Morocco aims big: If the country’s textile union (AMITH) has its way, we may soon start to see “Made in Morocco” more often on our clothing labels. The union seeks to boost the number of employees in its clothing industry by more than a third, improve the infrastructure and expand trade relations with Northern Europe.
100,000 new jobs in the clothing industry
All indicators are clearly pointing to a significant upward trend for Morocco as a fashion production hub. In 2016, Morocco increased its exports of clothing to the European Union by 9 percent to achieve a market share of 3.1 percent. Cambodia was the only other country to achieve a higher growth rate of 14 percent. This puts Morocco in seventh place for textile imports to the EU — right behind Vietnam and Cambodia.
This is how Morocco wants to grow its production industry
183,000 people are currently working in the clothing industry in Morocco; that is already 20,000 more people than last year. According to the plan by AMITH, the country wants to create another 100,000 new jobs in the sector between now and 2020. “We will achieve this goal”, says Karim Tazi, President of AMITH, with confidence. “We’ll have already created nearly 60,000 of these new jobs by the end of 2017.” The association is also investing in a comprehensive programme to promote the clothing industry, which involves expanding the infrastructure as well as encouraging knowledge sharing among different companies. “An unusual point is that we, the textile industry, are initiating these activities; they are not being mandated from above, which is often the case in other countries”, Tazi explains.
At the same time, the Moroccan government is very open to the interests of the textile industry. This doesn’t come as a surprise: More than one fourth of all industrial workers in Morocco work for the textile and clothing industry.
Morocco’s advantage: Its geographical location
“Morocco’s geographical location is clearly an advantage”, says Adil El Azouzi of Newline Fashion from Tangier, a company with five production facilities that mainly sews products for the Inditex Group brands. “Tangier is only 40 kilometres from Spain; the goods we ship on Saturday arrive in the warehouse in Spain on Monday. “ Communication is also faster and more economical: there’s no time difference, flights are cheap and travel times shorter.
It isn’t surprising that Morocco is of particular interest to the fast fashion industry. Many production companies in Morocco work for fast fashion companies, all of them primarily for Inditex with its multitude of labels, as well as for French and Italian brands, such as La Redoute, Monoprix, Coin, and Miroglio etc. They have become true fast fashion specialists over the years and they collaborate with production companies in Portugal, which are also strong in fast fashion, but face higher wages. Another advantage is the high level of proficiency in languages in Morocco. The official language is French, but a lot of Spanish is also spoken in the northern part of the country.
Turkey is the biggest competitor
South Africa has great potential as a producer and everyone agrees with that view. However, no one is afraid of them yet. “I don’t consider Ethiopia a competitor”, says El Azouzi. “Ethiopia is 30 years behind us and significantly cheaper. Whoever wants to start production activities there must first create a suitable infrastructure and deal with the risk of political instability. That’s the general opinion. All of this takes time and resources.
Therefore, many Moroccan producers consider Turkey their main competitor. Turkish wages are comparable and there are more fabric manufacturers, which is a major advantage for country. Morocco also used to have weaving mills, but they moved operations to Asia many years ago. Nevertheless, the new political situation gives Morocco hope. El Azouzi: When there was tension between Turkey and Russia, many orders were sent to Morocco because no products were allowed to be shipped from Turkey to Russia at the time and many people were able to benefit from that situation here.” Now, Morocco is hoping for a similar outcome with the tensions between the European Union and Turkey due to child labour scandals and exploitation of refugees in textile companies.
The current situation there supports Morocco’s plan to acquire more business from Northern Europe, particularly Germany, as well as from Southern Europe. German companies are traditionally very well represented in Turkey.
Production for the local market
Morocco’s upswing is also energising the local market. One of the biggest local fashion brands is Marwa, a fast fashion chain from Casablanca. They already operate more than 70 stores in Morocco, six more in Algeria, and two in Libya and Lebanon, as well as in Kuwait. The brand is positioning itself in the mid-range price segment in Morocco, “however, we are less expensive than H&M and Zara”, explains Samia Aichouche of Marwa.
Marwa’s Design is tailored to Muslim women and fashionable at the same time. “We have something for every woman, no matter whether she prefers clothing that provides full coverage or not”, according to Aichouche. 40 percent of production takes place at its own two production sites in Casablanca and Meknes with the remainder being ordered from local companies. “This way, we can adapt to new trends very quickly”, says Aichouche. “We have some of the shortest lead times in the world.” Approximately 6,000 new products are developed annually and stores receive new deliveries every week.