According to Ali Seddiki, director general of the Moroccan Agency for Investment and Export Development, Morocco’s emergence as an industrial and exporting powerhouse is the result of a rare combination of assets: “Institutions that guarantee stability and are committed to economic, democratic and human development; privileged access to European, U.S., African and Middle Eastern markets; a deep talent pool of well-trained young people; and competitive green energy for decarbonized production.”
Those factors have attracted many multinationals. For instance, Morocco is a key platform for Renault and Stellantis, which have production capacity for about 700,000 cars a year, export 90 percent of them to over 70 countries and source 60 percent of their parts from the local automotive ecosystem. Demonstrating how the skilled workforce stands ready to take on future-focused high-tech challenges, Stellantis makes the electric Citroën Ami and Opel Rocks-e in the kingdom, and both were designed at its African Technical Center that boasts an ecosystem of 4,000 Moroccan engineers.
Equally integrated is an aerospace sector with proven capabilities in complex products such as high-tech engine parts, Airbus A220 fuselage sections, subassemblies and lightweight composites. As well as Airbus, Morocco shares a decades-long partnership with Boeing. “We believe that, together, we can meet the challenges of global aviation,” explains Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Leading firms in the sector include Spirit AeroSystems, Safran and Hexcel. For Thierry Merlot, Hexcel’s president of aerospace Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Morocco’s advantages are: “The qualification of the workforce, the support of the state and the proximity of our customers.” It also offers a competitive cost base, adds Stephen Orr, vice president and general manager at Spirit AeroSystems Morocco: “It’s not low cost, it’s best cost. What we have is world-class performance with a low cost relative to the quality delivered. Best cost is our mantra.”
That mantra is echoed in Morocco’s agribusiness and textiles sectors, which have embraced ethical and sustainable practices. At the start of the food value chain, around 130 metric tons of organic vegetables were exported in 2020. At the other end are processors like Africa’s largest Oreo factory and France’s Bel Group, which exports Moroccan-made Laughing Cow cheeses to about 20 countries, including the U.S. Meanwhile, Morocco’s textile industry, the eighth-largest supplier to Europe, is innovating to boost sustainability in fashion, with denim manufacturer Evlox, for instance, partnering with the multinational OTB Group on textile recycling research. A continent-leading pharmaceutical sector—that includes Pfizer, Roche, Novartis and other giants—also has the research capabilities to tackle global challenges. Notably, in excess of $450 million is currently being invested in a hub for vaccines.
Another growth area is offshore services. The sector employs over 120,000 people, 10,000 jobs are being created annually and 20 percent are in engineering and information technology. In line with the country’s advanced skills in those areas, Lear Corporation and Capgemini have set up engineering research and technology hubs, while Oracle has opened a center for cloud, artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies. Hassan Chafi, vice president of research and advanced development at Oracle Labs believes: “In addition to their outstanding technology skills, most engineers in Morocco speak three languages and bring an open-minded and creative approach to their work. This makes them ideal members of a team focused on developing technology that will play a significant role in our rapidly evolving, global society.”
It is also a great location for green energy firms, says Modest Kwapinski, CEO of EDF Renewables Morocco: “Its comparative advantages are best-in-class solar and wind resources, a commitment to stability and ensuring fair investment opportunities, and its talented pool of renewables and construction experts.” Spirit’s Orr would recommend the country to all industrial investors: “If you’re looking for a best-cost solution, Morocco should be on your list.”