Key points for Morocco in 1999
  • Population: 28 million people
  • Evolution of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP): + 0.1 per cent
  • Inflation rate: + 0.7 per cent

Since Morocco became an independent nation in 1956, it has established internal economic structures and taken institutional measures that have encouraged industrial development within the country. Apart from Arabic, the main languages currently spoken in Morocco are French - because of long historic links with France - and English.

Since 1994, Morocco's GDP has decreased from 10.4 per cent to 0.1 per cent in 1999. During that same period, the inflation rate decreased form 5.1 per cent to 0.7 per cent. To improve the situation, the Moroccan authorities have taken a series of measures to rationalise financial and fiscal systems and to simplify imports and exports within the framework defined by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The textile/apparel industry has always played a major role in the Moroccan economy due to the importance of the number of small to medium size firms and its exports capacity towards international markets. Furthermore, this industry is important for Morocco because it employs a considerable workforce and enhances employment for women.

The European Union is Morocco's major export market for the industry and, with this privileged position, it is not surprising that the European Union is also Morocco's main partner for investments and technical assistance.

The Moroccan textile/apparel industries represent 37 per cent of the Moroccan economy, but during recent years, the country lost ground against its competitors. This was due to the increase of the exchange rate of the local Dirham, which gained nine per cent over the Euro since this new currency was launched, thus increasing the price of its exports by nine per cent. The Dirham is linked to the international exchange rate of the US dollar. Production costs are climbing too, with the basic salary jumping by 10 per cent in July 2000.

The textile sector
The textile sector - spinning, weaving, finishing- produces mainly for the domestic market and is not very export-oriented. France is by far the main export market for Moroccan textiles, followed by UK, Germany and Spain.

Morocco held a very modest 0.2 per cent in the world's textile export market in 1990 and this reduced further to 0.1 per cent by 1997 (percentage expressed in value of exports). In 1999 the value of France's textile exports to Morocco was 0.43bn Euros, fabrics accounting for 70 per cent of these exports. The European Union has privileged relations with Morocco, 85 per cent of the fabrics imported by Morocco, in volume, coming from the European Union.

The apparel sector
Whereas the textile sector's production is mainly absorbed locally, apparel production in Morocco is almost exclusively aimed at the export market. There are approximately 1100 making-up units employing 148 000 people in Morocco - the number of people working in these units has multiplied by six since 1985. Foreign investment has increased during the past few years both in the apparel and textile sectors.

About 80 per cent of the garments produced are made from woven fabrics and 20 per cent are knitted items. The apparel sector workforce may be broken down as follows:

  • 46 per cent menswear garments
  • 18 per cent shirts/lingerie
  • 14 per cent womenswear
  • 11 per cent sportswear

The value of apparel exports came to 1.7bn Euros in 1999, the European Union being the largest export market for Morocco's apparel. For France, Morocco is the second supplier of woven garments just after Tunisia.

Morocco's apparel imports have represented 107m Euros in 1999, these being imported mainly (81 per cent in 1999) from the European Union. The main supplier is the UK followed by France and Spain

One of Morocco's assets is its geographical proximity to Europe, making communications much easier than with Asian countries. Its workforce is well qualified and adaptable, and the apparel industry is quite rightly considered as vital for the country by the Moroccan authorities. The strengthening of the Euro versus the US dollar should increase Morocco's competitiveness.

Marc de Laroche
Source: CTCOE (Centre for the Economic Observation of Textiles)