Morocco invests in wind energy

Morocco is going ahead with its investment in clean energy, wind to be exact. Joint project between Moroccan Nateva Holding and France’s GDF Suez. The country has invested $685 million in the Tarfaya project that began in early 2013 and will be operational starting in October. 88 turbines out of a total planned of 131 have been built, producing up to 300 mega watts at full capacity. The wind farm is part of a plan that aims to have 42% of the country’s energy consumption coming from renewable energy by 2020.

Flying high in the sky: Morocco’s aviation Industry takes off

The Aircelle plant makes large components for planes.

Morocco’s aviation industry has taken off and spread its wings.

Nassima Boukhriss has never set foot on an airplane, but soon she will be helping wire up some of the world’s most advanced jetliners.

The 22-year-old vocational student is participating in one of North Africa’s most ambitious economic-development efforts: starting an aerospace industry. Across Morocco, millions of people lack jobs, basic education and even running water. Manufacturing remains a small part of the economy compared with agriculture and tourism. Low-skilled textile work is one of the biggest sectors.

At a school near Casablanca, students are learning skills that they hope will win them high-paying jobs in Morocco’s growing aerospace industry.  Yet over the past decade, Boeing Co.,Safran SA of France and other leading aviation companies have built increasingly sophisticated factories in this kingdom.

As revolutions swept neighboring countries last year, aerospace giantsUnited Technologies Corp. andBombardier Inc. unveiled investments of more than $200 million in new Moroccan factories.

To ensure they have qualified staff, the government and an industry group in May opened the Moroccan Aerospace Institute, or IMA, the vocational school Ms. Boukhriss attends.

The result is that the aviation industry now employs almost 10,000 Moroccans who earn about 15% above the country’s average monthly wage of roughly $320.

Moroccan officials are betting that by leapfrogging into advanced manufacturing like aerospace and electronics, the country can attract more basic industries in their wake.

Morocco’s Aerospace Gambit

Over the past decade, leading aviation companies have built increasingly sophisticated factories in Morocco, as local officials hope this push into advanced manufacturing can attract more basic industries in its wake.


Workers at Le Piston Francais. The French aerospace component producer was one of the first contractors to arrive in Morocco.

“When you succeed in aerospace, you can succeed in other industries,” said Hamid Benbrahim El-Andaloussi, president of Morocco’s aerospace trade group, Gimas.

That hasn’t happened yet. Manufacturing’s share of Morocco’s economy has shrunk over the past decade. The country has joblessness of roughly 30% among both young and well-educated people—the same groups that helped lead revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

The upheaval of the Arab Spring has put new urgency on showing Morocco’s aerospace gambit can deliver. King Mohammed VI last March neutralized protests by offering a more democratic constitution and fresh elections, which proceeded peacefully in November. But for Morocco to remain calm, analysts say, it must create jobs.

“High unemployment is at the center of what’s going on in the region,” says Karim Belayachi, a private-sector development specialist at the World Bank.

Morocco’s push into commercial aeronautics is unusual among developing economies. Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa in the last century developed military aerospace companies, but only Brazil’s privatized Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica SA successfully shifted to building passenger planes. Today, it is a national bellwether. Mexico has recently drawn aerospace component producers, but they remain a small part of its economy.

Many more countries have expanded with technology and automotive investments, as Morocco is also attempting. Taiwan, South Korea and Slovakia relied on foreign or state-supported investments, mixed with entrepreneurialism, for economic growth. But those countries fostered regulatory climates more friendly to start-ups than Morocco has achieved and could tap skilled work forces. Education in Morocco lags behind its economic peers, according to the World Bank.


Morocco’s aerospace development started in 1999 with a nudge from Mr. Benbrahim at Gimas, who was then a senior executive at Boeing’s longtime customer Royal Air Maroc. He and other officials at the national carrier urged the U.S. giant to invest in Morocco as a sign of good faith.

“There was push-back within Boeing,” among executives who deemed an investment unnecessary, recalls Seddik Belyamani, who was then Boeing’s top airplane salesman and was born in Morocco.

But the Moroccan links and a desire to fend off rival Airbus prevailed. Boeing, the airline and French electrical-wiring company Labinal SA in 2001 opened a small operation preparing cables for Boeing 737 jetliners, named Matis. Staff painstakingly prepared wire bundles and shipped them to Boeing plants in the U.S. for installation.

The labor-intensive work entailed no technical background, yet Boeing managers still initially expected to achieve efficiency of only 30% of industry norms. To their surprise, staff hit 70% efficiency within two years, recalls Mr. Belyamani, who retired from Boeing in 2002 and recently was appointed chairman of Matis.

