Sunday, April 10, 2016

Moroccan News Briefs #136

A round up of the latest news from around Morocco and links to all Fes Festival concert previews

Electrifying Rural Morocco

Masdar , Abu Dhabi's renewable energy company, has installed 50 percent of the solar home systems as part of an innovative project to electrify rural Morocco. The installation of 9,000 out of 17,670 systems across 940 villages comes only a year after the partnership agreement was signed between Masdar and Morocco's Office National de l'Electricité et de l'Eau Potable (ONEE).

The project is expected to be fully completed by the second half of this year. All of the 290-watt solar home systems are designed, supplied and installed under a project that is being executed by the Masdar Special Projects team. Along with other local initiatives, the full installation will result in 99 percent of rural Morocco having energy access by the end of 2017.

Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, the Chief Executive Officer of Masdar , commented: "The Kingdom of Morocco is a mature market for utility-scale renewables, but the country has also made exceptional progress in electrifying rural areas. The UAE and Masdar are pleased that our partnership with ONEE is realising one of the largest and most innovative solar home installation projects, which is having a transformative impact on hard-to-reach communities throughout the country. This project advances the Global Goal of delivering sustainable energy for all, and is another remarkable achievement for Morocco as it prepares to host COP22 at the end of this year."

The solar home systems are bringing energy access to those rural areas that still lack access to the national grid. Each of the installed systems consists of 290-watt solar panels and batteries with sufficient storage capacity for three days, thus ensuring uninterrupted power supply. In addition, the systems include energy-efficient appliances such as LED lamps and a 165 litre refrigerator.

Director of Masdar Special Projects Khaled Ballaith said: "The uniqueness of our Special Projects unit lies in the team's ability to deliver customised renewable energy solutions to remote, rural communities, often under challenging conditions. The systems we designed for rural Morocco are adapted to the particular geography, and various technical elements, such as the mounting frames and three-day storage capacity, help the systems function even under snowfall."

The Ongoing VOIP War

The three main Moroccan telecom operators Maroc Telecom, Meditel and Inwi colluded in early January 2016 to ban “Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services of 3G and 4G mobile subscribers (Abisourour, 2016). This move dismayed their 44 million customers of one of the fastest growing markets in their region; in early 2015, Morocco’s mobile market approached 135% penetration (BuddComm, no date), which inevitably caught the attention of foreign investors in the telecom market.

Writing for the Diplo Internet Governance Community website, Hanane Boujemi says that not only does the recent decision to ban VOIP in Morocco limit the free flow of communication exchange, but it also affects consumer trust in the domestic telecom operators. Knowing the limited purchase capacity of the Moroccan consumer as minimum wage stands at USD288 (The Economist 2014), VOIP services catered for low-income households to communicate with their families abroad and locally. Over 4 million Moroccan immigrants (Al Andaloussi, 2014) rely on these services to maintain ties with their home country and it is now almost impossible for them to maintain regular contact since the cost of calls from and towards Morocco are still exorbitant.

Morocco’s digital natives made the Internet their platform to protest against this decision. Several Facebook campaign pages were created to condemn hindering. Consumers’ freedoms. Critics and rights groups slammed the absence of “rights approach” by the Moroccan government, which reinforces inherent rights such as access to information, freedom of expression, network neutrality and free flow of information. In reality, do consumer rights even matter in Morocco?

However, this is a struggle that the consumers may well win. In the last couple of months savvy users have turned to VPN (Virtual Private Networks) and found a safe way around the bans.

Moroccans have taken to using VPNs to avoid VOIP bans

Improving Tour Guides Services

A law in Morocco was implemented in February to improve the quality of the services provided by tour guides. Law 05-12 is also designed to regulate tour guide services and allow professionals in the business to benefit from better recognition in the travel and tourism industry of the kingdom.

That law aims to raise skill, training, and access for the profession . The law regulates diploma requirements, and is helping to structure requirements and activities for tour guides.

