Counterterrorism Initiatives, Urges Resolution to Sahara Conflict

Washington, DC, April 14, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — The number of terrorist incidents in the Maghreb and Sahel regions of Africa rose 14% in 2016, according to a study released Thursday by The Inter-University Center on Terrorism Studies (IUCTS) and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, reaching the second highest level since 9/11. The eighth annual report, “Terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel in 2016,” revealed that, despite this alarming trend, Morocco and Mauritania registered zero terrorist incidents in 2016, and that Morocco has been the country least-affected by terrorism in the region over the past fifteen years.

“During 2016, Morocco continued to improve its counterterrorism capabilities, as demonstrated by multiple arrests of suspected terrorists, seizing weapons, and aborting violent plots,” said the report. “Particular mention should be made of the leadership of King Mohammed VI in denouncing terror and proposing the excommunication of Muslims who use their faith as justification for political violence. And in early 2017, Morocco banned the production and sale of the burqa out of concern that the shroud-like garment, which covers the entire face and body of Muslim women, would be exploited to mount terrorist attacks.

“In sum, Rabat’s holistic security strategies, ranging from expanded international cooperation (e.g., joining the African Union) to developing tolerant Islamic approaches, seem to serve as a practical model to bring potential terrorist threats to manageable levels.”

According to the report, the most affected countries in 2016 were Libya (with 125 incidents), Mali (with 64 incidents), Tunisia (with 16 incidents), and Algeria (with 13 incidents); while to date, Algeria, Libya, and Mali have experienced the most terrorist incidents (1,329; 578; and 218, respectively).

“Of growing concern for African security interests are the increasing links and flow of recruits between… regional extremists and the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria and Iraq, as well as al-Qa’ida affiliates and allies across the region,” the reported stated, noting that “countries in the Maghreb and Sahel are not immune to the broader threat of violence emanating from Iraq and Syria.”

Among the report’s ten tactical recommendations to address these regional threats were to:

  • “Strengthen U.S. and NATO intelligence assets by broadening cooperation through AFRICOM, NATO’s Partnership for Peace, and other modalities that supply and support training, equipment, and monitoring of resources throughout the region”;
  • “Continue to expand U.S. counterterrorism technical assistance and training to internal security personnel”;
  • “Work to settle intra-regional conflicts that provide openings for extremists to exploit and impede security and economic cooperation — including the Western Sahara dispute and the problem of refugees in the Polisario-run camps in Algeria. Also, collaborate with the global donor community to conduct a census of the camps to ensure that humanitarian aid is not diverted, from this location or elsewhere, for military purposes or personal enrichment”;
  • “Recognize the importance of and provide quiet encouragement to Muslim leaders in promoting the practice of a moderate Islam, as well as counter-radicalization programs that limit the appeal of extremist recruiters”; and
  • “Promote regional trade and investment by expanding the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement to include goods and products from North, West, and Central Africa.”

“As the IUCTS study shows, the situation in North Africa and the Sahel is dangerous and we cannot be complacent,” said Jordan Paul, Executive Director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy. “Morocco has emerged largely unscathed thanks to the leadership of King Mohammed VI and the vigilance of the country’s security forces. However more can and should be done, including resolving the Western Sahara issue based on the Moroccan autonomy plan.”

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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.

The post Morocco Remains Safe despite Rise in Terrorist Activity in North Africa/Sahel in 2016 appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Vision – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 15:00
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 14, 2017

King Mohammed VI reviews a development project. Photo: MAP

A recent article in the Journal of Democracy cautioned that while Morocco was able to weather the shocks of the Arab Spring, there is some concern about the viability of monarchies over the long term. While I can appreciate the author’s perspective, I must challenge his assertion by making a distinction between heads of state who have a status quo strategy and a head of state such as King Mohammed VI who is both leading from behind and in front of Morocco’s moves toward a more open and responsive political system.

A short recitation of steps both before and after the Arab Spring events of 2011 will help frame my argument. Shortly after becoming king, Mohammed VI made a key speech calling for a giant step forward in promoting women’s rights, and subsequently addressed the need to assess the human rights abuses of the previous regime. These two initiatives, the moudawana reforms to the family law, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (often referred to as ”transitional justice”) were hallmarks of how this King intended to govern– certainly with more transparency and energy than many other Arab and African leaders.

He called for a comprehensive assessment of the country’s quality of life and then implemented a country-wide National Human Development Initiative. The King instituted both a national human rights investigatory body, the National Commission for Human Rights, and an anti-corruption agency, the Central Authority for Corruption Prevention. In addition, the 2011 Constitution has been called one of the most progressive in the MENA region for its call for separation of powers, greater power-sharing, civil and human rights protections, and protection of the country’s multi-faith heritage.

These actions and many more are just some of the reasons why the King is so popular, despite challenges in achieving a sufficient level of economic growth to generate jobs for the young and marginalized in the country. In speaking with Moroccans in the U.S. and Morocco, the key perception I have found is that the King is providing the leadership, vision, ideas, and space for greater economic and political development. How else would a country like Morocco build automotive and aeronautics industries, creating 70,000+ jobs in less than five years? Why is Morocco seen as a stable, secure, and business-friendly country that has become the leader in renewable energy in Africa? What has enabled Morocco to join the African Union after more than 30 years of absence, and soon likely to become a member of ECOWAS? How can a country survive for almost six months without a formal government and then respond quickly to a new mandate from the King?

This is not to say that Morocco doesn’t have challenges on all fronts. Implementation of new laws and procedures are slow in coming. Corruption remains troubling in many sectors. Skills sets of graduates from universities and secondary schools are still mismatched with the marketplace. Agriculture is too dominant and too variable a sector in the economy. Women’s rights must still be reinforced and supported.

But this is where “vision” comes in. Time and again the King has expressed his belief in the future of Moroccans as productive citizens invested in the success of their country and their region. His criss-crossing of Africa in search of new markets and ties to boost the economies of the continent; Morocco’s regional and international commitment to promote security through multilateral security agreements; and the King’s consistency in encouraging a viable and responsive political culture in his country are strong indictors that Morocco is moving in the right direction.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Good News on Morocco’s African Outreach – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 21:19

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 7, 2017

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

Morocco’s leadership in Africa was a dominant news item in recent weeks following King Mohammed VI’s visits to various African countries and the signing of additional bilateral agreements and MOUs. Coverage included the need for greater South-South integration as promoted by the King, updates on the Nigeria-Morocco fertilizer deal, and Morocco’s ranking in the most recent Africa Capacity Report.

What’s Not to Like? African Business Magazine has contracted Morocco fever! A recent article encourages readers to think beyond sub-Saharan Africa when assessing Africa’s potential. It points to Morocco’s economic diplomacy as “redefining the continent’s North–South relations.” Referencing Morocco’s joining the African Union in January and King Mohammed VI’s recent visit to Ghana, it notes that his activities are benefiting many countries. From the MOUs “on deepening economic ties, it has become a familiar routine for the monarch, who has toured much of the continent in the past year promoting the merits of partnership with the kingdom. Other countries visited include Rwanda, Nigeria, Zambia, and Ethiopia.”

