Irish firms benefit from business opportunities offered by a modernised and thriving Morocco

Smurfit Kappa Group is one company investing in a production plant in the Kingdom of Morocco, which is the fifth largest economy in Africa and is at the forefront of moving to renewable energy

Morocco’s aviation and automobile sectors are of great interest to Irish companies in industrial sub supply and services

Located on the continent of Africa and just 14km from mainland Europe, Morocco boasts a unique location for trade and enterprise as its advantageous situation allows for easy access between the two continents.

It is the fifth largest economy in Africa, and the second most attractive investment destination on the continent, with its business-friendly environment, its world class infrastructures and its young skilled population.

With the added bonus of excellent transport links throughout Africa and across the globe, including the thriving port of Tangiers-Med, direct flights to over 20 African airports, high speed train links and a network of roads stretching from one end of the continent to the other, it is no surprise that Morocco is becoming increasingly connected to the European supply chain and many Irish businesses are realising the benefits of developing business relations there.

Smurfit Kappa Group is one such company which is looking forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship with its Moroccan counterparts, having recently announced its plans to build a new plant in the country, supporting up to 300 new jobs.

Ken Bowles, Smurfit Kappa Group, Chief Financial Officer, says establishing a base in Morocco is a beneficial move forward.

“The new corrugated plant in Morocco will enable us to supply innovative and sustainable packaging solutions to our local customer base – and in a market where there is very high demand for corrugated packaging, this plant will play an important and strategic role,” he said.

“This investment is a reflection of our ‘think global, act local’ approach which combines our global scale and expertise with our local team’s best-in-class knowledge to understand and satisfy our Moroccan customers’ needs.

“So, we would like to thank the Wali of the Rabat-Salé-Kénitra Region, and the Director of the Regional Investment Centre and their teams, for backing this investment and recognising the positive impact it will have on the local economy.”

Indeed Youssef El Bari, CEO of AMDIE, says there are many other opportunities available to companies across every sector and huge advantages, making Morocco an ideal hub for strategic investments.

He adds that the determined transformation carried out, over the past 20 years, under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, has ‘enabled Morocco to raise as a competitive industrial and export platform supported by first-class infrastructures and a young skilled population’.

“I would not only encourage, but urge Irish businesses to expand into Morocco or to trade with Morocco,” he said. “This is the message of Morocco Now, our national brand for investment and export promotion. NOW is the momentum, Irish investors should seize the opportunity of gaining a competitive advantage.

“Also, in the global context of climate emergency and reorganization of value chains, visionary decisions envisioned by His Majesty, provide Morocco with specific assets and our country is at the forefront in renewable energies and engaged in trade openness while signing Free Trade Agreement with more than 100 countries.

“In other words, in today turbulent and fast changing world, Morocco is ready to support industrials in coping with growing challenges, especially climate emergency, and value chains reorganization. Morocco Now stands for a competitive production platform to invest in and export to the world based on four major strengths: Sustainability, Competitiveness, Well Proven Ability To Deliver and Agility.”

Sustainability is certainly a core global issue – but offering low carbon production, Morocco was ahead of the game with regard to renewable energies and is now one of the top 5 in the Climate Change Performance Index 2022. It aims to get 52 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and thanks to an ambitious vision endorsed by the King, the country will position as one of the most competitive low carbon industries in the world.

Highly qualified workforce

In addition, Morocco boasts a highly qualified workforce and thanks to free trade agreements, enjoys privileged access to more than one billion consumers, making it the ‘Gateway to Africa’ in both a geographic and economic sense. It also has a proven track record for agility and reliability, something which was noticed during the global pandemic with its quick and effective response, vaccine rollout and economic recovery.

Its geographic position as a safe and stable gateway to African markets and the evolution of its food and dairy sectors are of significant interest to the Irish Agri Tech industry, with many companies looking to supply new technologies and solutions.

And there is also an increasing interest from Irish companies looking to sub supply the passenger car manufacturing industry in Morocco, which is the largest in Africa. It also has developed a very strong Aerospace sector with flourishing production facilities for many major industry players such as Boeing, Airbus and Spirit (formerly Bombardier) adding to the success of the sector.

In fact, Boeing has been affiliated with Morocco since 2001, having joined forces with Safran and Royal Air Maroc to create MATIS Airspace. And according to Stan Deal, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airlines, the joint venture worked very well with the ‘bold vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI to position Morocco as a global aviation player’.

“At Boeing we are very proud of our relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco – a relationship which stretches back over five decades,” he said. “The strong support and the commitment explains why the local airspace sector has expanded over the past 20 years, going from ten companies to nearly 140 and an annual turnover of 1.7 billion dollars in exports.

“Building on our commitment to the aerospace ecosystem and the highly skilled workforce there, we entered into an MOU with the Kingdom in 2016. This has been a great success as we have added 11 suppliers, including two that supply Boeing directly. These early successes have demonstrated that the Kingdom of Morocco offers excellent value for money and sets it apart from many other countries. We believe that together we can meet the challenges of global aviation and support the long-term growth objectives of both Morocco and Boeing.”

Both the aviation and automobile sectors are of great interest to Irish companies in industrial sub supply and services. And at the Virtual Morocco Week in March 2021, which was addressed by Minister of State at DETE Robert Troy TD and Mr Moulay Hafid Elalamy, Morocco’s former Minister of Industry, Trade and Green and Digital Economy, it was established that there is a great future for trade between the two countries.

Indeed, figures show that Irish Exports to Morocco were up 31 per cent in 2019, which makes the country one of the key trading partners for Irish Innovation and trade. So with tax incentives, continued development of designated industrial parks, sustainable working practices, excellent infrastructure and transport links, a highly skilled workforce

“Morocco is fast becoming a hub for trade and business for Irish companies,” Mike Hogan, Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, and North Africa, said. “The focus of the event (Virtual Morocco Week) is another step in the right direction of creating a bridge between our two countries, moving even closer into the future.”