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Morocco Most Democratic Country in Arab World According to Latest Arab Democracy Index

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 21:26

Washington, DC, June 26, 2017 (MACP) — Morocco ranks as the most democratic country in the Arab world according to the Arab Democracy Index, released earlier this month by the Arab Reform Initiative and The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. This fifth iteration of the report examines survey data to measure the democratic transition process in Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco.

While the report showed an overall decline in democratization in the Arab world, Morocco posted gains to remain in the lead for the fourth time since the Index first launched in 2008. The North African country showed improvements in a number of indicators, particularly in the data “related to surveillance of the press, the hindering of political party activity, personal safety, and school dropout rates,” according to the report’s Executive Summary.

Tunisia and Jordan followed Morocco as second and third most democratic countries in the Index. Among its many recommendations, the report “highlights the urgent need to strengthen the monitoring functions of [Arab] political systems, enhance the ability of parliaments to ensure accountability, promote judicial independence, and strengthen oversight of the security services. It also recommends supporting the role of women in the [labor] force, reforming education, and giving more freedom to the media to contribute effectively to public debate and raising awareness.”

“Morocco’s rank in the Arab Democracy Index is a testament to King Mohammed VI’s vision for a stable, prosperous, and democratic Morocco—a vision which he laid out nearly two decades ago,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “Morocco should be proud of and encouraged by these results.”

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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

Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Report Highlights Transnational Cooperation – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 18:37

Flags of member countries outside UfM headquarters in Barcelona. Photo by: Jordiferrer on Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 22, 2017

While a great deal has been written about the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) to realize its potential for making North Africa a regional powerhouse, little is known in the US about the UfM and how it is creating new cooperative relationships across the Mediterranean basin. Led since 2012 by Secretary General Amb. Fathallah Sijilmassi, it pulls together its 43 member countries to develop projects that serve the people of the region despite political obstacles.

Ambassador Sijilmassi is a Moroccan diplomat who is best known to Americans as the first head of the Moroccan Investment Development Agency (AMDI), which initiated many of the incentives, databases, and relationships that have been central to Morocco’s economic growth. He also participated in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the US, as well as agreements with Europe and Arab and African countries. As a result, he is a recognized leader on Moroccan-Euro relations, especially in investment, regional cooperation, and development.

UfM recently released its 2016 annual report, highlighting previous accomplishments and initiatives and spelling out its 2017 agenda. According to its website, the UfM “serves as a framework for policy dialogue and exchange of project ideas, experiences and best practices among governments, key international institutions and cooperation structures. The UfM provides a unique platform to formulate regional priorities and decide on specific cooperation initiatives to be put in place.” It also places a special emphasis on improving conditions for women and youth.

The UfM bills itself as “an ecosystem. In a collaborative approach…stakeholders contribute decisively to the effectiveness of regional cooperation, with significant benefit for the overall objective of mutual understanding, development, peace and stability.” This positive message is backed up by millions of dollars of capital to fund projects in four areas: enhancing political dialogue among UfM members; ensuring the contribution of UfM activities to regional stability and human development; strengthening regional integration; and consolidating UfM capacity for action. In other words, despite whatever obstacles exist, UfM projects provide a platform on which the members can engage each other in cooperative efforts to build prosperity for their citizens.

A few examples of projects in which Morocco participates, along with other Mediterranean South countries, illustrate the vital role that UfM plays in the region:

  • YouMatch, funded by the German development agency GIZ and the German government, brings together an array of experts from governments, the business sector, and civil society to develop better employment services for youth. Based on the notion that lessons learned and shared can improve the employment practices of the six participating countries, it seeks to build tools that will “help assess and improve existing labour market tools and will encourage peer learning and the exchange of expertise and best practices….” Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are involved in this project.
  • Euro-Mediterranean University in Fez opened its campus in 2016 with 300 students in its first cohort. Targeting students from the Mediterranean region as well as Africa, it offers a multilingual and multidimensional program focused on development issues in the Mediterranean basin. Working with a consortium of Euro-Med universities, it is committed to advancing student employability and entrepreneurial skills. It is envisioned as a laboratory for creating the next generation of regional leaders.
  • At the EMUNI University in Slovenia, professionals from Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Ghana are enrolled in a one-year program to “equip would-be entrepreneurs with the skills they need to turn a bright idea into an innovative and sustainable business.” In collaboration with universities in Egypt, Italy, and Morocco, young professionals under the age of 40 with a background in science, math, engineering, or business are asked to come up with ideas for new businesses.
  • Projects that support women as leaders and entrepreneurs include “Promoting Women’s Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development” and the “WOMED Next Generation of Leaders.” The first works to increase access for women entrepreneurs to coaching, investments, business partnerships, and matchmaking. The latter, which has been active since 2015, works to facilitate networks of female leaders interacting around ideas, resources, and research to support women’s empowerment.
  • Morocco has played a leading role in UfM renewable energy projects under the SEMed Private Renewable Energy Framework, the first being a 120MW wind farm near Tangier, one of the country’s first private projects for producing renewable energy.
  • An example of UfM’s infrastructure focus is the LOGISMED-TA project. It involves government and private sector trainees from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, who will upgrade their skills through specifically designed courses to “create a network of logistics platforms meeting recognized quality standards” in such areas as customs, border and port management, logistics administration, and ultimately a regional free trade zone.

Other UfM projects can be found in the 2016 annual report. Suffice to say, it highlights concrete programs that are realizing actual results through collaborative means to achieve economic growth and integration. For example, a conference was held in December 2016 on issues of regional partnerships among universities and how to manage migrant and refugee credit recognition. Hopefully, by reducing barriers to cooperation and providing sustainable projects for its members, UfM will continue its successful efforts and enhance prospects for regional economic integration.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: President Macron Makes Morocco First Stop in North Africa; Moroccan Entrepreneurs Shine; and MCC-MCA Morocco Gets Going – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 16:06

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 21, 2017

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

It did not go unnoticed in the region that French President Emmanuel Macron visited Morocco on his first visit to North Africa. While it was a private visit, with a concurrent announcement of a pending visit to Algeria, it reinforces the special relationship that exists. Good news for Moroccan entrepreneurs who forge ahead with innovation for low-cost cooking; and MCC-MCA Morocco announces public meetings.

Macron to King Mohammed VI, solid and reliable partnership. Though it was a private visit, with no business or political delegation to accompany him, President Macron made sure to visit Morocco to make up for skipping the country during his campaign and to continue the strong bond that exists between the countries. Commentaries were consistent in pointing out the strong economic, political, and security relationship that continues to serve the best interests of both.

In a wide-ranging discussion on France24, it was noted that the US has passed France as the largest investor in Morocco, while Spain is now the number one trading partner, despite the extensive investments made by Renault, Peugeot, Airbus, and others in highly visible projects encompassing the auto, aerospace, rail, and ports sectors, among others. Contention in the Gulf and continued terrorism threats in the EU may have topped the agenda, but Morocco’s economic and commercial partnerships with France clearly speak to the permanence of the bilateral ties.

In fact, a Times of India.com blog following the visit was headlined “Important Axis: The France-Morocco relationship is slated to become a global asset,” and went on to detail the diverse and substantial ties between the two allies.

Macron and King Mohammed share a common vision of supporting Africa’s economic growth as an antidote to instability — and as a rich source of market opportunities. The blog noted, “But for a strong Macron presidency to formulate a new Africa policy, Paris needs a stable African partner. And that partner can be no other than the North African nation of Morocco.” It mentioned that “Today, Morocco is not only the most dynamic economy in North Africa but has also become the second largest investor on the continent. Add to this Morocco’s King Mohammed VI’s vision of pushing South-South cooperation among sister African nations…It is with this principle in mind that Morocco has over recent years boosted its economic engagements with countries of the Sahara and Sahel regions.”

It is in this regional context of building security through prosperity that France and Morocco are the ideal partnership for advancing growth and stability on the continent.

From big ideas, smart innovations. As noted in various publications, “The Global Innovation Index 2017 ranked Morocco as the first innovative economy in North Africa and the third on the continental level preceded only by South Africa and Mauritius.” We have discussed the report on our website and thought it might be interesting to look at a case study of how a simple idea turned into a pragmatic solution can yield many benefits.

As reported in Morocco World News, a group of university students in Morocco have pioneered an insulated isotherm bag that slow cooks food using retained heat. Food is initially heated in the usual manner, and then the dish is placed inside the bag to continue the cooking process without an external heat source.

Called Eco-Heat, the low-tech bag saves energy, reduces pollution, and frees the food preparer for other tasks. Three students at EHTP, the engineering college in Casablanca, came up with the concept while visiting rural villages in Morocco and observing how much energy was wasted in simple food preparation. Given that the dominant fuels are wood, coal, and butane gas, there were also health concerns associated with the cooking process. ­The students were part of Enactus, which bills itself as “A community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better and more sustainable world.” Active in 36 countries, Enactus enables students to test ideas, garner support, and launch projects.

The students developed the isotherm bag, patented the technology, and began marketing, with more than $20,000 in start-up funds from various sponsors including Ford, Enactus, and OCP.

The bag has broad utility beyond rural areas. As Marwane Fachane, who worked with the startup during their time with the incubator Dare Inc., explained, “The average Moroccan consumer needs the product for two reasons: In urban areas, because he no longer has time to cook, and in rural areas, because he can no longer afford other alternatives such as gas, wood or electric furnaces.”