It goes on to praise Morocco’s strategy as more than “a break from a historical focus on Europe. Moroccan companies, especially banks, have been investing south of the Sahara for years. Today, an estimated 85% of the country’s foreign direct investment is in the region. The country is also driving Africa’s sustainability agenda, positioning itself as the leader in promoting green investment and development. It is building the world’s largest solar power plant, the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, or Noor.”

Echoing the King’s theme, “The disconnect between North and sub-Saharan Africa is nonsensical, undermining regional integration efforts and costing Africa in lost investment and trading opportunities. Not to mention its corrosive effect on any claims to pan-Africanism.” The article notes that Morocco’s strategy is probably “part of a long-term vision” to encourage greater trade between North and South, as “Morocco is arguably also well positioned as a regional and continental hub for trade and investment to and from Europe. The potential for North African commercial centres like Casablanca and Cairo to perform such a role is virtually unexplored, for no good reason.”

It’s clear that there is strong agreement in Morocco with this position.

Fitch Group Names Morocco as Regional Manufacturing Hub. Morocco World News covered a study prepared by BMI Research and incorporated into an assessment by Fitch Group, which demonstrates Morocco’s growth as a manufacturing center. In fact, the BMI study predicted that Morocco’s GDP growth will outperform the region in the coming years. It says that “Morocco will remain favoured by international investors over the coming years, benefitting from positive reforms to the business environment and policy continuity. This will support the country’s ambitions to become a manufacturing and exporting hub between Europe and Africa, which will in turn result in GDP growth outperforming the rest of the MENA region.”

The BMI report goes on to note the long term benefits of the strategy that accrue due to the steps that the country is taking in terms of business incentives, skills training, and political stability. Becoming the “area’s primary hub for manufacturing and export between Europe and Africa, [has] turned it into the investment darling of the MENA region. Researchers are expecting this trend to continue indefinitely.”

The report cites the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, in which Morocco has climbed from 129th to 68th in less than 10 years, and the adoption of Morocco’s new Investment Charter, adopted in 2016, as factors “expected to support the continuation of this upward trend over the coming years.” “Investors are responding positively to improvements Morocco has made to its business environment, including online platforms for the registration of businesses and properties. These reforms and Morocco’s status as the most politically stable country in the region bode well for the future investing,” BMI’s research noted.

In conclusion, the BMI report points to the underlying stability of the country as a key factor. “We believe that Morocco’s relative political stability compared with the rest of the region will continue to support policy continuity and investment-friendly reforms over the coming years.” And the Fitch Group commented, “Over the coming years, Morocco’s GDP growth is predicted to be faster-than-average keeping it well on track to become the region’s primary hub for manufacturing and export.”

Nigeria-Morocco Fertilizer Deal on Track. In addition to the Atlantic gas pipeline project, Morocco and Nigeria signed a MOU for the supply of phosphates from Morocco to support the development of an industry devoted to crop-specific fertilizer in Nigeria. As detailed in an article in Nigeria newspaper The Guardian, shipments of phosphates have already begun and are expected to yield 1.3M tons of fertilizer, adapted to the soil and crop conditions in the country. As the article points out, “Access to fertiliser, which is added to soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants, has remained a big issue for farmers, especially for the rural farmers who are unable to buy the product at exorbitant cost.”

Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru, noted that “The Moroccans have already supplied a cargo of phosphate which has been delivered to various blending plants across the country. Already, eleven blending plants have come into production because of the supply. I am happy to inform you that this development has translated to the creation of about 50, 000 jobs and led to the production of about 1.3 million tonnes of fertiliser in the country.”

Africa Capacity Report Highlights Morocco. According to the 2016 Africa Capacity Report (ACR), Morocco “is the leader in the area of Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI).” An article in the Ghana Business News provided details on the report released by the African Capacity Building Foundation, which surveyed 44 countries on the continent to determine how their development agendas measured up against their capacity for development in key indicators. Morocco was one of the “high” performers with a score of 71.6 out of 100, the leader in North Africa. The 224-page report measures four critical categories supporting global innovation: the policy environment, development results at the country level, capacity for development outcomes, and processes for implementation. Morocco’s results provide a measure of satisfaction as well as the basis for continued progress.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Energy News in Morocco: Getting Better All the Time – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 21:57
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 6, 2017

King Mohammed VI launched Noor IV on April 1, 2017. Photo: MAP

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

Morocco’s commitment to derive 50% of its domestic energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 took another giant step forward with the launch of the fourth and last stage of the Noor solar energy facility in Ouarzazate. Unlike the previous three segments, which use CSP technology, this 72MW facility will use the more common photovoltaic process for producing energy. Projected to cost $220M, it will serve the needs of 1.1M people in the region, and eventually will provide power to other parts of the country and possibly other African countries.

Once again, the project is led by ACWA Power, a Saudi company that has been the consortium leader on the three other Noor segments working with partners from European and Asian countries. MASEN, Morocco’s solar authority, will provide funding for the expansion. Amazingly, the target price under the agreement is 4.79 cents per kilowatt hour, whereas earlier projects were in the 7-8 cents range.

“This programme will not only focus on the delivery of green electricity at a low cost, but it will also deliver on the strategy of employment creation and eco­nomic development from renewable energy capacity deployment,” said Mohammed Abunayyan, the chairman of ACWA. When completed in 2020, the Noor complex will have a combined capacity of 2000MW.

ACWA’s chief executive, Paddy Padmanathan, said that Noor’s renewable energy capacity would be delivered at “pace-setting tariff levels to support the country’s unwavering commitment to decarbonise electricity generation without compromising the social and economic development of the kingdom,” indicating that the low rates would not affect income flowing to the government.

It is anticipated that job creation in the region will also get a much-needed boost from having a rather inexpensive power source at hand. Investors and companies from the rest of Morocco and overseas will find that the government has already put infrastructure in place to serve new projects in the region. Coming after a very effective COP22 energy summit in Marrakesh last summer, Morocco has received global attention for its domestic and regional efforts to promote sustainable and low-cost energy solutions.

Karim Chraibi, an expert in energy, regulatory frameworks, investments, and renewable energies said that “This project has given us a choice position and international visibility. If everything goes as planned, Ouarzazate – the southern Moroccan city where the Noor project is located – will indeed be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) technology center in the world. We can certainly rejoice and celebrate this unique achievement in our region.”

This new source of energy will help Morocco address its job creation challenges for the 45% of its population under 25. The government has already initiated a number of programs to provide adequate training and incentives for workers to acquire technical and vocational skills to match opportunities generated by the Noor project in the green energy field.

