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Morocco Week in Review 
April 8 2017

Happy Anniversary, USAID Morocco!

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Programs, and Policy, MACMarch 30 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enhancing Education Attainment at the Primary Level
USAID supports the Moroccan government in its ambitious reform program to increase access to and improve the quality of education by targeting early-grade reading and teacher capacity.
The Reading for Success program “is designed to develop and test the most effective approaches for strengthening children’s Arabic reading skills in targeted primary schools.” Activities include developing and testing Arabic reading methods, developing training guides and reading lessons for teachers, and reducing summer learning loss by supporting civil society summer reading programs. Since 2016, USAID has taught an innovative approach to reading to 5,737 first grade students and trained 181 teachers in the new method.

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

After 60 years, USAID continues to provide invaluable programing to support reform and improve living standards in Morocco.For more on what USAID is accomplishing in Morocco, including personal stories from those positively impacted by USAID programming, check out the USAID-Morocco Facebook page.
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Russian Chess Champion Kasparov Wants to Develop Chess in Moroccan Schools

By Morocco World News - March 28, 2017 Rabat

The Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov wants to train a million African children in the discipline over the next five years. Through his foundation Kasparov Chess Foundation, the former world champion wants to introduce chess in school programs around the world and especially in Morocco. He assisted last Thursday, March 23rd, to the launch of the francophone division of his organization, which is set to focus on West Africa, where he announced his project. Kasparov believes that the exposure of children to the game can help develop the capacities of students.
“There is a lot of data on the subject, collected across the world, that shows that chess can improve the capacities of students to learn and analyze information as well as improve their decision making skills and gain more confidence in their capabilities,” he told AFP.

The Kasparov Chess Foundation plans to identify pilot schools through which to launch the program. They will supply these schools in game sets and form chess teachers to be able to reach their goal of exposing around a million children in five years to the game. The foundation will initially start by developing its programs in four countries: Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Senegal and Morocco.
Through the “Baba Sy” program, named after the former Senegalese draughts champion, the Kasparov Chess Foundation hopes to eventually find a future African chess champion.
However, they insist that their focal priority is to establish the foundations of the program across these four countries before actually looking for a prodigy.

While chess may not be the miracle solution to education problems, it can be a useful tool that remains very affordable for schools. Indeed, a chess set doesn’t cost more than $4 dollars, a bargain compared to the cost of a new pool of soccer field. It seems this project can only be beneficial to our students and help combat the preconception that only select countries can produce chess champions.

The View From Marrakesh: "Africans Against Islamic Extremism!"

David Pollock is the Kaufman Fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on regional political dynamics and related issues. March 27, 2017

Last month the Marrakesh Security Forum, a semiofficial annual conference of experts and policymakers hosted by Morocco's leading foreign policy think tank, marked the diplomatic reunion of Morocco and the African Union with intense discussion of common continental interests in confronting violent jihadi threats. And last week, a low-key U.S. government reorganization seemed in line with this closer alignment of the Maghreb (Morocco and North Africa) with other parts of Africa. Inside Washington's National Security Council, Maghreb affairs were moved from the Near Eastern to the African office.

Back in Marrakesh, the discussion of regional challenges included, not too surprisingly, prolix official presentations on the necessity of more than merely military approaches to the continent's security problems: better governance, economic development, environmental protection, youth employment opportunities, ideological guidance, and cross-border cooperation. But beyond such platitudes, several more original themes stood out. These were notable both by explicit reference and, in some cases, by conspicuous absence.

First, there was considerable consensus about the central role of Islamic extremism amidst Africa's many and varied security concerns. In this connection, participants paid little attention to the organizational distinctions, so often debated among American academics, between nominal affiliates of al-Qaeda (e.g., Somalia's al-Shabab) and those of the Islamic State (e.g., Nigeria's Boko Haram). Rather, each movement was assessed primarily in its particular local context, with scant reference to any putative central direction or assistance from afar.

Notably, representatives from the many predominantly Muslim countries in attendance, from Senegal to Sudan and beyond, were not at all reticent about naming the threat explicitly as such, using such terms as "jihadi terrorism" or "violent radical Islam." By contrast, speakers from predominantly non-Muslim states, whether in Africa, Europe, or elsewhere, tended to shy away from such phrases. Instead, they appeared at pains to insist that the jihadi phenomenon reflected not religious inspiration but socioeconomic or political grievances.