MCC-MCA Morocco focus on education. MCA, the Moroccan partner of MCC, which administers the $250 million second compact, is working hard to start up after delays caused by the lack of a formal government earlier this year. The first item on the docket is a competitive process to solicit ideas and proposals for improving existing secondary schools in Morocco and launching new ones. Each awardee must have a partnership with a Moroccan entity, creating important opportunities for advancing educational consulting in the Kingdom. For full details and contact information, visit http://charaka.mcamorocco.ma.

The post Business Brief: President Macron Makes Morocco First Stop in North Africa; Moroccan Entrepreneurs Shine; and MCC-MCA Morocco Gets Going – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

How Many More World Refugee Days before Sahrawis See Justice? – Robert M. Holley

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 18:23

Photo: Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Robert M. Holley
June 20, 2017

 

Robert M. Holley, Senior Policy Adviser, MACP

It is once again World Refugee Day and tens of thousands of, as yet uncounted and unidentified, Sahrawi refugees remain sequestered in Polisario Front camps in southwest Algeria. They have been there for more than four decades – and counting. Algeria and the Polisario Front still refuse to comply with repeated requests from the UN Security Council to allow a headcount. No particular reasons are offered for this continued stonewalling. They seem to believe that saying “no” is enough to keep the Security Council at bay. And so far, they have been right. It has been.

I was in the Sahara again a few weeks ago. As usual, as I have been doing regularly on my trips there since 2005, I took the opportunity to interview another half dozen recently escaped refugees who had managed to smuggle themselves out of the Polisario camps and back to their families in Morocco. Sadly, nothing much has changed in the story they had to tell me. Nothing in the camps has improved. Young people still have no hope for the future. And the Polisario Front is no more willing today than it has been for the last several decades to allow people there to choose their own destinies and leave.

I asked, as I always do, whether they had a message they would like me to take back to America. They did. Same message I have heard for the last dozen years from almost every escaped refugee I have interviewed. That message was this: it is time for this to end. We want our families united again. Tell America we need their help.

If you want to learn more of the particulars of this travesty, below is a small sample of the various editorial comments I have made on this subject in the last several years. I keep hoping something good is going to come of this. Getting the Security Council to start insisting rather than asking for a headcount and identification process is a good place to start. At least we will then know who and how many are there.

Western Sahara: Who Should Be Watching? Why Not Us? So What Next for Western Sahara? Knock, Knock….Who’s There? Some Free and Open Human Rights Counsel for the Polisario

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Leads North Africa in Latest Global Innovation Index

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 20:39
Country Ranks in Top 10 of Income Bracket

Washington, DC, June 19, 2017 (MACP) — Morocco leads North Africa and is among the top 10 countries in its income bracket according to the 2017 Global Innovation Index (GII), released last week and coauthored by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Each year, the GII surveys some 130 economies using dozens of metrics, from patent filings to education spending, according to the accompanying release. The rankings “capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities” (such as human capital and research, infrastructure, and market sophistication) as well as “the results of innovative activities within the economy.” In this latest edition, Morocco led North Africa and ranked 72nd overall out of 127 countries, and seventh out of 27 lower-middle-income economies. Morocco was also noted as a standout performer in agricultural labor productivity.

This latest report is one of many industry and business indices of recent years awarding Morocco high marks. Earlier this year, Morocco was again named among the 50 most innovative economies in the world and one of just two such economies in Africa by the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index. In September last year, the World Bank’s 2017 “Doing Business” report ranked Morocco 68 out of 190 countries in ease of doing business—a two-spot gain over the previous year—making it number one in North Africa and fourth overall in the greater Middle East/North Africa region. KPMG International and Oxford Economics’ 2015 Change Readiness Index (CRI) ranked Morocco as the most “change-ready” country in the Maghreb, with particularly positive results in the category of “enterprise capability.” And in 2014, the Wall Street Journal’s  Frontiers/FSG Frontier Markets Sentiment Index reported that Morocco is among the top ten frontier markets—and the only one in the Maghreb—most favored by foreign corporations.

“It’s no accident that again and again, Morocco is recognized for its innovation and growth,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “That the country has established a track record of success in these areas is a testament to the leadership and vision of King Mohammed VI, and the hard work and determination of the Moroccan people to achieve progress.”

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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 Leads North Africa in Latest Global Innovation Index appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Tourism Up; Gas Exploration Up; Agadir Port Growing. What else are Moroccans doing right? – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 17:23

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 14, 2017

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

Morocco continues to see a rebound in tourism numbers this year, and expectations are that new markets in Asia will drive demand even further. Plans are unveiled for an expansion of Agadir Port, testifying to its growth from a regional fishing hub to a major tourism destination. Sound Energy looks to intensify its gas drilling operations and is optimistic. And finally, Morocco has a national budget, so now even more can get done to meet needs and grow the economy.

Rise in tourism bodes well for 2017. According to recently released government figures, Morocco is enjoying a much better year in terms of tourist arrivals. To date, some three million visitors have entered the country, with foreign tourism up 18% and expat Moroccan visits growing by 9.5%. Leading the way in this combined outcome of +14.7% were visitors from the US and Europe, particularly Spain, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. As importantly, the length of stay, measured in overnight occupancy, for non-resident tourists was up 34%, with Moroccan tourists spending 13% more time in the country. This, of course, only measures occupancy at listed accommodations such as hotels, resorts, and lodgings.

The main beneficiary cities are Tangier and Fez, where overnight stays increased more than 60% and 44%, respectively. Rabat was up 32%, while Casablanca and Marrakech posted respectable 24% increases. All of this is important as an indicator of the decreasing jitters among travelers about being in an Arab Muslim country, for which there have been travel cautions in the recent past. Overall, European tourist business is up by an average of more than 8%, while noticeable increases are coming from Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea as well.

Agadir rising. Another indicator of the growth of the value of tourism was the announcement of a $40 million project to construct a new multipurpose terminal in Agadir. According to numerous sources, the new terminal will be ready to go by 2019 and serve a number of vessels, bulk carriers, container shippers, cruise ships, and commercial vessels. It will have nine cranes of various capacities, as well as a cold-storage warehouse and distribution system.

Over the years, Agadir has grown from a regional fishing depot and tourism gateway to an important linchpin in Morocco’s national distribution and logistics infrastructure. With the increased demand in bulk cargo handling, it is more economical and efficient to move freight through Agadir than to have it trucked from Casablanca. Agadir’s marina is already attracting many foreign leisure vessels, with Europeans in particular finding it a favorite location for fall and winter docking.

Gas production moves a step closer. British exploration company Sound Energy has announced plans to continue drilling in its Sidi Moktar tract in central Morocco. Not only will be it re-entering its Koba-1 well to a deeper level, it will also have a similar effort at its Kamar-1 well. Key factors driving the projects’ renewal are the promising earlier test results, as well as their locations close to sufficient local infrastructure for transport and a nearby OCP phosphate plant looking for better energy supplies.

Parliament moves 2017 budget. One of the most important first actions of the new parliament was passing the long-delayed national budget. Now agencies can get down to business and resolve some of the bottlenecks delaying projects and frustrating contractors. Projecting a deficit of 3% of GDP, the budget continues efforts to strengthen public finances begun under the previous government. As a Nasdaq.com report noted, “Morocco has done more than most North African countries to make painful reforms required by international lenders to curb deficits, such as ending fuel subsidies and freezing public sector hiring. The government still controls wheat and cooking gas prices.”

Inflation is pegged at 1.7% with public investments expected at more than $6 billion and more than $19.5 billion allocated to state-run company investments. Public investments are targeting agricultural support at some $900 million, $370 million for the industrial sector, $1.2 billion for renewable energies, and $2 billion in port construction and rehabilitation. This robust budget offers multiple opportunities for foreign investors and companies seeking to enter or expand in Morocco.

Moroccan firm makes move to the big time. From time to time, we note how Moroccan entrepreneurs are gaining recognition and support internationally. The latest story comes from Silicon Valley, where the Moroccan B2B trading platform, WaystoCap, was well rewarded for its capacity that “allows African businesses to buy and sell products, allowing them to discover products, verify them, obtain financing and insurance, manage their shipments, and ensure payments security.” This was a result of being “a participant in the recently-concluded Y Combinator accelerator, on the back of which it has secured an undisclosed but sizeable funding round that include Y Combinator itself as well as Battery Ventures and other parties. It has also announced it is opening a satellite office in Cotonou, Benin.”

Having a satellite office in Benin makes sense to CEO Niama El Bassunie due to its strategic role as a central hub for West African trade. As importantly, the funds raised will allow WaystoCap to expand the sectors it covers and develop a new platform for more efficiently linking buyers and sellers.

The post Business Brief: Tourism Up; Gas Exploration Up; Agadir Port Growing. What else are Moroccans doing right? – Jean R. AbiNader appeared first on Morocco On The Move.

Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: More Reporting on Morocco’s Regional and Global Standing – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 20:09

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 8, 2017

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

The United Nations and World Bank published reports that looked at global growth and projections for economic performance in the coming years. Bright spots for Morocco include progress in retooling its economy while still facing challenges in job creation, reducing urban sprawl, and enhancing overall economic performance going forward.

World Bank looks to Morocco to continue growth. Based on its continuing analysis and assessment of Morocco’s strategic and tactical steps to grow its economy, the World Bank, in its “June 2017 Global Economic Prospects – A Fragile Recovery,” noted that Morocco has benefited from fiscal consolidation programs, focusing on reducing public expenditures, reforming energy subsidies, and restructuring taxes.

