Morocco Continues to Attract Investments in Manufacturing

Expands potential for supply chain job-creation

Morocco continues to strengthen its position as a leading platform for business development in Africa with the announcement of two new manufacturing investments. Although one usually doesn’t connect Morocco with the Farnborough Air Show, that’s where the announcements were made by Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy, Moulay Hafid ElAlamy. And the investments are significant not only for the direct jobs that will be created but also for the hundreds more that will be generated by those companies supplying the facilities – ranging from commissary and cleaning services to housing and transportation for employees.


Moroccan minister El Alamy

Moroccan Minister of Trade, Investment, Industry, and Digital Technology, Moulay Hafid ElAlamy, leads efforts to attract FDI

Aerolia, an Airbus Group subsidiary, will set up an assembly unit for large subassemblies and complex aero-structures as part of its global operations serving Airbus and other manufacturers. A significant factor in its decision is the growing opportunities in the aeronautics market in Morocco, which now includes Boeing, Embraer, Dassault Aviation, United Technologies, and Bombardier, with most operations in the industrial zones around Casablanca. The investment is valued at some $54 million and, in its first phase, will create 500 direct and 500 indirect jobs. As business expands, the company expects to increase its labor force and capacity.

Alcoa, which has a global presence in lightweight metal technology R&D, design, and manufacturing, will be expanding its existing presence in Morocco through an investment of more than $6 million in its Alcoa Fastening Systems Division, which will be expanding its business lines and attracting new customers for its precision fasteners, titanium fittings, and other products. Funds will be invested over two years, resulting in 250 direct jobs.

Recipe for Success

These investments follow on the heels of the recently announced $12 million facility being constructed by Eaton for its new production facility in Casablanca, which will employ about 300 Moroccans to manufacture circuit breakers and other telecoms components. How has Morocco been able to continue to attract aerospace, automotive, and electronics companies? By following the dictum, make it worth their while. Morocco has many incentives, including tax breaks and subsidies, which ease the start-up and maintenance costs of operations. As importantly, for companies that require highly-skilled workers, Morocco has set up the Moroccan Aerospace Institute (IMA) where employers, government, and other stakeholders design and develop skills -training programs to ensure a steady stream of qualified employees.

Jobs in aerospace industry

Jobs for Moroccans extend from basic services to high tech manufacturing

Morocco directly benefits from the presence of global companies, which, in turn, attracts other quality corporations. Additionally, there are many opportunities for job creation for Moroccan companies serving as the supply chains for these companies. Just as call centers in Morocco spun off home grown IT programming and IT design companies, large manufacturers increasingly need to source locally to contain costs. By engaging these international companies as potential customers, Moroccan entrepreneurs can create new lines of business and jobs locally. Increasingly, the government of Morocco understands that all stakeholders have to be part of planning if Moroccan companies are to take a greater role in the future growth of the country. By streamlining the regulatory environment, building stronger sources of domestic private investment, and reducing burdens on small and medium sized companies, Morocco will drive the success of the manufacturing sector from supply to output.

Africa is coming to Washington: How Will America Respond?

Will a gathering of 48 African leaders rejuvenate America’s leadership in Africa?

It’s probably not on your calendar yet, but US media is finally focusing on the upcoming US-Africa Leaders Summit to be held in Washington, DC, August 4-6. Much of the coverage has been critical – not enough information being released, no personal meetings for each leader with the President, no final communiqué expected – and it is clearly a test of this Administration’s capability to pull off an extraordinary event and produce some substantial results in three days.

Summit Attracts Leaders from 48 African Countries

Summit Attracts Leaders from 48 African Countries

While the media and policy analysts may have their concerns, it is interesting that there has been little reporting from Africa in the US accounts of the Summit. How the Administration is able to perform during the Summit, and more importantly, in following up on its outcomes, will affect US policy on the continent for another decade. If we do it right, that is, make few promises and fully meet the ones we do make, it might just widen the opportunities for the US to both become a more active participant in the region and build new partnerships, as we have with Morocco, that reinforce the process of economic and political reforms needed in most African countries.

