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Morocco Week in Review 
October 20, 2012

U.S., Morocco Launch Strategic Partnership - Tackle Growth, Reforms, Terrorism, Syria
16 October 2012 Washington, DC

Joint Communique reiterates US support for reinvigorated Maghreb Union, Morocco autonomy plan on Western Sahara, democratic reforms, job creation, security and stability in region. Morocco and the US have announced a wide range of areas for bilateral cooperation -- including ongoing democratic reforms, economic growth and jobs, women's empowerment and human rights, interfaith tolerance, countering terrorism, and ending the violence in Syria -- in their recently launched Morocco-US Strategic Dialogue.

This new partnership agreement is the result of more than a decade of focused, comprehensive leadership and cooperation by King Mohammed VI with three US Administrations to strengthen Morocco-US relations and implement the two countries' shared vision for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Last year, when citizens of Morocco called for change, Moroccan society, under King Mohammed VI, answered with major constitutional reforms, followed by early elections and expanded authorities for parliament," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday.

US recognition for Morocco's leadership and reforms also came last month during the launch of the Morocco-US Strategic Dialogue, one of less than two dozen such agreements in existence, and the only one in North Africa. Secretary Clinton said that the US "looks to Morocco to be a leader and a model."

In the joint statement issued by the two countries Friday, Morocco and US leaders agreed "to advance policies and programs" across a range of issues and shared interests, including ongoing democratic reforms, economic growth and jobs, interfaith tolerance, women's empowerment and human rights, security against a growing terrorist threat, and addressing regional crises in the Sahel, Syria, and elsewhere.

Both reiterated their commitment to find a peaceful, sustainable, mutually agreed-upon solution for the Western Sahara conflict and that Morocco's autonomy plan -- supported by three US Administrations and bipartisan majorities of the US House and Senate -- is a serious, realistic, and credible solution.

Both countries also emphasized their "commitment to the special and longstanding relationship between the US and Kingdom of Morocco, the first nation to recognize the independence of the US in 1777."

"This new strategic relationship elevates and strengthens America's already long history of close cooperation with Morocco," said Edward M. Gabriel, former US Ambassador to Morocco. "It also helps establish a new anchor for US efforts to ensure the vision both nations share for the future of the region prevails against those who would undermine it through extremist violence and intolerant world views."

Leaders from the two nations will meet regularly in working groups to discuss political, security, economic, and education and cultural affairs, and hold an annual high-level meeting alternately in Rabat and Washington, DC.
** For the complete text of the joint statement on the first Morocco-US Strategic Dialogue, go to:

**For answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Morocco-US Strategic Dialogue, go to:

More than 3 million people to benefit from microloans by 2020
Posted by News Desk on October 15, 2012

Morocco, which is already a regional leader in microcredit, is poised to develop its strategy in the sector, the aim being to increase the number of beneficiaries to 3.2 million people and to create some 2 million part time jobs by 2020. The announcement was made last week on the sidelines of the international conference on microfinance held in Skhirate, near capital city Rabat, by the national federation of microcredit associations (FNAM), which gathers 13 associations.

The main purpose of this strategy is to fight poverty, said the FNAM president Tariq Sijilmassi, who disclosed that over the past 20 years, more than 4.5 million people have been granted microloans and were thus allowed to create an income-generating activity. He said that even if Morocco holds the first rank in the region in microloans matters, it is still lagging behind compared to similar economies such as Bolivia or Peru.
Morocco seeks to multiply the amounts served in 2011 (5 billion Dirhams) by 5 folds to reach 25 billion Dirhams by 2020, i.e. 1.8 percent of the GDP compared to 0.6 percent of GDP currently, said Tariq Sijilmassi, who operates in the sector through the Ardi Foundation, a microcredit association affiliated to Crédit Agricole Bank.

To fulfil these goals, the sector will expand its coverage to 3.2 million beneficiaries by 2020 compared to 900,000 people at present as it will expand the network of microloan agencies from the current 1300 agencies to 1976. However, the main challenge facing up the sector remains funding, as the achievement of this ambitious project will require not less than 40 billion Dirhams over the next ten years.
The FNAM president seems however optimistic and believes that the amount will be collected thanks to national and international donors. The Moroccan junior minister of budget, Driss Azami, on his part promised that the strategy will be accompanied by a set of tax exemptions and incentives to both microcredit agencies and beneficiaries.

“Morocco without Plastic Bags” campaign launched
Posted by Sabah Lebbar on October 10, 2012

A nationwide awareness campaign to the danger of plastic bags on the environment and the need to use other alternatives was launched this week, under the motto “Morocco without plastic bags.” The campaign, sponsored by a local association, “Mawarid”, seeks to foster public awareness as to of the danger posed by non-biodegradable plastic bags to the environment and to promote among retailers and consumers environment friendly sustainable alternatives.

The campaign, which also seeks to enhance the involvement of the civil society in promoting a ban on plastic bags, features ads, debates and films on public TV channels, lectures in schools combined with screening of entertaining and educational films, as well as the distribution of green bags in municipal markets and rural souks in cooperation with women’s cooperatives which make these bags. More than 1000 environment friendly bags labelled fairtrade will be distributed, according to the organizers. Part of the campaign, training workshops for tradesmen will be held in Marrakesh, Agadir and Casablanca, the organizers said.

A bill on the use of degradable and biodegradable plastic bags was adopted in June 2010 and came into force about a year later, the aim being to reduce the consumption of plastic bags in Morocco, the second biggest user of plastic bags in the world.

