The peak of the crisis may be behind us and the situation is completely under control, but having said that, we must prepare, if necessary, for a return of the virus and face the situation as we have seen in the past and prepare for whatever is needed in terms of testing, vaccines, and protection. This makes Morocco an overall extremely favourable environment for the industry, in general, and for the pharmaceutical industry, in particular, that includes a special emphasis on low-cost medicine and the production of generic products from molecules that have fallen into the public domain. Morocco is already producing masks and a lot of protective products, but also medicines. NE: What sort of internal advancements and changes have there been which give Morocco the ability and wherewithal to develop into a leading producer of medical supplies? Everybody is going to suffer a recession this year. How does this fit into King Mohammed VI’s major foreign policy initiatives that focus on strengthening international cooperation?”
Ahmed Rahhou (AR): His Majesty King Mohammed VI has always favoured cooperation between the countries of the South through exchanges of experience, aid, investment and the construction of common social, cultural, economic and political exchange areas. Regarding the current pandemic, it’s obvious that the number of beds available, the beds equipped with respiratory equipment, and the means to treat the most serious cases were called upon. AR: Morocco has a long humanitarian tradition of intervening in specific cases of natural disasters, epidemics, the displacement of populations, and the mass arrivals of refugees to provide aid and humanitarian and health support to the populations concerned. We also have a whole range of companies that have helped research centres enter the field of pandemic research. In addition to being the Ambassador of His Majesty, the King of Morocco, to the EU, His Excellency is also Head of the Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the European Union and his country’s representative to the NATO-Mediterranean dialogue. In this phase of the general pandemic, the Moroccan experience, under the impetus of His Majesty, in managing the epidemic shows that there is know-how and that there are also a number of care materials that have been made available by Moroccan pharmaceutical industry and that Morocco today makes them available to its friendly nations. Morocco will also be ready to be a platform in the event a vaccine or new treatments are found, apart from the one just mentioned so that it can produce them through its own pharmaceutical industry and its industrial expertise. In any case, the carriers of the virus are around 2,000 to date, and those who are in a difficult situation, in terms of the disease, are less than 20. Together with its neighbours, Morocco brings its expertise and international know-how to the table to help bring peace and prosperity, wherever possible. The recovery is going to be a little slow. AR: The pandemic, as we have experienced it, challenges us all and the response capacity of countries, both individually and collectively, as well. In anticipation of all this, even if the situation in Morocco remains under control, the number of patients is very low. In addition to material aid, medical, social, and political assistance can be provided to countries. This development is one of the facets of the industrial policy of Morocco, which simultaneously combines investment facilities for nationals and also for all the investing actors coming from abroad. What is important is that the human, social and development aspects remain at the heart of this policy and that this development should be carried out in such a way as to guarantee the well-being of all and to seek the development of good neighbourliness and exchanges at the commercial, cultural, and economic levels. Today, all the patients are grouped together in certain units and the structures that were set up to provide the necessary supplements have been dismantled. NE: What has been the response from Morocco’s partners in Europe, the US, and in other parts of the Islamic world? How does this programme fit into His Majesty’s wider goal of promoting a humanist and developmental paradigm for the region? AR: Since the 1960s, Morocco has developed an important pharmaceutical industry which today covers almost 80% of the country’s needs, in terms of medicines. What must be underlined, in this regard, is the capacity of Moroccan factories to react quickly, along with their inventiveness, and ability to mobilise during serious cases like this pandemic. This is, obviously, only one of the signs of affection, friendship, and closeness that Morocco and the King have towards African countries. Cooperation agreements mean that today medicines sold in Morocco are recognised in Europe and vice versa. Morocco is ready, of course, to work together on this. This also includes the expertise of how to manage the sick, how to treat virus carriers, and how to isolate people who are in a position to contaminate others. It will go into production as soon as the country’s needs are met and will be made available to allies and all other friendly countries. Does the Moroccan government anticipate that future, even closer, cooperation with some of the country’s close allies is possible following the success of this particular project? This expertise, however, makes it possible to react very quickly and, if need be, it can be deployed if the decision is taken to provide the necessary support inside or outside the country. NEW EUROPE (NE): “Is this initiative part of the South-South cooperation that is aimed at the exchange of experience and knowledge between the developing countries of the South? AR: In addition to the pharmaceutical industry, Morocco has an industry, such as textiles and certain high-tech industries, which made it possible during the pandemic to mobilise the rapid production of the country’s needs in terms of, for example, masks and other types of equipment like hydroalcoholic gel, etc. These items could be sent to other countries as a result of Morocco’s production expertise. Today, we have a respirator that is 100% Moroccan and is beginning to be mass-produced. It is on this basis that Morocco, in collaboration with others as well as independently, is working on the production of a national test and the production of a respirator. What, exactly, does this mean in the context of this particular programme and how does the Moroccan government see the approach as being different from other aid initiatives both in Africa and around the globe? How can their experience as aid providers help inform the current and future programmes? It’s with this in mind that, whenever necessary, the resources and expertise from our country can be made available. NE: King Mohammed VI’s pledge to help other African nations deal with serious medical issues goes back many years, including in 2015 when he offered to