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Morocco Week in Review 
February 1, 2020

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web

When Will Muslims Celebrate Ramadan in 2020?

If you are not already preparing for the holy month of Ramadan and its charming atmosphere, this is a reminder that it is just around the corner.

By -Safaa Kasraoui is a journalist at Morocco World News.Jan 28, 2020 Rabat

Muslims of the world will celebrate the first day of Ramadan in April 2020, meaning that there are only three months and a few weeks to go.
International media  has already started sharing their calculations for when Muslims world should expect the first day of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Throughout the month, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset and perform extra prayers called Tarawih after evening prayers. Kazi Inform reported  earlier this month that the holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin on April 25, 2020. Quoting the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan, the outlet said that Laylat al Qadr, or the Night of Decree, will fall on the night of May 20-May 21.
It is the night that marks the anniversary when the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, received the first verses of the holy Quran……………….
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Corpsafrica - From a Vision to Reality

Moroccan American Center for Policy (Washington, DC)

BLOG By Jean R. Abinader

Liz Fanning is more than a dreamer; she is a visionary who has made her dream, CorpsAfrica, a reality, overcoming multiple obstacles and demonstrating that Africans can work across tribal and ethnic identities to build their communities. Her background is well-known. She notes that, "When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, amazing young Moroccans used to ask me if they could do what I was doing - they'd say, 'I'm Moroccan, I want to help my country, can I be a Peace Corps Volunteer?' and I had to say, 'Sorry, it's only for Americans.' I started CorpsAfrica so they could have the same opportunity I did to learn, grow, and make an impact."

Thanks to early support from many generous donors, but especially OCP, the largest company in Morocco, Liz was able to launch the program there, extend it to Malawi, Senegal, and Rwanda, and now is working to grow to six new countries. "I'd hope we have 1,000 Volunteers a year serving in 15 African countries in the next five years," she replied when asked about the future.

While the concept may not be revolutionary, the cultural constraints that often exist in local rural communities in any country (think someone from the Bronx going to rural Louisiana or a well-educated, middle class Moroccan venturing into the Amazigh interior or Sahrawi south of Morocco) can be quite challenging for the Volunteer as well as the community. Having personally been part of development programs from western Pennsylvania to Yemen, it is this bridging of the cultural divide that most impresses me about CorpsAfrica.

As Fanning explains it, "The CorpsAfrica experience is about getting out of your comfort zone, immersing yourself in another culture (often learning a local dialect), listening to local people, taking the time to create understanding, trust, and friendship, and building capacity using local assets." She adds that 94% of CorpsAfrica Volunteers report a deeper understanding of their own country. A Senegalese Volunteer serving in Rwanda said, "I used to be a proud Senegalese. Now I'm a proud African."…………………..
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Questions of Interest: What are the Priorities of Morocco’s Youth? Do Moroccans Face Corruption on a Daily Basis? Will Borrowing Dim Morocco’s Fiscal Health?

Jean R. AbiNader November 15, 2019 Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

According to the latest findings of the Arab Barometer, which surveyed approximately 2,400 Moroccans in face-to-face interviews in the fall of 2018, attitudes are largely split along generational lines. While the older generation (50+) still has confidence in the country’s institutions, younger Moroccans, reflecting trends across the Arab world, are frustrated with the lack of economic and political opportunities. Overall, all groups see the economy and the quality of public services as the most important challenges facing the government; and also “say corruption is found in state institutions,” although to a lesser degree than the last survey in 2016 (38% vs. 39%).

The weak performance of the government has resulted in a corresponding low level of trust among the citizens, especially the youth; yet all support the army, policy, and judiciary according to the survey results. Among those under 30 years of age, fully 70% believe they have to emigrate to have a good life, which only falls to 50% among all those surveyed. Unfortunately, it is the young people with higher levels of education who feel most strongly that they have to leave to succeed.

This concern with emigration was the subject of a very critical opinion piece in Morocco World News by Hassan Masiky who pointed out the great loss to Morocco because educated young people are leaving and finding success abroad rather than at home. He says that this is both a validation of “the competence, aptitude, and talent of Moroccans and evidence of the failure of the Moroccan government to create an environment for attracting and keeping a talented workforce.” He blames this on three conditions.

The first is that “Unqualified people hold many high-level positions in the public and semi-public sectors in the Kingdom. Nepotism and favoritism continue to dominate the hiring practices in the government and in some private sectors. This fact nullifies the government’s heavy investments in human capital.” He next takes aim at “a deteriorating public education system, nepotism, incompetence, and lack of transparency,” which is depriving the Kingdom of some of its brightest youth. He also points to the lack of enforcement in contracts for programs targeting employment opportunities as the third force destabilizing the economy and not firming up the local job market.

