Technology & Innovation at the heart of Morocco’s public policies against the COVID-19
According to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019, Morocco, as a lower-middle-income economy, scores high and above the average of the lower-middle-income group of countries in five out of the seven GII pillars: Institutions, Human Capital & Research, Infrastructure, Knowledge & Technology outputs, and Creative outputs. When compared to economies in Northern Africa and Western Asia Region, Morocco shows particular robustness and performs above average in two GII pillars: Institutions and Infrastructure. Also, as the Africa Capacity Report 2017 observed, Morocco is considered a leader in science, technology, and innovation capacity in Africa. In a time of a pandemic, it is interesting to analyze how Morocco used its innovative and technology capacities as high-octane tools in public policy to obliterate the COVID-19.
Firstly, at the organizational level, Morocco’s digital governance, local or central, used administrative platforms and applications effectively to exchange sensitive information regarding the number of cases, to advance the collaborative response of the National Health Emergency, and to provide to public health authorities valuable data for a cogent allocation of resources. Moroccan engineers have also put in place digital services that helped Morocco avoid a shortage of medical devices, and take a step ahead so that the number of critical beds stays higher than the number of COVID-19 infected patients.
Secondly, at the political and economic level, as surprising as it may seem, Morocco used its industrial infrastructure to find during a global crisis its competitive advantage by producing “Made in Morocco” face masks and medical devices. Despite being the third most affected country in Africa, Morocco launched a special fund to fight the Coronavirus equivalent to 3% of its GDP, and currently produces 5 million face masks per day.
Thirdly, in its fight against the spread of COVID-19, Morocco used several regulatory framework measures to enhance competitiveness and innovation indirectly. It can be illustrated in how Moroccan authorities worked on exploring different ways to usefully deploy drones. Following a call for projects launched by Maroc PME and the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Green and Digital Economy, the Moroccan company Farasha has unveiled a first drone whose assembly has been done at the local level with adaptable applications. Authorities are currently considering the potential use of spray drones to initiate decontamination operations, since they have already used drones in cities such as Berkane to raise awareness, identify and disperse crowds, and to do an inventory of suspected cases. The Integrated Digital Governance Division of Morocco (IDGD) also used drones to have access to alleys, isolated corners, and scattered houses.
It is important to note that Morocco’s success in using technologies as a policy instrument against the COVID-19 spread, would not have been possible without the embedded social norms that welcomed the use of technology. Being characterized by a Collectivist Culture with patriotist attitudes in terms of innovation, Morocco structured its innovative and technology approaches around technology diffusion measures through Public-Private Partnerships, that enabled different actors from different sectors to work together, and to improve the innovative capacities of local firms for the common good.
It might be too early to evaluate the effectiveness of the Moroccan approach. However, technology is a powerful weapon to control escalating COVID-19 cases as it has been demonstrated in some Asian countries. Since Morocco is using it massively today, the country will gain drastically, according to the Learning Curve Model, in terms of experience. On a broader level, following King Mohamed IV’s initiative to use technologies to halt the virus, Morocco could use its own humble experience and collaborate with its African partners to create an African fund to support African Tech companies that offer innovative and sustainable healthcare solutions.
By reflecting on how Morocco uses technology methods during this pandemic, one can conclude that the country has enough resources and potential to become a remarkable competitive Tech Hub. Morocco’s spending on Research and Development constituted 0.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2017, which has several consequences such as the brain drain. As stated by Salwa Belkeziz-Karkari, the President of the Moroccan Federation of Information Technologies, approximately 8,000 skilled Moroccans, including 600 engineers, leave the country each year. Hence, more substantial support for Research and Development is needed to reach tech related strategical goals, so that the innovative capacities of Morocco stay maintained and get developed in the long run, and it is essential to highlight that it should be among the highest priorities after the pandemic.
To sum up, Morocco’s path towards development can only be achieved through the enhancement of the Kingdom’s creative capacities of the innovation system, transfer and absorptive capacities.