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African women making strides in technology

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In recent years, there has been a notable resurgence in the matriarchal influence of African women. This resurgence is not only breaking down the former barriers of gender disparity but also helping to influence a new generation of African girls. While this new wave of strong African women crosses several business sectors, it is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the field of technology. These ‘TechWomen’ are not only making their mark in their chosen field, but are helping ensure there are training and work opportunities for other women and girls. There is also now a junior version – TechGirls – aimed at introducing African girls aged 15-17 to STEM. 

African Women’s Day.

Many of these women will be recognized this coming July 31st as part of African Women’s Day. This date was chosen at the first congress of PAWO (the Pan African Women’s Organisation) on 31st July, 1974. It was chosen in recognition of the first ever Pan-African meeting of women (Conference of African Women – CFA) held on that same date in Tanzania in 1962. 

TechWomen

TechWomen is not just a name given to these African women succeeding in the technology sector. It comes from the organisation of the same name, set up by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2011. It targets women from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia who show potential in the fields of science and technology or who need support with innovative ideas. Each year, 100 women are chosen and flown to California and then Washington. In those cities, they are welcomed by more than 50 of the world’s leading companies including Microsoft, Google, Twitter, etc. 

Objectives 

The primary objective of the TechWomen scheme is to support the next generation of female innovators and leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and to offer them access to the leading global companies for mentoring and employment opportunities. Over 200 volunteer mentors and ‘teachers’ from some of the world’s leading corporations give their time to help each year’s winners. There are training courses, lectures, workshops, as well as one on one session to assist the women with any current solo or group projects. 

Moroccan Laureate

One of 2019’s Moroccan laureates was Lamia Fikrat, the winner of her local ‘edition’. She holds an initial degree in engineering from Paris’s Ecole Centrale as well as a Masters in Management from London’s ESCP graduate school. Her fields of interest include the circular economy and also sustainable development (the latter being a huge focus across Africa). As part of their time in the U.S., participants spend a short period in a mentorship placement. For Fikrat, that was with San Francisco’s Environment Department, SF Environment. Fikrat was enthusiast about her experience and the opportunities it affords her fellow countrywomen: “Participating in the program has been an incredible networking opportunity in Silicon Valley. I strongly encourage Moroccan women to apply for it.”

From Tunisia

Tunisia has been involved with TechWomen since 2012. One of their 2016 laureates was Raouhda Lagha, an engineer who works for Sofrecom Tunisia. Sofrecom promote diversity, multiculturalism, and gender equality, so the inclusion of Lagha was a source of immense pride for the company. 

Lagha is also a team leader at Sofrecom, part of their policy of encouraging women to not only pursue scientific and technical careers, but also to seek leadership positions and to move up the management ladder. 

Lagha said of her Techwomen experience: “”Cultural mentorship is particularly useful for people like me working in an international company. It’s important to fully understand the cultural codes and behaviors of contacts and avoid offending people who might have different viewpoints.”

To the Future

As the battle to break down the barriers of gender disparity in Africa continues, programs such as TechWomen and other schemes that offer mentorship and investment are crucial. Equality in the workplace, and in education, are crucial components in the progress of the continent as a whole. Hopefully, TechWomen will continue for many years to come and will recognize the many outstanding women in STEM fields. 

Photos : europeansting.com – sofrecom.com – htxt.co.za – leconomiste.com

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Moroccan-American Team Wins First African Solar Decathlon

Comments (0) Business, Featured

In a time where climate change is a phrase on many people’s lips, it is heartening to see renewed efforts to find ways to use renewable energy in our daily lives. One such effort is The Solar Decathlon Africa, first held in Morocco in September, 2019. The principal idea behind the contest is for international collegiate teams to build a house – judged over 10 categories – that is solely powered by the sun. The contest is modelled on the original Solar Decathlon held every second year in the U.S. since 2002. 

