Algeria to Launch a Joint Importing Operation with Morocco


The Algerian authorities expressed their readiness to coordinate with Morocco so as to launch a joint importing operation. The initiative subscribes to a more comprehensive strategy that aims at reducing the cost of agricultural imports.

Sources close to the Moroccan daily Al Massae affirmed that the Algerian officials envisage submitting the same request to other Maghreb countries so as to initiate a large scale importing operation of wheat crops.

The General Secretary of the Union of Algerian Farmers, Mohammed Lalioui confirmed the intention of the Algerian government to import crops from Morocco and other Maghreb countries. He seized the opportunity to announce the organization of the Second Conference of the Union of Maghreb Farmers.

The Algerian official pinpointed also that Morocco and Algeria are among the largest importers of wheat crops. Indeed, Morocco imported 4 billion tons of wheat crops last year whereas Algeria imported 9 billion tons.

The conference will also elect the country that will preside the Union of Maghreb Farmers for the next five years. The state members are expected to grapple with a host of issues namely food security and the possibility to trade the surplus of agricultural output amid the Maghreb members instead of exporting it to other countries.

The state members partaking to the conference will also discuss the contingency of establishing a joint production conglomerate as well as the possibility to launch a collective importing operation in order to reduce the exorbitant cost of import fees.

Morocco and Algeria had signed a cooperation agreement in agriculture in 201 during the official visit conducted by the Moroccan minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akhnouch.

The agreement revolves around three major axes: Scientific research, training and the protection of plant health. The agreement aims also at consolidating cooperation between Morocco and Algeria in agriculture and trade. Morocco remains one of Algeria’s largest trading partners especially in agriculture and fisheries.


EU Calls for Maghreb Economic Integration


The European Union renews calls for a unified Maghreb as the only way to boost development, ensure stability and security.

Economic integration is needed in the Maghreb so that development targets can be achieved, the European Union recently asserted.

“The Maghreb Union has an important strategic dimension, as it means that countries on both sides of the Mediterranean can benefit from more integrated markets and greater stability and security,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on December 19th.

“The cost of non-integration of the Maghreb is estimated at 1-2% of GDP,” the joint statement with the European Commission added. “However, it is believed that the real cost of non-integration extends beyond economic factors and also includes security challenges and regional instability.”

The EU plans to lend its full support to “closer co-operation between the countries of the Maghreb,” EU Ambassador to Morocco Eneko Landaburu stated.

Members of the public, experts, and investors also want the five countries of the Maghreb to work together.

“The economic integration of the Maghreb will have a beneficial impact on the entire region and will create new job opportunities for the unemployed,” noted economist Mehdi Chraibi.

Countries all over the world, he pointed out, are forming regional alliances in order to boost their economies, but the Maghreb remains divided, to the great regret of domestic and foreign investors.

“Officials in the Maghreb must boost trade within the region and promote investment in joint projects in expanding sectors such as renewable energies, and also in the financial and banking sectors” Chraibi added.

Hamza Cherif, who runs a ready-to-wear clothing business, also lamented the cost of non-integration.

“I would like to operate across a wider area and form regional partnerships,” he said.

“The creation of a Maghreb-wide market will bring many economic opportunities,” the businessman added. “The Maghreb has all the assets it needs to become a strong economic hub capable of raising the region to the highest level on the international stage.”

According to political analyst Jamal Sendoussi, integration is something that the peoples of the Maghreb have desired for years.

“Politicians must knuckle down and hammer out a strategy and a shared vision in order to make the desired integration a reality,” he said.

Sendoussi recommended the launch of an all-encompassing development action plan based on the improvement of human resources, good governance of institutions and integration across the financial, tourism and energy sectors.

“To boost the regional economy,” Sendoussi added, “it is essential to create a Maghreb-wide bank to finance businesses and projects which will create wealth and jobs.”

To members of the public, the Maghreb Union seems a far-off dream.

Student Samira Tafennaouti said, “The citizens of the Maghreb are under the impression that this wish cannot be fulfilled, even though political will is all that is needed.

“Senior officials in the Maghreb must overcome any political differences to achieve the integration that people want to see, not only so that economic and social problems can be overcome, but also in order to mitigate threats to security,” she added.

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Tunisair flies in to Sebha On 1st Feb 2013


Tunisair has announced that it will start flights between Tunis and Sebha on 1 February. “We will initially start with three flights a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” said a company official in Tripoli.

He added that the carrier would add three new destinations from Misrata, making five flights a week instead of two now.

It has announced earlier this month that Tunisair would start direct flights to Benghazi and Misrata from Sfax in March.

The airline has three flights a day to Tunisia from Tripoli and two from Benghazi.

Arab Maghreb Union states create investment bank


The five nations of the Arab Maghreb Union have created a investment bank with capital of $100 million to finance infrastructure projects in the region, Mauritania’s central bank governor said on Wednesday

The investment bank will launch operations by the end of the first quarter 2013, and will partner with the private sector to finance projects in the five nations: Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

“Today it was decided to make this creation effective and to provide Maghreb investment bank with a capital of $100 million, with an equal participations from each of the five member states,” Sid’Ahmed Ould Raiss told journalists after the meeting of the union in the Mauritanian capital.

“The bank is intended to finance development projects, such as highways, promoting new technologies and also investing in energy,” Raiss said.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, who attended the meeting of the union, lauded the creation of the bank saying it would foster integration and spur investments in the region.

Mooted since 1991, the launch of the bank has been delayed by political tensions within the union and by a long-running dispute between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara.

The union aims to create an economic and future political union among the five north African nations, but no summit has been organised since 1994 due to the tensions that have hampered decision-making and the operation of the union. (Reporting by Laurent Prieur.; Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Christopher Wilson)


African Development Bank calls for Maghreb integration


A recent report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) asserted that Maghreb integration would help achieve the economic and social development goals of the countries in the region, particularly Tunisia.

The report, published Wednesday (September 5th), under the title “Tunisia, Economic and Social Challenges after the Revolution”, confirmed that there is “great potential for development of regional trade between the countries of the Maghreb, who are natural partners of Tunisia, especially as prospects for expansion of Tunisian exports in these markets are important”.

A unified Maghreb trade area would elevate the volume of economic exchange, not only between Tunisia and the Maghreb countries, but also among all countries of the Maghreb, according to economist Abdeljelil Badri.

“The Maghreb region is among the regional areas that could benefit most from the process of integration among [its countries] because of the advantages and potential it offers and in which it abounds, the most important of which is of course oil,” Badri said. “Further, the emergence of a Maghreb economic group has become an urgent necessity in the current period in order to face the deteriorating economic situation experienced by the international community.”

He stressed that Maghreb trade openness would bring the five countries billions of dollars in additional profits, provide citizens with jobs and become an important attraction for investments, thus increasing rates of economic growth and social development.

The Maghreb is among the least integrated regions in the world, according to AfDB economic expert Catherine Baumont-Keita, who said that the cost of this region’s economic divergence is between 2 and 3 per cent of gross domestic product.

The Maghreb has one of the lowest rates of intra-regional trade in the world compared to other economic groups, not exceeding 3 per cent.

Conversely, intra-regional trade is at 60 per cent in the European Union, 22 per cent among countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 20 per cent within the “South American Common Market known as Mercosur.

Trade exchange between Tunisia and countries of the Maghreb Union rose to $730.6 million during the first five months of this year, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Commerce last July.

