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Morocco seeks self-sufficiency, helping Africa through vaccine production | Mohamed Alaoui


RABAT – Morocco seeks, within a broad and comprehensive vision, to strengthen health security diplomacy in Africa and other regions around the world, after launching its own project to manufacture COVID vaccines. This should allow Rabat to both achieve self-sufficiency and also help supply jabs to other countries.

Earlier this month, King Mohammed VI of Morocco oversaw the signing of three agreements with a Chinese pharmaceutical company to produce five million doses of the coronavirus vaccine and other vaccines per month, as it works to reach self-sufficiency and ensure Morocco’s health security.

According to the plan, Moroccan pharmaceutical firm Sothema will soon start production of five million doses a month of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.

This $500- million public-private partnership linking the Chinese and Moroccan companies stems from a phone call last August between the king and Chinese president Xi Jinping. The deal not only allows for Sothema to produce the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at its 60,000 square metre plant at Bouskoura, Casablanca but also includes “fill and finish” lines for most vaccines.

Morocco also announced a vaccine production link-up with Swedish firm Recipharm which has 30 different manufacturing operations in ten countries.

Signage of Sinopharm is seen at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services. (REUTERS)
Signage of Sinopharm is seen at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services. (REUTERS)

The project’s aim is to make Morocco a leading platform for biotechnology on both the continental and global levels and to provide African countries,  especially in West Africa and the Sahel, with coronavirus vaccines.

Rabat, like other capitals of the global south, is scrambling to overcome international imbalances in vaccine distribution. The World Health Organisation has recognised that lack of political will and shortcomings in international solidarity are behind the delays and snags which have prevented a fair and speedy sharing of COVID-19 vaccines.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita stressed recently that the world has not followed a strategy based on collective and coordinated assessments of the needs of different nations, so, “we now find ourselves in a world more unequal than ever.”

During a ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held on July 13-14 in Baku, Bourita explained that Morocco, under the leadership of the king decided to draw the lessons from the pandemic, by launching its project for the local manufacture of coronavirus and other vaccines for the benefit of Morocco and African countries.

Ali Lotfi, head of the Moroccan Network for the Defence of the Right to Health and the Right to Life, believes that the  plan to manufacture vaccines locally through the Sino-Moroccan project in Tangiers will be important in providing assistance to African countries as the pandemic continues.

Nasser Bourita noted that at a time when vaccination programmes should have been comprehensive and fair, some countries have received more vaccinations than the whole of Africa. Moreover, vaccines manufactured in the global south are not recognised in the developed north.

Academic and political analyst Hichem Motadid believes that the suffering of weak and poor countries of Africa reveals the fragility of the international system when it comes to ensuring a minimum level of global health justice.

Motadid told The Arab Weekly that the highly ferocious struggle for vaccines has led to the entry of countries, such as Morocco, into their own vaccine manufacture.

The Moroccan researcher said he believed that the ongoing war over vaccines reflects to a certain extent the pitfalls of “unbridled capitalism” and unscrupulous pressures  by certain nations to ensure vaccine provisions for their own populations.



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