Friday, July 01, 2016

Today Marks The First Day Of Morocco's Plastic Bag Ban

Morocco is the second-largest plastic bag consumer after the United States. Moroccans uses about three billion plastic bags a year, according to the Moroccan Industry Ministry. That averages out at 900 bags per year for each of Morocco’s 34 million people 

At the same time Morocco ranks alongside Costa Rica, Bhutan and Ethiopia as one of the world’s greenest countries, a fact partially due to its ambitious goals to crackdown on carbon emissions. Recent sustainability measures have turned the country into a green leader among developing nations, and the city of Marrakesh is due to host a global climate change conference in November 2016.

The country’s battle with the plastic bag has been in the works for years. Efforts in 2009 to ban the production and use of black plastic bags, which litter the country’s streets and beaches, were only partially successful, as authorities struggled to curtail informal production of the bags.

A landmark bill passed by the Moroccan parliament last October banned the production, import, sale and distribution of plastic bags across the country. The bill, which became law on July 1, is part of a larger environmentally conscious effort across the kingdom to go green.

Environmentalists welcome the plastic bag ban but say that it may take years for consumers to change their habits and, as the July 1 deadline approached, shops, street sellers and retailers across the country scrambled to stockpile reserves of reusable bags. The change, they say, will not be easy.

Jennie Romer, a New York-based lawyer says a blanket ban on the use of plastic bags will take some getting used to,  “It's a big cultural shift with that type of broader law,” she said. “As long as the government has the motivation to really enforce that. There is a lot of potential. The government entity that is implementing it has to be completely on board in order to make that really happen in practice.”

While Industry Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the initiator of the bill, said on his Twitter account that “several alternative solutions” will be made widely available, such as bags made of paper and fabric. He added that “freezer bags were excluded.”

For weeks now, awareness campaigns throughout the country have been warning Moroccans against the use of bags, which take hundreds of years to degrade. Their message is simple: plastic bags are unhealthy and dangerous for the ecosystem in a country that struggles to clean its streets and where fields of rubbish plague the local environment.

“They do it to promote the image of Morocco as an environmentally friendly country, which is partly true, but not completely,” Mamoun Ghallab, a sustainable development consultant, said during a recent beach clean-up event in Casablanca.

Ghallab said the government hasn’t done much to raise environmental awareness. Some campaigns about littering have been done, he added, but their cartoonish design made them only marketable to children. “If citizens are not aware of the concerns and the challenges we’re facing, things will go much slower,” Ghallab said. “Everything begins and ends with the citizens.”

But the UN Environmental Performance Review of Morocco, which has analysed the country’s environment protection progress since 2012, reported that Morocco “fails to address environmental challenges, which can gradually become economic and development challenges”.

According to a 2013 study released by the German Society for International Cooperation, Moroccan cities only collect 70 percent of solid waste. And the World Bank has reported that less than 10 percent of collected waste is disposed of in an “environmentally and socially acceptable manner.”

Yassine Zegzouti, 30, president of Moroccan advocacy organisation Mawarid, said it is possible for Morocco to totally ban plastic bags, but that changing consumer habits will be the most challenging part.

The government has shown a commitment to putting the ban into practice, he said, not only through TV spots encouraging citizens to change their habits, but also by investing millions of Moroccan dirhams into encouraging the industry to transform their production of the bags.

“The formal sector will need four to five years to comply with the new law,” said Zegzouti.

“But the use of plastic bags is anchored in consumer habit,” said Zegzouti. “All actors need to change these habits to not have any damage in the future.”


A "Grand Theatre" for Fez?

Back on June 19th, The View From Fez reported that Fez was to get a new "Arts Institute" with a budget of 60 million dirhams. In the same article we mentioned the possibility of a theatre and museum being built. Now we can confirm that buckets of money are being set aside for a "Grand Theatre"

The theatre budget is around 100 million dirhams (MDH) and the construction of the Grand Theatre of Fez, is intended to give new impetus to the artistic and cultural activity of the spiritual capital of the Kingdom.

Will the Fez Theatre be as "grand" as the one intended for Rabat?

This ambitious project was recently adopted at the regular session of the Council of the region of Fez-Meknes,  and will be funded by the Ministries of Culture (25 MDH), Interior (22 MDH) and Habitat, town Planning and Urban Policy (22 MDH), the council of the Fez-Meknes region (20 MDH), the commune of Fez (9 MDH) and the Council of the Fez prefecture (2 MDH).

The Council of the Fez-Meknes region also adopted other projects with an investment of 366.5 million dirhams, including the construction of a museum for a budget of 80 million DH and an Institute of fine arts of Fez (60 MDH).

However, to put things in perspective, the Fez Theatre may not be all that "grand" when compared to Rabat, where the estimated cost was 1.677 billion dirhams. The Rabat project included an amphitheater that seats 7,000 people, and an auditorium (1,900 seats).

Hopefully a little more money can be found so that an architect of the calibre of Zaha Hadid, who designed the Rabat project, can be employed to create something special for Fez. Miracles happen and, as they say in Fez,  fil al-Maghrib, la tasstaghrib - when in Morocco prepare to be surprised! 


Henna Ceremony for the 27th of Ramadan

(Click image to enlarge)

The 27th day of Ramadan has a very deep spiritual significance in the heart of all Muslims. It is celebrated in many places around the Muslim world in a variety of ways.

The ALC-ALIF Photography Club is going to offer a free Henna ceremony for the Medina children and after photographing neighbourhood children and their families, we will provide free prints for the children to remember this special day.

As always, everyone is welcome to join us!