The report also noted the steps the country has taken to compensate for declining tourism from Europe by opening up markets in China and other expanding sources. It pointed out that the rebound in the agricultural sector in 2016 portends greater GDP growth of 3.8% in 2017, 3.7% in 2018, and 3.6% in 2019, which will make it the top performer in North Africa and second overall on the continent.

UN Economic Report on Africa features Morocco’s ports as key to growth. The UN Economic Commission on Africa released its latest report at its headquarters in Addis Ababa entitled “Urbanization and Industrialization for Africa’s Transformation.” It includes data on the pace and quality of urbanization throughout Africa and then examines how industrial tools, such as Special Economic Zones (SEZs), can facilitate rapid and effective economic growth strategies.

More specifically, the authors looked at how Africa is growing and what policies are needed to sustain the best aspects of the changes that are taking place. For example, while Morocco has increased the gross domestic savings portion of its GDP to 34.8%, very little of these funds are made available for domestic investments. And while Tunisia and Morocco have the lowest gap between wealthy and poor (2013 figures), the Maghreb region as a whole has the lowest level of female participation in the workforce on the continent. And despite the rise in foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sectors, services continue to be the fastest growing component of the economy.

Morocco has experienced rapid urbanization—more than 60% of Moroccans live in cities, which creates demands on the social infrastructure – housing, education, access to potable water, transportation, and similar needs – that the government is striving mightily to assuage. It now ranks third in Africa in housing construction, employing some 10% of the workforce. More than 60% of Moroccans own their own homes.

The report noted that “Morocco has had notable success in upgrading slums and relocating slum dwellers…Through a three-pronged approach, the programme [Cities without Slums] has moved slum dwellers to new housing (mostly apartment blocks), provided them with serviced plots to build their own homes and conducted on-site upgrading of infrastructure and services.” This, along with tax incentives to builders, has also spurred growth in the housing construction industry through increasing demand.

On the industrialization side, Morocco gets high marks for its growing manufacturing sectors. “The [automobile] industry is now the country’s largest export sector, dethroning phosphates.” A critical side benefit of this growth is the extensive infrastructure in place for the transportation and distribution of parts and vehicles, as well as hundreds of supply chain companies. This also serves the aeronautics industry and its suppliers, as well as light-manufacturing and offshoring activities, which require easy access for both labor and supplies.

Overall, Morocco appears to have built sufficient platforms for continued growth and expansion through proactive government policies, as well as support from international donors, international investors, and public-private partnerships. The only caveat is to increase the number of skilled, market-ready workers to keep pace with growing economic expansion in the services and manufacturing sectors.

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Categories: The moroccan press

What to do with the Arab Maghreb Union? – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 16:35

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 7, 2017

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

In a previous blog, I focused on King Mohammed VI’s lament regarding the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), speaking to the African Heads of State meeting in January, when Morocco joined the African Union after an absence of 33 years. He raised it as a reason for Morocco’s emphasis on building relations with sub-Saharan Africa. Now, a recent piece from the World Economic Forum (WEF), “Five Ways to Make the Maghreb Work,” again raises the importance of cooperation and collaboration among the five countries that make up the AMU – Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia.

So, what are the solutions proposed in that article that might provide a starting point for reconciliation among the two major protagonists in the AMU, Algeria and Morocco? While not minimizing the roles of the others, it is hard to imagine that Libya, a fractious and fragile shadow of a state, or Mauritania and Tunisia, facing internal challenges as well as outside pressures of instability, are going to provide the necessary leadership to revive the AMU. Let’s take a look at the recommendations made by the WEF author and add insights from a recent article by scholar Anouar Boukhars looking at what can be done to overcome obstacles to security cooperation in the region.

The author of the World Economic Forum piece, Wadia Ait Hamza, notes in her introduction that “…trade between the Maghreb countries represents just 4.8% of their trade volume, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa – and it represents less than 2% of the sub-region’s combined gross domestic product (GDP), according to the World Bank. This region is one of the lowest-performing trading blocs in the world.”

To enable the group to reach more of its potential, she lists five steps: the implementation of the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital; security cooperation; maximizing the complementarity of their economies; greater coordinated activities in sub-Saharan Africa; and greater integration of social, education, and foreign policies.

Testing these five steps against the likelihood of some degree of implementation is a useful measure of how far the AMU remains from its goal of regional integration. Take the issue of open borders, the first step. Not only has Algeria had to erect extensive security controls along its borders with Tunisia and Libya, it is also challenged in the south, where it abuts the Sahel. In reality, the easy movement of profitable trade only lies westward to Morocco, and this border has been closed for more than 23 years. Despite repeated international concern, the border remains closed, inviting smuggling of basic goods, drugs, and arms, and eroding the safety of both countries. This is not to say that someday the ban may be negotiated away, leaving the countries to figure out how to make prosperity work for mutual benefit.

Security cooperation, the second step, is essential to promote future economic development, as well as a safe and stable environment. Foreign investment is risk-averse, and without a sense of stability beyond military force, companies will be loath to broaden their presence in the region. As Boukhars points out, Morocco has been quite successful in attracting foreign investors and would benefit from an open and secure border with Algeria where goods and services can build prosperity for both countries. Security would be greatly enhanced by cooperation between the two, as they possess the most professional military and security assets in the region. Unfortunately, Algeria continues to exclude Morocco from participating in Sahel-focused efforts, which degrades those efforts and leads Morocco to support competitive groupings that it can influence. As importantly, Morocco employs a broad range of soft-power tools to enhance security cooperation – including cultural, educational, religious, business, and media resources — to make its impact throughout the region and increasingly the continent.

Building an integrated economic powerhouse is the third step. This would entail bringing together the best features of both countries — and in this regard Tunisia as well — to exploit complementary features in their economies, build broad human capital capabilities to attract investors, and create more regional outlets for tourism, manufacturing, information technology, and other fields that can build jobs and attract investors. Yet, as Boukhars notes, beyond its strong military and security regimes, Algeria “struggles to drive, rather than react to, regional events. Observers usually attribute Algeria’s frustrated regional ambitions on its murky politics, wobbly oil-dependent economy and contentious relations with Morocco and France.” Broadening its political worldview with a contemporary economic strategy is critical if Algeria is to progress.

Boukhars is not alone in pointing out the importance of the next step, greater engagement with sub-Saharan Africa. He describes in some detail the array of soft power, and hard power when needed, that King Mohammed VI employs in Africa, achieving broad success. Algeria, on the other hand, has defined its role largely in security or hydrocarbon policies. Boukhars writes, “Algeria cannot realize its leadership goals by trying to monopolize the security agenda in the Sahel. Still, the country’s own political paralysis and stagnant hydrocarbon economy constitute another major constraint on its regional ambitions.”

The fifth step, greater regional integration, depends on building among the AMU players a common understanding of, and strategies for, actions that will most benefit their peoples and their countries. Unfortunately, with suspicion and innuendo being the common means of looking at their bilateral relations, each seeking to gain points at the other’s expense, there is little probability that the two countries will seek a modus vivendi that may satisfy the leadership and help enable the stability, security, and prosperity that both communities seek. One need only look at the plight of the Syrian refugees in the no-man’s land between Algeria and Morocco or the blame game regarding the continuation of the Rif demonstrations to recognize the challenges.

Boukhars sums it up this way. “Algeria cannot become a successful regional power if it continues to underperform domestically and clash, rather than collaborate, with its neighbors.” He draws a clear distinction with Morocco. “Morocco is illustrative of a rising power that has cannily deployed its soft power tools and domestic stability to its advantage. Now, the challenge for Rabat is to improve relations with its peers, as peace and stability in the region will require countries…[to] collaborate more efficiently.”

So, despite the best intentions of the WEF author, displaying the pragmatism and constructive engagement needed to move the AMU ahead will require extraordinary efforts from all five members, and especially Morocco and Algeria, if future challenges are to be overcome.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Sets Social Housing Goals, and Fez Prepares for the Annual Amazigh Festival – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 15:32

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 2, 2017

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

The Moroccan government updated its housing target to meet rising demand due to its growing population and growth of urban areas. The 13th annual Amazigh Festival is getting ready to display the rich culture of the Amazigh in the region. Additionally, Moroccan monthly industrial production rises while a Moroccan garners top entrepreneur honors in the region.

Severe Housing Need to be Addressed. The Secretary of State for Housing, Fatna Lkhiyel, announced that the government will move to add 170,000 social housing units a year, in an attempt to reduce the housing deficit by half in the next four years. According to a story in Morocco World News, “This program will allow for the processing of applications of half of the 120,000 families set to receive improved housing under the national program ‘Cities without Slums’ by 2021. The program will also provide for the urban regeneration of informal settlements to improve the housing conditions of more than 200,000 households and the renovation of 37,000 buildings.”

The new program will also reinvigorate the National Agency for Urban Renewal and expand the range of housing available for needy families. The middle-class housing support program will also undergo revision to encourage greater community participation in local housing affairs.

Despite long-standing incentives to provide adequate social housing, Morocco has fallen behind previous goals as demand increases and land costs soar. Most of the units are provided under a government scheme of public-private partnerships, in which the government sets the prices for housing based on size; subsidizes purchases on behalf of the consumer; and then permits private companies to sell and manage the projects. The system has long been a lucrative sector since it guarantees the outcome for development firms if they fulfill government guidelines.