According to 2011 data, the number of bags used annually in Morocco is estimated at 3 billion, while the average consumption of plastic bags per capita amounted to 11.7 kg per year. With these results, Morocco is the second largest consumer in the world, after the United States with 380 billion bags per year. France and Algeria use respectively 17 billion and 6 billion plastic bags per year, according to the same statistics.
On average, plastic bags are used for 12 minutes, but they take between 100 and 400 years to be degraded.
An earlier ministerial decree issued in September 2009 had banned the manufacturing and use of black plastic bags that were littering streets, countrysides and beaches across Morocco. The decree imposed mandatory standards (thickness and quality of the plastic used, impact on food, recycling etc.) that had to be respected by producers or importers of plastic bags.

The new 2011 law prohibiting the manufacturing for the local market of plastic bags that are not degradable was not welcomed by the manufacturers who argued that changing their manufacturing process to make degradable and bio-degradable bags would require huge investments. To comply with the law, a manufacturer will need between 500,000 and 1.3 million Dirhams, the industrialists said.

The consequence of violating the law can however result in fines ranging between 10,000 and 500,000 DH.
The issue of the type of packaging, paper or plastic, remains controversial. Indeed, according to some studies the making of a plastic bag uses 18 percent less energy or less than 3 percent of the amount of water used to manufacture a paper bag. The pro-plastic argue that plastic bags generate 80 percent less waste than paper bags while recycling requires 91 percent less energy.

Even in other countries and cities that have already implemented a ban on plastic bags in retail and grocery stores, there are a myriad of pros and cons. Some support it, claiming that it will change the environment considerably, while others feel that it is simply another way to impose additional taxes on consumers. The debate remains open.

24 babies per day ‘abandoned’ in Morocco
By Simon Martelli (AFP) – 6 days ago  CASABLANCA, Morocco

Morocco is seeing an alarming rise in the number of babies abandoned by single mothers, activists said on Saturday, blaming social prejudice and outdated legislation for the problem. “According to the information we have gathered, from people who take care of abandoned children born outside marriage, the numbers are getting much worse,” said Omar Kindi, organiser of a conference on violence and discrimination against single mothers and children.

The existing statistics were bad enough. According to a study carried out by Insaf, an NGO that supports women and children in distress, of which Kindi is the president, 27,200 young women gave birth outside marriage in 2009, with a total of 8,760 babies abandoned. That equates to 24 babies per day on average.

Morocco has witnessed a population boom and rapid urbanisation in recent decades, leading to ever-growing levels of interaction between single men and women in the country. Kindi and other activists argue that attitudes and legislation have failed to keep pace with social change, as starkly illustrated by Article 490 of the penal code according to which extra-marital sex is punishable by up to a year in jail. Doctors in public maternity hospitals may refuse to treat pregnant young women who are not married, Kindi said, even if they are victims of rape by their employers.

“One of the major problems ... is the total disengagement of the state,” Kindi said.

As well as changing the law, activists emphasise the need for sexual education in Morocco to avoid unwanted pregnancy, with more than 60 per cent of single mothers under 26 years old, according to Insaf, and many of them illiterate.

Moroccans Aspire to a Better Life, Report Finds
By Hassan Benmehdi, 18 October 2012 Casablanca

A new survey finds that half of Moroccans are unhappy with their lives and recommends areas needing reform. Morale among the Moroccan public was recently put under the microscope. Citizens' feelings of wellbeing and life satisfaction were the focus of a recent major field study led by the High Commission for Planning (HCP).

The results of the survey, which were published October 1st, revealed that a third of Moroccans were "satisfied or very satisfied" with their lives and that just under a quarter were "fairly" satisfied, while 46% declared themselves to be "dissatisfied".

Sociologist Kenza Attouzani told Magharebia that the results prove once again that Moroccans aspire to a better life, saying the report "shows quite simply that half of the population still lacks the conditions needed for an honourable life, most notably healthcare, transport, employment, sanitation, housing and education. These are key priorities which, when they are not met, make life irredeemably unbearable for human beings."

Ahmed Lamine, a lawyer and human rights campaigner, said one only has to read the results to see the urgent need to guarantee Moroccans the right to life. "And I'm talking about life, not just survival," he added.

The survey also found that half of Moroccans remain dissatisfied with housing. Where incomes were concerned, 64% of the population overall felt dissatisfied, with the figure rising to 74% among rural populations.

The report also looked at employment, revealing that just over half of the working population was not satisfied with their work, with more than 70% declaring their total dissatisfaction with healthcare and more than 55% dissatisfied with the education system.

Ahmed Lahlimi, the High Commissioner for Planning, explained that Moroccans have highlighted three areas of life, which are central to their wellbeing, namely material satisfaction, which includes housing and income, social satisfaction, which includes employment, and healthcare and education.

The survey covered a sample of 3,200 people aged 15 years and upwards, 2,080 of them living in urban areas. It was conducted from January 30th to February 20th this year.

Lahlimi said that at the end of the day, measuring wellbeing according to the level of satisfaction among the population was a scientific way of periodically assessing the effectiveness of public policy. "If we have 50 of Moroccans who are dissatisfied with their lives, then that demonstrates the failure of a whole political system which is still incapable of guaranteeing citizens their minimum needs for a decent life," commented Adel El Jalidi from the youth section of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP). He added "Benkirane's government will need to take a serious look at the findings of this survey".

