Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Swimming to Europe by Way of Cueta (Sebta), Morocco

Here is an article from Radio Netherlands Africa about people from Sub-Saharan Africa seeking refuge in Cueta/Sebta as a step towards reaching Europe.


Swimming Towards the Future
Published on : 27 December 2011 - 2:51pm | By RNW Africa Desk

The refugee camp in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, has been facing severe overcrowding during the last couple of weeks. Again. Africans have found yet another way to get in – by swimming around the border fence. Large numbers of people make the attempt at the same time to reduce the chances of being caught.

By Lex Rietman

Dusk is falling at Ceuta refugee camp. The sun is setting early on this winter day, but there is just enough light to enjoy the view over this fortified Spanish city on Morocco’s northern coast. The town is spread out below us, with the Strait of Gibraltar to the left. On the other side of the water, the last rays of sunshine bathe the rock of Gibraltar in a golden glow. That’s where the prosperity of Europe begins – a corny Hollywood movie couldn’t have done it better.

Crisis or no crisis, Europe still embodies the hopes and dreams of millions of Africans. For the residents of the Temporary Immigrant Housing Centre (CETI) – the official name of this compound on the mountain just outside town – only half the dream has come true. After all, Ceuta is Europe but then again, it isn’t. Across the water, on the Spanish mainland, is where the Schengen area begins. There, you are free to travel, with no internal border controls. But reaching Ceuta is nevertheless a big step towards realizing the dream.

Reinforced border

In recent years, Ceuta has been turned into an almost impregnable fortress. Six years ago, hundreds of Africans managed to force their way into the city from Morocco. The European Union has responded by spending millions of euros on border reinforcement. What is more, for a few years Morocco has been actively cooperating in the fight against illegal immigration. In return, Rabat has negotiated favourable trade conditions with the EU.

All these measures, however, don’t discourage the African refugees. Ibrahim Traore, a 21-year-old Cameroonian, has been in Ceuta for two weeks now. “Around 100 of us jumped into the sea on the Moroccan side – 78 of us made it,” he says. “I was very lucky, because I managed to get here after only three months of waiting in Morocco. On the other side of the border hundreds, maybe thousands of people like me are hiding in the mountains, waiting for a chance. Some have been waiting years.” Anyone unfortunate enough to be caught by the Moroccan police is deported to Mauritania, 3,000 kilometres to the south.

Speed record
“Four months and eleven days.” With astonishing accuracy, 26-year-old Cédric from Chad tells us how long he has been in Ceuta. He must have set some kind of speed record, because he left his village “on 12 March 2011”. Cédric also arrived in the Spanish enclave across the sea, but not by swimming. With six other people, he bought a Zodiac dinghy and they managed to reach the Ceuta coast. When asked whether he is doing alright in the refugee centre, he says: “Yes, I’ve got nothing to complain about, though I do get bored occasionally.”

CETI isn’t a normal refugee centre. The centres on the Spanish mainland are detention centres under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry. The poor facilities and harsh treatment of immigrants regularly prompt sharp criticism by humanitarian organisations.

Sense of dignity

But like Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in Morocco, Ceuta has an open refugee centre. Residents receive an ID card and are free to go wherever they want within the enclave. Director Carlos Bengoetchea stresses the psychological importance of this approach: “It gives them a sense of dignity and of being legally protected,” he says. “Finally they have become a person again, often after years of travelling without documents, at the mercy of corrupt policemen.”

In the centre, refugees can take computer, language and cooking lessons, and it has a small, but much-used gym. The original gym was bigger, but is now being used as a dorm, out of necessity. Today, the centre is home to 700 refugees, 200 more than it was officially built to house.

Even so, there’s a relaxed atmosphere in the compound. “The question is for how long,” says Carlos Bengoetchea. “We’ll have to wait and see what Prime Minister Rajoy’s new right-wing government decides to do with the centre. Judging from his party’s tough stance on immigrants, it doesn’t look good.”

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Moroccan Clementine Production up 6% - Export Season Begins

Here is an article from on the beginning of the citrus export season in Morocco. We already have some in our grocery store here in the US.
Citrus production Morocco increases by 6%

The export season in Morocco has started. The season, which runs from November till the end of June, holds good promise. Sufficient rain fell during the last year (the citrus production is 70% dependent on water from reservoirs and 30% of sub-soil wate and the quantity of the production has increased by 1200 HA new plantings. According to the ministry of Agriculture the citrus production this year increases by 6% compared to the previous season, a quantity of 1,86 million tons.