“Due to its ambitious energy policy, which has earned it 9th place in the global green economy, Morocco should be very pleased to have prepared the ground for the considerable development of green jobs in the short, medium and long term,” Director of the Moroccan Forum of Green Jobs (FMV) Mohamed Lamghrari said. He noted that the environmental sector represented a real source of employment, adding that by 2020, around 13,000 jobs will have been created in sustainable energy production, 50,000 in the forest sector, 35,000 in energy efficiency, 10,000 in the liquid waste management sector and about 11,000 in the management of solid waste.

Morocco’s Lone Refinery Still a Bust

Morocco’s renewable energy expansion is critical given that it imports 95% of its energy needs. That the country’s only refinery ceased operations in August 2015, and is bankrupt with dim future prospects, adds to the necessity. It is now under court supervision and Mohammad Al Krimi, the independent trustee appointed to oversee the company’s future, said that he has received about 20 offers from foreign investors.

The 200,000-barrels-per-day refinery outside of Casablanca had debts of $4.4B while its valuation is $2.1B. It was originally constructed in 1959 as a government joint venture, and privatized in 1997. A Saudi investment group, SAMIR, increased the original capacity, upgraded its range of refined products to suit the local market, and had its own distribution and marketing network. Despite the rise in Moroccan consumption of oil imports by more than 240% between 2002 and 2015, it was undone by competition from the private sector.  According to an article in Gulf News, “This situation seems to be the same when the refinery was stopped. The crude throughput of the refinery is about 55 per cent of capacity and this is very low and may have contributed to the refinery’s financial difficulties….The government may have been influenced by the availability of ports on the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea to receive imports and to optimise the internal need for transportation to the detriment of the refinery.”

The role of the refinery in the country’s overall energy strategy will eventually be defined through negotiations with the eventual new owner and the government.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Soccer in Africa: Morocco seeks to claim a place on the field – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 20:14

Meknes, Morocco. Photo: Pablo Pecora

Caitlin Dearing Scott
April 4, 2017

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

Over the course of the past few months, the Kingdom of Morocco has ramped up its sports diplomacy in Africa, part of a broader effort led by King Mohammed VI to expand Morocco’s political and economic engagement on the continent. Morocco’s rejoining of the African Union in January (after a 33-year hiatus) has been the biggest news coming out of this renewed engagement; but Morocco has also been making headlines in the soccer world.

Last month, Moroccan Fouzi Lekjaâ was elected to the North Africa seat at the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), soccer’s governing body on the continent.  Lekjaâ won by an overwhelming majority — 41 countries out of 48, thanks in large part to Morocco’s diplomatic efforts in the sports arena. In the month leading up to the vote, Morocco signed nearly 30 partnerships with other football federations, including Burkina Faso, Gambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. According to sports politics specialist Moncef Lyazghi, these partnerships allow Morocco to organize tournaments between clubs, share infrastructure and training, and reinforce diplomatic relations.

As former Moroccan Minister of Sports Moncef Belkhayat noted, “This is part of the dynamic initiated by King Mohammed VI through his various African tours. Morocco is developing several sectors of activity to extend its influence and sport is part of it” – a view echoed by Lekjaâ, who said, “The strategy of the [Moroccan Football] federation runs parallel with the African strategy of the King.”

Part of that strategy involves elevating the role of African football worldwide. Morocco recently put in a bid to host the 2026 World Cup, potentially in collaboration with Spain and Ivory Coast or Portugal. Perhaps this bid will be the lucky one, particularly since Morocco now has the support of the new President of CAF, Ahmad Ahmad. Ahmad has called Morocco a “stronghold of African and world football.” He has declared that as CAF President he would back the project “with great enthusiasm,” since, “We are convinced that Morocco could organise this competition just as was done by South Africa in 2010.” FIFA President Gianni Infantino has also noted that Morocco has the infrastructure and organizational capacity to  host the World Cup.

The vote for the 2026 World Cup won’t take place until May 2020, giving Morocco plenty of time to demonstrate its sports leadership in Africa. Morocco’s soccer diplomacy is only just kicking off.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Islamic Finance in Morocco Supports Ongoing Growth – Jean R. AbiNader

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:35

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
April 3, 2017

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

Almost all of the pieces are in place for Islamic finance to start offering products in the second half of 2017, adding yet another sector supporting Morocco as an investment destination. With Europe’s economic recovery still sputtering, the kingdom needs more sources to fund its impressive and ambitious economic development, from supporting consumer-focused enterprises to large-scale industrial projects. This is where Islamic finance can provide a novel funding stream.

A recent article in African Business Magazine focused on the current forces in play that will affect the future of Islamic finance in Morocco. The article mentioned that it’s no coincidence that the country is off to a strong start in this sector. According to Simon Auquier, counsel at the French law firm Gide (which has been in Morocco for years), “Morocco was somewhat of a safe haven following the Arab Spring,” he says. “Political and social stability continued while some of our neighbours struggled.” “The introduction of real constitutional reform in Morocco following the Arab Spring did a lot to placate the population,” says Wacef Bentaibi, partner at Gide. “And our relative stability in the region has continued to draw in business and investment into the country.”

Morocco has been quite active in encouraging inflows of investment capital. The government passed preferential tax legislation and other incentives to bring financial services companies to Casablanca Finance City (CFC). Its mission is to promote Morocco’s relatively cheap labor, skilled workers, distribution networks in sub-Saharan Africa, and strong relations throughout the region to attract international companies. CFC, along with Morocco’s location as a natural bridge between Europe and Africa, makes sense to firms interested in the continent.

“When we were looking at setting up shop in Morocco as early as 2006, we saw that there were real efforts made to make the environment friendly for business,” says Adil Hajjoubi, general director at AlShall Morocco, a consulting and investment firm based in Rabat. “We opened up our office in Morocco in 2008, and following the Arab Spring, we saw the government’s commitment to creating a vibrant business environment that works. Legislation in Morocco isn’t applied just for cosmetic reasons but for real reasons.”

A long-time veteran of US business in Morocco, Patrick Dupoux of Boston Consulting Group, has been quite involved in developing the country’s economic strategy as his firm has advised several government agencies dealing with trade, investment, and economic development. He said, “We chose to open up offices in Morocco and South Africa at the same time. We chose Morocco because of its political stability, its mature market and open economy. Since then, the Casablanca Finance City has further improved the ease of doing business in Africa, in particular on the recruiting process of African talents.”

To have the broadest possible options for financing growth, Morocco opened its doors to Islamic finance. While largely unknown in the US, its banking principles are based around the concept of shared risk as the basis for profit rather than making money by charging for the use of money, which we call “interest.” To make clear the distinction, Morocco has categorized Islamic banking as participatory finance, which reflects the Islamic principle that risk must be shared by all parties to the transaction.

