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Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in North Africa. It has a coast on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco has international borders with Algeria to the east, Spain to the north (a water border through the Strait and land borders with two small Spanish autonomous cities, Ceuta and Melilla), and Mauritania to the south via its Western Saharan territories.

Background History

In 788, about a century after the Arab conquest of North Africa, a series of Moroccan Muslim dynasties began to rule in Morocco. In the 16th century, the Sa'adi monarchy, particularly under Ahmad al-MANSUR (1578-1603), repelled foreign invaders and inaugurated a golden age. The Alaouite Dynasty, to which the current Moroccan royal family belongs, dates from the 17th century. In 1860, Spain occupied northern Morocco and ushered in a half century of trade rivalry among European powers that saw Morocco's sovereignty steadily erode; in 1912, the French imposed a protectorate over the country. A protracted independence struggle with France ended successfully in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier and most Spanish possessions were turned over to the new country that same year. Sultan MOHAMMED V, the current monarch's grandfather, organized the new state as a constitutional monarchy and in 1957 assumed the title of king. Although Morocco is not the UN-recognized Administering Power for the Western Sahara, it exercises de facto administrative control over 80% of the territory. The UN since 1991 has monitored a ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front and leads ongoing negotiations over the status of the territory. King MOHAMMED VI in early 2011 responded to the spread of pro-democracy protests in the region by implementing a reform program that included a new constitution, passed by popular referendum in July 2011, under which some new powers were extended to parliament and the prime minister but ultimate authority remains in the hands of the monarch. In November 2012, the Justice and Development Party - a moderate Islamist party - won the largest number of seats in parliamentary elections, becoming the first Islamist party to lead the Moroccan Government.




Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Kingdom of Morocco
  • conventional short form: Morocco
  • local long form: Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah
  • local short form: Al Maghrib


  • name: Rabat
  • geographic coordinates: 34 01 N, 6 49 W
  • time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 2 March 1956 (from France)

Government Type:

  • Constitutional Monarchy

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: King Mohammed VI (since 30 July 1999)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane (since 29 November 2011)
  • cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
  • elections: the monarchy is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch following legislative elections

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: Bicameral Parliament consists of the Chamber of Counselors and Chamber of Representatives

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court (judges are appointed on the recommendation of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, presided over by the monarch)​


People & Society


  •  32,987,206 (global rank: 39)
  • growth rate: 1.02% (global rank: 117)


  • noun: Moroccan(s)
  • adjective: Moroccan

Largest Cities:

  • Casablanca 3.046 million; Rabat (capital) 1.843 million; Fes 1.088 million; Marrakech 939,000; Tangier 810,000; Agadir 805,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Arab-Berber: 99%, other: 1%


  • Muslim: 99% (official), Christian: 1%, Jewish: ~6,000


  • Arabic (official), Berber languages (Tamazight (official), Tachelhit, Tarifit), French (often the language of business, government, and diplomacy)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 76.51 years (global rank: 78)
  • male: 73.44 years
  • female: 79.74 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 24.52 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 74)
  • male: 28.96 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 19.87 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2012 est.) (global rank: 162)
  • people living with AIDS: 30,000 (2012 est.) (global rank: 71)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 67.1%
  • male: 76.1%
  • female: 57.6%



Overview: Morocco has capitalized on its proximity to Europe and relatively low labor costs to build a diverse, open, market-oriented economy. In the 1980s Morocco was a heavily indebted country before pursuing austerity measures and pro-market reforms, overseen by the IMF. Since taking the throne in 1999, King MOHAMMED VI has presided over a stable economy marked by steady growth, low inflation, and gradually falling unemployment, although a poor harvest and economic difficulties in Europe contributed to an economic slowdown in 2012. Industrial development strategies and infrastructure improvements - most visibly illustrated by a new port and free trade zone near Tangier - are improving Morocco's competitiveness. Morocco also seeks to expand its renewable energy capacity with a goal of making renewable 40% of electricity output by 2020. Key sectors of the economy include agriculture, tourism, phosphates, textiles, apparel, and subcomponents. To boost exports, Morocco entered into a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the United States in 2006 and an Advanced Status agreement with the European Union in 2008. Despite Morocco's economic progress, the country suffers from high unemployment, poverty, and illiteracy, particularly in rural areas. In 2011 and 2012, high prices on fuel - which is subsidized and almost entirely imported - strained the government's budget and widened the country's current account deficit. In the fall of 2013, Morocco capped some of its fuel subsidies in an effort to gradually reduce the country’s large budgetary deficit. Key economic challenges for Morocco include fighting corruption and reforming the education system, the judiciary, and the government's costly subsidy program.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $180 billion (global rank: 60)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $5,500 (global rank: 156)
  • real growth rate: 5.1% (global rank: 55)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 15.1%, industry: 31.7%, services: 53.2%


  • currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 8.439


  • population below poverty line: 15%
  • unemployment rate: 9.5%

Agricultural Products:

  • barley, wheat, citrus fruits, grapes, vegetables, olives; livestock; wine


  • phosphate mining and processing, food processing, leather goods, textiles, construction, energy, tourism

Export Commodities:

  • clothing and textiles, electric components, inorganic chemicals, transistors, crude minerals, fertilizers (including phosphates), petroleum products, citrus fruits, vegetables, fish

Import Commodities:

  • crude petroleum, textile fabric, telecommunications equipment, wheat, gas and electricity, transistors, plastics




  • Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Western Sahara


  • total: 446,550 sq km
  • land: 446,300 sq km
  • water: 250 sq km
  • comparative: slightly larger than California


  • Mediterranean, becoming more extreme in the interior

Land Use:

  • arable land: 17.79%
  • permanent crops: 2.6%
  • other: 79.61%

Natural Resources:

  • phosphates, iron ore, manganese, lead, zinc, fish, salt

Current Environmental Issues:

  • land degradation/desertification (soil erosion resulting from farming of marginal areas, overgrazing, destruction of vegetation); water supplies contaminated by raw sewage; siltation of reservoirs; oil pollution of coastal waters


Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: claims and administers Western Sahara whose sovereignty remains unresolved; 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; both countries claim Isla Perejil (Leila Island); discussions have not progressed on a comprehensive maritime delimitation, setting limits on resource exploration and refugee interdiction, since Morocco's 2002 rejection of Spain's unilateral designation of a median line from the Canary Islands; Morocco serves as one of the primary launching areas of illegal migration into Spain from North Africa; Algeria's border with Morocco remains an irritant to bilateral relations, each nation accusing the other of harboring militants and arms smuggling; the National Liberation Front's assertions of a claim to Chirac Pastures in southeastern Morocco is a dormant dispute
  • human trafficking: Morocco is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Moroccan adults and children are exploited for forced labor and forced prostitution in the Middle East and Europe; some Moroccan girls recruited to work as maids experience conditions of forced labor, while some Moroccan boys are forced to work as apprentices in the artisan and construction industries and in mechanic shops; women and children from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia who voluntarily enter Morocco are subsequently coerced into prostitution or, less frequently, domestic service; women and children from Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria are also vulnerable to sex trafficking and, to a lesser extent, forced labor in Morocco
  • illicit drugs: one of the world's largest producers of illicit hashish; shipments of hashish mostly directed to Western Europe; transit point for cocaine from South America destined for Western Europe; significant consumer of cannabis

Published: Wednesday, April 08, 2015