With a population of around 36 million people, an adult literacy rate of 71.7 percent as at 2017, and a current GDP of over USD 1oo Bn, the Kingdom of Morocco can be thought to be faring better than most African countries. It ranks 6th regarding internet penetration across the continent with 22.6 million internet users, according to Internet World Stats. And as such, Morocco accounts for up to 5 percent of all internet hosts in Africa despite being only a mid-sized country by African standards. Also, as pointed out by Morocco’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency, over 90 percent (20.83 million) of the country’s internet users access via mobile, and their number rose by 31 percent in 2017.
More so, the country ranked 72nd out of 140 in the annual Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 put together by the World Economic Forum. In the business end of things, the country can not be said to be doing too poorly as a 2016 IBRD Report ranked Morocco 75th out of 189 countries. While these could be construed to imply that the country does serve up an attractive business climate, the Kingdom is somewhat let down when innovation is the subject of discussion as it occupies the 92nd spot on the rankings.
Thanks to the publications of the National Federation of eCommerce in Morocco (FNEM), the country can be mentioned in the same breath as a handful of other African countries with reliable data on eCommerce transactions. By concerted efforts between the FNEM, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), and the Interbank Monetary Center (CMI), it is believed that an eCommerce survey is conducted on a yearly basis based on the data collected from these institutions.
Moroccan eCommerce At A Glance
Morocco ranks highly when it comes to eCommerce in Africa as it is often mentioned in the same breath as the usual names; Mauritius, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. Thus, the Moroccan eCommerce market can be thought of as vibrant. The country also ranked 72nd worldwide on the B2C eCommerce Index list put together by the United Nations Conference On Trade And Investment (UNCTAD) in 2015.
A total of USD 211 Mn in revenue is believed to have been realized by retail websites affiliated to the Moroccan Electronic Interbanking Center in the first nine months of 2017, and interestingly, this represented a 51 percent growth from the previous year.
Just like in other countries where it has a presence, Pan-African online retail giants, Jumia, is known to be leading the pack in Moroccan eCommerce. The company boasts over five million visitors monthly and an average of up to 230,000 visits on a daily.
The local platform, Hmizate, also appears to be a key player in the market, as the company known to churn out special sales events such as Mobile Week, Black Friday, and Ramadan Special — keeping international retailers on their toes in the process.
For specialist websites, the electronics environment is believed to be dominated by Inwi, while the beauty scene and food court have Citymall and La Vie Claire as the big guns respectively. Switching to housing and decoration would reveal Richbond and Azurahome as leaders, while online fashion sales appear to be the forte of such platforms as Decathlon and Vetement.
It may not seem as glamorous a prospect when it comes to cross-border trade, especially when comparisons are made with the western world. While the dearth of online payment systems has somewhat hampered the development of Moroccan eCommerce, online payments and credit cards are beginning to see increased use. As per cross-border trade, global eCommerce giants, AliExpress, is known to have launched a local version of their website in the country. More so, Amazon France, in partnership with some other intermediary companies, is known to deliver Amazon orders to Morocco.
As indicated by reports from the Moroccan Electronic Interbanking Center, significant growth was recorded for internet payment activity in the first half of 2018, with the number of online payments soaring to 32 percent. Also, internet payment systems such as PayPal are also gaining popularity in the country, having entered the market not quite long ago.
The Moroccan Government also appears to be working on the implementation of policies and strategies that are aimed at accelerating the digital transformation of the country. This is evident in what has been dubbed the ‘2020 Morocco Digital Plan’; which has its sights trained on transforming the country into a regional digital hub.
eCommerce Sales And Customers In Morocco
The total value of online sales made by credit cards and electronic payment methods in Morocco stood at USD 280 Mn, with 6.6 million recorded transactions in 2017 — and these figures are as reported by the Moroccan Interbank Electronic Payment Center. This may seem modest until comparisons with data from 2016 prove it quite impressive, as it represents a growth of 82.1 percent in the number of transactions and a 50.3 percent increase in the volume of transactions.
The figures from the Center also place the average amount spent by Moroccan online shoppers per purchase at USD 42.80. While this is lower than the averages obtainable from America and Europe, recognition should be given to the fact that the figure only considers online purchases made by other methods but cash (which happens to be the most preferred payment method in Morocco).
Having pointed that out, total e-commerce value, including cash-on-delivery transactions, stands at USD 2.35 Bn and accounts for up to 2 percent of the country’s total trade in goods and services, according to Hootsuite. It also seems Moroccans are refining their shopping habits as consumers appear to be developing something of a penchant for online shopping. The total number of eCommerce customers in Morocco is believed to have risen above 4.2 million, which interestingly represents 12 percent of its total population. This fraction increases to 15.5 percent in cities and dips to 2.5 percent in rural areas.
Going further, more than half of these eCommerce customers are billed to have made between 2 to 5 purchases annually. According to findings from an Annual Report put together by the Moroccan National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency, the time savings which eCommerce affords is found to be the biggest motivation for consumers who shop online. This is followed by the special price deals offered on e-commerce websites.