Perceptions of corruption were part of the focus of surveys done by the Global Corruption Barometer – Africa 2019. It compared attitudes of Moroccans from 2015 and 2019 and found that 53% think that corruption has increased in the past year, twice the 26% in 2015; while 31% responded that they had paid a bribe in the previous 12 months to access a public service (down from 48% in 2015). While 74% think that the government is doing a poor job of tackling corruption (up from 64% in 2015); and importantly, 49% believe that ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption. When asked which institutions were corrupt, the biggest increase was in the office of the Prime Minister from 20% in 2015 to 39% in 2019; followed by members of Parliament which rose from 36% to 41%.

Funding for economic development always has conditions; and one of the biggest challenges facing developing countries, particularly non-oil producers, is borrowing to build needed infrastructure for transportation and power production, education and health facilities, and environmental projects. One only needs to look at the high-speed train from Tangier to Casablanca, the trams in Rabat and Casablanca, large-scale renewable energy projects, and funding for the growth in ports over the past two decades to identify where external funding is required for their realization. While some, like toll roads and ports have built in revenue streams, other projects are built on the assumption that their revenues, in time, will offset the interest and principle payments when they come due. While this is true for public-private partnerships in renewable energy whether solar, wind, or hydro, it does not apply to programs that have no direct revenue streams, for example, building human resources…………….
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Morocco’s Influence on One American Islamic Scholar  – Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.)

Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) December 16, 2019

Daoud Casewit is a one-of-a-kind individual. Originally from Colorado, and the son of an author of mountain sports and travel books, he converted to Islam in Morocco in 1977. It was also in Morocco that he met his American wife, Fatima, and began to study Arabic with a focus on the recitation of the Quran and the Maliki teachings of Islam. In 1980 the couple moved to Egypt where he earned degrees in Arabic Language and Linguistics from the American University in Cairo. Following his studies in Egypt, they spent the next four years in Madinah (Medina), Saudi Arabia where both taught English at the university. It was during this period that Daoud gained a deep knowledge of the history and geography of the Prophet’s City, Madinah. They then returned to their beloved Morocco.

Over the following two decades, Daoud served as Director of the Arabic Language Institute in Fez the binational United States Fulbright Commission in Morocco. During that time, he and his wife, Fatima, raised four children, who all fluently speak the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, Darija. Two of his children are now Islamic scholars, after graduating from Yale and Harvard, another is involved in international development work and their only daughter owns her own travel business in Buenos Aries, with a focus on the Arab world.

Now back home in America, Daoud has become the head of  American Islamic College (AIC), headquartered in Chicago. Its mission is to provide students of all backgrounds a solid liberal arts and sciences education with a rigorous academic program in Islamic Studies, as well as two graduate programs, an MA in Islamic Studies and an MA program in Islamic Chaplaincy.

A frequent participant in the Royal Ramadan lectures held in the presence of King Mohammed VI, Daoud’s most recent event was hosted on November 20th at the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion, part of Notre Dame University’s Keough School of Global Affairs. He shared the stage with Catholic Cardinal Cupich. In his opening remarks, Cardinal Cupich noted that “like the meeting of St. Francis and the Sultan al-Kamil, this discussion comes at a time when some people see a global conflict between Islam and the West.” ……………………..
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How to Attract Research and Researchers to Morocco.

Morocco has a lot to offer in terms of both human and natural resources, and with the right vision, research and development can reach its optimum potential. First and foremost, understand the need. For example Morocco is still very much energy dependent and this is an area that should receive a lot of attention.

By Mohamed Belkhayat - Jan 26, 2020 Washington D.C

While Morocco was able to start the solar stations in the south, it fell short of its original goals of 2 GW by 2020. Not only this but the first two stations Noor 1 and 2 are concentrated solar plants and use substantial amount of water which is a scarce resource in Morocco. Funding research that can convert these plants to conserve water would be a great step. While the industrial sector is picking up steam in automobile and aerospace manufacturing so far job creation is still short of the employments needs. The agricultural and the phosphate sectors could both benefit from research that saves on both water and fertilizers. Ideas such as Nano-irrigation and mycorrhizal symbioses to conserve not only water but also limit phosphate use and run-off. There are other sectors such as fishing, marine life, and oceanography in general. Morocco enjoys over 2000 miles of coastline. I rarely see any publically available research on marine life in the Moroccan ocean shorelines…………
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Morocco’s Legacy of Jewish-Muslim Coexistence

Influential American Rabbi Menachem Genack shares his personal connection to the Moroccan monarchy's legacy of benevolence towards the Jewish community.

By Morgan Hekking - Jan 26, 2020 Rabat

King Mohammed VI’s recent visit to Bayt Dakira, a historical landmark of Morocco’s Jewish community in Essaouira, did not come out of the blue. Overt gestures of respect for the Jewish faith and its adherents are not foreign to the Moroccan monarchy.  The King’s celebration of Moroccan Judaism was warmly received by the international community. Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, voiced his praise for the King’s unabashed enthusiasm to continue “the legacy of his ancestors through strong connections to the Jews of Morocco and nurturing coexistence between Muslims, Jews, and Christians.” Key in Morocco’s reputation as an “exception in the Arab world” and a “good house in a bad neighborhood” are its commendable security apparatus and a legacy of religious tolerance, pluralism, and coexistence.