The results impressed executives at Labinal, which in 2000 had been acquired by the French aerospace group now called Safran. Managers saw that as Matis grew, job openings attracted floods of highly educated applicants. More than 80% are women, who have limited job opportunities in traditional industries.

The only foreigner among 700 Matis staff today is the French general manager, Sébastien Jaulerry, who previously worked for Labinal in the U.S. and France. Walking through the spotless plant recently, he said employees achieve “exactly the same standard” of quality as at his previous plants.

Around him, Matis staff prepared wires not just for Boeing but also for General ElectricCo. engines, Dassault Aviation SA business jets and even Airbus jetliners. The most visible difference from more established aviation shops was the large number of women in head scarves.

Safran, encouraged by results at Matis, expanded into more advanced manufacturing. In 2006, its Aircelle division opened a plant making jet-engine housings. The work, which includes machining advanced plastic composites and assembling safety-critical structures, mirrors operations at Aircelle plants in France and Britain. Product quality is also comparable, say Aircelle executives.

Today, Moroccan officials highlight aerospace as a success within the country’s larger economic modernization drive, dubbed “Emergence.” Other projects include a giant Mediterranean port complex and tax-free zone at Tangiers, where French car giantRenault SA recently opened a big factory.


Yet despite Morocco’s big push to create export-oriented jobs, manufacturing’s share of the economy is shrinking, says Lahcen Achy, an economist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Morocco’s capital, Rabat. He calculates manufacturing now stands at roughly 15.6% of gross domestic product. The World Bank pegged it at 19% of GDP in 1995.

Moroccan manufacturing growth hasn’t kept pace with tourism and other service businesses. A major reason, economists say, is the headaches that domestic entrepreneurs face. Mr. Belayachi at the World Bank notes that Morocco’s judicial system reports to the royal palace and isn’t an independent arm of government, which undermines its reliability. “Enforcing a contract is lengthy and difficult, which has a big impact” on small businesses, he said.

Moroccan officials say they have made other efforts to help business, including recent anticorruption legislation and the creation in 2009 of a Central Authority for Corruption Prevention.

Analysts say that as a result of impediments to business, local entrepreneurs haven’t piggybacked foreign investors as extensively as domestic producers in developing countries of Asia and Eastern Europe.

Ahmed Chami, a member of parliament who served as Morocco’s minister of industry until recently, said foreign investments are starting to bear fruit and “spillover will happen.” The lack of local aerospace businesses is “the weakness in the picture today and should be the next focus,” he conceded.

Boosters of Moroccan aerospace say the growing number of foreign suppliers indicates the sector will go local. One of the first contractors to arrive was Le Piston Français, an aerospace component producer based in Toulouse, France, near the Airbus unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. Director Vincent Fontaine says the company was drawn to Casablanca in 1999 by sales opportunities and government incentives, such as tax breaks.

The plant has grown to 110 employees from about 25 and is adding new customers, such as Bombardier, Mr. Fontaine said. Aerospace materials, like advanced alloys, are also getting easier to buy locally, marking “a big step for industrial development,” he said.

But other investors have faced a bumpier ride. Baccarat Precision, a French family-owned aerospace contractor, started making pistons for jetliner brakes near Casablanca in 2007. Soon after, it landed a giant order for explosive devices that blow open airplane doors in emergency evacuations. The complex cylinders, made of 40 precisely machined elements, must be assembled in a clean room to keep pressurized nitrogen from escaping.

When production began in 2008, managers rejected every second cylinder due to production flaws. “Machinists in Morocco have never seen pieces like this,” said local manager Giancarlo Zanfonato, holding one of the hand-size metal devices. He eventually realized that compared with seasoned French workers, his Moroccan staff needed twice the documentation, including pictures detailing every production step.

After intense efforts to educate machinists, the rejection rate has shrunk below 10%, yet remains far above the target of 2%, Mr. Zanfonato said. The project, which was expected to break even within one year, remains unprofitable. “We are a small company and this project was much too ambitious for us,” he said.

Mr. Zanfonato sees a hopeful sign in the creation of IMA, the vocational school, which will graduate several hundred students annually. The center is a partnership between the government, which contributed the land and buildings, and the industry group, Gimas. Its members organize and sponsor training, modeled on French standards, for their new hires. Students spend up to 10 months alternating two-week stints at IMA, where many live in dormitories, and on their new jobs.

Demand for graduates is so strong that companies are pressing for two shifts of classes, said IMA Director Annie Lagrandeur recently, as students practiced wiring and machining in the school’s shop. Nearby, others attended lectures given by veteran aerospace workers whom IMA hired from local plants for their expertise.