Second, a number of participants were very specific in identifying significant sources of support, whether internal and external, for jihadi terrorism. This was often the case even when diplomatic or political sensitivities might have been ruffled. The written conference report, for example, calls out the "ambiguous role" of both Qatari charities and the Iranian Red Crescent in relation to violent Islamic extremism in Mali.

Similarly concrete revelations emerged from some European participants. One EU official noted the remarkable global terrorist role of Hezbollah in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. That is their headquarters, he explained, for distribution of the worldwide online traffic in counterfeit pharmaceuticals and medical devices. This gigantic scam provides hundreds of millions of dollars annually in illicit profits, shared among organized crime and terrorist networks. And a German official noted that homegrown Muslim or anti-Muslim radicals, not returning foreign fighters, are the main source of terrorism in her country today.

Third, Morocco's own experience with preventive approaches emphasizing moderate Islamic teaching and practice came in for considerable attention, and some applause, from other African as well as several European participants. This, of course, was in keeping with host country courtesies, yet also demonstrated the perceived relevance of Moroccan imam training and related joint projects, with neighboring countries and European partners alike. Unexpectedly, however, the Western Sahara issue, recently entangled in Moroccan-African rapprochement, hardly figured at all in the conference proceedings -- perhaps as if to emphasize that this contentious imbroglio has been shunted aside, or at least insulated from other, more cooperative subjects. Similarly, no one even mentioned the fact that Morocco itself has not had a formally functioning new government since its last parliamentary election, almost half a year ago.

Fourth, geographic representation at this event was very uneven, in several surprising ways. Sahel and Sub-Saharan African states were well represented, but Morocco's own North African neighbors (Algeria, Tunisia, Libya) were not. This signifies continuing tensions over the Western Sahara and other issues that were papered over, but not resolved, by Morocco's recent readmission to the African Union. Ironically, Morocco's ties to the south, in Sahel and Sub-Saharan Africa, are in many ways closer than its ties to fellow Arab countries to the east. EU countries were also present and active at the conference in large numbers, reflecting their strong interests in engagement with Morocco and its vicinity on refugee, migration, and counterterrorism issues -- and, increasingly, on moderate Islamic guidance programs as well.

But American participants were relatively sparse; not a single U.S. official spoke at the conference, and AFRICOM was totally absent. This was not a Trump transition oversight because the same neglect was noticeable last year. One can only hope that, behind the scenes, U.S. security interaction with Morocco and other relevant African countries is more robust and productive than is apparent in public.

Fifth, in sharp contrast, the Russian presence at this conference was again very visible and assertive, as was also the case in 2016. One Russian panelist delivered a particularly virulent diatribe against Western "interference" in Africa in the guise of counterterrorism assistance, which he claimed only made matters much worse. When the author publicly took exception to this sweeping calumny, that Russian panelist backtracked a bit, conceding that he would welcome proper cooperation against jihadi threats, even with the United States. But immediately upon my return to Washington from Marrakesh, my cellphone was deluged for an entire day with Russian robocalls -- perhaps another token of Moscow's increasing use of such offensive cyber tactics in its new, Cold War-style power projection abroad.

Sixth, the Marrakesh gathering underlines a key yet often overlooked point about radical Islamic extremism: it is at least as much an African as it is a Middle Eastern, European, or U.S. homeland security issue. For the Africans involved, be they Arabs, Muslims, or neither, the military defeat of the Islamic State in faraway Mosul, Iraq, or Raqqa, Syria, will be of small comfort so long as they continue to confront equally savage challenges much closer to home.

This latest conclave provided some evidence that various African governments, NGOs, and expert advisors are not only fully aware of the problem but also increasingly open to joint action to address it. At the same time, however, such cooperation among the North African states, high on the list of those affected, remains woefully insufficient. And if this conference is any indication, the extent of U.S. support for this common cause, certainly in its public manifestations, could also benefit from greater effort and attention.  Send to

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Fikra Forum is an initiative of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The views expressed by Fikra Forum contributors are the personal views of the individual authors, and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute, its staff, Board of Directors, or Board of Advisors.

The Key to Addressing Poverty in Morocco

By   Daniel Forkner and Youssef Igrouane   April 1, 2017

Stimulating the private sector through education and small businesses is critical to alleviating poverty in Morocco. Poverty has always been a serious obstacle to the growth of developing countries, and Morocco is no exception. Stymied in part through several decades of colonialization by two European countries, Morocco has yet to establish a satisfactory quality of life for a large part of the population. Many wake up every day and struggle to provide basic necessities for themselves and their children. These lower-income individuals and families are highly sensitive to constant fluctuations in prices for necessities.