Libya ranked first as a destination for Tunisian exports, accounting for $411 million worth, followed by Algeria at $207 million.

However, Tunisia faces a number of economic challenges, according to the AfDB report. To overcome this, the bank called for taking advantage of Tunisia’s current transition phase to undertake reforms that will contribute to establishing a favourable climate for private initiative and business.

In this context, it called on the Tunisian government to develop a culture of entrepreneurship and promote initiative in new activities.

“The adoption of incentive measures for the benefit of new institutional investors will make Tunisia more attractive for foreign direct investments focused on renewal,” the AfDB report said.

It also recommended liberalisation, including in information and communication technology, transport, logistics, distribution and tourism development. The report also pointed to a potential for high value-added profitability if tourism products were improved, including a potential open skies agreement with the European Union to improve air transport.


Solar Energy Projects Between Libya and Tunisia


A delegation of the International Center of Investment and Business Administration in Ghadamis City visited Tunisia to have a look on the Tunisian experience of solar energy investment in a preparation of starting a solar energy project in Sahara area between Libyan and Tunisian borders.

The surroundings in that area are suitable for such solar energy projects and the location of Ghadamis near Tunisia help getting benefit from Tunisian experts in the field.

The chairman of the Center, Ahmed Wanis, will present the project to the Libya authorities to get approval.

Tunisia is also planning of establishing such projects in Tatawin and Madenin bordering Libya to lessen dependence on oil.


Monoprix Tunisia Planning to Open 10 Stores in Libya by 2013


Tunisian supermarket chain Monoprix announced last week that it plans to enter the Libyan market this year.

It is planning to open its first store within the next few months of 2012 and hopes to open a total of 10 stores by the end of 2013.

Monoprix is operating in Libya in conjunction with leading Libyan businessman Husni Bey and plans to open in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata.

It is not clear where its Tripoli store will be located, but one possible location that was being considered in 2010 for the first Tripoli Monoprix store was the (incomplete) retail section of the Hay al-Andulus located Sheraton-Four Points complex.

If the Monoprix store does succeed in opening a branch in Tripoli this year, it would be the first international food retail branch to open in Libya. It would also herald the wide opening of a sector that is still dominated by family-owned corner shops and minimarkets.

In 2010, Spinneys, the leading MENA region food retailer had announced that it would enter the Libyan market by the end of 2011, but the Arab Spring Revolutions meant that any such plans had to be put on hold.

It is worth noting that there were at least five shopping centers at one stage planned for construction by Turkish companies in Tripoli in 2010.

These include the Renaissance project at the Airport Road traffic lights and the Turkmall projects at the al-Jibs checkpoint of Swani Road and at Hay al-Andulus. Two of these projects were in an advanced stage of construction at the time of the outbreak of the 17 February Revolution.

At the time, Turkmall had advertised that the mall at ‘Andalus will be the first downtown shopping center of Libya’, and that its other (Oyia) mall would offer ‘A very wide range of international and local brands (that) will revolutionize the Libyan retail market’.


Libyan Businessmen Delegation Heading to Tunisia


Sponsored by the Trade Department of Tunisian Embassy in Libya, a Libyan business delegation made of about 80 members is heading to Tunisia in a four day visit aiming at reinforcing the trade relations between the two countries. The delegation is chaired by Abdualla Alfalah; the chairman of the Libyan Businessman Council.

Alfalah stated that such step is good one for the interest of the peoples of the two countries adding the Libyan Businessman Council encourages and supports the government’s plans towards employing the Libyan people in projects related to the private sector. He also confirmed that no contracts will be made with foreign workers unless Libyan elements are absent.

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Algeria’s Sonatrach to Resume Libya Oil Operations, Khabar Says


Algerian state-run oil producer Sonatrach Group plans to resume operations in Libya next week, El Khabar reported, citing an unidentified official in Algeria’s energy industry.

The Algerian Energy Ministry is allowing Sonatrach to start exploring again at oil fields in Libya’s Ghadames Basin after the company received guarantees for the safety of its sites and wells there, the newspaper reported today.

Abraaj Capital acquires Amundi’s Private Equity Platform in North Africa


Abraaj Capital, the leading private equity and alternative asset management group in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA),announced today its acquisition of the North African private equity platform of Amundi, the French asset manager jointly owned by Société Générale and Crédit Agricole.Under the terms of the agreement, Abraaj Capital has taken over management of the US$ 161 million SGAM Al Kantara Fund as well as absorbing the 11-member Amundi investment team, thereby significantly enhancing its presence in North Africa. Abraaj Capital also acquires Amundi’s stake in the Kantara Fund. With five existing investments in Morocco and Tunisia and pursuing an active pipeline of investment opportunities across North Africa, the Kantara Fund is a buyout and expansion capital fund, primarily focused on small and mid-cap investment opportunities in North Africa. The acquisition includes fully staffed offices in Morocco and Tunisia thereby expanding Abraaj Capital’s presence in the region. A further office is in the process of being established in Algeria. This on the ground presence represents an unrivalled footprint across the MENASA region and enables Abraaj Capital to source the best proprietary

deal flow.

The acquisition complements the mandate of Riyada Enterprise Development (RED), the small and medium enterprise (SME) investment platform of the Abraaj group, that is focused on investing in SMEs in the broader Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), including Turkey and Pakistan. Through the RED investment platform, Abraaj Capital intends to invest more than US$ 500 million of capital into small and medium enterprises right across the MENA region.

“We are very pleased to announce the finalization of this transaction which will provide an excellent platform for our growth plans in North Africa and, beyond that, the continent of Africa. Having worked closely with the Kantara investment team over the last several months we are delighted to welcome this experienced team into the Abraaj group,” said Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, Chief Executive Officer of Abraaj Capital Limited. “We are firm believers in using local knowledge and top tier expertise in all the markets in which we invest to ensure that our deal flow is as good as it possibly can be. We are fortunate to have taken on such an experienced and deep team of investment professionals in one transaction.”

Tom Speechley, Senior Partner at Abraaj Capital Limited and Chief Executive? Officer of RED, added, “This investment demonstrates our commitment to unlocking the economic potential of the Maghreb – a rapidly emerging growth region with favorable demographics and significant long-term economic development opportunities. At Abraaj Capital, we believe that the SME segment offers among the best investment opportunities in the MENA region today as well as providing the greatest opportunity for job creation, economic growth and diversification. During this transitional period in North Africa, we believe it is critically important to encourage SMEs as they serve as the key drivers of the region’s new economic growth”.

About Abraaj Capital:

Abraaj Capital is the leading private equity and alternative asset management group in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA). Since inception in 2002, it has raised over US$ 7 billion and distributed around US$ 3 billion to investors. Headquartered in Dubai, the Abraaj group has a presence in Riyadh, Istanbul, Cairo, Singapore, Mumbai, Karachi, Beirut, Ramallah and Amman. The group’s flagship private equity business has helped accelerate and facilitate the growth of over 40 companies in 11 countries in the region, in attractive and fundamental sectors such as healthcare, education, energy, aviation and logistics, to name a few.

More than 75 investment professionals work for Abraaj Capital, which manages seven Funds: four Private Equity Funds, Riyada Enterprise Development (a Fund dedicated to small and medium enterprises), ASAS (an income-generating, real estate Fund) and a 2004 vintage real estate Fund. Assets under management at the end of 2010 were US$ 6.2 billion. Funds managed by the Abraaj group have holdings in approximately 30 companies in the region, including Air Arabia, the region’s leading low-cost carrier, Acibadem Healthcare Group, Turkey’s largest privately owned hospital operator, and Al Borg Laboratories, the Middle East’s largest privately owned medical testing laboratory business.