Fez ready to rock Amazigh Festival. From July 14-16, the city will host the 13th annual Festival of Amazigh Culture under the theme “Amazigh and Cultural Diversity Confronting Extremism.” The Festival has both regional and international followers, and this year’s program will focus on the importance of multiculturalism and Amazigh culture in Morocco’s development. Last year, more than 30 speakers, 100 artists and performers, and 60,000 visitors attended the Festival. This year, the program will have  panels on Amazigh culture and the Moroccan identity, historical and cultural insights, and, of course, “a variety of Moroccan music styles, including Chaabi, Rai, Amazigh, flamenco dance, Mediterranean and Italian music.”

Industrial production continues monthly climb. The Central Bank, Bank al Maghrib, released its monthly analysis of industrial growth, and everything looks positive in the immediate future, with room to grow in all sectors. The bank uses the Capacity Utilization Rate (UCA), which measures the percentage of industrial capacity in use over a certain period, in this case the month of April, which can then be plotted to describe trends by sector. The report also indicates movement in exports and local sales by sector to provide a composite view of the economy in the medium term.

Growth was uneven in April. While most of the industrial manufacturing sectors — such as chemicals, mechanical equipment, electrical components, and downstream chemicals improved — the textile and leather sectors declined slightly. According to figures reported by Morocco World News, “The Capacity Utilization Rate reached 72 percent in the agri-food sector, 71 percent in textiles and leather, 57 percent in chemistry and para-chemistry, 67 percent in mechanics and metallurgy, and 83 percent in the electrical and electronic sector.” The report concluded on an optimistic note, in that in the next 90 days, manufacturers are projecting an overall increase in sales and production, pointing to continued positive results.

Recycling the old-fashioned way. Over the years, many bio-mass projects converting waste into energy have been proposed for Morocco. The country certainly has enough trash to make these ventures profitable. It is estimated that landfills in Casablanca alone could provide eight years of energy for its four million inhabitants… but the catch is that the garbage must be dug up, sorted, and sent to recycling centers for processing. Fortunately, advances in bio-mass technology are bringing down the costs of the gas-powered units, and some even use solar power. In the meantime, here’s what’s going on in the informal sector of recycling Morocco, from a great piece called “The Small Hands of Moroccan Recycling.”

The story begins in Casablanca, where an army of largely unskilled people scour through landfills to pull out refuse that can be recycled profitably, ranging from plastic containers to metal and electronics. Anthropologist Delphine Corteel coined the phrase “waste workers” to identify these people, in many ways similar to their counterparts in Cairo and other large cities. Despite the important services they perform, they are often excluded from society due to “the uncleanliness of their work, and the nature of their living spaces. They live on the margins of legal urban areas, in slums and makeshift houses, which are regularly demolished or threatened by real estate and urban projects. While working in the streets, they are often victims of violence either committed by the authorities or other inhabitants.”

The waste workers gather cardboard, plastics, metals, glass, fabrics, and vegetable waste for selling by the pound to recyclers. Anything of value usually ends up “in one of the city’s flea markets (joutiya). Nothing that can be used is left behind. After collection and sorting, some materials have to be compacted and crushed to take up less space, which adds value. The materials will then be sold to informal sector wholesalers or to the formal sector through pick-ups or trucks sent to carry the waste.”

At the Mediouna landfill some 18 miles east of the city, “some 600 illegal waste collectors extract about 1000 tons of materials daily that will be re-injected into the informal and formal recycling circuit.” The article notes that many recycling factories and export wholesalers rely on these people for the bulk of their business; for example­­, the plastics collected by the waste collectors is compressed and sold to exporters who then sell it to China.

As one waste worker said, “We contribute to the economy of Morocco. It is thanks to us that this waste is recycled instead of being simply buried or burned. This is our livelihood, it’s our survival and it makes our community live.” Although marginalized in Morocco, it is noteworthy that “Yet, elsewhere in the world, innovative experiments, mobilisation of reclaiming communities and associations are signs that integration, access to social rights and, more broadly, recognition or informal waste collectors are possible.”

Moroccan entrepreneur makes select international list. The Endeavor organization is an international group that supports entrepreneurs by providing gateways to financing, consulting, and other key services. It has helped scale more than 800 companies in 26 countries.

This year’s London program recognized Hammad Benjelloun as an Endeavor Entrepreneur for his company Adlive, which “is a technology workplace that provides media agencies, advertisers and digital publishers with an automated way to plan, execute and optimize their digital media campaigns.” He joins a select group identified by Endeavor’s International Selection Panel (ISP).

The next ISP selection meeting of Endeavor will be held in Miami December 11-13, 2017, and will be hosted by the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor, which “now supports 1,461 entrepreneurs leading 915 companies in 30 growth markets around the world. Panelists at the event include top global business leaders and investors who are drawn from Endeavor’s extensive network of mentors and supporters.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Business Brief: Morocco Moves Ahead in Private Aviation Market while Renewable Energy Sector Gets Plaudits – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 20:56

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 31, 2017

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

Keen to build on its reputation as a center for aeronautics, Morocco will host a major regional meeting bringing together a number of local and international aviation companies. The country also continues to build on its reputation as a global leader across a number of renewable energy sectors. On the human development side of the ledger, African migrants are finding opportunities in Morocco, thanks to its pioneering migrant policy.

Morocco continues to garner aeronautics credentials. The Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) will hold its annual conference this year in Marrakesh. MEBAA is based in Dubai and alternates its annual conferences in different cities in the region. MEBAA’s founder and executive chairman, Ali Alnaqbi, believes that having Marrakesh as the host city will attract high-net-worth buyers who want to combine business with an ideal vacation in a great location.

More than 250 companies, including Boeing, Gulfstream, Jet Aviation, and Jetex have already signed up for the show. Alnaqbi touts Morocco as an ideal location, as its business aviation sector is rapidly growing. He says, “It has also become much easier to obtain a license to operate business aircraft there.” MEBAA is affiliated with the National Business Aviation Association that meets annually in the US. Together they work on issues worldwide that affect their industry, from regulations and taxation, to leasing and ownership opportunities, as well as highlighting the latest available private aviation equipment and services.

The Financial Times looks at Morocco’s renewable energy leadership. That Morocco is an African and global leader in renewable energy projects is well known. Less attention has been paid to both the supply chain and collateral companies that are making important contributions to the energy sector. The Financial Times took a look and came up with some great examples of how initiatives from the top can lead to opportunities for entrepreneurs and enterprises to create products and services that broaden the impact of the initial capital investments.

From innovative software programs that harness artificial intelligence to control energy costs by monitoring and adjusting for use on a timely basis (think NEST), to innovations in energy storage that make renewable energy devices more efficient, entrepreneurs are coming up with products to take advantage of Morocco’s commitment to greatly reducing its use of fossil fuels. And the government is helping through incentives and support for entrepreneurs and new enterprises, and opening new markets in Africa where less than half the population has sufficient access to power.

Given the many bilateral initiatives resulting from King Mohammed VI’s economic diplomacy, Moroccan companies are well placed to extend their expertise throughout the region, creating even more opportunities for Moroccan companies. The article, cited in Morocco World News, mentions projects in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana, and Cameroon as examples of Morocco’s capability to export its expertise.

The article quoted Mohamed Bernannou, chief executive of the Moroccan Climate Innovation Centre (MCIC), created in 2014 to develop green technology industry and entrepreneurship. “We have a big chance in Morocco right now. Conditions in Morocco can replicate those found in many sub-Saharan African countries, giving local companies a competitive edge over those from other parts of the world.”

Opportunities growing for African migrants. A recent story on AllAfrica.com highlighted several African migrants who have decided not to attempt to enter Europe but instead put down roots in Morocco. This would not have been possible, legally, even five years ago, but due to an innovative program promoted by King Mohammed VI, migrants can register to live and work in the country.

The article looks at several cases in Casablanca, where many from West Africa have begun new lives, from working in the central market to using their technical and vocational skills to start businesses. For example, “Richard Wenong is a Cameroonian electrician who works around the market, where his wife has a beauty parlor. He was one of the sub-Saharans who initially saw Morocco only as a transit country on his way to Europe. But then he changed his mind: ‘I saw it was not important for me because I got some jobs I can do since I’m a technician. I finally integrated myself here, so things are moving well with me, no need to go to Europe.’”

More than 40,000 migrants have either acquired or are in the queue for residency papers in Morocco, which allow them to work legally and avoid the uncertainty of attempting entry into Europe. It helps that many of them speak French, the business language of Morocco, enabling them to take advantage of support from NGOs that offer advice, financing, and training for small business start-ups.

Online business matchmaking firm opens in Morocco. Opportunity Network (ON) announced the opening of its offices in Casablanca, where it will offer networking, business development, and international business matching opportunities. Founded in 2014, Opportunity Network is a business matchmaking platform that partners with financial institutions to allow their corporate and private clients to find their next business partner for deals above USD 1 million around the world. It operates in more than 40 countries.

