Morocco making a name for itself in aeronautics sector

Morocco holds a strategic position on the African continent. Companies often choose to set up first here to gain access to other markets in Africa. Indeed, its geographic proximity to Europe, its political stability and a cheap workforce constitute a powerful advantage.

An artist's impression of Bombardier's production site in Morocco.

An artist’s impression of Bombardier’s production site in Morocco.

This is especially true for the aeronautics sub-contracting market. However, there is still a long way to go to be among the top performers in this sector.

The Moroccan aeronautics sector posted annual growth rates of 15% to 20% between 2008 and 2013. Today over 100 companies in the aeronautical sector are set up in Morocco, in total employing over 8,000 people.

Among them are key international players like Bombardier, Airbus, Boeing and Dassault Aviation. The sector is generating a turnover of around €800m (about US$1bn) which comprises 5% of Morocco’s total exports and is one of the top priority sectors of the ‘industrial emergence’ plan.

Factories are expanding and companies recruiting, driven by global growth and substantial orders. The sector is likely to increase twofold by 2020, according to the Moroccan Space and Aeronautical Industries Group.

Improved training needed

Nevertheless, in order to become a heavyweight player in the sub-contracting market, Morocco will need to manufacture more complex components and improve its current training deficiencies to meet the needs and high production rates imposed by global aircraft manufacturers.

Indeed, several countries are competing in the sub-contracting market such as Mexico, India and Malaysia. Some of these countries offer cheaper labour for instance.

Consequently, Morocco has to produce more complex parts and by improving the local supply chain (i.e. licensing local distributors). The less back-and-forth between Moroccan and foreign plants takes place, the better in terms of time and money-saving.

Even though the aeronautics sector’s development looks promising, there are still gaps in training since the growth spurt started only in 2004. To be a key player and to attract global manufacturers, a significant high-skilled pool of personnel is required. This applies mostly to machinists and technicians since Morocco already has engineers specialised in aeronautics.

The aeronautics sub-contracting market has a real potential. Morocco has already managed to attract the key global players, but it seems many of these companies are not yet planning to produce entire aeroplanes here. For this to happen, Morocco needs to overcome its training deficiencies and create more added-value in the aeronautics sector.

Violaine Larmandieu is an analyst at Infomineo.

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