Morocco is open for business
By SALIM MANSUR, QMI AGENCY Last Updated: June 5, 2010
The massively towering Hassan II mosque in Casablanca sits on the edge of Africa, looking serenely across the waters to the new world beyond. This impressive architecture — as I watch from its terrace the sun sink into the Atlantic — stands for the newly confident Morocco as the westernmost anchor of Islam.
Here in Casablanca, the north and south, the west and east intersect in a burst of sound and colour that speaks for fusion rather than clash of civilizations.
I am surprised by the overflow of energy of some 6 million people in this city that by name will remain associated with Hollywood’s all-time favourite 1942 Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca. And Rick’s Cafe — the saloon made famous in the movie — which opened in 2004, a short walking distance from the grand mosque and a popular meeting place for Moroccans and tourists with a love for music and fine food.
Morocco, unlike its North African neighbours Algeria and Libya, has no petroleum or natural gas. Ironically the relative success of the Moroccan economy is related to this fact, making it Africa’s largest agricultural producer.
The country is open for business and eager for investment from abroad. The construction boom in Casablanca and Rabat, the capital, is indicative of the flow of offshore money into the economy.
Tourism is a huge part of the success story of Morocco. It reflects the openness of the people to foreigners and their instinctive understanding of how closely tied their well-being is with the world outside.
Morocco is a blend of the traditional and the modern. The relative success of the Moroccan economy and society — compared to the recent violent history of Islamist terrorism in Algeria or the repressive one-man demagogic rule of Libya’s strongman Moammar Gadhafi — is in part the story of monarchical rule providing for stability and tolerance in a country of mixed races, Arabs and Berbers.
It is this openness to the West, through Rabat’s strategic links with France, that Islamists connected with al-Qaida find intolerable or worse, an embrace of the infidels. The May 2003 bombings in Casablanca by al-Qaida associates were directed at undermining this fruitful relationship.
As an open society, Morocco is vulnerable to Islamist threats. But I find in my conversations with people here, limited though these may be, there is little support for the sort of politics in the Mashreq — the Arab east — that has politically retarded the Arab world despite its resources.
The future of any developing country in Africa or Asia is tied with the young and how the women and the minorities there are treated.
I sense Morocco can follow the example of post-war Japan where the monarchy’s role in transition from militarism to democracy under the guidance of the United States has been a grand success.
The role of monarchy here appears for all purposes to provide for guided transition to modernity, including democracy.
It also appears that the young and the women accept this role of their royal family without open resentment, and they are more or less content with an acceptance of modernity that does not demand a break with the past. This speaks well for Morocco’s future.
Internet and e-commerce industry in Morocco. June 4, 2010
It’s a long time, we have not considered African continent in terms of ICT development. So, today we’ve decided to explore Internet and e-commerce infrastructure of one of the African countries, Morocco located in North Africa, that’s known officially as the Kingdom of Morocco. Morocco, that represents the fourth most populous Arab country, after Egypt, Sudan and Algeria.Morocco, is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. It’s the world's third-largest producer of phosphorus and the price fluctuations of phosphates on the international market greatly influence Morocco's economy. Country's economy is considered a relatively liberal economy governed by the law of supply and demand. Since 1993, the country has followed a policy of privatization of certain economic sectors which used to be in the hands of the government.
As for the ICT field, the country revealed significant expansion as well. So, Morocco appeared to be the first country in the region to install a 3G network. Notably, national communications sector already accounts for half of all foreign direct investments Morocco received over the past five years.
The internet was first introduced in Morocco in 1995 by ONPT, that used to be a Moroccan state-owned-industrial and economic institution. The body was in charge of all communications and telecommunications matters of Morocco.
At present, the main telecommunication company in Morocco is Maroc Telecom (IAM). The company is large employing around 11,178 people. has 8 regional delegations with 220 offices present on all the territory of Morocco. IAM is listed in both Casablanca Stock exchange and Euronext Paris. It’s controlled by Vivendi which has a 53% share of its capital.