 Opening Day Focus on Working Groups

According to the schedule released by the White House, each day has a specific focus: Monday August 4 features six topical meetings at the National Academy of Sciences covering civil society, investing in women, investing health, Power Africa, food security, and combating wildlife trafficking. These meetings are by invitation only and are expected to generate working papers to guide US-Africa relations in the key sectors under discussion. Congress gets into the act with a 6 p.m. reception on Capitol Hill, limited to the heads of the delegations and three guests per country.

A very helpful step that could be taken by the Senate to demonstrate its commitment to healthy US-Africa relations would be to confirm the 20 career US Ambassadors for Africa that are currently in limbo.

 Business Opportunities Highlighted

Emerging and Frontier Markets in Africa are challenging and lucrative

Emerging and Frontier Markets in Africa are challenging and lucrative

Tuesday, August 5 highlights the “US-Africa Business Forum” to which CEOs of US companies are invited to meet with the heads of the Africa delegations and a high-ranking official to discuss mutual business interests. The day is being coordinated by the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies and Secretary Penny Pritzker and her team have been working the phones to ensure a strong US turnout. Recently, China replaced the US as the leading business partner in Africa, and the Forum is an opportunity for American companies to learn first-hand about why it makes sense to have Africa as a priority target market.

Rather than leave discussing business solely to government representatives, many countries, from South Africa to Morocco, are sending business delegations to meet with their counterparts even though there are no formal events planned for these delegations. In true American style, this is being left up to the private sector in Washington, which is rolling out their best as the Corporate Council on Africa, US Chamber, Brookings, CSIS, the Atlantic Council, and many others are furiously vying for space and time to hold seminars, forums, side meetings, and exhibitions to attract participants from the US and African official and business delegations.

 The Leaders Agenda

US has many challenges to its leadership in Africa

US has many challenges to its leadership in Africa

After the White House dinner on Tuesday evening, US and African Leaders will convene at the State Department for three plenary sessions on Wednesday, August 5. The three topics: “Investing in Africa,” Peace and Regional Stability,” and “Governing for the Next Generation,” evolved from many discussions between the US and African representatives. These topics are linked by common threads: attracting investment to promote jobs that provide stability and support peace through employment for young people and supporting their inclusion in governance. Attention will also focus on the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a program started by President Obama in 2010, which builds networks among leaders across Africa and brings many from Africa to visit, study, and learn in the US. Morocco is also on the agenda as it will host the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit in November, and an announcement is expected on Wednesday. It is anticipated that a number of initiatives will be announced by President Obama in his final statement later that afternoon.

 Managing Expectations; Producing Results

To many observers, the tight control over the proceedings, limited access to events, maintaining the media center at the US Institute for Peace (USIP), and no final communiqué are signs that the Obama Administration wants to manage expectations so that no one expects a panacea to emerge out of six hours of discussions on Wednesday. Rather, friends at the State Department tell me that the targets are quite specific – mirroring the first day’s discussions at the National Academy of Sciences – what specific steps can the Administration take do in terms of women’s issues, health, food security, and controlling trafficking with Africa and US and African private sectors to build Africa’s capabilities to solve its problems.

This is a theme that King Mohammed VI has repeated throughout his travels in Africa, “Africa is a great continent. It therefore has to take its destiny in its own hands. Africa is no longer a colonized continent. That is why Africa should learn to trust Africa.” While some may emphasize that Africa is the future, it is still made up of 54 distinct countries with national interests and regional concerns that may or may not be always be consistent with US interests. By not focusing on the big political red buttons and instead emphasizing reforms, human development, and business opportunities, the Obama Administration may have made the wise choice. The question lingers, will it be able to follow up, with Congress, on promises made?

Sowing Democracy – a Messy Affair

Can the US get it right?

I’ve just read an article by Stephen M. Walt* in Foreign Policy, “American Values Are to Blame for the World’s Chaos – Why trying to spread democracy, liberalism, and human rights always backfires.” It appeared just two days before we celebrate America’s Independence Day, perhaps our most beloved national holiday, and started me thinking about how liberal values become part of a country’s political culture, and if there are better questions we might ask to get the right answers for advancing liberalism.

Stephen M. Walt

Stephen M. Walt

While on the topic of liberal values, I took part in a discussion last week in which a professor from the UK called out multilingual/multicultural programs in North Africa as a tool by which ruling classes maintain power. Her thesis is that multilingual programs divide people by social and ethnic background, affecting their economic advancement. She made this claim despite the fact that officially sanctioning one’s native language, in this case Amazigh, has been a long-standing demand across the Maghreb.

