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Africa :: Western Sahara
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Western Sahara
  • Introduction :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast of Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. After Spain withdrew from its former colony of Spanish Sahara in 1976, Morocco annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara and claimed the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front contesting Morocco's sovereignty ended in a 1991 cease-fire and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation. As part of this effort, the UN sought to offer a choice to the peoples of the Western Sahara between independence (favored by the Polisario Front) or integration into Morocco. A proposed referendum never took place due to lack of agreement on voter eligibility. The 2,700 km- (1,700 mi-) long defensive sand berm, built by the Moroccans from 1980 to 1987 and running the length of the territory, continues to separate the opposing forces with Morocco controlling the roughly 80 percent of the territory west of the berm. Local demonstrations criticizing the Moroccan authorities occur regularly, and there are periodic ethnic tensions between the native Sahrawi population and Moroccan immigrants. Morocco maintains a heavy security presence in the territory.
  • Geography :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco
    24 30 N, 13 00 W
    Africa
    total: 266,000 sq km
    land: 266,000 sq km
    water: 0 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 78
    about the size of Colorado
    total: 2,049 km
    border countries (3): Algeria 41 km, Mauritania 1,564 km, Morocco 444 km
    1,110 km
    contingent upon resolution of sovereignty issue
    hot, dry desert; rain is rare; cold offshore air currents produce fog and heavy dew
    mostly low, flat desert with large areas of rocky or sandy surfaces rising to small mountains in south and northeast
    lowest point: Sebjet Tah -55 m
    highest point: unnamed elevation 805 m
    phosphates, iron ore
    agricultural land: 18.8%
    arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 18.8%
    forest: 2.7%
    other: 78.5% (2011 est.)
    NA
    hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind can occur during winter and spring; widespread harmattan haze exists 60% of time, often severely restricting visibility
    sparse water and lack of arable land
    the waters off the coast are particularly rich fishing areas
  • People and Society :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • noun: Sahrawi(s), Sahraoui(s)
    adjective: Sahrawi, Sahrawian, Sahraouian
    Arab, Berber
    Standard Arabic (national), Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic
    Muslim
    570,866 (July 2013 est.)
    note: estimate is based on projections by age, sex, fertility, mortality, and migration; fertility and mortality are based on data from neighboring countries (July 2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 172
    0-14 years: 37.83% (male 109,147/female 106,789)
    15-24 years: 19.63% (male 56,412/female 55,624)
    25-54 years: 33.93% (male 95,296/female 98,391)
    55-64 years: 4.87% (male 12,974/female 14,829)
    65 years and over: 3.75% (male 9,406/female 11,998) (2015 est.)
    population pyramid:
    total dependency ratio: 41%
    youth dependency ratio: 37.1%
    elderly dependency ratio: 3.8%
    potential support ratio: 26.1% (2014 est.)
    total: 20.8 years
    male: 20.3 years
    female: 21.3 years (2014 est.)
