Morocco’s Success in the Aerospace Industry

 The Wall Street Journal ran a very interesting piece today on  Morocco’s success in developing its aerospace industry.

The story should inspire and give hope to many developing countries. It proves that advanced manufacturing is not totally out of the realm of possibilities for these countries. Manufacturing is generally not a big part of the economies of many developing countries – that tend to rely on agriculture, extraction of mineral resources, or light and basic manufacturing. Morocco is not the first developing country to foray into a sophisticated industry such as commercial aeronautics. The WSJ mentions, as prior examples, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. Brazil is probably the most successful example, with its aircraft maker Embraer.

This story, as the story of Intel’s investment in Costa Rica in 1998, also shows what a powerful ‘game-changer’ foreign direct investment (FDI) can be. In the case of Morocco, there was clearly a strong resolve and policy drive by the Government, but it is FDI that helped achieve what probably appeared to many observers as a very ambitious, not to say utopic, objective a decade ago, bringing capital, technology, skills-building and market access. Over the past 10 years the country has managed to attract significant investments from aerospace leaders such as Boeing, Safran, United Technologies and Bombardier.

What is also interesting in the case of Morocco is that the success story started with a relatively modest operation. Around 1999-2001, Royal Air Maroc, the national carrier, managed to convince Boeing (a long-time supplier of RAM) to partner with it and a French electrical wiring company to start a small project preparing cables for Boeing 737 airplanes. The level of quality achieved by workers surprised everyone and…the rest is history.

The sector now employs almost 10,000 workers who earn about 15% more than the average monthly wage (which remains relatively low for Western standards at US$320/month). As the WSJ correctly points out, creating jobs is a strategic imperative for the stability of the country, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Morocco remains deeply affected by high unemployment, particularly in the young segments of the population.

In my line of work, I am well aware that there is much more to say in order to explain why Morocco succeded and why replicating this success story will be very difficult for many other developing economies, but as a development professional working on private sector development, I found the piece very interesting and encouraging and wanted to share it with you.

Source: Morocco’s Aviation Industry Takes Off, by Daniel Michaels, The Wall Street Journal, published in the U.S edition on 21 March 2012. Link to the WSJ article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204059804577226763868263758.html

Xavier Forneris.

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