1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Morocco actively encourages foreign investment through macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, structural reforms, infrastructure improvements, and incentives for investors. The Investment Charter, Law 18-95 of October 1995, is the current foundational Moroccan text governing investment and applies to both domestic and foreign investment (direct and portfolio). An updated Investment Charter is under development and is expected to significantly expand incentives for foreign investment. The new charter aims to increase the private investment by two-thirds of total investment by 2035, includes additional incentives to draw investment to promising sectors and less favored regions, and provide additional support for the development of strategic industries such as defense and pharmaceuticals. The Ministry of Industry is executing its second Industrial Acceleration Plan (PAI), running from 2021-2025, which aims to build on the progress made in the previous 2014-2020 PAI and expand industrial development throughout all Moroccan regions. The PAI is based on establishing “ecosystems” that integrate value chains and supplier relationships between large companies and small- and medium-sized enterprises. Moroccan legislation governing FDI applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities, except for certain protected sectors.
Morocco’s Investment and Export Development Agency (AMDIE) is the national agency responsible for the development and promotion of investments and exports. Following the reform to law 47-18 governing the country’s Regional Investment Centers (CRIs) in 2019, each of the 12 regions is empowered to lead their own investment promotion efforts. Each of the CRI’s websites aggregate relevant information for interested investors and include investment maps, priority sectors, procedures for creating a business, production costs, applicable laws and regulations, and general business climate information, among other investment services. The websites vary by region, with some functioning better than others. AMDIE and the 12 CRIs work together throughout the phases of investment at the national and regional level. For example, AMDIE and the CRIs coordinate contact between investors and partners. Regional investment commissions examine investment applications and send recommendations to AMDIE. The inter-ministerial investment committee, for which AMDIE acts as the secretariat, approves any investment agreement or contract which requires financial contribution from the government. The CRIs also provide an “after care” service to support investments and assist in resolving issues that may arise.
Over the last year, AMDIE made a significant push to promote international investment into Morocco under its “Morocco Now” branded campaign. Further information about Morocco’s investment laws and procedures is available on AMDIE’s “Morocco Now” website or through the individual websites of each of the CRIs. For information on agricultural investments, visit the Agricultural Development Agency website or the National Agency for the Development of Aquaculture website .
When Morocco acceded to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in November 2009, it guaranteed national treatment of foreign investors. The only exception to this national treatment of foreign investors is in those sectors closed to foreign investment (noted below), which Morocco delineated upon accession to the Declaration. The National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct (NCP), whose presidency and secretariat are held by AMDIE, is the lead agency responsible for the adherence to this declaration.
Foreign and domestic private entities may establish and own business enterprises, barring certain restrictions by sector. While the U.S. Mission is unaware of any economy-wide limits on foreign ownership, Morocco places a 49 percent cap on foreign investment in air and maritime transport companies and maritime fisheries. Foreigners from cannot own agricultural land, though they can lease it for up to 99 years; however, a new law opening agricultural land to foreign ownership has passed into law and its implementing text is forthcoming. The Moroccan government holds a monopoly on phosphate extraction through the 95 percent state-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP). The Moroccan state also has a discretionary right to limit all foreign majority stakes in the capital of large national banks but apparently has never exercised that right. The Moroccan Central Bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) may use regulatory discretion in issuing authorizations for the establishment of domestic and foreign-owned banks. In the oil and gas sector, the National Agency for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) retains a compulsory share of 25 percent of any exploration license or development permit. As part of law 47-18 governing the country’s Regional Investment Centers, a reform mandated the various approval authorities for investment projects be consolidated into one “Unified Regional Commission” which has since turned an approval process which averaged 180 days into a process which takes 30 days or less, and sometimes as little as one business day. The U.S. Mission is not aware of instances in which the Moroccan government refused foreign investors for national security, economic, or other national policy reasons, nor is it aware of any U.S. investors disadvantaged or singled out by ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms, relative to other foreign investors.
The last third-party investment policy review of Morocco was the World Trade Organization (WTO) 2016 Trade Policy Review (TPR), which found that the trade reforms implemented since the prior TPR in 2009 contributed to the economy’s continued growth by stimulating competition in domestic markets, encouraging innovation, creating new jobs, and contributing to growth diversification. Although some civil society organizations have been critical of certain development projects/initiatives, particularly those with environmental or social impacts, Post is unaware of a comprehensive review focused on investment policy concerns.
Prior to its discontinuation of the Doing Business Report, in 2020 the World Bank ranked Morocco 53 out of 190 economies, rising seven places since from the previous report in 2019 and climbing 75 places during the last decade from 128 in 2010. Since 2012, Morocco has implemented reforms that facilitate business registration, such as eliminating the need to file a declaration of business incorporation with the Ministry of Labor, reducing company registration fees, and eliminating minimum capital requirements for limited liability companies. Each of the 12 Regional Investment Centers (CRI) maintains a website which guides investors through the registration process.
Foreign companies may use the online business registration mechanism. Foreign companies, except for French companies, are required to provide an apostilled Arabic translated copy of their articles of association and an extract of the registry of commerce in their country of origin. Moreover, foreign companies must report the incorporation of the subsidiary a posteriori to the Foreign Exchange Office (Office de Changes) to facilitate repatriation of funds abroad such as profits and dividends. According to the World Bank, registering a business in Morocco takes an average of nine days, significantly less than the Middle East and North Africa regional average of 20 days. Morocco does not require that the business owner deposit any paid-in minimum capital.
Following the passing of electronic creation of businesses law 18-17 , the new system went live in 2021, allowing for the creation of businesses online via an electronic platform managed by the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC). All procedures related to the creation, registration, and publication of company data can be carried out via this platform. A new national commission will monitor the implementation of the procedures. The Simplification of Administrative Procedures Law 55-19, passed in 2020, aims to streamline administrative processes by identifying and standardizing document requirements, eliminating unnecessary steps, and making the process fully digital via the National Administration Portal , the site launched in 2021 but is currently only available in Arabic.
The business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy. Notably, according to the World Bank, the procedure, length of time, and cost to register a new business is equal for men and women in Morocco. The U.S. Mission is unaware of any official assistance provided to women and underrepresented minorities through the business registration mechanisms. In cooperation with the Moroccan government, civil society, and the private sector, there have been several initiatives aimed at improving gender equality in the workplace and access to the workplace for foreign migrants, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa.