IAM provides Internet connection across the country via its subsidiary company Menara, a principal Internet service provider in Morocco. The service started as a test in 2002 before it was launched in 2003. The company offers the following options:
Since 2006, Maroc Telecom has been delivering Internet television package via the ADSL line, that appeared to be the first of its kind in Africa and the Middle East.
The other large national ISP is Méditel, headquartered in Casablanca. Meditel represents a multi service operator that delivers all kinds of consumer and business solutions using various technologies including GSM (900 MHz), WIMAX, GPRS. Besides, the company was among the first operators in the world to offer HSDPA mobile 3G+ internet solutions. The company has been ranked the 12th largest company in Morocco and employs close to 1000 people directly and more than 12 000 indirectly.
Méditel is now offering 3G in 3 different options:
By the way, Maroc Telecom also offers 3G in the same different speeds and almost the same prices.
The third largest telecommunication company in Morocco is Wana. It appeared to be one of the early Internet service providers in Morocco. It started marketing its internet services representing the brand Wanadoo, that later was converted to Wana. Initially a subsidiary of France Telecom, the company is now controlled by the Moroccan conglomerate ONA, with Zain of Kuwait holding about 30% of equity.
The other popular ISPs are listed below, according to www.ostamyy.com:
• MTDS –represents a full service value-added Internet Service Provider licensed by the Moroccan Telecommunications Regulator the ANRT and operating in Morocco since 1993. MTDS is a technology solutions provider to individuals, businesses and institutions in Morocco and the developing world. The company’s offerings span network infrastructure and design, Internet access and engineering services, and development consulting.
• MAGHREBNET – an ISP that was originally formed to address the growing needs of consumers who wished to gain access to the Internet but who could not identify an appropriate ISP. Currently the company delivers a full range of services to include not only Internet access, but also LAN design, cabling, Network Security, LAN equipment, Wireless LAN, Telephony, VoIP, VoWiFi, Network support services, and premise access control.
• SIS Consultants
Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Morocco is .ma, administered by Maroc Telecom. A local registrar with a local Moroccan company as administrative contact is needed to register an .ma or .co.ma domain name. Further restrictions are imposed on the registering of other second-level domains.
The second-level domains available are:
As for the Internet penetration growth, it has made up enormous 10,343 % surge. So, by now the volume of subscribers in Morocco has reached 33%, with almost 10,500,000 people connected. That may be compared to 0.3 % seen in 2000 or 3% - in 2006. Actually, Morocco is amid region leaders in terms of Internet usage, occupying the third position among Africa Top 10 Internet countries.
Being an emerging market at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, with imports making up $11 billion in products each year, Morocco also succeeded in developing of different types of e-commerce and offshore businesses. Moreover, its obvious that the e-commerce commitments could promote establish Morocco as a leader in Middle East and North Africa for the further development of electronic commerce.
One of the factors that explain the dynamism of e-commerce in the Kingdom is the strengthening of legal measures dedicated to the protection of personal data under law 09-08, which aims to protect physical persons in the processing of personal data. This bill, passed in January 2009, means that internet users in Morocco can be protected against the abuse of data which could affect their privacy, and brings Moroccan legal provisions in line with those of the EU.
As for the purchasing online, it’s known that over 3 million Moroccans who hold a bank card are now able to use them for buying via the web, mostly owing to technical initiative by the Centre Monétique Interbancaire (CMI).
Whilst the CMI is offering the platform as payment recipient, provision of the electronic payment terminal will be the responsibility of Maroc Télécommerce, the only e-commerce operator currently in the market, whose governing body is essentially made up of banks.
The other companies in the country have joined the new system, such as technology vendor "Microchoix.ma" and online shoe shop "Auderby.ma".
Meantime many businesses are also currently preparing to deploy online payment modules on their sales sites.
Interestingly, a new offshore site at Casablanca, with state-of-the-art technologies and other incentives, has grabbed the attention of many global multinationals. Setting up offshore service centers in the nation has become attractive. Such is the rate of growth, that off-shoring and IT activities are estimated to contribute $500 million to the country’s GDP and employ 30,000 people by 2015.