Since Morocco already had many products in the market that complied with Islamic financial principles, the new offerings have their own special labeling. According to Ismail Douiri, co-CEO at Attijariwafa Bank based in Casablanca, one of the five banks with approved Islamic banking arms, “The authorities needed to ensure that Islamic finance was not only sharia compliant but was in line with the constitution.” A board was established within Morocco’s Supreme Council of Islamic Scholars to rule on the consistency of financial products in accordance with Islamic law, and to ensure transparency.

Although the bank penetration rate is 65% in Morocco, there is still a large part of the population that does not use conventional banks because of the Islamic prohibition on paying interest without risk-sharing. They “still rely on family loans, hiding money under the mattress and using cash for small and large transactions. Bringing them into the formal banking sector will increase deposits, bank liquidity, could potentially raise taxes and could stimulate further economic growth,” according to Douiri. Nonetheless, he concluded that “The vast majority of the population is banked (already using banks) and didn’t see contradictions between their accounts and religion then, so I’m not sure they will see any now.”

The article concludes: “As Morocco continues to roll out participatory financial products and services slowly and cautiously, the sector will remain a niche. Islamic finance may not be much more than another string to its bow in terms of what the country can offer potential partners.” Whether or not Islamic finance contributes to a growth of 5% or 15% of the banking sector, the range most mentioned by analysts, it is another demonstration of Morocco’s commitment to promoting a broad and vibrant investment and banking sector serving diverse needs.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Another Pizza Chain, Papa John’s, is Coming to Morocco – David S. Bloom

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 17:57

David S. Bloom
March 31, 2017

David Bloom, Director of Research and Policy Analysis

Morocco loves pizza, and this week, Louisville-based Papa John’s International Inc. announced that its latest international expansion will take the pizza delivery chain to Morocco. The first restaurant will open in Casablanca, with an additional 19 stores planned to open in the next 5 years. The total investment is reported to be around $12 million and is expected to generate between 800 and 1000 direct jobs. The Morocco investment represents Papa John’s third foray into Africa, after Egypt in 2007 and Tunisia in 2016.

Moroccan company Planet Pizza Inc. has exclusive development rights with Papa John’s and will build and manage the franchises in the country. Planet Pizza CEO Taoufik Bensouda declared himself “honored” to participate in introducing Papa John’s to Morocco, citing “strong demand in the market for high quality pizzas and excellent service.” Papa John’s, in turn, said it is “pleased to extend our growth with Mr. Bensouda and Planet Pizza.”

Papa John’s will join competitors Domino’s and Pizza Hut, which already operate restaurants in Morocco. Of course chain restaurants are known to adapt their fare to local tastes when they expand internationally, and though Papa John’s has yet to release their Moroccan menus, a peek at their Tunisia menu suggests what they might offer. This menu offers the classic cheese and pepperoni as well as the ever-so-controversial Hawaiian—which features (the much-debated in the US) pineapple topping, with “turkey ham”. Other items include the “Mexican Ole” (chicken, onion, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato, and mushroom) and the “fisherman’s catch” (shrimp, calamari, green pepper, and onion).

“Berber Pizza”. Photo: Tom Lianza

Morocco’s Domino’s restaurants offer similar fare, including the “Tex-Mex Chicken” (marinated chicken, onion, green pepper, black olive, and jalapeno) and the “Fisherman,” which features tuna, black olive, onion, fresh tomato, and jalapeño.

Bensouda is making a smart bet on Morocco’s love for pizza. The closest thing in Morocco’s rich culinary culture is probably Medfouna, otherwise known as “Berber pizza.” Medfouna is more like a calzone: it’s a large bread stuffed with meat and veggies. Excellent, like all Moroccan food; but even the best calzone can’t match up to a pizza.

Banner photo: James

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Categories: The moroccan press

Happy Anniversary, USAID Morocco! – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 16:53

Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 30 2017

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

This Sunday is the 60th anniversary of the United States Agency for International Development’s work in Morocco! USAID officially launched its Morocco programs on April 2, 1957, when the two countries signed an agreement for the US to provide economic and technical assistance. Today, USAID Morocco is focused on advancing Moroccan initiatives for peaceful reform by targeting the following development objectives:

  • Enhancing Youth Employability
  • Increasing Civic Participation in Governance
  • Enhancing Education Attainment at the Primary Level

Here is a closer look at some of USAID’s current programming, which continues USAID’s longstanding work to advance political and economic development in the country.

Enhancing Youth Employability

USAID works with public and private sector partners to enhance economic opportunities for Moroccan youth.

In 2015, USAID launched a program to assist “young people’s transition from education to employment” through the creation of Career Centers in key metropolitan areas. The Career Centers, in Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Tangiers, provide career services in both higher and vocational education institutions. Services include work readiness training, networking, and a virtual career center that provides on-line access for all Moroccans. For more on the Career Centers, check out this video.

Another USAID program, the Workforce Training Academy, provides specific vocational training to meet the needs of Volvo Group’s operations in Africa for drivers, technicians, and operations. In partnership with Volvo, UNIDO, the OCP Foundation, and the Moroccan government, the specialized academy is training Moroccan, Ivorian, and Senegalese students, highlighting Morocco’s key role in spurring economic development throughout the region.

Increasing Civic Participation in Governance

USAID’s democracy and governance efforts focus on helping political parties, government entities, and civil society “build their capacities, facilitate citizen participation, and ensure sustainable participatory governance.” Several programs focus on “addressing the challenges of marginalized youth by building on the capacity of relevant local and national partners to work with at-risk youth and promote their engagement in their communities.”

The Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth (FORSATY) program, launched in 2012, works to increase the social and economic inclusion of at-risk youth living in marginalized neighborhoods in order to prevent youth delinquency and reduce recidivism. Activities range from education and vocational training to improving the capacity of public and NGO youth-serving organizations. According to a mid-term evaluation completed in February 2016, FORSATY is on track to reach its objectives, having already improved the lives of over 12,000 marginalized youth. One such success story is that of Najlae Lachkar, a girl who dreamed of being an auto mechanic despite the objections of her family. In 2014, she and her sister enrolled in a USAID-supported auto mechanic training program at her neighborhood training center where they learned both the technical know-how and soft skills necessary to find employment. Lachkar is now interning at a local auto garage and one day hopes to open her own business.

The Community Oriented Policing Activity (COPA) program works to build trust between citizens, local police, and community leaders to improve community-oriented policing and citizen-focused security. The project includes strengthening community capacity to resolve crime and safety issues; training police commanders in crime prevention; and facilitating joint activities between police-citizen “Core Teams.”

Enhancing Education Attainment at the Primary Level

USAID supports the Moroccan government in its ambitious reform program to increase access to and improve the quality of education by targeting early-grade reading and teacher capacity.

The Reading for Success program “is designed to develop and test the most effective approaches for strengthening children’s Arabic reading skills in targeted primary schools.” Activities include developing and testing Arabic reading methods, developing training guides and reading lessons for teachers, and reducing summer learning loss by supporting civil society summer reading programs. Since 2016, USAID has taught an innovative approach to reading to 5,737 first grade students and trained 181 teachers in the new method.