The Government of Morocco prioritizes investment in Africa as part of its strategy to expand its commercial and trade connections throughout the continent and secure its self-proclaimed title of “Gateway to Africa”. The African Development Bank ranks Morocco as the second biggest African investor in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa, and the largest African investor in West Africa. OCP Africa, a subsidiary of Morocco’s state-owned phosphate giant OCP, has presence in 16 African countries and continues to invest in infrastructure supporting its phosphate exports. According to Morocco’s Office of Exchange, under the supervision of Minister of Economy and Finance, $808 million, or 43 percent of Morocco’s total outward FDI, was invested in the African continent in 2021. The U.S. Mission is not aware of a standalone outward investment promotion agency, although AMDIE’s mission includes supporting Moroccans seeking to invest outside of the country for the purpose of boosting Moroccan exports. Nor is the U.S. Mission aware of any restrictions for domestic investors attempting to invest abroad. However, under the Moroccan investment code, repatriation of funds is limited to “convertible” Moroccan Dirham accounts. Morocco’s Foreign Exchange Office (“Office des Changes,” OC) implemented several changes for 2022 that liberalize the country’s foreign exchange regulations. Moroccans going abroad for tourism can now exchange up to $10,000 in foreign currency per year, with the possibility to attain further allowances indexed at 30 percent of income tax filings with a maximum cap of $30,000. Business travelers can also obtain larger amounts of foreign currency, provided their company has properly filed and paid corporate income taxes. Another new provision permits banks to use foreign currency accounts to finance investments in Morocco’s Industrial Acceleration Zones.
3. Legal Regime
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and a mixed legal system of civil law based primarily on French law, with some influences from Islamic law. Legislative acts are subject to judicial review by the Constitutional Court excluding royal decrees (Dahirs) issued by the King, which have the force of law. Legislative power in Morocco is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the Chamber of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab) and the Chamber of Councilors (Majlis Al Mustashareen). The principal sources of commercial legislation in Morocco are the Code of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 and Law No. 15-95 establishing the Commercial Code. The Competition Council and the National Authority for Detecting, Preventing, and Fighting Corruption (INPPLC) have responsibility for improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization. All levels of regulations exist (local, state, national, and supra-national). The most relevant regulations for foreign businesses depend on the sector in question. Ministries develop their own regulations and draft laws, including those related to investment, through their administrative departments, with approval by the respective minister. Each regulation and draft law is made available for public comment. Key regulatory actions are published in their entirety in Arabic and usually French in the official bulletin on the website of the General Secretariat of the Government. Once published, the law is final. Public enterprises and establishments can adopt their own specific regulations provided they comply with regulations regarding competition and transparency.
Morocco’s regulatory enforcement mechanisms depend on the sector in question; enforcement is legally reviewable, and made publicly available via the different agencies’ websites. The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), for example, is the public body responsible for the control and regulation of the telecommunications sector. The agency regulates telecommunications by participating in the development of the legislative and regulatory framework. Morocco does not have specific regulatory impact assessment guidelines, nor are impact assessments required by law. Morocco does not have a specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.
The U.S. Mission is not aware of any informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. The Moroccan Ministry of Finance posts quarterly statistics (compiled in accordance with IMF recommendations) on public finance and debt on their website. A report on public debt is published on the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s website and is used as part of the budget bill formulation and voting processes. The fiscal year 2022 debt report was published on December 20, 2021.
Morocco joined the WTO in 1995 and reports technical regulations that could affect trade with other member countries to the WTO. Morocco is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement and has a 91.2 percent implementation rate of TFA requirements. European standards are widely referenced in Morocco’s regulatory system. In some cases, U.S. or international standards, guidelines, and recommendations are also accepted.
The Moroccan legal system is a hybrid of civil law (French system) and some Islamic law, regulated by the Decree of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 as amended, the 1996 Code of Commerce, and Law No. 53-95 on Commercial Courts. These courts also have sole competence to entertain industrial property disputes, as provided for in Law No. 17-97 on the Protection of Industrial Property, irrespective of the legal status of the parties. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s 2015 Morocco Commercial Law Assessment Report , Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997) established commercial court jurisdiction over commercial cases including insolvency. Although this led to some improvement in the handling of commercial disputes, the lack of training for judges on general commercial matters remains a key challenge to effective commercial dispute resolution in the country. In general, litigation procedures are time consuming and resource-intensive, and there is no legal requirement with respect to case publishing. Disputes may be brought before one of eight Commercial Courts located in Morocco’s main cities and one of three Commercial Courts of Appeal located in Casablanca, Fes, and Marrakech. There are other special courts such as the Military and Administrative Courts. Title VII of the Constitution provides that the judiciary shall be independent from the legislative and executive branches of government. The 2011 Constitution also authorized the creation of the Supreme Judicial Council, headed by the King, which has the authority to hire, dismiss, and promote judges. Enforcement actions are appealable at the Courts of Appeal, which hear appeals against decisions from the court of first instance.
The principal source of investment legislation in Morocco is Law No. 18-95 that established the 1995 Investment Charter. An updated Investment charter is under development and is expected to go into effect in 2022 Morocco’s CRIs and AMDIE provide users with investment-related information on laws and regulations, both general and specific to various industry sectors and geographic jurisdictions along with procedural information, calls for tenders, and additional resources for business creation. Each CRI hosts a website that is meant to act as an entry point to their “one-stop-shop” services that guide investors through the investment process. These websites have improved significantly and are regularly updated.
Morocco’s Competition Law No. 06-99 on Free Pricing and Competition outlines the authority of the Competition Council as an independent executive body with investigatory powers. Together with the INPPLC, the Competition Council is one of the main actors charged with improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization. Law No. 20-13, adopted on August 7, 2014, amended the powers of the Competition Council to bring them in line with the 2011 Constitution. The Competition Council’s responsibilities include making decisions on anti-competition practices and controlling concentrations, with powers of investigation and sanction; providing opinions in official consultations by government authorities; and publishing reviews and studies on the state of competition. In January 2022, the Competition Council published a legal compliance guide , in partnership with the Moroccan Employers Association, to provide additional guidance for companies and professional organizations in establishing a competition law compliance program. In February 2022, Tangier-based Moroccan Association of Transport and Logistics (AMTL), a labor union, called on transport professionals to raise transport fees by 20 percent, citing the rise in diesel prices. Soon after, Morocco’s Competition Council announced an investigation. Under Morocco’s liberal market laws, prices are determined according to offer and demand principles, and no single entity holds the right to fix market prices. At the same time that the AMTL issued the memo, Morocco’s government stepped into open dialogue with labor unions, causing the AMTL to retract their memo.
