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Morocco should step up structural reforms – IMF

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa

RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco needs to step up structural economic reforms and maintain “sound” fiscal and monetary policies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday.

Morocco, the region’s biggest energy importer, has been working with a technical mission from the IMF on liberalising its currency regime after a drop in global oil prices helped strengthen its finances.

“Executive Directors commended the authorities for the sound macroeconomic policies and reform implementation that have helped improve the resilience of the Moroccan economy, upgrade the fiscal and financial policy frameworks, and increase economic diversification,” the IMF said in a statement following consultations.

“To consolidate the gains achieved and promote higher and more inclusive growth, Directors underscored the need to maintain sound fiscal and monetary policies and to step up structural reform efforts,” it added.

The IMF said it supported Morocco’s plans for a more flexible currency and new policies, “which will help the economy to absorb external shocks and remain competitive.”

In July, Morocco’s central bank postponed a planned announcement of the first phase of the reform. The central bank gave no reason for the delay, but officials have since then said the government needed to further study the plan.

 

(Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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Morocco announces auto industry deals worth $1.45 bln

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business

RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco said on Monday it had signed deals for 26 auto industry projects worth a total of 1.23 billion euros ($1.45 billion) as it seeks to build its position as an international hub for the sector.

The deals include six agreements with French company Renault to expand an “industry ecosystem” allowing the firm to increase local sourcing of car components to 55 percent, according to a government statement.

Renault has a large factory in the northern Moroccan city of Tangiers that opened in 2012, and an older assembly plant in Casablanca.

Another 13 of the new projects are planned as part of a manufacturing hub linked to a PSA Peugeot Citroen factory under construction in Kenitra, north of the capital, Rabat.

That plant is due to open in 2019 and initially produce 90,000 vehicles a year.

The projects announced on Monday are with companies from France, Spain, Italy, China, South Korea, Japan and the United States, and are expected to create more than 11,500 jobs, the government statement said.

Eleven of the companies will be operating in Morocco for the first time, Abdel Wahid Rahal, a senior official at the ministry for industry, investment, trade and digital economy, told Reuters.

On Saturday, officials announced a memorandum of understanding with Chinese automaker BYD to build an electric car plant near Tangier that is expected to create 2,500 jobs. They gave no details on the value of the deal.

Unlike many countries in the region, Morocco has avoided a big drop in foreign investment following 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.

The kingdom has attracted a number of big auto and aerospace investors in recent years.

 

($1 = 0.8495 euros)

 

(Reporting by Zakia Abdennebi; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Autos supplier Faurecia opens second Moroccan factory, plans third

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters, Non classé

PARIS (Reuters) – French auto supplier Faurecia plans to open a third Moroccan plant to build car interiors and emissions control parts for clients, including its parent PSA Group, the company said on Thursday.

The future plant will open next year in the coastal city of Kenitra, Faurecia Chief Executive Patrick Koller said in a statement marking the formal inauguration of its second Moroccan production site, a seating facility north of the capital Rabat.

The seating plant represents an investment of 170 million dirhams (15.4 million euros; $17.58 million) and employs 1,300 workers making seat covers and leather trim for vehicles such as the Peugeot 3008 and 5008, as well as Opel models built at PSA plants. Faurecia is 46.3 percent-owned by the maker of Peugeot, Citroen and DS cars.

($1 = 0.8760 euros)

 

(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

 

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Morocco trade deficit widens 13.1 pct in first five months: agency

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s trade deficit widened 13.1 percent to 78.45 billion dirham ($8.03 billion) in the first five months of 2017 compared with a year earlier, driven by increased imports, the foreign exchange regulator said on Monday.

The trade gap was up from 69.45 billion dirhams during the same period last year, as energy imports rose 42.7 percent to 28.25 billion dirhams, and spending on equipment imports rose 8.1 percent to 50.61 billion dirhams.

Total exports rose 5.3 percent from a year earlier to 103.31 billion dirhams, pushed by a 7.9 percent rise in phosphate exports totaling 17.41 billion dirhams.