The contest has expanded from America, with Solar Decathlons now held in Europe, China, Latin America and Caribbean, and the Middle East, as well as this new one in Africa. 

To Design and Construct a House That Uses Zero Net Energy

The inaugural African competition, held in Ben Guerir in Morocco’s central Rehamna Province, took place from September 13th to the 27th, 2019. With more than 1,200 entrants from 20 countries, the competition is not only international but is also underpinned by international cooperation as many of the teams comprised members from more than one country. 

The idea is to design and construct a house that uses zero net energy. That is to say, the whole house must be powered by renewable energy, in this case solar. Teams are judged over the following 10 categories, with each category offering 10 points to be won (architecture, engineering and construction, market appeal, comfort conditions, appliances, sustainability…).

There were two primary organisers of the competition in Morocco. The first was IRESEN; a research organisation and institute founded in 2011 by the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment, and which cooperates with several of Morocco’s key energy companies. The second organiser was Ben Guerir’s University Mohammed VI Polytechnic. The jury consisted of 27 members, chosen from a wide range of fields including education and business and representing several countries. 

One factor all teams were asked to incorporate into their designs was recognition of Africa’s cultural and architectural heritage. With harsh conditions across the continent, building design has often evolved to recognise this challenge and to include features which protects inhabitants against these climactic factors. A good example of this is the narrows streets and thick-walled houses found in Morocco’s Medina which keep the heat out at the height of summer and in when the winters get cold. 

The Inter House Winner of the First African Competition

The winners of this first African competition were the Inter House Team, a multidisciplinary cooperative effort between Colorado’s School of Mines, Marrakech’s National School of Architecture, and Cadi Ayyad University, also from Marrakech. They used CSEBs (Compressed Stabilised Earth Blocks) as their primary building material for the house walls, comprised of 95% local soil and 5% lime cement to stabilize the blocks. Not only do these CSEBs reflect the traditional brickwork of Morocco, but they also provide work for locals while offering a sustainable and energy efficient building material. 

One thing the team wanted to achieve was the marriage of modern and traditional values and styles. Taking inspiration from the famed courtyards which often form the heart of Moroccan homes, the team also made the courtyard the centre of their design. As well as offering a private outdoor space, the courtyard divided the home in two, with sleeping areas to the northwest and living and dining areas to the southeast.

But, of course, the main idea behind these designs was to be energy efficient, a real challenge in the local climate. The house’s CERV (conditioning energy recovery ventilator) utilised a highly efficient heat pump that exchanged energy between the incoming supply and the outgoing exhaust air. Combined with the CSEB walls used, this system not only keeps the house full of fresh air, but also monitors air quality throughout the house using special sensors. The system also allows occupants to monitor and set the home’s VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) and CO2 levels as well as temperature and humidity levels. 

To Allow To Control Lighting, Window Shades

The home also features a state of the art HACS (Home Automated Control System) that allows the homeowners to not only monitor several environmental aspects of the home’s interior but also to control things such as lighting, window shades, etc. 

Power for the house comes from two types of solar panels. The first is a rooftop system that supplies most of the house and the second is a solar thermal system to supply renewable hot water. The way the system was designed using heat transfer eliminates any need for boilers or electric pumps. 

One of the most innovative features of the winning design was its constructed wetland, a specially designed and built black water filtration system. The water filters through rocks and plants where natural bacteria remove or breaks down any toxins or pathogens. This not only sustains the plants in the filtration system but also provides water to use for landscaping or irrigation. 

An Increasing Level of Cooperation across Borders and Between Diverse Organizations

With increasing worry over a changing climate, it is encouraging to see not only innovative ideas in creating energy efficient homes, but also the increasing level of cooperation across borders and between diverse organizations. While the homes in the competition, complete with all their technological gadgetry, are mainly aimed at middle class buyers, many of the ideas will be able to be incorporated into lower income homes in the future. 

Photos : insidearabia.com / iresen.org

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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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