Sunday, February 24, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #88

Moroccan tourism sets sights on Italian market

Morocco wants to reclaim the Italian market. "Italy is an important market for Morocco as a destination," said Tourism Minister, Haddad, on a visit the ILO in Milan. It is the third best performing European economy, the fourth economic partner of Morocco, the euro gives it a high purchasing power, geographical proximity to the Kingdom, and a large Moroccan community are all important are assets that the Department of Tourism thinks can assist bringing Italian tourists to Morocco.

Italians are great travellers and of its 60 million inhabitants, 50% go traveling. Italy is the third largest tourist source for Morocco after France and Spain.

However, because of the economic crisis in 2012 there was a drop in Italian tourist arrivals in Morocco from 233,224 in 2010 to 196,186.  The Ministry of Tourism is confident this can be reversed. This drop in numbers was mainly due to the closure of Val Tour in Agadir. According to Haddad, the crisis can be an opportunity for Morocco. Promotion, air routes -  everything goes into the strategy deployed by the Department. In addition to traditional advertising, a promotion policy that conveys a positive image of Morocco is important in the eyes of Mr. Haddad. "Political stability is very important for the tourism sector,' he says. To assist in this image promotion, press trips dedicated to Italian journalists are to be organised to raise awareness of Morocco. The accessibility of the destination by airlines is equally important. In this context, the frequency of flights from Italy to Morocco are being revised upwards.

Maroc Telecom presents annual results

Morocco Telecom has just delivered its latest report and although some indicators are negative, its annual results in Africa have saved the day. Morocco's top Telecom holds 45.77% of the national market share overall. During the presentation of its annual results, IAM says it recorded a 40% increase in 3G mobile internet customers, 15% for ADSL, reaching a market share of 99%.

Morocco Telecom has also observed an increase of 2.3% of its fixed-line customers. But it is Africa which remains the fastest growing market for the telecom operator as the African subsidiaries have progressed well. For customers of mobile telephony in Gabon, they have scored 46% growth. Mauritanian subsidiary, Mauritel, has seen the number of clients increased by 15% over the same period. Sotelma subsidiary, Mali, meanwhile, scored a 37.6% increase in mobile customers, despite the crisis. "This is the IAM model in Morocco which is exported in this case. Latter gives priority to investment, education and good governance," said Mr. Ahizoune, the CEO of the group . Regardless that for IAM Morocco most indicators are down, the group is seen as doing rather well in the present conditions.

Solar powered street lights - a Moroccan company initiative

In an interesting article by Bill Sweet on the Energywise blog reports on the latest green technology being harnessed in Morocco to power street lights. The big plus in this story is that the manufacturers are not some multinational company, but a small Moroccan company, Ecolite Morocco. is a private, independent Moroccan company, where "We are developing and manufacturing our products in Morocco," as a company representative reported in an e-mail. "We are helped by big European firms such as Philips, Solar World, [etc.], who provide us by equipments and devices," he continued, with evident pride. "[But] our products are certified made in Morocco."

According to the company's website each lamp is a 33 Watt LED, capable of producing 3000 lumens and with an operating lifetime of 50,000 hours; the pole-mounted energy storage system is a 12 Volt, 75 amp-hour battery; enough energy can be stored during the day to light streets for two nights, with a 50 percent discharge.

The aviation industry booming in Morocco

Strategically placed as a gateway to Europe and with low production costs, the aviation industry is booming in Morocco. Authorities have rolled out the red carpet for major groups and sub-contractors involved in the manufacture and assembly of equipment for aircraft.

In 2012, Morocco was celebrating the announcement of the arrival of Bombardier, the world third largest aircraft manufacturer, which said it would just start its production at Nouaceur near Casablanca. Now the first production has started and the industry is upbeat about the development.

"The choice shows that Bombardier can become an example for international industry leaders," Minister Abdelkader Amara said and claims the investment of $ 200 million will allow the creation of 850 direct jobs.  Aerospace revenue reached nearly a billion dollars last year and Morocco does not intend to stop there, says the president of the Group of aeronautical and space industries (GIMAS), Hamid al-Benbrahim Andaloussi. In a country where there has been much talk car with Renault about a plant in Tangier, the outlook is more promising in aeronautics, "This is an industry that knows no crisis thanks to strong Asian demand," said Mr. Benbrahim, one of the designers of the Moroccan facility.

Following a graduation ceremony held on February 1 at the Institut des Métiers de
l’Aéronautique (IMA), of 18 aircraft assemblers,  production began of the first Bombardier components to come out of its Moroccan manufacturing facility.

“This is a very exciting milestone for us as we start to see our operation in Morocco take form,” said Hugo Brouillard, General Manager, Bombardier Aerospace, Morocco. “With 18 new local employees fully engaged and trained in the Bombardier manufacturing process and philosophy, this is the first step towards a long future of quality component manufacturing at another".

The Bombardier Aerospace transitional manufacturing facility in Morocco is currently producing simple structures including flight controls for the CRJ Series aircraft. By the end of 2013, the facility is expected to employ approximately 100 fully-trained aircraft assemblers.

Sunday Opinion - Preserving the Fez Medina

Mouhssine El Hajjami writing in Morocco World News says that Fez has a world heritage worthy of preservation.

