The Foum el-Oued technology cluster
Innovation to support sustainable development in southern Morocco By launching the Foum el-Oued technology cluster, OCP is implementing its development strategy for the areas that host its operations, combining innovative methods with respect for the unique characteristics of the Sahara region. It is also bringing in an investment of over US$200 million. The city of Laâyoune’s technology centre will be in Foum el-Oued. The construction of this academic and urban centre, inaugurated by His Majesty the King Mohammed VI in February 2016 and initiated by the Phosboucraa Foundation, is a concrete sign of OCP’s commitment to stimulating the urban and socioeconomic landscape of the regions in the south of the Kingdom of Morocco. Located 18 kilometres east of the city of Laâyoune, the technology cluster extends across 126 hectares on the Atlantic coast between the ocean and the desert. As it requires an investment of US$200 million, the project is an expression of the desire to promote socio-economic rejuvenation by stimulating the local economy through investments with local partners and by protecting and promoting local heritage. The Laâyoune Foum el-Oued Technology Cluster will also provide many side benefits in terms of job creation and investment. It is expected to generate almost 1.8 million working days during the construction phase and should create 1,200 permanent jobs by 2022. Diverse activities for a multifaceted urban centre The Laâyoune Foum el-Oued technology cluster will house three major hubs. The first is devoted to education and research on topics associated with the Saharan environment. It will host the Laâyoune campus of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, which will focus on research, innovation, and education in fields of science and technology related to arid zones and the Sahara. These R&D activities will be centred on three main aspects:
  • Agriculture: Saharan agriculture, biosaline agriculture, water, nutrient and energy conservation in agriculture, and animal health (camelids);
  • Water: recycling for use in irrigation, spraying and industrial processes, new wastewater and saltwater treatment technology, and desalination;
  • Energy: renewable energy, use of natural resources (solar, wind, sea and hydroelectric power), and energy efficiency.
The technology cluster will also include a Lycée d’Excellence (elite high school) that will strengthen the educational offering in southern Morocco and encourage excellence and social diversity. The Lycée’s capacity will be 360 students in the regular high school levels and 200 spaces at the preparatory school level for meeting the entrance requirements of the Grandes Écoles (prestigious specialised university level educational establishments). The second hub to be formed within the technology cluster will be devoted to developing the region’s economy through the creation of business incubators and a business centre. In parallel with the major industrial programme it is launching, OCP has established a continuing education centre for its employees and its network of collaborators throughout Morocco and Africa. It will train plant and control room operators, mining supervisors, maintenance technicians, industrial maintenance supervisors, and members of its upper management. The third hub is cultural, and will involve the construction of a museum, a retail village promoting local artifacts and art, and more. These facilities will be accompanied by social infrastructure (health, lodging, sports and recreation, the Gherj El Khil village in the municipality of Foum el-Oued) as well as environmental infrastructure for the preservation of the Foum el-Oued coastline. Detailed environmental impact studies have been performed in order to protect the natural surroundings, particularly the nearby wetland. The goal of the project is to support the region’s socio-economic development while respecting the unique aspects of the area.
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