Following reported mishandling of an investigation into the alleged collusion by oil distribution companies in 2020, King Mohammed VI convened an ad hoc committee to investigate the Competition Council’s dysfunctions. In March 2021, the king appointed a new council president, and parliament adopted a new bill strengthening the Competition Council by improving its legal framework and increasing transparency.
Expropriation may only occur in the public interest for public use by a state entity, although in the past, private entities that are public service “concessionaires,” mixed economy companies, or general interest companies have also been granted expropriation rights. Article 3 of Law No. 7-81 (May 1982) on expropriation, the associated Royal Decree of May 6, 1982, and Decree No. 2-82-328 of April 16, 1983, regulate government authority to expropriate property. The process of expropriation has two phases: in the administrative phase, the State declares public interest in expropriating specific land and verifies ownership, titles, and appraised value of the land. If the State and owner can come to agreement on the value, the expropriation is complete. If the owner appeals, the judicial phase begins, whereby the property is taken, a judge oversees the transfer of the property, and payment compensation is made to the owner based on the judgment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any recent, confirmed instances of private property being expropriated for other than public purposes (eminent domain), or in a manner that is discriminatory or not in accordance with established principles of international law.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Morocco is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and signed its convention in June 1967. Morocco is a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Law No. 08-05 provides for enforcement of awards made under these conventions.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Morocco is signatory to over 70 bilateral treaties recognizing binding international arbitration of trade disputes, including one with the United States. Law No. 08-05 established a system of conventional arbitration and mediation, while allowing parties to apply the Code of Civil Procedure in their dispute resolution. Foreign investors commonly rely on international arbitration to resolve contractual disputes. Commercial courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitration awards. Generally, investor rights are backed by a transparent, impartial procedure for dispute settlement. There have been no claims brought by foreign investors under the investment chapter of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement since it came into effect in 2006. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any investment disputes over the last year involving U.S. investors.
Morocco officially recognizes foreign arbitration awards issued against the government. Domestic arbitration awards are also enforceable subject to an enforcement order issued by the President of the Commercial Court, who verifies that no elements of the award violate public order or the defense rights of the parties. As Morocco is a member of the New York Convention, international awards are also enforceable in accordance with the provisions of the convention. Morocco is also a member of the Washington Convention for the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and as such agrees to enforce and uphold ICSID arbitral awards. The U.S. Mission is not aware of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Morocco has a national commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution with a mandate to regulate mediation training centers and develop mediator certification systems. Morocco seeks to position itself as a regional center for arbitration in Africa, but the capacity of local courts remains a limiting factor. To remedy this shortcoming, the Moroccan government established the Center of Arbitration and Mediation in Rabat, and the Casablanca Finance City Authority established the Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Center, which now see a majority of investment disputes. The U.S. Mission is aware of several investment and commercial disputes and has advocated on behalf of U.S. companies to resolve the disputes.
Morocco’s bankruptcy law is based on French law. Commercial courts have jurisdiction over all cases related to insolvency, as set forth in Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997). The Commercial Court in the debtor’s place of business holds jurisdiction in insolvency cases. The law gives secured debtors priority claim on assets and proceeds over unsecured debtors, who in turn have priority over equity shareholders. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report ranked Morocco 73 out of 190 economies in “Resolving Insolvency”. The GOM revised the national insolvency code in March of 2018, but further reform is needed.
4. Industrial Policies
As set out in the Investment Code, Morocco offers incentives designed to encourage foreign and local investment. Morocco’s exisiting Investment Charter gives the same benefits to all investors regardless of the industry in which they operate (except agriculture and phosphates, which remain outside the scope of the Charter). Post is unaware of any special incentives designated for businesses owned by underrepresented investors. With respect to agricultural incentives, Morocco’s Green Generation 2020-2030 plan aims to improve the competitiveness of the agribusiness industry by supporting value chains and making the industry more resilient and environmentally sound. Agricultural companies with revenues exceeding $500,000 qualify for a lower corporate tax rate of 20 percent.
The Moroccan government launched its “investment reform plan” in 2016 to create a favorable environment for the private sector to drive growth. The plan includes the adoption of investment incentives to support the industrial ecosystem, tax and customs advantages to support investors and new investment projects, import duty exemptions, and a value added tax (VAT) exemption. Special VAT exemptions are available for medical products and vaccines and products/materials related to solar panel production. AMDIE’s website has more details on investment incentives, but generally these incentives are based on sectoral priorities (automotive, aerospace, textile, agro-food industry, pharmaceuticals, outsourcing). Investments of $5 million or above qualify for government subsidies of land cost (20 percent), external infrastructure costs (5 percent), and training costs (20 percent).
The Moroccan Government offers several guarantee funds and sources of financing for investment projects to both Moroccan and foreign investors. For example, the Caisse Centrale de Garantie (CCG), a public finance institution, offers co-financing, equity financing, and guarantees.
Beyond tax exemptions granted under ordinary law, Moroccan regulations provide specific advantages for investors with investment agreements or contracts with the Moroccan Government if they meet the required criteria. These advantages include subsidies for certain expenses related to investment through the Industrial Development and Investment Fund subsidies of certain expenses for the promotion of investment in specific industrial sectors and the development of new technologies through the Hassan II Fund for Economic and Social Development, exemption from customs duties within the framework of Article 7.I of the Finance Law 12-98, and exemption from the Value Added Tax (VAT) on imports and domestic sales.
Morocco has several free zones offering companies incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies, and reduced customs duties. These zones aim to attract investment by companies seeking to export products from Morocco. As part of a government-wide strategy to strengthen its position as an African financial hub, Morocco offers incentives for firms that locate their regional headquarters in Morocco at Casablanca Finance City (CFC), Morocco’s flagship financial and business hub launched in 2010. For details on CFC eligibility, see CFC’s website .
