Business Brief: Morocco Set to Host International Conferences on Aviation and Sustainable Development; Announces Large Scale Infrastructure and Renewable Energy Projects; and Looks Ahead to Building its Agricultural Sector – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
August 18, 2017

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

Several international conferences have announced plans for events in Morocco. Key transportation, ports, and highway projects have been announced, as well as further investments in urban development, desalination/solar energy initiatives, and agricultural sector improvements.

Upcoming conferences. The Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) Conference, will hold a one-day conference on September 11 in Marrakech. It has announced a full roster of speakers, demonstrations, and topics related to business aviation in the region, such as cyber security, aircraft financing and investment, market trends, and ownership options. Representing Morocco will be the Minister of Tourism, Mohammed Sajid and Zouair El Aoufir, CEO of the Office Nationale des Aeroports (ONDA).

According to Ali Alnaqbi, Executive Chairman of MEBAA, “The event will provide the attendees with an invaluable insights into many key areas of the industry, while also identifying opportunities for growth. Attendees will leave with a deeper understanding of the market and the tools to grow their businesses in conjunction with the burgeoning market.” The MEBAA Conference will be followed by the MEBAA Show Morocco, a two-day event at Marrakech Menara Airport.

The 7th Digital Earth Summit 2018, which focuses on Digital Earth for Sustainable Development in Africa, will be held in El Jadida, Morocco, at the Faculty of Science, Chouaib Douakkali University, from 17-19 April 2018. This conference will be one of the major events in the international community of Earth observation and geo-spatial information science in 2018.

The conference is being organized by the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE) and the Chouaib Douakkali University (UCD)  in partnership with the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE)  and the Moroccan Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (MARSE). Its objective is to bring together scientists and professionals from the international and African community to present recent achievements, discuss challenges, and share experiences. In addition to experts, reports on research outcomes, and discussions on operational topics, such as capacity building, Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), big data, space policy, programs, and projects, there will be commercial exhibitions showing the latest products and services in Digital Earth and geospatial information technologies.

Large scale projects take center stage. Abengoa, a Spanish energy services company, has signed an agreement with the Moroccan government to build a solar powered seawater desalination plant, essential for meeting the country’s growing demand for potable water, near the metropolitan tourist area of Agadir. Once completed, the plant is expected to start producing close to 275,000 cubic meters of water per day – 150,000 for food consumption and 125,000 for irrigating the 13,600 hectares of commercial farms near Agadir, with a goal of a maximum capacity of 450,000 cubic meters per day. Abengoa will be responsible for the development, construction, and maintenance of the plant for at least 27 years.

On the agricultural front, Morocco has allocated $2.3 billion to projects promoting the use of solar energy in agricultural production. According to Energy Minister Aziz Rabbah, the project is meant to boost the use of solar energy in pumping water, and to curb the consumption of butane gas. The solar energy will come from the Noor solar facility in Ouarzazate.
With an average consumption of 3.8 cubic meters of water per person per day, including agriculture and industrial use, the Abengoa plant will be able to cover the needs of nearly 72,500 people.

In other agricultural news, the General Directorate of Agriculture of Laayoune announced that $270 million will be spent on 92 agricultural projects in the Laayoune-Sakia-El Hamra region from 2016-2020. The allocations cover land reclamation, irrigation, water management, fertilizer utilization, demonstration projects, and similar initiatives to strengthen and modernize the agricultural sector in those areas.

Minister of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests Aziz Akhannouch recently reviewed the progress of agricultural projects in Draa, Todgha, Maider, Aliat Draa, and Bani, where some $190 million in projects, benefiting some 88,000 people is moving ahead. The projects cover date crop production, olive groves, almonds, aromatic plants, saffron, apple, henna, figs, and garlic, in addition to red meat and beekeeping. These efforts are part of various phases of the Plan Vert Maroc, the national strategy for agriculture and fisheries.

Highway construction projects move ahead. In the metropolitan area around Casablanca, perhaps the most congested in the country, a budget of almost $160 million has been allocated to highway widening projects to reduce congestion by adding additional lanes between Casablanca and Settat and Berrechid, to its south. Meanwhile, more than $75 million has been allocated to the construction of 112 miles of roads in the province of Al Hoceima, as part of the regional development plan. A report from the African Development Bank noted that it has provided some $2 billion over 20 years to support the transportation sector in Morocco.

Safi port development gathers steam. The new port of Safi is slated to be one of the largest in Morocco, and will have a great economic impact on the province, known primarily as a leading producer of ceramics. The port, to be built at a cost of some $420 million, will enable the Marrakech-Safi region to reach international markets more quickly and efficiently

And speaking of Marrakech. The municipal government recently announced that it will pioneer the use of electrical buses in Morocco. It is anticipated that replacing the current diesel-powered fleet will reduce pollution and noise, and enhance the urban transportation system. The goal is to have buses operating by the end of September.


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