Before IMA, foreign aerospace investors were paranoid about rivals poaching their few skilled employees, Ms. Lagrandeur recalled. Some companies even forbade their local staff from riding together on shuttle buses out of fear they might try to recruit each other.

IMA and similar industry-led vocational schools that Morocco has established in the automotive and other industries are “leading-edge in the region,” says Anthony O’Sullivan, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s private sector development division in Paris. Morocco’s overall educational development lags many of its neighbors, and he says “one of the best ways to fill the gap is to have companies involved in training.”

Within three months of IMA’s opening in May, roughly 1,200 aspiring students had delivered resumes to the front gate, and more sent in applications, said Ms. Lagrandeur.

“It’s a great opportunity because we learn very technical skills in electronics,” said Ms. Boukhriss, the student. Classmate Said Ouchen added he is proud Morocco is developing an aerospace sector and has remained stable over the past year. “Morocco is an example,” he said.

Africa needs more manufacturing.  Morocco should be applauded for crafting such an industrial policy. Not only is the policy attracting foreign investment, workers locally are being trained and gaining valuable experience in the highly skilled profession of aerospace.

Royal Moroccan Air Force gets first delivery of advanced F-16’s

F-16 Fighting Falcon

Lockheed Martin has delivered its first pair of F-16’s to the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF).

The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) unveiled the first four of 24 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft in a ceremony at Ben Guerrir Air Base in Morocco. Senior representatives from the Moroccan and U.S.governments and air forces were present for the historic event.

This is Morocco’s first experience with the F-16 so the package being provided by the U.S. government is comprehensive. Morocco will acquire a Block 52 configuration of the F-16C/D aircraft tailored to meet the specific requirements of the RMAF.

The sale includes the aircraft, mission equipment and a support package provided by Lockheed Martin and other U.S. and international contractors. The new aircraft will supplement the RMAF’s existing fleet of fighter aircraft and will contribute to the upgrade and modernization of the RMAF.

“The delivery of these aircraft places Morocco among the very elite group of air forces of the world who operate the advanced multirole F-16,” said Ralph D. Heath, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics business area.

The F-16 is the choice of 25 nations. More than 4,400 aircraft have been delivered worldwide from assembly lines in five countries. The F-16 program has been characterized by unprecedented international cooperation among governments, air forces and aerospace industries. Major upgrades to all F-16 versions are being incorporated to keep the fleet modern and fully supportable over the aircraft’s long service life.

The F-16 was designed as a highly maneuvarable, reliable and lower cost alternative to the very expensive and complex but capable F-15 and Mig 29.
Here is a promotional video of the F-16 by Lockheed Martin.

Though this is part of Morocco’s arms build up, it is also strategic. This investment and purchase of US military equipment is a continuation of relations between Morocco and the U.S.. This past June military exercise Africa Lion took place, Morocco participated in the NATO no-fly-zone over Libya and trade is increasing between both sides. The U.S. and Morocco have had a long and historic relationship. The Kingdom of Morocco was among the first outside powers to recognize America as a state. In fact, the 1787 Treaty of Peace and Friendship is the longest-standing U.S. treaty still in force today. Expect good relations between both nations to continue.

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Africa Lion 2011 Military Exercise in Morocco

An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank from Company E, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, fires a round down range from its 120mm main gun during a training mission here May 22 as part of African Lion 2011. African Lion is an annually scheduled, bilateral exercise between the Kingdom of Morocco and the U.S. that involves more than 2,000 U.S. service members and approximately 900 members of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces.

African Lion is an annually scheduled, bilateral U.S.-Moroccan exercise designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s military tactics, techniques and procedures.

Clip below is about the Marine convoy from Agadir to Tan-Tan, Morocco.

This is the aviation refueling portion of the exercise with the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234 refueling exercise between a U.S. C-130 Hercules and a Moroccan aircraft.

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Trade between U.S. and Morocco doubles

Two way trade between the U.S. and Morocco has doubled since 2006.  That year Morocco and the US entered into a Free Trade Agreement and bilateral trade between the two countries has since doubled, reaching $2.6 billion last year. More and more US companies are taking advantage of the growing economic opportunities thanks to the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with Morocco the only African country that has an FTA with the US.