In Morocco, women victims of domestic violence find solace in shrines.
Sunday, 07 October 2012 By Manal Wehbi Rabat

Women victims of domestic violence in Morocco are taking refuge in the shrines of their saints in search for miracles to heal the scars of their psychological wounds.

According to human rights reports, family violence accounts for 74 percent of all types of violence against women in Morocco, in clear violation to women’s rights and their physical safety.
Physical violence, including beating, slapping and enchaining lead women to develop traumas and psychological instability. Lacking proper counseling, they walk the footsteps of their ancestors by going to shrines in search for solace.

Raqiya, 40, decided to visit the grave of “Moulay Abdullah bin Hassoun” in Sale, a city near the capital Rabat, in search for healing and guidance to her husband who she said enjoys torturing her physically refrains from fulfilling his duties towards her and her children.

Raqiya said she feels “spiritual serenity” whenever she visits the shrine of her saint. She cries, touching his grave and its cover, asking guidance for her husband to return to the path she sees as righteous. She described her husband’s violence as “unusual,” which explains why no earthy power was unable to change him, according to her. She claims he is “possessed by evil spirits.

Oum Kalthoum, another woman, said she finds “joy” when she visits the shrine of “Sidi Baliyout” in Casablanca. She praises his “good deeds in saving her from scrupulosity which affected her marital life,” and would have led to divorce without a “miracle” from this saint who she said answered her call for harmony between her and her husband, and achieving what psychiatrists failed to do in spite of her regular visits.
“I know that Sidi Baliyout is a mere human but one cannot neglect his good deeds and miracles as he is a saint,” she said.

Kareema al-Wodgheiry, sociologist, described the tradition of shrine-going as part of a journey for “soul-seeking.” She attributed women going to shrines to the spread of ignorance and illiteracy.

Morocco has one of the highest illiteracy rates in North Africa and the Middle East, reaching an estimated 56 percent among women and 31 percent among men.

Morocco digital divide persists
By Naoufel Cherkaoui 2012-10-12

A trailblazing report on the digital media landscape in Morocco shows that internet access remains unequal. Despite the government efforts to bridge Morocco's digital divide, discrepancies in access to information technologies remain in the kingdom, a recent report concluded.

"Internet access is still restricted to urban areas and educated categories in cities," according to the first-of-its-kind study released on October 2nd by the Open Society Foundations (OSF) in association the Institute of Graduate Management Studies (HEM) think tank.

Decision-makers are now aware of the digital divide and believe that full access to the digital world is the goal that the state has to realise, the New York-based NGO said at a Rabat seminar.

The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) launched the strategic programme "Digital Morocco 2013" to expand access to new information technologies. The government also worked to mainstream information technology in public education.

Still, "Morocco hasn't yet joined digitisation, given that there has been only partial migration to digital communication", according to the report. "Most households are not equipped to access content provided by digital media, while the state is still the only monopoly in terms of media ownership, controlling radio and television and their online platforms," the study concluded. "It also exercises significant influence on political party newspapers and has a legal and economic arsenal to control and manage the competition."

According to HEM Director Driss Ksikes, this is the first time the international organisation has prepared this kind of survey in Morocco. "The report and recommendations were submitted after one year of research by two Moroccan researchers, and two months after we organised a workshop attended by constitutional actors with the purpose of refining recommendations," he commented.

"The report is not in its final form; it's only a project that kicks off a new phase aimed at making the field of research a public benefit and a benefit in the framework of public policies," Ksikes added.

According to OSF Senior Manager Marius Dragomir, "the goal of this project is to measure the impact of digital media on some fields of concern to our foundation, such as public media, legislation and regulation". "All the reports we've prepared include a host of recommendations, and we consider the start of project to kick off with making these recommendations," he added. "We want to shed light on such recommendations in co-operation with our local partners."

The study addressed several aspects of the media, such as the consumption of the digital aspect of media; relation between digital media and society, press and technology; digital companies, policies, laws and control in this field in Morocco.

The recommendations included reconsidering the press code and cancelling prison sentences for press offences. It has become necessary to review the scope of work provided by legal frameworks in view of the huge amount of available information and unrestricted access to it, the study noted.

It also called for creating co-operation between the High Institute for Information and Communication and the High Authority for Audio-Visual Communication and all other national and international organisations with the aim of launching programmes for sharing experiences between Moroccan journalists and international experts.

The government needs to recognise the legitimacy of digital press and enable digital journalists to have access to financial resources and privileges that would facilitate their field work, the study concluded.

Morocco sees citrus output falling 25 pct in 2013
Mon Oct 8, 2012 RABAT Oct 8 (Reuters)

Morocco's citrus output is expected to fall by 25 percent this season due to bad weather, the agriculture ministry said on Monday, amid a global decline in production. At 1.5 million tonnes, the drop in the north African country's citrus production would "support export prices at the levels seen during the previous campaign, with an expected upward trend in December", the ministry said.

The export campaign usually starts in October and ends in July.

The ministry said tangerines and oranges production should fall by 24 percent and 27 percent to 675,000 and 763,000 tonnes respectively. Production of grapefruit, lemon and pomelo is expected to rise 38 percent to 62,000 tonnes.