USAID is also in the process of developing reading software that “bridges the gap between Moroccan Sign Language and Modern Standard Arabic so deaf and hard of hearing students can learn to read” through the “Reading for success-improving deaf children’s reading through technology” (IDCRT) program.

After 60 years, USAID continues to provide invaluable programing to support reform and improve living standards in Morocco.

For more on what USAID is accomplishing in Morocco, including personal stories from those positively impacted by USAID programming, check out the USAID-Morocco Facebook page.    

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Dakhla and Sahara Featured at Crans Montana Forum; The Life of a Pink Shirt Dress from Morocco – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 19:40

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 29, 2017

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

The Crans Montana Forum’s annual foray in Morocco highlighted the Sahara region and the future of Morocco’s Africa strategy while creating a platform for the international exchange of ideas and deal-making. The BBC was busy tracing the lineage of a dress from Inditex, a­­­­ Spanish company, illustrating the global nature of the textile industry.

Crans Montana Draws Record Attendance. More than 1,000 delegates attended this year’s Crans Montana Forum to discuss developments in Africa and how to support South-South cooperation. Moroccan ministers joined senior African government officials, a special delegation from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and delegates from across Asia and Africa for five days in Dakhla, which hosted the event for the third consecutive year under the theme “Towards a New Africa for the 21st Century – Stability, Cohesion and Solidarity for a Sustainable Development.” Among topics discussed were food security, sustainable agriculture, renewable energies, public health, migration to Europe, and women’s participation in economic and political development.

In his message to the Forum, King Mohammed VI made reference to Morocco’s return to the African Union, noting that it will be at the forefront of contributing to serving Africa’s interests and “consolidating its peoples’ unity and cohesion.” He made the point that with this cooperation “Morocco will not, however, give up defending its lofty interests, particularly its national unity and territorial integrity.” For Morocco, the Sahara is a region of historic and cultural import, and is now being touted as a center from which to promote communications and trade with sub-Saharan African states.

According to an article by the Indo-Asian News Service on the Forum, “Morocco has launched a number of infrastructure projects in the Western Sahara…– part of an $8 billion development plan designed to ‘make the Moroccan Sahara a hub for communication and exchange with sub-Saharan African countries.’ The projects include new ports, fish markets, desalinization and fertilizer plants, and road infrastructure improvements.”

The Daily Sabah wrote about an interesting sub-text of the gathering: improving ties between Africa and Pacific Islands, as many of them will suffer the consequences of climate change if more countries don’t take responsibility for the goals of COP22. The Forum gave these countries an opportunity to become more engaged in building solutions to avoid catastrophic results from climate change.

Another message of interest was voiced by delegates from Turkey who talked about the role their country can play to support development in Africa. Nezaket Emine Atasoy, head of the Industrialist Businesswomen and Businessmen Confederation (SANKON), told The Daily Sabah that “Turkey has the potential to make investments in Africa. ‘Construction, infrastructure and energy sectors are the main ones for investment. Moreover, farming is a growing sector and investments in this field may create an opportunity to turn African countries into exporters.’ She also added that African businessmen and politicians were very positive on Turkey’s growing interest in the continent.”

Morocco Plays Key Role in the Global World of Textiles. Morocco has escaped one of the traps of preferential trade agreements – endemic to the textile sector – which opens up growth opportunities in a sector only to see them dominated by foreign labor, which marginally contributes to the local economy. This is the case with Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain, with Free Trade Agreements with the US, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in its free trade zones. Garments are produced or assembled in these industrial parks and then shipped with little or no duty to customers around the world.

While this is a boon to manufacturers, few jobs are created for locals, even in countries where quotas are mandated. Morocco is different. Unlike the others, it has had a tradition of textile manufacturing so there are few if any cultural constraints (the “shame” factor, as it is called in Jordan) tied to working in the sector. Those working in semi-skilled jobs are seen as contributing to their families and the stability of the community.

The textile industry has changed, and Morocco is a great example of how few, if any, garments are fully manufactured in one country, similar to automobile construction. A recent BBC feature took the readers on a tour of a pink Zara-brand shirt dress to illustrate the internationalized process of clothes manufacturing.

The feature begins, “’Made in Morocco’ says the label on the pink Zara shirt dress. While this may be where the garment was finally sewn together, it has already been to several other countries. In fact, it’s quite possible this piece of clothing is better travelled than you.”

The basic material in the fabric is called lyocell, a sustainable alternative to cotton, sourced from trees in Europe. The fibers were then shipped to Egypt where low-cost factories spun the lyocell into a yarn that then went to China where it was woven into a fabric. “This fabric was then sent to Spain where it was dyed, in this case pink. The fabric was then shipped to Morocco to be cut into the various parts of the dress and then sewn together. After this, it was sent back to Spain where it was packaged and then sent to the UK, the US, or any one of the 93 countries where Inditex, the Zara brand owner, has shops.”

It’s no wonder that trade agreements which specify rules of origin – that is, the amount of content made by the trading partner, as the basis for favorable treatment – are often puzzled by how to measure value along the supply chain. “From dresses to t-shirts and trousers, most items of clothing sold around the world will have had similarly complicated journeys. In fact, they’re likely to be even more convoluted.”

According to the BBC, “Regardless of where they’re based, most factories are not owned by the fashion brands that use them. Instead, they’re selected as official suppliers. Often these suppliers subcontract work to other factories for certain tasks, or in order to meet tight deadlines.” According to a study by Christian Aid and Baptist World Aid Australia, “less than a fifth of brands know where all of their zips, buttons, thread and fabric come from.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

What to Make of the Latest Jihadi Reorganization in the Sahara/Sahel – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 22:05

Caitlin Dearing Scott
March 27, 2017

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

Earlier this month, three of the Sahel’s leading  jihadist groups – Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun, and Katiba Macina — announced a merger with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) under the leadership of Ansar Dine chief Iyad Ag Ghaly and the banner “Nusrat ul-Islam” (group for the victory of Islam and Muslims). In a video announcing the merger, Ghaly appeared with Yahya Abou Hamam, emir of AQIM’s Sahara emirate; Amadou Kouffa, head of the Katiba Macina; Al-Hasan Al-Ansari, vice-emir of al-Mourabitoun; and Abu Abdul Rahman Senhadji, AQIM judge.

There has been no reaction from AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel or the infamous leader of al-Mourabitoun Mokhtar Belmokhtar, but the newly-merged group has pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. So it appears that the merger was sanctioned by the powers that be.

The announcement is just the latest move in the tangled, ever-changing web of jihadist alliances in the Sahel. The last few years alone witnessed Belmokhtar leaving AQIM only to return and Abou Walid Al-Sahraoui, formerly of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and al-Mourabitoun, forming a splinter group and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State under the banner of “the Islamic State in the Grand Sahara,” in direct contravention of Belmokhtar’s firm opposition to the Islamic State. (For a thorough overview, see Marc Memier’s recent report, AQMI et Al-Mourabitoun from the French Institute for International Relations.

