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Country Brief: Morocco
November 20, 2005


The Kingdom of Morocco, commonly known as Morocco, is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Western Sahara.[1]  After a long struggle, the country finally achieved independence from France in 1956.[2]  In the late 1970s, Morocco nearly took control of Western Sahara, but the final status of this territory continues to be unsettled.[3]  Morocco is a constitutional monarchy;[4] and the country established a bicameral legislature in 1997.[5]  

 

Morocco has been the most successful country in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) with its human development and political liberalization programs.  Since the 1970s, the country’s gross national income per person has more than doubled,[6] life expectancy has increased dramatically,[7] birth rates have declined,[8] and preliminary school enrollment has experienced a large improvement.[9]  With an area slightly larger than California,[10] Morocco’s population is approximately 32 million according to a July 2004 estimate by the CIA Fact Book.[11]  The unemployment rate is 18%, with a literacy level of 51.7%.[12]  Although the official language in Morocco is Arabic, French is often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.[13] 

Morocco’s economy has experienced macroeconomic stability, low inflation and relatively slow economic growth over the past several years.[14]   Morocco faces the typical problems of a developing country – “restraining government spending, reducing constraints on private activity and foreign trade, and achieving sustainable economic growth.”[15]   Mobile telephone license and partial privatization of the previously state-owned telecommunications and tobacco companies earned the country large foreign exchange inflows.[16]   Morocco mainly exports food and beverages, tobacco, semi processed goods, and consumer goods to its major markets: the EU, India, the US, and Brazil.[17]   The country mainly imports food and beverages, tobacco, energy, lubricants, capital goods, semi-processed goods, and consumer goods from its major suppliers: the EU, Saudi Arabia, and the US.[18]

                 “Mutual respect and friendship” characterize U.S.-Moroccan relations.  Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to Morocco in December 2003, Prime Minister Jettou’s visit to Washington in January 2004, and King Mohammed's latest visit to the United States in July 2004 are evidence of the bond and friendship between the two countries.[19]  In June 2004, the United States and Morocco signed a comprehensive bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that will dispose of 95 percent of custom duties on consumer and manufactured goods.  This is America’s second FTA with an Arab country and the first in Africa.[20]  Morroco is an active member of the UN and belongs to the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), INTELSAT, and the Non-Aligned Movement.[21]

Morocco’s transportation channels consist of almost 2000 km in railways, 57,707 km in highways,[22] 12 ports and harbors,[23] and 64 airports.[24]  There were over 1.2 million main telephone lines in 2003,[25] over 7.3 million mobile phones, and approximately 800,000 Internet users.[26]

             Concerns that Morocco and the International community should be aware of: (1) Moroccan terrorists,[27] (2) disputes over surrounding land and water,[28] (3) illegal drug trafficking,[29] and (4) Morocco’s strong dependence on agriculture.[30]  



[1]Morocco,” CIA: The World Fact Book,

[2] Id.

[3] Parts of Tan-Tan and Laayoune fall within Moroccan-claimed Western Sahara. Id.

[4] A system of government in which a monarch is guided by a constitution whereby his/her rights, duties, and responsibilities are spelled out in written law or by custom.

[5] Id.

[6] From $550 to $1,190.

[7] From 55 years in 1970 to 68 years in 2001.

[8] From 6.3 children per woman to 2.8 children per woman. 

[9] From 47% in 1970 to 90% in 2002. World Development Indicators database, The World Bank Group – Morocco Data profile. 

[10] This size does not include the disputed areas in Western Sahara, which comprise of another 267,028 sq. km. Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, US Department of State, October 2004, 

[11] Fact Book

[12] Dept. of State.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Fact Book.

[16] Id.

[17] Dept. of State.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Morocco is currently involved in ABEDA, ACCT, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, EBRD, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt (signatory), ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAS, MONUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UPU, WCL, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WtrO.

[22] Out of this number, 32,547 km (including 481 km of expressways) are paved highways, and 25,160 km are unpaved highways.

[23] Agadir, El Jadida, Casablanca, El Jorf Lasfar, Kenitra, Mohammedia, Nador, Rabat, Safi, Tangier; also Spanish-controlled Ceuta and Melilla.

[24] In 2003, 25 of these airports were paved. Fact Book.

[25] Low density consisting of 4.2 main lines for each 100 persons.

[26] Id.

[27] Morocco is home to suspects in the Madrid train bombing of March 11, 2004.  Goodman, Al.  “Spain Arrests Seven Terror Suspects,” CNN.com, 10/18/2004.

[28] Morocco protests Spain's control over the coastal enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, the islands of Penon de Alhucemas and Islas Chafarinas, and surrounding waters.  Fact BookMorocco’s relations with Algeria remains strained over the issue of sovereignty over Western Sahara; a desert area bordering the Atlantic Ocean between Mauritania and Morocco is contested by Morocco and the Algeria supported Polisario. Dept. of State.

[29] Morocco serves as the primary launching area of illicit drug migration from North Africa to Spain, and serves as a transit point for cocaine from South America to Western Europe. Fact Book.

[30] Employment remains overly dependent on the agriculture sector, which is extremely vulnerable to inconsistent rainfall.  Droughts depressed activity in the key agricultural sector and contributed to a stagnant economy in 2002. Id. 

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