Fez-Meknes is one of Morocco’s most important manufacturing centres: the region is the site of 653 industrial units, equal to 8% of the national total, and the sector employs 26,300 people, or 5% of the national workforce. The regional sector has grown significantly since the end of the 20th century, and the region has become home to a large pool of qualified, potential workers.
Industrial activities encompass aspects of automotive, aerospace, textile, leather and agro-industrial processing. Together they produce 6% of national industrial output, though only 2.4% of total exports, indicating there is work to be done to boost manufacturing for sales abroad.
A nationwide Industrial Acceleration Plan was launched in 2014 to stimulate investment in industrial activities, build up a more competitive industrial offering and boost the sector’s share in the wider Moroccan economy. The plan exempts Moroccan exporters from Customs duties for a period of five years, promotes the development of at least one free zone (FZ) in each of the 12 administrative regions, grants FZ status to large industrial exporters located outside of FZs and grants indirect exporter status to a variety of subcontractors.
Fez-Meknes’ 15 industrial zones are principal attractions for both domestic and foreign investment. Some, such as the Mejjat zone and the Sidi Silmane Moul Kifane zone in Meknes, and the Ain Chekef industrial zone in Fez, have already been completely commercialised. Others still retain an abundance of installation potential, such as the ZI Miftah Alkheir in Ras Elma zone and the Agropolis zone – both situated in Fez – which have respective uptake rates of 80% and 44.6%.
The main projects under development in 2019 are the 65-ha Zone Ouislane in Meknes and an 82-ha industrial zone in Ain Cheggag. The latter property will provide for the establishment of 130 companies, induce investments estimated at Dh1bn (€89.9m) and create up to 2000 direct and 1500 indirect jobs.
Furthermore, the government recently announced that the lands used by the Cotef textile complex will be expropriated by the state to create a new industrial zone in the Sidi Brahim industrial quarter of Fez. The complex had been abandoned since 2005, and the repurposing of the space is expected to prompt profitable investment, given the site’s desirable location. Beyond new industrial zone creation, the Regional Investment Centre for Fez-Meknes is currently studying how FZs could better ensure competitiveness and allow for the installation of large industrial groups on 300-ha plots that are capable of maximising the efficiency of land use.
Nearly 60% of the value added by the region’s industries is generated by the agri-food, textile and leather segments. Textile and leather production have a long history in the region, dating back to the mid-12th century. Relative to those traditions, agro-industry is still largely developing, and business active therein are seeking to leverage the region’s booming farming sector. The 130-ha Agropolis industrial zone in Meknes has attracted considerable investment, including Dh250m (€22.5m) for the establishment of a large fruit and vegetable cold storage unit that includes a packaging station for fresh products.
The automotive industry is becoming similarly woven into Fez-Meknes’ industrial tissue, as firms like Yazaki, Delphi and Floquet Monopole – headquartered in Japan, Ireland and Morocco, respectively – have made investments in the region. Looking forward, the regional council has announced plans to open an industrial zone dedicated to aerospace.
The clustering of manufacturing activities in FZs and industrial zones has facilitated growth beyond textile and leather segments, and these will continue to develop as investments grow in the years to come.