Morocco enjoys political stability, a geographically strategic location, and robust infrastructure, which have contributed to its emergence as a regional manufacturing and export base for international companies. Morocco actively encourages and facilitates foreign investment, particularly in export sectors like manufacturing – through dynamic macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, investment incentives, and structural reforms. Morocco’s overarching economic development plan seeks to transform the country into a regional business hub by leveraging its unique status as a multilingual, cosmopolitan nation situated at the tri-regional focal point of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The Government of Morocco implements strategies aimed at boosting employment, attracting foreign investment, and raising performance and output in key revenue-earning sectors, such as the automotive and aerospace industries. Morocco is increasingly investing in energy, boasting the world’s largest concentrated solar power facility with storage near Ouarzazate.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) 2019 World Investment Report, Morocco attracts the fourth-most foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, rising from $2.7 billion in 2017 to $3.6 billion in 2018. Morocco continues to orient itself as the “gateway to Africa” for international investors following Morocco’s return to the African Union in January 2017 and the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in March 2018. In June 2019, Morocco opened an extension of the Tangier-Med commercial shipping port, making it the largest in the Mediterranean and the largest in Africa. Tangier is connected to Morocco’s political capital in Rabat and commercial hub in Casablanca by Africa’s first high-speed train service. Morocco continues to climb in the World Bank’s Doing Business index, rising to 53rd place in 2020. Despite the significant improvements in its business environment and infrastructure, high rates of unemployment (particularly for youth), weak intellectual property rights (IPR) protections, inefficient government bureaucracy, and the slow pace of regulatory reform remain challenges.
Morocco has ratified 71 bilateral investment treaties for the promotion and protection of investments and 60 economic agreements– including with the United States and most EU nations– that aim to eliminate the double taxation of income or gains. Morocco is the only country on the African continent with a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, eliminating tariffs on more than 95 percent of qualifying consumer and industrial goods. The Government of Morocco plans to phase out tariffs for some products through 2030. The FTA supports Morocco’s goals to develop as a regional financial and trade hub, providing opportunities for the localization of services and the finishing and re-export of goods to markets in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Since the U.S.-Morocco FTA came into effect bilateral trade in goods has grown nearly five-fold. The U.S. and Moroccan governments work closely to increase trade and investment through high-level consultations, bilateral dialogue, and the annual U.S.-Morocco Trade and Investment Forum, which provides a platform to strengthen business-to-business ties.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2019||80 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||53 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2019||74 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2017||$412||http://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2018||$3090||http://data.worldbank.org/
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Morocco has also signed a quadrilateral FTA with Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, an FTA with Turkey, an FTA with the United Arab Emirates, the European FTA with Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area agreement (which eliminates certain tariffs among 15 Middle East and North African countries). The Association Agreement (AA) between the EU and Morocco came into force in 2000, creating a free trade zone in 2012 that liberalized two-way trade in goods. The EU and Morocco developed the AA further through an agreement on trade in agricultural, agro-food, and fisheries products, and a protocol establishing a bilateral dispute settlement mechanism, all of which entered into force in 2012. However, the legal standing of the agreement’s rules of origin, particularly for fisheries, has come into question in recent years with both sides seeking to resolve the issue. Following an initial stay on the EU-Morocco agricultural agreement issued by the European Court of Justice in 2016, the European Parliament formally adopted an amended agreement in January 2019. In 2008, Morocco was the first country in the southern Mediterranean region to be granted “advanced status” by the EU, which promotes closer economic integration by reducing non-tariff barriers, liberalizing the trade in services, ensuring the protection of investments, and standardizing regulations in several commercial and economic areas.
On March 3, 2018, Morocco signed an agreement, along with 43 other African states, forming the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) establishing a market of over 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross product of over $3 trillion. The CFTA is a flagship project of Agenda 2063, the African Union’s (AU) long-term vision for an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa. The agreement entered into force in May 2019 following ratification by 22 member states. While continent-wide trade under the agreement is expected to begin in July 2020, as of February 2020, Morocco has not deposited its instruments of ratification to the AU.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
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 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, and enforcement is legally reviewable. The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), for example, created in February 1998 under Law No. 24-96, 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 (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. Fiscal year 2020 debt report was published October 11, 2019.
