Africa Watch: Morocco Tourism Gains Momentum

Medina of Fez in Morocco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site frequented by tourists.

By Hugo Bourhis
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 30 2019 – The crème de la crème of Hollywood was in Marrakech, Morocco, for the wedding of British movie star Idris Elba in April this year. Elba tied the knot with his Canadian model girlfriend, former Miss Vancouver Sabrina Dhowre, at the Ksar Char-Bagh hotel, an exquisite Alhambra-style hotel.

Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, American actress Jessica Alba, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and others have all embraced the glamour of the rose-coloured city of Marrakech and its plethora of tourist attractions, including the vibrant Jemaa el-Fnaa square and the picturesque Majorelle Garden.

Morocco draws tourists from the far corners of the world. They may be seen strolling along the Corniche in Casablanca—an oceanfront boardwalk lined with restaurants, nightclubs, theatres and hotels—or dining at one of the small cafés in the quiet city of Azemmour—a short day trip or overnight jaunt from the big city.

Adil El Fakir, director of the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT), says that over 12 million tourists visited Morocco in 2018, of whom 2.4 million headed for Marrakech.

Morocco’s tourist attractions include the spectacular beaches of Essaouira, an Atlantic coastal town included on the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 2001, and the country’s mountains, particularly the Atlas and the Rif.

“Tourism is a terrific land-use tool, and our territory is rich in its activities, its landscape, its heritage, its culture and its gastronomy,” declares Mohamed Benamour, a former president of the Morocco Tourism Federation.

A cultural crossroad
The country is also a cultural hub, reflecting the diversity of its inhabitants’ national origins: sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle East. This crossroads attracts fashion designers, artists, filmmakers and other cultural tourists.

In 2017, for example, a museum on the international luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent opened in Morocco. “Marrakech taught me colour. Before Marrakech, everything was black,” Saint Laurent once noted.

Over 50 Hollywood motion pictures have been shot in the country, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much; Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean; Orson Welles’ Othello; Jesus of Nazareth, directed by the late Franco Zeffirelli; and the latest James Bond movie, Spectre.

The country is also becoming a major hub for international conferences due to its proximity to Europe, Middle East, the Americas and the rest of Africa. The country recently hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which brought about 20,000 participants to Marrakech.

Last year, the Global Forum for Migration and Development and the conference on the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration were held in Marrakech and attracted representatives from most UN member states and nongovernmental organizations.

In March the city hosted the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development on “fiscal policy, trade and the private sector in the digital era: a strategy for Africa”, which was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

This year, UNESCO’s first International Forum on Artificial Intelligence in Africa and the Africa Youth Leadership Summit, among other events, will take place in Marrakech. These international conferences shine a spotlight on the country while contributing to the economy.

Tourism revenues account for 11% of total GDP, according to the tourism ministry. Industries in the sector, such as air and land transport, food service and hospitality, generate significant employment opportunities for young people. Morocco was the most visited country in Africa in 2016, with 10.3 million tourist arrivals.

Despite the potentials in the tourism sector, climate change effects threaten to put a dampener. In 2015, for example, Morocco’s economic growth nosedived to 1.5% due to drought, according to the World Bank. To address the situation, the country is constructing the world’s largest desalination plant, which turns seawater into drinking water, in Agadir, near the Atlantic coast.

It has also set ambitious goals that focus on, among others, generating 52% of its electricity needs from renewables by 2030 and improving coastal zone management.

Regulatory reforms introduced in 2010 are bringing Morocco closer to its goal of making the country one of the world’s 20 leading tourist destinations by 2020. Its 10-year plan, dubbed Vision 2020, is aimed at creating eight new tourist destinations and 470,000 new jobs while doubling tourist receipts.

That goal is within reach, it seems. The country has set its sights on a good slice of the 1.4 billion global tourists traveling abroad annually, many of whom are Chinese. Following Moroccan king Mohammed VI’s visit to Beijing in 2016, the number of Chinese arrivals in Morocco skyrocketed to 180,000 in 2018, up from 42,000 in 2016.

By 2020 Morocco hopes to reach the 500,000 mark, according to the Moroccan National Tourist Office, a wing of ONMT.

Investing in tourism
Massive investments in new infrastructure, such as new airport terminals, roads and railways, and the relaxed visa requirements for citizens of some countries, such as China, are two factors in Morocco’s success.

Thanks to the new airport terminal in Casablanca that was opened earlier in 2019, the airport can now handle up to 14 million passengers a year, up from 7 million. Another newly built terminal in the Rabat-Salé Airport can now handle 4 million passengers a year, up from 1.5 million.