This is the third office in Africa for the company, and it will be headed by veteran business development specialist Najwa el Iraki, formerly at Casablanca Finance City Authority (CFCA) and founder of Africa Dev Consulting, which offers investor support for the African continent. ON founder and CEO Brian Pallas said on the firm’s website that “In the time of digitization and financial technology, we intend to work closely with the United Nations to contribute to African development. It is natural that we have chosen Morocco to develop our activities in the region and thus to support the growth of industrial and commercial activities of companies in Africa.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

Closing the Development Gap – What Morocco Can Do – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 21:48

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 25, 2017

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

We have written recently on IMF and World Bank reports assessing Morocco’s progress on economic and fiscal policies and human and social development indicators. A new analysis from the North Africa Report reinforces the positive aspects of Morocco’s development while noting continuing challenges identified in the earlier reports as well as other concerns that impede the country’s growth.

Morocco is justifiably proud of its rapid expansion in serving its people, as witnessed in the early achievement of its Millennium Development Goals, bringing power, water, and primary education to most of the country. Its human resources are often mentioned as a key factor in attracting external investment, which requires qualified workers for such industries as call centers, automobile and aeronautical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and logistics and supply management. Its national planning vision provides guidance for managing a broad diversification of its economy beyond agriculture and phosphates. And King Mohammed VI’s economic diplomacy in Africa has strengthened its commercial ties through growing market penetration on the continent.

As the article points out, Morocco has avoided the trap of other African (and Middle Eastern) countries of excessive economic dependence on commodity exports (in Morocco’s case, phosphates and agriculture) by building a world-class infrastructure in locations such as Tanger-Med port, and opening new opportunities for products manufactured in the country. And the article cautions, “Now it must build on this foundation, investing in education and sharing the wealth.”

The author takes the reader on a tour along the highway from Marrakech to Casablanca, pointing out the widespread development that can be seen and communities that have benefited from the highway, which is constantly being extended to points southward along the Atlantic and eastward along the Mediterranean.

While marveling about the rapid and beneficial growth in less than 15 years, he notes, “But Morocco remains an outlier. Many other African countries are struggling to meet the levels of growth recorded earlier in the decade. As their commodity dependence has been laid bare, Morocco has continued to build a liberal economy underpinned by strong state structures… So what is the secret sauce? Where Morocco has played to its strengths, it has outperformed its neighbours – often with ‘champion’ corporations directed by the state. The country has success stories, from its leadership in developing renewable energy to the expansion of its banks and major industrial companies into ever more markets.”

Now Morocco faces a period of transition, a point raised by the World Bank report as well. How does the country move from a top-down driven model of development to one that is more inclusive, enables small and medium sized enterprises to thrive, and provide the types of education that continually produce market-ready labor?

This is a critical challenge for Morocco as it has benefited greatly by having, in many ways, its development driven by the King’s overarching vision and state-owned entities that have the assets and expertise to implement broad-scale projects that are beyond the financial capabilities of the private sector. Now that this infrastructure and economic framework are in place, from high-speed rail service coming on line in 2018, to the tramways growing in Rabat and Casablanca, to well-performing financial institutions, air and sea transportation networks, and a world-class corporation overseeing the phosphates industry and moving it downstream in Morocco and elsewhere, what comes next – what does Morocco need to do to continue and even expand its growth?

Allied with this is the thorny challenge of how to realize social and human development goals within the context of an evolving parliamentary democracy that is still formulating its identity atop myriad political parties and traditions. The article notes the recent difficulty in forming a new government as an example.

The Hard Truths

Progress does not come without challenges, and Morocco is no exception. The article says it this way: “Back home, another Morocco ­exists, peopled by poor farmers and an ­increasingly urbanised underclass whose development indicators fall well short of international norms. The education system has created some impressive talents for the banks and corporations driving the ‘modern’ economy, but public education is seen by many to have failed the majority. In turn, this is undermining economic progress and building up a well of social discontent.”

Similar to the World Bank report, the article emphasizes the need to build a high-performing education sector as a critical priority moving forward. Many initiatives have been tried over the past decade but too often education is caught up in political debates from languages of instruction to STEM content for school and university curricula. A recent study found that teachers were on average absent for a third of their working hours. It is no wonder that parents have opted for private education, if they can afford it. In disadvantaged areas, illiteracy levels remain shockingly high – pointing to severe urban-rural and gender divides,” says the report.

Morocco is working hard to change the overall environment for education. One strategy is exemplified by the public-private partnerships that feed skilled workers into the manufacturing sector, as the article points out, “A strong and focused state can play a critical role in driving policy, supported by a profitable and job-creating private sector.” As Morocco continues to engage companies in specific sectors, it must also raise the overall quality of its educational system, reduce the drop-out rates among middle school students in rural and marginalized urban areas, encourage a higher rate of acquisition of vocational and technical skills, and enable small and medium size enterprises to create jobs that attract young men and women to look for opportunities to prosper in the new Morocco.

Morocco is committed to meeting these challenges, through the second National Initiative for Human Development, focusing on raising employment and education among rural and marginalized communities; its pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals to benefit the quality of life for Moroccans; and upgrading its services and agricultural sectors to keep up with technology advances that will generate more employment and prosperity. While it may not have all the answers, the King has make it clear that Morocco will continue to place its citizens at the nexus of its economic and social development.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Biz Brief: New Partnerships, from China to Detroit, Form Win-Win Projects – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 15:30

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 25, 2017

Morocco’s largest skyscraper will be built with a Chinese company. The African Development Bank extends its efforts in the water sector. A US company starts testing solar power cooling systems while another draws inspiration from Moroccan architecture in a Detroit redevelopment effort. And a Canadian company sets up a joint venture for mineral exploitation. Also, Casablanca does well in poll of African urban centers

Reaching Up. Several sources report that Morocco’s leading construction company, Travaux Generaux de Construction de Casablanca, has entered into a joint venture with the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC)  to build what will be Africa’s largest skyscraper in Rabat. Tagged at some $375 million, the 45-story tower, built to ecological and sustainable design concepts, will include offices, hotels, and luxury apartments and be a key element in the country’s development of the Bouregreg Valley captured in the 2014-2018 development program dubbed “Rabat, City of Light, Moroccan Cultural Capital.” The project also involves building several innovative facilities, including the Grand Theater of Rabat, the Arts and Culture House, the National Archives of the Kingdom of Morocco and a business center. According to the CRCC’s headquarters in Beijing, the total designed floor space is 86,000 square meters. “The project, CRCC’s first skyscraper in Morocco, will accelerate the development of infrastructure and engineering projects not only in North Africa, but also in other markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative,” said the CRCC, which will own 60% of the tower.Casablanca Does Well in Measures of Urban Business Environment. The Fraym Urban Markets Index ranks Africa’s 169 largest urban clusters in 35 countries in terms of business environment, accessibility, and connectedness to markets. Casablanca placed 6th, which was cited as a “highly connected” gateway to its sub-regions and beyond. Given the diversity of the top 20 cities, Fraym CEO Ben Leo said that well-connected hubs have an “outsized influence despite having a smaller GDP that many other African cities.”

African Development Bank Zeroes in on Water Sector. As the leading donor in Morocco’s water sector, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has acquired extensive experience in the country. It has funded water treatment installations and distribution systems in 30 cities, providing supplies of sustainable drinking water to more than two thirds of the population, reaching as high as 100% in many urban areas. In a recent report it noted that “In rural areas, the access to drinking water has improved from 14 per cent in 1990 to 94 per cent now.” At a cost of some $350 million, projects include improving the quantity and quality of drinking water on the Rabat-Casablanca access for some five million residents, and a further 2 million people in the Marrakech, Al Haouz, and Al Kelaa areas. The Moroccan partner for these projects is ONEE, the National Office for Electricity and Potable Water. In the upcoming planning period of 2017-2021, AfDB will continue its work in the water sector.

Morocco-US Projects Worth Noting. A Boston start-up is now field testing its “evaptainer” in Morocco to assess its ability to provide cooling for foods, medicines, and other perishables using only the sun and science to power the unit. Resembling a large ice chest, the patented technology is called PhaseTek and is activated when users fill the reservoir “with any source of water (e.g. tap, well, river, lake). The walls of the device then begin to draw out heat from the interior of the device through evaporative cooling. The EV-8 can cool its internal storage space by 15-20 degrees Celsius from ambient conditions.” The first results, from the 300 Moroccan households using the evaptainer, are expected in fall 2017.

In Detroit, where sections of the city have yet to experience any significant re-development, a company has turned to Morocco for inspiration on how to repurpose buildings that broadly benefit the community. In the city’s North End, the group Ghana ThinkTank, a coalition of artists from Ghana, Morocco, Indonesia, and more, is working on a concept called American Riad. “A typical home style in Morocco, a riad has a courtyard where family and friends gather. There may be beautiful tiles, a small pool or fountain, and lush foliage. In the North End, where unemployment is about 23 percent and an estimated 43 percent of residents live in poverty, this concept will be adapted to be the centerpiece of an inclusive arts colony that organizers hope will also be an economic engine.”

A section of the city that has long been marginalized, despite once being home to many Motown artists, the North End is benefiting from a new streetcar line that promises to enable greater economic activity for residents. The first step was securing an underused 12-unit, mixed-use building and the grassy lot that will one day be the American Riad courtyard. “Beyond a community arts center, the renovation plans include six affordable housing rentals and commercial space for businesses that serve the needs of the North End.”

Canadian Company Inks Manganese Partnership. Vancouver-based Maxtech has formed a joint venture with Green Energy Resources (GER) of Morocco “to evaluate established mineral and mining concessions in Morocco for potential acquisition or joint ventures,” according to the company’s press release. Several manganese assets are in advanced stages of development, and the firm would seek to garner fully permitted mining concessions from the government.

