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Administration marocaine pour la production d'hydrocarbures et de minéraux (document en anglais).

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While Europe remains an overwhelmingly important economic and political partner for Morocco, West Africa holds significant potential as a regional partner for economic development. Investment from the Gulf and from Asia is already a key element in the geo-economics of North Africa, West Africa, and the Mediterranean. By many measures, the economic and geopolitical future of Morocco is likely to see more diverse global ties, and a more pronounced role for regionalism in various settings.

The prospects for Morocco’s Atlantic and regional ties will be shaped by the “soft” infrastructure of finance, rule of law, regulation, political cooperation, and affinity. But it will also depend on the development of hard infrastructure for land, air, and sea transport, telecommunications, and the shipment of energy and nonenergy raw materials. A survey of some of the most prominent current and proposed projects highlights the dynamic nature of developments in this area, and their potential geopolitical implications.

Morocco has made substantial investment in large-scale infrastructure projects over the past ten years. In the field of solar energy alone, the Moroccan government has recently committed $9 billion for the creation of new plants relying on advanced technology for the exploitation of solar power, especially concentrated solar power (CSP). Infrastructure development has been seen as a catalyst for economic and social development, helping Morocco overcome regional disparities within the country, and, ideally, generating much-needed jobs for a young population.

Key concerns behind the development of Morocco’s infrastructure have been energy security — Morocco depends on foreign sources for over 90 percent of its energy needs — and climate change. Studies suggest that Morocco could be particularly affected by climate change-related developments in North Africa, including severe water scarcity, desertification of rural areas, and new natural challenges along the country’s coasts, where much of Morocco’s population and economic activity is concentrated.

Morocco can use new infrastructure to not only pursue diversification of energy sources — a long-time priority of the kingdom — but also to reduce its energy dependency. It can also use new technology and energy policy to explore new partnerships and test the possibility for regional integration, especially with energy-rich West African countries beyond the Sahara. Although rising oil prices and the post-Fukushima nuclear allergy seem to have given a new boost to the development of alternatives, Morocco’s shortage of traditional hydrocarbon resources will invariably affect its future energy position. Morocco’s national energy bill has risen dramatically in recent years, from 48 to 62 billion dirhams between 2008-2009 alone. Volatile energy prices are widely seen as a leading constraint on Morocco’s economic growth.

The Moroccan Office of Hydrocarbons and Mining is optimistic about finding new hydrocarbon reserves, particularly offshore, following discoveries in neighboring Mauritania. Discoveries of oil and gas in 2010 in the Talsmt Region East of Morocco have also fueled optimism, and countries like India have already expressed interest in providing assistance for further exploration and possible exploitation. In addition, large unexploited reserves of bituminous shale are beginning to attract interest from investors. Morocco has signed agreements with Brazilian and other major energy industry players to evaluate the full potential of these reserves. Morocco also holds potentially significant shale gas resources, and the presence of substantial reserves, if confirmed, could bring about a small revolution in Morocco’s energy situation.

The energy equation is complicated by the dim outlook for cooperation between Morocco and energy-rich neighbors in the Maghreb, including Algeria and Libya. Whereas for crude petroleum Morocco can rely on traditional partners such as Saudi Arabia (mainly because of its oil exports to Morocco, Saudi Arabia is among Morocco’s leading trade partners), Morocco has had a long-standing problem with the import of natural gas. Morocco suffers from the poor regional integration of the gas market, and particularly from bilateral tensions with Algeria. This has had the effect of reinforcing Morocco’s reliance on coal.

Small quantities of energy from Algeria cover just above 10 percent of Morocco’s needs. In July 2011, a deal between Algeria’s energy company, Sonatrach, and Morocco’s National Office for Electricity (ONE) was signed, allowing for the sale of Algerian gas to fuel two of Morocco’s thermal plants. The gas will come from the Maghreb-Europe pipeline connecting Algeria to Spain through Morocco.

The picture is different, but not substantially so, when it comes to electricity. The World Bank estimates that the installed generation capacity of the electricity sector in the Middle East and North Africa is some 20 percent below region’s aggregate projected demand for electricity. Morocco’s energy demand is rapidly increasing due to economic growth, urbanization, tourism, and population growth. Morocco faces a likely doubling of its electricity consumption by 2020, and a four-fold increase by 2030. In this


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