Saturday, May 14, 2011

Moroccan News Briefs

Morocco's Solar Energy Moves

Morocco has a well developed interest in alternative energy sources. To date most of the developments have been with wind technology but now the attention is turning to the solar field. QSolar Limited, a manufacturer of solar photovoltaic, or PV, panels, has shipped a sample quantity of 56 x 230W panels to Morocco to fulfil the demonstration phase for three projects totaling 37MW which is contemplated under letters of intent with Solwin Maroc Sarl, the Moroccan branch of Allied Solwin Limited UK.

Allied Solwin is a UK based renewable energy consulting company representing investors and customers seeking solar power projects. The three Moroccan solar energy projects are installations of 1MW, 6MW and 30MW for a total value of US$51.21 million. The demonstration phase is the final step in a sales cycle that when successfully completed will lead to purchase orders for the contracted solar panels.

Andreas Tapakoudes, President and CEO of QSolar, commented "this shipment of demonstration panels marks QSolar's entry into the African market. Africa represents a growth market for the Company as most African countries face a significant need for electricity, do not have a reliable electricity grid supply network and in many remote areas do not have any means of electricity at all. The advantages of QSolar's innovative Spraytek79 solar panels can assist with many of the power issues faced by African markets."

More Solar News

Morocco will export solar electricity to France next fall, which is the first experiment to transport energy from the south to the north of the Mediterranean, announced on Wednesday in Monaco French Industry, Energy and Digital Economy Minister Eric Besson.
"France and Morocco will launch in autumn 2011 the first experiment of solar electricity from south to north of the Mediterranean," Besson told the opening of the 2nd Euro-Mediterranean Energy Efficiency Forum in the presence Prince Albert II, Sovereign of Monaco.

Stressing that electricity demand will increase by 6% per year by 2025 in southern and eastern Mediterranean, he called the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) to lead the “revolution” of the zero-carbon based economy to ensure sustainable growth in these countries.

To achieve this, the Minister proposed the development of a “Euro-Mediterranean energy pact”, which he will formally submit next May 20 to the UfM General Secretariat.

Morocco and the GCC

The Gulf Cooperation Council may admit Jordan and Morocco, two Arab monarchies, into the six- member group that has held out against pro-democracy movements sweeping across the Middle East.

The GCC "welcomed the request by Jordan to join the group," Secretary-General Abdel Latif al-Zayyani told a press conference in Riyadh. The GCC has also invited Morocco's foreign minister to "finalize the necessary procedures for joining," he said.

The GCC's political profile has risen this year as popular revolts unseated rulers in Tunisia and Egypt and sparked ongoing conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen. GCC states led by Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain in March to help the Sunni Muslim monarchy repress a popular movement for democracy and civil rights led by the country's Shiite majority.

The same month, the GCC agreed to provide Oman and Bahrain $10 billion each over a decade to help meet protesters' demands for higher living standards. The GCC "wanted to fill a political vacuum" as the role of Egypt and Syria weakened in the Middle East, said Mustafa Alani, director of the security and terrorism program at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "This will be exclusively a monarchies club. These countries are relatively more stable."

The GCC is made up of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, all monarchies and all classified as autocratic regimes in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2010 Democracy Index.

Germany and Morocco outperform rivals

Morocco and Germany topped rivals from the UK in 2010 and passenger demand down in 2011 to Egypt and Tunisia. After reporting growth of 5% in January, traffic to and from Egypt fell by 26% in February and 28% in March after the well publicised political turmoil in the country. Traffic to Tunisia fell by 23% in January, a massive 87% in February and 37% in March. Some tour operators for whom these are key markets are clearly going to have a challenging year. Bahrain, another country in the region with high profile domestic issues, saw UK traffic demand fall 24% in January, 14% in February and 33% in March. Morocco reported the highest growth with demand in summer up between 60% and 70%.

Morocco's tourism receipts are expected to grow even faster this year than in 2010 despite regional unrest and a deadly bombing last week that targeted foreign visitors, Yassir Znagui, the tourism minister said.

Yassir Znagui said sovereign wealth funds from Gulf states which are planning to take part in a 10 billion euro ($14.5 billion) fund to develop new resorts had not been discouraged and would sign a final deal this year. Tourism is the top foreign currency earner and has been the main pillar of economic growth plans for the past decade.

“The resilience of our tourism sector will be tested this year,” said Znagui, but he was upbeat on prospects for a sector he said employed 450,000 people directly and accounted for 10 percent of gross domestic product.

“The data we have so far and the response plan we have designed make us comfortable about the industry's prospects... An 8 percent receipts growth in 2011 is achievable based on what we see today.”

Last year, tourism brought receipts of nearly 57 billion dirhams ($7.3 billion) - almost 40 percent of exports - versus 53 billion dirhams in 2009. Tourist arrivals until the end of April were more than 10 percent higher than the year before. Znagui said that 15,000 holidaymakers had cancelled planned visits to Morocco after the attack - around three percent of the total.

“But not one tour operator has abandoned Marrakesh as a destination after the attack,” he said, adding that his department was planning an “I love Marrakesh” campaign with former world soccer stars to promote the ochre-red city.

Unlike Tunisia or Egypt, Morocco relies less on package tourists than independent visitors. Znagui said the average tourist spends $800 in Morocco - which he estimated at more than three times the amount spent by those in Tunisia.

Before this year's turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, three Gulf Arab sovereign wealth funds and UAE-based property developer Al Maabar had agreed in principle to raise 15 billion dirhams for a tourism fund in Morocco.

US Marines Survive, Escape and Evade in Morocco

Soldiers with the 331st Transportation Company and 1098th Medium Boat Company, out of Fort Eustis, Va., taking part in survival, escape and evasion training to improve their skills and combat efficiency during exercise African Lion 2011 at Cap Draa, Morocco.

Exercise African Lion 11 is a joint and bi-lateral exercise between the Kingdom of Morocco and the U.S. that involved more than 2,000 U.S. service members, consisting of elements from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, training alongside approximately 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces. The exercise began on April 25 and runs to June 18.

The Soldiers participating in the exercise formed an element titled Task Force 24. “Survival skills are good for all Soldiers in the Army to know,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Almaas, the training instructor and Juneau, Alaska, native with TF 24. “If you are ever stuck out in the desert, this is good training to have.” Almaas demonstrated to Soldiers techniques to purify urine into drinking water, find true north, determine edible foods and benefits of eating certain animals, and starting fires.

The Soldiers became more inventive by learning unorthodox methods to start fires such as using household accelerants and items for ignition. Soldiers were shown how insect repellants and hand sanitizers are flammable and can be ignited by using pieces of glass, personal glasses, and flint in order to survive.

Almass said the survival training gives Soldiers one-on-one experience in advanced and reliable techniques they would normally have to learn from a more advanced military course. He said this knowledge is potentially lifesaving and invaluable for each and every Soldier partaking.

Survival is the most basic instinct of anyone, but the knowledge needed to survive without modern commodities can only be gained by proper training. “We’ve tried to harness the power of fire since the dawn of man,” said Brogan, “and today we have.” Well, that has to be a plus.

And now the weather...

Strange weather seems to have been a feature of this year. Last week the hail storm around Fez seemed to come out of nowhere. Local farmers say there was some crop damage but don't expect major losses.

Now, if you believe the weather scientists, this week is looking warmer and more settled. Today some cloud and a top of 31, 32 on Sunday and through until Wednesday temperatures around 28. Nights will be warmer than last week with average night temps of about 14 degrees Celsius.

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