Morocco is Africa's third-biggest citrus exporter after South Africa and Egypt. It exported 550,000 tonnes of oranges and over 100,000 tonnes of orange juice mostly to Europe last season. In July, the U.S. Agriculture Department said global citrus production dropped 7 percent from the previous year to 51.1 million tonnes. Morocco plans to raise citrus exports to 1.3 million tonnes by end-2018, or half its expected output. (Reporting by Souhail Karam)

Morocco archeological site eroded by ocean waves, threatened with collapse
Sunday, 07 October 2012  By Al Arabiya

One of Morocco’s most important archeological sites, the “Château de Mer” or Palace of the Sea, is threatened with collapse owing to a combination of natural and man-made conditions. The Palace of the Sea, also called in Arabic Qasr al-Bahr, is a fort on the Atlantic built in 1508 by the Portuguese in the city of Safi in Western Morocco. In 1924, the fort was the classified by the French occupation as Morocco’s first archeological site owing to its historic importance.

For five centuries, the castle has been exposed to ocean waves that kept eroding the stone cliff on which it was built. Now Qasr al-Bahr is in danger of collapse.

According to Abul Qassem al-Shibri, head of the Moroccan Portuguese Studies Center, erosion has surpassed the site in which the fort is located and extended to the main street and part of the old city. “When the tide in high, water spatters from a well in the fort’s courtyard and could travel for a distance of 20 meters,” he told Al Arabiya. “Even the iron barricades placed around the fort six meters away from that well keep shaking during this time.”

Shibri explained that the walls of the fort have been subjected to several restoration attempts, following the appearance of cracks as a result of the collapse of part of the northern tower. “However, the same cracks appear again which means that the fort is about to collapse. The cliff on which it was built can no longer stand the impact of the waves.”

Shibri attributes part of the current situation to the construction of the Safi Port pier in 1930. “Concrete barriers were built to redirect the waves in a way that allows the ship to set anchor smoothly. The waves then started beating against the cliff on which the fort is built.”

Another damage, he added, was done by the phosphate-loaded train that passes near the fort on its way to the industrial port. “The train causes tremors in the fort as well as in the old city next to it.”

Shibri stressed that the fort needs to be rescued before it is too late and explained that this requires a set of procedures. “The marine fishing port and the industrial pot need to be relocated to another place on the city shore so that the waves can go back to their normal direction. Concrete barriers also need to be built around the fort.”

Owing to the hefty cost of this project, Shibri suggested the construction of an amusement port in the place of the industrial port to generate an alternative income and promote tourism. “This will make up for the losses incurred by demolishing the old port and the cost of building the new one.”

Moroccan Minister of Culture Mohamed Amin al-Subeihi said that the decision to implement this project is not, like many believe, up to the Ministry of Culture. “This project involves the ministers of planning, industry, tourism, finance, municipalities, and others,” he told Al Arabiya. Other relevant bodies, he added, have to take part in preparing the necessary studies for the implementation of the project.

“We cannot afford to lose an invaluable historic site like this one,” he concluded.

Job Training Aids Moroccan Youths
By Siham Ali, 17 October 2012 Rabat

The Moroccan government plans to improve vocational education to meet the labour market's needs and boost employment prospects for young people. Morocco hopes that job training centres will better career opportunities for the young. Vocational training programmes witnessed a 19% increase in enrolment this year, bringing the total number of students to 390,000. The goal is to have one million graduates by 2016.

At a press conference (October 2nd), Employment and Vocational Training Minister Abdelouahed Souhail spoke of his desire to speed things up in order to address the needs of companies as well as those of young people.

For economist Mehdi Jenbouri, gaining ground in the professional world is just as crucial as increasing the number of job-trained graduates since many students have had a hard time finding work once they have their diploma in hand.

Official statistics show that 61% of the graduates successfully enter the workforce after nine months and 77% are employed after three years. For Jenbouri, the figures should improve as these professionally trained graduates should technically be operational as soon as they get their degree. He said these programmes should be in a position to deal with the companies' requirements and Morocco's economic development.

For Larbi Bencheikh, General Director for the Office of Vocational Training and Employment Promotion (OFPPT), the goal is to achieve quality by co-operating with the different economic entities, based on the actual needs determined by ministerial department studies.

Souhail admitted that there were problems to address, especially with the lack of support involving the sector strategy and the country's structuring projects as well as the response to the growing demand for job training programmes very popular with the younger crowd and businesses. He said that a plan was in place "to better establish the job training system in a professional setting and address the needs of socio-economic development".

Information and orientation sessions have been providing support for young people before they enter these programmes so they are able to choose the right career path. Supervision of private training institutions will be reinforced to ensure that private education meets the new requirements.

More and more young people turn to job training as a way to avoid unemployment. The only issue is finding a job. After getting her degree in business management, Fattouma Touizi needed over two years to get hired. "Looking for a job was pretty much a nightmare. I almost gave up," she told Magharebia. "But after two years, a company hired me and two years after working there, I got a promotion."

She admitted however that most of the time, graduates who have a difficult time finding work are the ones who do not have a good grasp of the French language. And since most interviews are conducted in French, even if the candidate is technically brilliant, they can't get the job, Touizi said.

Democracy in Morocco advancing slowly but surely:
PM October 09, 2012

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

HM the King Urges Stronger 'Sustainable Development' Dimension in IOF Action.

HM King Mohammed VI has called for strengthening the "sustainable development" dimension in the action of the International Organization of la Francophonie (IOF), and to put necessary instruments in this regard at its disposal to enable it to further, better participate in international relations redesigning process.