The production of oranges is estimated at 975,000 tons, which is 52.3% of the total citrus production. It is expected that 496,000 tons of the variety Moroc Late (44%) and 375,000 tons (35.5%) of the Navel will be produced. The small citrus is also important in the total with a quantity of 764,000 tons, of which 509,000 tons are clementines. The new varieties, such as Nour, Nules and Afourer are estimated at 95,000, 84,000 and 43,000 tons respectively. Souss remains the most important region for the production of citrus fruit. This season a total production of 744,000 tons is expected, which is 40% of the country total. The region Souss is followed by El-Gharb with 336,000 tons, Tadla (272,000 tons), Oriental (269,000 tons), Haouz (140,000 tons) and Loukkos (35,000 tons).

According to Aspam the increase in the supply will result in an 8% increase in export. Nevertheless Morocco only exported 110,000 tons (mainly clementines) up to 1 December against 160,000 tons in the same period last year. This delay does not cause anxiety according to Ahmed Derrab, general secretary of Aspam. Also not when the traditional markets as a result of the crisis ascertain a decrease in demand. Various other contacts have strengthened in the meantime, such as those with North America, which now already obtains 12% of the export, just as the contacts with the new markets in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania. The Moroccan producers look more and more to Asia, especially China, where the citrus is available in the supermarkets in Shanghai.

The general secretary also mentions that on the traditional market itself there is enough to correct "Markets like Great Britain, Germany and the Benelux have been neglected. This is because they are selling areas where Spain causes problems for us and where we could not interfere because of the lack in the growth of production" Ahmed Derrab says. He also points out that there should be more invested in the Russian market, which bought half of the Moroccan export in 2010/2011.

This season the export is expected to be 1.3 million tons, of which 200,000 tons are clementines. The remaining quantity has already been booked by the local market, where the direct consumption by private citizens is very large and profits good because other products such as apples and bananas are very expensive. Nevertheless professionals complain about the taxes levied by the wholesale market without any reason. Also the condition of the logistics is also a reason to complain. To they add there is a bottleneck between the non-structured markets and the increase of the number of agents. "Contrary to what is believed the large distribution in Morocco does not take more than 15,000 tons in total annually" Ahmed says.

Aspam mentions that demand for the current year is present, but that they hope that this will increase, especially the demand for the variety Moroc Late. The big question is what prices will do. The clementine is expected to be somewhere between 0.49 and 0.81/kg and the orange between 0.25 and 0.57/kg. Morocco expects a citrus production of more than 2.9 million tons in 2020.

Publication date: 12/20/2011
Author: Gerard Lindhout

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Moroccan Women Proposing to Men for Marriage

Here is an article from Al-Arabiya, on the rising tendency of Moroccan women to express their intentions of marriage directly to Moroccan men.
More Moroccan Women Propose to Men

Tuesday, 20 December 2011
By Khadija al-Fathi
Al Arabiya Casablanca

In conservative societies, it is always expected of men to take the initiative as far as marriage proposals are concerned and girls who decide to reverse the situation are likely to be criticized for breaking a long-standing tradition. The remarkable rise in the number of women proposing to men in Morocco has shed more light on the phenomenon and drove many to analyze the reasons for its prevalence.

“I proposed to my husband,” Naeema al-Mansouri told Al Arabiya.
Mansouri recounted the time she met the woman that later became her mother-in-law and offered to marry her son.

“We were in a wedding and I met her there. Another woman asked her how her son was and she said he found a job and was looking for a wife. I told her that I can make a good wife for her son and that I am good at cooking and household chores.”

The woman, Mansouri added, told her that she likes her and that she has no problem with her marrying her son, but said he has to decide when he gets to see her.

“I met him and he liked me. He said he would marry me provided that we live with his mother who would feel lonely if we lived away from her. I agreed and now she is like a mother to me.”

Hend, a woman in her thirties, first proposed to her future husband jokingly.
“I told him I am willing to bring a bunch of flowers and ask him to marry me,” she told Al Arabiya.

Hend added that he asked her whether she was serious and she told him that “the man who refuses to divorce his wife when she asks for it is not a man and so is the man who refuses to marry a woman when she asks for it.”

“Of course I am a man,” he replied then went to visit her parents with their family.

Hassan al-Haithami, editor-in-chief of the Justice and Development Party’s website, does not mind marrying a woman who proposes to him as long as she has all the traits he needs in a wife.

“There is nothing wrong with a woman asking a man to marry her. These are feelings and you cannot control them and decide who says what. There is nothing insulting for a woman to do that. In fact, I find it very brave,” he told Al Arabiya.