In 2011, Abraaj Capital was ranked as the largest private equity firm in emerging markets worldwide by Private Equity International. In addition, Abraaj Capital has won many regional and international awards, including the ‘Middle Eastern Private Equity Firm of the Year’ for six consecutive years, awarded by Private Equity International.

Abraaj Capital Limited, a member of the Abraaj group is licensed by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA).


Morocco, Algeria sign commercial contract on natural gas delivery


Algiers – Morocco and Algeria signed, on Sunday, a commercial contract on the delivery of Algerian natural gas to the power plants of Ain Béni Mathar and Tahaddart.

Under this contract, 640 millions of cubic meters of gas will be delivered on an annual basis over 10 years.

The gas will flow through the gazoduc Pedro Duran Farell (GPDF) pipeline linking Algeria’s gas fields to the Iberian peninsula through Morocco.

The delivery will supply the Ain Beni Mathar power plants with 470 mw and Tahaddart with 385mw.

The contract was signed in Algiers by Director General of the National electricity utility (ONE) Ali Fassi Fihri and the CEO of Algerian state-owned hydrocarbon group Sonatrach, Nourredinne Cherouati.


Sustainable Tourism: Study Confirms Investment Opportunities in the Mediterranean


According to a recent study the hotel industry in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia offer investment opportunities in sustainable tourism development.

A study analyzing sustainable products, services and technology in the hospitality sector of Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia identified investment opportunities in these countries for sustainable tourism projects. The report was published by the initiative Best-Med (Business Eco-Sustainable Tourism in the Mediterranean Area).

According to the findings investment opportunities are available mainly in three areas: renewable energy market, renovation, and water and waste treatment. Sustainable energy within the hospitality industry seems to be the most promising area, stated the study quoted by

Egypt thanks to cultural tourism attracts a great deal of environmentally conscious tourists. Industry professionals are thus more inclined to green investments in hotels. The government has supported green initiatives with a number of measures. Renewable energy was however identified by the study as an area where Egypt lags behind.

Morocco entered the mass tourism market more recently and therefore has fewer problems with energy efficiency in hotels. The sector of ecological technologies offers however several investment opportunities. The Moroccan government signed several agreements with domestic operators and foreign investment mainly in Essaouira, Tangier and Marrakech accumulated EUR 208 million.

Tunisia has been a mass tourism destination for over thirty years. The government recently upgraded the tourist accommodation as a part of PMNH program. A new regulatory framework and incentive tools facilitate the renovation and dissemination of thermal solar and photovoltaic equipment.


Sonatrach Sells Properties In Mauritania Over Unprofitable Naftec


Sonatrach’s subsidiary Naftec Mauritania SA starts next Wednesday the operation of selling a set of movable real estate properties in Mauritania, to ease the loss and accumulating debts.

About 90 commercial shops in the port of Nouakshot are set for sale, in addition to a service station with a capacity of 36 000 liters and a 1800 m2 land, in accordance with the government decision to withdraw investments from Mauritania.

Such an operation is part of Sonatrach’s decision to recoup subsidiaries and investments of Naftec. Sonatrach inherited thus 51% stake of Naftec Mauritania SA, 33% stake at the Mauritanian gas distributor (Somagaz), as well as majority stake at 104 service stations in Nouakchott and other cities, in addition to tens of real estate and movable properties.

To recall, Naftec used to control more than 70 percent of the Mauritanian market during its first ten years there, but by 2005, the company has been recording considerable losses, which led to a heavy drop in its shares in the market down to 19 percent. The company could not resist to competition, and could not pay back the accumulating debts to Mauritanian banks estimated at 1.5 billion DZD (about $15 million), forcing the government to withdraw its investment there.


Morocco, Algeria sign three cooperation agreements in agriculture field


Algiers – Morocco and Algeria signed, on Saturday in Algiers, three cooperation agreements in the field of agriculture.

Signed by Moroccan Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch and his Algerian peer Rachid Benaissa, the first agreement aims to strengthen bilateral cooperation relations in the areas of plant protection, and facilitate the exchange of plants.

Under the agreement, the health authorities of both countries will cooperate and work to protect plants in accordance with international phytosanitary measures.

The two ministers also co-chaired the signing ceremony of a cooperation agreement between the National Institutes of Agricultural Research in Morocco and Algeria, and a framework agreement in the field of training, research and agricultural extension, which provides for the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed on April 25th in Rabat between the Ministries of Agriculture of the two countries.

It mainly concerns the exchange of experiences and trainers in the field of education and agricultural professional training as well as the participation in scientific conferences held in both countries.


Algeria steps up trade with Tunisia


Algeria and Tunisia are boosting economic co-operation, to the benefit of both countries’ economies.

A large number of Tunisian businesses took part in the six-day 44th International Fair of Algiers (FIA), which wrapped up on Monday (June 6th).

The annual expo draws hundreds of Arab, African and European manufacturers in textile, printing, construction, steel and other industries.

Tunisian businessman El Khoumri El Hadi stressed in a statement to APS that his involvement in the FIA had enabled him to improve his business relations with his Algerian counterparts and to exhibit the agribusiness products from his factory.

“It was when I first attended in 2005 that I met my first Algerian customers, who have since become real partners and friends,” El Hadi said.

The Algerian National Agency for the Promotion of Foreign Trade (ALGEX) and CEPEX (the Tunisian Centre for the Promotion of Exports) signed a co-operation agreement on June 5th.

The decision to amend the agreements was the result of discussions between the Algerian Trade Minister Mustapha Benbada and his Tunisian counterpart Mehdi Houas on May 26th. Benbada promised that the revisions to the agreements in question would “breathe new life” into trade between the two countries. Negotiations on the details began May 29th, when Houas came to Algiers to negotiate revisions to the preferential partnership agreement between the two countries.

Houas announced on May 30th that the changes were complete, and that they were “more favourable” than those between Tunisia and the European Union (EU).

It is hoped that trade between the two countries will reach the $1 billion mark. Currently, trade is at $700 million, up from 200 million in 2001. At the end of Interim Tunisian Prime Minister Béji Caid Essebsi’s visit to Algeria, it was announced that Algeria would donate $100 million to Tunisia “to help it through the transitional phase”.

In addition to that financial assistance, Algeria also made available an interest-free loan of $50 million, and another $40 million loan at 1% interest, repayable over 15 years, with a five-year grace period. The show of solidarity has, according to the Tunisian official, helped “to establish even closer ties with Algeria”.

Tunisia’s economy has struggled recently. Forecasts for growth in the current year were reduced from 5.5% to 1.5%. Houas said that due to persistent instability Tunisia’s economy has lost $4 billion in recent months. Meanwhile, tourism has decreased by 40%, compounding Tunisia’s unemployment problem.

The two ministers also talked about smuggling, which has increased in light of the region’s poor growth and security. In this regard, Benbada said on May 26th that it “intended to step up border checks”.

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia referred to smuggling in a press conference on May 30th, stating that “the Algerian government has received requests from Libyan operators to buy food and medicines”; the response was “positive”, but Algeria has requested UN help to ensure that only basic commodities leave the country and that they are sold to legitimate buyers.

