Chapter 11. Morocco

The foundations of SME policy: definitions, statistics and institutions

Morocco has had for many years a relatively well-developed and structured SME policy. Since 2002 it has had an operational SME Law (Charte de la petite et moyenne entreprise) determining the most important policy principles including the establishment and responsibilities of an SME agency; the recognition of associations for the support of SMEs at the local, regional and national levels; and support mechanisms.1 The SME definition used by Morocco SME, the SME agency (previously known as National Agency for SME Development, or ANPME), continues to refer only to financial criteria, with no headcount criterion (Table 11.1).

Table 11.1. SME definition by Morocco SME

Type of enterprise



Annual turnover

≤ MAD 10 m

Small and medium

Annual turnover**

≤ MAD 200 m

Source: Contractual Framework between the State and Morocco SME for 2015-2020.

In terms of SME and entrepreneurship statistics, the National Statistics Office (HCP) publishes extensive economic and demographic indicators. Furthermore, one of the most important initiatives over the past few years has been the establishment of an MSME Observatory aimed to produce and disseminate ample information on this area. It is based on a collaborative approach between eleven founding agencies, namely Morocco SME; the Central Bank (BAM); the Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade and the Digital Economy; the National Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM); the credit guarantee agency (CCG); the National Banks Association; the statistics office (HCP); the Ministry of General Affairs and Governance; and the General Directorate for Taxes (DGI).

The MSME Observatory is already operational and has signed several collaboration agreements with other agencies to share information on businesses.2 The agreements being signed are to provide a legal framework for the collection of information while ensuring the confidentiality of disaggregated data. However, no information has yet been published and its website is not yet operational. The ultimate goal is to have a confederated source of information using administrative data. These efforts are aligned with the creation of the single identification number (ICE) described in the section on improving the business environment.

The SME policy agenda in Morocco is in large part driven by the wider economic development agenda. At the same time the Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade and Digital Economy is in charge of overseeing SME policy and developing and implementing two industrial development strategies: the National Pact for Industrial Emergence (PNEI) for 2009-2015; and the Industrial Acceleration Plan for 2014-2020, which is the current strategic framework driving industrial policy, including SME policy.3

In this context, Morocco SME, the SME agency, adopted a new “Contractual Framework” for 2015-2020.4 In line with the Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020, the contractual framework aims to increase SME competitiveness and to foster entrepreneurship, including high impact entrepreneurs.

One of the most important initiative undertaken by Morocco in recent years has been the introduction of a set of measures and incentives under the “auto-entrepreneur status” in 2015. The auto-entrepreneur status aims to foster the entrepreneurial spirit among Moroccans, to support aspiring entrepreneurs, to facilitate youth self-employment and to formalise the informal economy. Its main goals are:

  1. To encourage independent work through a series of support measures that allow the possibility to easily undertake professional activities;

  2. To reduce costs by simplifying administrative procedures related to enterprise creation; and

  3. To ensure appropriate social security coverage for beneficiaries.

In terms of public-private dialogue, the National Committee of the Business Climate (CNEA) continues to be an example of good international practice by providing a multipartite platform involving public and private actors to lead the efforts to improve the business environment through a multi-year strategy and yearly action plans.

From the private sector the most important organisation representing SMEs is the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM), with about 88 000 members from across the country and from different sectors. The CGEM is formed by “commissions”, one of which is devoted to representing the interests of SMEs.

Since its creation in 2009 the CNEA has contributed to different reforms efforts leading to significant improvements of the business climate in Morocco, as reflected in the Doing Business and the Global Competitiveness Index rankings.

For further action: The Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020 and Morocco SME’s 2015-2020 Contractual Framework provides a coherent and strategic approach towards enterprise development. For example, the Industrial Acceleration Plan includes actions to support SME competitiveness whereas the Auto-entrepreneur status focuses on promoting employment and addressing informality. Through the CNEA, Morocco also has a well-established and formalised platform the foster dialogue. These elements are being used as vehicles to continuously move on the reform agenda (e.g. access to finance, regional development, etc.). Morocco could continue on this path and move forward with ongoing initiatives such as the MSME Observatory and the improvement of sources of statistics. Given the rich information available, Morocco could join the OECD Scoreboard on Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs and the OECD-Eurostat Entrepreneurship Indicators Programme so that it can compare its conditions and performance with international peers. Morocco SME could also review whether its definition responds to the diversity of SMEs and could use more criteria (not just financial) to better differentiate between firms.