Tourism receipts fell by 5.8 percent. Remittances from the 4.5 million Moroccans who live abroad slightly rose 0.2 percent to 24.33 billion dirhams, while foreign direct investment rose 24 percent to 12.90 billion dirhams.

($1 = 9.7663 Moroccan dirham)

 

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; editing by Patrick Markey)

 

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Morocco and the AU: A Game of Thrones?

Comments (0) Africa, Economy, Politics

African Union

After 30 years on the outside, Morocco is seeking a return to the African Union body that it dramatically left in 1984. As of 2002 this body is called the African Union, previously known as The Organization of African Unity (OAU). Some see this move as long overdue while critics see it as an insidious maneuver to further Moroccan agendas. The controversial and complex situation revolves around Morocco’s disputed ownership of the Western Sahara in North-West Africa. Much has changed since Morocco’s departure, including the AU itself.

The ghosts of the past are not easily dispelled. Regional entities remain untrusting towards Morocco after the nation claimed ownership of the Western Sahara region in the wake of the Spanish withdrawal in 1975. Critics condemned the action as an illegal annexation and an opportunistic land-grab: the region contains vast phosphate resources, abundant fisheries and large untapped oil potential. Morocco however believes that the Western Sahara has always been part of Greater Morocco’s true borders. This annexation for them was merely a return of the Sahara to the “motherland”, and not an aggressive power play. The Western Sahara’s partially recognized ruling body, the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic), severely contest these historical claims to ownership.

History of Morocco’s relationship with the AU

When the independence of the Western Sahara was recognized by the OAU, Morocco immediately exited the union and has been on the outside ever since. So the question is: what has changed? In recent years Morocco has been fostering closer relations with its regional neighbors. This may just be the next step in the process of strengthening their African ties, with a desire to become a key economic and political player in the continent. “For a long time our friends have been asking us to return to them so that Morocco can take up its natural place within its institutional family,” King Mohammed VI said in a speech to African leaders. Morocco claims the motives are entirely separate from its stance on the Western Sahara, and wishes to rejoin solely from an economic standpoint.

A more cynical reasoning is that after many years of diminished regional influence due to its absence from the AU, Morocco will be in a stronger position to undermine the legitimacy of the Western Sahara once inside the organization. An official from the AU speaking with anonymity said, “The AU general secretariat is concerned that Morocco wants to return in order to argue the SADR issue from within the AU.”

Will their stubbornness keep them from rejoining?

Morocco is unlikely to concede any significant points over their occupation of the Western Sahara. Some commentators feel that it is likely that they will continue some form of hostilities towards the SADR whether inside or outside the AU. The rest of the union needs to carefully consider whether it can better manage the outcome of disagreement with Morocco inside, or outside the union. Morocco’s return to the organization will undoubtedly cause conflicts. The nations of the AU and beyond are already taking sides. Despite Egypt and Tunisia’s links to Morocco via their common cultural identity and geographic locations, they have not issued statements or official comments supporting Morocco’s potential re-entry. Mona Omar, an assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister said, “Egypt is committed to taking neutral positions when it comes to Algeria and Morocco.”

Realistically, 30 years ago when Morocco left, the union was a far less influential and interventionist body. If it returns it will be to an entity that is far more prepared and capable to intercede in conflict. It will not sit back and watch Morocco bully the Western Sahara, even if it re-enters with no restrictions on its actions.

The African Union’s evolution

Today, the AU is a pan-African organization designed to promote peace and prosperity throughout the continent of Africa. It is quite different to the OAU in that it can and does intervene in conflict and is not just advisory in nature. Its Peace and Security Council can deploy military forces and initiate peacekeeping missions throughout Africa, while also suspending memberships if countries abandon democratic practices, excluding them from trade relations and intercontinental funds. This is particularly pertinent to the discussion, the AU will not play placid spectator to Morocco’s intimidation. Morocco will be required to make some concessions to its diplomatic relations if it wants to play a central role within the African Union.

