Looking to diversify trade relations outside its traditional area of focus, Morocco has taken steps to deepen its relationship with the continent in general. Moroccan trade with Africa was worth Dh37.3bn (€3.35bn) in 2017, according to latest full year data from the Office des Changes, equivalent to 5.4% of the value of the kingdom’s total foreign trade for the year. This figure was down slightly from Dh38.3bn (€3.44bn) in 2016, but represents significant long-term increases from Dh28.4bn (€2.6) in 2010. While the country is running an overall structural trade deficit, exports far exceed imports with regard to African trade, with the former worth Dh22.1bn (€2bn) and the latter hitting Dh15.2bn (€1.4bn) in 2017. Prior to 2014 this was not the case; however, imports from the continent have been falling since then due in part to falling commodities prices. Moroccan exports, meanwhile, have more than doubled since 2010, up from Dh10.8bn (€971.4m).
Shipments to the continent accounted for 8.9% of all Moroccan exports in 2017, up from 7.2% in 2010. Semi-finished goods made up the largest category, accounting for Dh9.7bn (€872.4m) in 2017, or 43.8% of the total, followed by consumer goods, with Dh3.1bn (€278.8m), or 13.9%. Imports from Africa by contrast held steady at around 5% of total imports between 2010 and 2015, before dropping to 3.5% in 2017.
Ethiopia was the kingdom’s largest sub-Saharan export market and its fifteenth-largest destination worldwide in 2017, thanks to a 218% rise in the value of exports over the previous year to Dh2.4bn (€215.8m). This increase followed the signing of seven agreements between the two countries during a visit by King Mohammed VI to Ethiopia in late 2016. Agreements included accords on economic cooperation and trade promotion, as well as a deal to build a joint-venture fertiliser factory, which Moroccan state-owned chemical company Office Cherifien des Phosphates will provide with feedstock. Fertiliser sales accounted for nearly all of the value of Moroccan exports to Ethiopia in 2017.
Other key sub-Saharan export markets were all in West Africa, in line with geographic proximity and Morocco’s long-standing economic focus on the region. Mauritania was the kingdom’s 22nd largest export market overall, with sales of Dh1.78bn (€160.1m), followed by Senegal in 23rd place (Dh1.73bn, €155.6m), Nigeria in 25th place (Dh1.61bn, €144.8m) and Côte d’Ivoire in 27th place (Dh1.55bn, €139.4m).
The largest sub-Saharan exporter to Morocco in 2017 was South Africa, accounting for Dh968m (€87.1m), ranking it the 56th largest exporter to Morocco overall. Its exports to the kingdom were dominated by combustible minerals, mineral oils and bituminous materials, the bulk of which was coal, which accounted for 54.3% of total shipments from South Africa, followed by rubber and rubber products with 32.4%.
The kingdom has recently taken several proactive steps to further boost trade, such as applying to join the Economic Community of West African States – though it is unclear how it could do so given the conflict between the union’s common external tariff and Morocco’s other trade agreements. The application came shortly after Morocco re-joined the African Union. Since the end of 2016 King Mohammed VI has undertaken a series of visits around Africa, starting with countries outside francophone West Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Nigeria, leading to several major economic agreements such as the aforementioned Ethiopian fertiliser plant and plans for a gas pipeline connecting the country with Nigeria.
In March 2018 Morocco was also one of 44 countries to sign up to the African Continental Free Trade Area. The agreement, which will come into force once 22 states have ratified it, requires member states to remove tariffs on a wide range of goods – though exactly which goods will be included had yet to be specified at the time the agreement was signed, making the full implications of the plan unclear. As of February 2018, 18 countries had authorised the agreement.