Abed Salim, an economist and professor at the University of Algiers, said in a statement to Magharebia that “the opportunities for a partnership between Tunisia and Algeria are huge. These opportunities are bolstered by the political will which has been reiterated by the authorities in both countries.” This could take the form of simplified procedures for successful Maghreb economic integration.

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WB joins NASA and USAID to assist Arab countries in water management


WASHINGTON-The World Bank has engaged with the NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Aid (USAID) a project to help Arab countries to improve their management of water, the WB said Thursday.

This is the first project undertaken as part of the recent initiative for the Arab world, which is a partnership of the WB with the Arab countries aiming to encourage cooperation and collaboration to support economic integration and knowledge sharing.

In this regard, the Board of Directors of the WB endorsed Thursday a donation of $ 4.59 million to improve water resource management and farm management at the Arab Water Council, and as a first step, in Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Lebanon.


Petroceltic still on the track of North African oil


Stock markets are easily rattled. The slightest whiff of uncertainty can trigger sharp share price fluctuations. Take the onset of the so-called Arab Spring of protests earlier this year. The first signs of turmoil kicked off concern around a number of companies that operate in the Middle East and North Africa. Sector was no bar. The Jordanian pharma group Hikma Pharmaceuticals and the gold producer Centamin Egypt, to name just two, saw their share prices wobble in late January and over much of February as protests spread from Tunisia to the wider region.

Petroceltic was also caught up in the sell-off. The oil and gas prospector saw its share price go from above 15p in the middle of January to around 10p at the beginning of March. And although it is notoriously difficult to pin the precise cause of share price falls, the fact the company is active in North Africa was, as analysts highlighted at the time, more than merely coincidental.

Until very recently, the group was active in both Tunisia and Algeria, and although a dry well prompted it to move out of the former before the Ben Ali regime was toppled, market jitters proved potent enough to drive the share price lower. Not that the turmoil has resulted in putting Petroceltic off the region. Far from it, for the group is open to revisiting Tunisia. Meanwhile, the company, which also has some interests in Italy, has made inroads in Algeria, where earlier this month it announced a farm out agreement on its Isarene permit.

The deal will see European energy major ENEL buy around 18 per cent of the Isarene production sharing contract, which includes the Ain Tsila gas discovery onshore Algeria. Petroceltic followed that up with news of a placing to raise around $60m (£36.4m), giving it the muscle to advance its drilling and appraisal plans in the country. The money will also fund drilling plans, its Rovasenda prospect in Italy, and other ventures.

The farm out was welcomed in the City, with Mirabaud labelling it an “excellent deal” for Petroceltic. “In addition to gaining the funding benefits from the farm in, covering both back costs and the current, expanded campaign, the company has also picked up a first rate strategic partner,” Mirabaud said.

“ENEL is one of Europe’s largest utility companies, and a major buyer of Algerian gas, as partner in both the Medgaz and Galsi trans-Mediterranean pipelines. As such, it brings clout in dealing with Algerian authorities, and expertise in European gas marketing. This should enable the partners to progress field appraisal and development, and monetise the value of the giant Ain Tsila gas discovery.”

And what of the shares, which remain below the January peaks? Well, total net asset value on Mirabaud’s estimates stands at more than 27p per share, leaving ample room for upside gains.

Ebiquity eyes social media

Facebook and Twitter boast millions of users – and millions of opportunities for companies to plug their products and gauge market trends. No surprise then, that market research firms have been rushing to burnish their social media credentials.

It is the same rationale that drove Ebiquity, the Alternative Investment Market-listed media insight and analytics business, to shell out up to £10m to buy Echo Research earlier this month.

The deal will allow Ebiquity to offer its clients data and advice on social media. The target is well established in the digital world, with analysts at Edison Investment Research highlighting its roster of blue-chip clients, including Shell, HSBC and Pfizer.

Moreover, it’s no upstart. The business has been around for more than two decades, and won numerous awards for its digital nous. Digging deeper into the numbers, Edison analysts reckon that the deal is likely to prove earnings accretive in the first full year of the acquisition.

“During the year to 31 March 2011, Echo achieved turnover of £5m and normalised operating profits of £500,000,” they said, pointing out that, as with past deals, Ebiquity has identified synergies between its own business and its buy. “This, together with cross-selling opportunities for Ebiquity’s existing clients should enable Echo to be earnings accretive in the first year of ownership and beyond.”

Numis was also positive, and upgraded its forecasts in response to the deal. From pre-tax profits of £6.5m with earnings per share of 6.8p per share before the deal, the broker now estimates £7.4m in profits with 7.4p in earnings for 2012.

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Regional workshop on”Promotion of Cluster Approach in Three Maghreb Countries”


TUNIS (TAP) – “Promotion of Cluster Approach in Three Maghreb Countries : Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco,” is the theme of a regional workshop inaugurated, on Monday in Tunis to develop a regional-dimension economy.

The four-day meeting is organised by the French Development Agency (AFD), in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), with the participation of contractors and Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan experts.

The Cluster approach or local productive systems designates, according to UNIDO a sector-based and geographic concentration of enterprises having similar or complementary activities. It encourages the decision-makers to launch integrated projects thanks to network systems.

This approach helps reduce cost (infrastructure), improve circulation of information, favour production of knowledge and raise partnership opportunities. The competitiveness poles are examples of enterprise concentration, training centers and research units functioning in synergy around innovative projects.

During the workshop, report on the public policy in matters of promoting clusters in the three participating countries Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and the initiatives identified in this field are presented.


Tunisia-Algeria: Developing trade relations


TUNIS (TAP) – Tunisia and Algeria agreed on completing the required steps to start, from now on to June 2011, exemption of products listed on the preferential agreement concluded between the two countries in 2008, which has just entered into effect.

This decision was announced during the working visit of Trade and Handicrafts Minister Mehdi Houas, on May 25-27, 2011 in Algiers.

During a working session held between Mr. Houas and Algeria’s Trade Minister Mustapha Benbada, emphasis was placed on the interest of improving the advantages granted as part of this agreement in the shortest terms, while respecting the two countries’ economic policies.

The two sides examined means to vitalise the role of the Tunisian-Algerian Chamber in preparing the implementation phase of this agreement and the organisation, to this end, of meetings for the benefit of the two countries’ economic operators.

Mr. Houas also had a talk with Algerian Tourism and Handicrafts Minister Ismail Mimoun on means to jointly promote Tunisian and Algerian tourism trades abroad and to create joint tourist circuits, by valorising the two countries’ cultural and historical heritage.

During a meeting with journalists, businessmen and Algerian travel agency managers, Mr. Haouas spoke of Tunisia’s keenness to provide optimum conditions and services to Algerian tourists, to encourage them to spend their summer holidays.

He asserted that the January 14 Revolution will strengthen the Tunisian-Algerian relations and contribute to boosting the Maghreb Union process.


Morocco, Algeria Sign MoU In Agriculture


RABAT – Morocco and Algeria have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to boost bilateral co-operation in the field of agriculture and on strengthening food security.

The MoU was signed here Monday by Moroccan Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Aziz Akhennouch and his Algerian counterpart, Rachid Benaissa, who is on a working visit to Morocco.

Under this MoU, the two countries agreed to improve bilateral co-operation in various aspects related to the agriculture sector to enhance food security in both countries.

The five-year MoU covers several areas such as scientific research, animal and plant production, animal health, the fight against desertification and rural development, in addition to the export of agricultural products between the two countries.

