Rabat – Morocco’s aeronautic industry is growing exponentially thanks to its proximity to Europe, low labor costs, and political stability.Since 2001, the Moroccan aeronautics sector has seen a remarkable and considerable growth.From 2001 to 2011, the number of companies active in the aeronautics industry increased from 10 to more than 100. Total employees increased from only 300 to more than 10,000 with a total sales of over $1 billion, according to the Moroccan Agency of Investment and Development (AMDI). In 2016, Morocco’s Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy Moulay Hafid Elalamy said, “The Moroccan aeronautics industry has seen … huge growth these last few years. The sector has multiplied by six in 10 years.”Morocco now has 130 aeronautics companies.Morocco’s strategic location gives it access to Europe, the Middle East, and the rest of Africa. This advantage has made the North African country a favorite destination for big international aircraft manufacturers, such as Bombardier, Boeing, and Safran.In September 2016, the American Boeing company announced plans to create a “Boeing industrial ecosystem” in Morocco to attract 120 suppliers for Morocco’s aeronautics exports, generating $1 billion and creating more than 8,200 jobs.“Through our business in Casablanca, we have already seen with our own eyes the unique opportunities offered by Morocco to aeronautics subcontractors in terms of cost effectiveness, all while producing quality products,” said Boeing Vice Chairman Raymond Conner.The Seattle-based aerospace company has settled in Morocco since 2001.Boeing also has a joint venture with France’s Safran in Casablanca to build aerospace parts such as wire bundles and harnesses for aircraft makers like Boeing and Airbus.According to Safran’s general delegate in Morocco, Hamid Benbrahim El Andaloussi, “Morocco is now regarded as one of the most aeronautical platforms in the region. It is, without question, the most competitive aeronautical base in the natural extension of Europe.”Safran has been operating in Morocco for more than 15 years with more than 2,700 employees in seven companies and joint ventures. Safran’s companies in Morocco involved in activities such as aeronautical cabling, thrust reversers and nacelles, engineering, and engineering maintenance.The company’s employees are primarily young people in their 20s, of which 70 percent are young women. Women make up 40 percent of the managing staff.Bombardier has plans to invest $200 million in Morocco by 2020 and create 850 direct jobs and 4,400 indirect jobs.In July 2014, US-based Alcoa Aerospace also announced that “it would invest €4.6m in a production unit in Midparc specialising in fastening systems for the aerospace industry,” reported Oxford Business Group.“Bombardier’s Moroccan facility today produces wing components, slats, ailerons, winglets, flaps, fuselage parts, fuselages, nose extensions, doors, floors, nacelles, and subassemblies for various programs of regional aircraft and business jets,” a Moroccan Bombardier spokeswoman told the aviation outlet AIN in July.Bombardier is the world’s third-largest aerospace and transportation manufacturer, based in Montreal. In 2014, the company built an aerospace-manufacturing facility in Morocco.Great logistics, stable economic environmentMorocco boasts of many economic free zones which provide an important platform for Morocco’s growing aeronautics sector. These include Casablanca’s Aeropole Nouaceur and Midparc free zones, in addition to zones with aerospace facilities in Tangier; Kenitra, north of Rabat; Oujda, in northeast Morocco; and Sale, near Rabat.Midparc’s Director General Aref Hassani told Morocco World News that there are 16 companies such as Hexcel, Stelia (an Airbus company), Arconic (an Alcoa company), Eaton, and Thaler which are operational in the Midparc free zone, in addition to 2 companies “under study before construction.”Hassani added that among the 16 companies, 12 are French, 3 are American, and 1 is Canadian.Foreign direct investment website fDi Intelligence ranked Casablanca among the 15 aerospace cities of the future in 2016, and 6th in the top 10 aerospace cities “in terms of cost-effectiveness.” Morocco is situated only 14 kilometers south of Europe, across the Mediterranean, with much lower labor costs.According to Midparc, Morocco is a “competitive platform for export” with an average monthly wage of $327, which is “almost ten times lower than in Spain.”In its 2018 Investment Climate Statement, the US Department of State wrote, “Morocco enjoys political stability, robust infrastructure, and a strategic location, which are helping it emerge as a regional manufacturing and export base for international companies.”In the World Bank’s most recent Doing Business report for 2018, Morocco ranked 69th worldwide. Morocco scored 67.91 points with a more favorable business climate than that of neighboring countries in North Africa, such as Tunisia (88th), Egypt (128th), and Algeria (166th).The report also stated that Morocco’s scoring enabled it to rise to the third position in the MENA region behind the UAE (21st) and Bahrain (66th). Among African countries, Morocco also took third place, behind Mauritius (25th) and Rwanda (41st).Training centers to meet needs of aeronautics industryTraining centers are part of Morocco’s plan to boost its attractiveness for aeronautical industry investments. Morocco boasts of an Aeronautics Professions Institute (IMA), which the Group of Moroccan Aviation and Aerospace Industrialists (GIMAS) established in partnership with the Moroccan government.The center, near Casablanca’s international airport, was inaugurated in 2011 and provides Moroccan aeronautical companies with a skilled workforce and human resources.Before 2011, Morocco never had any specialized centers for training technicians and operators , said El Andaloussi, president of IMA.“IMA’s medium-term objective is to train 800 persons per year in aviation and aerospace professions thanks to a tool of international standards in place as a result of a partnership between GIMAS, the UIMM (Union of Metallurgical Profession Industries) and the state of Morocco,” Midparc said.In September, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani inaugurated the Moroccan Private Aviation Academy (MAPA) in Benslimane, near Rabat.El Othmani said that the school will meet the growing needs of the aviation industry and will train pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.MAPA received the national license for airline pilot training and the EASA European Approval for Aircraft Maintenance Technicians.