As reported by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency, the number of smartphones in Morocco rose to 18.06 million in 2016; a whole 3.36 million higher than the figure arrived at in the previous year. From this, it could be surmised that the potential for mobile eCommerce in the country will continue to grow as smartphone usage continues to expand throughout Morocco — thus, underlining its importance in the market.
Citing a study conducted by Jumia, around 73 percent of its clients are known to visit via their mobile phones, with a successful purchase rate of 70 percent. More so, smartphones are known to be the most popular products on Jumia, whether regarding items sold or in revenue realized. With that in mind, Moroccan eCommerce platforms are known to be throwing considerable weight behind mobile commerce as it may have been identified as the future source of growth for e-commerce in the country.
Obstacles To eCommerce In Morocco
It appears such perks as time savings, the variety afforded, the price comparisons supported, as well as the ease and convenience which it provides, form the bulk of the reasons eCommerce sees increased patronage in Morocco. However, some amount of skepticism borne out of lack of trust yet bedevils eCommerce in the country. Such factors as counterfeit products, the irregularities surrounding the use of sensitive personal information, as well as the lack of guarantee on delivery, have been identified as the most common impediments to the growth of the sector. Generally, the major obstacles to the development of eCommerce in Morocco can be found in the apparent lack of trust in the venture and stiff exchange regulations.
Forms Of eCommerce In Morocco
eCommerce in Morocco is heavily linked to the possibility afforded Moroccans to buy both local and foreign products sold by companies online. This type of B2C transaction mainly forms the most popular connotation of the concept.
As pointed out in a report put together by IPEMED, online retail giants, Jumia, takes the cake in this regard as it is the most visited eCommerce website in Morocco. The company kicked off operations in Morocco back in 2012 and with a traffic rate of 84.6 percent locally, and 15.4 percent from the rest of the world (what can be considered a significant share of the Moroccan diaspora), it currently ranks 26th amongst websites in Morocco according to the IPEMED report. A good illustration of the clout garnered by Jumia in the Moroccan eCommerce space can be cited in its activity over one week in May 2015 where the company claimed to have attracted up to 1.7 million unique visitors on its website and sold 4,000 smartphones. Other eCommerce platforms such as Kaymu.ma and La Redoute.ma also appear to be making significant strides. Items of fashion and electronic gadgets seem to get the most attention from consumers concerning shopping from these Moroccan platforms.
From the international scene, eCommerce platforms such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Cdiscount, are known to dominate. While these platforms may not precisely have establishments in the country, they see a considerable amount of traffic from locals as a significant number of Moroccans are known to throng these websites for their shopping needs.
In the area of Moroccan goods and services, the most visited eCommerce websites can be found in companies that are known to offer public services. That said, the site of an air carrier, Royal Air Maroc, is known to attract a lot of traffic both locally and internationally.
Electricity and potable water online purchase platform, Lydec, also sees a considerable number of visits. The eCommerce venture also claims up to USD 8.9 Mn in processed payments since inception to date.
Morocco’s tourism portal, Visit Morocco, is also known to see a lot of activity from both locals and tourists who are looking to explore the country. Also, worthy of mention is Hellofood; an eCommerce platform which offers already-cooked meals from national restaurants and caterers. This platform is known to see significant activity from Moroccan online shoppers, as do other air carriers which, according to Les Echos, accounted for up to 43 percent of Moroccan eCommerce in 2012, with such names as Royal Air Maroc, Jet4you, and AirArabia appearing to be key players.
Other notable names in this form of eCommerce include such Moroccan product establishments as computer equipment seller; Microchoix.ma and women clothes retailer; Shoppeos.ma. Platforms like Boutika.ma and MesCadeaux.ma are also noteworthy in this regard.
While most of the literature on eCommerce is centered around the B2C aspect which entails the purchase of products or services from companies, the Moroccan case will be incomplete if consideration is not given to eCommerce among individuals. Some classified ads platforms which cater for this purpose can be found in the likes of avito.ma, and marocbikir. In relative terms, it would appear that this type of eCommerce is associated with eCommerce the same way the informal economy is related to the economy.
This category is reserved for those active Moroccan eCommerce platforms whose offerings cannot be readily characterized. Most of them are Moroccan platforms developed for products of diverse origin. Good examples of such platforms can be cited in the earlier mentioned Hmizate, Superdeal, and AllCityBon. Other less popular ones include Freya for fashion, Kitea for furniture, and Mubawab for real estate.
On a final note, Moroccan eCommerce can be thought to making significant progress even though there is still a lot left to be desired. While it may seem that the country’s eCommerce sector is yet to hit the heights of its counterparts in parts of Africa and the Middle East, it is essential to recognize that eCommerce is still developing in the country with the presence of both local and multinational players. The current trend is skewed in favor of the purchase of foreign products by locals, and the Moroccan government might have some work cut out for it in attempting to balance this phenomenon with policies that can promote the export of products through eCommerce.
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