Morocco has a substantial, versatile industrial base,
more is still far ahead of an agricultural country, and its
economy is vulnerable to, among other things, climatic and
other factors affecting agricultural production. Low
production results in loss of export revenue, and at the
same time means that food must be imported.
Despite increasing urbanization, in 2019, 37 percent of
Morocco's population lived in the countryside. In 2014, 39
per cent were employed in agriculture, a sector which in
2017 accounted for 14 per cent of GDP. Particularly in
cities, unemployment is a significant economic and social
problem. In the early 2000s, about 20 percent of the urban
population was unemployed, about 10 percent of the
population nationwide, and around 350,000 young people enter
the labor market each year without creating new jobs at the
same pace. Combined with widespread poverty and lack of
housing and other infrastructure, this has led to social
tension, as well as significant legal and illegal
emigration, especially to the EU. The transfer of money from
emigrants to Morocco represents a significant supply of
countryaah, Morocco is still economically very dependent on the
revenue from phosphate extraction, the country became the
world's largest exporter of phosphate at the end of the
1990s. Morocco also has other mineral deposits, but only
minor discoveries of oil and gas have been made, and the
country relies on importing energy. Since 1975, Morocco has
claimed the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, and has
in fact incorporated it into the kingdom. The increasing
utilization of natural resources in Western Sahara,
especially iron ore and fish, is highly controversial in
legal and political terms, and a number of companies have
withdrawn from oil exploration there.
In addition to the export of phosphate and agricultural
products, as well as emigration, the revenue from the
tourism industry is an important source of income. After a
period of growth in the 1980s, there was a decline in the
1990s, after which the sector is again focused on
development. The number of visitors reached a peak of 3.3
million in 1992, after which it dropped drastically, again
reaching 2 million in 1998.
Since the mid-1980s, Morocco, in consultation with the
World Bank and the IMF, has implemented economic
liberalization, including extensive privatization of
state-owned enterprises. This policy has also aimed to
attract foreign investors, including to gain access to the
EU market, which has to some extent succeeded. From the
1990s, Morocco has entered into several major trade
agreements, both regionally and with the EU, as well as with
several individual countries, especially the United States.
Morocco, together with Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and
Tunisia in 1989 formed the Union du Maghreb Arab Region
(UMA) to promote trade and cooperation, but political
contradictions, especially between Morocco and Algeria, as
well as the civil war in Algeria, contributed to
difficulties in collaboration.
A 1996 economic agreement with the EU, which came into
force in 2000, replaces a 1976 cooperation agreement and
allows for progressively better access for Moroccan goods to
the EU market. This is Morocco's by far the most important
single market, but several EU countries, not least Spain,
have opposed too extensive access for Moroccan goods, which
will compete with their own. The 1996 Accession Agreement
also sets political requirements, including respect for
human rights, which Morocco has not always complied with, as
well as joint efforts to reduce illegal migration.
In 2004, Morocco and the United States signed a free
trade agreement, which is the first in the United States
with an African country and the first in the Middle East
Free Trade Area initiative.
Mining and energy
Morocco has significant mineral deposits, several of
which are extracted commercially, but the sector has
experienced a decline since the 1980s. Of the greatest
economic importance are the phosphate reserves, which are
estimated to constitute about two-thirds of the world's
total deposits. Proven reserves at the beginning of the
2000s were 10.6 billion tonnes; probable reserves were 57.2
billion tonnes. The largest deposits are found at Khouribga,
Youssoufia and Ben Guerir (near Khouribga), and the
phosphate is shipped via Casablanca, Safi and the new port
of Jorf-Lasfar. Production also takes place in occupied
Western Sahara. In 1997, it was reported that Morocco took
the position of the world's largest exporter of phosphate,
with about one-third of the total export volume.
Coal, barite, lead, zinc, copper, iron ore, salt, cobalt
and silver are also mined. Coal production dropped sharply
in the 1990s, and Morocco has had to import, especially from
South Africa, to supply its coal-fired thermal power plants.
Some oil and gas is produced from the Essaouira basin and
some gas from the Gharb basin, but far from sufficient to
meet domestic demand, and Morocco is the largest energy
importer in North Africa.
In 2018, proven reserves were 684,000 barrels of crude
oil and 1,444 billion cubic meters of natural gas, but
exploration is ongoing. Among other things, in 2004, Norsk
Hydro signed an exploration agreement for the offshore field
Safi. It is believed that there are significant occurrences
in occupied Western Sahara, but a number of companies have
withdrawn from exploration there, as a result of
international protests. Morocco is a transit center for gas
exports from Algeria to Spain and Portugal. The Maghreb-Europe
pipeline, across the Strait of Gibraltar, was opened in
1996. Morocco will also recover gas from Algeria, to a gas
plant in Tangier.
In recent years, Morocco has seen a strong growth in the
consumption of electrical energy, and has undertaken a
significant rural electrification. In 2013, expanded
production capacity reached 7.9 GW, against 4.5 GW in 2002.
Production in 2016 was 32 TWh, of which 26 TWh was based on
fossil energy use. The share of renewable energy was 22 per
cent, where hydropower contributed 2 TWh and solar and wind
energy contributed a total of 5 TWh.
In 1996, a rural electrification program was launched. At
that time, only 18 percent of rural areas were electrified.
In 2011 it was reported that the percentage had increased to
97.4 per cent, but it is unclear whether the percentage
applies to households or villages. Many households in remote
areas are connected to local electricity supply plants where
the production of electrical energy is done using solar
The country's electricity grid is gradually integrated,
both with other countries in North Africa and with Spain.