It will encourage the exchange of visits, information, studies and expertise in the abovementioned fields, as well as participation in agricultural fairs held in Morocco and Algeria.

The MoU also provides for promoting relations between the two countries’ economic operators, professionals, as well as scientific and technical bodies.

Akhannouch highlighted the potential for co-operation between the two neighbouring countries, particularly in terms of food security and their joint commitment to initiatives aimed at the regulation of international markets for food products.

Benaissa told the press after the signing ceremony that his visit to the Kingdom was to promote bilateral co-operation in agriculture to ensure food security in both countries through a partnership based on the exchange of experiences.

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Insurers Look to Potential of North Africa


DUBAI — The insurance industry has made only modest inroads in North Africa, and that is unlikely to change, at least in the short term, as political transformations and other uncertainties shake the region. But analysts say that advances in the past decade have laid the foundation for potentially high long-term growth of the sector in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

The potential expansion of the insurance business could outpace annual economic growth over the long term in the three countries, as current market-penetration rates are low, analysts at Standard & Poor’s wrote in a research note.

Many business lines are either untapped or in their infancy, including life insurance and coverage for savings and homes. Fast-developing infrastructures and expanding real estate activity are also likely to lift demand for insurance.

Recently growing economies and liberalizing markets, increasing demand for life and health insurance, and new ways of reaching potential customers could provide the impetus for “possible volume jumps in insurance businesses in the Maghreb,” the S.&P. report said.

“Political unrest will present a challenge for insurers in the medium term and North Africa has traditionally been a closed market,” said Fareed Lutfi, the secretary general of the Coordination Commission for Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Cos., a regulatory body for regional insurers based in the United Arab Emirates. Still, the market “will present opportunities in the long run as governments become more stable and people begin to seek more medical and life insurance, looking for stability,” he said.

Lotfi Elbarhdadi, a credit analyst in Paris who covers the North African insurance market for S.&P., agreed. “There is potential for growth,” he said. “Penetration rates are really low, but markets are growing and there are many lines of business that are untapped.”

The political transition now under way in Tunisia and its immediate effects on the economy could put domestic insurance growth temporarily on hold. Uncertainties about the policies of the new government may also affect insurance pricing and coverage, S.&P. noted.

“In Tunisia particularly, economic activity has already been impacted by the unrest, so insurers there will have less leeway to do business in 2011,” Mr. Elbarhdadi said. “The unrest will put brakes on growth for the coming year, but we don’t question long-term growth for the region.”

Total premium income exceeded 1 billion Tunisian dinars, or $730 million, in 2009, the most recent figures available, according to S.&P. Like its neighbors in the Maghreb region, the Tunisian insurance market reported solid growth over the past three years, with premium volumes rising 6.4 percent in 2009, 9.6 percent in 2008 and 9.6 percent in 2007, the agency said. The insurance penetration rate and average premiums per capita remained low at 1.9 percent and €51, or about $70, in 2009, it said.

Analysts also see long-term growth potential in the Egyptian insurance market, despite short-term challenges.

Tony Awad, an insurance consultant and managing director of Safenet Consultants International in Kuwait, said: The expected shift toward personal planning for the future, especially for retirement, opens a window of opportunity for insurance companies to present more security and smart solutions to address people’s increasing sense of insecurity.”

He cautioned, however, that this will take time.

“The effect on insurance will be felt later on,” Mr. Awad said. “Now, people will become more critical about the existence of a sufficient social security system and health care system.”

Morocco is the second-largest insurance market in Africa, behind South Africa, and one of the largest in the Arab world. Still, the percentage of people covered by insurance policies remains limited at 3 percent, with premiums per capita at just €58 in 2009.

According to Mr. Lutfi, “Morocco has one of the most well-developed insurance markets in North Africa, especially when it comes to life and bank insurance. The rest of the region now has a chance to catch up.”

That goes particularly for Algeria, where just 0.7 percent of the population have insurance policies and where premiums in 2009 amounted to 77.3 billion Algerian dinars, equivalent to €23.35 per capita, S.&P. said.


Maghreb economic integration “more than ever necessary,” says D. Strauss Khan


The situation prevailing in the Middle East and North Africa makes Maghreb economic integration ” more than ever necessary” said Wednesday in Washington International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director General Dominique Strauss Kahn, reports Moroccan website Atlasinfo.

“Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have absolutely everything to gain in working together and joining energies as part of a regional economic integration, ” Mr. Strauss Khan affirmed at a meeting with Arab media representatives accredited in Washington.

He stressed, in this context, that Maghreb economic integration represents certainly a way to boost growth which actually is the only real way for job creation, regretting that, for historical reasons, this integration is a long time materialising. “The benefits of such an integration are so great that there is no reason to choose or even hesitate, ” IMF top official declared.


Promotional campaign on Algerian market


TUNIS, April 7, 2011 (TAP) – The Tourism and Trade Ministry has planned staging a promotional campaign on the Algerian market, with a view to recovering the pace of the Algerian tourists’ flow, after the 35% drop recorded in the period spanning last January 1- March 20.

The campaign, which will target Algerian media, aims to reassure Algerian tourists about the security situation in Tunisia, attract over 350,000 Algerian holiday-makers during next June and July, compared with an average of 400,000 tourists in the past.

Representative of the National Tunisian Tourism Board (ONTT) in Algeria Faouzi Basli specified that the promotional operation includes a Tunisian participation in the Oran Tourism Fair, to be held next April 12-15, and next April 18-21 Algiers Fair.

In a statement to TAP news agency, the official asserted that, as part of this promotional campaign, 50 representatives of the Algerian media would be present in the Annaba/Hammamet Rally.

Investments to be allocated for the advertising campaigns in Algeria would reach 350,000 Dinars, the goal is to raise the Algerian tourists’ awareness of the wealth of the Tunisian product and stability of the country.

During a news conference held Tuesday with attendance of 16 Algerian journalists, Tourism and Trade Minister Mehdi Houas said that negotiations have been launched with the Algerian side to open a shipping line connecting the Algerian and Tunisian ports.

This line would undoubtedly facilitate the transport of Algerian tourists and their cars during the peak period.

“The Algerian and Maghreb markets are strategic markets for Tunisia,” Mr. Houas pointed out, adding that the sought-after objective is to encourage the Algerian tourists to keep on spending their holidays in Tunisia.

It is worth reminding that one million Algerian tourists visit Tunisia each year and generate earnings between 400 and 600 million Dinars.

Tunisia will also endeavour to improve reception conditions on border crossing-points and airports, by organising a communication campaign aimed to reassure Algerians on security conditions in Tunisia and better introduce the promotional offers for Algerian families who want to come to Tunisia during the summer holidays.


Tunisia-Morocco: developing co-operation in matters of farming


Tunisia and Morocco decided to coordinate their positions in matters of agriculture and environment within regional authorities, particularly the Union for the Mediterranean and the 2020 Initiative of the European Union to fight against pollution in the region.

This decision was made following the meetings Minister of Agriculture and Environment Mokhtar Jellali had in Rabat with Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Abdellah Chefchaoui and High Commissioner for Water, Forests and Fight against Desertification Abdeladim Lhafi.

The Tunisian Minister and his Moroccan counterparts also agreed during these encounters, held on the sidelines of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory(OSS) meeting, to favour the exchange of experience between the ”Groupe Chimique Tunisien GCT ” and the Moroccan Phosphates Company, namely in the field of fighting against pollution.