Rukaia Zayed, a housewife and a mother of four, disagreed to this breach of traditions.

“If a woman proposes to my and he agreed, I will disown him forever,” she told Al Arabiya.

Zayed explained that in this case she will discover what a weak personality her son has and how indifferent he is to the social and family norms in which he was brought up.

For sociologist and university professor Abdul Samad al-Dialmi, the rise in the number of women proposing to men is part of a female campaign to promote the principles of gender equality.

“Moroccan women are proving that they will not surrender to spinsterhood and that she has the right to tell a man if she likes him and wants to marry him because they are equal,” he told Al Arabiya.

Dialmi objected to regarding this action on the part of women as too daring and argued that society has to admit that this is one of women’s rights.
Abdul Razek al-Jay, professor of Sunna at Rabat University and member of the Scientific Circle for Islamic Studies, said that men are usually the ones who propose to women because this is what tradition has always dictated, yet there is nothing wrong with it from the religious point of view.

“Prophet Mohamed’s first wife Khadija was the one who proposed to him, yet this has not been part of the Sunnah because it is not socially common,” he told Al Arabiya.

Jay explained that Islam is the religion of equality and that is why it is the woman’s right to propose to a man if she finds in him the traits she seeks.
“The only problem would be if the woman proposes to the man because of how rich or handsome he is and without paying attention to his morals. She will in this case have fallen into the trap of imitating Mexican and Turkish soap operas that have lately invaded the Arab world,” he concluded.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Global,Quality Education for Moroccans in Morocco?

Here is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Eduction on a newish educational initiative, the International University of Rabat. The article came out a few months ago, but it seems more interesting than the recent coverage of events in Morocco.

In Morocco, Visions of a Silicon Valley Campus
By Ursula Lindsey

Rabat, Morocco

Noureddine Mouaddib left Morocco to pursue his university studies in France over 30 years ago. He became a professor of computer science at the University of Nantes and a member of the French national council for higher education and research.

Yet Mr. Mouaddib's thoughts turned often to his native country, where, he says, emigration has remained unavoidable for those who want to pursue higher education. "In the global South, as soon as you graduate from high school, you wonder: Where will I go? Canada, France?" he says. "If you look at world rankings, there isn't a single internationally visible university in Africa, with the exception of South Africa."

Yet even as more and more young people in the region aspire to a good higher education, opportunities such as the ones he enjoyed have shrunk, he says. "Moroccan students and African students from modest backgrounds are no longer able to come to France or Europe to study. ... The door's been closed. With what they ask to get a visa—it's impossible."

It was those realizations that led him, in 2005, to envisage the creation of the first global research university in Morocco.

Mr. Mouaddib undertook a feasibility study and began talking with government officials, colleagues, and members of his country's diaspora about the need to create an internationally oriented, R&D-driven university in Morocco.

This September the International University of Rabat, here in the capital city, is set to welcome its first 200 students.

"Rather than young people traveling toward knowledge"—and finding their path littered with obstacles—Mr. Mouaddib says, "we'll move knowledge toward them."

The university is a public-private partnership. Mohammed VI, the Moroccan king, donated the 20 hectares—about 50 acres—in a new technology park on the outskirts of the city. Classes, which this fall are being held in temporary offices, will move there next year, and the campus should be completed by 2015. The university plans to have 280 faculty members and 5,000 students by 2020.

Two pension funds, one French-run, the other operated by the Moroccan government, are the two main investors, contributing over a third of the university's planned five-year budget of 1.12 billion Moroccan dirhams (about $130-million).
Moroccan Context

The curriculum has been conceived to complement government development plans and with emerging sectors in the Moroccan economy in mind.

The country is in a construction boom. In recent years, Moroccan authorities have begun major infrastructure developments focused on transportation, tourism and affordable housing. The government is also committed to developing local sources of alternative energy; plans are to have about 40 percent of the country's energy be wind- and solar-generated by 2020.

The new university has responded accordingly. "Many students can't find the degrees they want in Morocco," Mr. Mouaddib acknowledges. "We are focusing on disciplines that are new and that respond to national development needs."

In addition to business, political science, and information technology, Rabat will offer programs in renewable energy; railway, naval, automobile, and aerospace engineering (several airplane manufacturers have set up facilities in Morocco recently); and architecture and design.

Fifteen faculty members are in place for this fall, and the university plans to hire 20 more for next year, and to continue increasing the faculty ranks year by year.