The circumstances surrounding Morocco’s departure remain unchanged, so critics have questioned Morocco’s timing and motives. The dispute over the Western Sahara is unresolved, causing tension throughout the whole of North Africa. For all parties to be duly satisfied it will take delicate diplomacy and Morocco would undoubtedly need to meet certain stipulations laid out by the union. Both parties have made it clear that they will not be compromising on their standpoint on the SADR; whether this will be a sticking point over Morocco’s membership, remains to be seen.

 

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Can Morocco rejoin the AU?

Comments (1) Africa, Featured, Politics

African Union

Morocco seeks to return to the African Union, but the issue of Western Sahara remains unresolved.       

After 30 years on the outside, Morocco is seeking a return to the African Union, a body that it dramatically left in 1984. As of 2002 this body is called the African Union, previously known as The Organization of African Unity (OAU). Some see this move as long overdue while critics see it as an insidious maneuver to further Moroccan agendas. The controversial and complex situation revolves around Morocco’s disputed ownership of the Western Sahara in North-West Africa. Much has changed since Morocco’s departure, including the AU itself.

The ghosts of the past are not easily dispelled. Regional entities remain distrustful towards Morocco after the nation claimed ownership of the Western Sahara region in the wake of the Spanish withdrawal in 1975. Critics condemned the action as an illegal annexation and an opportunistic land-grab: the region contains vast phosphate resources, abundant fisheries and large untapped oil potential. Morocco however believes that the Western Sahara has always been part of Greater Morocco’s true borders. This annexation for them was merely a return of the Sahara to the “motherland,” and not an aggressive power play. The Western Sahara’s partially recognized ruling body, the SADR (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic), severely contest these historical claims to ownership.

History of Morocco’s relationship with the AU

When the independence of the Western Sahara was recognized by the OAU, Morocco immediately exited the union and has been on the outside ever since. So the question is: what has changed? In recent years Morocco has been fostering closer relations with its regional neighbors. This may just be the next step in the process of strengthening its African ties, with a desire to become a key economic and political player in the continent. “For a long time our friends have been asking us to return to them so that Morocco can take up its natural place within its institutional family,” King Mohammed VI said in a speech to African leaders. Morocco claims the motives are entirely separate from its stance on the Western Sahara, and wishes to rejoin solely from an economic standpoint.

A more cynical reasoning is that after many years of diminished regional influence due to its absence from the AU, Morocco will be in a stronger position to undermine the legitimacy of the Western Sahara once inside the organization. An official from the AU speaking with anonymity said, “The AU general secretariat is concerned that Morocco wants to return in order to argue the SADR issue from within the AU.”

Issue of Western Sahara remains

Western Sahara

Western Sahara

Morocco is unlikely to concede any significant points over their occupation of the Western Sahara. Some commentators feel that it is likely that they will continue some form of hostilities towards the SADR whether inside or outside the AU. The rest of the union needs to carefully consider whether it can better manage the outcome of disagreement with Morocco inside or outside the union. Morocco’s return to the organization will undoubtedly cause conflicts. The nations of the AU and beyond are already taking sides. Despite Egypt and Tunisia’s links to Morocco via their common cultural identity and geographic locations, they have not issued statements or official comments supporting Morocco’s potential re-entry. Mona Omar, an assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister said, “Egypt is committed to taking neutral positions when it comes to Algeria and Morocco.”

Realistically, 30 years ago when Morocco left, the union was a far less influential and interventionist body. If it returns, it will be to an entity that is far more prepared and capable to intercede in conflict. It will not sit back and watch Morocco bully the Western Sahara, even if it re-enters with no restrictions on its actions.