a delegation of US corporate leaders traveled to Morocco to explore the rapidly growing business and investment opportunities it has to offer across a variety of sectors. Representatives from nearly 20 US companies, including Lockheed Martin, Cisco Systems, FedEx, Raytheon, Motorola Solutions, and General Dynamics IT, met with private sector leaders and top Moroccan government officials at a time of tremendous bilateral growth between the US and Morocco, a key hub for accessing markets in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East…………….At the conclusion of the delegation’s visit to Morocco, LaMar Willis, General Dynamics IT VP of Strategic Program Development commented, “I think that the Moroccan government here is very progressive. Logistics-wise, Morocco is very strategically located—with good sea ports, airport infrastructure, and road investment. I think Morocco presents good opportunities and I would encourage US businesses to consider it. There is a very clear indication from the Moroccan government that they want US businesses and are willing to work with us.”……………………….Earlier this month, Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest tire and rubber company, opened a new tire sales facility in Casablanca, Morocco.  Bridgestone, which “aims to further strengthen its business in Morocco’s highly promising market,” called Morocco “a key region in which rapid economic expansion can be anticipated.”………..

” Morocco has witnessed in the last decade, substantial political, economic, social and legal reforms and has made considerable progress in enhancing the investment climate to attract foreign direct investment,” said Rabia El Alama, Executive Director of The Moroccan-American Chamber of Commerce in Casablanca. ” Morocco offers almost infinite opportunities for US businesses interested in using this country as a platform for production and export to other regional markets. Morocco is becoming a regional hub for key industries such as aeronautics, automobile, IT and off-shoring, as well as a distribution hub for North and Sub Saharan Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.”

Nothing cements a relationship between two countries quite like trade and economics.  This is a clear example of that and shows the need for other African nations to seek trade agreements with the U.S.

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Canada, Denmark, Spain, and Arab nations of Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco join to enforce no-fly-zone over Libya


Canada, Denmark, Spain and several Arab states have joined the campaign to enforce the no-fly-zone over Libya.

Canadian warplanes committed to a Western coalition air campaign over Libya will be enforcing a no-fly zone within 48 hours, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Sunday.

Six CF-18s left CFB Bagotville in Quebec on Friday to join the Western air coalition to enforce a UN no-fly zone over Libya. The announcement comes a day after U.S. and European airstrikes began on Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi’s forces and air defences to halt their bloody crackdown on rebels in the country’s east.

The CF-18s from CFB Bagotville, along with 150 personnel, arrived at a small airbase in Trapani, Sicily, around noon local time Saturday. The military had been considering moving the aircraft to a larger base in France, but defence sources said the jets are staying in Italy, the CBC’s James Cudmore reported on Sunday.

The sources said the Canadian pilots will start flying missions to enforce the no-fly zones once the military has approved systems for rules of engagement, command and control, as well as identifying friendly or hostile forces, Cudmore reported.

Denmark has six F-16 fighter ready to take off from Italy’s Sigonella air base to join the international air campaign against Muamer Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, ANSA quoted a senior Italian military official as saying Sunday.

Video of Danish airforce.

Rocco Massimo Zafarana said the Danish aircraft arrived Saturday at the base in Sicily, which is being used to support Operation “Odyssey Dawn” launched to protect Libyan civilians under a mandate of the UN Security Council.

“We do not know if other aircraft will arrive from other countries, but we are ready to welcome them and to provide them with all the necessary support,” Zafarana added.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told a crisis summit on Libya in Paris that his country was offering its military bases

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa attend an extraordinary meeting for the Libyan crisis in Rome.

“for now” but did not rule out a bigger participation later. He also said that eight jets are available to join the coalition.

The Spanish Defense Ministry said on Saturday that the country has sent four F-18 fighter jets and a refueling aircraft to Italy to take part in the operation over Libya starting on Sunday, AFP reported.

“These planes will carry out patrol missions and will be operational from tomorrow (Sunday),” a statement issued by the Spanish Defense Ministry read.

Several Arab states – most notably the United Arab Emirates, JordanMorocco and Qatar – are expected to join the Western coalition imposing a no-fly zone overLibya. (Past article about Arab states calling for a no-fly-zone over Libya and Arab participation can be found here.)

Fighter jets from the United Arab Emirates are expected to arrive in the Decimomannu base in Italy’s Sardinia to take part in Operation Odyssey Dawn

Qatar‘s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim Al Thani said the emirate will join the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Italy against Libya, making it the first Arab country to commit military forces.

Here is a video report about the military assets being used in Operation Odyssey Dawn.

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Morocco will host World Economic Forum on MENA

Morocco will host the the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The event will bring together policymakers, business leaders, and representatives of civil society to find lasting solutions to the region’s economic issues.

Economic actors of the Middle East and North Africa region are expected to debate on strategies to improve their economies especially with the emergence of recent challenges, including the global economic crisis, the instability of oil prices and water shortage.

In order to find a solution to the global economic meltdown that has had far-reaching consequences in the region, the forum aims to address the political and business particularities of member countries that are likely to impact future decisions and plans on a case by case basis.

