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Musings From Abroad

US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken to visit Algeria, Morocco over ‘wheat matters’, others

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The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, will stop by in Algeria and Morocco today, Monday 28 March, after a “historic” meeting with Arab countries in Israel on Sunday.

US officials say two key issues two issues are on the agenda for the trip: quelling the Jewish state’s worries about a looming nuclear deal with Iran, and discussing the potential global wheat shortage caused by the Ukraine war that could deal a heavy blow to the import-dependent Middle East.

“We know this pain is keenly felt in the Middle East and North Africa, where most countries import at least half of their wheat,” much of it from Ukraine, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary Yael Lempert said ahead of the trip.

The war “will only continue to increase the price of basic staples like bread in the region, taking money from the pockets of the hardest working and most vulnerable families,” she said.

The Russia/Ukraine war has contributed to global food shortage with the two countries accounting for a significant amount of certain food supply globally, especially wheat. The effect of the situation has made Egypt’s Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly announce that the country will diversify its sources of wheat to avoid relying on what he described as “specific sources” for this product.

The Washington official’s visit to Morocco will involve talks over the disputed Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony that the Trump administration formally recognized as part of Morocco in exchange for Rabat normalizing relations with Israel in December 2020, as part of the ground-breaking Abraham Accords.

In Algeria, Blinken will see President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.

Algeria is a leading supplier of natural gas to Europe, playing a crucial role after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month halted the opening of a new large natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Musings From Abroad

China’s Hailiang, Shinzoom to establish vehicle battery installations in Morocco

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Hailiang and Shinzoom, Chinese car battery makers, will establish two separate operations in Morocco as the country strives to adapt its burgeoning automotive sector to rising demand for electric vehicles, Moroccan officials announced on Tuesday.

Tanger Tech, the Moroccan northern industrial zone’s development authority, said Hailiang intends to establish a $450 million copper facility on a 30-hectare plot of land. Shinzoom, a subsidiary of Hunan Zhongke, plans to invest $460 million in an anode plant spanning 20 hectares, according to a statement.

In April, the Moroccan government approved Chinese electric battery company BTR New Material Group (835185.BJE)’s plans to build a factory in Tangier to manufacture crucial component cathodes.

Another Chinese firm, CNGR Advanced Material (300919.SZ), plans to develop a cathode plant in Jorf Lasfar, 100 miles south of Casablanca, where the government has set aside 283 hectares for electric battery sectors.

Last year, the Moroccan government and China’s Gotion agreed to examine establishing an electric vehicle battery plant in the country, with a potential investment of up to $6.3 billion. Last month, Industry Minister Ryad Mezzour told Reuters that the Gotion project was moving forward, with conversations over its footprint and location.

Morocco’s strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar, free trade agreements with important EU and US markets, and existing automotive sector cluster all attract Chinese enterprises.

In 2023, the automotive sector topped Morocco’s industrial exports with $14 billion, a 27% increase. Morocco is home to Stellantis (STLAM.MI) and Renault (RENA.PA) production factories with an annual combined capacity of 700,000 automobiles, as well as a network of local suppliers.

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Musings From Abroad

Prince Harry, Meghan treated to street-style dances in Nigeria as their trip winds down

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On Sunday, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were treated to street-style dances in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, where they announced a partnership between their Archewell Foundation and the non-profit Giants of Africa, which utilizes sports to empower young people.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are making their first visit to Nigeria, where they were welcomed by the country’s chief of defence staff. The couple watched basketball practice at Ilupeju Senior Grammar School on Lagos Mainland, where Harry participated in ball-bouncing drills and shot a hoop.

“What you guys are doing here at Giants of Africa is truly amazing,” he said. “The power of sport can change lives. It brings people together and creates community and there are no barriers, which is the most important thing.”

The couple watched basketball practice at Ilupeju Senior Grammar School on Lagos Mainland, and Harry stepped on the court for some ball-bouncing drills and to shoot a hoop.

Former Toronto Raptors star Masai Ujiri, president of Giants of Africa, wished Meghan a happy Mother’s Day and said his organization was uniting communities and uplifting young people through sport, especially. Archewell Foundation and Giants of Africa will construct a basketball court in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.

“Talk about full circle again – never did I think we would be able to be here all those years later supporting the expansion of this incredible organization,” she said.
Harry and Meghan were set to round off their Lagos trip by attending a reception for a local charity. The couple live in the United States with their two children after Harry gave up working as a member of the royal family in 2020.

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