Is Digitization the Future for Morocco’s Business Sector?

In an ever-changing digital world, Morocco is racing against the clock to achieve its transition, but will it succeed in becoming a leader in this newborn sector?

By Yahia Hatim - Jan 26, 2020

Morocco, like many developing countries, is currently in a transitional phase between the paper era and the digital age. Organizations are transitioning from relying on physical documents for their everyday functioning to using digital technology to solve their problems. As Morocco’s digital transformation goes ahead at full speed, Morocco World News sat down with one of the transformation’s leading actors to discuss the future of digitalization and how it will affect Morocco’s economy. Yasmina Benchekroun, Managing Director at the Moroccan branch of Abergower, a British multinational specialized in digitization, shares her experience in this burgeoning economic field and her forecasts for the future.

Ten Photos to Make You Fall in Love with Winter in Morocco

Don’t let the palm trees fool you---if you’re traveling in Morocco between November and February, be prepared to bundle up.

By Morgan Hekking - Jan 24, 2020 Rabat

I will be the first to admit that I had no idea it snowed in Morocco. Before my first trip here two years ago, I did not even think temperatures dipped below 70 F (21 C).  This misconception is widespread among foreigners who, like me, assume that Morocco is a tropical paradise simply because it is in Africa and has palm trees.  Imagine my surprise when I touched down in Rabat in January ahead of my semester abroad with only a windbreaker, jeans, and sneakers in tow to protect myself against the elements. I quickly learned that I had been embarrassingly unprepared for a Moroccan winter.

Morocco Focuses on the Fundamentals: Economic Growth, Education, Water Resources

Jean R. AbiNader January 15, 2020 Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

The government’s 2020 agenda is a bit obscure as political lenses are focused on the 2021 elections, and the members of the governing coalition see little reason to yield any ground that may be exploited by their counterparts for public benefit, as they will soon be election rivals. This is particularly acute for the PJD, the moderate Islamist party, which finds itself a bit unbalanced by sniping from its partners, as well as an internal attempt by the previous Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, to reclaim his position. It is unclear how the these machinations will impact the Chamber of Deputies/Parliament and respond to the high expectations set by King Mohammed VI calling for progress on a number of fronts with the same goal – improving access to opportunities and jobs for the Moroccan people through a new development model, as well as more efficient governance. Of course, there are some commentators who would welcome the PJD’s fall from the leadership in Parliament so that there will be a change in the leading party.

As a cogent analysis from pointed out, “The domestic political scene will be heavily dominated by the upcoming 2021 elections, with various personalities seeking to propel themselves to the fore.” It notes that Aziz Akhannouch, the leader of the Rassemblement National des Indépendants (RNI), is charismatic and gaining in popularity, unlike Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani, who continues to stumble. The political class must be cognizant of the need for action as Morocco is not without issues that must be acted on in 2020, including continuing protests related to the economy, corruption, lack of social services, and inadequate salaries. The king expects that current social legislation, held up since last year, will be enacted and mentions, from time to time, the need for an independent judiciary and respect for human and civil rights, in addition to appointing a royal commission to define a robust national development model.

Captain Ali Najab, A Moroccan Military Hero, Not Forgotten by the United States

January 17, 2020 Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.)

In his newly released book presented at the national library of Morocco this month, Army Captain Ali Najab recounts the dire circumstances of being held in a Polisario prison for twenty-five years. My colleagues and I at the Moroccan American Center (MAC) can attest to Ali’s emotional reunion with his fellow prisoners of war and their families, as we were intimately involved in the release of the remaining 404 Moroccan POWs, held an average of 17 years, some for nearly 30 even though hostilities had ended 14 years earlier. My colleague Bob Holley has written extensively on their release, and I wrote in a tribute to Senator John McCain in August of 2018 on our efforts, which are recounted here.

In 2005, MAC launched its Free Them Now campaign with the objective of setting these remaining Moroccan POWs free. As part of this effort, we documented flagrant violations of basic POW rights and protections as provided by the Geneva Convention, and provided accounts of forced labor, torture, mutilations, and summary executions by the Polisario rebels, as recorded by renowned international organizations.  As a result, thousands of people signed petitions calling on the Secretary General of the Polisario to release them without condition.

During this time, Ali and four of his fellow previously freed POWs were relentless in their efforts in Washington, interviewing with human rights organizations, Congress, and the media to secure the release of their fellow prisoners. Their efforts also included going to Miami to appeal to the Cuban American community, Cuba being a main supporter of the Polisario. They were interviewed on the most popular Cuban radio show and were told after the interviews that there had never before had so many listeners call in to the program to express their support.