For now, the merger doesn’t appear to signify a fundamental shift in the terrorist threat to the region, but rather a formalization of ties. These groups have worked together in the past, notably collaborating on the attack against the Raddison Blu hotel in Bamako in November 2015, the Ouagadougou attack in Burkina Faso in January 2016, and the Grand Bassam attack in Côte d’Ivoire in March 2016 — three of the deadliest and most high-profile attacks of the last two years. Though those attacks did signify to some degree the “Africanization” of AQIM — with its expansion  beyond  the Maghreb and the “core” group of Algerian combatants to now include fighters from virtually every country in West Africa — they didn’t result in a grand unification, on strategy or otherwise. By all accounts, the jihadi landscape is still fragmented; but it does operate across a larger swath of territory. It seems likely that individual brigades will continue to operate both autonomously and opportunistically – seeking external alliances when it appears beneficial and resorting to fragmentation and competition when it’s not. The same goes for individual jihadis.

So perhaps the bigger question is why now? What is it that led these groups to merge at this time? The most obvious answer is competition from the Islamic State (IS), which is not only seeking to expand its presence in the region after defeats in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, but also taking potential recruits from jihadi groups with their historic base in the Sahara/Sahel.  Over the past few years, a number of groups operating in the region have pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State – in some cases breaking off from AQIM in the process (Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria, for one) – leading AQIM to try to reverse the trend by encouraging IS fighters to defect.

This answer, however, flies in the face of other reports about collusion between Belmokhtar and the Islamic State in Libya. In early March, Libyan Minister of Defense Mahdi Barghathi (of the UN-backed government) claimed that the Islamic State was regrouping in southern Libya with the support of al-Qaeda, particularly Mokhtar Belmokhtar. As The Telegraph notes, “The unholy alliance of the world’s two most dangerous terrorist groups in Libya is at odds with the public animosity between al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) leadership.” In Mr. Barghathi’s view, the situation on the ground belies the hostile rhetoric between the two groups, and they are in reality “actively co-operating,” with al-Qaeda “providing logistics and support to help Isil re-group and launch attacks.”

Whether that is true – and whether it means something more than just the latest round of opportunism by Belmokhtar (and thus with few implications beyond southern Libya) – remains to be seen. What is certain is that Belmokhtar has always maintained larger ambitions than the Sahara/Sahel – seeking to unite “Muslims from the Nile to the Atlantic.” This merger may be a part of that – with Belmokhtar playing his preferred role behind the scenes – or it may mean very little. The announcement was nevertheless successful in putting al-Qaeda back in the spotlight, if only for a moment.

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco and China Ink Pact to Build New City; Banking Sector Continues Strong Showing – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 15:42

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 24, 2017

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

Building on King Mohammed VI’s 2016 trip to China, plans were announced for a major co-investment in an industrial city in the north of the kingdom that will provide jobs and development in the region. The Central Bank continued its conservative, and successful, management of interest rates as inflation, the national budget deficit, and the trade deficit are projected to rise slightly in 2017. Attijarawafa Bank was named African bank of the year by yet another business organization.

China Comes a Knocking. Repeating its formula for yet another successful foray into an African economy, China has agreed to form a joint enterprise with Morocco to develop an industrial and technology park, hosting hundreds of Chinese companies, to support manufacturing centers in the Tanger region. Chinese companies have previously been active in infrastructure projects such as the suspension bridge linking Rabat and Sale, among the largest of its kind in Africa. Of course, these parks also serve as zones for importing Chinese consumer electronics, textiles, parts, and housewares for sale in the local economy.

The principal partners are the Chinese aviation group Haite, BMCE’s Bank of Africa, and the government of Morocco represented by the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima regional authorities. The initial agreement calls for $1B investment annually for 10 years. The city, called “The Mohammed VI Tanger Tech City,” represents a significant escalation in Moroccan-Chinese relations. It will cover 2,000 hectares (approximately 5,600 acres) with a target of 300,000 inhabitants and a workforce of 100,000 drawn from the surrounding area.

The signing of the MOU, presided over by the King, took place in the Marchane Royal Palace in Tanger with presentations made by Moulay Hafid elAlamy, the acting Minister of Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy, and Li Biao, President of the Haite Group. Mr. Biao noted that “the park will host hundreds of Chinese companies in numerous industrial zones including auto manufacturing, aerospace, aviation spare parts, electronic information, textiles and machinery manufacturing.” Minister elAlamy pointed out that Tanger was selected by the Chinese as a “competitive platform” for its regional center for manufacturing and distribution of its products, and that work would start in the second half of 2017.

For its part, the government of Morocco will continue its economic development projects in the north, including the high speed train scheduled to begin service within the next year, expansion of the free trade zones around TangerMed Port, and additional excavation of the deepwater harbor facilities. Minister elAlamy said that these investments will attract hundreds of multinational companies in addition to the Chinese companies financing the industrial city.

Financial Indicators are Steady.  According to a report by NASDAQ, the Central Bank of Morocco, Bank Al-Maghrib, has positive economic projections for 2017, even as some indicators such as inflation and the balance of payments are slightly more negative. With a strong agricultural growing season, overall growth is pegged to increase by 4.3% and inflation will level off after a slight rise in the first quarter. Agriculture’s GDP contribution is expected to rise from 9.6% in 2016 to 15% this year. While this is good news for 2017, overall growth is expected to decline in 2018 as the price of phosphates remains low.

While inflation increased from 1.6% to 2.1% earlier this year, it is expected to drop to 1.1% later this year as the government is able to cut energy imports and subsidies and agricultural prices fall. The country’s budget deficit will reach 3.7% of GDP in 2017 before a slight decrease to 3.4% in 2018. Even though the trade deficit reached 18.2%, this still represents only 2.2% of GDP. Much of this is due to the decline in the price of phosphates, resulting in a 3.3% trade deficit. Overall, the news is good: the economy is steady and performing soundly resulting in controlled inflation, minimal increases in the trade deficit, and a more-than-manageable budget deficit.

Attijariwafa Bank continued its impressive role as a leading bank in Africa, garnering the “African Bank of the Year” award at the Africa CEO Forum. It is Africa’s fourth largest bank, operating in 24 countries with more than 7M clients and 16,000 employees. According to its website, the Forum provides a multinational platform for CEOs of African and international companies, financial specialists, investors, bankers, thought-leaders, and public sector leaders to exchange information and develop projects in Africa and internationally, and develop strategies to address the economic and industrial challenges facing the continent.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco, Longtime US Counterterrorism Ally, Attends Anti-ISIS Coalition Meeting in Washington

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 23:00

Washington, DC, March 23, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, was in Washington yesterday for a meeting of the Ministers of the anti-ISIS Global Coalition, convened by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “review and accelerate the campaign for the lasting defeat of ISIS.” Morocco was the first Maghreb country to join the coalition, and was designated a non-NATO ally by President George W. Bush in 2004.