In a message to the 14th Summit of the heads of state and government of the Francophonie, read out, Saturday in Kinshasa, by foreign minister Saad Dine El Otmani, the Sovereign stressed that the members of the Orgnization need to "display innovation and creativity to develop within our Organization thought and action structures that would allow it to play the role that its founders set for it, namely to contribute to peace, diversity and development in the world."

Morocco strongly believes in the Organization's ability to adapt to the intensive changes and profound upheavals taking place in the world, and will spare no effort to work, both individually and collectively, with member countries to achieve that lofty goal, the Sovereign said.

Pointing out that the Kinshasa Summit is being held at a time when serious changes and deep crises are shaking some parts of the African continent, especially in Mali, HM the King said that as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Morocco is endeavouring towards devising a collective, concerted and pertinent action that would enable that country to restore its unity and stability within its legitimate boundaries and to lay the foundations of a permanent restoration of the institutional order, for the benfit of the Malian people.

In this connection, the Sovereign has called on the member states of the IOF to provide all necessary assistance to the UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, so that he can mobilize and coordinate international efforts for the effective implementation of the "UN Strategy for the Sahel", in this African area.

HM the King also noted that the painful case of Mali clearly illustrates the strong, dangerous interconnection between the various political, security, socio-economic, environmental, and cultural dimensions.

"The persisting economic and financial crisis, the uncertainty and the bleak prospects that characterize the global economy, the growing risks, the unacceptable unemployment rates, the magnitude of migratory flows and the devastating effects of climate change are all threats to stability in the world," the Sovereign warned.

Morocco University Excited Over First Wind-hydrogen System Installation
Joseph Mayton | October 16th, 2012

The installation by Sahara Wind at Al Akhawayn University, about 70 kilometers from Fes, consists of a wind farm with three turbines and is reportedly capable of generating green energy across the campus. The university said that the inaugural project aims to examine the issue of wind intermittency that leads to an excess power generation that could potentially be resolved.

The university also is aiming to research how excess energy can be stored. It noted that throughout the intial phase, they have witnessed periods when the turbines are forced to be turned off because they are generating too much power.

Abdullah said that researchers are hopeful that the project can bring about groundbreaking answers to what he described as “the only problem facing the clean energy sector.” He added that “if we can figure out a way to maintain energy levels, even store such energy properly, then there is no reason to think that clean energy and renewables cannot be the future for Morocco and the rest of the world.”

According to reports, Pure Energy Centre has been commissioned specifically for that purpose, to design and install a hydrogen energy storage system.

“The stored energy could then be reused at a later time, when no wind generation was available, through different hydrogen applications,” reported.

“We feel that coupling wind and hydrogen will play an important role in Africa’s future through a variety of applications involving the continent’s main industries,” said Khalid Benhamou of Sahara Wind in the same report discussing the potential for the new wind-hydrogen system.

“The applications are indeed numerous: they range from powering telecommunications networks and green mobility – to be developed in partnership with local telecom and automotive industries – and extend to water utilities and mine processing industries,” continued Benhamou. “The latter would use hydrogen and other electrolysis byproducts such as chlorine as feedstock.”

The government believes that alternative energy can be the future of the country and has set ambitious goals to have over 20 percent of its energy sources from renewables by the end of the decade. The question now, for environment experts like Abdullah and others in the country, is how to reach those demands. “This could very well be one of the most important projects yet for Morocco, so let’s keep a close eye on the progress that can be made,” he added.

New Programme for Female Moroccan Entrepreneurs
By Hassan Benmehdi, 11 October 2012 Casablanca

Morocco is launching a project to enhance the digital skills of small business owners. Morocco just initiated the "Infitah for Her" programme encouraging small businesses to use information technology. Female-owned small businesses constitute the base of the solidarity economy in Morocco. Many families live thanks to these mothers, widows and divorcées who undertake a number of small projects.

"Infitah for Her" is an integral part of the Infitah programme launched last May. The project's goal is to ensure the livelihood of these small women-owned businesses by giving them sufficient and adequate support.

Last September in Rabat, just outside the programme's launching ceremony, Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies Abdelkader Aâmara spoke to Magharebia about Infitah for Her, stating it was an ambitious programme intended exclusively for women entrepreneurs. "This programme incites these women to use digital technology as a way to modernise their business and create job opportunities," the minister said.

This new programme is the result of a partnership between the government and the National Agency for the Promotion of Small and Middle sized Enterprises (ANPME). Its goal is to have female-owned businesses utilise the Infitah programme to its full potential by specifically targeting women entrepreneurs, who then receive free training in information technology and eventually obtain a digital license that gives them access to the Infitah for Her package.

This preferential offer includes a laptop, a 12-month internet connection and a billing solution at a subsidised price - up to 30% of the initial package price. The digital license also entitles them to advantageous and preferential offers in terms of equipment and computer solutions as well as financing.

ANPME Director Latifa Chihabi said the 2,500 licenses delivered so far were impressive but the process must be sped up. "We are launching two other initiatives today: the 'Infitah for Her' as well as agreement signings with private telecom providers and training programmes," Chihabi added.

Since its launch back in May, the Infitah programme has welcomed over 2,700 businesses and hosted over 222 training sessions. The programme hopes to deliver 10,000 digital licenses by 2013. Training sessions will be handed out by private providers to business owners in order to increase the number of subscribers in a timely manner.

The government's financial support comes down to about 30% while most people involved ask for 50% for a better modernisation of the organisation.

Najat Zineddine, who enjoys the benefits of the Infitah programme, believes in its importance for the organisation of integrating new information technologies: "This gave me an opportunity to open up and introduce my food processing business to the market," she said.