Besides, it was decided, at the end of the OSS meeting held March 28-29 in Rabat, to hold the next General Assembly of the observatory in Tunisia in April 2012.


Algeria gives $100 million in aid to Tunisia


Algeria has given Tunisia $100 million in financial aid to support its North African neighbor struggling toward democracy after an uprising ousted the country’s longtime autocratic leader.

Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi announced the aid Wednesday, a day after returning from his first trip abroad, to Algeria and Morocco. The official TAP news agency carried the news.

Of the funds, $10 million is in outright aid, $40 million is a loan with a 1 percent interest rate and $50 million is a deposit with no interest in Tunisia’s Central Bank.

Pro-democracy protests have been held in both Algiers and Rabat, but failed to evolve into the kind of popular uprising that ousted Tunisia’s president — and triggered uprisings around the Arab world.

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Algeria, Morocco ink MOC in water resources


Algeria and Morocco concluded Friday in Rabat a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) in water resources, to promote bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

The agreement, signed by Abdelmalek Sellal, the minister of Water Resources and Amina Benkhadra, the Moroccan minister of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment provides for boosting cooperation between Algeria and Morocco mainly in irrigation, hydraulics, management of dams, water transfer and seawater desalination.

Under the MOC, and as a first step in the relaunch of such cooperation, a meeting is to be held by the bilateral committee of the respective general managers of the two ministries, on April 18 in Algiers, to tackle issues relating to water management and purification and seawater desalination.


Despite Disagreements – Algeria, Morocco Expanding Relationship


ALGIERS- Moroccan Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment Amina Benkhadra is to start Tuesday a two-day working visit to Algeria, said Algerian ministry of Energy and Mines.

The Moroccan minister will meet Youcef Youfi, the minister of Energy and Mines, and pay a visit to Hassi R’mel and Ghardaia, according to a ministry’s statement. Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said Wednesday that Algeria and Morocco were making efforts to establish a new and positive climate so as to revitalize relations between the two countries.

He announced exchange of visits next March by ministers of both countries to discuss ways to give a fresh impetus to bilateral cooperation in sensitive areas, including energy and agriculture, Global Arab Network reports according to APS

Morocco is also Algeria’s largest trade partner in Africa. The official volume of trade between the two countries exceeds $570 million, on top of informal trade which some estimate at $2 billion. Half a million Algerians visited Morocco, while Algeria granted 250 commercial registers for Moroccans living on its soil. About 45,000 Moroccans currently live in Algeria.

For several years, Algerian and Moroccan business leaders have called for re-opening the border.

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UNECA calls for Maghreb co-operation


The lack of collaboration among North African states hinders economic development, experts say.

Regional integration and increased collaboration are necessary to overcome challenges facing the Maghreb, participants at a Rabat forum concluded.

The 26th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) on North Africa met in Rabat from February 22nd to 25th. ICE is part of the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and includes the five Maghreb states plus Egypt and Sudan.

In spite of progress made in terms of economic development over the last decade, and the advances in human development, the current situation is marked by worsening social tensions, said Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, the Tunisia delegate and director of UNECA’s North Africa office.

She referred to the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, saying that social movements were driven by multiple causes, some of which are highly dependent on local conditions. Ben Soltane said that the causes of the revolutions were widely debated and required more thorough analysis.

However, she said that they all had one common factor: the demands of a growing youth population, dissatisfied with their daily lives and prospects, who demand their legitimate right to decent work and a say in public life, a pressing call for greater equity and transparency, and so on.

The experts were unanimous in underlining the fact that greater co-operation between countries in the region is needed to find solutions to a number of problems facing the region. From social inequality to unemployment and insufficient economic growth and growing populations, working together could help alleviate the Maghreb’s ills, the economists said.

Recently, regional partnerships were limited in scope.

“The year 2010 certainly saw a number of co-operative ventures. However, bilateral approaches were most frequently favoured, and where these exist, they remain chiefly sector-based. The efforts at creating partnerships are still not enough to turn North Africa into an integrated and united region,” the ECA report concluded.

The commission also called on the countries in the region to move regional integration and co-operation to the top of the list of the most pressing priorities.

Obstacles can be overcome through “the creation of a real synergy capable of sustaining economic and social development in the countries of the Maghreb”, according to Moroccan Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Youssef Amrani.

He added that it was time to work seriously to establish a coherent regional integration to overcome the political problems facing the region. Amrani said that the lack of co-operation costs each of the region’s countries many opportunities.

“The current state of non-Maghreb countries has negative repercussions for the levels of economic growth in the five Maghreb countries, and results in a loss of earnings of about 2% of GDP for each country in the region,” the Association of Moroccan Economists said.

Maghreb countries would gain a lot from uniting their economic strategies by establishing a free trade area, economist Hicham Hessouni told Magharebia. He said that the opening of the borders between Morocco and Algeria would be a good first step. Many North African states share the same challenges and need to make the most of their combined economies, Hessouni added.


Political Energy – Algeria to Supply Gas to Morocco

01/ 03/2011

Algeria said Tuesday it was ready to supply Morocco with gas from the southern Hasi Al-Raml field.

Minister of energy Yusuf Yusufi, during a visit to the gas-rich Hasi Al-Raml area with Moroccan Minister of Energy Amina ben Khadhra, said technical studies would be initiated in future about gas supply to Morocco.

Cooperation between Algeria and Morocco in electricity and minerals will expand to include scientific research, he said.

Ben Khadhra, who arrived earlier today, said her visit to Algeria was a chance to discuss economic cooperation in general, and in fields of energy and minerals in specific.

She said Algerian and Moroccan electricity companies would establish a partnership soon.

Yusufi and ben Khadhra agreed to establish an electricity market in the Maghreb region.

Algiers and Rabat signed an agreement in 2008 to export 400 kilowatts of electricity from Algeria to Spain via Morocco.

This is the first official visit by a Moroccan minister to Algeria in years. Both countries are at odds over the Western Sahara. Common borders are closed since 1995.

Algerian foreign ministers Morad Medleci announced a week ago a political initiative aimed at creating positive atmosphere with Morocco, aimed at activating economic and social relations.

Sonatrach evacuates 80 workers from Libya

Algerian Sonatrach oil and gas company announced here on Tuesday evacuation of 80 workers from its Libyan oil fields due to insecurity and unrest in this north African country.

Sonatrach said that 80 of its employees work in the fields of exploration that are located in the Libyan Ghadames near the borders with Algeria.

It denied the news on the destruction of any of its equipment at the fields.

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Libya, Egypt, Tunisia – Emerging Developments and Challenges in Arab World


The events of the last few weeks are a watershed for Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries. Still unfolding, the political developments will have wide ranging repercussions throughout the Region and the World. If supported by properly managed democratic transition, these events provide a unique opportunity to all concerned to leverage people and civil society power to change the landscape of the Middle East and North Africa. We welcome meetings such as this one to exchange ideas, and to learn from the experience of the EU as well as other parts of the world, particularly the emerging markets of Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa.

The root cause of political turmoil in MENA is fatigue with long-standing authoritarian rule and weak political and economic governance as confirmed by public concerns regarding issues of voice, social justice, fairness, accountability and access to public services. The MENA Region, however, has its strengths: its youth, its resource base and its resilience that has been well tested during the global crisis. Moreover, just prior to the political turmoil, economies notably were on a path of economic recovery as the global economy rebounded. Tunisia further managed to curb its fiscal deficit and Egypt, given its high fiscal deficit, had embarked on a consolidation program. Both countries have a foreign exchange reserves cushion. These countries, based on their openness and potential, have been the beneficiary of foreign flows and tourism.

