A 2012 World Bank report suggested that as much as one-fifth of private sector employment in Morocco comes from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), while the African Development Bank reported in 2014 that SMEs provide roughly half of the industrial sector’s employment and nearly 40% of its turnover.

The authorities are particularly keen to bolster SMEs in the arts and handicrafts industry, which has been the recipient of government support since 2007 under the Vision 2015 plan. The government strategy comprises three components: including the participation of larger companies in the production, distribution and financing of artisanal SMEs to help boost turnover; increased collaboration between SMEs, including artisanal chambers of commerce and support networks; and measures to improve the living and working conditions of artisanal SME employees.

By the Numbers

Vision 2015 set out the following objectives: to double sales, generate an additional Dh4bn (€435.2m), multiply exports 10-fold, create 115,000 jobs, establish 300 SMEs and train 60,000 people. As of the end of 2013, the sector’s turnover had reached Dh20.2bn (€2.2bn), accounting for an annual growth rate of 12% since the launch of the strategy. The sector’s value added, on the other hand, had exceeded its target by 40% in 2013. The number of SMEs increased from 120 to 800 between 2007 and 2013, while the number of new jobs rose by a more modest pace during that period, registering an annual increase of 2.2% and adding up to 53,000 positions.

The bulk of artisanal activity is concentrated around Marrakech and Casablanca, accounting for roughly 80% of all output in the country. That said, growth is also increasing in areas such as Oujda in the Oriental province, which saw close to a 200% jump in exports year-on-year (y-o-y). Infrastructure has also been developed to produce and market handcrafted goods. These include 54 artisanal centres, 11 artisanal villages, an artisanal complex and 53 centres dedicated to craftswomen, known as Dar Sanaa, among others.

Skills & Training

The Ministry of Handicraft and Social and Solidarity Economy has worked to strengthen vocational and continuing education, encouraging younger generations to take up handicraft professions. An action plan was put in place under Vision 2015 to upgrade existing vocational training centres and establish new ones. The number of vocational education graduates reached 29,198 under the strategy, with females accounting for 53% of the total.

To boost continuing education, the plan organised training sessions in existing establishments and mobile units, introducing craftspeople to management and accountancy techniques. These sessions benefitted almost 19,000 craftspeople, of which 28% were women.

Promoting Artisanal Exports

Despite fluctuations in export rates in recent years, a sizeable improvement was registered in 2014 with exports of handcrafted goods rising 14.2% y-o-y on the back of state efforts carried out to diversify trade partners and open up markets like the US, Canada and Australia – although according to local press reports, European markets saw the biggest jumps with artisanal exports to Spain increasing by 105% and Switzerland by 76%.

Additionally, a certification programme of mandatory standards, labelling and collective trademarks was launched, guaranteeing a better quality of handicraft products. This resulted in a framework of 203 standards and 15 collective trademarks, which are all part of the national label, “Morocco Handmade”. This initiative is part of a broader strategy being implemented by the ministry to increase the standing of Moroccan handcrafted goods on the international market in the face of rising global competition and uncertainty.

“The labelling strategy stands today more than ever as a strategic and indispensable tool for trade and development, lowering the technical barriers to commerce in anticipation of the sustainability and extension of Moroccan handcrafted products on the international marketplace,” Fatema Marouane, the minister of handicraft and social and solidarity economy, told OBG.