“Together, we share a resolve to deal ISIS or Daesh a lasting defeat,” said Secretary Tillerson in his remarks. “Our coalition is united in stopping an ISIS resurgence, halting its global ambitions and discrediting its ideological narrative. And we’re ready to grow stronger and stay aggressive in this battle.”

Secretary Tillerson outlined four countermeasures to “stay ahead of” ISIS: persisting “with in-country counterterrorism and law enforcement operations”; “greater intelligence and information sharing within our own domestic intelligence agencies and among our nations”; combating “a warped interpretation of Islam”; and breaking “ISIS’s ability to spread its messages and recruit new followers online.”

The countermeasures shared by Secretary Tillerson reflect the many ways Morocco has sought to tackle extremism and the threat of terrorism over the past few years. In May 2015, the country strengthened its counterterrorism operations by creating the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation to bring different elements of the security sector under a central institution. That same year, Morocco’s Parliament enacted laws to criminalize “joining, or attempting to join a terrorist group; receiving terrorist training; and terrorist recruiting.” In addition to the anti-terrorist activities of its security forces, Morocco is taking steps to block terrorists’ access to financial resources and monitor religious organizations to ensure that donations are not used to finance terrorist activities.

Morocco has been a strong proponent of greater intelligence sharing and maintains close intelligence relations with the US and countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Morocco provided the intelligence that enabled French police to locate the mastermind of the attacks and arrest a Belgian national with direct links to the Islamist gunmen and bombers.

Morocco has also been at the front lines of the ideological battle against religious extremism. Since the early 2000s, the country has reorganized its religious structures—upgrading mosques, publishing an official bulletin of imams, creating a Directorate of Religious Education within the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, training both men and women as religious preachers, among other steps—to protect against radicalization. In a scathing rebuke of Islamic extremism, King Mohammed VI said in a speech delivered to the nation in August 2016, “Those who engage in terrorism, in the name of Islam, are not Muslims… They have strayed from the right path, and their fate is to dwell forever in hell.”

“The meeting was an opportunity to highlight the vision of His Majesty the King to fight the terrorist threat,” said Minister Bourita. “It is a multidimensional approach that includes preventive and repressive aspects.”

Representatives from all 68 member countries and organizations attended the meeting; from North Africa, Minister Bourita was joined by representatives from Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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 Continues Local and African Leadership on the Environment – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:26

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 23, 2017

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

While some may question the durability of commitments made at COP22 and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, there is no doubt that Morocco takes these responsibilities seriously. Recent news coverage on two development projects indicate that Morocco is all about the business of building a better future for itself and for Africa.

Two articles reported the latest developments in Zenata Eco-City, located between Casablanca and Rabat. When announced in 2012, Zenata was to be the pilot for a number of new cities planned by Morocco to relieve the urban overcrowding that is continuing at an accelerating pace. By 2030, urban populations in Africa are expected to increase by 15% and it’s worse in densely populated cities like Casablanca, where overcrowding leads to poor health and environmental outcomes, not to mention pockets of poverty and inadequate social services.

Aside from its famous IKEA, which opened in March 2016, Zenata boasts several locally designed and developed urban spaces featuring open land, apartment buildings with recreational areas for young people, a community mosque, as well as shops and transportation. The city, planned for 300,000 inhabitants, is growing based on a master plan that focuses on public utilities, air quality, ease of movement, and jobs. According to a story by Devex (“the media platform for the global community”), they key for the government is that planning be done with heavy local input and stress three development pillars: environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Additional information, provided by Dr. Zakia Belhachmi, a senior international development advisor, pointed out that “Prior to its recent development as an eco-city, it was home to nearly 40,000 people living in slums whose inhabitants were relocated to temporary housing in apartments nearby as part of the region’s urban master plan. Zenata not only maximizes the use of natural resources of the city, but is also allocating 30% of the first phase as a ‘green space’ and a central park conceived to promote biodiversity.”

Dr. Belhachmi raises critical questions about whether the education system in these new cities will incorporate the concept of sustainability in its curricula and about the role of parent-teacher associations. “After all, new modes of living involving a transition from slums into an eco-city are educational at their core simply because of the sustainable principles involved. Development in this context includes a socialization process that addresses the mind-set of the people not just their physical habitat.”

Congo Receives Attention

Further afield, a direct outcome of COP22 was the recent signing in Congo of a “Congo Basin Blue Fund.” The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) says that the “Blue economy concerns all water bodies, including lakes, watercourses and groundwater, not forgetting seas and coasts. The main economic activity domains of Africa based on marine and aquatic resources include fishing, fish farming, tourism, transport, the port sector, mining and energy.”

The Congo Basin Blue Fund was one of the three priorities raised by King Mohammed VI at the Africa Action Summit held during COP22. One of the major concerns is the deforestation in the Congo Basin forests, which are second only to the Amazon Basin as a natural carbon storage system. This is a joint project of the Brazzaville Foundation and nine countries, including Morocco, which participated in the signing of an MOU this month to formally launch the fund.

According to several sources, “The fund will finance projects in river transport, dredging and infrastructure, renewable energy, irrigation, fishing and ecotourism to foster sustainable industries based on the Congo’s renewable resources.” Given Morocco’s commitment to advancing its own water management as well as its outreach to share with African countries valuable expertise on renewable energy, agriculture, and fisheries, it is not surprising that it has joined this group.

Next steps include tapping climate change financing facilities such as the one raised by the World Bank and Morocco, and attracting funding from other international agencies, investors, and philanthropic organizations.

Cécilia Attias, member of the Brazzaville Foundation, commented that the fund “marks a huge step forward in delivering economic and environmental sustainability to the Congo Basin and surrounding communities. We are delighted by the support of these nine nations who have united in peaceful cooperation on this vital mission.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco, US Conclude Tenth Annual Flintlock Military Exercise

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 20:56

Washington, DC, March 17, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — United States forces yesterday concluded Exercise Flintlock 2017, a three-week military training exercise in Morocco and six other African host nations sponsored by US Africa Command. More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations participated in the tenth iteration of the exercise, which was established in 2005 to “[strengthen] security institutions, [promote] multilateral sharing of information and [develop] interoperability between counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.”

In Morocco, Marines from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) trained with their Moroccan counterparts “on small unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control and force protection.” An opening ceremony was held February 27 at the Tifnit training base in Morocco’s Southern Zone area of operations.

“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” said Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, in remarks delivered at the ceremony on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.

“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries,” said MARSOC’s exercise instructor.

A press release announcing the exercise stated, “In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco. Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.”