The African Union’s evolution

Today, the AU is a pan-African organization designed to promote peace and prosperity throughout the continent of Africa. It is quite different to the OAU in that it can and does intervene in conflict and is not just advisory in nature. Its Peace and Security Council can deploy military forces and initiate peacekeeping missions throughout Africa, while also suspending memberships if countries abandon democratic practices, excluding them from trade relations and intercontinental funds. The AU will not play placid spectator to Morocco’s intimidation. Morocco will be required to make some concessions to its diplomatic relations if it wants to play a central role within the African Union.

The circumstances surrounding Morocco’s departure remain unchanged, so critics have questioned Morocco’s timing and motives. The dispute over the Western Sahara is unresolved, causing tension throughout the whole of North Africa. For all parties to be duly satisfied it will take delicate diplomacy and Morocco would undoubtedly need to meet certain stipulations laid out by the union. Both parties have made it clear that they will not be compromising on their standpoint on the SADR; whether this will be a sticking point over Morocco’s membership remains to be seen.

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Morocco jobless rate falls year/year to 8.6% in second quarter

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent in the second quarter this year from 8.7 percent in the same period last year, mostly on employment growth in the construction and services sectors, official figures showed on Friday.

Services, building activity and industry added 149,000 additional jobs to help offset 175,000 jobs lost in the agricultural sector due to a severe drought, the High Planning Commission added.

The government expects the 2016 cereal harvest to fall sharply after last year’s record crop of 11 million tonnes due to bad weather and more farm job losses are expected in 2016.

The woes of the farm sector have put further pressure on the Moroccan government, which is already facing protests over austerity measures.

The industrial sector created 38,000 jobs, the data showed. Construction and services added 70,000 and 41,000 jobs respectively, more than in previous years, a sign that the Moroccan economy has started to recover from years of recession caused largely by the euro zone debt crisis. The euro zone is Morocco’s main trade partner.

However, jobs created by construction and services are mostly precarious, the agency warned.

The Finance Ministry has forecast the economy will grow this year by less than 2 percent, slowing from 4.4 percent in 2015. However, the planning agency said the drought would drag growth down to 1.3 percent in 2016.

Informal labour abounds in Morocco, making it hard to produce reliable employment figures.

 

 

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Morocco annual inflation rises to 2.3% in June

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s annual consumer price inflation rose to 2.3 percent in June from 1.9 percent in May, due to higher food prices, the High Planning Authority said on Friday.

Annual food inflation jumped to 4.4 percent from 3.6 percent in the previous month as June coincided with the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Non-food price inflation rose slightly to 0.6 percent in the 12 months to June from an annual 0.5 percent in May.

Transport costs fell 0.6 percent, but hotels and restaurants were 2.4 percent more expensive, the agency said without giving details.

On a month-on-month basis, the consumer price index eased to 0.4 percent in June, down from 0.5 percent in May as food price inflation was steady at 0.8 percent.

 

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Morocco enters free trade pact with China

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

morocco china trade

The north African nation seeks to diversify its trading partners through agreements with the Asian giant as well as India and Brazil.

Morocco has signed a free-trade agreement with China, the North African nation’s largest trading partner in Asia.

While the overall effect on the Moroccan economy is under debate, experts say the agreement will create more purchasing power for Moroccans, who will have access to Chinese goods that are typically less expensive than those produced in country or elsewhere.

The move underscores China’s growing role in the economy of the continent as well as Morocco’s determination to diversify its trading partners. Morocco has also entered trade agreements with Russia and India and an agreement with Brazil is under negotiation.

China is Morocco’s fourth largest trading partner after Spain, France, and the United States. Morocco is China’s seventh largest trading partner in Africa. While trade between Morocco and China has grown in recent years, it is still dwarfed by Chinese trade with neighboring Algeria. Trade between China and Algeria reached $8.6 billion in 2013 compared to $2.3 billion in trade with Morocco.

Experts debate impact

Analysts say the new agreements could have mixed results.

Moroccan textile factory

Moroccan textile factory

On the plus side, competition from Chinese goods could force Moroccan industries to better serve consumers in their country and Moroccan businesses will gain greater access to one of the largest markets in the world.