In Morocco, companies managed by women make up 10% of the economic fabric. Fouad Benseddik, a member of the Social and Economic Board, said that a field study showed that Morocco could increase its gross domestic product by 30% if only female business owners would receive a better legal and economic protection.

EUR 100 million for technology parks
08/10/2012 03:06 The FINANCIAL

EIB provides €100 million for technology parks developed by MEDZ These will foster innovation and business competitiveness.

Innovation is key to ensuring the competitiveness of Moroccan businesses and their integration into the global economy. This insight has led MEDZ, a subsidiary of CDG Développement, to launch seven technology park projects across the length and breadth of the Kingdom of Morocco. As the European Investment Bank reported, these innovative facilities are designed to provide international standard infrastructure and services and foster the development and competitiveness of Moroccan companies by catering for their training and R&D needs.

To help finance its programme, MEDZ has obtained a €100 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The loan agreement was signed on 4 October 2012 at the Technopolis Park by the Head of Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion and Chairman of MEDZ’s Supervisory Board, Anass Houir Alami, and EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive.

This operation will be mounted in the framework of Morocco’s National Industrial Emergence Pact and will help to finance the construction of: Atlantic Free Zone in Kénitra. Haliopolis Park in Agadir. MidParc in Nouasser. Oujda Technopole. Technopolis Park in Rabat-Salé. Agropolis in Meknès. Agropole in Berkane.

These technology parks form knowledge and value added clusters thanks to the quality and range of the corporate services on offer: World-beating facilities. Competitive property services. Wide range of general and operational services, etc. One stop shop for administration. Integrated training and R&D, etc.

At the signing ceremony, Mr Anass Houir Alami said that: “MEDZ, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has seen its business steadily grow. It is contributing to a number of large-scale infrastructure projects furthering Morocco’s economic and social development. (…) MEDZ is now intent on turning its projects into centres of excellence and competitiveness, creating true drivers of regional development. (…) This loan is providing timely support for MEDZ’s ambitious programme of investing nearly 3 billion dirham in these seven technology parks. (…) The signing of this agreement is a pledge of confidence in the ability of MEDZ and the CDG group in general to carry out flagship infrastructure projects capable of providing sustained support for sectoral strategies and taking the economy forward (…).”

EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive welcomed the signing of the loan agreement with MEDZ, saying that: “This loan confirms the decisive catalytic role played by the EIB in the long-term financing of large-scale innovation projects. The synergies created between research, higher education and industry will spearhead development and economic competitiveness. What is more, they will provide a unique opportunity for young people”.

With 2012 marking 10 years of the EIB’s activity in the Mediterranean, the signing of this loan underscores the 35-year quality partnership between the EIB and Morocco, which has given rise to €4.7 billion worth of financing in key sectors such as energy, transport, water, small and medium-sized enterprises, urban infrastructure, industry and education.

In 2011, Morocco was one of the leading beneficiaries of EIB action, attracting €200 million of investment.

Since January 2012, the EIB has committed the record amount of over €450 million to practical projects directly promoting Morocco’s economic and social development.

The Reform of the King: Morocco's mysterious young monarch is promising a "third path" between democracy and tyranny. Is it a model for the Arab world -- or a myth?

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Morocco admits to police abuse, tarnishing model response to Arab Spring
By Ilhem Rachidi,  Correspondent / October 8, 2012

Morocco was lauded for its response to last year's democracy protests, but there have been regular accusations of abuse from detained protesters. Two weeks ago, the justice minister admitted it.

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Mars Meteorite: Tissint, Space Rock That Hit Moroccan Desert, To Be Auctioned Sunday.
10/14/2012 By: Wynne Parry, LiveScience Contributor
Published: 10/13/2012 10:53 AM EDT on LiveScience

On July 18, 2011, at 2 a.m. local time, nomads living in a desert valley in southern Morocco near the Algerian border reported seeing a fireball light up the sky followed by two sonic booms………..

Morocco seeks to be green energy leader: Morocco's driving to become the world's leading solar power state with a 7,400-acre pilot project in the Sahara Desert.
RABAT, Morocco, Oct. 10 (UPI)

Morocco is driving to become the world's leading solar power state, with a 7,400-acre pilot project in the Sahara Desert it hopes will lead to vast carbon-free solar energy plants that could supply much of Europe's electricity needs.....................

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Morocco, Beyond the Well-Known Destinations
October 10, 2012 | Posted by Stan

Although well travelled by tourists, Morocco remains a country where secret places abound. The desert is vast, as are the Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains and here, far from the cities and cultural centers, one can finds places removed from the camera-wielding crowds. Admittedly, many Berber desert towns are popular with tourists; they’re reached via the modern-day equivalent to the camel: the air-conditioned bus. But travellers equipped with their own four-wheel drive can move beyond the more traversed watering holes. The deep desert beckons.

The road that leads to the desert town of Erfoud passes through the Rif Mountains before descending towards Er-Rachidia, a former Foreign Legion outpost that sits on the edge of the desert plain. It passes through the gritty fossil-selling town of Midelt and then on to the remarkable Gorges du Ziz, the road spiralling down among abandoned  ksours (fortified Berber villages).

Erfoud has become something of a destination in recent years due to its proximity to the magnificent sand dunes of Merzouga. But it still feels like a frontier town, its economy based on fossilized trilobites and aquifers. From here, you can drive across the open desert to Rissani, a former slave market and now center of the huge oasis around it: the Tafilalet.

