The Moroccan pharmaceutical company Sothema will produce "in the short term" five million monthly doses of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm on Moroccan territory, the MAP news agency reported on Monday.
King Mohammed VI presided over the launch ceremony and the signing of agreements with the various companies at the Royal Palace in Fez. The event was also attended by the Prime Minister, Saad Eddine El Othmani, the monarch's chief advisor, Fouad Ali El Himma, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, among others.
The Moroccan government has initialled an agreement with the Chinese pharmaceutical company, Sinopharm, for the production of the COVID-19 vaccine on Moroccan territory. Sothema, formally known as Société Thérapeutique Marocaine, will start manufacturing the first doses in the coming weeks.
The document signed by Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb and the president of the Chinese pharmaceutical group, Liu Jingzhen, commits both to collaborate in the development of the vaccine, as well as to make use of Sothema's facilities for the development of the doses.
The public-private partnership will mobilise an investment of around $500 million, according to Moroccan news agency MAP. The project aims to start with a production capacity of around 5 million doses per month. From there, "gradually increase this capacity in the medium term".
At the event, the Alawi kingdom took advantage of the event to close another agreement with the Swedish pharmaceutical company Recipharm for the construction of a plant for the company in Morocco. One of the Kingdom's objectives is to produce and develop vaccines for pathologies other than COVID-19.
The plans of King Mohammed VI are to "promote the Kingdom's self-sufficiency and turn Morocco into a major biotechnology platform in the African continent and in the world in the field of industry," the agency said.
The terms of the contract between Morocco and China follow a telephone conversation between King Mohammed VI and Chinese President Xi Jinping in August. The dialogue led the two leaders to agree to work together on the development of the vaccine.
"China encourages its companies to invest and do business in Morocco, and is willing to work with Morocco to steadily strengthen cooperation in various fields within frameworks such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Forum on China-Arab States Cooperation," Beijing said.
For its part, Rabat sees China as a strategic ally of the first order. The Moroccan monarch declared that he hopes to strengthen economic and technological cooperation with the Asian giant, and that they will have the opportunity to boost their bilateral relations.
The agreement comes at a time of instability. The pandemic has intensified in recent weeks in Morocco, and the incidence of the disease has risen again. For this reason, the Prime Minister warned of the situation and urged Moroccan citizens to maintain health measures.
The Kingdom has recorded more than half a million cases since March 2020. In total, up to 9329 Moroccans have died, 10 during the last 24 hours. In addition, the authorities have detected the delta variant in several parts of the country.
However, the vaccination campaign is progressing rapidly. Out of a total population of 36.47 million, the North African country has inoculated more than 19 million doses. Twenty-five per cent of the population, or nine million Moroccans, have already received the full vaccination regimen.