By Zainab Calcuttawala
Rabat – As Algeria’s economy struggles with the consequences of falling oil prices, Morocco’s energy and transportation projects serve as a model for economic diversification and infrastructural development in the region.
At the end of last year, Algeria’s Central Bank projected that the declining oil prices will cause 2015 revenues from oil to halve compared to revenues from 2014 as the “black gold” represents 97% of the country’s exports.
As a historic importer of fossil fuels and, thus, a beneficiary from the low oil prices, Moroccan energy policies, particularly in the field of solar power, focus on reducing dependence on foreign energy sources.
The inauguration of the Noor I phase of the Ouarzazate solar energy project and the launch of the construction of the Noor II and Noor III phases represents the most advanced project of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to analysis by The Economist.
Once all three phases are completed, the project will reportedly produce enough energy to provide for all of the country’s energy needs with enough leftover to export to Europe.
King Mohammad VI’s discussion of the nature and extent of the Noor project along with Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al?Maktoum’s solar park were recognized as a beacon of hope for the future of renewable energy sources in the world during the UN’s COP21 climate change talks in Paris in December of last year.
In the transportation sector, Morocco’s national railway company, ONCF, has begun construction on a high-speed rail, or TGV, system connecting Tangier and Casablanca. Though the completion date for the project has been pushed back several times, the finished railway will be the longest TGV line in Africa and will complete the journey between the two coastal business centers in a projected 2 hours and 10 minutes – a vast improvement to the 4 hours and 45 minutes journey on the current lines.
The construction of these projects, in addition to the implementation of the Sahara development model in Laayoune and Dakhla ensures that economic progress will not be limited to the historically prosperous and fertile north of the country.