I rebutted her charges against “neo-liberalism” on historical and factual grounds, indicating that the issue of “identity” tied to language/culture expression was far more salient in countries such as Morocco that are still integrating complex national identities. And so it was quite interesting to find neo-liberal Stephen Walt, for whom I have tremendous respect, taking a one-way-street view of democracy promotion.

His basic thesis, with which I don’t disagree is, “the moral appeal of these basic liberal principles [democratic government, rule of law, freedom of expression, market economies] does not mean that they are a sound guide for the conduct of foreign policy.” He goes on to claim that “In fact, the past two decades suggest that basing a great powers foreign policy primarily on liberal ideals is mostly a recipe for costly failures.” My contention is that, in the 21st century, most countries believe that they are able to make choices about governing without reference to liberal values promoted by the “Washington consensus.” Moreover, with the erosion of the US as the global hyper-power, countries perceive more options for circumventing even the most stringent condemnation by other nations, short of outright warfare.

Furthermore, looking at neoliberal values only from the US perspective alleviates receiving countries from responsibility and accountability for their actions, positive and negative. It is true “that liberalism does not translate its moral absolutes into clear, effective strategies for bringing them about.” It is as guilty of this charge as any political ideology that posits “truths” and not tactics. And besides, there is the nagging reality that one size does not fit all and so neo-cons and neoliberals need to do much more homework in order to recognize where opportunities for and obstacles to their democratic agendas occur.

Taking the Plunge – Democracy Lite

There are lessons to be learned in various post-World War II democracies illustrating that liberal values are still critical to the functioning of tolerant, progressive systems of government. Morocco, which is working towards a parliamentary democracy, is a good illustration of the road forward for integrating liberal values into a traditional society that has honored the family over the individual, cooperation over competition, and consensus over innovation.

Morocco-US relations, full of firsts

Morocco was the first country to recognize the US in 1777

Morocco’s receptivity to liberal values begins with the articles of faith often heard in any discussion of Morocco’s relations with the US: first country to recognize the nascent republic; first US Treaty of Friendship and Commerce, still in force today; first multilateral treaty in which the US agreed to help fund a lighthouse in Tangier; first US Free Trade Agreement in Africa, and other hallmarks including the first Strategic Dialogue in North Africa, and other defense and security ties.

So can we learn anything about advancing democratic values by looking at our relationship with Morocco? And the corollary query, can Stephen Walt’s thesis be clarified by understanding the path Morocco has chosen if we agree that it is a liberalizing society?

Interestingly, Morocco’s only colonial experience was with France, which originated human rights as a contemporary political concept. It has historically been a kingdom, ruled by elites appointed by the ruler or pledging fealty to the sovereign for some six hundred years or more. Its transition to the 21st century has not been without difficulties as traditional interests and networks resist change and have little interest in sharing power. Yet it is changing. Initiatives stem from a visionary king working to empower civil society and citizens to challenge “business as usual” and remake politics and governance into tools that promote human and economic development.

There are three parts to this equation if forces supporting constitutional democracy are to succeed: continued clear messaging in support of liberal values from a well-respected king; growing cadres of civil society and political participants who utilize constitutional reforms to promote power and resource-sharing at all levels; and benefits accruing to the population from a more receptive, responsible, and accountable government.

Morocco's Parliament

Morocco’s Parliament

How does this fit with Walt’s thesis? Well, turns out his real target is “perfecting these [liberal] practices at home instead of trying to export them abroad…[if so] people in other societies will want to emulate some or all of these practices, suitably adapted to local conditions [emphasis added].” And here is the rub: even if the US were the paragon of liberal values, would others follow this pied piper of democracy and rule of law? Since the end of the 20th century, it is apparent that there are no pure models of neoliberal values, and each country will move to its own rhythm in reaching new social contracts defining relations between government and citizens.

It is important for the US to show that, despite our own uneven progress, these values are worth striving for and are the true measure of closing the gap between a country’s aspirations and its achievements. The Morocco-US relationship illustrates that when liberal values are shared across a range of political and economic activities, and are promoted by a trusted leadership without forcing concepts that are antithetical to the local culture, the outlook is worth supporting and encouraging.


* Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.