Improving business environments for SMEs and entrepreneurs

The CNEA continues to be the main driver of regulatory reform and administrative simplification in Morocco. The CNEA operates on the basis of a longer-term vision and yearly action plans with concrete targets.5 Several of these targets have been structured around specific aspects of the Doing Business indicators. This has resulted in a significant improvement in the country performance in Doing Business rankings since 2012 and until the 2018 edition.6 These improvements have been the result of very targeted reforms, such as the suppression of a minimum paid-in capital for the creation of an enterprise; the digitalisation of the process to have a business permit and to pay taxes; etc.

However, the CNEA is not a regulatory impact analysis (RIA) initiative in the sense of this report (i.e. a systemic approach to critically assessing the positive and negative effects of proposed and existing regulations and non-regulatory alternatives). According Article 19 of the Law on the Functioning of Government Bodies and the Statue of their Members, every new law proposal should be accompanied by an impact assessment.7 This Article provides an adequate framework to introduce the SME test, and it has been subject to a feasibility study.8

In terms of the operational environment for business creation, as part of the Doing Business reforms Morocco streamlined the process to start a company by eliminating the minimum capital requirement, reducing registration costs and simplifying documentation requirements.9 The government is aware of the importance of digital government. In fact, CNEA’s 2017-2018 Action Plan10 foresees the introduction of an online system for enterprise creation. This project is implemented by the National Office for Intellectual and Commercial Property (OMPIC), and takes over the formerly known Online System for Enterprise Creation (CREOL) project. In addition, the Cabinet adopted Bill 88-17 on the creation of enterprises online in February 2018. There are three bills in total:

  • Bill 87-17 amending and supplementing Law 13-99 establishing the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC);

  • Bill 88-17 concerning the creation of businesses online and their accompaniment;

  • Bill 89-17 on the revision of Book IV of the Commercial Code.

All three bills concerning the creation of enterprises online were adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives.

A single identification number (ICE) has also been introduced for both natural and legal persons.11 Although the ICE does not yet replace other numbers (tax identification number, trade registry number and social security number) it is expected that in the future it will do so. Several fiscal provisions make it compulsory to have an ICE, given it is now a requirement for receipts to be accepted by the tax authorities and to benefit from tax exemption, and a fine is imposed in the absence of an ICE.12

The ICE will allow government agencies to exchange information (although the exchange of information is not yet widespread). The ICE will also be a tool to address the informal economy since documentation without ICE will not be valid (e.g. invoices without ICE are not be valid for fiscal purposes). Finally, as noted before, the ICE also serves SME statistical purposes by facilitating the operation of the MSME Observatory.

The legal framework for bankruptcy was recently overhauled through the approval in April 2018 of Law N. 17-73, which replaced Law N. 15-95 related to Book V of the Code of Commerce. The reform introduces changes on procedures for prevention and treatment of difficulties for enterprises, following the principles set by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the World Bank. The objectives of the new law are reflected in the proposed change of name, from “Enterprise difficulties” to “Procedures for the prevention, rescue and treatment of the difficulties of enterprises.”13 The Law dedicates several chapters to mechanisms aiming to resolve trans-border disputes, setting a framework for collaboration with foreign judiciary bodies.

For further action: Morocco could continue working to step up its initial efforts to develop the single identification number (ICE), the online registration (CREOL) and the revision of the bankruptcy framework. Additionally, apart from the targeted reforms to improve the performance in key Doing Business indicators Morocco could work on the implementation of a full-fledged RIA mechanism (building on Organic Law No. 065-13) and an SME test.