Saturday, July 2 at 11:30 AM
Meet in front of the Batha Fountain


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Environmentalists Condemn Italian Dumping of Rubbish in Morocco

Moroccan environmentalists are up in arms over a shipment of rubbish from Italy being sent to Morocco. After the latest rubbish arrival associations for environmental protection have protested against the arrival of a large ship, from Italy, to Port of Jorf Lasfar

The 2,500 tons of waste plastics, rubber and used tires, is being be moved to Casablanca and Settat, to be burned in cement plants. Mohamed Khalidi, President of the Regional Centre for the Environment and Sustainable Development, stressed that "this incident is not the first of its kind. A number of associations have already had to deal with other shipments and rubber tires to burn in a cement plants in Morocco."

In a statement to the public, the centre in El Jadida condemned the shipment of waste "that prove dangerous and toxic, causing human and environmental damage and lead to the emergence of many acute and chronic illnesses, as well as birth defects and lifelong disabilities."

Mohamed Khalidi also asked the authorities to "put an end to such behaviour and to punish any person intending to import toxic substances to Morocco to burn and pollute the environment."

Morocco is not "a waste repository"

Mohamed Khalidi is surprised that people pollute the environment at the same time as Morocco has launched the Zero Mika (no plastic bags) campaign and will host the 22nd UN climate conference, COP 22. He also noted that a demonstration will follow this weeks the statement issued by the centre, to attract the attention of officials at local, regional and national levels, and intends to ask them to stop all behaviour harmful to human health and which affects the reputation of the country, which, he says is not "a waste repository".


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Effect of Brexit on Morocco

If Britain eventually goes ahead and leaves the EU there will be implications for Morocco. The effect of Brexit, at the very least, will be the need to formulate new trade agreements and establish a new economic relationship with Great Britain

The relationship between the UK and Morocco has a long history. The UK is one of Morocco’s oldest partners with 803 years of diplomatic relations. UK links to Anglophone Africa and Morocco’s Francophone African links have created a platform for new business relationships over the years.

UK exports of goods to Morocco reached £573 million in 2014. Bilateral trade in goods and services is worth around £1.8 billion. Morocco's exports to Britain are estimated at 6.01 billion dirhams, while imports amounted to 7.99 billion dirhams at the end of 2015.

Top UK exports to Morocco include: mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation, vehicles (other than railway), iron and steel nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and equipment, aircraft, man-made staple fibres, knitted or crocheted fabrics, instruments and apparatus, beverages, vinegar and spirits.

In return, Morocco exports a variety of products to the UK including food, beverages, tobacco, crude materials and fuel, chemicals and related products, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment.

The UK is Morocco's 7th biggest customer, 15th biggest supplier and among the top 6 foreign investors in the kingdom. Morocco entered into a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the US in 2006 and an Advanced Status agreement with the EU in 2008.

London Stock Exchange welcomes Moroccan delegates 

The impact on trade between Morocco and Britain will be most felt with the imposition of customs duties and in the opinion of the President of the Moroccan Institute of International Relations (IMRI), Jawad Kerdoudi, there will be an initial decline in trade.

"In principle there will be the issue of customs duties between Morocco and Great Britain and therefore it is feared some decline in trade between the two countries," Mr. Kerdoudi said. He suggested that Britain should start negotiations with several countries, including Morocco, in order to sign free trade agreements to restore exemptions from customs duties. A process, he points out, that may take some time.

The question also arises as to where Morocco sits among the priorities of the UK.

If Britain's exit from the EU causes economic decline in Europe, European demand for Moroccan goods will also decline.

Economist Omar Kettani says that after the exit of Britain from the EU, Morocco must renegotiate free trade agreements not just with Britain but also with the EU. "Morocco should have an open vision and be able to negotiate win-win agreements, especially since Britain will be a country free of European restrictions," says Kettani.

Uncertainties about the economic and political future of Europe will have repercussions on the relationship between the EU and Morocco. However, Morocco will retain its important role with the EU in relationship to anti-terrorism and security cooperation.

The chief of the Bank Al Maghrib, Abdellatif Jouahri, has downplayed the effect on the Moroccan economy of a possible exit from Britain to the EU, calling it "limited". "The exit of Britain from the EU will certainly effect Europe, but will not impact the Moroccan economy more than 0.1 points," he declared during a press conference after the second quarterly meeting of this year the Council of the Central Bank.

Former British Ambassador to Morocco Clive Alderton and his family at the Fez Festival

Undoubtably Morocco and the UK will forge new ties. Back in 2014, the then UK Ambassador to Morocco, Clive Alderton, summed up the relationship succinctly when he said "The Morocco/UK relationship has come a long way in its 800 year old history. That is no surprise: as Monarchies, we are used to planning for the very long term. While the rapid pace of change in the 21st Century imposes new risks and challenges, it also offers vast new opportunities. We have overhauled our relationship to ensure it is fit for purpose to meet these challenges, rediscovering old friendships and making new ones along the way.”

To which one can only say, "InshAllah".


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Medieval Rhapsody - a Free Concert in Fez

Abdou and Youness first met at a jam session of the ALC-ALIF Music Club in Rabat with two of the biggest jazz legends in the world, Herbie Hancock and Dee Dee Bridgewater on May 5th, 2015. After that they become friends, and in December they met for a jam session again, but this time only the two of them. Abdou was playing percussive Fingerstyle guitar and Youness his oud, adding an Arabic touch to Occidental music, mixing the soft sound of the oud and the edgy pluck of the guitar. They created a new style of music with a Medieval feel and a Jazz spirit, and this is how Medieval Rhapsody was born.

Medieval Rhapsody performs arrangements and medleys of film soundtracks, as well as Classical Arabic and Celtic music, jazz, folk, Japanese and sometimes Pop music, always adapting the piece for Guitar and Oud.