Guinea-Bissau’s National AIDS Secretariat a massive supply of medicine to treat AIDS-related illnesses. This experience has enabled foreign laboratories to not only come and invest in Morocco and to have their production units on Morocco’s soil, but the development of a purely Moroccan pharmaceutical industry with the needed know-how developed by pharmacists. This has enabled laboratories to be active, not only in Morocco and producing for national needs, but also exporting part of their production as well as having a production unit in Africa and in partner countries. That’s because we have a rather difficult economic situation and no country will be able to cope on its own. Therefore, international cooperation seems essential to us. AR: Morocco has developed, under the impetus of His Majesty, a development model that today allows it to display undeniable successes in both economic and social terms, including its openness to the world, as well as in its contribution to global peace, security, and stability in the world. This is why the approach is both pragmatic and close to the ground, which allows for a rapid reaction. The effort made by Morocco has been significant because the number of intensive care beds has been greatly increased, even if, thank God, the management of the crisis did not involve all the beds that were mobilised. They relate to masks, gowns, gloves, gels, all the instruments and treatments that are needed. Today, considering that we started from almost nothing, Morocco produces almost 10 million masks per day. The use of financial instruments is going to require international cooperation. Is it the position of the Moroccan government that the country will become Africa’s leader when it comes to pharmaceutical and biomedical research, production, and aid? This means that the Moroccan healthcare system provides relatively high coverage for the population and its needs. Morocco can provide other support through its global crisis management policy for the pandemic and social management, along with a number of support measures that have been put in place and which make Morocco a global example for managing the pandemic. With Morocco taking the lead role in Africa as the region fights against the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s Ambassador to the European Union, Ahmed Rahhou spoke with New Europe’s Managing Editor Nicholas Waller to discuss Morocco’s role as a provider and manufacturer of aid, as well as the region’s key promoter of cooperation and stability. His Majesty, through various past experiences, has known how to show the solidarity of Morocco whenever it was necessary towards friendly African countries. Everyone will make the effort they consider necessary, but this also raises questions about the health aspect, about how to react in the future. NE: Several small Moroccan medical units were previously deployed in the region to help care for a variety of ailments. For example, a test that is, again, purely Moroccan, was developed by a foundation. It should also be pointed out that some industries that have had a break in their production, particularly the aeronautics industry, which is flourishing in Morocco, have converted to the production of respirators. Obviously, the economic component is important, but from a health point of view, it is all of the aforementioned needs. This test has been validated by major international laboratories. We all know that there has been a shortage of certain products of this nature throughout the world and that there has been a race to obtain supplies. In addition, there is a fairly dynamic health policy with hospitals and private medicine, as well. The drug validation processes are also in line with international standards when it comes to validation, pricing, and acceptance in terms of social coverage. Moreover, Morocco covers the possibility of exporting from the country as it has free trade agreements that allow operators who are present in Morocco to freely access the market in ninety different territories and countries. AR: In the context of the current pandemic, the needs of the countries facing the disease are known and they are very specific. They are there to react to the needs of the country and to anticipate a certain number of needs at the international level. Along with its knowledge and skills, Morocco also brings in investment, aid, and trade to enable all countries that wish to do so to make progress and find their own specific path to development. NE: To put the entire programme into perspective for those not familiar with Morocco’s pharmaceutical and medical supply industry, what should the international community know about when it comes to the history of Morocco’s domestic investments and its research into this field, as well as its capability to carry out such a massive endeavour? The current needs of these countries are not only financial. Morocco’s approach has been to bring things very quickly to the field in order to have a significant impact by making all these products available and for the benefit of all. At present, we have an initiative that is entirely in line with the wishes of the countries that want to receive items that will enable them to be responsive to the requirements imposed by the disease. Morocco’s Ambassador to the European Union, Ahmed Rahhou. With African countries, moreover, there is an added dimension of fraternity and very close proximity, which means that Morocco is always sensitive to what happens in these counties, especially in difficult times. This obviously allows laboratories to implement, and in complete safety, the recognition of their products. His Majesty’s initiative falls within the framework of this South-South cooperation which has always been at the heart of Morocco’s foreign policy. Therefore, even within Morocco’s borders, a high degree of expertise was called upon to reinforce the medical facilities and emergencies beds that were already available in public hospitals or private clinics to provide what was needed and also to reassure people that there would be sufficient capacity to receive the sick. We reached this result after only a few weeks. In the case of pharmaceuticals, in particular, it should be added that health agencies and drug validation agencies comply with international standards. It is probably necessary that once this crisis is behind us, that we deal with what is very important, the economic aspect. It is in this sense, moreover, that Morocco has joined the EU in the call for COVID funds, launched by the European Commission to participate in the search for new treatments and vaccines available for itself and for other countries. NE: The manner in which the aid has been delivered has been called “pragmatic and action-oriented”.
style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Morocco’s frontline presence as a leader in times of crises
By Nicholas Waller
His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco during an official trip to Côte d’Ivoire