Fostering access to finance

On the legal and regulatory framework for access to finance, Morocco had both a credit information system (Centrale des risques) regulated by the Central Bank and managed by a private firm (Experian Maroc)14 and a credit bureau (Credit Info).15 Since then, more measures have been taken to increase access to information and credit transparency. One of these measures is the expansion of the services provided by the credit bureau, including the provision of credit scores in 2016, the monitoring of portfolios and alerting systems. The credit scoring actually allowed Morocco to increase its note to seven (on a scale of eight) in the depth of credit information index of Doing Business.16 Furthermore, the opening up of the market for private credit bureaus in 2016 has led the way for the opening of a second bureau by Quantik Credit Bureau Maroc. There are also plans to expand the sources of information that can be integrated into the credit bureaus to include utilities and other service suppliers.

Concerning the registration system for moveable assets, an area where Morocco has lagged behind the rest of the region, there is a draft proposal to reform the law on moveable assets. The proposal is the product of a number of consultations taking place since 2015 and is presented as a priority by the CNEA, together with the reform of Book V of the Code of Commerce (bankruptcy), adopted in April 2018. The aim of the proposal, which was developed with the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Arab Monetary Fund, is to address a number of complex and dispersed procedures in this area.17 Notably, the proposal seeks to extend the array of goods that can be pledged when accessing credit.

Concerning the availability of sources of finance, the SME Policy Index 2014 noted an expanding credit guarantee market formed by public and private actors. This trend appears to have continued over the past few years. In 2016, the total activity of Morocco’s Central Guarantee Fund (CCG), both for businesses and private individuals, totalled MAD 21 billion of mobilised loans (about EUR 1.9 billion), an increase of 23% compared to 2015. Furthermore, the CCG created a dedicated Guarantee Fund for SMEs “Mouwakaba.”

Overall, the credit guarantee system in Morocco seems to be working well since almost 52% of firms in the Enterprise Surveys say they have a bank loan or line of credit (compared to 28.6% in the rest of the MENA region) and nearly 35% are using banks to finance investments (compared to 25.9% in MENA).18 In contrast, Morocco’s performance in the getting credit indicator of Doing Business is rather low, especially given the weak strength of legal rights index, which measures the degree to which collateral and bankruptcy laws protect the rights of borrowers and lenders and thus facilitate lending (i.e. there is work needed on the Secured Transactions law and on the Bankruptcy Law).

New initiatives on access to credit have also taken place. The Central Bank has implemented some measures to support SMEs in access to finance, including a refinancing window for banks’ loans to SMEs, targeting in particular companies in the industry sector and exporting firms.

Commercial banks are also becoming more interested in working with SMEs. For instance, the Moroccan Bank for Foreign Trade (BMCE Bank), created the “Club PME” to provide training to SMEs on financial products. BMCE Bank has also created a number of funds and products targeting SMEs. These include “BMCE Business Express” (loans to cover short term needs, complemented by a guarantee from the CCG), the “Fonds de soutien financier des TPME” (a co-finance mechanisms that looks to support companies going through punctual cash-flow difficulties, and focusing particularly on exporting companies), “BMCE Cap Energie” (to finance projects in the energy sector), and “Energy Lease” (to fund energy efficiency investments). In 2013, Bank Al-Maghrib and the CCG established a fund to co-finance SMEs going through cash-flow difficulties. Since then, 406 companies have been supported for a value of MAD 2.6 million. The Central Bank has also created a refinancing window for SMEs, and Morocco SME has launched the programmes “Imtiaz Croissance” and “Istitmar Croissance”, which aim to support investment projects of industrial SMEs.

For further action: For Morocco to continue its progress on access to finance, it could step up its efforts to streamline the moveable assets law and establish a registry of moveable assets (in line with efforts already being done in the rest of the MED region). Furthermore, building on the many efforts being made on access to credit (and on the apparent good results based on international gauges), Morocco could work more on developing alternative sources of finance, including equity investments. This interim assessment did not find clear evidence on efforts to develop alternative sources of finance such as venture capital, business angels and other sources.

Nurturing entrepreneurship and SME growth

Morocco has a well-developed market for personalised business development services (BDS), with a high level of internal competition among service providers, including private ones. SMEs have access to support services from government agencies such as Morocco SME, and from several associations and private providers.