While MAC won the prestigious Sabre Award for the Best Public Issues Campaign that year, it was the efforts of Ali and his colleagues that were critical to the success of the campaign.  Without their dedication, relentless and heartfelt effort to free their colleagues, it is not certain that this campaign would have succeeded.

Upon learning of these atrocities, Senator John McCain became personally involved, urging the Polisario “to restore these individuals’ freedom and allow them to return to Morocco to live the remainder of their lives in dignity with their families.”  On May 16, 2005, he wrote a letter to the head of the Polisario demanding the release of the POWs. He cited the indignation of several respected international organizations, including France Liberté, Amnesty International, the International Red Cross and the UN Security Council. He ended his appeal with the following quote by Moustapha Sirji, one of the Moroccan POWs:

The Resolve of King Mohammed VI – Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.)

Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) December 18, 2019

Last week, I read stories speculating that Morocco would be normalizing relations with Israel  in exchange for a more forward leaning US statement or policy on the Western Sahara, an existential issue for the country. Secretary Pompeo was to make a two-day visit to Morocco in early December during which he would have an audience with King Mohammed VI. Some even reported that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu would accompany Pompeo on the visit. Subsequent stories however indicated that the King, upon hearing of the Pompeo agenda and possibility of Netanyahu tagging on, rejected the idea and ended up not even meeting with Secretary Pompeo, cutting the visit short.

I have studied Morocco and been a close observer of King Mohammed for the past twenty years. Although I have no information on the accuracy of these reports, I am not surprised by the King’s response, if they are correct.  For more than 20 years, he has been strongly committed to Palestinian statehood and has taken courageous positions despite pressure from outside powers. He certainly wasn’t about to weigh in on the Israeli elections by supporting any effort that would help tip the scales for one party or another.

King Mohammed was an early supporter of a two-state solution, serving as an interlocutor between Israel and Palestine in the final days of the Clinton Administration, strongly endorsing the Clinton Parameters. As Chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Jerusalem Committee, he has taken principled positions against Israel on settlements in the West Bank, and has called for the protection of holy sites in Jerusalem. I find it hard to believe that anything would deter him from a principled position on this matter, even if some would dangle the Western Sahara issue as a quid pro quo. My guess is that it would only strengthen his resolve.

Morocco Vows to Boost Handicraft Sector, Promote Local Artisans

The handicraft sector in Morocco employs about 20% of the workforce. However, it has not yet reached its full potential.

Yahia Hatim  - Jan 22, 2020 Rabat

Around 1,200 Moroccan artisans from across Morocco are showcasing their traditional craft products at the 6th National Handicraft Week in Marrakech. The annual event represents a platform for artisans to meet, exchange experiences, and promote their work. Morocco’s Minister of Tourism, Handicraft, Air Transport, and Social Economy, Nadia Fettah, paid a visit to the exhibition, on Tuesday, January 21. During her visit, the minister discussed the handicraft sector with several exhibitors and visitors. “This year’s event covers 10 types of Moroccan traditional crafts. The goal of the event is the exchange of experiences and creative ideas between artisans from the same sector,” Fettah told the press.
The National Handicraft Week will continue for two weeks in order to attract more visitors. The second week of the event coincides with school holidays in Morocco.“The event will last two weeks so students can visit it during the holidays. Our goal this year is to reach 500,000 visitors,” concluded the minister.

A Tale of Four Worlds, by Marina and David Ottaway: Morocco among the Best

Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) October 16, 2019

In a recent conference hosted by the Wilson Center in Washington, Fellows and authors Marina and David Ottaway reviewed their new book, A Tale of Four Worlds, moderated by Washington Post correspondent David Ignatius. When asked “What is the King of Morocco doing right and wrong to advance his commitment to move his country towards an ‘irreversible’ democratic and reformist country?” Marina answered, “The King has the moral authority, the legitimacy, and a long term strategy unlike other countries in the region, but he’s not moving fast enough.” Her response caught my attention since most of Washington’s think tanks often get the Morocco analysis wrong due to a lack of specific knowledge about the country, or err by applying their expertise in other parts of the region to the case of Morocco. In this regard the Ottaways’ book is refreshing as they have spent years studying Morocco within the context of the larger region.

A Tale of Four Worlds is an analysis of the post Arab Spring era, and divides the analysis of the Middle East into four distinct sub groups: Iraq-Syria; the Gulf monarchies; Egypt; and the Maghreb. In the last chapter, the authors conclude: “the 2011 uprisings were neither revolutions that succeeded nor revolutions that failed. They were not an Arab Spring followed by a glorious summer or a cold winter. What they did was to upend the precarious political systems of many Arab countries and shatter several others. This in turn unleashed an open-ended process of change…?”
The Ottoways present Morocco as having come out of the past decade the best of the countries of the region and conclude, “Morocco was the first and most successful example of a proactive monarch.” It is widely understood that the king is a “cautious top-down” reformer, as the Ottaways point out, and they explain that one of the reasons for Morocco’s success is that both King Hassan II and Mohammed VI understood early on the importance of coopting the Islamic PJD party.  This paved the way for them becoming the first Islamic-led government in the Arab world.

