Saturday, February 09, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #85

Shipwreck. 1 dead and 2 missing in the sinking of a boat off Safi

At least one sailor was killed this week in the sinking of a fishing boat near the coastal town of Lalla Fatna, about 10 kilometers north of the port of Safi. His body was recovered the same day, informed the local salvage services, noting that two other sailors are still missing. The sinking of the boat, which occurred in the morning was probably due to the "strong swell that hit the coast of the region," says one local sopurce. The sailors had been warned of the risk on Tuesday by the port of Safi authorities.

French utility GDF Suez to build and operate Africa's largest wind farm in Morocco

GDF Suez and local company Nareva Holding plan to complete the 300-megawatt Tarfaya project in the southern coastal desert, by the end of 2014, the Paris- based utility said today in a statement. The partners, using a 360 million-euro ($488 million) loan from Moroccan banks and 90 million euros of their own capital, will share development costs equally. The banks contributing to the scheme are: Attijariwafa Bank, Banque Centrale Populaire and Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur

The Tarfaya wind park will have an output of 300 megawatts, representing around two-fifths of the country's total wind energy capacity. GDF Suez and Nareva have signed a 20-year agreement to sell the power generated at their project to Morocco’s Office National de l’Electricite & de l’Eau Potable. “Optimal” wind conditions will give the site a utilization rate of 45 percent, GDF Suez said.

Several African countries including Kenya and Ethiopia in the east are starting to harness wind power as their energy demands increase.

Morocco, where demand for electricity has risen 6 percent a year on average over the last 15 years, wants to produce 42 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020, GDF said. With rising electricity demand and untapped wind resources, Morocco is luring developers including Enel Green Power SpA and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. to build clean-energy projects. Morocco aims to build 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2020 to curb dependence on fossil fuels.

“There’s no uncertainty about power prices or volumes,” GDF Suez Chief Executive Officer Gerard Mestrallet said. “There’s no risk.”

Moroccan Centre for Human Rights calls for investigation into student death in Fez

Youssef El Kaidi, writing for Moroccan World News, reports that he death of Mohamed El-Fizazi last Saturday, January 26th, in the University Hospital Hassan II in Fez continues to stir different reactions and responses. The Moroccan Center for Human Rights called for an independent and impartial investigation into the death of Moahmmed El-Fizazi.

In a statement to the public, the Moroccan Centre for Human Rights stressed that Mohammed El-Fizazi died “as a result of the intervention of Quick Response Forces on January 14th and 15th, 2013 against students living in the university campus of Sais-Fez. The intervention was described by many observers as excessively violent.”

The Human Right Centre as called called for a transparent investigation to clarify the circumstances leading to the death of Mohammed El-Fizazi and take the necessary legal action against all those involved in his murder.

The regional board of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights in Taher Souk, 60 miles north east of fez, the birth place of the deceased, issued a statement to the public opinion condemning in the strongest terms the repressive actions which resulted in the death of the student Moahmmed El-Fizazi.” The board also holds the security forces responsible for the death of Al-Fizazi and “demands a thorough investigation into the tragedy and the trial of the criminals.”

The 20th February Movement in Fez issued a strongly worded statement, obtained by Morocco World News. The movement, which has been asking for political change in Morocco since February 20th, 2011 strongly “condemns the brutal intervention against the students who were struggling for their most basic rights (food and lodging).” The movement also calls for “the prosecution of all those involved in the crime of January 14th and 15th which led to the martyrdom of the student.”

The latest news coming from Taher Souk say that the delay in delivering the corpse of the deceased to the family created a state of indignation and anger, not just in the family, but in the whole village. This delay is attributed to the fact that the corpse is taken to another hospital for a forensic autopsy to investigate the real causes of death.

Students from the University of Fez told Morocco World News that the university is expected to be on a ‘hot tin’ the coming weeks if students decide to boycott classes or protest against the violence that led to the death of their friend.

Another new shopping mall for Casablanca

The "Anfaplace Shopping Center" was inaugurated on Thursday in Casablanca, during a ceremony presided over by Abderkader Amara, Minister of Trade, Industry and new technologies, and Lahcen Haddad, Minister of Tourism. Carried out on an area of 3.6 hectares, for a total investment of 829 million dirhams, the mall is home to more than 80 international brands of ready-to-wear, accessories.

The mall will generate more than 3,000 direct and indirect jobs. In addition to 1,200 parking spaces, it will house several medical and financial services as well as leisure facilities including a space for children.

Managing the new center has been entrusted to CB Richard Ellis. The company has nearly 39,000 employees and more than 447 offices worldwide in over 60 different countries. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2011 and achieved a turnover of 5.9 billion dollars.

This new mall is part of a tourist, residential and business which includes a 5 star hotel (scheduled to open in 2014), a residential area of 240 homes, tourist residences and office floors. Several personalities attended the ceremony inauguarion, including the Mayor of Casablanca, Mohamed Sajid, and the Spanish ambassador in Rabat, Alberto Navarro.

Youth unemployment in the Arab region is the highest in the world

A report by the U.N. International Labour Organization (ILO) says stated that the Arab uprisings have exposed skewed development policies, social justice deficits and over twenty years of poorly managed economic liberalization.

“As a region, youth unemployment is the highest globally at 23.2 percent, compared to a world average of 13.9 percent, and varies significantly within sub-regions,” said the report named “Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies.”

Arab region youth unemployment is the highest globally"

The report does however have some positive assessments of the situation in the Middle East. The Arab region has achieved near universal primary education enrolment since the 1970’s. Furthermore the youth literacy rate is now 92 percent in North Africa and 99 per cent in the Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council, reported the Saudi Press Agency.

