Interview: Philippe Petitcolin
To what extent can countries like Mexico and Morocco become major centres for production?
PHILIPPE PETITCOLIN: Strategic offshoring to countries like Mexico and Morocco ensures the competitiveness of production costs necessary to thrive within the US and Europe – the world’s largest aerospace markets. Morocco and Mexico have made strides with regard to operational costs, labour quality, innovation and business climate. Clearly, these two countries are not constrained by a pre-determined productive and innovative capacity. For instance, Safran’s activities in these countries already surpass services like motor maintenance and engineering; we also produce certain aerospace equipment.
How far can the Moroccan aerospace industry maintain its current growth rate in the long term?
PETITCOLIN: The emergence of the Moroccan aerospace sector was driven by French companies and the Moroccan government. The first international actors established businesses in the country 15 years ago, through a joint venture with Royal Air Maroc for the maintenance of CFM motors and the development of a regional base. Given Morocco’s competitive advantages, other international players like Eaton, STELIA, Alcoa, Bombardier and Hexcel have also set up shop, allowing for a large-scale supply chain to develop.
Considering the outlook for the sustainable growth of air traffic, public and private actors in Morocco are investing in the sector. Morocco intends to take full advantage of the dynamism of the aviation market, and the authorities are implementing incentives to sustain the development of the aerospace sector.
What has been the importance of integrated industrial platforms (IIPs) to developing industry?
PETITCOLIN: Similar to the creation of the Moroccan Aerospace Institute (Institut des Métiers de l’Aéronautique, IMA) in Casablanca, the IIPs have played a major role in the development of the aerospace sector, and of industry in general, in Morocco. They offer solutions to problems that foreign investors face, such as the availability of industrial real estate or the delays related to construction permits. Over the last three years, Midparc, the offshore industrial zone, has helped companies set up shop locally and access qualified human resources. It has also helped small and medium enterprises (SMEs) pool activities outside of their core businesses. These platforms create the necessary conditions to attract major international players and to create a network of subcontractors around them.
In terms of human resources, what challenges will the sector have to tackle next?
PETITCOLIN: Training is the sector’s main challenge. The IMA has trained many of the sector’s technicians and special operators. Today, the aerospace, automotive and rail sectors must focus on training middle management – that is, professionals such as engineers and operators. To that end, a number of projects are under way, including one of our own in collaboration with Moroccan authorities to develop an institution similar to IMA, managed by the private sector on behalf of the government, with a view to meeting the need for more qualified personnel.
How can foreign investors encourage the integration of Moroccan subcontractors and suppliers?
PETITCOLIN: Integration is in the interest of all. The Industrial Acceleration Plan, launched in the summer of 2015, aims to develop clusters around those activities already present in Morocco, such as assembly and electrical systems, for further local integration. Its primary objective is to attract more foreign and local SMEs to professions that do not yet exist in the country, while at the same time encouraging the traditional industrial sector to become involved.
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