The economic and social impact of the past few weeks’ events, yet to be fully realized and assessed, is likely to be significant in the short term. Slippages in economic growth, fiscal revenues and tourism and FDI receipts are inevitable. While global equity markets posted gains, Egypt and Tunisia markets fell by 21% and 14%, respectively in the last month. Macroeconomic imbalances will come under renewed pressures. Vulnerabilities are likely to magnify. A large segment of the population does not have adequate access to jobs, land, basic services and finance and justice. They may be further marginalized as inflationary pressures grow depending, among other things, on trends in oil and food prices. Fiscal complications are likely to grow, particularly in Egypt as the Government and public enterprises are grappling with wage and other pressures. In Tunisia, banks may face stress as second round effects of the slowdown in businesses and investment permeate.

In dealing with the short term challenges, we cannot but remind ourselves of the deep-rooted problems that MENA is faced with – attention to these will help shape our collective thinking.

* Benefits of growth have not been shared equitably:The illustration of this is the high unemployment rates in MENA – in the range of 20-25% for youth in some countries, and steeper for university graduates and for women – whose participation rates are one of the lowest in the world. The population at the lower end of the spectrum is quite vulnerable, for example the number of poor almost doubles in the case of Egypt when a cut-off of $2.50 is adopted. Regional disparities are quite significant too.

* Growth has been below potential in MENA (and not labor absorbing) because of the lack of economic diversification, low private investment (averaging at 15% of GDP relative to over double this level in East Asia) in the wake of barriers to entry and an incentive framework that promotes privileges’ rather than competition. A range of economic reforms has been undertaken over the past years. A World Bank survey at firm level reported that the quality of implementation of reforms has been low and institutions remain tied to old outdated regulatory framework and practices. Another Bank study recognizes the rise in total factor productivity since 2005 in Egypt, but finds that growth in Egypt is mostly explained by factor accumulation and not productivity growth. Key determinants of productivity growth are public expenditure, exports, investment, and inflation, while labor productivity has been low. To attain higher growth, there is a need to move from a low-wage, low value-added economy to a skill-intensive and technology-based economy.

* Labor markets and education systems are dysfunctional:According to the 2009 Investment Climate Assessment (ICA), high labor taxes (social contribution), rigid labor regulation and skill mismatches are among key reasons why firms do not expand employment. High labor taxes, insufficient innovation and entrepreneurship and lack of labor market clearing mechanisms are some other issues. Quality of education, as illustrated by international testing mechanisms, has been compromised in striving to broaden access. This however would require a complete overhaul of the governance of the education system with due regard to changing the modes of learning, teacher incentive frameworks and reforming higher education systems.

* Financial and social exclusion is high:access to finance is low and the social protection system fragmented and inefficient – almost 8% of GDP is directed largely to subsidize fuel and inefficient public food distribution systems that do not reach poor.* Trade integration and diversification, both at product and market level, are quite low. Most notably regional trade within MENA, and non-oil trade with the rest of the world, have been quite low and have impeded growth and employment opportunities

Client ownership and close cooperation among all stakeholder including development partners

Supported by public demand, authorities have a unique opportunity to address these daunting challenges and seek a “break with past” and a paradigm shift that defines clearly the path of political, economic and social transformation. Moving in a calibrated manner, the region will need to ensure the quality and speed of short-term economic policy responses and position for addressing medium-term challenges. The pace and sequencing of reforms will need to be coordinated to ensure macroeconomic stability is maintained, while judging the institutional capacities for the implementation of programs.

Keeping these in perspective, restoring public confidence would require a proper signal and a swift change of governance structures, safeguarding public interests and protecting vulnerable groups through innovative well-targeted programs with due regard to fiduciary concerns and engaging civil society in economic reforms, while re-energizing the private sector to unleash its economic potential. To support transition governments the Bank stands ready to address immediate challenges, while engaging on medium-term issues. Upfront commitment on changes in economic governance would facilitate effective implementation of programs adopted.

In response to the global economic crisis, in the last 18 months the World Bank Group has been heavily engaged with both Egypt and Tunisia and has delivered substantial economic and sector work. This can now be channeled to develop an understanding of the complex issues at hand and prepare appropriate responses. Besides assessment of the initial economic and financial costs of political events, engagement is underway to develop short-term policy responses, while maintaining a dialogue on medium-term challenges.

Recent events and lessons learned have amplified that as we go forward there will be emphasis on:

Changing methods of engagement. Besides judging the mandates and ownership of transition governments and navigating carefully given the rising sense of social entitlement, it is critical that development partners be inclusive and work closely to ensure coordinated approaches. There is a need to go beyond the governments and reach out to civil society including economic thinkers, private sector and NGOs and visibly demonstrate our adaptability and flexibility, while carefully managing expectations and risks. Assistance has to include a range of products: quick budgetary support (to meet the growing financing requirements) and a rapid investment response to support the required poverty interventions, employment generation and special areas programs. This has to be accompanied by advisory support, strengthening of institutional capacities and the provision of entrepreneurship and other training programs. However, the development partners should clearly be coordinated primarily by the MENA countries themselves, and any complementary mechanisms should have their support.

Strengthening of governance frameworks is a clear public demand and will have high payoffs for incoming regimes. Advocacy in this area should involve focus on improving:

o Transparency and opening up access to information and economic statistics;

o Reducing/removing barriers to entry;

o Competition and anti-trust policies;

o Fostering independent NGOs and associations;

o Developing conflict-of-interest regulations for public and elected officials; and

o Public administration reforms.

Fostering inclusive growth that is broad based and equitable. As many countries in the region can no longer continue to be employers of first and last resort, private-sector led, job-creating economic growth has to be the cornerstone of any development strategy for countries in MENA. In this context, the underlying challenges for the region have not changed. The World Bank Group hence will support faster and effective responses to establish an enabling policy environment that fosters competition, adoption of technology and innovation and skill enhancement backed by qualitative changes in education systems. In response supportive global and European engagement would be beneficial to encouraging trade and private flows by opening up market access, encouraging labor mobility, partnerships in renewable energy, legal and regulatory harmonization, service liberalization etc. In light of the current crisis, IBRD and IFC will be open to restructuring its portfolio and adjust its pipeline to align and sharpen some of its areas of intervention. Increasing access to finance for underserved segments of the MENA population, improving infrastructure services, raising the quality of education and health services, and supporting high value-added sectors remains even more valid today than previously as avenues for enhancing employment opportunities and the region’s competitive edge.

Within this overarching framework, IFC plans assign priority to increasing social inclusion by better addressing the needs of the middle-class/poor. In this context, among others, IFC will explore more opportunities with Tier II and Tier III companies despite the possibility of higher short-term risks and investments in disadvantaged regions within MICs. In the short-term, IFC will (i) undertake a coordinated private sector needs assessment in affected countries; (ii) stress test the portfolios; (iii) help clients restructure their portfolios and provide additional financing to mitigate against further losses; and (v) provide rapid financing through short-term finance instruments such as trade finance, SME risk-sharing facilities, SME credit lines, microfinance etc.