In 2021, Morocco was removed from the European Union’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes (the so-called “EU Tax Haven Grey List”, not to be confused with FATF AML/CFT grey list), after amending some tax policy measures deemed as potentially harmful based on the tax advantages offered to export companies, companies operating in free zones, and CFC. To enhance its competitiveness and investment attractiveness and to be aligned with international best practices, Morocco’s 2020 budget law transformed the country’s free zones into “Industrial Acceleration Zones” with a 15 percent corporate tax rate following an initial five years of exemption, compared to a previous corporate tax rate of 8.75 percent over 20 years. The zones also allow for flat 20 percent income tax applicable for all employees working within the zone, much lower than the graduated income tax which can reach up to 38 percent. Additionally, the Moroccan government also offers a VAT exemption for investors using and importing equipment goods, materials, and tools needed to achieve investment projects whose value is at least $20 million. Similarly, the CFC regime provides companies holding CFC status a tax benefit exemption for five years followed by a reduced rate of 15 percent (compared to a rate of 31 percent). It applies to financial services (such as investment services and holding companies) and non-financial services activities (such as advisory and regional headquarters and distribution centers). The CFC regime is open to both Moroccan and foreign companies and provides the same tax benefits.
The Moroccan government views foreign investment as an important vehicle for creating local employment. Visa issuance for foreign employees is contingent upon a company’s inability to find a qualified local employee for a specific position and can only be issued after the company has verified the unavailability of such an employee with the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Competency (ANAPEC). If these conditions are met, the Moroccan government allows the hiring of foreign employees, including for senior management. The process for obtaining and renewing visas and work permits can be onerous and may take up to six months, except for CFC members, where the processing time is reportedly one week.
Although there is no formal requirement to use domestic content in goods or technology, the government has announced its intent to pursue an import-substitution policy as part of its COVID-19-related industrial recovery plan and has amended its finance law to increase custom duties on finished products coming from non-FTA countries. Additionally, the plan established a special industrial project bank with the goal of supporting projects in 11 target sectors.
The WTO Trade Related Investment Measures’ (TRIMs) database does not indicate any reported Moroccan measures that are inconsistent with TRIMs requirements. Though not required, tenders in some industries, including solar and wind energy, are written with targets for local content percentages. Both performance requirements and investment incentives are uniformly applied to both domestic and foreign investors depending on the size of the investment.
The Moroccan Data Protection Act (Act 09-08 ) stipulates that data controllers may only transfer data if a foreign nation ensures an adequate level of protection of privacy and fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals with regard to the treatment of their personal data. Morocco’s National Data Protection Commission (CNDP) defines the exceptions according to Moroccan law. Local regulation requires the release of source code for certain telecommunications hardware products. However, the U.S. Mission is not aware of any Moroccan government requirement that foreign IT companies should allow the Moroccan government to review or have backdoor access to their source-code or systems.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Morocco permits foreign individuals and foreign companies to own land, except agricultural land. Passed in 2021 Land Reform bill 62-19, which will open rural land acquisition to joint ventures and limited partnerships, is awaiting the publication of regulatory texts. Foreigners may acquire agricultural land to carry out an investment or other economic project that is not agricultural in nature, subject to first obtaining a certificate of non-agricultural use from the authorities. Morocco has a formal registration system maintained by the National Agency for Real Estate Conservation, Property Registries, and Cartography (ANCFCC), which issues titles of land ownership.
Approximately 30 percent of land is registered in the formal system, and almost all of that is in urban areas. In addition to the formal registration system, there are customary documents called moulkiya issued by traditional notaries called adouls. While not providing the same level of certainty as a title, a moulkiya can provide some level of security of ownership. Morocco also recognizes prescriptive rights whereby an occupant of a land under the moulkiya system (not lands duly registered with ANCFCC) can establish ownership of that land upon fulfillment of all the legal requirements, including occupation of the land for a certain period (10 years if the occupant and the landlord are not related and 40 years if the occupant is a family member). There are other specific legal regimes applicable to some types of lands, including:
- Collective lands: lands which are owned collectively by some tribes, whose members only benefit from rights of usufruct;
- Public lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State;
- Guich lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State, but whose usufruct rights are vested upon some tribes;
- Habous lands: lands which are owned by a party (the State, a certain family, a religious or charity organization, etc.) subsequent to a donation, and the usufruct rights of which are vested upon such party (usually with the obligation to allocate the proceeds to a specific use or to use the property in a certain way).
Morocco’s rating for “Registering Property” dropped in 2020 by 13 places, resulting in a ranking of 81 out of 190 countries worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report in this category. Despite reducing the time it takes to obtain a non-encumbrance certificate, Morocco made property registration less transparent by not publishing statistics on the number of property transactions and land disputes for the previous calendar year, resulting in a lower score than in 2019.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade oversees the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), which serves as a registry for patents and trademarks in the industrial and commercial sectors. The Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Communication oversees the Moroccan Copyright Office (BMDA), which registers copyrights for literary and artistic works (including software), enforces copyright protection, and coordinates with Moroccan and international partners to combat piracy.
In 2020, OMPIC launched its second strategic plan, Strategic Vision 2025, following the conclusion of its 2016-2020 strategic plan. The new 2025 plan has three pillars: the creation of an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation; the establishment of an effective system for the protection and defense of intellectual property rights; and the implementation of economic and regional actions to enhance intangible assets and market-oriented research and development. In 2016 OMPIC partnered with the European Patent Office (EPO) and developed an agreement for validating European patents in Morocco, and now receives roughly 80 percent of total applications via this channel. In 2021 OMPIC was certified to classify technical documents using the Cooperative Patent Classification, an extension of the International Patent Classification program which is jointly managed by the EPO and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In 2021, OMPIC recorded more than 14,000 applications, a 24 percent increase from the previous year, and now exceeds pre-pandemic levels.
In 2016, the Ministry of Communication and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed an MOU to expand cooperation to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights in Morocco. The memorandum committed both parties to improving the judicial and operational dimensions of Morocco’s copyright enforcement, including the launch of WIPOCOS, a WIPO-developed database for collective royalty management organizations or societies.