Countries in the region were able to tackle debt and inflation during the 1990’s and 2000’s, they also managed to spur economic growth and create jobs. However, growth lagged behind global standards and the newly created jobs were focused in the arena of low productivity sectors. Governments paid scant attention to the social consequences of their economic policies.

Meanwhile, the private sector has remained among the least competitive globally due to low rates of investment as well as a poor regulatory environment. There is also the noted issue of widespread nepotism and corruption.

Mohammad Pournik, Poverty Practice Leader at the United Nations Development Fund’s (UNDP) regional centre in Cairo, noted that one of the demands of Arab youth was attaining jobs without the need for intermediaries. “The real issue is the need for jobs with social dignity rather than jobs that come at the expense of dignity,” said Pournik.

According to the report, economic growth in the next decade is dependent on good governance – which must improve to attract higher rates of investment and enable structural and institutional reforms. “Arabs need an inclusive development model that is grounded in social justice,” said Nada al-Nashif, Regional Director for the Arab States, International Labour Organisation.

Smart phones 4Africa

Microsoft, taking aim at the world's fastest-growing smartphone market, said on Monday that it would team up with Huawei of China to sell a low-cost Windows smartphone in Africa.

Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone (photo AFP)

The phone, called the Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone, will cost $US150 ($A144) and initially be sold in seven countries. Microsoft's Windows Phone software is fourth among smartphone operating systems, with just 2 per cent of the worldwide market in September, according to Canalys, a British research firm.

"Microsoft is a small player in smartphones and it needs as many partners as it can get," said Pete Cunningham, an analyst at Canalys. "And Africa is one of Huawei's strongest markets outside of China."

Microsoft's choice of Huawei, a leading maker of mobile networking equipment for African operators, does not detract from Microsoft's commitment to Nokia, which is relying on Windows Phone software to lift its new line of smartphones and return the company to profitability.

Fernando de Sousa, the general manager for Microsoft Africa, said that in the next few months, Microsoft and Nokia planned to introduce two new Windows phones for the African market.
Africa has an average sales growth of 43 per cent a year since 2000, according to the GSM Association, an industry trade group based in London.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 10 per cent of the 445 million mobile phone users have smartphones, but that is expected to increase rapidly as operators expand high-speed networks.

By 2017, most consumers in South Africa will be using smartphones, up from 20 per cent last year, according to the GSM Association. In Nigeria, the continent's most populous country, the outlook for sustained growth is even greater, with smartphone penetration projected to reach 30 per cent by 2017.

The World Bank says that roughly a quarter of the 1 billion people on the continent are middle-class wage earners, the target group that Microsoft will try to reach with the Huawei phone, de Sousa said. "Africans are generally quite conscious of brand, quality and image," he said. "We are being very clear that we are not going to be building something cheap for this market. What we want to do is deliver real quality innovation at an affordable price. Compared to some smartphones that cost $600 here, this is very affordable."

Microsoft plans to introduce the Huawei 4Afrika phone on Tuesday at events in Lagos, Nigeria; Cairo, Nairobi, Kenya; Johannesburg and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It will also be sold in Morocco and Angola.

The phone, which will run the Windows Phone 8 operating system, will be sold with applications designed for African consumers. Some apps give easy access to African soccer results. Others, like in Nigeria, focus on the country's entertainment and film industries. An application developed in Egypt allows a woman who feels she is being harassed to alert the authorities to her location with one touch of her phone.

By targeting Africa, Microsoft is trying to build on momentum it recently gained through its partnership with Nokia. The company sold 4.4 million Lumia Windows smartphones in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 2.9 million the previous quarter.

In November, the Microsoft chief executive, Steven Ballmer, said Microsoft had sold four times as many Windows phones at that point as it had a year earlier. A month later, Microsoft said sales of Windows phones over the holidays were five times those of a year ago.

Combined, Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems run about 7 in 10 smartphones worldwide, with BlackBerry at 15 per cent. But by 2016, Canalys expects Windows to overtake BlackBerry to become the No.3 operating system, with a 15 per cent share, compared with 5 per cent for BlackBerry.

Microsoft is not alone in its focus on Africa. Samsung, the largest seller of smartphones and mobile phones, has recently expanded the less expensive range of Galaxy smartphones to market in Africa and other emerging markets, said Anshul Gupta, an analyst at Gartner in Mumbai, India. Gupta said there was pent-up demand among African consumers for a smartphone costing $100 or less. He said several smaller Chinese phone makers, including TCL, ZTE and Lenovo, were working on developing simpler smartphones that sold for $50.

On the lighter side...

Sidi Fouad, aged 92, and Fatima Zahra, age 89, live in Fez. Recently they decided that it was time for them to get married. They became extremely excited about their decision tand decided to start making the arrangements. 

They go for a stroll to discuss the wedding, and on the way they pass a pharmacy. Sidi Fouad suggests they go in.

Sidi Fouad addresses the man behind the counter: "Are you the owner?"
The chemist answers, "Yes."

Sidi Fouad: "We're about to get married. Do you sell heart medication?"
Chemist: "Of course we do."

Sidi Fouad: "Medicine for rheumatism?"
Chemist: "Definitely."

Sidi Fouad: "Medicine for memory problems, arthritis, and Alzheimer's?"
Chemist: "Yes, a large variety. The works."

Sidi Fouad: "What about vitamins, sleeping pills, Geritol, antidotes for Parkinson's disease?"
Chemist: "Absolutely.."

Sidi Fouad: "Everything for heartburn and indigestion?"
Chemist: "We sure do."

Sidi Fouad: "You sell wheelchairs and walkers and canes?"
Chemist: "All speeds and sizes."

Sidi Fouad: And do you have viagra?
Chemist: Of course.

Sidi Fouad: "In that case, we'd like to use this pharmacy store for our wedding presents list."

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