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CIA - The World Factbook -- Western Sahara
 
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Western Sahara
Map of Western Sahara
Introduction 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.
Geography Western Sahara
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% (2001)
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
Geography - note:
the waters off the coast are particularly rich fishing areas
People Western Sahara
Population:
273,008 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: NA
15-64 years: NA
65 years and over: NA
Population growth rate:
NA
Birth rate:
NA births/1,000 population
Death rate:
NA deaths/1,000 population
Sex ratio:
NA
Infant mortality rate:
total: NA
male: NA
female: NA
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: NA years
male: NA years
female: NA years
Total fertility rate:
NA children born/woman
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
NA
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
NA
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: may be a significant risk in some locations during the transmission season (typically April through November) (2004)
Nationality:
noun: Sahrawi(s), Sahraoui(s)
adjective: Sahrawi, Sahrawian, Sahraouian
Ethnic groups:
Arab, Berber
Religions:
Muslim
Languages:
Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic
Literacy:
definition: NA
total population: NA%
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government Western Sahara
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 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 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 Western Sahara
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. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan Government. Moroccan energy interests in 2001 signed contracts to explore for oil off the coast of Western Sahara, which has angered the Polisario. Incomes and standards of living in Western Sahara 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% (1996 est.)
Labor force:
12,000
Labor force - by occupation:
animal husbandry and subsistence farming 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, including capital expenditures of NA
Agriculture - products:
fruits and vegetables (grown in the few oases); camels, sheep, goats (kept by nomads)
Industries:
phosphate mining, handicrafts
Industrial production growth rate:
NA
Electricity - production:
90 million kWh (2002)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
83.7 million kWh (2002)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2002)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2002)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
1,800 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA
Oil - imports:
NA
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 (code):
Moroccan dirham (MAD)
Currency code:
MAD
Exchange rates:
Moroccan dirhams per US dollar - 8.868 (2004), 9.5744 (2003), 11.0206 (2002), 11.303 (2001), 10.6256 (2000)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Western Sahara
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)
Radios:
56,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
NA
Televisions:
6,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
.eh
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
NA
Transportation Western Sahara
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:
11 (2004 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3 (2004 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 8
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 3 (2004 est.)

Transnational Issues Western Sahara
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

This page was last updated on 20 October, 2005


 


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