Law No. 23-13 on Intellectual Property Rights increased penalties for violation of those rights and better defined civil and criminal jurisdiction and legal remedies. It also set in motion an accreditation system for patent attorneys to better systematize and regulate the practice of patent law. Law No. 34-05, amending and supplementing Law No. 2-00 on Copyright and Related Rights, includes 15 items (Articles 61 to 65) devoted to punitive measures against piracy and other copyright offenses. These range from civil and criminal penalties to the seizure and destruction of seized copies. Judges’ authority in sentencing and criminal procedures is proscribed, with little power to issue harsher sentences that would serve as stronger deterrents.
Moroccan authorities continue to express a commitment to cracking down on all types of counterfeiting, but due to resource constraints, only focus enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas, specifically those with public safety and/or significant economic impacts. In 2019, the Customs and Indirect Tax Administration (ADII) seized 700,000 items and received 689 requests to stop the sale of counterfeit goods.
In 2015, Morocco and the European Union concluded an agreement on the protection of Geographic Indications (GIs), which is pending ratification by both the Moroccan and European parliaments. Should it enter into force, the agreement would grant Moroccan GIs sui generis, which is especially relevant as it is a prominent element of its Green Generation 2020-2030 agricultural development plan. The U.S. government continues to urge Morocco to pursue a transparent and substantive assessment process for the EU GIs in a manner consistent with Morocco’s existing obligations, including those under the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement.
Morocco is not listed in USTR’s most recent Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/. For assistance, please refer to the U.S. Embassy local lawyers’ list, as well as to the regional U.S. IP Attaché.
Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:
Peter MehravariPatent AttorneyIntellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North AfricaU.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark OfficeTel: +965 2259 1455
6. Financial Sector
Morocco encourages foreign portfolio investment and Moroccan legislation applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities and to both domestic and foreign portfolio investment. The Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), founded in 1929 and re-launched as a private institution in 1993, is one of the few exchanges in the region with no restrictions on foreign participation. The CSE is regulated by the Moroccan Capital Markets Authority. Local and foreign investors have identical tax exposure on dividends (10 percent) and pay no capital gains tax. With a market capitalization of around $68 billion and 75 listed companies, CSE is the second largest exchange in Africa (after the Johannesburg Stock Exchange). Nonetheless, the CSE saw only 10 new listings between 2012-2022. There was only one new initial public offering (IPO) in 2021. Short selling, which could provide liquidity to the market, is not permitted. The Moroccan government initiated the Futures Market Act (Act 42-12) in 2015 to define the institutional framework of the futures market in Morocco and the role of the regulatory and supervisory authorities. As of March 2022, futures trading was still pending implementation and is not expected to commence until 2023.
The Casablanca Stock Exchange demutualized in November of 2015. This change allowed the CSE greater flexibility and more access to global markets, and better positioned it as an integrated financial hub for the region. The Moroccan government holds a 25 percent share of the CSE but has announced its desire to sell to another major exchange to bring additional capital and expertise to the market. Morocco has accepted the obligations of IMF Article VIII, sections 2(a), 3, and 4, and its exchange system is free of restrictions on making payments and transfers on current international transactions. Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign investors are able to obtain credit on the local market.
Morocco has a well-developed banking sector, where penetration is rising rapidly and recent improvements in macroeconomic fundamentals have helped resolve previous liquidity shortages. Morocco has some of Africa’s largest banks, and several are major players on the continent and continue to expand their footprint. The sector has several large, homegrown institutions with international footprints, as well as several subsidiaries of foreign banks. According to Bank Al-Maghrib (the Moroccan central bank) there are 24 banks operating in Morocco (five of which are Islamic “participatory” banks), six offshore institutions, 27 finance companies, 12 micro-credit associations, and 20 intermediary companies operating in funds transfer. Among the 19 traditional banks, the top seven banks comprise 90 percent of the system’s assets (including both on- and off-balance-sheet items). Attijariwafa, Morocco’s largest bank, is the sixth largest bank in Africa by total assets (approximately $63 billion in December 2021) and operates in 25 countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. Al Mada, the Moroccan royal family holding company is the largest shareholder holding 47 percent of the company’s stock. Foreign (mainly French) financial institutions are majority stakeholders in seven banks and nine finance companies. Moroccan banks have built up their presence overseas mainly through the acquisition of local banks, thus local deposits largely fund their subsidiaries.
The overall strength of the banking sector has grown significantly in recent years. Since financial liberalization, credit is allocated freely and Bank Al-Maghrib has used indirect methods to control the interest rate and volume of credit. According to the World Bank, only 41 percent of Moroccan adults use formal financial products or services, leaving significant opportunities remaining for firms pursuing rural and less affluent segments of the market. At the start of 2017, Bank Al-Maghrib approved five requests to open Islamic banks in the country. By mid-2018, over 80 branches specializing in Islamic banking services were operating in Morocco. The first Islamic bonds (sukuk) were issued in October 2018. In 2019, Islamic banks in Morocco granted $930 million in financing. The GOM passed a law authorizing Islamic insurance products (takaful) in 2019, which became commercially available in early 2022.
Following an upward trend beginning in 2012, the ratio of non-performing loans (NPL) to bank credit stabilized in 2017 through 2019 at 7.6 percent. COVID-related complications caused the NPL rate to jump to 9.9 percent in the end of 2020 but it had partially recovered to 8.4 percent in January 2022.
Morocco’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. Morocco is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures. Bank Al-Maghrib is responsible for issuing accounting standards for banks and financial institutions. Bank Al Maghrib requires that all entities under its supervision use International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The Securities Commission is responsible for issuing financial reporting and accounting standards for public companies. Moroccan Stock Exchange Law ( Law 52-01 ) stipulates that all companies listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), other than banks and similar financial institutions, can choose between IFRS and Moroccan Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). In practice, most public companies use IFRS.