At the same time, they say, more than half of Moroccan exports are minerals, fertilizers and metals produced by large industries while small businesses struggle to compete.

Some argue that the opening of trade will cost jobs in Morocco, but others note that Moroccan and Chinese workers seldom compete for the same jobs. China’s economy is based on heavy and light industry, while agriculture, food processing and precision manufacturing dominate Morocco’s. The two countries do have some direct competition in textiles and leather.

The agreement will create more wealth in Morocco. With access to cheaper goods, even poor Moroccans will gain spending power.

Economic progress

With a gross domestic product of $252 billion and a population of about 33 million people, Morocco has made significant progress in integrating its economy into the global market through efforts including streamlined procedures for operating a business and launching a nascent aeronautics industry, according to the Heritage Foundation.

After a strong performance in 2015, with growth in the gross domestic product of 4.4%, the Moroccan economy has slowed this year, according to the World Bank. Drought has reduced cereal production, and GDP growth is expected to be less than 2% in 2016.

While Morocco has been a U.S. trading partner, as well as a key ally in the war on Islamist terrorism, the nation in recent years has sought to expand its trading partnerships, notably with members of the BRICS coalition of emerging economies that seeks to break Western domination of the global economy.

BRICS is made up of the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Agreements with India, Russia

In October, Morocco and India signed agreements designed to encourage more trade between the two nations. Morocco’s major exports to India are rock phosphates and phosphoric acid.

In November, Morocco announced a free trade agreement with Russia. Morocco is Russia’s main trade partner on the continent and its exports include citrus fruit, vegetables and frozen sardines.

In June, Moroccan representatives met with trade officials of Brazil to discuss a possible free trade agreement. Brazil is another importer of Moroccan phosphates and its derivatives.

Chinese influence grows

Meanwhile, China is a major trading partner with other African nations including South Africa ($20 billion), Nigeria ($15 billion) and Angola ($36 billion).

China in recent years has been developing relationships with many African countries through investment, aid and trade relationships, driven largely by China’s energy needs.

Morocco, a net oil importer with strong ties to the United States and Europe, has not been of great interest to China until recently. However, Morocco has sought allies in its territorial dispute with the separatist Polisario Front in the Western Sahara.

Given China’s strong trade ties to Algeria, it seems unlikely, however that the Asian nation would support Morocco in that dispute.

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Moroccan leased farmland attract $1.4 billion investment in 2015

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

RABAT (Reuters) – Private investments in Moroccan state-owned land leased to farmers and investors have reached 14 billion dirhams ($1.4 billion) at the end of 2015, a statement from the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

To attract foreign and local investors, the kingdom has been leasing farmland for 20 to 50 percent of its market value on long-term contracts of up to 40 years.

Morocco holds regular tenders as suitable state farmlands are gradually identified and made available.

About 111,000 hectares have been allocated in the last two years, the statement said, and the target is 500,000 hectares by 2020. Total farmland is estimated at about 7.8 million hectares.

Like other North African countries, Morocco is trying to modernise its farms to improve food security and avert the kind of price rises that contributed to popular unrest in Arab countries in 2011.

However, the North African kingdom still remains one of the World’s biggest wheat importers with volumes depending on local harvest.

The amount of investment attracted is 92 percent of the 15.2 billion targeted when the government stepped up the leasing programme to increase production and speed up modernisation of Moroccan farming in 2014.

The 14 billion dirhams investments include 4.7 billion dirhams in developing and equipping farmlands in general, 2.2 billion dirhams in vegetal production and 1 billion dirhams for breeding, the statement carried by the state news agency MAP said.

Morocco is expected to harvest a cereal crop of 3.35 million tonnes this year, down 70 percent from last season’s record 11 million tonnes after severe drought.

Rainfall was 43 percent less than an average year and 45.5 percent less than last season, which makes this the worst season in 30 years, with 98 dry days between November and February.

($1 = 9.6892 Moroccan dirham)

 

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Keith Weir)

 

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