Peter Wilson, CEO of Maxtech, said, “This partnership provides a unique opportunity for Maxtech to expand into Morocco with a goal to eventually supply manganese into the European marketplace. It is an excellent jurisdiction in which to operate and with the help of Green Energy’s in-country presence we will be able to evaluate new manganese claims efficiently.”

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Categories: The moroccan press

New Report Shows US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement Far Exceeded ITA Expectations

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 21:42

Washington, DC, May 22, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) – In the twelve years since its implementation, the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has dramatically exceeded the predictions initially set by the United States International Trade Commission (ITA), according to a new report published today by the Moroccan American Center for Policy chronicling the origins and impact of the deal.

“In broad terms, the ITA… predicted that US exports were ‘likely to increase by $740.0 million, and US imports from Morocco [were] likely to increase by $198.6 million,’” stated the report, titled “Exceeding Expectations: The US-Morocco FTA.” “US exports were able to hit this target by 2007, in just its second year of implementation. Through mostly sustained improvement up to 2016, US exports to Morocco have actually increased by about $1.4 billion, amounting to a 286 percent boost.” Meanwhile, “Moroccan exports to the US reached their target in 2008,” and since 2010 “have seen consistent improvement,” growing by about $560 million overall.

The report notes that of the six US free trade agreements implemented between 2004 and 2010 (Chile and Singapore in 2004, Bahrain and Morocco in 2006, and Oman and Peru in 2009), “Morocco’s success stands out among this group. In the first two years following implementation, US exports to Morocco shot up by 118 percent, nearly double the percentage of the next most successful over a similar time period . Moroccan exports to the US grew by 18 percent as total bilateral trade grew by 68 percent—the highest among this group of FTA partners. In terms of jobs, the Morocco FTA was again the top performer, with an estimated 101 percent increase in US jobs supported by exports to Morocco over the same period.”

In addition to generating economic benefits for both countries, the FTA kicked off a series of initiatives further strengthening the US-Morocco bilateral relationship and Morocco’s reform trajectory, “one of the US’s primary goals” for the deal. Indeed the report offers an overview of the largely political impetus behind the FTA— the US’s first in Africa — noting that it was seen by President George W. Bush’s Administration as a reward for Morocco’s support in the war on terror and as recognition of the two countries’ centuries-old friendship. Congressional support for this view and for the possibility of opening new markets for US exports was overwhelming. In July 2004, the US Senate voted 85-13 in favor of the United States-Morocco Free Trade Implementation Act; and the House of Representatives followed suit with a 323-99 vote in favor. The momentum continued, and in 2007 and again in 2013, Morocco signed two consecutive Millennium Challenge Corporation Compacts; and in 2012, the US and Morocco launched a bilateral Strategic Dialogue—one of about two dozen such agreements in existence.

“From both a political and economic standpoint, the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement is a prime example of trade policy done right, where both sides benefit, and where the United States strengthens a relationship with a critical friend and ally,” said report author and MACP Director of Research & Policy Analysis David S. Bloom.

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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

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS: THE US-MOROCCO FTA

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 18:17
EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS:  THE US-MOROCCO FTA

Report abstract:

On January 1st, 2017, the US-Morocco FTA (Free Trade Agreement) began its 12th year enforcing liberalized commercial exchange between two historic allies. The FTA has surpassed moderate expectations for its economic impact, and has been a success story for both sides. This paper will describe how Morocco became the US’s first free-trade partner in Africa, and evaluate its economic and political impact compared to expectations. Finally, avenues for improving the FTA and general US-Morocco economic cooperation will be evaluated.

Click the image below to view the report:

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco’s Scorecards from IMF and World Bank Detail Growth Challenges – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 17:07

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 19, 2017

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

In 2016, Morocco was granted a third two-year Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL)—a provisionary line of credit from the IMF—which Morocco uses as an insurance instrument against external risks such as severe trade imbalances while supporting its efforts to promote higher and more inclusive growth. During its annual review conducted recently, Mitsuhiro Furasawa, IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, said, “Morocco’s sound economic fundamentals and overall strong record of policy implementation have contributed to a solid macroeconomic performance in recent years. The external position remained strong in 2016, as international reserves further increased despite a higher-than-expected current account deficit. While fiscal developments were less favorable than expected, this was due in part to slower growth and accelerated value-added tax reimbursements. Growth is expected to rebound in 2017 and accelerate gradually over the medium term, subject to improved external conditions and steadfast reform implementation.”

So, on both fronts—external trade and domestic reforms—Morocco is making progress, but not without continuing challenges. Mr. Furasawa pointed out, “This outlook remains subject to significant downside risks, including from weak growth in Morocco’s main trading partners, geopolitical risks, and global policy uncertainty. In this context, Morocco’s PLL Arrangement with the IMF continues to serve as valuable insurance against external risks and supports the authorities’ economic policies.”

This comes against a backdrop of a broad program to stimulate economic growth, encourage greater participation in the economy by women, and several investment stimulus measures waiting for action in Parliament. Mr. Furasawa noted that “The authorities are committed to further reducing fiscal and external vulnerabilities while strengthening the foundations for higher and more inclusive growth. Building on progress made in recent years, further fiscal consolidation is needed… Finally, improving the business climate and governance, competitiveness, access to finance, and labor market policies is essential to raise potential growth, reduce persistently high unemployment levels, especially among the youth, and increase female labor participation.”

Similar recommendations were included in the World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum (CEM), which focused on these issues and quoted King Mohammed VI’s call to better develop Morocco’s “intangible capital” to identify other recommended policy priorities. The report notes, “Morocco stands out as an exception in a turbulent Arab world. It has considerable assets to be able to drive up its distinctiveness and become the first non–oil-producing North African country to join the ranks of upper-middle-income countries by the next generation. To achieve this goal, Morocco can take up real drivers for change on both the political level (the stability of its leadership), the institutional level (the values and principles endorsed by the 2011 Constitution), and the economic, social and environmental levels (normative convergence with the European Union) to build its intangible capital, the main source of any future shared prosperity.”

The CEM acknowledges the great progress that Morocco has made through a series of reforms that have moved sectors of the economy forward, improved the quality of life for most Moroccans, generated more jobs, and supported a range of “significant social and economic achievements over the past fifteen years.” It cautions that “Bringing Morocco’s improved development outcomes to the next level and achieving economic convergence with Southern European countries will require it to further deepen and integrate sector and governance reforms.”

So, what is this “intangible capital” to which the King referred? It refers to enhancing the productivity of the Moroccan economy through strengthening the quality of the institutional, human, and social capital of the country; in short, an advanced social contract based on more efficient and inclusive institutions, better and healthier options for individual growth, and a society that provides opportunities for better health and work outcomes.

Jean-Pierre Chauffour, World Bank Lead Economist and author of the report, believes that Morocco’s youth bulge can be turned into a long-term asset by reforms that remove obstacles to business development; an overhaul of the educational system to produce a qualified workforce of men and women operating in a mobile labor market; and a progressive market-oriented economy that eschews obstacles to trade in order to boost productivity and promote conditions that support fair market conditions for investors small and large, domestic and foreign.

Specific measures related to education and health are proposed “to achieve an ‘education miracle’ and give Moroccan students the needed skills to integrate into a more competitive job market.” According to the CEM, “Morocco’s ability to empower and mobilize greater economic opportunities for women will be instrumental to significantly enhance economic growth.” Finally, the CEM views the strengthening of institutions and the country’s governance model as key preconditions to reinforce the rule of law and place the Moroccan citizen at the heart of its development model. This ranges from more accountable and efficient public services to giving voice to citizens and enhancing respect, interpersonal trust and civic duty.

Among challenges highlighted in the report are the following:

  • Although barely 15 kilometers separate the kingdoms of Morocco and Spain, the average Moroccan’s purchasing power stood at only 22.5% of its immediate European neighbor in 2015.
  • The country is ranked 126th worldwide out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index and 91st of 157 countries on the World Happiness Index, a more subjective index measuring well-being, trust in society, solidarity, and the feeling of freedom.
  • Whereas the unemployment rate for unskilled young people is 4.5%, the rate is 21.7% for young technical college graduates and 24.6% for young university graduates, even as growing numbers of young people are entering university. Moreover, approximately 90% of young people who do have a job do not have an employment contract and work in the informal economy, indicative of the insecurity of their employment situation.
  • On average, over the last five years (2012–2016), only 26,400 net new jobs were created per year for a working-age population (15–65 years old) that grew by a net 270,000 people on average per year, according to Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP).
  • All in all, the Moroccan economy has not managed to make any significant efficiency gains despite its structural reforms, economic openness, improved business environment, imported technologies and increase in school enrollment rates.
  • With regard to raising the level of social capital, the report calls for ensuring greater respect for, and improved application of, the rule of law; promoting a sense of civic duty and exemplarity in all decision-making spheres; encouraging engagement in associations and the development of civil society; and supporting a change in attitudes and sociocultural norms through targeted information campaigns.

While someone unfamiliar with Morocco may think these remarks and others in the report reflect a “tough love” perspective, the recommendations actually echo many of the points made by the King in his speeches going back to Throne Day 2014, if not before. It is remarkable that a sovereign has the vision to measure what has been accomplished without hesitating to spell out what needs to be done. The recommendations highlighted by the CEM require a comprehensive strategy to advance Morocco’s future growth. There may be no better starting point than the King’s own words.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Mixed Economic News as Morocco Moves Forward in Key Sectors – Jean R. AbiNader

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:11

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 17, 2017

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

Fitch Ratings issued a cautionary assessment of Morocco’s banking exposure in Africa. Fez takes center stage in business and economic news with several initiatives announced. The aeronautics sector gets new public-private partnership to boost capacity. And a government agency issues updated statistics on the role of technology in the Moroccan economy.