There are many factors that contribute to the state of poverty in Morocco. Household debt has doubled over the past decade. As more families tie their wealth up in property values, their home can become like a jail, restricting their freedom and burdening them with debt for most of their lives. In addition, the educational system has been inadequate in equipping students with the necessary skills employers are looking for. This has lowered many Moroccans’ faith in education, and many families opt out when their children are still young.

Many of these problems are symptoms of poverty in Morocco. Poverty, which is characterized by low-income levels, is significantly influenced by unemployment and the ability for businesses to grow and hire employees. As of 2014, unemployment in Morocco is 10.2%. According to Joumana Cobeinm, the International Finance Corporation head for the Maghreb, in order to bring that level down Morocco would need to grow by an additional 5% annually. The best way to do that, she argues, is to grow the private sector—specifically entrepreneurs and small to mid-size businesses that account for close to 80% of employment. In order to stimulate the private sector and lower unemployment, Morocco will need to encourage entrepreneurship and the growth of small businesses. There are two ways to do this.

First, Morocco should focus on improving the quality of youth education and encouraging youth participation in meaningful careers. Improving youth unemployment statistics is critical, as leaving youth unemployment unchecked will only exacerbate income inequality going forward. Young people in Morocco represent a significant percentage of the population, and 44% of working age individuals. This is alarming given the fact that 80% of those who are unemployed in Morocco are youth, as per 2014.

If Morocco is going to encourage youth participation and improve these statistics, attention should be directed in part at the quality of education. Many schools are not equipping students with the skills that employers are looking for. This can be seen in statistics which suggest that unemployment is higher for university graduates than it is for individuals without a college degree.
The result is a lack of faith in the education system and a significant number of youths who drop out of education early. This may help explain the fact that nearly 70% of youth have not even completed middle school and a fifth are illiterate.

Initiatives aimed at aligning employer needs with the skills developed in primary schools and universities will improve the ability for young Moroccans to get jobs after graduating. In addition, the renewed faith in their education, along with the confidence of relevant experience, will spur many down the path to entrepreneurship.

Second, because small businesses and entrepreneurs play such an important role in job creation in Morocco, it is vital that access to capital is improved. Currently, although small and mid-sized businesses are responsible for close to 50% of jobs in Morocco and more than 30% of gross domestic product (GDP), their share of the available capital is severely underrepresented. Fortunately, emerging initiatives show promise for entrepreneurs seeking financing.

One source of improvement in the availability of capital for entrepreneurs comes from support organizations like Dare, Inc. and the Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (Moroccan CISE). These organizations are building crowdfunding platforms, providing coaching and support for entrepreneurs, and generally helping to bridge the gap between investors and start-ups.
According to Eric Asmar, former director of programs at Moroccan CISE and former director of Dare, Inc., the incubation program was created to address three critical challenges facing social entrepreneurs: lack of access to long-term coaching and support, lack of access to networks, and lack of access to early stage financing. He posits that “long-term coaching and access to international networks go hand-in-hand with financing,” because there are not many traditional financing options available to Moroccan entrepreneurs. Improving access to financing “can have a significant impact on the development of these projects and their long-term sustainability.”

Support organizations like these are critical to improving the availability of capital for entrepreneurs. Most banks will not provide loans to businesses that cannot show at least two years of profit, and this is extremely prohibitive for entrepreneurs in need of capital to get their ideas off the ground for the first time.

The government can indirectly improve financial options for small businesses by aiding support organizations like Dare Inc. and Moroccan CISE, which work with start-ups, investors and entrepreneurs directly to create investment opportunities. This will also have the added benefit of encouraging competition with traditional banks, which would improve the ability for small businesses to obtain capital through traditional means.

There is a crisis of poverty in Morocco. Stimulating growth in the private sector is a crucial step in the direction of addressing this crisis. Improving the quality of schools so education is better aligned with employer needs will help combat youth unemployment and encourage engagement in meaningful careers. And improving the access to capital for entrepreneurs and small businesses will spur the development of businesses that contribute the most to the economy but face the greatest challenges.