International Regulatory Considerations
Morocco joined the WTO in January 1995 and reports technical regulations that could affect trade with other member countries to the WTO. Morocco is a signatory to the 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.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
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 , 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 Rabat, Casablanca, Fes, Tangier, Marrakech, Agadir, Oujda, and Meknes), 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.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The principal sources of commercial legislation in Morocco are the 1913 Royal Decree of Obligations and Contracts, as amended; Law No. 18-95 that established the 1995 Investment Charter; the 1996 Code of Commerce; and Law No. 53-95 on Commercial Courts. These courts have sole competence to hear 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. Morocco’s CRIs and provide users with various investment related information on key sectors, procedural information, calls for tenders, and resources for business creation. Their websites are infrequently updated.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Morocco’s Competition Law No. 06-99 on Free Pricing and Competition (June 2000) outlines the authority of the 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. After four years of delays, the Moroccan Government nominated and approved all members of the Competition Council in December of 2018.
The Competition Council is investigating years of alleged collusion by oil distribution companies, releasing an incriminating preliminary report in 2019. The case includes investigations into two foreign-owned firms: Vivo Energy, an affiliate of the British-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell, and Total Maroc, a subsidiary of the French multinational Total. Also in 2019, the council released a report outlining barriers to entry that protect established fuel distribution companies like Vivo and Total Maroc, to the detriment of consumers.
In February 2020, the Moroccan telecommunications regulator, National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), issued a $340 million fine against Maroc Telecom for abusing its dominant position in the market. Maroc Telecom is majority owned by Etisalat, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is minority owned by the Moroccan government. ANRT ruled in favor of rival telecoms operator INWI, which is majority-owned by Morocco’s royal holding company, and is minority-owned by Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund and a private Kuwaiti company, which had filed the complaint with ANRT.
Expropriation and Compensation
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 are able to 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 60 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 (ADR) 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. The Moroccan government established the Center of Arbitration and Mediation in Rabat and the Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Center (CIMAC). The U.S. Mission is not aware of any investment disputes involving state owned enterprises (SOEs).
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.
4. Industrial Policies
As set out in the Investment Code (Section 2.4), Morocco offers incentives designed to encourage foreign and local investment. Morocco’s 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). With respect to agricultural incentives, Morocco launched the (Green Morocco Plan) in 2008 to improve the competitiveness of the agribusiness industry. This plan offers technical and financial support to federations in the citrus and olive sectors to boost agribusiness value chains.
Morocco has several free zones offering companies incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies, and reduced customs duties. Free 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 . Morocco is on the European Union’s tax “ ” for pursuing a harmful tax policy based on the tax advantages offered to export companies, companies operating in free zones, and CFC. In response to EU pressure and the desire to avoid negative consequences for investment, Morocco’s 2020 budget law transforms 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. Similarly, companies holding CFC status will be taxed 15 percent both on their local and export activities as of 2021, after a five-year tax exoneration. The new measures adopted pertain to both Moroccan and foreign companies already established in these zones.
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. AMDIE’s has more details on investment incentives, but generally these incentives are based on sectoral priorities (i.e. aerospace). Morocco does not issue guarantees or jointly finance FDI projects, except for some public-private partnerships in fields such as utilities.
The Moroccan Government offers several guarantee funds and sources of financing for investment projects to both Moroccan and foreign investors. For example, the (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 provided that 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 n°12/98, and exemption from the Value Added Tax (VAT) on imports and domestic sales.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The government maintains several “free zones” in which companies enjoy lower tax rates in exchange for an obligation to export at least 85 percent of their production. In some cases, the government provides generous incentives for companies to locate production facilities in the country. 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. This incentive lasts for a period of 36 months from the start of the business. Due in part to an ongoing dispute with the European Union, the 2020 budget law will transform the country’s free zones into “Industrial Acceleration Zones” with a corporate tax of 15 percent after an initial five years of tax exemption. Previously, companies in free zones paid a corporate tax rate of 8.75 percent.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
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.
