SPECIAL REPORT BY YINKA OPANEYE
A People Consultant supporting technology startups in developing their teams and organisational growth. He also conducts research into Digital Finance. He is currently reviewing financial sectors of the EU-28 countries.
With a GDP of $120 million, the Moroccan economy is considered the strongest economy in Africa according to the African Development Bank. The service sector dominates the Moroccan economy, contributing around 55% of GDP. Within this stands its financial services sector which has the highest ranked global financial centre in Africa (2017), and according to the latest financial system stability assessment conducted by the IMF its banks remain well-regulated and sufficiently capitalised.
Banks, monitored by the Central Bank of Morocco (Bank Al Maghreb – BAM), account for nearly half of the country’s financial system. Of the 19 banks, the top three are responsible for over two-thirds of all bank assets and deposits. These are: Attijariwafa Bank, La Banque Populaire du Maroc and La Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur which account for 25%, 24% and 12.7% of the market respectively. But, this does not mean the system is not witnessing dynamic changes. Within the past ten years (from 2007), the level of bank penetration jumped from 43 to 63 percent and the rate of bank density (branches per 10,000 residents) increased by 50%.
Since 2007, BAM has been making discernible e orts to improve financial inclusion. In 2014, it developed a new framework (No. 103-12) published in the Journal Officiel in March 2017 (Banking Law). The law creates two categories of financial providers thereby increasing competition within the payment services arena. A new category, loosely translated as ‘participative banking’, allows non-banks to o er payment services enabling cash transfers and withdrawals of cash from payment accounts. Of the ten operators that applied to BAM to join the scheme were granted licenses. However, there are some delays in the launching of these new services. The Council of Ulema, responsible for declaring them ‘Sharia compliant’, has been slow in doing so. This meant that as of September 2017 only three were available to o er their services.
Within the realm of cryptocurrencies, Morocco is following a similar route to its African neighbours in its slightly sceptic treatment of the instrument. As recently as November 2017, The Exchange Office banned Bitcoin and issued stiff threats aimed at cryptocurrency enthusiasts in the country. According to the governor of BAM, Abdellatif El Jouahri, Bitcoin fails to meet the three criteria required to define it as a currency: be a means of payment, a store of value and an instrument of saving. This interdiction came nearly one week after the announcement of accepting Bitcoin payment by Morocco Trade and Development Services (MTDS), the country’s first interview provider. It means MTDS now only accepts Bitcoin payment only from foreign customers.
It remains to be seen whether mobile money will take o in Morocco as it has in some other African nations. However, this new law opening up its banking system is mirroring the actions taken by other countries where fintech is thriving.
For a more detailed report on fintech across the continent, please read our free report: Exploring African fintech (www.okahr.co/ exploring-african-FinTech/).