Interview: Li Yong

How can Morocco strengthen its industrial sector?

LI YONG: A number of recent studies highlight the key factors and various competitive advantages evident in our industrial sector, including the stability of the kingdom, diversification of the economy, level of investment in infrastructure and logistics, good governance and the level of social development. In 2016 Morocco regained its position as Africa’s second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment, with projects and capital investment up 9.5% and 46.2%, respectively.

Additional efforts must be made to continue improving Morocco’s attractiveness, especially when it comes to education and professional training. The country is taking steps to develop human capital and promote vocational training as one of the main pillars of the Strategic Vision 2015-30, which aims to drive the education sector’s transformation. Public-private development partnerships provide effective tools for this.

Which steps can be taken to further engage with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?

LI: As a result of the industrial acceleration plan, the automotive sector is now the leading export sector in Morocco. It also holds a comparative advantage in electrical machinery industries, as well as in textiles and apparel. 4IR represents a great opportunity.

A 2018 diagnostics study by UNIDO shows that the country is capable of attracting not only projects related to manufacturing, assembling and production but also projects dedicated to other value chain functions like research and development projects.

There are steps that must be taken in order to reach the standards set by the 4IR, such as: skills development; strengthening the innovation ecosystems and sectors where new technologies are applied, like additive manufacturing, drones and renewable energy; establishing an observatory to create awareness about the 4IR; coordinating the related national initiatives while measuring the development or absorption trends; and promoting partnerships with investment partners from the private sector for a variety of pilot initiatives.

To what extent can Morocco better integrate energy efficiency technologies in its industrial activities?

LI: The government established a number of dedicated institutions to lead the development and implementation of sustainable energy policies and programmes. It also put in place a number of important strategies, laws and regulations for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Furthermore, in 2012 Morocco began to gradually remove subsidies for fossil fuel, thus creating a more level playing field for renewable energy sources and creating a strong drive for increased levels of energy efficiency investment.

Despite making great progress, there are still challenges to overcome. Morocco remains energy dependent and almost 90% of its energy needs are imported. The demand for electricity has almost doubled in the last 10 years, and the country faces the challenging task of meeting rising local demand, while keeping its import bill under control. To address these challenges, the government has redoubled its efforts to attract renewable energy investment and improve energy efficiency. Its approach includes introducing renewable energy applications for industrial uses and implementing energy management systems, or developing additional financing solutions.

Morocco is also highly dependent on imported raw materials. Therefore, the government intends to increase recycling rates and improve resource efficiency. These changes will help support the goal of becoming a more circular economy.

In any case, the shift towards this type of economy requires substantial support from the government through guidelines, information, regulations and incentives. The circular economy will contribute to creating a variety of new businesses and jobs in different regions as well as fostering regionalisation in the country.