Looks good on paper. According to a recent bulletin released by Fitch Ratings, Moroccan banks must be careful not to be over-exposed in acquiring assets in Africa. Both the recent acquisition of Barclays Bank in Egypt and greater activity in sub-Saharan Africa were included in the assessment. According to the bulletin, “Moroccan banks that establish or acquire banks in markets with lower sovereign ratings are exposed to the large portfolios of local government bonds that these subsidiaries will typically hold.”

The concern, most recently tied to Attijariwafa Bank’s purchase of Barclays, reflects the quality of domestic sovereign bonds in most African markets, which are below the quality of similar bonds in Morocco, exposing the banks’ bottom lines to greater asset risk as well as to regulatory standards that may be less developed than Morocco’s.

Attijariwafa paid almost three times the book value for the Barclays operations, justified by the value that its African subsidiaries generate: 32% of 2016 net income for BMCE (Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur), 29% for Attijariwafa, and 12% for GBPC (Groupe Banque Populaire Centrale), offsetting weak earnings in the Moroccan market. Profits are also threatened by weak loan portfolios if the assets were to decline in value, or in the case of government bonds, fail to maintain their face valuation. Currently, BMCE has operations in 19 African countries, Attijariwafa in 13, and GBPC in eight.

Fez takes center stage in economic spotlight. As part of the country’s continuing effort to geographically diversify its economic growth, the First Economic Forum of the Fez-Meknes Chambers of Commerce and Services (CCIS) featured an address by Moulay Hafid Alalamy, Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy, in which he reminded the audience that the government had instituted a series of mechanisms to support local industrial development and balanced geographic growth.

The Minister highlighted the country’s success in industrial manufacturing and pointed out that traditional sectors such as textiles and leatherwork are important in adding jobs to the economy. “Thanks to the Industrial Acceleration Plan,” the Minister explained, “Morocco is committed to an integrated and inclusive approach and an irreversible and mastered insertion in global value chains.” He added that “world leaders are opting for Morocco and are developing major projects here. With the integrated and innovative system put in place, these operators will now have more visibility and will be able to carry out their projects under more advantageous conditions.”

While in Fez, the Minister attended the announcement by ALTEN Group, a French company prominent in technology engineering in the ITC sector, that it was moving ahead with expanding its operations in Morocco. According to a story in Morocco World News, the company currently has more than 200 engineers and technicians working on information technology and telecommunications projects for a number of European clients. Its newest project, “The Embedded Systems Automotive and Aeronautics,” will provide outsourcing of engineering services that will create more than 300 engineering positions, mainly in automotive and aeronautical embedded systems.

The ultimate goal is to set up “a competence center of 500 engineers in Fes by 2020, with the goal of reaching 1,000 full-time employees in Morocco.” Pascal Amore, member of the Executive Committee of the ALTEN Group, stressed the importance of the group’s presence in Morocco and the strategic nature of its activities initiated at the Fes Shore Park. “ALTEN, as a global leader in engineering and technology consulting, develops design and engineering projects for major global companies in the fields of information technology, telecommunications, aeronautics, space and the automobile industry,” he said.

Auto sector receives financing boost. At the automobile value chain fair held in Tangier, Minister Alalamy signed an agreement with Société Générale du Maroc and AMICA, the trade association for the automobile sector, which would provide specific financing services for value chain supply companies in the sector.

As the Minister put it, “Our ambition through the signing of this agreement is to enable the automotive sector to pursue the exceptional dynamics it shows, through financing offers adapted to the actors of the automotive ecosystems.” This financial support is essential to meet or exceed the goal of 65% of locally produced materials for the industry. “Through this agreement,” according to the Morocco World News story, “Société Générale du Maroc says that it is committed to supporting the automotive industry throughout the value chain of financial and banking services dedicated to companies: financing offers in the form of operating loans, investment credits, industry DEVcredits (tailored financing), currency financing, leasing, factoring, long-term leasing of vehicles, cash management solutions and also offers dedicated to the employees of companies in the automotive sector.”

Aeronautics sector finds new partners to build workforce competency. Casablanca recently hosted a national conference on “Developing Aeronautical Skills: A New Approach to a New Vision.” The central theme of the program was the need for initiatives to boost the number of qualified workers and how to provide sustainable training efforts in the sector. The event was organized by Mundiapolis University, which signed two partnership agreements with Bombardier and the Moroccan Aeronautics and Space Industries Group (GIMAS). Both agreements focus on developing certification programs for employees in the aeronautics sector and upgrading the support for engineering students at the University through internships, case studies, apprenticeships, and final projects.

The growth of the sector has been quite rapid, with more than 12,000 jobs created and 120 companies generating a turnover of nearly USD 1 billion each year, according to a press release from Mundiapolis. With growing interest from international investors, it is incumbent that the sector has a robust training regime to meet industry needs. Mundiapolis President Amine Bensaid said that, through this partnership, the university’s ambition is to be the best companion for both students and companies by continuously adapting their training programs to the expectations of the job market and the needs of companies.

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Categories: The moroccan press

Morocco Confronts Difficulty of Workforce Development – Jean R. AbiNader

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 16:42

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 12, 2017

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

It has become a nostrum in international development, especially in Africa and the Middle East, that job creation is the number one goal for ensuring greater domestic stability. For example, the latest reports from the World Economic Forum and Ernst and Young strongly emphasize the critical need for employment opportunities for the burgeoning youth population, including women. Having spent time on workforce development last year in Jordan, and having met this month with consultants in Jordan and Lebanon who deal with youth employment and related issues, it was useful to compare their insights with those on youth employment in Morocco as described in a recent article by the Oxford Business Group (OBG).

That there has been limited success, despite the various initiatives being launched, is hardly the fault of the agencies and companies hard at work to generate more employment opportunities. First of all, there are just too many unemployed university, secondary school, and primary school graduates for any single solution or group of solutions to provide the needed jobs. Creating jobs requires domestic and foreign investments in diversified sectors, so that while the employment base for university graduates grows (assuming there is a match between their studies and the available jobs – a big assumption), you are also addressing opportunities for the vocational-technical (vo-tech) and unskilled worker pools. This is quite a challenge in Morocco, where around 40% of the workforce is seasonal and employed in agriculture, while another 40% fills service sector jobs that have high turnover, low wages, and few benefits for retaining and upgrading workers.

What’s left? The article begins with a case study of what Peugeot is doing as part of its commitment to workforce development in Morocco: using a public-private partnership (PPPs), consistent with Morocco’s 15-year strategy to reform the education sector. According to OBG, “PSA Peugeot Citroën (PSA) entered into an agreement with higher education institutions to open a series of design labs called OpenLabs,” in partnership with five Moroccan universities, including an engineering school, two US universities based in Morocco and a technology transfer center at the quasi-public International University of Rabat (UIR). This is not PSA’s first innovative effort to bring together the best brains available to promote skills acquisition for the new economy. “The OpenLabs are part of Science Technologies Exploratory Lean Laboratory (StelLab) – an international network of academic chairs and research laboratories launched by PSA in 2010 to develop more innovative collaboration with the global academic community.”

In Morocco, the program is called Sustainable Mobility for Africa, a four-year effort to develop mobility systems with “a focus on renewable energy, electric cars and logistics.” Focusing on future trends in the automotive sector reflects PSA’s commitment to the industry in Africa. It has launched a $90 million investment in the Kenitra region focused on the African markets. “By drawing on the professional and scientific experience of PSA and the expertise of the educational institutions involved, the initiative also targets the development of a labour force that has the skill set required by the automotive industry.”

It is not surprising that “Morocco’s expanding automotive segment posted record levels of exports for the third straight year in 2016, with the 316,712 units shipped abroad representing a 22.4% rise on the previous year.” This is the largest export category by value for Morocco. It is projected that the total number of employees will reach approximately 200,000 by 2020. All of this is good news, but is dwarfed by the reality of 1.3 million unemployed men and women of varying skills, ages, and education. Last year’s WEF human capital index noted that Morocco declined three spots to 98th out of 130 economies.

Helpful Initiatives Fall Short of Meeting Needs

It is expected that the number of students in Morocco will peak at 1.23 million by 2021. This poses structural as well as resources issues for the country. According to US government figures, “Although more than 95 percent of school-aged children in Morocco are now enrolled in primary school, the education system in Morocco faces significant challenges. Drop-out rates are still high and only 53 percent of students enrolled in middle school continue on to high school and less than 15 percent of first grade students are likely to graduate from high school.”

USAID is doing its part by opening vo-tech training centers in six locations. Known as Career Centers, the institutes provide soft skills and job preparation workshops. These are linked to an online platform for career services that has high hopes of improving the employability of its clients.

The national authority for vocational training, OFPPT, is setting up training centers in regions around the country to promote entrepreneurship and diversify the available vocational training. Morocco realizes that it lags in innovation and entrepreneurship, as highlighted by the “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Global Report 2016/17,” which ranked Morocco 59th of 65 economies for early-stage entrepreneurial activity.