    2.82% (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    30.24 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 40
    8.34 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 79
    urban population: 80.9% of total population (2015)
    rate of urbanization: 3.27% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
    Laayoune 262,000 (2014)
    at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
    0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 0.87 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
    total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
    total: 54.7 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 59.61 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 49.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 27
    total population: 62.64 years
    male: 60.35 years
    female: 65.02 years (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 190
    4 children born/woman (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 38
    NA
    NA
    NA
  • Government :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: Western Sahara
    former: Rio de Oro, Saguia el Hamra, Spanish Sahara
    legal status of territory and issue of sovereignty unresolved; territory contested by Morocco and Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro), which in February 1976 formally proclaimed a government-in-exile, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), based out of refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria, led by President Mohamed ABDELAZIZ
    Laayoune (administrative center)
    time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in April; ends last Sunday in September
    none officially, the territory west of the Moroccan berm falls under de facto Moroccan control; Morocco claims the territory of Western Sahara, the political status of which is considered undetermined by the US Government; portions of the regions Guelmim-Es Smara and Laayoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra as claimed by Morocco lie within Western Sahara; Morocco also claims Oued Eddahab-Lagouira, another region that falls entirely within Western Sahara
    none; (residents of Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara participate in Moroccan elections)
    none
    none
    AU, CAN (observer), WFTU (NGOs)
    none
    none
  • Economy :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • Western Sahara has a small market-based economy whose main industries are fishing, phosphate mining, and pastoral nomadism. The territory's arid desert climate makes sedentary agriculture difficult, and Western Sahara imports much of its food. The Moroccan Government administers Western Sahara's economy and is a key source of employment, infrastructure development, and social spending in the territory. Western Sahara's unresolved legal status makes the exploitation of its natural resources a contentious issue between Morocco and the Polisario. Morocco and the EU in December 2013 finalized a four-year agreement allowing European vessels to fish off the coast of Morocco, including disputed waters off the coast of Western Sahara. Oil has never been found in Western Sahara in commercially significant quantities, but Morocco and the Polisario have quarreled over who has the right to authorize and benefit from oil exploration in the territory. Western Sahara's main long-term economic challenge is the development of a more diverse set of industries capable of providing greater employment and income to the territory.
    $906.5 million (2007 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 205
    $NA
    NA%
    $2,500 (2007 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 196
    agriculture: NA%
    industry: NA%
    services: 40% (2007 est.)
    fruits and vegetables (grown in the few oases); camels, sheep, goats (kept by nomads); fish
    phosphate mining, handicrafts
    NA%
    144,000 (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 178
    agriculture: 50%
    industry and services: 50% (2005 est.)
    NA%
    NA%
    lowest 10%: NA%
    highest 10%: NA%
    revenues: $NA
    expenditures: $NA
    NA%
    NA%
    calendar year
    NA%
    $NA
    phosphates 62% (2012 est.)
    $NA
    fuel for fishing fleet, foodstuffs
    $NA
    Moroccan dirhams (MAD) per US dollar -
    8.24 (2014)
    8.3803 (2013)
    8.6 (2012)
    8.0899 (2011)
    8.4172 (2010)
  • Energy :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • 90 million kWh (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 202
    83.7 million kWh (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 201
    0 kWh (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 214
    0 kWh (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 216
    58,000 kW (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 185
    100% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 41
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 206
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 210
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 142
    0 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 144
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 206
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 143
    0 bbl (1 January 2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 208
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 209
    2,040 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 189
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 144
    1,702 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 184
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 209
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 209
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 208
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 79
    0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 208
    316,100 Mt (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 190
  • Communications :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • general assessment: sparse and limited system
    domestic: NA
    international: country code - 212; tied into Morocco's system by microwave radio relay, tropospheric scatter, and satellite; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) linked to Rabat, Morocco (2008)
    Morocco's state-owned broadcaster, Radio-Television Marocaine (RTM), operates a radio service from Laayoune and relays TV service; a Polisario-backed radio station also broadcasts (2008)
    AM 2, FM 0, shortwave 0 (1998)
    NA
    .eh
  • Transportation :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • 6 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 174
    total: 3
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2013)
    total: 3
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
    914 to 1,523 m: 1
    under 914 m:
    1 (2013)
    major seaport(s): Ad Dakhla, Laayoune (El Aaiun)
  • Military :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • males age 16-49: 79,489
    females age 16-49: 87,362 (2010 est.)
    male: 5,523
    female: 5,429 (2010 est.)
  • Transnational Issues :: WESTERN SAHARA

  • many neighboring states reject Moroccan administration of Western Sahara; several states have extended diplomatic relations to the "Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic" represented by the Polisario Front in exile in Algeria, while others recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara; approximately 90,000 Sahrawi refugees continue to be sheltered in camps in Tindouf, Algeria, which has hosted Sahrawi refugees since the 1980s
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