The government does not require the use of domestic content in goods or technologies. 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 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 provide surveillance or backdoor access to their source-code or systems.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Morocco permits foreign individuals and foreign companies own land, except agricultural land. Foreigners may acquire agricultural land in order 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 of time (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, among which:
- 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” regressed over the past year, with a ranking of 81 out of 190 countries worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report. 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.
Intellectual Property Rights
The Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy 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 Communications 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 fall 2020, OMPIC will launch 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. From 2015-2019, OMPIC recorded a 168 percent increase in the number of patent applications filed and a 35 percent increase in the number of trademark registration requests.
In 2016, the Ministry of Communication and 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. Following this MOU, in November 2016, BMDA launched WIPOCOS, a database for collective royalty management organizations or societies, developed by WIPO. In spite of these positive changes, BMDA’s current focus on redefining its legal mandate and relationship with other copyright offices worldwide has appeared to lessen its enforcement capacity.
Law No. 23-13 on Intellectual Property Rights increased penalties for violation of those rights and better defines civil and criminal jurisdiction and legal remedies. It also set in motion an accreditation system for patent attorneys in order 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 express a commitment to cracking down on all types of counterfeiting, but due to resource constraints, must focus enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas, specifically those with public safety and/or significant economic impacts. In 2017, BMDA brought approximately a dozen court cases against copyright infringers and collected $6.1 million in copyright collections. In 2018, Morocco’s customs authorities seized $62.7 million worth of counterfeit items. In 2018, Morocco also created a National Customs Brigade charged with countering the illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods and narcotics.
In 2015, Morocco and the European Union concluded an agreement on the protection of Geographic Indications (GIs), which is currently pending ratification by both the Moroccan and European parliaments. Should it enter into force, the agreement would grant Moroccan GIs sui generis. The U.S. government continues to urge Morocco to undergo 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 reports.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s . For assistance, please refer to the U.S. Embassy local lawyers’ list, as well as to the .
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
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 $60 billion and 76 listed companies, CSE is the second largest exchange in Africa (after the Johannesburg Stock Exchange). Despite its position as the second largest exchange in Africa, the CSE saw only 13 new listings between 2010-2018. There were no new initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2019. Short selling, which could provide liquidity to the market, is not permitted. The Moroccan government initiated the Futures Market Act (Act 42-12) in October 2015 to define the institutional framework of the futures market in Morocco and the role of the regulatory and supervisory authorities. As of February of 2020, futures trading was still pending full implementation.
The Casablanca Stock Exchange demutualized in November of 2015. This change allowed the CSE greater flexibility, more access to global markets, and better positioned it as an integrated financial hub for the region. 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.
Money and Banking System
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 the , Moroccan banks comprise about half of the financial system with total assets of 140 percent of GDP – up from 111 percent in 2008. According to Bank Al-Maghrib (the Moroccan central bank) there are 24 banks operating in Morocco (five of these are Islamic “participatory” banks), six offshore institutions, 28 finance companies, 13 micro-credit associations, and thirteen intermediary companies operating in funds transfer. Among the 19 traditional banks, the top five banks comprise 79 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 $54 billion in June 2019). The Moroccan royal family is the largest shareholder. 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. The banking penetration rate is approximately 56 percent, with 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, but the implementation regulations are still pending, and the products are not yet active.
Following an upward trend beginning in 2012, the ratio of non-performing loans (NPL) to bank credit stabilized at 7.5 percent in 2017 at $6.5 billion. According to the most recent data from the IMF, NPL rates in July 2019 were 7.7 percent.
Morocco’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. Morocco is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of . Bank Al-Maghrib is responsible for issuing accounting standards for banks and financial institutions. Circular 56/G/2007 issued by 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. Circular No. 06/05 of 2007 reaffirmed the Moroccan Stock Exchange Law (Law No. 52-01), which stipulated 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. Law No. 34-03 (2006) reinforced the supervisory authority of Bank Al-Maghrib over the activities of credit institutions. 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. One issue, reported anecdotally, is that Moroccan banks have closed accounts without giving appropriate warning and that it has been difficult for some foreigners to open bank accounts in Morocco.