Morocco’s efforts have yet to achieve the level of coordination called for in the Strategic Vision 2015-2030 announced in May 2015. Lack of experienced leadership at all levels of the education system, the need for coordination among various international donors, training for NGO and civil society groups supporting educational reform, and the incremental nature of changes encompassing teacher training, curriculum development, the continuing conflict over languages of instruction, and adequate resources allocated to rural and urban areas, are some of the more obvious issues to be resolved. King Mohammed VI has made education for jobs a key priority for the country, which needs steady, progressive, and proactive professionals guiding education for his goals to be realized.

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Categories: The moroccan press

US Energy Coalition Honors Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with Energy Efficiency Visionary Award

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 22:51

Washington, DC, May 11, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — Earlier this week, the Alliance to Save Energy honored Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with the Energy Efficiency (EE) Visionary Award, which recognizes “pioneering leadership in energy efficiency.” US Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) were also awarded.

“Morocco’s leadership in adopting ambitious efficiency policies sets an example for other countries and will pay tremendous dividends for the Kingdom,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan in a statement. “His Majesty and the entire Moroccan government are truly energy efficiency visionaries and we are thrilled to present them with this award.”

Her Highness Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United States, accepted the Award and delivered remarks on behalf of the King at the Alliance’s 10th Annual EE Global Forum on May 8.

“In my vision for socio-economic development, energy efficiency plays an important part in enhancing the fundamental rights of citizens, in environmental protection, in the preservation of public health, in curbing dependence of energy and in rationalizing public spending,” read the King’s statement.

“The pressing challenge for our world today is not so much to confront the lack of energy resources as to mobilize the investment needed in this field,” he said. “It is, therefore, necessary to build the energy infrastructure required and to develop alternative technologies… The security of energy supply, energy availability, energy efficiency and environmental protection are the bedrock of my country’s energy strategy.”

The King noted his country’s commitment to generate 42% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 and 52% by 2030; as well as Morocco’s role as President of the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22) last November.

“Our commitment in this field does not stop at Morocco’s borders,” he explained. “I pledge to keep up efforts at the national, regional and continental levels and do all I can to promote an environment conducive to the sustainable development of energy efficiency, renewable energy, technological innovation and green jobs in general.”

Morocco has long been a climate advocate, and was recognized last year as among the top five countries doing the most to combat climate change by the Climate Change Performance Index—landing among the top 10 three years in a row. 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.

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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 to Lead Economic Growth in the Region – Jean R. AbiNader

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 20:05

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 11, 2017

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

Two major studies released this month, the African Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, and the Africa Attractiveness Report from Ernst and Young (EY), point out that Morocco leads the other members of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) in many indicators of economic resilience. Unlike Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, and Tunisia, perhaps the most singular factor contributing to its success is Morocco’s stability, which allows it to grow without risking inflation and massive debt from overspending, or overreliance on select sectors resulting in unbalanced growth. This does not mean that there is an easy way forward. Challenges remain, including high unemployment and the mismatch between educational outputs and market needs to the need to balance economic growth among different regions of the country.

In the World Economic Forum Report focusing on Africa, data from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN, Moroccan public and private sector sources, and extensive interviews with company executives are used to rank countries along 12 indicators of the Global Competitiveness Index. These are: institutional performance, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and capacity for innovation. The focus of this edition of the biennial report is Addressing Africa’s Demographic Dividend, highlighting the policies that need to be implemented to take full advantage of the burgeoning youth population.

Morocco has several bright results. It places fourth overall in Africa and number one in North Africa. In specific categories, it placed sixth in institutional performance in all of Africa. In North Africa, it is above the average in health and primary education as well as higher education and training, and second only to Egypt in market size. Of the challenges to economic growth identified through company surveys, the top six are: access to financing, inadequately educated workforce, inefficient government bureaucracy, tax rates, insufficient capacity to innovate, and corruption. While the country can measure its progress with some satisfaction, there is still a long way to go in terms of facing its toughest tests of creating jobs for well-trained workers in an economy that supports and nurtures innovation and utilizes extensive broadband capacity.

The WEF report also makes special note of Morocco’s innovative approach to eradicating slum housing. “In Morocco, a small tax on cement is used to constitute a guarantee fund for low-income housing and to support the program of slums elimination (‘Villes sans bidonvilles’). This fund has been successful in increasing mortgage access for households in the informal sector and reducing the number of slums in the country.” It is this capacity for innovation outside traditional economic boundaries that will enable Morocco to achieve even better results in the future.

The EY report “highlights areas requiring policy action and investment to ensure that Africa lays a solid foundation for sustained and inclusive growth.” It spends the first part of the report looking at Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and how it reflects the confidence that investors have in each country’s capability to manage its future.

Regarding Morocco, it points out that there were 81 FDI driven projects in 2016, up 9.5% from the previous year, garnering 12% of the overall projects in the Kingdom. As the report notes, “Aided by a stable administration, even during the Arab Spring, Morocco has increasingly marketed itself as an export base for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The country’s automotive sector has especially attracted investor interest, with FDI projects increasing from 5 in 2014 and 10 in 2015 to 14 in 2016.”

To date, this has created more than 19,000 jobs, critical to overall stability. Additionally, Morocco does well on what is called the Africa Attractiveness Index (AAI), which details the strengths and weaknesses perceived by international investors. Morocco placed first out of 35 countries in 2017’s ranking, with strong showings in business enabling (3rd place), investment in business (4th), economic development (5th), governance (8th), market size (9th), and macroeconomic indicators (18th). It also came in second in amount of US investment with 14 projects—a figure that should go higher as Boeing ramps up its supply chain in Morocco.

In terms of target sectors for FDI in Morocco, four areas dominated with #1 rankings: transportation and logistics, real estate and hospitality, clean tech, and automotive; while business services come in at #2. What is important about this diversity is that there are both capital and labor intensive industries. This means that the workforce must also be diverse, from large numbers of semi-skilled service workers to smaller numbers of high tech IT and industrial workers. Jobs in FDI industries are well-paying, thus boosting the overall economy, and moving Morocco towards the level of economic growth required to ensure its long-term market stability.

While all of this is good news, both reports point out that Morocco must do much more to equip its youth with market-centered skills through greater emphasis on vocational and technical training, less emphasis on university degrees unrelated to the job market, increased support for special economic zones outside the Tangier-Casablanca corridor to help reduce negative environmental consequences, and greater support for entrepreneurship, competency training, and transitioning the informal sector to boost economic growth and job creation.

 

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Categories: The moroccan press

Latest Appropriations Bill Continues US Support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 20:50

Washington, DC, May 5, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — The FY 2017 Appropriations Bill passed by Congress and signed Friday by President Trump requires that “funds appropriated under title III of this Act” for Morocco “shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara,” thereby reinforcing longstanding US policy to support a negotiated solution to the dispute over the region based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

As was the case last year, the final report accompanying the bill noted this policy and gave further clarification to the provision of the law:

[The Morocco subsection] is similar to language in prior years requiring that funds made available for assistance for Morocco shall also be made available for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara. The Committee recommendation includes not less than the request for Morocco in title III of this Act and makes funds available for assistance for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara. The Committee expects funds to support democratic reforms and economic development. The Committee remains concerned by the failure to resolve the longstanding dispute over the Western Sahara and the protracted refugee situation in the Polisario-run camps near Tindouf, Algeria. The Committee believes that the Secretary of State should pursue a negotiated settlement to the dispute, consistent with United States policy to support a solution to the issue based on a formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. These redoubled diplomatic efforts can lead to a realistic and lasting settlement, the completion of a UN Peacekeeping mission that has existed for more than twenty years, and a more stable region. The Committee also encourages the Administration to support private sector investment in the Western Sahara. The Committee recommendation includes a requirement to consult with the Committees on Appropriations on all of these issues not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act.

The past three US administrations – Clinton, Bush, and Obama – and strong bipartisan majorities in Congress have supported autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for Western Sahara. In a Joint Statement after King Mohammed VI’s 2013 visit to Washington DC, the King and President Obama pledged a “shared commitment to the improvement of the lives of the people of the Western Sahara,” and over the past several decades, Morocco has invested billions of dollars in economic and social development in the area.

The 2017 bill also calls for the Secretary of State to consult with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme and, within 45 days, “submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations describing steps taken to strengthen monitoring of the delivery of humanitarian assistance provided for refugees in North Africa, including any steps taken to ensure that all vulnerable refugees are receiving such assistance.”

Tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees are currently living in abject conditions in Polisario-run refugee camps in southwestern Algeria. Though the UN and other organizations have repeatedly called on Algeria and the Polisario to conduct a refugee registration in the camps to better ensure accountability and delivery of humanitarian aid, Algeria and the Polisario have refused, and in 2014 Agence France-Presse revealed that the European Union’s Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) had documented “well-organized, years-long” embezzlement by the Polisario of humanitarian aid designated for Sahrawi refugees. On April 28, the UN Security Council voted to renew for another year the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), again “reiterating its request for consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf refugee camps and emphasizing efforts be made in this regard.”

“The 2017 Appropriations Bill unequivocally enforces longstanding US policy on the Western Sahara issue, and helps to ensure that the humanitarian aid we provide benefits the people living in the camps rather than lines the pockets of the Polisario leadership,” said Executive Director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy Jordan Paul. “But as importantly, it supports Morocco—our oldest ally, and sets the stage for finally reaching resolution on a conflict that has gone on for far too long.”

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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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