Since the 1990s, Morocco has also served as host of African Lion, the largest annual US joint military exercise in Africa, “designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures.” Military exercises like Flintlock and African Lion are just one of the many ways the US and Morocco coordinate on security measures. Designated as a “major non-NATO ally,” Morocco was the first Maghreb country to be a member of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. And this year, Morocco served as co-chair with the Netherlands of the US-established Global Counterterrorism Forum.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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

Moroccan King Concludes Five-Country Africa Tour on Heels of African Union Decision

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 19:03

Washington, DC, March 14, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) —Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has concluded a five-country tour of Africa that took him to South Sudan, Ghana, Zambia, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire. The tour immediately followed the African Union’s (AU) decision to readmit Morocco to the continental bloc after a 33-year hiatus. Since ascending the throne in 1999, the King has made Africa a foreign policy priority, making over 50 visits to nearly 30 African countries and signing approximately one thousand bilateral agreements on economic, political, security, religious, and educational issues.

  • From February 1-2, the King visited South Sudan, overseeing the signing of nine bilateral agreements with President Salva Kiir Mayardit in the areas of urban development, investment promotion, agriculture, industrial cooperation, mines, and vocational training. The King also committed funds to a feasibility study for the building of a new capital city in Ramciel; as well as to a field hospital in Juba operated by Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces.
  • From February 16-19, the King visited Ghana, where he and President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo oversaw the signing of 25 governmental and public-private partnership agreements. The agreements center on investment, industrial cooperation, electricity, insurance, banking, agriculture, renewable energy, mining, tourism, and partnerships to promote business and engage the private sector in favor of climate action.
  • From February 19-23, the King visited Zambia – his first visit to the country. The King and Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu chaired a signing ceremony for 19 political and economic partnership agreements covering air services, investment promotion and protection, finance and banking, insurance, education, tourism, agriculture, technology, industry, and mining and renewable energy.
  • From February 23-24, he visited Guinea-Conakry, where he oversaw the signing of eight bilateral agreements in agriculture, sanitation, fertilizers, and technical assistance; visited a vocational training complex funded by the Mohammed VI Foundation for Sustainable Development; and undertook a number of measures to strengthen religious ties between the two countries. In addition to donating 10,000 copies of the Quran to the Secretary General of Religious Affairs in Guinea, the King performed Friday prayers at the Ahl Sunna Wal Jamaa mosque, launched construction on the “Mohammed VI Mosque,” and met with imams who were part of the first class of Guinean imams to receive training at the Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat.
  • From February 24-March 14, King Mohammed VI visited Côte d’Ivoire, presiding with President Alassane Ouattara over the signing of 14 economic agreements covering pharmaceuticals, public transportation and road security, women-managed small businesses, and the creation of a “Technocenter” in Abidjan. During the visit, the King and President Ouattara also chaired a ceremony presenting the progress of the Cocody Bay rehabilitation project, which the King launched in a June 2015 visit to the country. It was during that visit that the two countries established the Côte d’Ivoire-Morocco Economic Impetus Group to reinforce private sector cooperation; since then, Côte d’Ivoire has become a premier destination for Moroccan foreign investment and trade has increased threefold.

Morocco is the second largest African investor in the continent, and its trade with the rest of Africa increased by 12% annually between 2003 and 2013. In late 2013, the King established a program to train imams from across the continent in Morocco’s open, moderate form of Islam; and in June 2016, he inaugurated the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Oulema, with a mission of strengthening age-old historical and religious ties between Morocco and its African neighbors. With Morocco serving as the host country, the King also ensured that Africa’s interests on climate change policy were represented at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in Marrakesh in November 2016, hosting a special meeting for African leaders at the event.

“With this most recent trip, King Mohammed VI has once again put words into action and taken concrete steps to solidify his commitment to the development and prosperity of African citizens and his pledge to help bring about unity and progress on the continent,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

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

When a Commitment to Economic Growth Has its Detractors – Jean R. AbiNader

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 14:30

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 14, 2017

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

You probably haven’t seen the news about Morocco and the ECOWAS yet. In fact, you may react with “Eco-what?” I wouldn’t blame you. The ECOWAS is a regional economic group of 15 Central and West African countries, including some, like Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, and Nigeria, that you may have heard of, as well as others such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and the Gambia, that are remarkable and interesting to those who follow the continent’s activities. All are countries with long histories and intriguing cultures. Several, like Togo and Mali, are historically significant countries that once had large empires, as covered recently in the PBS special series Africa’s Great Civilizations.

Today, the ECOWAS seeks to promote regional economic integration through multistate programs for infrastructure, industrial development, energy, agricultural, natural resources, trade and investment, financial services, and cultural affairs. It is only natural that Morocco would want to be part of the ECOWAS — it currently has observer status. The major obstacle to full membership is that the regional group does not currently include North Africa in its mandate. So to address this issue, the ECOWAS heads of state will vote on Morocco’s request in April.

On the “why do it” side is the argument that because the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), which includes Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia, has been unable to effectively function, then why wouldn’t Morocco want to join a more proactive and friendly organization? It makes sense for Morocco to reach out to other francophone countries, and its trading and development partners, for economic growth opportunities. In fact, King Mohammed VI has diligently pursued stronger and more diverse ties with all of these countries for more than a decade.

According to the North Africa Post, “With the inclusion of Morocco, the ECOWAS will bolster its aggregated GDP to the 16th rank globally, ahead of Turkey and right after Indonesia. The admission of Morocco to the ECOWAS sub-region will make it the second largest economy after Nigeria (which is a member). Thanks to its geographic location and trade agreements with the EU, Turkey, the US, and several Arab countries as well as its port and airport hubs, Morocco will offer West African countries a gateway to new markets.”

Building stronger trade and investment relations to its south helps Morocco diversify commercial markets beyond its traditional ties to Europe, thus enabling reciprocal benefits with its African neighbors. It is the concept of building regional growth opportunities that underscores the MoU between Morocco and Nigeria to build an Africa Atlantic gas pipeline from the fields of Nigeria along the African coast to Morocco onwards to Europe…providing new energy supplies to fuel public and private sector development projects. For its part, Morocco will support its commitment to building the continent’s food security by sharing its expertise in the production of specialized fertilizers and agro-industries. Already announced are fertilizer plants through joint ventures with Gabon and Nigeria.

Unsurprisingly, the Algerian press is taking issue with Morocco’s ECOWAS move. According to Morocco World News, the Algerian daily El Watan “claimed that Morocco membership in ECOWAS might isolate Algeria from the African continent following the recent step of Morocco to diversify and develop its economic ties within the African continent.”

Algeria, with a badly managed, hydrocarbon-based economy according to recent articles, has often spoken about stronger ties with sub-Saharan Africa, but there are few initiatives in place. So rather than bulk up its efforts to develop its own Afro-centric economic policies, it prefers to criticize the King’s initiatives and watch as Morocco continues its outreach across Africa to build sustainable friendships and economic partnerships.

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Categories: The moroccan press

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