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Biz Brief: New Partnerships, from China to Detroit, Form Win-Win Projects – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 25, 2017

Morocco’s largest skyscraper will be built with a Chinese company. The African Development Bank extends its efforts in the water sector. A US company starts testing solar power cooling systems while another draws inspiration from Moroccan architecture in a Detroit redevelopment effort. And a Canadian company sets up a joint venture for mineral exploitation. Also, Casablanca does well in poll of African urban centers

Reaching Up. Several sources report that Morocco’s leading construction company, Travaux Generaux de Construction de Casablanca, has entered into a joint venture with the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC)  to build what will be Africa’s largest skyscraper in Rabat. Tagged at some $375 million, the 45-story tower, built to ecological and sustainable design concepts, will include offices, hotels, and luxury apartments and be a key element in the country’s development of the Bouregreg Valley captured in the 2014-2018 development program dubbed “Rabat, City of Light, Moroccan Cultural Capital.”

The project also involves building several innovative facilities, including the Grand Theater of Rabat, the Arts and Culture House, the National Archives of the Kingdom of Morocco and a business center. According to the CRCC’s headquarters in Beijing, the total designed floor space is 86,000 square meters. “The project, CRCC’s first skyscraper in Morocco, will accelerate the development of infrastructure and engineering projects not only in North Africa, but also in other markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative,” said the CRCC, which will own 60% of the tower.
Casablanca Does Well in Measures of Urban Business Environment. The Fraym Urban Markets Index ranks Africa’s 169 largest urban clusters in 35 countries in terms of business environment, accessibility, and connectedness to markets. Casablanca placed 6th, which was cited as a “highly connected” gateway to its sub-regions and beyond. Given the diversity of the top 20 cities, Fraym CEO Ben Leo said that well-connected hubs have an “outsized influence despite having a smaller GDP that many other African cities.”African
Development Bank Zeroes in on Water Sector. As the leading donor in Morocco’s water sector, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has acquired extensive experience in the country. It has funded water treatment installations and distribution systems in 30 cities, providing supplies of sustainable drinking water to more than two thirds of the population, reaching as high as 100% in many urban areas. In a recent report it noted that “In rural areas, the access to drinking water has improved from 14 per cent in 1990 to 94 per cent now.” At a cost of some $350 million, projects include improving the quantity and quality of drinking water on the Rabat-Casablanca access for some five million residents, and a further 2 million people in the Marrakech, Al Haouz, and Al Kelaa areas. The Moroccan partner for these projects is ONEE, the National Office for Electricity and Potable Water. In the upcoming planning period of 2017-2021, AfDB will continue its work in the water sector.
Morocco-US Projects Worth Noting. A Boston start-up is now field testing its “evaptainer” in Morocco to assess its ability to provide cooling for foods, medicines, and other perishables using only the sun and science to power the unit. Resembling a large ice chest, the patented technology is called PhaseTek and is activated when users fill the reservoir “with any source of water (e.g. tap, well, river, lake). The walls of the device then begin to draw out heat from the interior of the device through evaporative cooling. The EV-8 can cool its internal storage space by 15-20 degrees Celsius from ambient conditions.” The first results, from the 300 Moroccan households using the evaptainer, are expected in fall 2017.In Detroit, where sections of the city have yet to experience any significant re-development, a company has turned to Morocco for inspiration on how to repurpose buildings that broadly benefit the community. In the city’s North End, the group Ghana ThinkTank, a coalition of artists from Ghana, Morocco, Indonesia, and more, is working on a concept called American Riad. “A typical home style in Morocco, a riad has a courtyard where family and friends gather. There may be beautiful tiles, a small pool or fountain, and lush foliage. In the North End, where unemployment is about 23 percent and an estimated 43 percent of residents live in poverty, this concept will be adapted to be the centerpiece of an inclusive arts colony that organizers hope will also be an economic engine.”

A section of the city that has long been marginalized, despite once being home to many Motown artists, the North End is benefiting from a new streetcar line that promises to enable greater economic activity for residents. The first step was securing an underused 12-unit, mixed-use building and the grassy lot that will one day be the American Riad courtyard. “Beyond a community arts center, the renovation plans include six affordable housing rentals and commercial space for businesses that serve the needs of the North End.”

Canadian Company Inks Manganese Partnership. Vancouver-based Maxtech has formed a joint venture with Green Energy Resources (GER) of Morocco “to evaluate established mineral and mining concessions in Morocco for potential acquisition or joint ventures,” according to the company’s press release. Several manganese assets are in advanced stages of development, and the firm would seek to garner fully permitted mining concessions from the government.

Peter Wilson, CEO of Maxtech, said, “This partnership provides a unique opportunity for Maxtech to expand into Morocco with a goal to eventually supply manganese into the European marketplace. It is an excellent jurisdiction in which to operate and with the help of Green Energy’s in-country presence we will be able to evaluate new manganese claims efficiently.”

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