The Moroccan response to the coronavirus pandemic was praised in late April by the EU for its speed, efficiency and coordination.
The country was one of the first in the MENA region to introduce strict containment measures: schools were closed on March 13 and a state of emergency declared on March 19, later extended to June 10.
The vast program of measures put in place seems to have paid off. While as of May 26 the number of cases rose to 7.556 and the number of deaths to 202, the daily death toll has dropped significantly since the peak recorded in mid-April.
In the same statement, the EU also joined organizations such as the Pan-African Parliament, welcoming King Mohammed VI’s proposal to launch an African initiative to pool knowledge and resources in the fight against the virus.
It has also been announced that the EU will contribute € 450 million to the Covid-19 Special Pandemic Management Fund, launched on March 15 and intended to modernize health infrastructure and support most affected economic sectors.
As Oxford Business Group (OBG) explained in detail, a massive mobilization of industry has been one of the central elements of Morocco’s response to Covid-19.
The country was well placed to take advantage of its industrial sector, the latter having undergone restructuring in recent years as part of the Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020. During this period, more than 400.000 jobs were created and 54 industrial systems were put in place, notably in the automotive, textile and aeronautic sectors.
The textile sector – which employed over 185.000 people in 1.600 companies at the end of last year, accounting for 15% of industrial GDP – has played a particularly important role.
In early March, many textile and clothing companies started manufacturing medical masks, aiming for a production capacity of 5 million units by mid-April.
In addition, the Lamatem industrial unit in Berrechid, inaugurated last October and specializing in the production of textiles for medical use, is committed to meeting the needs of the Moroccan public health system in terms of medical textile products.
Thanks to this mobilization, the government was able to distribute masks – using the networks of two dairy products companies – to around 70.000 points of sale, setting their unit selling price at 0,80 dirham (0,10 euro).
On April 7, wearing a medical mask was made compulsory in public places and in the workplace.
In parallel with the increases in production, the researchers worked to develop solutions for the health sector produced in Morocco.
Shortly after the confinement came into effect, the International University of Rabat began to produce and distribute masks to hospitals, while working on developing a more durable type of mask.
In addition, in April, a group of Moroccan engineers from Mohammed VI Polytechnic University announced the development of two “100% Moroccan” devices: an automatic fan and an infrared thermometer.
Innovative digital approaches have also played a role, particularly with regard to information sharing.
On March 30, the Ministry of Health launched an application allowing doctors and health professionals to pool their strategies and knowledge.
In addition to this system, engineers, entrepreneurs and technicians have launched a digital platform called Engineering VS COVID19MAROC intended for sharing experience and supporting essential workers using innovative technologies.
Finally, the Franco-Moroccan start-up Dakibot recently made available for free a chatbot which automatically provides answers in Moroccan Arabic to questions related to the coronavirus.
Contactless solutions pave the way for a digital future
The Moroccan response to Covid-19 was not limited to the medical sector; it was indeed illustrated by the deployment of adaptive digital interfaces.
The Ministry of Education, for example, has set up an e-learning platform to ensure educational continuity. Concerns have, however, been expressed about the limited number of students with digital access. Partly in an attempt to respond to such concerns, television and public radio also program educational content.
To facilitate trade, customs formalities can now be completed online on PortNet, a one-stop shop for international trade procedures.
“Morocco has embarked on an important digital transformation which has been accelerated by the Covid-19, especially at the level of Moroccan administrations which have had to meet two main challenges: on the one hand ensuring the continuity of public services, and on the other hand , ensure the teleworking of civil servants and public agents during confinement,” declared to OBG Mohamed Faïçal Nebri, Head of the strategy, development, cooperation and communication department at the Digital Development Agency.
In addition, applications are also used to help more specifically vulnerable sections of the population.
Women are most likely to be disproportionately impacted by the economic consequences of the pandemic. As part of its support program for female entrepreneurship in Morocco, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched a series of online training courses intended to strengthen skills in digital marketing and crisis management in the context of the pandemic.
In all, more than 2.4 million Moroccans work in the informal sector and are therefore at risk of being particularly affected by the crisis. To respond to this problem, shortly after the start of confinement, the Economic Watch Committee set up a digital database where people who are not affiliated to social security can register in order to benefit from financial assistance.
Once their name and identity card number have been entered, beneficiaries receive an SMS authorizing the withdrawal of an amount calculated according to the size of the household from one of the country’s 10.000 ATMs and bank machines.
In the future, this initiative could be used to integrate more informal workers into the formal economy.
Overall, digital innovations have streamlined multiple sectors of the economy, potentially in a sustainable manner. It remains to be hoped that the procedures and technologies put in place as part of the pandemic strategy can be adapted and maintained once the crisis has passed.
“Today there is a dynamic that has started, but there is still a long way to go because the risk of returning to old habits once the epidemic is over is still there,” added Nebri. “However, it is important to ensure the continuity of this digital transformation so that it is not slowed down, and to support our partners to establish a digital culture and develop structures with high added value.”