Presenting a unique platform that brings together businesses, governments and civil society from both member states and the international community, the forum, according to André Schneider, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of the World Economic Forum, will “address the challenges of the region and chart a course for action”.

European and Mediterranean cooperation

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa should also serve as a suitable platform to spell out new orientations pertaining to the European and Mediterranean cooperation.

According to Abbas El Fassi, Moroccan Prime Minister, the forum will “provide an occasion to explore the perspectives of the future of European and Mediterranean cooperation and its implications for the region”.

Earmarked for October 26-28, under the theme “Sense, Resilience and Prosperity”, the event will see some 1,200 leaders from business, government and civil society gather in Marrakech, Morocco, a country that bridges Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Morocco’s resilience in the face of the economic meltdown has been attributed to the modernisation of its infrastructure, which strengthened its position on the international level while providing more economic avenues for its population.

Here is a graph of the previous economic and projected economic growth for MENA countries.

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa is a unique platform for leaders from the region and the rest of the world from business, governments and civil society to address the challenges of the region and chart a course for action. This is a good opportunity for Morocco to play a leadership and meaning role in the region.

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Morocco joins clean energy race

The Moroccan government has drawn up plans for becoming part of the renewable energy wave thats going on across the African continent.  The country has embarked on a leading solar energy plan and an integrated wind energy project, which will allow the kingdom to meet 42% of its energy needs by 2020, relying on clean and renewable energy sources.

Water, sun and wind: Morocco has launched an ambitious programme to harness the elements to produce “green” electricity to reduce its dependence on energy imports.

And eventually it even hopes to export the energy produced.

Lining the hills of Dhar Saadane, 126 windmills overlook the city of Tangiers, in what site manager Loubna


King Mohammed VI


Farabi says is the largest windmill park in Africa.

King Mohammed VI himself launched the site in June, one of the first steps towards Morocco’s avowed aim of exploiting renewable energy sources. It has a capacity of 140 megawatts (MW).

But to get that green energy requires a lot of money up front, especially when you are dealing with relatively new technology.

What has helped however, is the growing interest along the southern Mediterranean coastline among not just businesses but some European governments.

This has sparked interest in the Mediterranean to develop one of the region’s most abundant resources: the sun.

Ten years from now, by 2020, the plan is to generate 20 gigawatts (GW) of power in solar power across the southern Mediterranean countries, a quarter of which could be exported from Morocco into Europe.

Morocco’s project then, as ambitious as it is, is only part of a much larger plan put together by the 46-nation Union for the Mediterranean, which comprises the 27 European Union members and 16 Mediterranean countries.

For Mohammed Yahya Zniber, secretary general of Morocco’s energy ministry, this represents a real economic opportunity for the country.

And Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra puts it this way: by diversifying its energy sources Morocco can ensure energy security.


Morocco's 2000MW integrated solar energy project is attracting great international interest, Moroccan Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra said


The growing demand for energy in Morocco, on average up 6.5 percent a year, makes that argument all the more convincing.

At the moment, Morocco is importing more than 95 percent of its primary energy materials — oil, coal and gas — for the country’s energy needs. And it imports 18 percent of its electricity from Spain.

And while the country’s leadership has not ruled out looking at nuclear power, for the moment it has set itself the ambitious goal of increasing the share of renewable energy in its total output to 42 percent by 2020.

The plan is to share that out equally between hydroelectric, wind and solar energy: the wind park at Dhar Saadane then, is just one link in the chain and not enough in itself to meet the wind energy targets.

Morocco wants to produce 2,000 MW in wind energy alone by 2020 and for the moment, its windmills are only producing 280 MW year — and that will require an investment of some 2.2 billion euros (three billion dollars).

It will also have to build three dams to increase its hydroelectric production to 2,200 MW by 2020, said Zniber at the energy ministry.

But the real work will have to come in solar energy, a resource that until now has been underexploited.

Morocco is putting 6.6 billion euros into plans to produce 2,000 MW in solar energy by their stated deadline, said Mustapha Bakkoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN).

And given the amount of sunshine the kingdom enjoys, Morocco can expect to get a good return on its investment in this area, said Bakkoury: for the yield from its site would be 20 to 30 percent than equivalent installations in Spain.

Five sites have been chosen for this part of the programme, the first of which will be developed in Ouarzazate.

Deep in the heart of Morocco, the desert city is perhaps better known for some of the films that have been shot there: from David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” to “Star Wars” and Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”.

The plan is to have the Ouarzazate producing 500 MW by 2015. Morocco will put the first part of the project out to tender before the end of the year.

The problem with solar energy, said Bakkoury, was that it was a lot more expensive that conventional energy.