The Skill of the Moroccan Monarchy in International Relations with the United States 

Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) September 19, 2019

The continuing progress in US-Moroccan relations, dating from Sultan Mohammed III to King Mohammed VI, serves to underscore the continuity and diplomatic skill of the Moroccan Monarchy in its long history with the United States. It is widely known that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States of America in 1777, under Moroccan Sultan Mohammed III.  This was followed by the US-Morocco Treaty of Peace and Friendship, negotiated by Thomas Barclay and signed by American diplomats and future US presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1786.
During his 33-year reign, Sultan Mohammed III transformed the politics, economy, and international trade of the sultanate of Morocco, restoring its power after a long period of instability and war, and aligning its interests with those of the United States.

Sultan Yazid followed in his father’s footsteps by re-enforcing the importance of the treaty despite threats by the Barbary pirates.  That treaty remains today as the longest existing US accord with a foreign country. The United States’ only National Historic Landmark in a foreign country is located in Tangier, Morocco on a site offered by Sultan Moulay Suleiman in 1821to serve as the US consulate. This was yet another sign of Morocco’s early efforts to build close relations. The building is currently the home of the Tangier American LegationInstitute for Moroccan Studies (T.A.L.I.M.).

In one of the more colorful episodes of the Legation’s history, US Consul General Thomas Carr reported that, in 1839, Sultan Abd al-Rahman gifted him two lions and a horse. This was higher than the gift allowance permitted by the United States government, and adversely affected the budget of the Consul due to the food needed for the animals! This and other continuing gestures of friendship by the Sultans of Morocco towards the US continued through the reign of 13 monarchs.

It should also be noted that Morocco served alongside US and Allied forces in North Africa, Italy, and France in WWI and WWII, and, since gaining its independence in 1956, Morocco has always sided with the US against the Soviet threat. My article is inspired by a passage in A History of Modern Moroccoby Susan Gilson Miller in which she describes recent events in Morocco’s history, and which brings to mind an important meeting I had with King Hassan II in 1998.

Views on Morocco: Behind the Smiles, Real Progress Ahead for Moroccan Women; Banks Should Play a Key Role in Job Creation; Morocco to Share Renewables Experience in Africa; Aerospace Continues Growth Trajectory

November 22, 2019 Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

The recent visit of White House Special Advisor Ivanka Trump to Morocco was treated in most Western press as a fashion carnival and cross-cultural showpiece with very little effort to understand the importance of the visit to the women of Morocco and the impact it will have on the male-dominated power structure in the country. Yes, Ms.Trump wore fabulous clothes including a shimmering champagne-colored kaftan; and yes, she was embraced by rural women delighted that she would take an interest in their freedom to now own land in their own names in Morocco; and, she seemed to move with ease among a variety of women’s projects sponsored in part by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). What does it all mean?

For Moroccan women, it’s a long-overdue resumption of their trajectory towards more equal rights in a country that has denied them the capacity to inherit or purchase land until now, among other constraints that hobble them in a male-centric environment. For Moroccan women, from girls learning how to program and fully engage in STEM education, to university graduates who are becoming more adept at managing the ins and outs of becoming entrepreneurs in an economy that traditionally discriminates against women in terms of access to finance and legal resources, there are opportunities that were not available a scant decade ago.

From former first lady Michele Obama to Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Hillary Clinton to Ivanka Trump, Moroccan women have found champions who have made the transformation of women in the Arab world a priority, despite the misgivings of their hosts. In Morocco, promoting women’s rights has been a priority of King Mohammed VI as well so the country has been fertile ground for many initiatives.

So what has the MCC been doing in Morocco? According to its press release, the visit focused on a review of strategies to advance women’s economic empowerment through the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP).” Recently, the Moroccan Parliament passed legislation that should improve women’s rights to collective lands, which can be purchased by any Moroccan citizen, but limited to males until now. The goal of the W-GDP is to work through governments and public-private partnerships “to strengthen the legal and regulatory frameworks that support women’s full and free participation in the economy.”

Morocco in the News: Tourism Shines; OCP Broadens its Commitment to Sustainable Development; Rural Women Still Have Poor Literacy Levels; and, Aquaculture May be the Next Big Business for Moroccan Fisheries

Jean R. AbiNader November 7, 2019Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

While tourists are increasingly concerned with traveling in certain countries, that shouldn’t be a problem when choosing Morocco as it ranks 28th out of 140 countries in terms of safety and security, according to the World Economic Forum. Its recent report about tourism competitiveness places Morocco ahead of Germany (41), the UK (45), and France (51) in terms of safety and security. Finland, Iceland, and Oman top the list in that category. Overall, Morocco came in 66th far behind the leaders Spain, France, Germany, Japan, the US, and the UK.