Investments in airport infrastructure have had a domino impact on the broader economy. For example, the Rabat airport expansion is transforming the neighbouring city of Kenitra into a fast-growing industrial hub, attracting international companies such as Groupe PSA, the French company that manufactures Peugeot and Citroën.

“[The economic growth of] Kenitra has exceeded our expectations,” says Moulay Hafid Elalamy, minister of industry, investment, trade and the digital economy.

With improving infrastructure, safety and security, Morocco is on its way to becoming a premier destination for an increasing number of tourists.

This article was first published by Africa Renewal.

Solar Cookers Produce More Than Food for Mexican Women

Solar cookers function as a sort of greenhouse that cooks food by concentrating heat. They are are low-tech devices that use reflective panels to focus sunlight on a pot set in the middle.

By Emilio Godoy
VILLA DE ZAACHILA, Mexico, Oct 30 2019 – The sun’s rays are also used to cook food and thus replace the burning of firewood and gas, improve the health of local residents and fuel the energy transition towards the use of renewable sources – the objectives of an enterprise in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Sponsored by the Washington-based non-governmental organisation Solar Household Energy (SHE), women from 10 communities have received some 200 solar cookers, including residents of the municipality of Villa de Zaachila, which has about 43,000 inhabitants.

Solar cookers function as a sort of greenhouse that cooks food by concentrating heat. They are are low-tech devices that use reflective panels to focus sunlight on a pot set in the middle.

 

 

The pot “uses as fuel the sun’s rays, which are totally free, are 100 percent clean, do not emit carbon dioxide and thus promote the energy transition. The technique foments women’s empowerment, makes it possible to cook healthy foods and keeps women from inhaling smoke from burning firewood,” explains Margarita Christlieb, SHE’s representative in Mexico.

In 2004, the first attempts began to distribute solar cookers in Oaxaca. In 2008, activists created the initiative “Solar energy for mobile food stalls in Mexico”, sponsored by three Swiss institutions: the Geneva city government, the SolarSpar cooperative and the non-governmental organisation GloboSol.

In 2016, SHE initiated a pilot project in indigenous communities to evaluate how well the solar cookers had been accepted.

The four-litre pot, which has a useful life of between five and 10 years, costs about 25 dollars, of which SHE covers half and the beneficiaries the other half.

Some 19 million of Mexico’s 130 million people use solid fuels for cooking, a practice that led to an estimated 15,000 premature deaths in 2016 from the ingestion of harmful particles, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).

The main material consumed by 79 percent of these households is LPG, followed by wood or charcoal (11 percent) and natural gas (seven percent).

In Oaxaca, gas and firewood each account for 49 percent of household consumption, with other fuels making up the rest. It is one of the three Mexican states with the greatest energy poverty, defined as more than 10 percent of a household’s income spent on energy.

The promoters of the initiative are betting on expanding the delivery of the devices. But to do so they need government and private support, as part of a broader policy fomenting the use of solar energy.

 

African Development Bank Group’s Board of Governors to hold fifth extraordinary meeting in Abidjan

By African Development Bank
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire , Oct 30 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Board of Governors of the African Development Bank will hold its fifth extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 31 October 2019, at the Sofitel Abidjan, Hotel Ivoire. During the meeting, the Bank’s shareholders will make signification decisions, and a major announcement is expected.

The Board of Governors of the Bank represents the 80 members, including 54 countries of the African continent, and 26 across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

About the Bank

The African Development Bank was established in 1964 by 33 African countries, many of which had only just achieved independence. Their objective was to have an African development finance institution to manage African issues and under African control, a role the Bank has effectively played since its inception. The Bank currently has 80 member countries, including the 54 states of the African continent, and 26 across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Apart from the Bank’s unique and central role in Africa’s economic transformation, it has several comparative advantages, with considerable experience and skill in: investing in quality infrastructure, strengthening Africa’s private sector, promoting regional integration, strengthening economic governance; and mobilizing development funds for Africa.

Media Contact: Alkassoum Diallo, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: a.a.diallo@afdb.org

If India Stopped Growing, Would the IMF and World Bank Say So?

Justin Sandefur is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD). Julian Duggan is a research assistant at the Center for Global Development.

By Justin Sandefur and Julian Duggan
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 30 2019 – Leading economic indicators have slowed or reversed. Criticisms of official statistics are mounting. But the IMF and World Bank continue to forecast 6-percent growth by simple extrapolation.

As of late last year, official data suggested India was the fastest growing major economy in the world. But serious doubts have begun to emerge about the true state of the economy.

The head of the government’s own think tank has expressed alarm at a liquidity crisis that he called “unprecedented in the last 70 years,” and analysts are debating the causes and depth of an ongoing economic slowdown.