Morocco SME has developed support programmes for SMEs and self-entrepreneurs in the context of the Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020. Two main programmes target micro-enterprises (très petites enterprises): Istitmar Croissance supports investment and technology development projects through investment premiums; TAHFIZ supports system modernisation and IT upgrades through co-financing. Support to SMEs is channelled through Imtiaz Croissance, which provides investment premiums of up to 20% of the total investment, and Moussanada, which funds technical assistance and consulting services at between 60-80% of the project. The impact of the programmes is evaluated by an external auditor every two to three years.

As mentioned in the first section of this chapter, one of the main areas of progress is the creation of a system of incentives and support measures to promote employment and entrepreneurship through the Statut de l’auto-entrepreneur.19 Among the main pillars are: a simplified administrative procedure to benefit from this status, tax incentives, customised support and others. The auto-entrepreneur status was created in 2015 and has a target of 20 000 beneficiaries per year. As of May 2018, 32% of beneficiaries were women, and 54% were less than 34 years old; the activities engaged in were 43% in commerce, 35% in services, 15% in industry and 7% in handcrafts. The auto-entrepreneur status is also an innovative and comprehensive initiative to incentivise the formalisation of the economy.

In terms of public procurement, Morocco has a wide array of measures to support SME participation in this important market. First, a public procurement regulation reserves 20% for national SMEs since 2013. Since then, all relevant public entities have to reserve 20% in its yearly programmes and have to explicitly define whether a contract is reserved for SMEs only. Furthermore, the General Treasury has put into place a scheme to simplify the analysis of submissions and company profiles and has set up an electronic bidding system and database of suppliers with ready information for some companies. This adds to the existence of a 2014 decree on down payments for procurement to facilitate the financing for SMEs.20 Finally, and most importantly, an online platform for public procurement exists that SMEs to acess and apply for public contracts.21

In terms of outreach and training courses for SMEs and the government on public procurement, the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM), the main business association in the country, is playing a key role. The CGEM has developed several initiatives contributing to the dissemination of information and provision of training to expand the use of the e-procurement system.

Efforts have been made to promote the internationalisation of SMEs, mostly through the digitalisation of procedures. PortNet, a virtual platform to deal with the formalities of foreign trade in ports, has continued progressing and has now several documents in digital format (import and export licences, engagements, etc.). PortNet has now reached 26 000 users including exporters/importers, banks, etc.

Furthermore, a Decree of 19 May 2015 made these documents mandatory in digital form.22 There are also efforts towards the computerised exchange of information between PortNet and other technical departments, such as the ONSSA (National Office for the Sanitary Safety of Food Products) and EACCE (Autonomous Agency for the Control and Co-ordination of Exports). The goal is to reach the total digitalisation of foreign trade procedures by 2020.

Beyond the digitalisation of trade procedures, there have been increasing efforts to help SMEs integrate the global value chains and profit, technologically and financially, from the presence of multinational enterprises in Morocco. The main focus has been on the development of linkage programmes. The Industrial Acceleration Plan aims to nurture industrial ecosystems to improve the competitiveness of SMEs, and therefore includes a plan tailored to support their needs. It also aims to create a new dynamic between the heads of SMEs and large firms through strategic alliances that allow all to benefit and produce an overall stronger value chain. The government launched a programme in collaboration with business associations to support SMEs in their export activities, aiming to create 200 major exporters among SMEs in 4 years.

Some programmes have been put in place to enhance the capacity of support organisations to develop marketing opportunities for SMEs. On December 2017, the Moroccan Agency for the Development of Investment and Exports (AMDIE) was created, merging the Agency for Investment (AMDI) with the Export Promotion Centre (Maroc Export) and the Casablanca Exhibition Office (OFEC) into a single agency. The objective was to improve co-ordination with the private sector and investors and to streamline human and financial resources. It also aims to provide an integrated support for companies and therefore develop investment opportunities and promote Moroccan exports.

Also, the Islamic Centre for the Development of Trade (ICDT), in partnership with the firm Reload Consulting and the Moroccan Association of Exporters (Asmex), launched the “Pas à Pas Export” training program for Moroccan SMEs. The goal of the program is to promote internationalisation among small entrepreneurs by providing the necessary strategic and operational skills.