“This effort could only be justified if we put it in a larger economic context: the aim of the solar plan is to establish a real economic sector.”

This comes in the foot steps of Egypt laying out its plans for investment in Solar and Wind energy. Its good to see nations across Africa joining the clean energy race especially when in the long term this will be very beneficial due to the fact that geographically Africa is blessed with enough Solar and wind energy.

For more on Solar energy in Africa, see this previous post on the topic.

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European Union Proposes Agriculture Trade Deal With Morocco

The European Union proposes agri-food trade deal with Morocco.

The European Union’s executive arm proposed a new trade deal with Morocco on Thursday, designed to extend duty-free trade in agricultural, food and fisheries goods between the kingdom and the 27-nation bloc.

The agreement — negotiated at the end of 2009 — would allow 70 percent of the EU’s agricultural exports to enter Morocco duty free within the next 10 years.

Exports of oilseeds and cereals from the EU would be duty-free within a decade, with the exception of common wheat and durum wheat, for which Morocco would apply improved rates.

European Commission officials said the deal offered particular advantages for EU exports of processed products and speciality foods, with Morocco’s burgeoning middle class creating a growth market for such goods.

In return the EU is offering improved market access for Moroccan goods such as unprocessed fruit and vegetables, which currently account for 80 percent of EU imports from the kingdom.

This includes increased duty-free access for up to 285,000 tonnes of Moroccan tomatoes, which sparked protests by Spanish tomato farmers against the deal at an EU-Morocco summit in Granada in March.

European agri-food and fisheries exports to Morocco were worth about 1 billion euros ($1.31 billion) between 2007 and 2009, the Commission said. Morocco sold about 2 billion euros worth of similar goods to the EU over the same period.

More market access to Europe will create employment and investment opportunities for Morocco. Morocco has more to gain from the proposed trade deal, especially from direct foreign investment right across from Europe. It should go ahead and sign the deal.

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Arms race in Africa

Like most regions of the world, Africa is not immune to defense spending. The region seems to be in a low level arms build up. Defense spending world wide actually Increased, and Africa was no exception.

For the peoples of East Africa and the Horn of Africa long accustomed to living with armed conflict as a feature of everyday life, these are indeed uncertain times. During the seven month period between September 2009 and April 2010, reports gleaned from local and international media alike portend an ongoing or impending arms race in the region, as national armed forces within the region ramp up firepower.

SU-27 Fighter bomber

The region itself can best be described as a historically volatile one with most national armies engaged in fighting either full-fledged civil wars or low intensity armed insurrections. Since the formal separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1994 following the successful overthrow of the Marxist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam in May 1991 and the subsequent rise to power in Asmara(Eritrea) and Addis Ababa(Ethiopia), tensions have simmered between the two neighboring countries.

Both nations have twice, in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s, fought all-out wars in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers battled against each other and for which hundreds of surplus Soviet-era tanks, field and self-propelled artillery, as well as Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopter gunships were acquired from nations of the defunct soviet bloc, mainly Russia and Ukraine. While Eritrea acquired a mix of SU-27 and MiG-29 jets Ethiopia responded by purchasing advanced SU-27 jet fighters.

With increased oil profits, Sudan felt that it had to establish military equilibrium among its neighbors, Eritrea and Ethiopia.  Sudan has since then acquired a squadron of MiG-29 jet fighters and with technical assistance from China with which she maintains a strategic military, economic and diplomatic partnership, has gone into the local assembly of Chinese military hardware ranging from mortars to towed and self-propelled artillery, T59 and Type 96 battle tanks. The Chinese have also supplied Sudan with WS-2 ballistic missiles.

Between the years 2001 and 2009, Sudan placed orders for and took delivery of a vast arsenal of everything including:
In preparation for a possible return to hostilities, the semi-autonomous government of South Sudan has thus far used the Government of Kenya as proxy in its military procurement drive and has been acquiring surplus heavy weaponry from The Ukraine in 2008 and 2009. This has seen the acquisition of 110 units of T72 battle tanks, 122mm rocket artillery and ZU-series 14.5mm and 23mm anti-aircraft machine guns.
T-72 tanks were part of three weapons shipments from Ukraine “ostensibly consigned to the Kenyan Ministry of Defence” but that were in fact under contract to the Government of Southern Sudan, according to the Small Arms Survey. In addition to tanks, the three shipments in 2007 and 2008 are said to include 122 mm vehicle-mounted rocket launchers, 14.5 mm machine guns, 23 mm anti-aircraft cannon, RPG-7 rocket launchers and AKM assault rifles.
Of course this is increasing insecurity in the region.
The United States is meanwhile warning that shipments of arms into Southern Sudan are heightening insecurity there in the run-up to a referendum that could result in the region’s secession…..