Nobody was surprised earlier this month when the World Bank lowered its 2019 growth projection for India to 6 percent from 7.5 percent just four months earlier, and the IMF followed suit, dropping its 7 percent forecast from July down to 6.1 percent.

But given the state of affairs in India’s economy to date in 2019, the immediate question for the World Bank and IMF isn’t why they lowered their forecasts, but why they still remain so high.

The dramatic slump in non-GDP indicators
We looked at the growth of leading economic indicators from official Indian government sources for April to September 2019, which corresponds to the first six months covered by the IMF’s new forecast.

Several key indicators are not just slowing, but in absolute decline, including non-oil imports (-6.6 percent in current dollars), non-oil exports (-1.6 percent in current dollars), and the index of production of capital and infrastructure goods (-3.5 percent up to August 2019).

Other indicators show positive growth, but far below the 6 percent benchmark that the World Bank and IMF project for the economy as a whole: the aggregate index of industrial production is up just 2.5 percent, the index of manufacturing output up just 2.1 percent, and receipts from the goods and services tax are up just 1.6 percent in real terms. Growth in toothpaste sales is slowing, car sales have declined for 11 consecutive months, and reports suggested declines in underwear sales.

India: IMF growth forecast versus early 2019 indicators

The IMF’s 2019 growth forecast for India looks optimistic given other key indicators for the first half of the fiscal year

Note: Growth of non-oil imports and exports are expressed in current US dollars, downloaded from the government of India, Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics. GDP is measured in real Indian rupees, deflated with the official CPI. The 2018 growth rate is taken from the World Bank WDI. The index of industrial production is taken from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and ends in August rather than September 2019.

The failure of GDP to track imports has been cited as evidence of manipulation of official growth rates, particularly in the case of China.

A recent paper by John Fernald, Eric Hsu, and Mark Spiegel of the San Francisco Fed shows that the correlation between GDP and imports is higher in countries with better statistical systems (0.9 for the U.S.), and that imports—which can be verified using the export data of third parties—are a better predictor of other leading economic indicators than is GDP in China’s case.

In India’s case it is not just imports, but also exports, industrial production, tax revenues, and the banking system all pointing in the same downward direction.

New data, new doubts
The latest indicators from April to September 2019 reinforce doubts about India’s official GDP that made a big splash in Delhi earlier this year.

In June, Arvind Subramanian, former Chief Economic Advisor to the government of India and our former colleague here at the Center for Global Development, published a Harvard working paper (and a follow-up paper) suggesting that technical changes in national accounts methodology in 2011 had led India to significantly exaggerate its official GDP growth rate ever since. Rather than 7 percent growth from 2011-12 through 2016-17, Subramanian suggested the true rate might have been closer to 4.5 percent.

That discrepancy is, as they say, big, if true.

Official government of India sources dismissed Subramanian’s analysis out of hand, and some independent analysts have questioned whether the recent divergence of GDP growth from growth in other indicators was a sufficient basis to abandon the official figures.

But other analysts have looked at the data and reached broadly similar conclusions as Subramanian. Whichever numbers you believe, the core mystery posed by Subramanian remains: How is India growing so fast if, as the government’s own statistics show, a long list of other major economic indicators have slowed or even reversed?

Any errors in India’s data are baked into IMF and World Bank forecasts

Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that Subramanian’s concerns are justified, and that actual growth has been considerably slower than reported growth.

Wouldn’t independent analysis by the World Bank and IMF serve to ’fact check’ the government of India’s numbers?

It seems not.

The problem is that, rather than examining independent indicators of economic activity, the Bretton Woods’ forecasts appear to be based primarily on (a) extrapolation of the official growth figures, and (b) some subjective adjustment based on staff’s assessment of policy changes.

The details of the IMF’s growth forecast methodology are not publicly documented, but in response to a query, the IMF noted that the India forecast takes into account data from the first quarter of 2019—i.e., an official growth rate of 5 percent—combined with the IMF staff’s assessment of recent policy moves, including more accommodating monetary policy from the Reserve Bank of India and a cut in the corporate income tax rate.

While reasonable on its face, this approach is extremely vulnerable when confronted with erroneous official numbers. If the growth series up to 2019 is mis-measured, then all those errors are going to be directly baked into the IMF forecast as well.

With trade volumes shrinking and indicators of real economic activity slowing to a crawl, it might be time for the IMF and World Bank to ask some harder questions. India no longer relies on the Bretton Woods institutions for any meaningful share of its financing needs, but if these DC institutions have one thing to offer Delhi, it should be an impartial, technically sound perspective on economic reality.

That reality suggests that Indian growth is in barely positive territory, while the IMF-World Bank forecasters appear too timid to tell the emperor he has no clothes—not to mention cars, toothpaste, or underwear.