The restoration plan calls for depopulating the old city 
The historic city of Fez was founded in the year 789 AC by Moulay Idriss I.

In 809, the city became the royal residence of Idriss II, the son of Idriss. Fez was one of the greatest cities of the Muslim world during the Medieval ages and a zone for religion, arts, science, craft works and trade activities; the city was also classified by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site and one of the greatest landmarks of Arab civilization in North Africa after Alkairawan in Tunisia. In both its tangible and intangible forms of cultural diversity, Fez constitutes a melting pot where the Arab and other ethnic groups coexist under the banner of Islam.

Today, the Medina of Fez is still playing active socio-economic, religious and cultural roles which all make it an attractive tourist center for foreign visitors. However, over the centuries, the Medina of Fez has started undergoing a continuous process of degradation due to overpopulation, weak and collapsing infrastructure in addition to lack of investments in maintenance and restoration. These very factors in particular have threatened the ability of the Medina to survive as a historical and cultural patrimony for Moroccans, as well as for humanity.

As a part of its architectural patrimony, Fez encompasses hundreds of minarets, which stand as a witness on the wealth of religious knowledge and dozens of ancient alleys leading to (Funduqs) hotels or (madrasas) schools. Unfortunately, all of this is threatened with decay and collapse due to the pressures of over urban population and also some neglect from stakeholders. UNESCO observed by the early 1980 that Fez was in danger of losing the original quality that makes it one of the purest zones of Islamic civilization. That same year, UNESCO at its general conference in Nairobi, announced the active safeguarding of the Medina of Fez.

More significantly, the late king Hassan II himself, and other members of the royal family did play an active part in calling for the promotion of the city of Fez. The king declared that, “the historic role of Fez in the consolidation of civilization in Morocco and in spreading the light of faith and knowledge (…) our duty is to instill new life into it and to renovate it so that it may find its ancient traditions once again.”

Going back to the colonial era, there were some strategies exerted by the French protectorate, which were intended to preserve the material heritage of the city of Fez. In 1912, the French Resident General Marshall Lyaeuty considered the old architectural heritage of the Medina as a form of national heritage that should be conserved and protected. To this very reason, he created the institute of fine arts and historic monuments; the major concern of this latter was the protection of all the historic buildings and the ancient monuments of the city. The implementation of this project had to abide by three important rules of urbanization, which are still referred to even today. These rules vary as follow:

• The necessary separation of the European city, which was at the time in the process of construction, from the Islamic old city. This was done in order to ensure the non-dependence of each part of the city on the other.

• Providing more preservation to the most prominent historic sites and monuments which represent both the history and the architecture of Morocco.

• The implementation of high and modern forms of architectural construction in building Morocco’s new cities.

The first decree in this regard was issued in 1914. This decree was meant to preserve mainly the buildings, which stand as an outstanding symbol of both Moroccan art and history such as the artifacts, precious masterpieces and also the unique natural and historic sites that surround the old Medina.

Nowadays, to help maintain the authenticity of heritage inside the old city of Fez, UNESCO has adopted an integrated rehabilitation plan running over 15 years. This plan of rehabilitation was submitted after a five years study by Morocco, the UNESCO and the ADER-Fés (Agence pour la Dedentification et la Rehabilitation de la Medina de Fès) which was created in 1989. This agency, known today as the agency of the development and the rehabilitation of Fez, is a semi-private organization in charge of carrying out and co-coordinating the projects of save guarding the old cities.

The ADER agency was run by the former architect and director general of the restoration project Abdellatif EL-Hajjami. The director used to work in coordination with the UNESCO and the Moroccan government throughout the processes of rehabilitation, which the city of Fez underwent in the past. Before starting the project of preserving and restoring the historic buildings, Abdellatif El-Hajjami directed a staff of 160 workers and artisans, including an engineer, three architects, an archeologist, a geologist, a lawyer and various computer and documentation specialists.

The restoration project has already identified 11 madrasas, 320 mosques, 270 funduqs and over 200 hammams (public baths), houses or public ovens worthy of preservation. The estimated total fund of rehabilitation, which came from the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs, UNESCO and also the World Bank, was around $600 million as initial funds.

The general rehabilitation strategy has been planning to provide a well-grounded infrastructure to the old Medina of Fez by focusing on the following priorities:

• The improvement of the circulation network by creating accessible emergency circulation network that would meet the requirements of the overall commercial and social activities held inside the heart of the old Medina.

• The restoration plan calls for depopulating the old city by transforming most of the inhabitants to new industrial zones.

• The displacement of polluting industries outside the old Medina to a farther industrial area.

• The program focused on improving the built environment by restoring the demolition of ruins and the old traditional houses that are in a vulnerable state.

• The creation of active tourist circulation flows which would help to alleviate poverty among the young people through the regeneration of job opportunities.

All in all, the restoration plan has succeeded in retrieving and rehabilitating the patrimony of the old Medina of Fez by focusing mainly on the historic sites; however, the plan did not attain all the objectives set previously. Until today, many of the inhabitants in the city are still frustrated about the non-materialization of the ADER promises to restore their collapsing houses.

Thus, the extent to which the rehabilitation project managed to maintain the architectural tissue of the Medina is up to the stakeholders working in the agency to answer for the time being.

The article was first published by Morocco World News
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke, Sandy McCutcheon, The View from Fez 

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