Morocco prohibits the use of cryptocurrencies, noting that they carry significant risks that may lead to penalties.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
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 in order 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 $10,000, 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 in order to quickly access the funds necessary for notarial transactions.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
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. Established in November 2011 by the Moroccan government and supported by the royal Hassan II Fund for Economic and Social Development, the fund initially supported the government’s long-term Vision 2020 strategic plan for tourism. The fund is currently part of the long-term development plan initiated by the government in multiple economic sectors. Its portfolio of assets is valued at $1.8 billion.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Boards of directors (in single-tier boards) or supervisory boards (in dual-tier boards) oversee Moroccan SOEs. The Financial Control Act and the Limited Liability Companies Act govern these bodies. The Ministry of Economy and Finance’s Department of Public Enterprises and Privatization monitors SOE governance. Pursuant to Law No. 69-00, SOE annual accounts are publicly available. Under Law No. 62-99, or the Financial Jurisdictions Code, the Court of Accounts and the Regional Courts of Accounts audit the management of a number of public enterprises. A list of SOEs is available on the Ministry of Finance’s .
As of March 2020, the Moroccan Treasury held a direct share in 225 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and 43 companies. Several sectors remain under public monopoly, managed either directly by public institutions (rail transport, some postal services, and airport services) or by municipalities (wholesale distribution of fruit and vegetables, fish, and slaughterhouses). The Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), a public limited company that is 95 percent held by the Moroccan government, is a world-leading exporter of phosphate and derived products. Morocco has opened several traditional government activities using delegated-management or concession arrangements to private domestic or foreign operators, which are generally subject to tendering procedures. Examples include water and electricity distribution, construction and operation of motorways, and the management of non-hazardous wastes. In some cases, SOEs continue to control the infrastructure while allowing private-sector competition through concessions. SOEs benefit from budgetary transfers from the state treasury for investment expenditures.
Morocco established the Moroccan National Commission on Corporate Governance in 2007. It prepared the first Moroccan Code of Good Corporate Governance Practices in 2008. In 2011, the Commission drafted a code dedicated to SOEs, drawing on the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs. The code, which came into effect in 2012, aims to enhance SOEs’ overall performance. It requires greater use of standardized public procurement and accounting rules, outside audits, the inclusion of independent directors, board evaluations, greater transparency, and better disclosure. The Moroccan government prioritizes a number of governance-related initiatives including an initiative to help SOEs contribute to the emergence of regional development clusters. The government is also attempting to improve the use of multi-year contracts with major SOEs as a tool to enhance performance and transparency.
The government relaunched Morocco’s privatization program in the 2019 budget. Parliament enacted the updated annex to Law 38-89 (which authorizes the transfer of publicly held shares to the private sector) in February 2019 through publication in the official bulletin, including the list of entities to be privatized. The state still holds significant shares in the main telecommunications companies, banks, and insurance companies, as well as railway and air transport companies.
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. The Compact provides support to companies that affirm their commitment to social responsibility. In 2016, the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs launched an annual gender equality prize to highlight Moroccan companies that promote women in the workforce. 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. 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.
In the published by Transparency International (TI), Morocco declined one point from the previous year (from 40 to 41) and moved down seven spots in the rankings (from 73rd to 80th out of 180 countries). According to the State Department’s 2019 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 adopted the National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPLCC) through a law published in 2015. The INPLCC did not come into operation until late 2018 when its board was appointed by King Mohammed VI, although a weaker predecessor organization continued in existence until that time. 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. 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.