In the composite score, countries are rated on 14 criteria including tourism infrastructure, costs, services, business environment, and travel and tourism policies. Morocco can be proud of its top 50 scores for business environment (38th), prioritization of travel and tourism (26th), price competitiveness (46th), environmental sustainability (44th), and cultural resources (47th). Improvements are needed in health and hygiene (97th), human resources and labor market (99th), international openness (80th), and tourist service infrastructure (78th).

According to an analysis in Morocco World News, “In the Middle East and North Africa region, Morocco came out on top in terms of travel and tourism prioritization (26th globally), and in natural resources (63rd). The report also recognized Morocco as the country that has improved the most in the region in terms of business environment (38th globally) and air transport infrastructure (58th).” It is clear that Morocco still has some lengths to go as it actually fell one place since the last report. This past year, tourism contributed more than $7 billion dollars to the country’s GDP, hosting some 11.35 million visitors.

OCP has joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), an international organization of more than 200 companies that have made sustainable development a business priority. This is the latest step that the company has taken to solidify its role both within its sector and in the many countries in which it does business, especially in Africa. Mostafa Terrab, OCP Chairman and CEO, said “we are delighted to join WBCSD and the other member companies who are part of this vital commitment to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world.” He added, “Our sustainable development vision is deeply rooted in our DNA, as we serve as stewards of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate, a vital plant nutrient that is critical to the mission of feeding a growing global population in a sustainable fashion.”

Morocco Looks Ahead to Confront Challenges

Jean R. AbiNader January 10, 2020 Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

As with most African and Arab countries, Morocco faces demographic, governance, workforce development, and wealth inequality challenges. They all must move more proactively to avoid instability from uneven political and economic development. Yet Morocco has distinct advantages in that its political framework, presided over by King Mohammed VI, provides a degree of stability and security that is more durable than its counterparts in the region. As critics are quick to point out, however, this has led to a degree of complacency when it comes to enforcing and enabling human rights, delivering public services, and lessening  income equity by reducing corruption and setting a level playing field for employment and achievement.
A very useful summary of the major issues leading up to the 2021 parliamentary elections was recently published in the North Africa Post. It pointed out that in 2019, the king once again emphasized the need to move ahead with decentralization, a more efficient government, and more successful efforts at economic diversification and job creation across the country. King Mohammed noted on several occasions that the Moroccan government must work more diligently to overcome barriers to economic growth, workforce development, and transparency. So what can we expect in 2020?
There are obvious contradictions: the growth in several manufacturing sectors while agriculture and services, which employ the bulk of Moroccans, grew very slowly or declined due to adverse environmental conditions. Urban migration has enlarged the numbers available for the workforce but they lack the education, skills, and training to fill vacancies. Millions are spent to enhance the quality of life but salaries for professionals in education, health services, and public safety lag behind other sectors so that productivity, morale, and delivery do not meet the needs of society or of workers.
The king’s latest approach, since he seems to be exasperated with the government’s lack of vision and drive to implement reforms to enhance governance and diversify the economy, is to set up a commission to prepare options for a new development model and report to him at the beginning of the summer. Consultations are expected to be broad and publically aired among all stakeholders groups. Lead by former interior minister and Ambassador to France Chakib Benmoussa with a cross-section of experts and advocates, it may be a useful tool to open up the limited public space for discussion, debate, and consensus on an effective strategic roadmap.

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust education in Morocco

 By YOSSI LEMPKOWICZ  January 24, 2020 

In recent years, Moroccan King Mohammed VI and senior Moroccan officials have taken a clear stance against anti-Semitism and stressed the need to teach values of tolerance and coexistence as lessons of the Holocaust.

By B.Chernitsky, MEMRI via JNS

While most Arab countries refrain from addressing the issue of anti-Semitism and do not include the topic of the Holocaust in their school curricula, Morocco appears to be taking a different approach. Speaking at international conferences and forums dealing with the Holocaust and intercultural dialogue, Moroccan regime officials, headed by King Mohammed VI, have frequently raised the need to condemn anti-Semitism, to instill values of tolerance and religious coexistence in Moroccan society and to learn the lessons of the Holocaust, while stressing the pivotal role of education in this context.

The Moroccan king’s position, unusual in the Arab world, was already evident in 2009, when he referred to the Holocaust as “one of the most painful disasters in the history of mankind.” This was at a time when the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was calling the Holocaust “a Western invention,” and while anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial were also rampant in many other parts of the Arab and Muslim world.