Ms Rice spoke with reporters following a January 26 UN Security Council meeting on developments in Sudan. She said UN officials had indicated that heavier weapons now appear to be reaching the South. Specific information on the shipments has not been provided, Ms Rice added.

Violence is escalating in Southern Sudan, which had been at war with Khartoum for 20 years. The UN reports that more than 2000 people were killed in clashes among tribal militias last year. Some of the incidents involved thousands of heavily armed attackers, the UN says.

International monitors worry that the 2005 peace agreement could break down in the coming months, leading to a resumption of the war that killed an estimated two million Sudanese. Tensions are growing as the antagonists prepare for a scheduled 2011 referendum in the South on the question of whether the region should claim independence. “The international community appears completely unprepared to put out the fire that is likely to start in the event of a [peace treaty] breakdown,” the Small Arms Survey says. “It has singularly failed to prevent ongoing weapons flows into this highly volatile environment to date.”

The US government under George W Bush invested considerable diplomatic effort to bring about the peace agreement. And the Obama administration appears determined to prevent that achievement from coming undone.

The State Department has meanwhile contracted with private companies to help train South Sudan’s armed forces. The US says that arrangement does not contravene the peace treaty, which forbids arms shipments to the South without the joint approval of its government and the Khartoum government.

Kenya has also increased its defense spending spree. Since 2007, Kenya have received 32 units of Chinese-built armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft machine guns and Z9-WA attack helicopters from China. Queries have been raised due to the fact the helicopters haven’t flown since January.

The Kenyans have also taken delivery of a squadron of fifteen jet fighters which were acquired from Jordan, even though they are obsolete fighter jets to revamp its fleet.

Kenya’s neighbor, Uganda  which according to statistics available from the UN Register of Conventional Arms Transfers acquired 100 units of surplus T55 tanks from Bulgaria in 1998, the Kampala authorities have since 2003 received 31 units of BMP-2 armored vehicles from Russia, South African-made armored vehicles, Israeli-made Soltam 155mm field artillery guns and Mi-24 helicopter gunships.
Tellingly, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency on April 5, 2010 carried a report about a deal between the Russian state arms exporter (Rosoboronexport) and the Ugandans for the supply of six units of state-of-the-art SU-30MK2 jet fighter bombers could just be the tonic needed to push the arms race to new heights, as wealthier neighbors such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan will most certainly be taking notes of developments. Uganda though denied reports that it had bought the jets.

The question is how smaller and poorer countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Djibouti will react in the face of the ever-changing military realities in the region remains to be seen. It is however almost certain that with civil wars or insurrection or both so rife across the region – in Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and elsewhere, the rush to acquire arsenals of heavy weaponry does not seem likely to abate anytime soon.

Up north on the continent, the rivalry continues between Morocco and Algeria. Libya is also getting in the game as well.  According to SIPRI data, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia accounted for around three per cent of global arms imports for the period 2005-2009, but the volume of major conventional arms delivered to North Africa in 2005-2009 has increased by 62 per cent in comparison with 2000-2004. Algeria accounted for around 89 per cent of transfers to North Africa during this period, rising from 18th to 9th largest recipient of major conventional weapons globally. However, Morocco has placed significant orders in 2008 and 2009, leading to concerns that Algeria and Morocco are entering into what is regarded as an ‘arms race’.
Like Algeria, Libya has enjoyed increased revenues from natural resources and has enjoyed being courted by major arms suppliers in recent years. It was expected that after the lifting of the UN arms embargo in 2003 Libya would seek to modernize, upgrade and replace some of the significant quantity of major conventional weapons that had been acquired in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, for the period 2005-2009, Libya was the 110th largest arms importer in the world, according to SIPRI data.  Libya is not expected to lag behind its neighbours with regard to holdings of modern military equipment for long. Ghaddafi has enjoyed the attention lavished upon him by visiting heads of state from France, Italy, Russia and the UK in recent years, and each head of states has been accompanied by arms company representatives and rumours of multi-billion dollar deals for arms and military equipment.
Early this year in February, Libya signed an arms deal with Russia.
The most contentious weapons system that Moammar Gadhafi’s regime will acquire in the deal announced in Moscow Saturday is the S-300PMU2 air-defense missile, one of the most advanced in the world….

According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Libya is to get two batteries of the S-300.

It will also receive 20 military aircraft — 12-15 Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighters, four Su-30s and six Yakovlev Yak-130 combat training aircraft — according to Russian sources.