The year 2009 showed a strong growth in e-commerce sector. The first half of 2009 was also marked by the launch of three major online improvements for Moroccan consumers. The first is an online payment website, run by Maroc Telecom, enabling customers to pay their landline, mobile, and internet bills. The second is a similar site run by Moroccan water supply company Lydec, allowing users to pay their water and electricity charges online. Finally, in the public sector, the Kingdom's General Treasury (TGR) offered citizens the option to pay their taxes online.
Having succeeded in economic development, that let the country to be among the leaders in the region, Morocco has also showed good signs of Internet technologies progress. And, of course, prosperous Internet and related services market has determines success in e-commerce deployment. Fortunately, Morocco is not to stop its advancement, attracting more and more partners and investors.
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By David Morgan Thursday, 03 June 2010
In November 2009 Morocco announced it will install 2 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020. Morocco has launched one of the world’s largest solar energy projects costing an estimated $9 billion. The aim of the project is to generate 2,000 megawatts of solar generation capacity by the year 2020. Five solar power stations are to be constructed.
"Morocco is open to all forms of partnership as long as the foreign firms have the capabilities to bring expertise, technology and know-how. We are looking for public-private as well as national-and-foreign partnerships," the country’s Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra has said.
According to Morocco’s national electricity utility, the project could use photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies that will cover 10,000 hectares in Ouarzazate, Ain Bni Mathar, Foum Al Oued, Boujdour and Sebkhat Tah.
The first plant will be commissioned in 2015, and the entire project in 2019. Once completed, the solar project will provide 18% of Morocco’s annual electricity generation.
The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private venture, has been established to lead the project. MASEN has invited expressions of interest in the design, construction, operation, maintenance and financing of the first of the five planned solar power stations, the 500-megawatt plant in the southern town of Ouarzazate. Details of this project, whose submission deadline closes on 24 May, can be found at the link below.
When finished in 2020, the five solar plants will account for 38% of Morocco’s total installed power-generation capacity, while covering 20% of its total electricity requirements.
Morocco, the only North African country to have a power cable link to Europe, aims to benefit from the €400bn ($573.8bn) expected to come from the ambitious pan-continental Desertec Industrial Initiative.
It was in July last year that a group of a dozen mainly German companies, including major renewable energy players such as E.ON, Siemens and RWE, launched their vision for Desertec.
The Desertec project envisages the construction of an ambitious network of wind farms, PV parks, and concentrating solar power projects, to be built across North Africa capable of providing 15% of Europe Union’s electricity requirements.
Under the plans, a chain of solar farms in the Gulf and North Africa would be linked to hydro-electric plants in Scandinavia and the European Alps, onshore and offshore wind farms in the Baltic and North Sea, along with marine energy and biomass power facilities.
How will the project work? The initiative will create vast fields of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants – arrays of mirrors which focus the sun's energy to turn water into steam that will drive electrical turbines. The power will then flow through a network of low loss transmission cables to pipe electricity into the existing European grid, via Spain.
The Desertec plan is supported by a consortium of European governments, non-governmental organisations and industrial corporations. The aim is to provide 15% or more of Europe and the Middle East’s electricity needs with solar power by 2050.
A map of Desertec’s plan shows a chain of solar power plants throughout the Arabian Gulf linked by the supergrid to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa and into southern Europe. A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers also argued that Europe and North Africa could achieve “complete independence” from fossil fuels by 2050 and that all the technologies necessary are already in place.
Egypt's first modern solar thermal large-scale facility is almost complete with Germany's Solar Millennium on track to complete the 150 megawatt solar thermal plant which is seen as a template for the series of solar farms that form part of the Desertec project.
Saudi Arabia is at present considering participating in the project, according to industry reports.
Morocco is expected to be the site of further pilot schemes - a natural choice as the country is connected to Spain by a sub-sea electricity cable.
The Desertec initiative, which includes Munich Re, E.ON, Siemens and others alongside the non-profit Desertec Foundation, was launched in Germany in 2009. Dr Gerhard Knies, Chairman of the foundation’s supervisory board, pointed out: “Within six hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year.”