The resulting economic growth and lowered unemployment rate will go a long way in combating the state of poverty in Morocco.
*[This article was written for the 2016 Voices of the World Program. In partnership with the United Nations Foundation, Fair Observer taught more than 400 students in six countries—India, Morocco, Kenya, Austria, Mexico and the United States—about journalism and substantive issues such as water, health and poverty. Click here to read more.]

Moroccan Activist Aicha Ech-chenna Calls For Teaching Sex Education in School

By Youssef Igrouane - April 5, 2017 Rabat

Aicha Ech-chenna, President and Founder of the Solidarité Féminine Association, has called on the Ministry of Education of the upcoming government led by Saad Eddine Othmani to teach sex education in Moroccan schools. Invited to appear as a guest on Moroccan TV show, “Dayf Al Oula,” Ech-chenna called on the upcoming government to take civic society’s suggestions into account and deal with the social problems Moroccans are experiencing. “For God’s sake, I wish the new government – incorporate sexual education in schools for the sake of our Moroccan students,” said Ech-chenna.

Labeled as the Moroccan Mother Theresa, Ech-chenna, commented on the new government led by Saad Eddine Othmani, who succeeded to his colleague Abdelilah Benkirane. She stated that her association will cooperate with any government regardless of who is the head of government. “Indeed, there is slight difference with Othmani’s government, since he is a psychiatrist – and the psychiatrist fells the pain of his patients,” she added.

With regard to the situation of single mothers in Morocco – Ech-chenna talked about “intolerant” Moroccan customs and traditions with single mothers. She explained that “the door is shut down” before adding in the same breath that Morocco nowadays is on its way to tolerating single mothers. Having dedicated 57 years of her life in voluntarism, the 76-year-old activist called on media as well to shed light on the nuances of the dire, inhumane reality that Moroccan single mothers experience. Ech-chenna added that 24 out of 153 babies are thrown into the street everyday due to their undocumented identity and noted that abortion in Morocco is considered as unacceptable.

Morocco Seeks to Attract 11 Million Tourists in 2017

By Chaima Lahsini - April 5, 2017 Rabat

Morocco seeks to build on the positive performance of the tourism sector in 2016 and attract more tourists in 2017. Moroccan tourism activity recorded very positive results in February, with a 10.6 percent increase in arrivals at border crossings and 18.8 percent in overnight stays in tourist accommodation establishments. According to the Ministry of Tourism, tourist activity seems to be recovering in the beginning of 2017. Very positive results have been registered since November 2016. The majority of both traditional and emerging markets contributed to this upward trend at the end of February 2017, with a positive impact on Morocco’s main tourist destinations.

The traditional markets, namely French, Spanish, German and British marked respective increases of 6 percent, 22 percent, 19 percent and 7 percent. Emerging markets also recorded strong performances, with an increase of 923 percent for the Chinese market, 82 percent for Russia, 62 percent for Japan, 32 percentfor the United States, 20 percent for Canada and 17 percent for the African market. The strategy of market diversification adopted by the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) is paying off.

This tourist flow is reflected in the number of visitors to classified accommodation establishments (EHTC) since the beginning of this year. As of the end of February, the EHTC showed an increase in overnight stays of 14.8 percent, with an increase of 20.2 percent for non-residents and 4.1 percent for residents. The occupancy rate increased by 4 points with an additional 12 points for club hotels, 5 points for 4-star hotels and 3 points for 5-star hotels. This recovery was also observed at the level of the kingdom’s main tourist destinations, which recorded double-digit growth in the first two months of the year, according to the ministry. An increase of 17 percent was registered for Marrakech, 19 percent for Agadir, 37 percent for Fez, 25 percent for Tangier and 8 percent for Casablanca.

To keep up this pace, the ONMT does not intend to step up its efforts. The tourist office will soon adopt a new vision based on profitable participation in various international fairs, while investing in digital communication and support for airlines.

To consolidate the Moroccan brand as a true tourist destination, the ONMT has launched its newest campaign. “This place is made for painters … The beautiful abounds”. This quotation from Eugène Delacroix’s travel diary is the slogan of the new campaign, underlined by Moroccan newspaper L’Economiste.

The ONMT is counting on an additional 600,000 tourists this year, which will reach nearly 11 million tourists. In 2016, Morocco attracted 10.33 million tourists, marking a slight increase of 1.5 percent compared to 2015. This growth is due to good performances linked to the diversification of the issuing markets, notably China, Russia, and the United States. This year, the ONMT expects the arrival of an additional 100,000 Chinese tourists as in the first two months of 2017 their arrivals recorded a leap of 22 percent compared to last year.

