Moroccan Currency Spotlight: Moroccan Dirham

In Business and Currency by Continental StaffLeave a Comment

Lets take a closer look at the currency used in Morocco – the dirham. Introduced in 1960, it has served as the monetary unit for what is one of the most diversified economies in the Arab world.

Fast Facts: Dirham

  • Moroccan Dihram Symbol: د.م.
  • Morocco Currency Code: MAD
  • Coins: 1, 5, 10, 20 & 50 santimat, ½, 1, 2, 5 & 10 dirhams
  • Banknotes: 20, 50, 100 & 200 dirhams
  • Moroccan GDP (nominal): US$109.201 billion (61st)
  • Central Bank: Bank Al-Maghrib

History: Currency used in Morocco

The term dirham was used in Morocco before the currency itself ever existed. Prior to 1882, the currency system was based on copper coins (falus), silver coins (dirham), and gold coins (benduqi). When the Moroccan rial was introduced, the dirham remained a subunit (10 dirham = 1 rial). From 1912-1960, the Moroccan franc was the official currency (the country was a French protectorate during most of this time).

On October 16, 1960, the dirham replaced the franc at a value of 100 francs = 1 dirham, though the former remained in circulation for about 14 years. The santim (the cent’s equivalent) replaced the franc at equal value in 1974 and has remained in place ever since. While the rial and franc are no longer Morocco’s official currency, these names are still used to to describe 5 santimat and 1 santim respectively. The terminology also varies with higher amounts of money and the language being spoken at the time (French or Arabic).

Notes and Coins

The first dirham banknotes were simply a rebranding of the existing franc. We’ll cover some of the more recent series. Custom notes (released 1987) all featured the reigning monarch (at the time), Hassan II. The reverse of the notes mostly featured Moroccan landmarks, scenes, or designs related to the country in some way. While a 20-dirham note also featuring Hassan II was released in 1996, the next major series was issued in 2002 and was updated to feature King Mohammed VI along with other designs and pictures on the obverse. The most recent series was released in 2013 and features the king along with the coat of arms on one side and Moroccan flora, fauna, or landmarks on the other. An open door to the left of Mohammed VI’s portrait is meant to symbolize Moroccan architecture along with the country’s increased openness following progressive reforms.

The coins feature a variety of designs on both sides. While some of the higher denominations feature the reigning monarch, others simply read Kingdom of Morocco and display the Arms of the Kingdom. The obverse alternates also between the arms and inscription and other designs related to the country.

Value: USD to MAD

For most of the last 10 years, the MAD fluctuated around the 8 MAD to 1 USD mark. On July 11, 2008 the MAD reached a relative high against the USD when it was valued at 7.2265 to 1. Since then, the value has generally stayed at slightly more than 8:1 (with a few periods of higher value), though this has changed lately with the strong USD. After falling sharply relative to the USD, the MAD ended up at a low of 10.122 to 1 on March 13, 2015. The value has recovered somewhat, though it remains above 9 MAD to 1 USD.

The current value at time of writing (9:50AM June 5, 2015) is 9.7989 MAD to 1 USD.


Value of the MAD to 1 USD over the last 5 years

The current value at time of writing (9:50AM June 5, 2015) is 7.8098 MAD to 1 CAD.


Value of the MAD to 1 CAD over the last 5 years

Moroccan Economy

Since the early 1990’s, the Moroccan economy has become increasingly liberalized, with former state assets becoming privatized. Despite the country’s fairly small size, it has become a relative power and success when regional comparisons are done (i.e. Africa, North Africa, the Arab world). It is the 5th largest economy on the continent and also has the 4th highest quality of life behind South Africa, Algeria, and Tunisia. In addition, Morocco has the second largest non-oil GDP in the Arab world, behind regional power Egypt. While the increased economic freedom has helped the country grow in global importance, it has contributed to a sizable income gap. The unemployment rate has always been fairly high and remains a prevailing issue, though it has dropped slightly as of late. Finally, the cost of importing petroleum and a large external debt are persistent problems.

The Moroccan economy’s most important resources include agriculture, phosphates (chemicals), and tourism. Industry in the country accounts for about a sixth of the GDP but is increasingly becoming more important. Agriculture is a crucial sector, employing about 40% of the workforce. The variety of crops is large thanks to the environmental diversity of the country, with barley and wheat in the rainy northeast, and more Mediterranean style products (olives, wine, citrus) on the Atlantic coast. Tourism is a major component of the economy, with Morocco a popular destination, especially among nearby Europeans. Marrakech and Fez are some of the most popular tourist hotspots, but the government has been working to make the country even more accessible and appealing to tourists around the world.


Final Thoughts

While there are persistent issues with no simple solution in Morocco, it remains a stable and largely economically successful country. With a high amount of investment (and visitors) from Europe and closeness to other Western countries with trade and politics, Morocco looks to continue its forward momentum.

For a broader understanding of Moroccan history and culture check out our Country of the Week profile. For information about traveling to Morocco then be sure to follow our Travel Guide.

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