The king’s statements were read out on his behalf by the Moroccan minister for religious affairs at the launching ceremony of the Aladdin Project, an international NGO devoted to rapprochement between cultures and especially between Jews and Muslims. The king said: “My approach and the approach of my people to the disaster of the Holocaust is far removed from the approaches that seem to suffer from a kind of amnesia [i.e., Holocaust denial]. Our approach is intent upon in-depth study of one of the wounds that are etched in our collective memory, and which we have worked to define as one of the most painful disasters in the history of mankind.”

Islamic scholars visit Auschwitz; dr. Ahamd Abadi of Morocco: we must learn the lesson of the holocaust to prevent such a tragedy from repeating

January 23, 2020
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Environmental Reform Initiatives in Morocco

For the last several decades, the Kingdom of Morocco has prioritized environmental reform and sustainable development. In 2016, the Climate Change Performance Index ranked Morocco alongside Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium in the top ten most climatically conscious countries and number one in the developing world based on criteria including CO2 emissions, renewable energy development, efficiency, and climate policy. Morocco has also made significant progress in the areas of conservation, recycling, and sustainable development education. In November 2016, Morocco will host the COP22 conference in Marrakesh to consult with international represent

Morocco to Build Four Large Dams Under New Water Plan

The projects will cost a total of MAD 6.7 billion (around $694 million).

By Morgan Hekking - Jan 29, 2020 Rabat

Director of the Sebou Water Basin Agency Samira El Haouat announced today, January 28, that Morocco plans to construct four large dams in the Fez-Meknes region by 2027.  El Haouat announced the projects during a meeting on King Mohammed VI’s 2020-2027 National Drinking Water Supply and Irrigation Program.  The current storage capacity of the Sebou Hydraulic basin is around 5.549 billion cubic meters. The addition of four new dams will bring the total to 8 billion cubic meters, El Haouat stated.   The four dams will cost a total of MAD 6.7 billion (around $694 million).
A total of 28 small dams are confirmed for construction in the region, concerning the province of Ifrane (1 dam), the prefecture of Meknes (1 dam), the provinces of Sefrou and Taza (2 dams each), El Hajeb (1 dam), the province of Taounate (2 dams) and the province of Boulemane (19 dams).
The new dams fall under the framework of Morocco...

Morocco Switches Off Lights for Earth Hour on Saturday


On Saturday, March 24, the world will go dark as millions of people around the world switch off their lights for Earth Hour at 8:30 p.m. local time.
Earth Hour is a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about global warming, organised by the World Wildlife Fund and the advertising agency Leo Burnett. The event first began in Australia in 2007 when millions of people turned off non-essential lights for one hour.
In the years that followed, thousands of cities and towns across the world, including major landmarks, started running similar operations by switching off their lights as a sign of concern for the environment.

What the M’barka Film Reveals About Moroccan Society, Strong Women.

It all started with M’barka’s ability to heal the broken leg of a man, followed by her extremely powerful and fearless dealing with all her other patients’ illnesses and troubles.

By Afifa Hassainate - Afifa Hassainate is a writer and critic from London. Jan 26, 2020 Rabat

Once upon a time, in a lost little village in the middle of Morocco, lived a strong woman who practiced magic and could perform very powerful and strange things. The woman was called M’barka, a healer.“M’barka” is a movie by Mohamed Zinnedaine, released in December 2018 at the Marrakech Film Festival. The movie gathered multiple nominations at the Tangier National Film Festival, where in March 2019, it won four prizes, including the Special Jury Prize.“M’barka” also garnered prizes in the categories of best director, best actress for Fatima Atif, and best actor.

Meet Moroccan Cook Ben, Chef to Hollywood Stars.

The Moroccan chef is a cook whose tasty recipes attract A-list of Hollywood celebrities.

By  Safaa Kasraoui  - Safaa Kasraoui is a journalist at Morocco World News. Jan 25, 2020 Rabat

“You met the guy who never had a teacher in culinary arts,” said Chef Ben, or Abdessamad Benameur. Ben is known as the chef of Beverly Hills stars. During his career, Ben has cooked for numerous A-list of celebrities from Hollywood.  His relationship with superstar Ryan Gosling, however, remains special and one of a kind. In the last few weeks, international media has spotlighted the chef’s Moroccan restaurant Tagine Beverly Hills despite it being open since 2004.

Moroccan Government to Discuss University Reform

The higher education system switch, scheduled for September 2020, is one of the government’s top priorities.

By  Yahia Hatim  - Jan 28, 2020 Rabat

The Moroccan government council is set to discuss the reform of Moroccan universities, among other projects, during a meeting chaired by the Head of Government, Saad Eddine El Othmani, on Thursday, January 30. The Minister of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education, and Scientific Research, Said Amzazi, will give a presentation about the reform, including the switch to the Bachelor system set to start in  September 2020. Amzazi announced the higher education system change earlier this month, at the Moroccan-American higher education conference in Marrakech. The new system aims to open up Morocco to more international education systems, especially those in Anglophone countries.

