Reference > World Factbook, 2008
  The World Factbook.  2008.
Western Sahara
Flag of Western Sahara                                Map of Western Sahara
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 UN-brokered cease-fire; a UN-organized referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed. In April 2007, Morocco presented an autonomy plan for the territory to the UN, which the U.S. considers serious and credible. The Polisario also presented a plan to the UN in 2007. Since August 2007, representatives from the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front have met three times to negotiate the status of Western Sahara, with a fourth round of negotiations planned for March 2008.
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: 0.02%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.98% (2005)
Irrigated land:NA
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
Geography—note:the waters off the coast are particularly rich fishing areas
note: estimate is based on projections by age, sex, fertility, mortality, and migration; fertility and mortality are based on data from neighboring countries (July 2007 est.)
Age structure:0-14 years: 45.4% (male 88,176/female 85,421)
15-64 years: 52.3% (male 98,345/female 101,895)
65 years and over: 2.3% (male 3,705/female 5,075) (2007 est.)
Population growth rate:NA
Birth rate:NA 39.95 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate:NA
Sex ratio:NA
Infant mortality rate:total: NA
male: NA
female: NA
Life expectancy at birth:total population: NA
male: NA
female: NA
Total fertility rate:NA
HIV/AIDS—adult prevalence rate:NA
HIV/AIDS—people living with HIV/AIDS:NA
Nationality:noun: Sahrawi(s), Sahraoui(s)
adjective: Sahrawi, Sahrawian, Sahraouian
Ethnic groups:Arab, Berber
Languages:Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic
Country name:conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Western Sahara
former: Spanish Sahara
Government type: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 of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), led by President Mohamed ABDELAZIZ; 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 Organization of African Unity (OAU) member in 1984; guerrilla activities continued sporadically until a UN-monitored cease-fire was implemented on 6 September 1991 (Security Council Resolution 690) by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara or MINURSO
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:none (under de facto control of Morocco)
Suffrage:none; a UN-sponsored voter identification campaign not yet completed
Executive branch:none
Political pressure groups and leaders:none
International organization participation:none
Diplomatic representation in the US:none
Diplomatic representation from the US:none
Economy—overview:Western Sahara depends on pastoral nomadism, fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for the population. The territory lacks sufficient rainfall for sustainable agricultural production, and most of the food for the urban population must be imported. Incomes in Western Sahara are substantially below the Moroccan level. The Moroccan Government controls all trade and other economic activities in Western Sahara. Morocco and the EU signed a four-year agreement in July 2006 allowing European vessels to fish off the coast of Morocco, including the disputed waters off the coast of Western Sahara. Moroccan energy interests in 2001 signed contracts to explore for oil off the coast of Western Sahara, which has angered the Polisario. However, in 2006 the Polisario awarded similar exploration licenses in the disputed territory, which would come into force if Morocco and the Polisario resolve their dispute over Western Sahara.
GDP (purchasing power parity):$NA
GDP (official exchange rate):$NA
GDP—real growth rate:NA%
GDP—per capita (PPP):$NA
GDP—composition by sector:agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: 40%
Labor force:12,000
Labor force—by occupation:agriculture: 50%
industry and services: 50%
Unemployment rate:NA%
Population below poverty line:NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices):NA%
Budget:revenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA
Agriculture—products:fruits and vegetables (grown in the few oases); camels, sheep, goats (kept by nomads); fish
Industries:phosphate mining, handicrafts
Industrial production growth rate:NA%
Electricity—production:85 million kWh (2005)
Electricity—consumption:79.05 million kWh (2005)
Electricity—exports:0 kWh (2005)
Electricity—imports:0 kWh (2005)
Oil—production:0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil—consumption:1,750 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil—exports:0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil—imports:1,698 bbl/day (2004)
Oil—proved reserves:0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas—production:0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas—consumption:0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas—exports:0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas—imports:0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas—proved reserves:0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports—commodities:phosphates 62%
Exports—partners:Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara, so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts (2006)
Imports—commodities:fuel for fishing fleet, foodstuffs
Imports—partners:Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara, so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts (2006)
Economic aid—recipient:$NA
Currency (code):Moroccan dirham (MAD)
Exchange rates:Moroccan dirhams per US dollar - 8.2827 (2007), 8.7722 (2006), 8.865 (2005), 8.868 (2004), 9.5744 (2003)
Fiscal year:calendar year
Telephones—main lines in use:about 2,000 (1999 est.)
Telephones—mobile cellular:0 (1999)
Telephone system: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
Radio broadcast stations:AM 2, FM 0, shortwave 0 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:NA
Internet country
Internet users:NA
Airports:9 (2007)
Airports—with paved runways:total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2007)
Airports—with unpaved runways:total: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 2 (2007)
Ports and terminals:Ad Dakhla, Cabo Bojador, Laayoune (El Aaiun)
Transnational Issues
Disputes—international:Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara, whose sovereignty remains unresolved; UN-administered cease-fire has remained in effect since September 1991, administered by the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), but attempts to hold a referendum have failed and parties thus far have rejected all brokered proposals; 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; most of the approximately 102,000 Sahrawi refugees are sheltered in camps in Tindouf, Algeria


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