Alcohol Consumption on the Rise in Morocco

By Amira El Masaiti - April 5, 2017 Rabat

Despite the heavy taxation on alcoholic beverages, consumption is still increasing by leaps and bounds in Morocco. 2017’s first quarter has recorded a seven percent jump in alcohol consumption, compared with the first three months in 2016’s ratio, reported Assabah in its April 5 edition. When we look at a breakdown of this increase, beer occupies first place with a five percent increase, while spirits recorded a two percent growth. The increase is mainly due to the joint campaign of the National Office of Health and Food Security (ONSSA) and the customs services in Morocco to stop smuggling of alcoholic beverages.

Summer typically accounts for 70 percent of Morocco’s annual liquor consumption. The arrival of Ramadan this year, just prior to the start of the summer season, will likely contribute to an increase in sales for the alcohol industry. The absence of national and official statistics on the consumption of alcohol in Morocco makes it necessary to rely on research conducted by international institutes.
The Office of International Studies and Research on Alcoholic Beverages and Spirits, therefore, specifies that Moroccans consume approximately 120 million liters of alcoholic beverages, 68.3 percent of which is beer.

Rabat to Host Second Green Jobs Forum Next May

By Morocco World News - April 5, 2017 Rabat

The 2nd edition of the Moroccan Green Jobs Forum will be held on May 16th in Rabat, at the initiative of “Energies & Environment » magazine, said the organizer in a statement. The Forum is an opportunity to sift through all the operations carried out under the national environmental strategy, to take stock of the achievements and prospects of this strategy and to measure its impact on jobs, according to the statement.

This forum includes round tables, experience feedbacks and concrete cases on main themes closely related to the green jobs issue, an exhibition and a B2B space to make exchanges more fruitful and in order to find the best practices in creating green jobs. The event will bring together about 300 participants, including public figures, professionals and experts, economic decision-makers, educational and professional training actors, in addition to civil society and organizations’ representatives, according to the same source.

Transport and Housing Represent 59.8 of Morocco’s Energy Consumption

By Amira El Masaiti - April 3, 2017 Rabat

A study published by the “Policy Center” of the Chérifien Phosphates Office (OPC POLICIESTER), shows that transport and housing were Morocco’s main energy consumers, using up to 59.8 percent of the total energy used in 2014. The study, titled “CO2 Emissions and Economic Growth in Morocco: Analysis of the Environmental Kuznets Curve,” revealed that transport accounted for 34.4 percent, while housing accounted for 25.4 percent of total energy consumption in 2014.

The study added that the industry sector accounted for 21 percent of the total energy consumed.The trade sector consumed 16.3 percent. Morocco relies heavily on importing energy sources, particularly fossil fuels. This leads to unpredictable oil prices and weighs heavily on energy bills, which amounted to MAD 1.87 Billion in 2014. However, the bill decreased by 9, 17 percent, equivalent to MAD 9.11 billion in 2016. According to the study, this decline was attributed to the decline in oil prices during 2014. The same source pointed out that oil consumption remains the main source of CO2 emission in the country, with a ratio of 65.1 percent of the total CO2 emissions during 2014. This was followed by coal 30.4 percent  and natural gas 4.5 percent.

Rain Saves Economic Growth in the First Quarter of 2017

By Amira El Masaiti -April 6, 2017 , Rabat

Despite governmental complications, the Moroccan economy did well in the first quarter of 2017, with a growth rate of 4.3 percent,explained the High Commission for Planning in a statement.
This performance is due mainly to the impact of substantial rainfall during the first quarter of 2017. The national economy has increased by 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2017,while 2016 recorded a growth rate of only 1.7 percent, according to the High Commission for Planning.

The value added in the agriculture sector, which had declined by 9 percent in the first quarter of 2016, achieved a growth of 12.9 per cent at the end of March, pulling up the overall growth rate of the national economy. If it weren’t for the remarkable growth in the agricultural economy, the national economy would have increased by only  3 percent, driven by the activities of the tertiary sectors, added the same source.

Household Consumption Increased by 4%
Household consumption has also attracted growth over this period, due to moderate increases in consumer prices and improved incomes in rural areas. The growth of household consumption increased by 4 percent in the first quarter of 2017, instead of 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.It contributed approximately 2.4 percent to overall GDP growth, instead of 1.8 percent in the third quarter of 2016. “This increase in domestic consumption has been nourished, among other things, by a 5.2 per cent increase in consumer loans,” added HCP.

