Ease of Doing Business Rank: 53
The Kingdom of Morocco is a north African country. Gibraltar, Spain, and the Mediterranean Sea lie to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania, the Western Sahara and Mali to the south and Algeria to the east.
The official languages of Morocco are Arabic and Berber. Arabic dialects are spoken by 91% of the population, while 26% percent speak Berber dialects.
Foreign languages include French (33%), Spanish (21%) and English (14%).
The 2019 population estimate is 36.47 million.
According to the 2014 census, Casablanca is the largest city (3,359,818), followed by Fez (1,112,072), Tangier (947,952) and Marrakesh (928,850). The country also has 62 more cities with populations over 50,000.
The top industries in Morocco are mining and processing, food processing, leather goods, textiles, arts and crafts, construction and tourism.
The Times Higher Education World Rankings includes four Moroccan universities in the top 1,000 in the world.
The Legatum Prosperity Index ranks Morocco’s education system 116th out of 149.
The most common type of business entities in Morocco are Sole Proprietorship, Limited Partnership, General Partnership, Limited Liability Company and Joint Stock Company.
The overwhelming majority of businesses are in the form of a Limited Liability Company.
Morocco offers various incentives based on industry. These include a five year corporate income tax exemption on profits for export and hotel companies and a further reduction of tax to 17.5% for subsequent years.
Mining companies that export their products also benefit from a corporate income tax reduction of 17.5%. Agricultural may be exempt from corporate tax, providing their turnover remains less than MAD 5 million. Should they exceed this threshold, they’re liable for taxes at a reduced rate of 17.5% for the first five fiscal years.
Capital risk companies are also exempt from corporate tax on profits relating to the purchase or sale of shares supporting company development. Companies holding hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation permits are exempt from corporate tax for ten years.
Banks and holding companies in offshore zones may benefit from reduced corporate tax for 15 years. Banks can opt to pay a minimum flat tax of $25,000 US or reduced corporate tax at 10%. Holding companies pay a flat tax of $500 US during the first 15 years.
Businesses that provide auditing, fiscal, legal, financial, actuarial and HR management advice may qualify under the Casablanca Finance City statute. This law provides an exemption on export turnover for the first five years and a reduced rate of 8.75% in subsequent years.
Morocco also has several free trade zones and each caters to specific industries and services. These include food procession, textiles and leather, electrical, mechanical, electronics, metallurgy and chemicals.
FTZs are exempt from corporate tax on exports for the first five years and enjoy a reduced 8.75% tax rate for the following 20 years. Dividends paid to non-residents for activities performed in the FTZ are exempt from totally exempted from corporate withholding tax.
Morocco does not tax non-resident entities on capital gains derived from the sale of stocks listed on the Casablanca stock exchange, excluding the shares of real estate entities.
The country also offers a foreign tax credit to offset taxes paid abroad, providing the host country has a tax treaty with Morocco.
Casablanca is the financial and business center of the country. Rabat is the seat of the government.
Morocco’s long history created many meaningful archeological and cultural sites throughout the country. These include 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the outstanding archaeological find at Volubilis. It was an important Roman outpost during the 3rd century B.C. and many of the fine buildings remain.
The country is also known for its historical, walled and labyrinth-like city or town quarters called medinas. Essaouira, Fez, Marrakesh, and Tétouan’s medinas are all UNESCO sites. Tétouan was of importance in the Islamic period from the 8th century onwards, while Essaouira is an exceptional example of late-18th-century European military architecture in North Africa. In Fez, you’ll find the Chouara tannery where workers have tanned and dyed hides from at least the 16th century.
Rabat is the country’s capital and features tranquil beaches, palaces, and museums. Its unique Kasbah of the Udayas demonstrates cultural influences from the 12th century onwards. This city within a city has been home to Arab tribes, Andalusians and sultans. It holds Rabat’s oldest mosque, beautiful gardens and an exquisite museum within its imposing gates.
Casablanca is modern and demonstrates a blend of Moorish and French-colonial design. The city has a teeming nightlife and many restaurants. Its architectural masterpiece is the Hassan II Mosque. It was completed in 1993 by over 10,000 artisans that painstakingly created carved marble pieces, mosaics and traditional Islamic tiles.
The Palais Royal in Casablanca is the principle residence of the King of Morocco and equally stunning due to its French and Moroccan inspired architecture.
Morocco also has many areas of outstanding natural beauty. The High Atlas is North Africa’s highest mountain range and favored for hiking. It spans 1000 km across the country, but Toubkal National Park provides easy access.
The country also includes the rolling dunes of the Sahara Desert. This massive desert blankets many countries in northern Africa, including Morocco. Ride a camel or take a desert safari. Some dunes are as high as 141 feet in the Sahara and it covers thousands of square miles.
The first written records of the area began in 1,000 BCE when Phoenicians arrived from Lebanon. They founded trading posts, built the city of Carthage in Tunisia and ruled the Moroccan region. Later, the area became the westernmost province of the Roman Empire.
Muslim forces conquered the region in the early 8th century. However, after the Berber Revolt of 740 AD, the people of Morocco broke away and formed a Moroccan state. Morocco later dominated northwest Africa and Muslim Spain.
Morocco passed between many dynasties and by the late 17th century; it was firmly established as a cultural and political Islamic monarchy.
In the early 1900s, France, England, Italy and Spain vied for African territories. In 1904, Britain agreed to give Morocco to France in exchange for non-interference in Egypt. By 1912, Morocco was forced to become a French protectorate which led to great unrest.
During World War II, the Allies landed in Morocco and Roosevelt was sympathetic to the Moroccans. In 1947, the Sultan declared he favored independence. The French deposed him in 1953, but he returned to power three years later.
France eventually granted Morocco independence in 1956. However, the country experienced great turmoil and political instability over the following four decades, including riots in Casablanca during the eighties.
The 1990s were marked by greater liberalization and a sense of personal freedom. However, beginning in 2010 and 2011, Morocco faced a wave of pro-democracy protests and uprisings during the Arab Spring. Voters approved a new constitution, but the country still faces many political challenges.
Today, Morocco is ruled by a constitutional monarchy and has a market-oriented economy.
Other relevant facts
Arab-Berbers constitute 99.1% of the total population.
The majority of Moroccans practice Sunni Islam: (67%), followed by non-denominational Muslims (30%), and other faiths.
According to Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, Morocco is the 63rd best country in the world for conducting business.
The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates Morocco 75th globally and states, “A large part of the labor force remains marginalized by inflexible labor laws, and the government has yet to confront other long-standing challenges that require deeper reforms, particularly in connection with ensuring the evenhanded rule of law.”
World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings rate Morocco 53rd for ease of doing business in the world.