FATIMA-ZOHRA ALAOUI

Morocco 2020 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fatima-Zohra Alaoui, General Manager of Moroccan Association of Textile and Apparel Industries (AMITH), on employment in the sector, 80% of exports going to Europe, and the impact of COVID-19.

Can you tell us about Morocco's textile industry?

The textile and apparel (T&A) industry plays a key role in Morocco's economy. Aside from being the first industrial employer in the country accounting for around 180,000 jobs, the T&A industry is one of the few sectors that employs a large number of women and young people. Contributing to 15% of Morocco's industrial GDP, it is also a sector that plays a leading role in the trade balance, representing 25% of the country's goods' exports. Morocco is recognized today as a key player in the fast fashion supply chain given its longstanding and established experience with the biggest vertical fast fashion brands and retailers in the world. One of its major competitive advantages lays in the proximity with Europe, and therefore its ability to react immediately to new trends to be delivered in short lead times and in flexible quantities.

Is Inditex present in Morocco?

Inditex is one of the biggest clients of the Moroccan T&A industry, accounting for a significant part of the sector's employment and exports.

What is the importance of international partnerships for AMITH?

We are in a global, international industry with players in our supply chain geographically dispersed across the world. It is hence important for AMITH, as the representative of the Moroccan Textile & Apparel Industry, to have strong international partnerships, not only to promote the Moroccan T&A offer to international buyers, but also to improve market access conditions to our products.

How has the competitiveness of the sector evolved since 2014?

The T&A sector adopted in 2015 an innovative and ambitious strategy, resulting from a strong, effective and unprecedented public-private partnership. This strategy is part of the 2015-2020 Industrial Acceleration Plan, and was built around targeted, clear, conscious and aligned choices between the State and the profession. It aims at making the Moroccan textile sector a leading player on the continental scale and around the Mediterranean. The combination of a conducive international environment and the ambitious national strategy has given the sector a new impulse, which is not limited to exports, but also to investment and employment. Four years after the implementation of the national T&A strategy, the sector has created 70,000 jobs and generated more than EUR800 million additional exports.

How was 2019 for the textile sector?

After recording an average annual growth rate of 5% since 2012, exports of Moroccan textile and garments to Europe have stagnated in 2019. This adverse performance can be explained by the less preferable market access conditions granted by the EU to Moroccan exports in comparison with countries such as Turkey and some Asian and African nations, which enjoy duty-free access to European markets.

What can the government do improve relations with the EU?

We have been trying, for almost a decade now, to get more favorable access conditions to the EU markets. Indeed, when countries from Asia or Turkey can export garments to the EU without paying duties regardless of the origin of the fabric used to manufacture them, Moroccan garments pay duties on their FOB prices if fabrics used are originating from outside the Pan Euromed region. This means that duty is paid not only on the imported fabric, but also on the added value generated locally in Morocco, which is totally unfair. Fully aware that any change in the rules of origins with the EU has to be decided at the political level, members of the Moroccan Government have showed their support to our position and have started talks with European officials to help us turn the tide in our favor and level the competitive playing field between Morocco and some of its major competitors.

What other strategies are your working on?

The diversification of target markets is one of our strategic priorities. Today, France and Spain account for more that 50% of our T&A exports, whereas the Moroccan presence in northern European countries remains too shy. This is why, several promotion actions are planned for the near future to increase the penetration of Moroccan T&A in these markets.

What sustainability initiatives are you implementing?

Morocco embarked on the sustainability path several years ago when we made our first 100% Made in Morocco 100% sustainable Denim collection. Several investments in equipment allowing for a more sustainable way of production were made in the industry, and factories are increasingly considering renewable energy alternatives to reduce their energy bill. In addition, projects are launch to establish a recycling ecosystem in the T&A industry to close the loop, reduce the impact of our production on the environment and offer sustainable production alternatives to brands and retailers.

What are your goals for 2020?

Few weeks ago, I could have responded with all confidence to your question. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic inflicting to our industry worldwide what could be qualified as the worst blow in its history, our goal today for what is left of 2020 is first damage control. Then, depending on how things evolve with the pandemic in Morocco which took strong measures very quickly to contain the spread of the virus in the country, and in the rest of the world, we'll adjust. But one thing is sure: the Moroccan T&A will be there when COVID-19 is defeated to stand by the side of its international partners and relaunch together our industry when this crisis is over.