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. Although the U.S. Mission is not aware of cases involving corruption with regard to 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
Organization: National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption
Address: Avenue Annakhil, Immeuble High Tech, Hall B, 3eme etage, Hay Ryad-Rabat
Telephone number: +212-5 37 57 86 60
Email address: email@example.com
Fax: +2125 37 71 16 73
Organization: Transparency International National Chapter
Address: 24 Boulevard de Khouribga, Casablanca 20250
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone number: +212-22-542 699
10. Political and Security Environment
Morocco does not have a significant history of politically motivated violence or civil disturbance. There has not been any damage to projects and/or installations, which has had a continuing impact on the investment environment. Demonstrations occur in Morocco and usually center on political, social, or labor issues. They can attract thousands of people in major city centers, but most have been peaceful and orderly.
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), in order to assist new university graduates prepare for and find work in the private sector that requires specialized skills. The Bureau of Professional Training and Job Promotion (OFPPT), Morocco’s main public provider for professional training, also launched the Specialized Institute for Aeronautics and Airport Logistics (ISMALA) in Casablanca in 2013 to offer technical training in aeronautical maintenance. According to official figures released by the government planning agency, unemployment was 10 percent in 2019, with youth (ages 15-24) unemployment hovering around 40 percent in some urban areas. The World Bank and other international institutions estimate that actual unemployment – and underemployment – rates may be higher.
The Government of Morocco pursues a strategy to increase the number of students in vocational and professional training programs. The government opened 27 such training centers between 2015 and 2018 and nearly doubled the number of students receiving scholarships for training between 2017 and 2018. The government announced that the number of scholarships granted to vocational trainees increased by 177 percent between 2018 and 2019. In 2018, the Government of Morocco launched a National Plan for Job Promotion, created after three years of collaboration with government partners involved in employment policy, to support job creation, strengthen the job market, and consolidate regional resources devoted to job promotion. This plan promotes entrepreneurship – especially in the context of regionalization outside the Casablanca-Rabat corridor – to boost youth employment.
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.
According to section VI of the labor law, employers in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and forestry sectors with ten or more employees must communicate a dismissal decision to the employee’s union representatives, where applicable, at least one month prior to dismissal. The employer must also provide grounds for dismissal, the number of employees concerned, and the amount of time intended to undertake termination. With regards to severance pay (article 52 of the labor law), the employee bound by an indefinite employment contract is entitled to compensation in case of dismissal after six months of work in the same company regardless of the mode of remuneration and frequency of payment and wages. The labor law differentiates between layoffs for economic reasons and firing. In case of serious misconduct, the employee may be dismissed without notice or compensation or payment of damages. The employee must file an application with the National Social Security Funds (CNSS) agency of his or her choice, within a period not exceeding 60 days from the date of loss of employment. During this period, the employee shall be entitled to medical benefits, family allowances, and possibly pension entitlements. 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, No. 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 and 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, No. 65/99) are common, and in some cases, they 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 July 2016, the Moroccan government passed the Domestic Worker Law and the long-debated pension reform bill; the former entered into force in 2018. The new pension reform legislation is expected to keep Morocco’s largest pension fund, the Caisse Marocaine de Retraites (CMR), solvent until 2028, with an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 63 by 2024, and adjustments in contributions and future allocations.
Chapter 16 of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) addresses labor issues and commits both parties to respecting international labor standards.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
OPIC had a long history of supporting projects in Morocco and has provided finance or insurance support to 22 deals over the past four decades. Morocco signed an agreement with OPIC in 1961. The agreement was updated in 1995 and ratified by the Moroccan parliament in June 2004. The agreement can be found on OPIC’s . In August 2013, OPIC provided its consent for a new $40 million, eight-year term loan facility with Attijariwafa Bank to support loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Morocco under a risk-sharing agreement between OPIC and Citi Maghreb. In August 2014, OPIC signed an additional agreement with Attijariwafa and Wells Fargo to provide additional support to SMEs. With DFC’s wider financing latitudes as a result of the BUILD Act, more projects in Morocco could be eligible for DFC products.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
* Source for Host Country Data: Moroccan GDP data from Bank Al-Maghrib, all other statistics from the . Conflicts in host country and international statistics are likely due to methodological differences
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||30,353||100%||Total Outward||4,501||100%|
|United Arab Emirates||10,524||35%||France||892||20%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
Foreign Commercial Service
U.S. Consulate General Casablanca, Morocco