At the confluence of Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, Morocco seeks to transform itself into a regional business hub by leveraging its geographically strategic location, political stability, and world-class infrastructure to expand as a regional manufacturing and export base for international companies. Morocco actively encourages and facilitates foreign investment, particularly in export sectors like manufacturing, through positive macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, investment incentives, and structural reforms. The Government of Morocco implements strategies aimed at boosting employment, attracting foreign investment, and raising performance and output in key revenue-earning sectors, with an emphasis placed on value-added industries such as renewables, automotive, aerospace, textile, pharmaceuticals, outsourcing, and agro-food. Most of the government’s strategies are laid out in the New Development Model released in April of 2021. As part of the Government’s development plan, Morocco continues to make major investments in renewable energy, is on track to meet its stated goal of 64 percent total installed capacity by 2030, and announced an even more ambitious goal of 80 percent by 2050.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2021 , Morocco attracted the ninth-most foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa in 2020. Peaking in 2018 when Morocco attracted $3.6 billion in FDI, inbound FDI dropped by 55 percent to $1.7 billion in 2019 and remained largely unchanged at $1.7 billion in 2020. UAE, France, and Spain hold a majority of FDI stocks. Manufacturing attracted the highest share of FDI stocks, followed by real estate, trade, tourism, and transportation. Morocco continues to orient itself as the “gateway to Africa,” and expanded on this role with its return to the African Union in January 2017 and the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) which entered into force in 2021. In June 2019, Morocco opened an extension of the Tangier-Med commercial shipping port, making it the largest in Africa and the Mediterranean; the government is developing a third phase for the port which will increase capacity to five million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Tangier is connected to Morocco’s political capital in Rabat and commercial hub in Casablanca by Africa’s first high-speed train service. But weak intellectual property rights protections, inefficient government bureaucracy, corruption, inadequate money laundering safeguards and the slow pace of regulatory reform remain challenges. In 2021, Morocco was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list” of countries subjected to increased monitoring due to deficiencies int the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
Morocco has ratified 72 investment treaties for the promotion and protection of investments and 62 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 other forums to inform U.S. businesses of investment opportunities and strengthen business-to-business ties.
|TI Corruption Perception Index||2021||87 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|Global Innovation Index||2021||77 of 132||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2020||$457||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2020||$3,020||https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
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.
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.
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.