The second quarter of 2017 is expected to record an increase of 14.8 percent in agricultural added value and a 3.2 percent improvement in non-agricultural activities, leading to a growth of 4.6 percent in the national economy, according to the same source.

War between Taxi Drivers and Alternative Transport Services Continues

By Amira El Masaiti - April 4, 2017 Rabat

Tensions have reached a breaking point between Taxi drivers and the two transport services, Uber and Careem. Demands to prohibit these two apps continue in Casablanca. The Alliance of Trade Unions representing taxi drivers in Morocco has urged the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) to ban on the use of Uber and Careem.  These two applications represent unfair competition to Taxi drivers, according to Al Sabah in its April 4 edition. The complainants pointed out that transport services must be reserved for the exclusive use of professionals who practice lawfully. They went as far as to say that these two applications “threaten social peace and security,” added Al Sabah.

The newspaper recalled that transport professionals had initially addressed several officials, including the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Employment, the Minister of the Interior and the patron of the police, Abdellatif Hammouchi, to demand restrictions on shared ride services, like those of Uber and Careem. Taxi drivers, especially in Casablanca, have never accepted the arrival of Uber and Careem. Their anger has, on many occasions, degenerated into clashes with drivers who use these two applications. On occasions, it has resulted in ambushes followed by physical assaults.

Uber is an American transport network company that operates in more than 570 cities worldwide, including Casablanca. It has become the most recognized alternative to regular Taxis, connecting drivers with passengers directly and offering cheaper prices. Careem is an Emirati company for car-booking, operating in 53 cities, including Rabat and Casablanca. It also targets customers with frequent discounts.

800,000 Moroccan Married Couples Are Infertile

By Youssef Igrouane -  April 2, 2017 Rabat

800,000 married couples, representing 15 percent of all Moroccan couples, are infertile, said Abdel Wahab Bouchouchi, President of the Moroccan Fertility Forum, on Saturday in Rabat. While delivering his talk at the national forum, organized under the theme of “Medical Assistance on Reproduction Between Legal and Practice,” Bouchouchi said, “Infertility is considered a problem of multiple reasons, imposes itself within society.”

“This requires observing the pros and cons of the bill 47-17 that is related to medical assistance for reproduction, which is presented before the parliament and discuss its items to make it more effective in serving Moroccan married couples, who are experiencing infertility and enables the medicines to work reassuringly,” Bouchouchi added.
Bouchouchi further explained that nearly all insurance cooperatives currently do not cover the cost of reproductive medical assistance, noting that health coverage is still insufficient to deal with cases of infertility.

Suggesting a solution, Bouchouchi highlighted the importance of fostering training activities throughout Moroccan universities in the field of reproduction assistance.
“The trainings are required to be improved, updated and institutionalized in order to create an approach between the students, biologists and medicines regarding the technological and scientific developments that are related to this domain,” he said. For his part, Director General of the National Agency for Health Insurance, Jilali Hazem, said that his agency is determined to manage this service in line with health insurance providers by renewing international conventions and reviewing medical operations.

Said Moutaouakil, president of the Moroccan Association of Medical Sciences, explained that the event was designed to establish a law that would institute medical assistance regarding reproduction to ensure transparency and enable couples to benefit from this service in accordance with the ethics of the profession.

One Family Out of Four at Least Includes Person with Disability in Morocco

By Morocco World News -March 30, 2017 Rabat

In Morocco, one household out of four at least includes a person with special needs, that is 24.5% of families (2,264,672 people) which makes up a national rate of 6.8%.
According to the 2nd national survey on disability of 2014, the national disability rate for men is 6.7% and 6.8% for women, said the ministry of health in a statement on Wednesday, on the occasion of the National Disability day celebrated on March 30.

Around 33.7% of this category is aged 60, making this age group more vulnerable, the statement said, adding that the survey revealed that 34.1% of special needs people have a health insurance regime, of which 60.8% own the RAMED card, 15.4% belong to the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) and 12.7% are affiliated to the Caisse Nationale des Organismes de Prévoyance Sociale (CNOPS).

