Morocco's fast-rising aviation industry spreads its wings

Story highlights

  • Morocco's aeronautics sector benefits from the country's location, political stability and competitive workforce
  • The industry is growing fast and factories are expanding to support that growth
  • Morocco needs though to overcome training challenges and create more added-value to succeed in the sector

Violaine Larmandieu is an analyst at Infomineo, a business research company focusing on Africa and the Middle East. She is specialized in the Industry Practice. Infomineo provides its clients with ad hoc data on countries, markets, companies and people gathered through primary and secondary research. For more information visit www.infomineo.com.

(CNN)Morocco is undeniably becoming a strategic platform to address the African continent. An increasing number of global companies choose to step in, first in Morocco, to then gain a faster access to other African markets. Its geographic proximity to Europe, its political stability and its competitive workforce constitute a powerful advantage.

This is especially true for the aeronautics sub-contracting market. However, the country has still a long way to go to be among the top performers in this sector.
    The Moroccan aeronautics sector is enjoying an annual growth rate of 15% to 20% (with a slight softening to 13.8% in 2013 according to the Moroccan Office des Changes). Today, over 100 companies in the aeronautical sector are based there, employing over 8,000 people in total.
    This market is generating a turnover of around 800 million euros which represents 5% of Morocco's total exports, and the industry is one of the top priority sectors in Morocco's Industrial "Emergence plan." Factories are expanding and companies are recruiting to support their growth. According to the Moroccan Space and Aeronautical Industries Group, the sector is likely to double in size by 2020.
    Violaine Larmandieu
    Nevertheless, in order to become a heavyweight player in the sub-contracting market, Morocco will need to manufacture more complex components and improve its training programs to meet the needs of global aircraft manufacturers.
    Indeed, several countries are competing in the sub-contracting market such as Mexico, India or Malaysia. Even though the Moroccan aerospace and defense sector was in the worldwide top 8 recipients of inward investment between 2001 and 2011, some of its competitor countries offer lower-priced labor.
    Consequently, Morocco has to counterbalance by producing more complex parts and by improving the efficiency of its local supply chain (i.e. licensing local distributors).
    To become a key player and to attract global manufacturers, a significant pool of high-skilled personnel is required. The estimate is that 20,000 people will be needed by 2020 in this industry. This applies mostly to machinists and technicians levels, since there are already enough Moroccan engineers specialized in aeronautics.
    The Institute of Aeronautics Professions and the ISMALA were hence established to quickly redirect and complement Morocco's public sector educational system which was not taking aeronautics as a priority.
    Since then, more than 1,500 people have graduated from these institutes but aeronautics manufacturers still have to train young machinists in-house for an average of two years before they are completely up to speed.
    Another influential factor for Morocco's aeronautics industry future is Bombardier's on-going establishment in the country scheduled to open at the end of this year; first plant on the African continent enabling the company to sell several of its aircrafts, well suited for the continent needs. This location choice is not random, but largely due to Moroccan incentives and tax benefits (not revealed but said to be close to $20 million).
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    This calculated move by the Moroccan authorities will have a big impact on the aeronautics industry and provide multiple business opportunities in this sector, especially for sub-contractors.
    The government also created a free zone for aeronautics companies close to Casablanca's airport. The American company Alcoa Fastening Systems has already chosen to set up there and will benefit from VAT and corporate tax exemption among other incentives.
    In 2012, Morocco's aeronautics exports exceeded its imports for the first time. The country has already achieved to attract several major global players but it seems that they are not yet planning to produce entire airplanes in the country.
    Morocco needs to overcome its training challenge and create more added-value to be able to succeed in the aeronautics sector. If it does, Morocco will have put Africa on the map of the aeronautics sector.