IBRD and IFC, while focusing on short term challenges, will continue to focus on increasing regional investments and providing high quality Advisory Services to build the institutional capacities in key public and private entities in the region. Priority areas of advisory focus will include improving corporate governance/transparency, investor rights and alternate dispute resolution, access to finance and credit information systems, bank risk management, PPPs, and business edge — to address the structural and capacity constraints facing the private sector. Support for transfer of seized assets will be important to help both government entities (like central banks) and private sector players in affected countries refocus their priorities.

Moving from fragmented to coherent and sustainable social protection systems that are well coordinated with the broader social insurance and labor market policies. An immediate response could be to consider:

* Targeted cash transfer programs for the poor and vulnerable groups;

* Establishing a Community Driven Development (CDD) fund to empower local communities to finance small public projects in disadvantaged regions (with high unemployment rates) with local participation;

* Establish an ‘Emergency Employment Package’ to provide an immediate short-term mitigation response to the unemployment crisis, including School-to-Work Transition programs for new graduates.

In the medium-term, the World Bank willengage in developing conducive labor market policies and regulation frameworks (albeit politically sensitive), promotion of private intermediation, a revision of social security systems (including tax wedges, social contributions, and pensions), liberalization of professions. Emphasis will now have to shift from protecting jobs to protecting workers’ income with more social support, unemployment insurance, and active measures to assist workers during periods of transition. According to recent enterprise surveys, high labor taxes (social contributions) and rigid labor regulation are among the top reasons why firms in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria do not expand employment.

In tandem IFC will sharpen its interventions in:

* employment generating real sector investments, e.g., retail, services including tourism, ICT, telecommunications etc.;

* increased access to finance for underserved segments like mortgage and student borrowers to better address the needs of youth and lower-income groups;

* improving the quality of post-secondary education services (especially technical and vocational education) to meet the needs of the private sector and reduce youth frustrations– the E4E initiative is to outline an action plan for IFC’s Investment and Advisory engagements in this area in the next few years; and

* increased investments in agribusiness and higher value-added sectors where IFC can help in transfer of technology, international best practices, and E&S standards to help build a competitive and knowledge-economy.

Fast track regional program to reduce food price volatility: MENA countries import 30% of the world’s traded wheat which is expected to rise to rise to 55% by 2030. The sharp rise in food prices have triggered grave concerns about food security, malnutrition and increased poverty throughout the world. This trend is of particular concern for MENA countries because of their rapidly growing populations, limited water and arable land resources, and significant dependence on international food commodity markets.

* Surging international prices place significant upward pressure on national and household budgets, depending on the level of domestic consumption subsidies and the pass-through. The poor will likely be hardest hit because they typically spend anywhere from 35 to 65 percent of their income on food.

* In response to the 2008 food price crisis, the World Bank launched a number of rapidly disbursing operations to strengthen safety nets for the poorest people in fragile regions including Yemen, Djibouti and West Bank and Gaza. Supportive programs of this nature can be structured to meet the food requirements of the affected countries.

* Lending for agriculture productivity and irrigation efficiency has also increased since 2008, with approximately $450 million in commitments for projects to improve agriculture productivity and irrigation efficiency in Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and Djibouti. The projects in Egypt and Tunisia are particularly relevant in these difficult times because they emphasize community driven development approaches with strong local accountability and transparency in the allocation of resources.

* The World Bank is also supporting analytical work to examine issues such as the bread distribution system and poverty targeting in Egypt and the agriculture sector in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt. The World Bank is also leading an ongoing regional study, in which ten countries in the region are participating, on the efficiency of wheat import supply chains and how these can be improved to increase food security.

Fostering global and regional economic integration. At the request of the Arab world, the World Bank group has launched a number regional cooperation programs. This takes place within the broader context of our policy advice to MENA countries on economic integration – internally and externally. Let me mention just a few key regional programs, which may offer opportunities for further development partnerships. We are launching two regional financing facilities – one to help open up the Micro and SME sector and the other for infrastructure. In both cases, there is a strong focus on trade and employment generation, and on external support for risk-mitigation.

In a similar vein, we are financing, along with a number of partners represented here, the scale-up of solar energy in MENA. The World Bank studies show this can create about 80,000 jobs in MENA, but that depends partly on solar exports accessing the green energy markets in Europe on a level playing field. We look forward to Europe taking action very soon to demonstrate that the Mediterranean Solar Plan is feasible. That would send a very strong signal to the MENA countries, about integration, employment, technology transfer, and climate change.

We are also proposing to finance cross-border trade facilitation and transport infrastructure in the Mashreq and in North Africa, and would welcome development partners’ participation. That program will serve to integrate each subregion, but will critically connect them more efficiently to Europe and to other neighboring regions (including the GCC for the Mashreq). Similarly, we are working on maritime transport in the region, and marine highways in the Mediterranean. These are all flexible regional programs that can move at the pace that each country in the Arab world is able and willing to move, and are therefore well-adapted to addressing the competitiveness challenges facing the region. We invite you to join us. In our view, MENA’s economic future lies in better accessing regional and global markets – for goods and services, for capital, and for labor. We are of course interested to hear from you what are the plans of the EU and other parts of the world vis-a-vis MENA, and whether they will now be scaled-up to a new level. A historic opportunity is presenting itself, and we hope it will be seized by all.


Turkish companies build malls abroad, interested in North Africa


Turkish entrepreneurs constructing shopping centers have shifted their investments to foreign countries, business weekly magazine Ekonomist reported in its latest issue.

The number of shopping centers completed and being constructed by Turkish businesspeople in various countries such as Russia, Romania, Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia has already reached 50, according to data from the Trade Council of Shopping Centers and Retailers, or AMPD. This number is forecasted to increase to 150 in the near future.

“There are many reasons for Turkish entrepreneurs to invest abroad,” according to Mehmet Nane, chairman of the AMPD. “Experience obtained in the construction sector is one of these. The second is that companies seek new investment areas as the Turkish market has reached saturation,” Ekonomis quoted Nane as saying.

These shopping center investments also provide an opportunity for Turkish retailers, Nane said. “Having a place in these malls opened in foreign countries provides a step for Turkish brands to become a global value.”

Turkish investors are focusing especially on the Middle East, North Africa, the Balkan countries and Turkic republics.

Istanbul-based Turkmall, a global real estate development company, constructs shopping centers in Russia, China, Syria, Egypt, Georgia and Libya. The company is set to open a new mall in northern Cyprus’ Nicosia with an investment of $150 million. “Our aim is to become the top brand in shopping centers,” said Levent Eyüboğlu, chief executive officer of Turkmall.


Algeria / Tunisia: signing of several cooperation agreements


ALGIERS – Algeria and Tunisia signed Sunday in Algiers a series of agreements and cooperation program during a visit by the Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, said the Algerian news agency APS.

These agreements were concluded after the meeting of the great Algerian-Tunisian Joint Committee chaired by Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and his Tunisian counterpart.

These included five agreements for cooperation in the fields of agriculture and rural development and an agreement for cooperation between public TVs and radios in both countries, said the source.

Another MoU on joint investment was also signed. The two countries have approved five other executive programs for cooperation in the fields of tourism, vocational training, education and culture. They also signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of agricultural research.

Ouyahia had said at the opening meeting of the committee that Algeria and Tunisia “aspire to inaugurate a new phase in their joint action and the building of balanced relations between the two countries.”

Exchanges between Algeria and Tunisia have reached 600 million dollars during the last ten months of 2010, an increase of 5.6% compared to 2009.

Tunisia and Algeria share a land border of a thousand miles in some areas with a substantial flow

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