At a cost of $1 billion, the jets account for the bulk of the Libyan purchase.

Tripoli will also get several dozen T-90 main battle tanks and upgrades for more than 140 Soviet-era T-72 tanks, which are almost obsolescent now, and other weapons systems.

In March 2008, Morocco  purchased of 24 F-16 Block 52+ fighter jets from Lockheed Martin at a cost of $2.4 billion dollars. The purchase was in response to Algeria’s March 2006 $8 billion military-technical cooperation agreement with Russia $1.3 billion of which was allotted for the purchase of 29 single-seater MiG-29SMT fighters and six two-seater MiG-29UB fighters.
Algeria terminated the contract in 2007 upon receipt of the first batch of MiG-29s which, after a technical inspection, were deemed defective and of inferior quality than stipulated.  To redeem itself, Russia renegotiated the contract and offered Algeria new MiG-35 Fulcrum fighter aircraft and 16 Su-30 Flanker fighters.   The Russian government also approved a $2.5 billion contract between Irkut Corporation and the Algerian government to supply the latter with 28 Su-30MKA fighters by 2010.
In June 2009, The Algerian ministry of defense signed a contract with Agusta Westland, an Italian company of the Finmeccanica Group, to purchase 100 helicopters of various nomenclatures for its gendarmerie, police, and civil protection agency. The Finmeccanica Group is already committed to equip the Algerian navy with 6 AW101s helicopters and 4 Super Lynx 300 MK 130.
In October 2008, Morocco ordered 4C-27J tactical transport aircraft from Italy.

On September 9, 2009, Morocco was able to secure congressional approval for the purchase of support equipment and weapons for the F-16C/D Block 50/52 in conjunction with its F-16 contract with Lockheed Martin. The package is valued at $187 million and includes 28 AGM-65D Maverick missile, a tactical, air-to-surface guided missile designed for close air support, interdiction, and defense suppression mission against a variety of tactical targets. It is developed by Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon.

An F-16 can carry up to 6 Mavericks. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, a government entity that promotes military-to-military contacts in support of U.S. foreign policy and national security interests, has indicated that Morocco was also approved for the purchase of 60 enhanced Guided Bomb Unit-12 (GBU-12) Paveway II, a laser guided bomb (LGB) that utilized a Mk82 500-pound general purpose warhead and 28 M-61 vulcan cannons, a Gatling-style rotary gun produced by General Dynamics.

Additionally, Morocco requested the installation of communications, air combat pods, targeting pods, ground stations, night vision goggles (NVGs), joint mission planning systems, and radar warning receivers. This latest procurement will increase the interoperability between the U.S. and Morocco and enhance asset capabilities in bi-lateral terrorism prevention operations in the region.

Morocco then in October of that year, signed a contract to buy three CH-47D Chinook helicopters and associated parts, equipment and logistical support for an estimated cost of $134 million.

Earlier this year, a Moroccan air force delegation led by Colonel M’hamed Saufi toured Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Personnel from Morocco’s Royal Air Force are currently being trained at Luke’s and 162nd Fighter Wing airbase in Tucson, Arizona on the mission support, maintenance of F-16 and the organizational elements involved in the base operations of a fighter wing, i.e., civil engineers and fire department, communications, logistics readiness, security forces, and base services. Morocco is currently building an air force base specifically designed to support F-16 operations.

It is worth noting that, with $5.4 billion worth of arms contracts, Morocco is the third top-buyer of military hardware and weaponry in the developing world in 2008, surpassed only by United Arab Emirates, with $9.7 billion in arms deals, and Saudi Arabia, with $8.7 billion.  The United States holds 70.1 percent of the arms market; its arms sales in 2008 totaled $29.6 billion. Russia comes in a far second with $3.3 billion.

Considering that Morocco and Algeria are embroiled in a diplomatic dispute over “Western Sahara,” analysts are voicing serious concerns that the two countries are gearing up for an arms race that will upset the delicate status quo balance of the increasingly
bifurcated Maghreb.

The sad news is that neither, Algeria, nor Morocco, will get to use those expensive jet fighters. Both countries are neither in peace, nor war. It’s a waste of money and resources. For the both countries who suffer major unemployment crisis, a poor infrastructure (Algeria), and foreign exchange reserves (Morocco), they better focus their resources on what matters most: fighting corruption, promoting small business, and increasing trade between them.

Libya on the other hand is just trying to increase its prestige and lets not forget khadafi is sometimes……well not the most rational leader.

Egypt is also upgrading its fleet of F-16 fighter jets.  The Egyptian Air Force is the 4th largest F-16 operator in the world, mustering about 195 aircraft of 220 ordered.

Video report on the arms race.

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