For further action: Morocco has made important progress in the promotion of SME growth and entrepreneurship, notably through the establishment of the Statut de l’auto –entrepreneur and numerous initiatives to increase access to public procurement and international markets. Morocco could keep track of the impact of these measures on SMEs and start-ups by implementing monitoring and evaluation techniques, in the context of Morocco SME impact evaluation programmes. Given the large number of actors involved, Morocco could also work towards ensuring that these actions are not disparate and remain co-ordinated towards its strategic goals.

Investing in entrepreneurial human capital

Regarding entrepreneurial learning in upper secondary education, Morocco has adopted a clear strategic vision and has reinforced the provision of formal education and vocational training as well as non-formal education. The strategic vision of the Educational System Reform advocates the need to train entrepreneurship and encourage the involvement of companies in technical and vocational training courses. This vision was adopted by the Higher Council of Education, Training and Scientific Research, the representative constitutional body of all stakeholders (including the state, companies and unions, civil society and the world of schools, teachers, trainers, students and parents). Similarly, the National Strategy for Vocational Training 2021 adopted by the Government Council in 2015 highlights the promotion and development of entrepreneurial, and financial education.

The training offer aiming to reinforce the entrepreneurial spirit has developed significantly in Morocco during the last years. Several initiatives encourage trainees to become more entrepreneurial. A number of companies and economic actors support education and vocational training initiatives. The Casablanca Stock Exchange promotes financial education. Professional bodies are active integrating entrepreneurship education within professional baccalaureates. International donors work with schools and training centres to develop soft skills, and to open schools to the business world. For example, the “ALEF Project” and the “PDEE, Entrepreneurship Development Program” value the contributions of the local ecosystem. Several projects promote self-employment and entrepreneurship as viable career prospects, including UNICEF’s “Pathway to Life” and “Pathways Project”, and the International Labour Organization's (ILO) “Understanding the Enterprise Program” (CLE). The program “Student Innovative Social” (EIS), in partnership with the British Council, supports the creation of the social enterprises. INJAZ23 Maghreb works with the Regional Academies of Education and Training to simulate business start-ups (“CP, Company Program” and “EMC, Entrepreneurship Master Class”), and together with businessmen promotes an entrepreneurial spirit (“It's My Business Project” and “Business Leaders”).

The main strategic document framing Morocco’s policies for women’s economic empowerment is the Second Government’s Plan for Equality (ICRAM 2), adopted in 2017 by the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development. Several initiatives support women’s entrepreneurship. Several networks target women in the different regions, some of them focusing on providing access to technology to women entrepreneurs coming from low income backgrounds (“Entre Elles”, Tatmine, Mobadara). The European Union (EU) has supported the implementation of ICRAM 2 with 45 million Euro.

In line with the National Strategy for Development and Promotion of Exports 2011-2016, the Moroccan government has supported training for internationalisation of SMEs, such as “Training days for Export Excellency”, putting forward specific funding mechanisms. The government has adopted a sectoral approach, as reflected in the “Les métiers mondiaux du Maroc”. 

For further action: In order to implement the strategic vision to include entrepreneurial learning in upper secondary education, an action plan should be developed to define the roles and responsibilities as well as the results to be achieved, integrated by monitoring and evaluation mechanisms as well as specific funding enabling to ensure good conditions of implementation. An equally necessary measure is the establishment of a systematic training of teachers and trainers on entrepreneurship as a key competence. The government should also develop a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the impact of measures implemented to support women’s entrepreneurship and SME internationalisation. More innovative training methods, such as online modules, could be developed to better support SME in their internationalisation efforts.

The way forward

It is clear that Morocco is a case from which other MED economies could draw inspiration to improve their SME policies. But it is also clear that there is still much to do to make of SMEs a vehicle for competitiveness and development. For example, although Morocco has a relatively diversified economy, it still relies on low value-added activities such as the extraction of natural resources and rain-fed agriculture; the informal economy, underemployment and unemployment are not uncommon; and the Human Development Index is lower than that of other MED economies, especially in terms of income. Morocco could (and is) for example, step up efforts towards regional development through SMEs and entrepreneurship; and continue working on the framework conditions needed for enterprises and individuals to thrive (infrastructure, education, financial markets, etc.). In terms of the particular policy areas analysed in this chapter, key actions that could be taken are as follows:

  • Adopting a more complete definition of SMEs, including employment criteria, and unifying the use of such definition across support policies and programmes.