Legal provisions regulating the banking sector include Law No. 76-03 on the Charter of Bank Al-Maghrib, which created an independent board of directors and prohibits the Ministry of Finance and Economy from borrowing from the Central Bank except under exceptional circumstances. Even with the financial crisis caused by COVID-19, the central bank did not provide financing directly to the state, but instead used other monetary tools (such as reducing reserve requirements) to intervene and reinforce the banking sector. Law No. 34-03 (2006) reinforced the supervisory authority of Bank Al-Maghrib over the activities of credit institutions. Law No. 51-20, passed in 2021, aims to further the strengthen the financial systems by reinforcing the supervision of financial conglomerates, improving interest rate targeting to protect consumers while, at the same time, increasing financial inclusion, and providing enhanced privacy protections. Foreign banks and branches are allowed to establish operations in Morocco and are subject to provisions regulating the banking sector. At present, the U.S. Mission is not aware of Morocco losing correspondent banking relationships.
There are no restrictions on foreigners’ abilities to establish bank accounts. However, foreigners who wish to establish a bank account are required to open a “convertible” account with foreign currency. The account holder may only deposit foreign currency into that account; at no time can they deposit dirhams. There are anecdotal reports that Moroccan banks have closed accounts without giving appropriate warning and that it has been difficult for some foreigners to open bank accounts.
A Crowdfunding law (15-18) was passed into law in 2021, establishing a legal regulatory and legal framework for collaborative financing. The law aims to increase the financial inclusion by providing new source of financing to entrepreneurs. Morocco prohibits the use of cryptocurrencies, noting that they carry significant risks that may lead to penalties. Notwithstanding the current ban, Bitcoin trading in Morocco is among the highest in North Africa, with an estimated 2.4 percent of the population owning the cryptocurrency.
The income from foreign investments financed in foreign currency can be transferred tax-free, without amount or duration limits. This income can be dividends, attendance fees, rental income, benefits, and interest. Capital contributions made in convertible currency, contributions made by debit of forward convertible accounts, and net transfer capital gains may also be repatriated. For the transfer of dividends, bonuses, or benefit shares, the investor must provide balance sheets and profit and loss statements, annexed documents relating to the fiscal year in which the transfer is requested, as well as the statement of extra-accounting adjustments made to obtain the taxable income.
A currency-convertibility regime is available to foreign investors, including Moroccans living abroad, who invest in Morocco. This regime facilitates their investments in Morocco, repatriation of income, and profits on investments. Morocco guarantees full currency convertibility for capital transactions, free transfer of profits, and free repatriation of invested capital, when such investment is governed by the convertibility arrangement. Generally, the investors must notify the government of the investment transaction, providing the necessary legal and financial documentation. With respect to the cross-border transfer of investment proceeds to foreign investors, the rules vary depending on the type of investment. Investors may import freely without any value limits to traveler’s checks, bank or postal checks, letters of credit, payment cards or any other means of payment denominated in foreign currency. For cash and/or negotiable instruments in bearer form with a value equal to or greater than 100,000 Moroccan Dirham, importers must file a declaration with Moroccan Customs at the port of entry. Declarations are available at all border crossings, ports, and airports.
Morocco has achieved relatively stable macroeconomic and financial conditions under an exchange rate peg (60/40 Euro/Dollar split), which has helped achieve price stability and insulated the economy from nominal shocks. In March of 2020, the Moroccan Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Administrative Reform, in consultation with the Central Bank, adopted a new exchange regime in which the Moroccan dirham may now fluctuate within a band of ± 5 percent compared to the Bank’s central rate (peg). The change loosened the fluctuation band from its previous ± 2.5 percent. The change is designed to strengthen the capacity of the Moroccan economy to absorb external shocks, support its competitiveness, and contribute to improving growth.
Amounts received from abroad must pass through a convertible dirham account. This type of account facilitates investment transactions in Morocco and guarantees the transfer of proceeds for the investment, as well as the repatriation of the proceeds and the capital gains from any resale. AMDIE recommends that investors open a convertible account in dirhams on arrival in Morocco to quickly access the funds necessary for notarial transactions.
Ithmar Capital is Morocco’s investment fund and financial vehicle, which aims to support the national sectorial strategies. Ithmar Capital is a full member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds and follows the Santiago Principles. The $1.8 billion fund was launched in 2011 by the Moroccan government, supported by the royal Hassan II Fund for Economic and Social Development. This fund initially supported the government’s long-term Vision 2020 strategic plan for tourism and has several large-scale development projects under development. The fund is currently part of the long-term development plan initiated by the government in multiple economic sectors.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Responsible business conduct (RBC) has gained strength in the broader business community in tandem with Morocco’s economic expansion and stability. The Moroccan government does not have any regulations requiring companies to practice RBC nor does it give any preference to such companies. However, companies generally inform Moroccan authorities of their planned RBC involvement. Morocco joined the UN Global Compact network in 2006 and in 2022 counts 24 private company as signatories, including the Confederation General des Entreprises du Maroc (CGEM), Morocco’s largest private sector lobbying group that represents more than 90,000 private companies. The Compact provides support to companies that affirm their commitment to social responsibility. While there is no legislation mandating specific levels of RBC, foreign firms and some local enterprises follow generally accepted principles, such as the OECD RBC guidelines for multinational companies. NGOs and Morocco’s active civil society are also taking an increasingly active role in monitoring corporations’ RBC performance. In 2017 a non-governmental National Observatory for RBC (ORSEM) was created with the objective of promoting responsible business practices, and in 2021, in collaboration with AtlantaSanad Assurance, a Moroccan insurance company, published its first corporate social responsibility guide. Morocco does not currently participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, though it has held some consultations aimed at eventually joining EITI. No domestic transparency measures exist that require disclosure of payments made to governments. There have not been any cases of high-profile instances of private sector impact on human rights in the recent past. Morocco is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies, and Post is unaware of any private military companies operating in the country.
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;
- Trafficking in Persons Report;
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities;
- U.S. National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises; and;
- Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
As part of its development strategy, outlined within the New Development Model, the Kingdom of Morocco seeks to ensure that new economic initiatives consider any environmental, economic, or social impacts and strengthen the sustainable management of natural resources and generally promote environmentally friendly economic activities. Following its commitments at past international environmental conventions, Morocco progressed in this area by implementing political, economic, and legal reforms. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021 (COP26), Morocco signed on to several climate-change commitments, including the U.S.-led Global Methane Pledge to reduce overall methane emissions by 30 percent (from 2020 levels) by 2030. Morocco has also signed on to the Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI), which supports the Moroccan government’s commitment to transition to a green economy, one of the pillars of the country’s National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS). In June 2021, Morocco was one of the few countries in the world that submitted a revised Nationally Defined Contribution (NDC) to greenhouse gas reductions, strengthening the Kingdom’s 2030 target by revising overall 2030 emissions targets to be more ambitious, from 17 percent to 18.3 percent. Morocco has tied economic development planning to climate action. As part of the New Development Model announced in 2021, environmental protection, the development of green economies and industries, and the preservation and more rigorous management of its limited water sources are given utmost importance, constituting two of the Model’s five pillars.