The Desertec initiative has given itself three years to set up a policy framework within the EU and the Middle East and North Africa to adequately fund and transport renewable energy from the desert to Europe.
The sheer scale of the Desertec plan illustrates that the world is waking up to the fact that the Middle East has the potential to become one of the foremost producers of renewable energy.
The task is already underway with Abu Dhabi being home to the Masdar project – the world’s first carbon neutral city – and the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency which is considering projects to produce solar and wind energy in the UAE and the rest of the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia is also planning to become a solar energy exporter and is building its first solar powered desalination plant. Qatar is in serious talks with investors to build a $1 billion solar power project. Solar projects are also at various stages of planning and implementation in Oman, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
Jordan is looking to produce 7 per cent of its energy requirements through renewable sources by 2015; Abu Dhabi 7 per cent by 2020, and Kuwait 5 per cent by 2020. Egypt announced a goal of 20 percent renewable power by 2020, though less than two percent would come from solar energy.
The concept behind Desertec is the achievement of a sustainable supply of electricity for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa up to the year 2050. It shows that a transition to competitive, secure and compatible supply is possible using renewable energy sources and efficiency gains, with fossil fuels as backup for balancing power.
Close cooperation between the EU and MENA for market introduction of renewable energy and interconnection of electricity grids by high-voltage direct-current transmission is the key to securing future energy supplies.
Global Arab Network
For details of Morocco’s solar energy plans contact MASEN. This report appears in Arab-British Business, the fortnightly bulletin of the ABCC.
Women essential to Maghreb 'green' initiatives
2010-05-31 By Jamel Arfaoui
Women have a pivotal role in managing family, personal and social consumption to benefit the environment, according to researchers who met last week in Tunis.
Women in the Maghreb can help "green" their countries through their choices about household consumption, said participants in a Friday (May 28th) meeting in Tunis.
Participants discussed the role of women in developing consumption habits that boost sustainable development and the environment, and reviewed research from field sites such as Tunis and Cairo.
"Women have an important role in preserving the environment through their control of family purchases", Centre for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR) chairperson Soukaina Bouraoui told participants.
For her part, the executive director of the North-South Consultants Exchange, Zohra Mrabet, said her research showed only a low level of awareness in Egyptian society about sustainable development and consumption.
Nevertheless, she told Magharebia that "women have a pivotal role in managing family, personal and social consumption".
Tunisian Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development Nedhir Hamada, speaking at the event's opening, said women play a role in consolidating society's "sustainable production and consumption methods".
Hamada praised rural women "who, in spite of sometimes difficult natural circumstances … contribute to the implementation of national programmes, such as resisting desertification through the rational use of wood for cooking".
Smoking Rate Down 1.5% Among Students in Last Three Years (Minister)
Skhirat - Smoking rate among students fell by 1.5% during the last three years in the cities of Fez, Marrakech, Meknès and Rabat, thanks to the efforts made in the framework of the anti-tobacco national campaign, Health Minister Yasmina Baddou said on Monday.
The rate dropped by 3 % among teachers in these cities, the minister said at a representation of the results of the anti-tobacco national campaign in a ceremony chaired by HRH Princess Lalla Salma, Chairwoman of the Lalla Salma Association for the Fight against Cancer (ALCS) and goodwill ambassador of the World Health Organisation.
According to a study conducted in the framework of the national plan for cancer prevention and control in 2008, smoking rate reached 16% in Morocco, Baddou said.
The Health ministry implemented in partnership with Lalla Salma Association for the Fight against Cancer (ALCS) a strategy aiming at conducting awareness campaigns in hospitals and schools to fight tobacco.
For his part, Jawad Mahjoub, representative of the World health Organization, who presented the 2009 World anti-tobacco Report results, said that smoking kills 5 million people per year, adding that this number will reach 10 million by 2010.
One third of the world population smokes and smoking causes almost 90% of lung cancer deaths, he added.
The ceremony was marked by the presentation of the national results of the anti-tobacco efforts, the 2009 World anti-tobacco Report and the methodological approach of anti-tobacco patterns.