In order to promote access to health care for this social segment, the ministry has elaborated a national action plan on health and disability for 2015-2021, it said.
The main goal of the said plan is to ensure access for persons with disabilities to promotional, preventive and community-based health care. The plan includes 20 measures and 73 actions as the building of 5 centers for rehabilitation and orthopedic equipment in Rabat, Nador, Guelmim, Casablanca and Tetouan, bringing the number of such centres to 15 nationwide.

CNN Features Restoration of Al-Qarawiyyin, World’s Oldest Library.

By Constance Renton -April 1, 2017 Rabat

As the world’s oldest library, Al-Qarawiyyin, is home to some of humanity’s most priceless manuscripts. As part of its “Inside Africa” series, CNN has produced a seven-minute video of the library, showcasing its history and the restoration efforts now underway. From the beginning of its construction in the 14th century, the Al-Qarawiyyin Library, in the heart of historic Fez, was destined to become a critical hub of learning for scholars through the ages.

The pride with which the library’s curator, Abdelfattah Bougchouf, speaks of historic structure is obvious. Housing priceless manuscripts such as a 9th century Quran, a 12thcentury astronomy text and a 14th century tome on jurisprudence, the value of the edifice quickly becomes apparent. The curator reverently leafs through one of the first biographies of Mohammed as he speaks of the library’s purpose as a centre for knowledge for scholars of the past, present and future. “Our duty,” he says, “is to look after it for humanity and future generations.”
In 2012, it became clear that the building was in urgent need of restorative work to save it from the ravages of constant water damage. With no blueprints to work from, architects like Lamiss Ben El Haj, had their work cut out for them. Still, the excitement of working on such an historical project was an irresistible lure.

Plans were drawn up from scratch and soon engineers were digging a new sewer system to permanently funnel the library’s arch enemy, water, away from its foundation. Major restructuring of the walls was needed to provide the appropriate support for the foundation. Speaking of the work that faced them, Ben El Haj, stressed the importance of using original materials and techniques wherever possible. “When we restore we should bring it back like it was.” In keeping with that philosophy, local craftsmen were brought in to apply their time-honoured skills to detail work, evidenced by the handwrought copper chandelier in one of the library’s reading rooms.

Stairs were painstakingly reconstructed matching materials and colours against the original work. When the famous green roof tiles needed replacing they were removed one at a time and exchanged for exact replicas. Critical innovations were also made part of the restoration. A temperature-controlled room was constructed to house the Al-Qarawiyyin’s most priceless manuscripts. A specially constructed area in the basement was also built where the maintenance of the library’s more fragile pieces will be completed. The latest in high-tech preservation equipment has been installed, including facilities for digitizing ancient texts to minimize their handling.

Recently reopened to the public, the restorative labour of love has restored Al-Qarawiyyin to, as the narrator says, its deserving place as the “Jewel in the Crown of the Medina’s restoration.” As the video concludes, a smiling Bougchouf reflects on an ancient Moroccan proverb, “Man’s best friend is a book.”

ReadItsTrendy: French Embassy Launches Selfie Contest.

By Amira El Masaiti -March 27, 2017 Rabat

To inaugurate its new Instagram page and celebrate the opening of the Book Fair in Paris, where Morocco is this year’s guest of honor, the French embassy in Morocco launched a selfie contest to reinforce a culture of reading. The embassy is inviting Moroccans to take pictures of themselves reading a book they treasure. “The goal is to illustrate through this image a value that is associated with reading,” explained the embassy in a statement.  The pictures can be sent via the embassy’s Facebook account or on Instagram with the hashtag #lireCtendance.
On April 3, 20 photos will be selected and posted on the Instagram account of the French Embassy. The pictures that receive the most likes will be awarded prizes.
The person with the most liked picture will win a stay at the Minzah Hotel in Tangier from May 6 to 7 to attend the 21st Tangier International Book and Art Exhibition. Second place winner will be awarded a meeting with Leïla Slimani during her visit to Morocco in July and the third place winner will be invited to the residence of the French ambassador in Rabat to celebrate the French national holiday, July 14.

Pictures placing from 4th-10th will win a book of their choice from among the books being presented this year at the Paris Book Fair.
Several French and Moroccan authors have already participated in the competition. Leïla Slimani took a picture of herself reading Fatima Mernissi’s Dreams of Women. Director Hicham Lasri submitted a photo with Frank Miller’s book Big Damn Sin City, and French Poet Gaël Faye took a selfie reading one of his favorite books.

Transport and Housing Represent 59.8 of Morocco’s Energy Consumption.