Through Morocco’s 2008 Plan Vert and subsequent Green Generation 2020-2030 national strategies, the government committed to increasing energy production using renewables, removing subsidies on fossil fuels, expanding employment in sustainable industries, and improving the management of its water and ocean resources. Through numerous solar and wind renewable energy projects, Morocco is pursuing an ambitious goal to generate 64 percent of its electricity needs from renewables and is expected to meet that goal by 2030. Ranking as the 22nd most water-scarce country in 2019 by the World Resource Institute, the Moroccan Government directed significant resources over the past five years to managing the country’s water resources, earmarking $12 billion in 2020 for a seven-year program that will focus on building dams to increase water storage capacity, improving water consumption, preserving water resources, and increasing water supply in rural areas. Morocco ranked 26 out of 76 leading countries in MIT’s Green Future Index, and 2nd in Global Green Growth Institute’s Global Green Growth Index for the African region.
In 2021 Morocco launched a “Green Economy War Room” in its capital city, Rabat, as a collaboration between the Moroccan Agency for Energy Efficiency (AMEE) and the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and the Digital and Green Economy. The creation of the center intends to support over 150 different investment projects to maintain and boost Morocco’s pivot toward a model of a sustainable green economy.
A law proposed by the National Regulatory Authority for Electricity (ANRE), which builds off of Morocco’s Renewable Energy law 13-09, is currently undergoing public comment. The law will allow ANRE to monitor and control access to the national transmission and distribution grid, with the ultimate purpose of authorizing independent power producers to inject renewable energy into the national grid. The law is an important step forward, paving the way for increased uptake and use of low-carbon renewable energies within the Moroccan electricity grid. The law will also allow the Moroccan regulator the ability to oversee the national grid’s interconnections with foreign transmission grids, thereby allowing Morocco the ability to support other countries’ transition to lower carbon energy solutions. This law will be instrumental in the future development of the Moroccan renewable energy sector and further increase its attractiveness for private investors, support Morocco’s ambitions of greater regional integration, and provide a platform for other low carbon initiatives, such as electric vehicles and smart grid systems, to build from.
To further reduce emissions, Morocco aspires to be a global leader in the future industrial production, domestic consumption, and export of green hydrogen fuel. Morocco’s aspirations are tied to its renewable energy potential and proximity to existing energy connections with Europe and Africa. The Ministry of Energy Transition has accelerated the “ National Strategy for Green Hydrogen,” originally announced in August 2021, with a goal to capture up to four percent of the global green hydrogen market through 2050. In 2022, the Ministry launched a “GreenH2 Morocco” initiative to bring together public and private sector players in the field to prepare an appropriate regulatory framework. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) signed an agreement with the Government of Morocco in 2021 to advance technical research and development (R&D) in green hydrogen and build a suitable regulatory development. Prospects for the green hydrogen sector in Morocco are promising as the initial source of manufacturing energy, solar and wind, are plentiful, and the country already has extensive export connections for green products with Europe – a significant buyer of green energy. While several national initiatives are in the works to set the stage for Morocco to become a global leader in green hydrogen, success remains dependent on future engineering innovations, market maturity, and the establishment of an international business and regulatory environment capable of facilitating trade and developing necessary investment.”
In February 2021, Morocco was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF’s) “grey list” of countries of concern regarding money laundering and terrorist financing. Following the grey list designation, Morocco made a high-level commitment to work with the FATF and Middle East and North Africa FATF to strengthen the effectiveness of its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regime. Morocco has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including passing new AML legislation, but significant challenges remain.
In Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index , Morocco’s score dropped by one point causing its ranking to fall one additional position to 87th out of 180 countries. According to the State Department’s 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Moroccan law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches during the year.
According to the Global Corruption Barometer Africa 2019 report published in July 2019, 53 percent of Moroccans surveyed think corruption increased in the previous 12 months, 31 percent of public services users paid a bribe in the previous 12 months, and 74 percent believe the government is doing a bad job in tackling corruption.
The 2011 constitution mandated the creation of a national anti-corruption entity. Morocco formally established the National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPLCC) but it did not become operational until 2018 when its board was appointed by the king. The INPLCC is tasked with initiating, coordinating, and overseeing the implementation of policies for the prevention and fight against corruption, as well as gathering and disseminating information on the issue. In 2021 parliment passed Law No 19-46 to strengthen INPPLC’s effectiveness in its fight against corruption, creating an integrated framework aimed at improving cooperation and coordination, criminalizing corruption, and improving prevention efforts. Additionally, Morocco’s anti-corruption efforts include enhancing the transparency of public tenders and implementation of a requirement that senior government officials submit financial disclosure statements at the start and end of their government service, although their family members are not required to make such disclosures. Few public officials submitted such disclosures, and there are no effective penalties for failing to comply. Morocco does not have conflict of interest legislation. In 2018, thanks to the passage of an Access to Information (AI) law, Morocco joined the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral effort to make governments more transparent. As part of its 2021-2023 Open Government National Action Plan, Morocco launched a national portal for open government , to share its various commitments and allow its citizens to monitor progress and submit their suggestions and concerns. Although the Moroccan government does not require that private companies establish internal codes of conduct, the Moroccan Institute of Directors (IMA) was established in June 2009 with the goal of bringing together individuals, companies, and institutions willing to promote corporate governance and conduct. IMA published the four Moroccan Codes of Good Corporate Governance Practices. Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Morocco signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2007 and hosted the States Parties to the Convention’s Fourth Session in 2011. However, Morocco does not provide any formal protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. For more information on corruption issues, please view the Human Rights Report. Although the U.S. Mission is not aware of cases involving corruption regarding customs or taxation issues, American businesses report encountering unexpected delays and requests for documentation that is not required under the FTA or standardized shipping norms.