The first transmission network between Africa and Europe was
opened in 1998. An agreement with the United States from
2001 opened to establish a 2 MW nuclear reactor at Rabat,
which will be used for research purposes. In order to ensure
access to fresh water, a preliminary study has been carried
out in collaboration with China with a view to using a 10
MWt nuclear reactor for desalination of seawater. Such a
plant should be able to produce 8,000 cubic meters of fresh
water per day.
Morocco is still a long way from being an agricultural
country, with 39 percent of the population employed in
agriculture, which in 2017 accounted for 14 percent of GDP.
Just over 20 per cent of the land area is cultivated and
30-40 per cent is meadow and pasture. Agriculture is
strongly focused on grain cultivation, but the grain crops
only in good years cover the country's own needs, and the
crops vary greatly; for example, grain production in 1995
was only 1.6 million tonnes, and then reached 10 million
tonnes the following year. Cereal production consists mainly
of wheat, barley and maize.
Morocco is also a major exporter of food products,
especially of citrus fruits and vegetables, essential to the
EU. Otherwise, sugar beets are grown to reduce imports, and
a number of other products, including spice plants. There
are large variations in the mode of operation; a minority
operates by very modern methods on large farms. These are
mainly located on the coastal plains (al-Rharb, Sous) and at
Fès and Marrakech. Here, export production of citrus fruits,
early vegetables and cotton is conducted of high quality.
This is also where artificial irrigation is most prevalent.
The majority operate according to traditional methods and
have relatively low returns. Only 1 per cent of the farms
have more than 50 hectares available, the most common size
is less than 3 hectares. Various programs have been launched
to entice farmers in the Riffjellene to switch to
cultivating products other than marijuana.
Animal husbandry is substantial, and despite the low
yields in many places, Morocco is almost self-sufficient
with meat. Some Berber tribes in the Middle Atlas are still
semi-nomads, and follow their sheep and goat flocks from
summer mountain pastures down to the lowlands in winter.
Forestry and fishing
The forestry sector has little economic importance, apart
from the production of cork from the cork oak tree, where
Morocco is the world's fourth largest producer. Alpha grass
is used for paper production.
Morocco has developed a significant fishing industry,
partly supplied by its own fleet and partly by foreign
trawlers, who have been required to supply catches in
Morocco through various fishing agreements; the majority are
sardines. The main fishing ports are Safi, Casablanca and
Agadir. The fishing is operated partly with modern boats and
partly with traditional small boats. Sales of licenses to
foreign fishing fleets, especially the EU, are an important
source of revenue, with fear of overfishing. Morocco has
also been licensed to fish in the waters off occupied
Morocco has a significant industrial sector, with the
production of a wide range of goods, essential for the
domestic market. In the 1980s, the authorities focused on
industrial development to reduce dependence on commodity
exports, create employment and reduce imports. The industry
consists partly of the processing of agricultural and mining
products, partly of the production of consumer goods, and is
particularly concentrated in the Casablanca area and the
other coastal towns. In 1996, industrial zones were
established in Tangier, Jorf Lasfar and Nouasser, to attract
national and foreign private capital.
The most important industrial branches are the production
of phosphate products (especially fertilizers), steelworks,
petroleum refining, cement production, chemical industry, as
well as textiles and foodstuffs, including fish and
vegetable canning, as well as mills and sugar refining.
Textiles were the most important focus area in industrial
investment in the 1980s, but the textile industry was
severely hit by new trade regimes and increased competition
from China around 2005, when a number of enterprises were
closed and jobs were lost. Crafts are a major trade route in
Morocco had rising deficits in foreign trade in the
1980s; a deficit that has persisted, although in some years
it is far offset by transfers from Moroccans abroad and
income from tourism, among other things. The war in Western
Sahara in the 1970s, and the later costs of keeping the
territory occupied, have contributed to the financial
difficulties that were sought to be met with structural
adjustment in the 1980s, including privatization in the
1990s. Morocco receives significant financial support from,
among others, Saudi Arabia, the United States and France,
and multinational organizations.
Most important export products by value are phosphate ore
and phosphate products, citrus fruits, seafood and textiles.
Imports include crude oil, machinery, grain, chemicals and
metals. The EU - especially Spain and France - is Morocco's
foremost trading partner. In the early 2000s, approximately
70 per cent of the country's exports went to the EU, while
close to 60 per cent of the imports came from there. In
2017, approximately 56 percent of Morocco's exports went to
EU countries, while just over 40 percent of imports came
Rapidly rising oil prices around 2005 brought additional
burdens on the trade balance for Morocco, which relies
heavily on oil imports to meet its energy needs. At the same
time, textile production and exports fell as a result of new
Transport and Communications
Morocco has a relatively well-developed transport
network. The railways connect Casablanca with Rabat, Fès,
Oudja and neighboring Algeria and Tunisia, and with
Marrakech and the large phosphate mines at Khouribga and
Youssoufia. Plans were made in the 1990s to link occupied
Western Sahara to Morocco by rail. A metro in Casablanca was
also investigated. In 2003, Morocco and Spain announced
plans to realize an old intention to build an underwater
rail tunnel between the two countries. The road network
comprises 57 300 kilometers (2018).
The main international airports are at Casablanca
(Mohammed V), Rabat, Tangier, Marrakech and Agadir; in
addition there are about 50 airstrips. Morocco has ten major
ports, with Casablanca as the country's largest port city.
Other important port cities are Mohammadia, Jorf-Lasfar and
Safi. Tangier is the main port for passenger traffic and has
a ferry connection with Gibraltar and Algeciras in Spain.