Boeing Ecosystem: Striking Manufacturing Deal with Morocco
In September, the country of Morocco signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the aerospace industry giant Boeing, signifying a leap forward in pursuits to increase the industrial presence of the company in the North African region. Boeing aeronautics and astronautics, the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial jets, established a separate joint entity with Safran Power Systems in 2015 and is now manifested as MATIS Aerospace. Investment in the creation of a “Boeing ecosystem” seeks to attract aeronautical suppliers and to facilitate a spike in exports of manufacturing exports in the sector.

In 2013 the Oxford Business Group attributed a $1 billion turnover and the employment of 10,000 individuals to the Moroccan aerospace sector. The nation’s aerospace industry is now ranked 15th internationally and is the host of 120 companies in the sector.

Morocco, through the establishment of the Boeing ecosystem, aims to create over 8,000 jobs and projects annual export revenues to reach $1 billion. Hindered growth forecasts as a result of the European financial crisis have increased the vitality of growth of the job market. In 2012, The World Bank reported unemployment among citizens ranging from 15 to 29 years of age to be 30 percent, which is especially startling considering these individuals constitute 44 percent of the working-age citizenry. The IMA aeronautics institute, strategically located next to the international airport in Casablanca, also provides prospective employees with new hire and continuing education resources and is a state-run collaboration between the aforementioned government and industry.

Strategies for the development of Morocco’s industrial sector from 2014 to 2020 have also been outlined in an Industrial Acceleration Plan (PAI). The Moroccan Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Investment and Digital Economy highlights the establishment of half a million jobs, equally derived from foreign direct investment and a renovated industrial hub. A nine-point rise in the nation’s industrial share of GDP to 23 percent by 2020 has also been recognized as pivotal to reach the plan’s aim for industrial growth.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

jet fuel
On August 6, Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG announced a collaborative effort to work with rural farmers in South Africa to produce biofuel for jets from tobacco plantations. The initiative is part of a greater ambition to cut costs on fuel production while looking to more sustainable alternatives for sources of fuel.

Boeing and the other airline companies will use oil from a specific strain of tobacco plant called Solaris. The strain has no nicotine and instead contains large amounts of oil in its many seeds. The oil will be added to existing forms of jet fuel to act as a supplementary fuel source in the near future, and a potential substitute long term.

The initiative looked at South African farms for economical reasons. Rural farms in South Africa are an excellent source of tobacco already in production, and the locally grown plant will help minimize transportation costs and the impact of carbon emissions. According to the airline companies’ estimates, biofuel can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80 percent when compared to conventional fuel production and use.

Rather than establishing new farms or crop sources, the use of existing supply chains in South Africa will help current rural farmers maintain employment as the government seeks to reduce smoking in the country. “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking,” said Ian Cruickshank, SAA Group Environmental Affairs Specialist, in a company news release.

If the new initiative proves replicable, the companies may increase production of the special tobacco plant elsewhere in China, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa—all regions that have sizable populations of rural farmers. Roughly 80 percent of rural households engage in some form of farm activity, and wages and employment for rural farmers remain low.

Increased biofuel production driven by the initiative could in future years provide employment opportunities for rural populations. Increased employment could in turn increase the earning power of rural farmers and reduce the number of individuals living in extreme poverty.

Poverty reduction from the tobacco venture; however, is a best-case scenario. According to company estimates, production of the biofuel will not be fully operational until 2017, and many rural farmers live in poor regulatory environments. Governments often fail to provide social protections for rural farmers, and there is no guarantee by the companies that local producers will be paid fairly.

The initiative will take several years to reach fruition, so while poverty reduction from the venture is certainly possible, it remains a long and uncertain path.

Joseph McAdams

Sources: Wired, Reuters, LA Times, Boeing, IFAD
Photo: Wired