Resources to Report Corruption
National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPPLC)
Avenue Annakhil, Immeuble High Tech, Hall B, 3eme etage, Hay Ryad-Rabat
+212-5 37 57 86 60
Transparency International National Chapter
24 Boulevard de Khouribga, Casablanca 20250
Telephone number: +212-22-542 699
10. Political and Security Environment
Morocco enjoys political stability. There has not been any recent damage to commercial facilities and/or installations with a continued impact on the investment environment. Demonstrations occur in Morocco and usually center on economic, social, or labor issues. Demonstrations can attract hundreds to thousands of people in major city centers. Participants are typically, but not always, non-violent and the demonstrations are peaceful and orderly.
Morocco has historically experienced terrorist attacks. Travelers should generally exercise increased caution due to terrorism as terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Morocco. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Visitors are encouraged to consult the Department of State’s Morocco Travel Advisory for the most current information.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
In the Moroccan labor market, many Moroccan university graduates cannot find jobs commensurate with their education and training, and employers report insufficient skilled candidates. The educational system does not prioritize STEM literacy and industrial skills and many graduates are unprepared to meet contemporary job market demands. In 2011, the Moroccan government restructured its employment promotion agency, the National Agency for Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC), to assist new university graduates prepare for and find work in the private sector that requires specialized skills. The government also is pursuing a strategy to increase the number of students in vocational and professional training programs. The Bureau of Professional Training and Job Promotion (OFPPT), Morocco’s main public provider for professional training, has made several large-scale investments to address the country’s skills gap, counting more than 390 training centers with a capacity to attend 500,000 individuals annually. According to official government figures, unemployment stood at slightly above pre-pandemic levels at 11.8 percent in early 2022, with youth (ages 15-24) unemployment spiking at over 26 percent in 2020. The female labor participation rate remains extremely low at 21.6 percent, ranking 180 out of 189 countries surveyed in a 2018 World Bank survey. Of the female population in the work force, unemployment remains higher than average at 13.2 percent. The World Bank and other international institutions estimate that actual unemployment – and underemployment – rates may be higher. According to a study by Morocco’s central bank, Morocco made considerable progress incorporating its informal economy, which now hovers slightly below 30 percent of GDP. In 2021 newly elected Head of Government Aziz Akhannouch announced an aggressive plan to create 1 million jobs in the private and public sector over his government’s five-year mandate, which in part will be accomplished by increasing government positions, encouraging growth and hiring in the private sector, and further legitimizing Morocco’s informal sector.
Pursuing a forward-leaning migration policy, the Moroccan government has regularized the status of over 50,000 sub-Saharans migrants since 2014. Regularization provides these migrants with legal access to employment, employment services, and education and vocation training. The majority of sub-Saharan migrants who benefitted from the regularization program work in call centers and education institutes, if they have strong French or English skills, or domestic work and construction.
Under Moroccan Labor Code, Law Number 65-99, there are two types of employment contracts: fixed-term and permanent. Under a fixed-term labor contract, the duration of employment ends on a defined date and early termination initiated by the employer will result in damages equivalent to the amount of corresponding wages for the remainder of the contract. A permanent employment contract can be terminated at any time through the implementation of a well-defined dismissal procedure. The law prohibits the dismissal of an employee without a valid reason and failure to follow these very strict procedure would likely result in the Labor Court ruling the dismissal to be unfair and result in damages being awarded to the dismissed employee. In the case of economic or structural layoffs, the employer must notify the employee’s union presentative and seek permission from the provincial governor prior to conducting any layoffs. In the case of dismissal for misconduct, the bar of proving gross misconduct is typically high and it is common for labor courts to rule in the favor of the dismissed employee – even those who commit a blatant act of gross misconduct – if the employer does not follow the dismissal procedure properly.
Dismissals deemed as unfair carry heavy financial penalties to employers. In the case of a dismissal determined to be unfair of an employee who has worked six months or more in the same company, the Labor Code dictates the employer must compensate the dismissed employee including pay-in-lieu of notice, indemnity, damages, and other miscellaneous costs. These costs balloon as the seniority and base salary of the dismissed employee increases. Cases where employers and employees go to court are rare, as both sides typically opt for an amicable resolution settled out of court which allows employers to negotiate reduced compensation payments and quicker payouts to the employee. Businesses have the added incentive to settle outside of court since Labor Courts have a reputation of siding with the employee on wrongful dismissal lawsuits. Labor law is applicable in all sectors of employment; there are no specific labor laws to foreign trade zones or other sectors. More information is available from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Economic Diplomacy unit.
Morocco has roughly 20 collective bargaining agreements in the following sectors: Telecommunications, automotive industry, refining industry, road transport, fish canning industry, aircraft cable factories, collection of domestic waste, ceramics, naval construction and repair, paper industry, communication and information technology, land transport, and banks. The sectoral agreements that exist to date are in the banking, energy, printing, chemicals, ports, and agricultural sectors.
According to the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the Moroccan constitution grants workers the right to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions (S 396-429 Labor Code Act 1999, 65-99). The law prohibits certain categories of government employees, including members of the armed forces, police, and some members of the judiciary, from forming or joining unions and from conducting strikes. The law allows several independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the total employee base to be associated with a union for the union to be representative and engage in collective bargaining. The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers limited the scope of collective bargaining, frequently setting wages unilaterally for the majority of unionized and nonunionized workers. Domestic NGOs reported that employers often used temporary contracts to discourage employees from affiliating with or organizing unions. Legally, unions can negotiate with the government on national-level labor issues.
Labor disputes (S 549-581 Labor Code Act 1999, 65-99) are common, and in some cases result in employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages. Trade unions complain that the government sometimes uses Article 288 of the penal code to prosecute workers for striking and to suppress strikes. Labor inspectors are tasked with mediation of labor disputes. In general, strikes occur in heavily unionized sectors such as education and government services, and such strikes can lead to disruptions in government services but usually remain peaceful.
In response to the widespread difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Morocco’s Special Commission for the Development Model presented King Mohammed VI the New Development Model in May 2021. This model will serve as a roadmap for Moroccan development with a special focus on decreasing poverty, improving social services and expanding social security protections.
Chapter 16 of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) addresses labor issues and commits both parties to respecting international labor standards.