France, Germany, Switzerland, Senegal, Romania… The masks produced by Morocco to protect themselves from the coronavirus will soon be exported all over the world. An industrial feat, coupled with a serious diplomatic asset for the kingdom of Mohammed VI, writes the pan-African weekly Jeune Afrique in an article entitled “The diplomacy of masks, the kingdom’s new asset”.
With a production that exceeds 10 million units per day, the kingdom has masks to spare. Industry Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy has just authorized exports. He made the official announcement on Monday, May 11, before Parliament.
But before opening the kingdom’s borders to this vital product, Rabat took care to build up a strategic stock: 50 million non-woven masks, released from the production lines of 23 factories.
Micagricol, belonging to the Lazrak family, was among the first factories to adapt its industrial tool to start producing these masks. “With the support and guidance of the Industry Department, we have been able to invest in new machines and strengthen our workforce with around 100 new employees,” said a company executive.
In this Sidi Maarouf unit, brand new equipment for the production of masks (with or without elastics) is being installed, which should increase daily production capacity to around 3 million units. “It cost us between 45,000 and 75,000 dollars per machine and we had to send them by air to be quick,” says the manager.
Very strong European demand
But if this company, and so many others, are ready to invest, it is because they are optimistic about the outlets for the mask made in Morocco. “The demand is estimated in hundreds of millions of units,” said a source at the Ministry of Industry.
Local operators have already been consulted by potential customers in many European countries such as France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The kingdom even flashes in the radars of countries with which it had previously had little trade. “We were approached by a client in Romania,” confirms the director of Micagricol, which should also supply countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Senegal or Benin.
But before getting there, “made in Morocco” masks must be approved in each of the destination markets. France, via its military institution, has just approved the products of two Moroccan operators, which presages orders from the French Army or other institutions in France. “The ministry is seeking to admit the Moroccan standard Imanor, which we use as a reference for certain countries, in order to speed up the approval procedures,” explains an operator in the sector.
The first Moroccan shipments of nonwoven masks should not be long in coming. Regarding the masks in woven fabric, the first export operations have already taken place, particularly to France and Spain. “These are small quantities shipped by companies that had raw material for temporary admission, who were allowed to export the masks, provided they devote 50% of their production to the Moroccan market,” said our source at the ministry.
Because for this type of washable and reusable masks, the kingdom has not yet reached its safety stock, estimated at 20 million units. “We produce more than 2 million a day,” said Moulay Hafid Elalamy before the Parliament. “We cannot export this product yet, as we still need it locally. As soon as we manage to ensure a safety stock, we will then opt for export.”
In this segment too, Morocco has ample resources to rapidly increase its production. “By using only 20% of the textile sector’s capacities, we can reach 10 million woven masks per day,” says Karim Tazi, chairman of the business environment commission of the General Confederation of Enterprises in Morocco (CGEM).
For this former president of the Textiles Association, this retraining is a lifeline for some of the operators. “This new activity will make it possible to compensate for the impact of the expected drop in orders sent to Moroccan units and to relatively reduce the impact on jobs in the sector,” he added.
The creator of the Moroccan brand Marwa remains confident about the development of this new activity and the ability of the national industry to compete with Vietnam, Turkey and even China in this new global mask market.
By quickly adapting its industry, Morocco has surprised more than one. Because it has succeeded in a double blow: ensuring its autonomy in masks and positioning itself as a central player in the fight against Covid 19 on the world stage, while the lack of these means of protection is controversial in several countries. In Europe, the kingdom is now cited as a model in managing the crisis.
While Morocco was already considered internationally as a serious partner, its future status as a major world producer of masks could be a real diplomatic asset. Cherifian diplomacy will certainly be able to make good use of it in due time. For the time being, she advances masked …