  • Moving on with the statistical agenda by completing the establishment of the MSME Observatory and joining the OECD Scoreboard on Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs and the OECD-Eurostat Entrepreneurship Indicators Programme so that it can compare its conditions and performance with international peers.

  • Continuing working towards the improvement of the business environment by not only targeting specific indicators in Doing Business but also establishing a formal system for regulatory impact analysis and, importantly, an SME test. The completion of the ICE and the project to enable business start-up procedures online would be important in this regard too.

  • Consolidating the framework for the establishment of a registry of moveable assets and creating such an important mechanism for access to finance. At the same time, more work could be done to develop the market for alternative sources of finance, including equity.

  • Developing and implementing a comprehensive system for the monitoring and evaluation of SME support measures, in particular those related to enterprise creation and growth, in the context of Morocco SME impact evaluation programmes.

  • The National Commission on Public Procurement (Commission Nationale de la Commande Publique) could act as Public Procurement observatory and share data on public procurement and SMEs’ access.

  • Develop an action plan in order to implement the strategic vision to include entrepreneurial learning in upper secondary education. The plan should include monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and specific funding to ensure good conditions of implementation.

  • Develop a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the impact of measures implemented to support women’s entrepreneurship.

  • Develop more innovative training methods, such as online modules to support SME internationalisation.


← 1. Law 53-00,

← 2. Agreements have already been signed with the General Directorate for Taxes (DGI), the Social Security Agency (CNSS), BAM, and the National Office for Intellectual and Commercial Property (OMPIC).

← 3. Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade and Digital Economy, “Industrial Acceleration Plan 2014-2020”,

← 4. Morocco SME,

← 5. Comité national de l’environnement des affaires,

← 6. For example, in “Starting a business” Morocco has moved up 53 places; in “Paying taxes” 71; and in “Getting electricity” 50.

← 7. Organic Law No. 065-13 on the organisation and conduct of the work of the Government and the status of its members.

← 8. These efforts have benefited from the support of the project Enhancement of the Business Environment in the Southern Mediterranean (EBESM), which has helped MED partners to implement reforms identified in the SME Policy Index 2014.

← 9. The negative company name certificate can now be obtained online. Registration costs were reduced first by the replacing the 1% fee to a flat fee of MAD 1000, and since January 2018 the fee was completely eliminated. It is no longer necessary to deposit a certificate at the Labour Ministry. The use of physical company seals has been replaced through the use of the Integrated Tax System.

← 10. CNEA’s Action Plan was published in July 2017 and lasts 18 months.

← 11. Identifiant commun de l’Entreprise,

← 12. Articles 146, 164 and 198 of C.G.I.

← 13. El Hourri, A. (9 November 2017), “Difficultés des entreprises: ce que prévoit le projet de réforme”, Medias24,

← 14. Experian,

← 15. Creditinfo Maroc, In 2015, Credit Info bought Experian Maroc.

← 16. According to Doing Business, the depth of credit information system measures rules and practices affecting the coverage, scope and accessibility of credit information available through either a public credit registry or a private credit bureau.

← 17. Ministry of Economy and Finance, “Note de presentation du projet de loi portant réforme du droit des sûretés mobilières”,

← 18. The World Bank Enterprise Surveys (2013), “Morocco”,

← 19. Auto-entrepreneur,

← 20. Ministry of Economy and Finance, “Note de presentation du projet décret relative aux avances en matière de marchés publics”,

← 21. Portal Marocain des Marchés Publics,

← 22. Decree n°1675-15 du 30 rejeb 1436

← 23. A youth-centered non-profit organisation established in Jordan in 1999 active in the European Union and worldwide, including in the Middle East, North-Africa and Pakistan.

End of the section – Back to iLibrary publication page