Moroccan Official Asks Families to Help Children See Danger of Drugs

The security approach alone is not enough to tackle this problem, a Moroccan top official said.

By  Safaa Kasraoui  - Safaa Kasraoui is a journalist at Morocco World News. Jan 29, 2020 Rabat

Morocco’s Ministry of Interior continues to stress the need to sensitize young people of the dangers of drug and addiction. About 221,000 students from  2,278 schools have benefited from an anti-drugs campaign during this  academic year, the minister delegate to the Minister of Interior Noureddine Boutayeb said on Tuesday in Rabat. The official made the statement in a question session on drug trafficking among students at the House of Councillors.“The provincial safety committees hold weekly meetings, at the start of each new school year,” Boutayeb announced. He said the meetings seek to ensure security at schools and protect students from drug use and all “delinquent behavior.” National security services and royal gendarmerie units carried out operations around schools. Operations from September-December 2019 resulted in 1,000 cases related to the consumption and trafficking of drugs.

Moroccan Documentary ‘Maany from India’ Highlights Diversity, Harmony.

Although it is a land of diversity in terms of beliefs, religions, and languages, India remains a land of peace, inspiration, and coexistence.

By  Hamza Guessous  - Jan 29, 2020 Rabat

Two young Moroccan travel enthusiasts shared their documentary, “Maany from India” (Meanings from India), with Indian Ambassador Shambhu Kumaran at a special presentation in Rabat on Tuesday. In the 40-minute documentary, Aymane Boubouh and Mehdi Bennaceri showed how Indians live in peace and harmony despite their diversity of ideologies and religions.

The Cultural Center of Agdal was the first to exhibit the documentary, produced and directed by Benanceri, on November 30, 2019, in Rabat. 
Speaking about the production of the documentary, Boubouh stated that all the shooting sites came spontaneously. “Traveling is considered one of the best [kinds of] soul and mindset therapy. It does not only allow you to discover other countries’ cultures and richness but it gives you a chance to alter your vision about life,” Boubouh said. The Moroccan surgeon embraced traveling to escape a tiresome daily routine.
During their journey, Boubouh and Bennaceri spent 21 days interacting with Indian people and learning about their daily lives. They were astonished by the level of coexistence among Indian people despite their multiple religions, unlike other nations.
The Moroccans learned India has 13 different religions and 28 local languages.

2020 Student Forums in Morocco Expect More Than 500,000 Visitors

Student Forums represent a platform for students to learn about higher education institutions and plan their future.

By Yahia Hatim  -Jan 13, 2020 Rabat

The Moroccan Student Group, a web portal for student exchange and orientation, has announced its planning for the 2020 Student Forums that will take place between January 30 and April 20. Student Forums are a series of meetings between students, higher education institutions, and experts in student orientation that aim to help young people build their academic and professional plans. The events take place in several cities across Morocco. “Each year, these proximity events welcome more than 500,000 visitors from both urban areas and the rural world, who benefit from access to information thanks to territorial coverage affecting the 12 regions of the Kingdom. Future high school graduates, university students, and parents benefit from personalized support from professionals to make the right choice,” say the organizers in an online post.“Wanting to continually enhance the support they provide to visitors, the 2020 Student Forums will introduce new improvements. An orientation stand animated by experts and individualized coaching sessions will allow young to students to optimize their visit,” concludes the publication.

Moroccan-German Journalist Wins International Leadership Award

The journalist tackles some of the most high profile global issues such as extremism and racism.

By Yahia Hatim - Jan 20, 2020 Rabat

The Moroccan-German journalist and writer Souad Mekhennet received the International Leadership Award, presented by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, on Tuesday, January 14, in Los Angeles, United States. The journalist said she is honored to be the youngest person and first person of Muslim descent to receive the award.“In Los Angeles, I received the ‘International Leadership Award’ from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the Museum of Tolerance, for my journalistic work and for the search for a Most Wanted Nazi. Youngest award winner and first person of Muslim descent. Thank you,” Mekhennet tweeted.

Survey: 74% of Moroccans Living Abroad Plan to Settle Back in Morocco

The survey might raise eyebrows among Moroccans, especially as many surveys have consistently found in recent years that most Moroccans want to leave their country.

By Tamba François Koundouno - Jan 25, 2020 Rabat

An increasing number of Moroccans residing abroad are harboring medium to long-term goals of “returning” to settle down in the North African country, a recent survey has found. Despite persisting concerns about issues such as social security and employment prospects, the majority of Moroccans living abroad are increasingly perceiving Morocco in a positive light, the survey suggested. The findings, from a recent survey by Rekrute, an e-recruitment website solidly present in Morocco (with 1.5 million registered executive profiles), indicates that 74% of Moroccans want “to come back home” and explore their employment chances. #######################################

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