Rissani has a tumbledown market and scores of shops selling fossils and gems. Traders from the deep desert show up here, bringing pieces of meteors for sale. It’s an interesting stop for a night, but beyond it the roads peter out and a four wheel drive is necessary to reach the places that are even more remote.

There are two enigmatic mountains that reward the adventurous. One is Hmor Lgdad, “the red-cheeked one” in Arabic, and Jbel Issomour, a place famous for its prized trilobites, which are sold all over the world.

Insider Tip: It is very highly recommended that you only make the trip to Jbel Issomour with a guide. The easiest way to do this is to stop in Rissani and find a fossil seller or guide to take you…

5 free things to Casablanca, Morocco's bustling art-deco commercial capital
Published October 11, 2012 Associated Press

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Morocco’s Taroudant University Among 10 Most Beautiful Universities in the World
By Larbi Arbaoui and Loubna Flah Taroudant, October 18, 2012

Overlooking the rugged Atlas Mountains, the Polydisciplinar Faculty of Taroudant has  cast its magical quaint spell on the editors of the New Yorker Magazine Travel +Leisure. In its survey of the most beautiful universities in the world, the newly built Moroccan faculty was selected among the most beautifully designed universities in the world.

Surrounded by ancient ramparts archetypal of the Moroccan South, the newly built university ranks 9 th amid 17 international universities in the world, in a survey published by the American Magazine Travel + Leisure in its September Issue of the current year.

“It is quite normal that the School, established at the foot of the majestic Atlas Mountains like a jewel in a green ocean, is a source of pride for the education system in the south of the Kingdom” Omar Halli, the president of University of Ibn Zohr, told MAP.

Built in 2010, Taroudant Poly-disciplinary School was created with the aim of contributing to the development of the Souss-Massa-Draa Region by higher education, research and development open to the social and economic environment of the region, and reducing the social problems (transport, accommodation and meals) for graduates of the provinces of Taroudant and Tata.

The courses offered by the (FPT) prepare students in various disciplines including Science and Engineering, Economics and Management in addition to arts and Social Sciences.

The Poly-disciplinary school is open to baccalaureate holders with priority for students from Taroudant and Tata. It receives also students from the provinces of Ouarzazate and Zagora for disciplines that are not available in the poly-disciplinary School of Ouarzazate.

With only approximately thirty teacher-researchers and fourteen administrative and technical staff, the school (FPT) experienced, in two years, a very dynamic cultural and associative life marked by the holding of many scientific and cultural events.

Taroudant is situated in the Sous Valley in the Southern part of the country. It is located east of Agadir on the road to Ouarzazate and the Sahara desert and south of Marrakech.

In the sixteenth century the Saadians, used Taroudant as a capital, before they moved onwards to Marrakech.

Travel + Leisure concocted a list of the most distinguished campuses worldwide in terms of avant-garde architecture, historically relevant design and harmony with the environment.

The American magazine looks for atypical design shunning away from the traditional vision of campuses with large grassy fields and cobblestoned paths wind.

Aarhus University in Denmark ranks first with its 30-acre campus renowned by the discrepancy in the size and height of its buildings. Some are low-rise and square; others have pitched roofs and soaring glass windows.

Other universities were praised by the American Magazine for their original architecture namely Coimbra University in Portugal, McGill University in Canada and Peking University in China famous  for   its traditional Chinese architecture exemplified by its West Gate entryway displaying two  stone lions.

Another university from the Arab World deserved its place in Travel +Leisure selection. Qatar Foundation’s Education City  in  Doha is a showcase of works by today’s architecture icons like Mexico City–based architect Legoretta and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.

The Polydisiplinar Faculty of Taroudant opened its doors to new students in 2010. The faculty building is an amalgam between Southern traditional architecture and futuristic design.

Its structures feature Ryad gardens connected by polished cement walkways. The faculty is framed by grass and Argan trees, a special variety of trees endemic to Southwest Morocco and the Western Mediterranean region.

Travel + Leisure  is a monthly travel magazine based in  New York. It is owned by by American Express Publishing Corporation that publishes also Food & Wine,  Family, and  Departures magazines.

The Innocence of Moroccans
Mourad El Hanafi Morocco World News Ouajda, Morocco, October 19, 2012

The beholder to Moroccan society may firstly assume that we are modern and fashionable, judging us by the fact that we somehow keep up with the advances in sciences and technology and so on. But the one who stands to scrutinize our society and draw its face as it is, he/she will recognize that numerous Moroccan mentalities naively belong to medieval or even stone age. What makes them so is that they bow to witches and jugglers ( fake fqihs or shrefs). So, resorting to superstition only bespeaks their crisp hearts and ruined mentalities, for they prefer to live behind drapes more than to get out and to stoically face the reality. This is one of the defeats  that some Moroccans, let’s not generalize, can’t admit, since such operations go in definite secretiveness- more so circumspectly about the scandal that would be engendered if the matter is disclosed at any time. It seems as a job of smuggling spiritual medicines in which masses appear as immigration officers on the frontier…………..

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Think Again, Moroccan Cuisine Is Worth the Trip
10/12/2012 By Jeff Koehler

While it is often easy to oversimplify the unknown, or at least the unfamiliar -- a place, a cuisine, not to mention a culture -- the real pleasure in travel or eating comes from discovering the unexpected and exploring the complexities and contradictions that we unfailingly encounter. When we scratch beneath the obvious and accessible, those polished but rarely three-dimensional surfaces found in glossy magazines or mid-century travel books, we find the essential elements that profoundly inform on the place. We need to sift a bit through the layers to find its truer essence.