Special diplomas will be required for guides showing tourists around national parks and heritage areas. A special licenses will be issued for this. The Ministry of Tourism will soon announce the graduation of the first 20 specialty guides with such a license.

Guides to be trained in security, first aid and foreign languages

In October 2015, the Ministry of Tourism launched a pilot training program for city guides. Training was conducted at the International Higher Institute of Tangier. This job specific two year training program, will assure guides graduating are highly qualified.

Along with the initial training, the Ministry of Tourism will launch a training program for more than 2,800 authorised guides . This training program is now a mandatory requirement necessary for the renewal of licenses.

Such a mandatory education program will upgrade and strengthen the knowledge and skills of licensed guides in order to meet the expectations of international travellers. Tourists are increasingly demanding in terms of quality and safety .

The Ministry of Tourism will also conduct a professional examination for candidates with experience in this field and with certain skills. In order to pass such an exam subjects guides must be trained in security, first aid, accompanying techniques, and foreign languages.

These new regulations will assure visitors to Morocco and travel agents or tour operators selling Morocco, they are in good hands when hiring licensed local guides.

Police Bust Baby Trafficking Network

According to a story published this week in the Moroccan daily Assabah, the Moroccan authorities successfully busted a network operating between Morocco and France that specialised in infant trafficking.

According to the news source, the network is headed by a Moroccan woman who resides in France.

The investigation found that the woman was using intermediaries to contact poor pregnant women, to whom the head of the network offered huge sums of money to purchase the infants. The intermediaries received between 10000 dirhams to 20000 dirhams for every transaction ($1000 to $2000 dollars).

On the foreign market boys fetched higher prices than girls. Whereas in Morocco baby girls are much sought after due to their potential usefulness in domestic service.

The Moroccan authorities are currently investigating with the busted network to unveil more information about this case, Assabah said.

Currency Forgers Nabbed

The judicial police in Salé have arrested counterfeit currency specialists.

The daily newspaper, Al Akhbar reports that during the operation the police seized a high performance scanner. used to make 50, 100 and 200 dirham notes in very large quantities.

The counterfeiters had manufactured large sums that quickly ended up in the weekly souks (markets) on the periphery of  Salé and Temara.

One of the accused is reported to be an habitual criminal who had previously been convicted for manufacturing and trafficking of counterfeit notes. The duo will appear on Thursday before the public prosecutor in the district court of Salé.

Renault to Invest 10 Billion in Morocco

French carmaker Renault and component suppliers will invest 10 billion dirhams ($1.04 billion) in Morocco to build an "industry ecosystem", the country's industry minister said on Friday.
Renault's ecosystem and its new plants will raise Renault's local sourcing of components to 65 percent from 32 percent and are projected to generate 20 billion dirhams in revenues.

Renault already has two car plants in the kingdom. - a modern plant in Tangier producing cars and body pressings for export and another, older assembly plant in Casablanca.

The director of the company's Africa, Middle East and India region, Bernard Cambier, declined to give details but said that at least 15 component makers are committed to investing in the project.

Renault's Tangier car factory, the biggest in North Africa, required initial investment of 600 million euros ($683.70 million) and is expected to reach an annual production capacity of 400,000 vehicles in the coming years.

Morocco expects auto industry exports to reach 100 billion dirhams a year by 2020 as a result of PSA Peugeot Citroen's decision last year to build a 557 million euro factory in the country, slated to produce 200,000 vehicles a year.

The kingdom has attracted a number of big auto and aerospace investors in recent years, including Delphi, Bombardier and Eaton Corp.

Unlike many countries in the region, Morocco has managed to avoid a big drop in foreign investments in the wake of the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, partly by marketing itself as an export base for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Also in automotive news came the confirmation that Ford is moving into Morocco.

"Ford will start producing thirty new vehicle models by 2020 in African countries, including South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana and Kenya," said Jim Benintende, President Ford for the Middle East and Africa in a statement reported by Bloomberg.

When the American brand had announced the establishment in Morocco of a representative office, several rumours began circulating about the installation of a factory.

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