Monday, June 17, 2024

Learning from Morocco which’s leading Africa minus South Africa in global exports of manufactured goods


By Edward Chisanga


In a Lusaka Times article of August this year, I provided statistics to guide the Zambian government to emulate African countries that are breaking through in world exports of manufactured goods or value addition. The new dawn Zambian government is on mission to pursue value addition. I argued that if I were government, I would simply make trips to countries like Morocco whose proportion of exports of manufactured goods in total exceeds that of primary commodities. This is one trade indicator that is accepted internationally.

Morocco exports more manufactured good than primary commodities

I stated that when a country whose proportion of exports of manufactured goods exceeds 60 per cent in total, it implies that it is breaking through in export value addition. Morocco exhibits that behavior. As Figure 1 below shows, at 70%, the trajectory of Morocco’s proportion of global exports of manufactured goods in total has been firmly leading that of primary commodities. This is clearly the antipodal of most African countries, including Zambia whose exports are dominated by primary commodities and are in search of value addition. In most countries, public statements and national plans are full of value addition since independence but little or none is seen in action. For example, the proportion of world exports of manufactured goods in total for Zambia stood at 11% in 2021 while primary commodities register 89%.

Morocco’s accomplishment is unsung in Africa

Morocco’s accomplishment is unsung in most African countries because South Africa’ dominance dwarfs it. Yet, according to Unctadstat data, excluding South Africa, the Arab nation leads Africa in world exports of manufactured goods as shown in Table 1 below. In fact, this leadership spans two decades. At $25.4 billion relative to Zambia’s exports in absolute values in 2021, Morocco is running, flourishing and slowly but surely integrating in global value chains and networks while we continue to make speeches.

Table 1: Top African countries’ exporters of world manufactured goods in US$ Billions




















Côte d’Ivoire






Source: Unctadstat

Although its intra-Africa exports of manufactured goods as a proportion of its total manufactured goods to the world represents only about 7%, meaning it is quite low, because 93% goes to the rest of the world, Morocco dominates Africa excluding South Africa. It is also likely to be one of the top four African countries to dominate trade in manufactured goods in Africa under the free continental market. Morocco’s total intra-Africa exports of manufactured goods in absolute values reached $1.7 billion followed only by Kenya’s 1.5 billion while Zambia’s stood at less than $1 billion. At only 7% referred to earlier, statistics also show that Morocco’s degree of regional integration in Africa in the context of exports of manufactured goods is quite low.

In 2020, Morocco’s manufacturing value added as a proportion of the its GDP was 17.2% compared to Zambia’s 8.0%. 21.9% in 1985. In that same year, Zambia’s proportion was 27.5% and ranked number two after Ghana when South Africa is excluded.


I’m recommending Morocco as a place to visit if Zambian leadership wants to learn something about value addition, I would rush to Morocco to learn how the country is breaking through. $25.4 billion exports of manufactured goods by Morocco means the figure is almost threefold that of Zambia’s total exports of all products to the world. There’s simply nothing better than seeing how successful countries are organizing themselves.


  1. Very well articulated,putting facts first,Well done Mr.Chisanga !!
    This is very constructive advice to the New Dawn Government,these are the countries that we must emulate as a matter of urgency.
    I would propose that we quickly send a delegation to Morocco for an on the spot study.The team should also include the private sector players who are part of the ground breaking PPDF initiative.

    We can learn a lot of lessons from Morocco,including how it organises its very successful tourism industry.

  2. Someone catch this man, lock him up in government offices and give him a job please! Always an enlightening read. And also frustrating that your ideas are ignored.

  3. Morocco has the blessings of geography. No amount of trips will allow Zambia to get around that fact. Morocco has a number of ports in an economic sweet spot between the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. That gives it easy, and cheap, access to a number of huge markets.
    It also has lower labour costs than Europe, in part a result of less than labour friendly policies-the government can ignore the demands of workers. Not only is their labour cheap, it is abundant.
    Geography and demography mean that Morocco attracts a vast amount of foreign capital. Businesses that want to export to Europe set up factories there in order to take advantage of the labour costs and regulatory system. These are not usually Moroccan businesses.
    Zambia does not have easy access to Europe or North America, nor…

    • But Morrocco is not in the EU ..yes its just a stone’s throw from Europe but pays tarrifs although it exports more ” niche ” fresh produce to European markets that is not grown in Europe like green beans. chillies, herbs does so on less land using Green houses in the desert.
      Yes Zambiua doesnt have easy access to EU and USA but how it that RSA and Kenya are doing it …let’s not look for excuses

  4. The problem we have in Zambia is that we are not organised and lack strategic longterm planning…whatever Morrocco is growing we can do with our land a quarter cheaper with higher yields. As for air transport our govt should have invested in Cargo air freight instead of the costly partnership with Ethophian airlines which is just killing local airlines like Proflight.

  5. Tarino Orange: He is talking of manufactured goods. Vehicles, machinery, chemicals, that sort of thing. But even with fresh produce Morocco enjoys an advantage-being closer transport will simply cost less which drives their prices down. Zambia has always been high cost, so we can only sell expensive produce.
    Morocco also enjoys a free trade agreement with the EU-it has access to that market. It is a fact of life that proximity fosters intensity of economic connections. Look at the US: trade with Canada is more important to it than with China. Trade between the U.K. and France will remain fundamental to both despite Brexit, China does much trade with Japan, Australia trades with Indonesia more than it does with Argentina. It is not an excuse to point this out. It is acknowledging reality…

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