Morocco’s coronavirus-hit aerospace industry sees light at end of tunnel: Official

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Morocco’s aerospace industry, which saw exports drop by nearly a third due to the global pandemic, is starting to recover as manufacturers diversify into other high-tech engine areas and medical equipment, its professional association head said.

“We have been comparatively resilient and the first signs of recovery are appearing,” said Karim Cheikh, head of the Moroccan aerospace suppliers association (GIMAS), noting that the sector has only shed 10 percent of some 17,000 jobs.

Earlier this month, French Le Piston (LPF) opened a $6 million plant in Morocco to manufacture aircraft engine parts in a sign of returning momentum, he said.

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Morocco’s government has encouraged investment in the country by aerospace suppliers in recent years, hoping to match its success in car manufacturing, creating hubs to shorten supply chains and share expertise.

However, exports fell by nearly a third to $1.3 billion from $1.9 billion in 2019, official figures showed, as reduced air traffic lowered demand for civilian planes and hit orders along the supply chain.

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The automotive industry, which has topped Moroccan exports for the last three years, saw exports drop to $8.1 billion in 2020 from $9 billion the previous year.

The aerospace companies least affected by the pandemic were those that had extended into producing equipment for other sectors such as medical equipment, Cheikh said.

SERMP, a Casablanca-based company that supplies parts to French aircraft engine maker Safran, recently won approval from health authorities to make medical devices after producing ventilators and machines making face masks, its director said.

The company has also received certification to produce medial devices, director Badre Jaafar said.

“The SERMP of tomorrow will be operating in both civil aviation and the medical industry,” he said.

The company, a subsidiary of French LPF Group, hopes to offset a 60 percent loss in revenue last year due to slowing aerospace orders, which forced it to lay off about 15 percent of staff.

GIMAS recently launched a plan, dubbed industry 4.0, to boost the competitiveness of the Moroccan aerospace sector through encouraging highly technological industries, digitalization and the use of clean energy.

Carbon-free production is key to remaining on the map of the global aerospace industry map, Cheikh said.

Moroccan operators see opportunities in the recent announcement by Airbus to make a carbon-free aircraft by 2035, Cheikh added.

“Our challenge now is to go further in the Moroccan offer, by taking the crisis as an opportunity and making Morocco the place to rebound,” Cheikh said.

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