By Amira El Masaiti -April 3, 2017 Rabat

A study published by the “Policy Center” of the Chérifien Phosphates Office (OPC POLICIESTER), shows that transport and housing were Morocco’s main energy consumers, using up to 59.8 percent of the total energy used in 2014. The study, titled “CO2 Emissions and Economic Growth in Morocco: Analysis of the Environmental Kuznets Curve,” revealed that transport accounted for 34.4 percent, while housing accounted for 25.4 percent of total energy consumption in 2014.

The study added that the industry sector accounted for 21 percent of the total energy consumed.The trade sector consumed 16.3 percent.
Morocco relies heavily on importing energy sources, particularly fossil fuels. This leads to unpredictable oil prices and weighs heavily on energy bills, which amounted to MAD 1.87 Billion in 2014.
However, the bill decreased by 9, 17 percent, equivalent to MAD 9.11 billion in 2016. According to the study, this decline was attributed to the decline in oil prices during 2014.
The same source pointed out that oil consumption remains the main source of CO2 emission in the country, with a ratio of 65.1 percent of the total CO2 emissions during 2014. This was followed by coal 30.4 percent  and natural gas 4.5 percent.

Morocco Web Awards Held in Casablanca

By Amira El Masaiti -April 3, 2017 Rabat

Before an audience of web enthusiasts, the 10th Annual Morocco Web Award was held at the Studio of the Living Arts of Casablanca, Sunday in Casablanca.
The Morocco Web Award rewarded the best of the web from bloggers and podcasters, to artists and starters on Sunday night at the Studio of the Living Arts in Casablanca.
Several moments marked the 10th annual program. In addition to the usual awards ceremony  that recognizes Moroccan talents for their achievements on the web, this year’s edition was also marked by a series of debates, meetings and training workshops. Sessions were held, dedicated to photography, storytelling, video creation and lifestyle blogging.
The Person of the Year Award was given to Chef Omar, the youngest culinary podcaster in Morocco. YouTuber of the Year was awarded to Anouar Ferhat, known for his humorous personality and videos. Hamza Haris won the Creative Trophy of the Year.

“Humans of Morocco,” shared pictures of Moroccan citizens captioned with their stories. It won three prizes, namely Best Facebook Page, Best Blog of the Year and Best Content Quality. The Best Webzine of the Year was awarded to Maany and “Saymonshop” received the award for the e-commerce platform category. The prize for the Event of the Year returned to “The Geek Week,” while Lbotola and Pygmalion were awarded the Best Mobile and Web Applications.

The organizers of the Morocco Web Awards also recognized the second episode of Hicham Lasri’s web-series, “Bissara Overdose.” It was named Video of the Year.
The Start-Up Trophy of the Year was won by student, ma and the award for Best Photographer was given to Ikram, a young woman who had impressed internet enthusiasts with her talent.
Article of the Year was awarded to Farah Achbabe for her piece “Voyage en Chine à Travers le Temps.”

Moroccan Intellectual Abdellah Laroui Wins Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Cultural Personality.

By Youssef Igrouane - April 6, 2017 Rabat

Moroccan historian and intellectual, Abdallah Laroui, has won “the Cultural Personality of the Year” as part of the 2016-1017 Sheikh Zayed Book Awards. The announcement was made on Wednesday. 
Laroui is set to receive his prize along with the winners in the other award categories. The  ceremony is scheduled to take place on April 30 at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
Ali Bin Tamim, Secretary-General of the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards, said in a statement that Laroui’s win is the result of him climbing to the top of the intellectual and cultural mobility extended from Morocco to the Levant. His influence has penetrated the walls of scientific universities, including the field of Arabic political thought.
The officials of the annual award view the book, entitled “The Modern Arabic Ideology,” as representing a new period for reading the modern Arabic culture and the situations of elites’ thought during this period. The book was originally published in 1967.

They also praise the importance of combining intellectual study with the novel’s work and translation of the works of Laroui that have spanned over 50 years.
“[Laroui’s works] explains that the author is tenacious in knowledge and ready to face the obstacles of updating,” the officials said.
The official also said that the works of Laroui are today invaluable material for Arab culture, noting that his works are running through intersected and multiple directions of an intellectual system consisting of basic theories toward the philosophical visions.

The award is designed to honor intellectuals, researchers and writers, who have made remarkable contributions and innovations in language, literature, social science and modern culture.

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