The number of university students in Morocco has risen steadily over the past decade, to more than 300,000 today, and is projected to as much as double by 2015. Yet public universities here remain largely focused on humanities and social-science degrees that, critics say, give graduates no marketable skills. Morocco has only nine engineers per 10,000 people (compared with 40 in Jordan and 130 in France). The government has not yet met its goal of devoting 1 percent of gross domestic product to research and development.

Mr. Mouaddib says his standing in the academic community and decades-old network of contacts helped him get his project going quickly.

The university's faculty has been largely drawn from the Moroccan and North African diaspora. It was "something personal I wanted to do," says Mokhtar Ghambou, a professor of literature at Yale University, of his decision to help shape the Moroccan university's core humanities component. "At a certain point you feel nostalgia. You start to wonder, What can I do for my native country? To think about what you can contribute."

Many of the scholarly recruits have helped structure partnerships between Rabat and their own colleges, and have brought corporate research sponsors to the new university. Mr. Ghambou himself hopes to divide his time between Yale and Rabat.
International Orientation

In the new university's name, "the word 'international' is not rhetorical," says Mr. Ghambou. "This is a unique project. People are joining from all over the world."

Marcia C. Inhorn, a professor of anthropology and international affairs and chair of the Council of Middle East Studies at Yale, visited Rabat last year in a delegation led by Mr. Ghambou.

As part of its mission to promote understanding of the contemporary Middle East, she says via e-mail, the council is looking to collaborate with "promising partner institutions" in the Middle East and North Africa. Yale hopes to engage in student and faculty exchanges with the university in Rabat, she adds.

"Moroccan-American relations are being strengthened as well, and [the Council of Middle East Studies] wants to be a part of this hopeful moment," she writes. "Yale is currently in a major process of internationalization/globalization, and the Middle East is near the top of its lists of priority areas."

Most of Rabat's partnerships are with major French universities—not surprising, given Morocco's historic links to France. The goal is to "combine the French and U.S. systems, pick the good things from both," says Mohammed Cherkaoui, a professor of mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, who will lead the Moroccan university's engineering department.

Rabat hopes to offer dual degrees with many of its foreign academic partners. Students will be required to spend two semesters abroad, and instruction is to be in both French and English.

The new university's other defining characteristic is a focus on applied research.

Morocco's ministry of energy will finance a five-million-euro (about $6.5-million) project to increase the efficiency of solar cells, says Mr. Cherkaoui, who adds that the university will make research on renewable energy "part of its identity." Rabat's corporate research partners include the engineering giant Siemens AG, the media company Vivendi, and the aerospace company Thales Group.

Alongside government and corporate-backed research and development, says Mr. Mouaddib, the university will focus on "niche" research.

"We won't produce super-high-tech products," he explains. "We'll work on products that meet the needs of the local, of the African, market. In other words, inexpensive innovations."

The engineering department has already patented three alternative-energy devices. Designed to produce power for domestic use, they are a wind turbine that will function even with very weak breezes; a light panel that shuts off automatically when it detects other sources of light; and a solar-powered water heater.

There is demand for such devices in Morocco and other African countries, where many rural areas remain off the electrical grid, says Mr. Cherkaoui. In fact, Rabat is already negotiating their commercial mass production.
Regional Ambition

The university hopes that at least 20 percent of its student body will come from sub-Saharan Africa. And it wants to offer opportunities to deserving student of limited means. It will give academic scholarships, covering the approximately $7,500 yearly tuition, to a fifth of its students, as well as help them get bank loans to cover living expenses.

Dina El Khawaga, the Ford Foundation's program officer for higher education in the Middle East and North Africa, says the university has the potential to create a "more human and more egalitarian face to the internationalization of education in Africa."

But even South African universities—by far the best in the continent—haven't had an easy time attracting students from other African countries, she notes. Rabat's administrators will have to address a number of questions: "Will they offer remedial classes? Who says Morocco will facilitate visas for students? Will scholarships be available to non-Moroccan students? What kind of institutional partnerships will allow them to reach this 20 percent [target of sub-Saharan African students]? When you are in a Dar el-Salam high school [in Senegal], what will encourage you to get up and go to Morocco?"

"Theres a whole strategy that needs to be put into place," says Ms. El Khawaga, sounding a cautious but still optimistic note."I'm really dreaming that this will be a nice initiative by a non-oil country to make a research hub in the next decade. But we have to be patient. Our expectations have to be low."

Mr. Mouaddib's vision is nothing if not ambitious. He envisages his new university as a catalyst for national and regional development and innovation, the center of a North African Silicon Valley. "Morocco can be a regional leader." he says, "given its potential, its position, its stability."