Business Brief: President Macron Makes Morocco First Stop in North Africa; Moroccan Entrepreneurs Shine; and MCC-MCA Morocco Gets Going – Jean R. AbiNader

Morocco's King Mohammed VI with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
June 21, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

It did not go unnoticed in the region that French President Emmanuel Macron visited Morocco on his first visit to North Africa. While it was a private visit, with a concurrent announcement of a pending visit to Algeria, it reinforces the special relationship that exists. Good news for Moroccan entrepreneurs who forge ahead with innovation for low-cost cooking; and MCC-MCA Morocco announces public meetings.

Macron to King Mohammed VI, solid and reliable partnership. Though it was a private visit, with no business or political delegation to accompany him, President Macron made sure to visit Morocco to make up for skipping the country during his campaign and to continue the strong bond that exists between the countries. Commentaries were consistent in pointing out the strong economic, political, and security relationship that continues to serve the best interests of both.

In a wide-ranging discussion on France24, it was noted that the US has passed France as the largest investor in Morocco, while Spain is now the number one trading partner, despite the extensive investments made by Renault, Peugeot, Airbus, and others in highly visible projects encompassing the auto, aerospace, rail, and ports sectors, among others. Contention in the Gulf and continued terrorism threats in the EU may have topped the agenda, but Morocco’s economic and commercial partnerships with France clearly speak to the permanence of the bilateral ties.

In fact, a Times of India.com blog following the visit was headlined “Important Axis: The France-Morocco relationship is slated to become a global asset,” and went on to detail the diverse and substantial ties between the two allies.

Macron and King Mohammed share a common vision of supporting Africa’s economic growth as an antidote to instability — and as a rich source of market opportunities. The blog noted, “But for a strong Macron presidency to formulate a new Africa policy, Paris needs a stable African partner. And that partner can be no other than the North African nation of Morocco.” It mentioned that “Today, Morocco is not only the most dynamic economy in North Africa but has also become the second largest investor on the continent. Add to this Morocco’s King Mohammed VI’s vision of pushing South-South cooperation among sister African nations…It is with this principle in mind that Morocco has over recent years boosted its economic engagements with countries of the Sahara and Sahel regions.”

It is in this regional context of building security through prosperity that France and Morocco are the ideal partnership for advancing growth and stability on the continent.

From big ideas, smart innovations. As noted in various publications, “The Global Innovation Index 2017 ranked Morocco as the first innovative economy in North Africa and the third on the continental level preceded only by South Africa and Mauritius.” We have discussed the report on our website and thought it might be interesting to look at a case study of how a simple idea turned into a pragmatic solution can yield many benefits.

As reported in Morocco World News, a group of university students in Morocco have pioneered an insulated isotherm bag that slow cooks food using retained heat. Food is initially heated in the usual manner, and then the dish is placed inside the bag to continue the cooking process without an external heat source.

Called Eco-Heat, the low-tech bag saves energy, reduces pollution, and frees the food preparer for other tasks. Three students at EHTP, the engineering college in Casablanca, came up with the concept while visiting rural villages in Morocco and observing how much energy was wasted in simple food preparation. Given that the dominant fuels are wood, coal, and butane gas, there were also health concerns associated with the cooking process. ­The students were part of Enactus, which bills itself as “A community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better and more sustainable world.” Active in 36 countries, Enactus enables students to test ideas, garner support, and launch projects.

The students developed the isotherm bag, patented the technology, and began marketing, with more than $20,000 in start-up funds from various sponsors including Ford, Enactus, and OCP.

The bag has broad utility beyond rural areas. As Marwane Fachane, who worked with the startup during their time with the incubator Dare Inc., explained, “The average Moroccan consumer needs the product for two reasons: In urban areas, because he no longer has time to cook, and in rural areas, because he can no longer afford other alternatives such as gas, wood or electric furnaces.”

MCC-MCA Morocco focus on education. MCA, the Moroccan partner of MCC, which administers the $250 million second compact, is working hard to start up after delays caused by the lack of a formal government earlier this year. The first item on the docket is a competitive process to solicit ideas and proposals for improving existing secondary schools in Morocco and launching new ones. Each awardee must have a partnership with a Moroccan entity, creating important opportunities for advancing educational consulting in the Kingdom. For full details and contact information, visit http://charaka.mcamorocco.ma.

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