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  Introduction Back To Top

Morocco virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and claimed 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 the territory's 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 that called for independence. Representatives from the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front have met four times since August 2007 to negotiate the status of Western Sahara, but talks have stalled since the UN envoy to the territory stated in April 2008 that independence is unrealistic.

  Geography Back To Top

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

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

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

Map references:

Geographic coordinates:
24 30 N, 13 00 W

Natural resources:
phosphates, iron ore

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sebjet Tah -55 m
highest point: unnamed elevation 805 m

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

Geography - note:
the waters off the coast are particularly rich fishing areas

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

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

1,110 km

Area - comparative:
about the size of Colorado

Irrigated land:

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

Maritime claims:
contingent upon resolution of sovereignty issue

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

Land use:
arable land: 0.02%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.98% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
NA 5.69 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.92 years NA
male: 51.64 years NA
female: 56.31 years NA (2008 est.)


Ethnic groups:
Arab, Berber

note: estimate is based on projections by age, sex, fertility, mortality, and migration; fertility and mortality are based on data from neighboring countries (July 2008 est.)

Population growth rate:
2.868% NA (2008 est.)

Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic

Death rate:
11.74 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 71.13 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 71.22 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 71.04 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

Age structure:
0-14 years: 45.1% (male 90,306/female 87,498)
15-64 years: 52.6% (male 101,730/female 105,313)
65 years and over: 2.3% (male 3,786/female 5,198) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
39.95 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)


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

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:

none; a UN-sponsored voter identification campaign not yet completed

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 when Spain withdrew, 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

Political pressure groups and leaders:

Diplomatic representation in the US:

International organization participation:

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

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Executive branch:

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

  Economy Back To Top

Electricity - consumption:
83.7 million kWh (2006 est.)

Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Debt - external:

Unemployment rate:

Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

GDP (purchasing power parity):

GDP (official exchange rate):

Exchange rates:
Moroccan dirhams (MAD) per US dollar - 7.526 (2008 est.), 8.3563 (2007), 8.7722 (2006), 8.865 (2005), 8.868 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:

Labor force:
12,000 (2005 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: 40%

Oil - imports:
1,925 bbl/day (2005)


Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
Moroccan dirham (MAD)

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.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
fuel for fishing fleet, foodstuffs

phosphate mining, handicrafts

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007)

Population below poverty line:

Electricity - production:
90 million kWh (2006 est.)


Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 50%
industry and services: 50% (2005 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Oil - consumption:
1,760 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Currency code:

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

Exports - commodities:
phosphates 62%

Economic aid - recipient:

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:

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

6,000 (1997)

Internet country code:

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

56,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
0 (1999)

Television broadcast stations:

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

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)

  Transportation Back To Top

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

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)

9 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 4,658
female: 4,545 (2008 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

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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