Like any number of countries and their magnificent kitchens -- Turkey, Mexico and even Spain spring to mind -- Morocco frequently suffers a simplified fate, considered by many to consist of a largely homogeneous landscape and handful of familiar (though generally misunderstood) dishes.

As elsewhere, the food of Morocco begins with the landscape, and the country's geography is far richer and more diverse than most people imagine. The image of this North African country as a parched place with fortified earthen villages and oases of date palms is not wrong, just incomplete.

In a way, Morocco is an island, surrounded largely by water (the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean) and scrub (the pre-Sahara and Sahara). But within those ample confines, a wide variety of climates and features exists: four mountain ranges, river gorges, mesas, forests with cedars and cork oak, scrubby plains, olive groves (Morocco is the world's second largest exporter of table olives) and vineyards. It has valleys with fruit orchards, meadows with wild flowers, farms producing excellent fresh goat cheeses, and, off its southern coastline, some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.

I have been traveling to Morocco for 15 years, but work on my recently-published cookbook, " Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes," took me to its many nooks and rural souqs. Although one can talk about a unified "Moroccan cuisine" with a common range of flavors and dishes found across the country, I was trying to get a sense of the regional differences. The more I traveled around Morocco in that search, the more impressed I became by the sheer diversity of the physical landscape and what it produces.

Driving through the Middle Atlas one day among fields of ripening barley with red-petaled flowers rising exuberantly among the silvery-green stalks, the pavement gave way to a gradually-worsening dirt track crossed with streams and strewn with boulders, the kind of chassis-thumping route best navigated in a 4x4 -- or at least a rental car.

Many roads appear grander on Michelin's map #742 of Morocco than they are in reality, and this one was no exception. But I was rewarded by entering a valley splendid with cherry trees. A couple of white vans were parked here and there in the shade and extended families were quietly harvesting fruit from their own trees.

I backtracked to the Berber town of Azrou, where I managed to arrive in time for a late lunch at the Hôtel Panoramic, a stout Protectorate-era place opened in 1928. Trout farmed in a nearby river were a specialty and prepared in a handful of manners, including the way that I eventually included in my book: Stuffed with grated carrots, fresh bay leaves, and a generous grating of black pepper, the trout--netted that morning--were quickly pan fried. In the empty dining room, cool and dim under the high ceiling, the floors polished, the massive fireplace in the lobby not yet lit, the earthy flavors of the countryside--precisely this countryside, from the hills rising around the hotel--were fine rewards for my effort.

For all the lamb tagines, grilled chicken skewers, and vegetable-laden couscous I ate on my journeys, some of my most memorable moments working on the book were discovering such unexpected fare as these stuffed mountain trout.

Related: How to sort out safe from sorry when foraging for mushrooms

Another revelation was mushrooms. The High Atlas mountains, stretching some 450 miles northeast from coastal Agadir toward Algeria and rising to nearly 14,000 feet, are dramatic and foreboding, though quite barren; the Anti-Atlas range, to their south , are largely barren and rock strewn. But the Rif Mountains in the far north are damp, fecund, and home to dozens of varieties of edible wild mushrooms. In the hills not far from the isolated, blue-hued town of Chefchouen on a drizzly day, one of the last of the year, my wife, two girls, and I hunted for chanterelles and cèpes. (There were truffles, too, one of our local guides said, pointing to a nearby hill. "But those are for export.") We returned to a rural auberge and had the spoils of our morning hunt prepared in the most divine and herb-laden omelets I have ever tasted.

Related: Moroccan food beyond the couscous

Even more unexpected were oysters. South, down the Atlantic from Casablanca, the coastline becomes largely inaccessible, wild, and windswept, and the road meanders past rocky cliffs, great sweeps of undeveloped beach misty from the crashing surf, and a few fortified fishing villages where seagulls wheel above ancient ramparts and brightly painted sardine boats. One stop along here is the village of Oualidia, whose specialty is oysters. Just as I had not expected to feast on local trout in the Middle Atlas or wild mushrooms in the Rif, devouring a dozen Japanese oysters on the half-shell while looking out over the lagoon where they had just been harvested came as another stunning treat.

Morocco's rich, complex history -- from the ancient Berbers to the Phoenicians and Romans, the Arabs, Muslim and Jewish exiles from Andalucía, trans-Saharan caravans, French and Spanish colonial rulers -- has offered cooks plenty of inspiration. After driving thousands of backroad miles over the course of more than a year's worth of near-monthly trips to Morocco, it was clear that, just as important, the country's vast and varied landscape gave them the raw materials they needed to develop one of the world's richest cuisines.

Related: Turkish Organics Not Just for Export Anymore

For the traveler to Morocco -- or Turkey, Mexico, or Spain -- pleasure lies in the unknown and the unexpected, in those tasty surprises that may be just around the next corner. The key is to get off the main road and keep pushing ahead to find them. Satisfaction, of course, goes beyond a delicious meal. It helps in understanding the land as well as the people. I found that learning about Morocco's food was to learn about its culture -- and it was this idea that spurred me on, corner after corner.

These postings are provided without permission of the copyright owner for purposes of criticism, comment, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and it may not be distributed further without permission of the identified copyright owner.  The poster does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the message, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

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