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Western Sahara



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Introduction

Background: Morocco virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991 cease fire; a referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed and is not expected to occur until at least 2002.

Geography

Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco

Geographic coordinates: 24 30 N, 13 00 W

Map references: Africa

Area
  total: 266,000 sq km
  land: 266,000 sq km
  water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative: about the size of Colorado

Land boundaries
  total: 2,046 km
  border countries: Algeria 42 km, Mauritania 1,561 km, Morocco 443 km

Coastline: 1,110 km

Maritime claims: contingent upon resolution of sovereignty issue

Climate: hot, dry desert; rain is rare; cold offshore air currents produce fog and heavy dew

Terrain: mostly low, flat desert with large areas of rocky or sandy surfaces rising to small mountains in south and northeast

Elevation extremes
  lowest point: Sebjet Tah -55 m
  highest point: unnamed location 463 m

Natural resources: phosphates, iron ore

Land use
  arable land: 0%
  permanent crops: 0%
  permanent pastures: 19%
  forests and woodland: 0%
  other: 81%

Irrigated land: NA sq km

Natural hazards: hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind can occur during winter and spring; widespread harmattan haze exists 60% of time, often severely restricting visibility

Environment - current issues: sparse water and lack of arable land

Environment - international agreements
  party to: none of the selected agreements
  signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

People

Population: 244,943 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure
  0-14 years: NA
  15-64 years: NA
  65 years and over: NA

Population growth rate: 2.29% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 45.07 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 16.11 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: -6.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 133.59 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth
  total population: 49.81 years
  male: 48.65 years
  female: 51.33 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 6.64 children born/woman (2000 est.)

Nationality
  noun: Sahrawi(s), Sahraoui(s)
  adjective: Sahrawian, Sahraouian

Ethnic groups: Arab, Berber

Religions: Muslim

Languages: Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic

Literacy
  definition: NA
  total population: NA%
  male: NA%
  female: NA%

Government

Country name
  conventional long form: none
  conventional short form: Western Sahara
  former: Spanish Sahara

Data code: WI

Government type: legal status of territory and question 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 of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR); territory partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania in April 1976, with Morocco acquiring northern two-thirds; Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979; Morocco moved to occupy that sector shortly thereafter and has since asserted administrative control; the Polisario's government-in-exile was seated as an OAU member in 1984; guerrilla activities continued sporadically, until a UN-monitored cease-fire was implemented 6 September 1991

Capital: none

Administrative divisions: none (under de facto control of Morocco)

Suffrage: none; a UN sponsored voter identification campaign has yet to be completed

Executive branch: none

International organization participation: none

Diplomatic representation in the US: none

Diplomatic representation from the US: none

Economy

Economy - overview: Western Sahara, a territory poor in natural resources and lacking sufficient rainfall, depends on pastoral nomadism, fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for the population. Most of the food for the urban population must be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan Government. Incomes and standards of living are substantially below the Moroccan level.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $NA

GDP - real growth rate: NA%

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $NA

GDP - composition by sector
  agriculture: NA%
  industry: NA%
  services: 40%-45% (1996 est.)

Population below poverty line: NA%

Household income or consumption by percentage share
  lowest 10%: NA%
  highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices): NA%

Labor force: 12,000

Labor force - by occupation: animal husbandry and subsistence farming 50%

Unemployment rate: NA%

Budget
  revenues: $NA
  expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA

Industries: phosphate mining, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Electricity - production: 85 million kWh (1998)

Electricity - production by source
  fossil fuel: 100%
  hydro: 0%
  nuclear: 0%
  other: 0% (1998)

Electricity - consumption: 79 million kWh (1998)

Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998)

Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998)

Agriculture - products: fruits and vegetables (grown in the few oases); camels, sheep, goats (kept by nomads)

Exports: $NA

Exports - commodities: phosphates 62%

Exports - partners: Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara, so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts

Imports: $NA

Imports - commodities: fuel for fishing fleet, foodstuffs

Imports - partners: Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara, so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts

Debt - external: $NA

Economic aid - recipient: $NA

Currency: 1 Moroccan dirham (DH) = 100 centimes

Exchange rates: Moroccan dirhams (DH) per US$1 - 10.051 (January 2000), 9.804 (1999), 9.604 (1998), 9.527 (1997), 8.716 (1996), 8.540 (1995)

Fiscal year: calendar year

Communications

Telephones - main lines in use: about 2,000 (1999 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 0 (1999)

Telephone system: sparse and limited system
  domestic: NA
  international: tied into Morocco's system by microwave radio relay, tropospheric scatter, and satellite; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) linked to Rabat, Morocco

Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 0, shortwave 0 (1998)

Radios: 56,000 (1997)

Television broadcast stations: NA

Televisions: 6,000 (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): NA

Transportation

Railways: 0 km

Highways
  total: 6,200 km
  paved: 1,350 km
  unpaved: 4,850 km (1991 est.)

Ports and harbors: Ad Dakhla, Cabo Bojador, Laayoune (El Aaiun)

Airports: 12 (1999 est.)

Airports - with paved runways
  total: 3
  2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (1999 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways
  total: 9
  1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
  914 to 1,523 m: 5
  under 914 m: 3 (1999 est.)

Heliports: 1 (1999 est.)

Military

Military branches: NA

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $NA

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: NA%

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international: claimed and administered by Morocco, but sovereignty is unresolved and the UN is attempting to hold a referendum on the issue; the UN-administered cease-fire has been in effect since September 1991

 

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