Economy of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Economy of Western Sahara
Currency Moroccan Dirham (MAD) de facto
calendar year
Trade organisations
Morocco claims and administers most of Western Sahara, so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic laying claim to the territory has ratified AEC treaty, but is not active;
GDP $908.9 million (2007 est)
GDP per capita
2,500 (2007 est)
Labour force
144,000 (2012)
Labour force by occupation
agriculture (50%), services (50%)
Main industries
Phosphates, fishing
Export goods
phosphates 62%
Import goods
fuel for fishing fleet, foodstuffs
Public finances

All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.
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Bou Craa phosphate mine 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) from the coastal city of El Aaiún, Western Sahara. Two Landsat images show growth of the mine between 1987 and 2000.


The majority of the territory of Western Sahara is currently administered by the Kingdom of Morocco. As such, the vast majority of the economical activity of Western Sahara happens in the framework of the economy of Morocco.

In the Moroccan-administered territory, fishing and phosphate mining are the principal sources of income for the population. The territory lacks sufficient rainfall for sustainable agricultural production, that's why most of the food for the urban population must be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government, as usual in Western Sahara. Morocco has signed a fishing treaty with the EU including Western Sahara as part of Morocco, although it was declared illegal by the legal services of the own European Union. Moroccan Energy interests in 2001 signed contracts to explore for oil off the coast of Western Sahara, but some companies had abandoned since then.

The Free Zone (POLISARIO-administered territory) is mainly uninhabited. There is practically no economical infrastructure and the main activity is camel herding nomadism. The government-in-exile of the Polisario Front had also signed contracts for oil exploration, but there is no practical work, due to the fact that the zones given are on the Moroccan-controlled part of the territory. According to POLISARIO officials,

The licensing initiative we are introducing today prepares for the day when the Saharawi Republic will exercise full sovereignty over all its rightful territory, including our offshore waters and our natural resources.
—Mohamed Khadad. Houston,(Texas). 05-02-2008.[1]

Fishing and oil exploration contracts concerning Western Sahara are sources of political tension.

Key agricultural products include fruits and vegetables (grown in the few oases); camels, sheep, goats (kept by nomads.)

Energy consumption

  • Electricity - production: 85 GWh (2003)
  • Electricity - production by source:
    • Fossil fuel: 100%
    • Hydro: 0%
    • Nuclear: 0%
    • Other: 0%
  • Electricity - consumption: 83.7 GWh (2003)
  • Electricity - exports: 0 kWh
  • Electricity - imports: 0 kWh
  • Oil - production: 0.5 barrels per day (0.079 m3/d)
  • Oil - consumption: 1,750 barrels per day (278 m3/d) (2003)

Legal status, exploitation of natural resources and economic consequences on foreign corporations

In December 2004, French oil company Total S.A. decided not to renew their license off Western Sahara,[2] leaving Kerr-McGee as the unique oil company exploring in the Moroccan-occupied part of Western Sahara.

In May 2006, Kerr-McGee finally decided to not renew the contract signed with the Moroccan Authorities,[3] in part due to the desinvestments of invest funds[4][5] and the pressures of international corporate ethics groups.[6]

In December 2007, the Libyan state oil company Tamoil denied media reports about involvement in oil exploration in Western Sahara. The statement added: "The company denies emphatically some media reports about an oil investment deal in Western Sahara. It did not sign any agreement on oil exploration permits in Western Sahara and it has no plan to invest in any oil operations there."[7]

In March 2009, four Norwegian shipping companies desisted from Western Sahara trade.[8] Also, the Norwegian grocery store chain Coop Marked stopped their import of tomatoes from Dakhla, labelled as Moroccans.[9]

Desertec is an energy project launched in Munich in 2009, consisting on the use of solar and wind technology in the Sahara desert, with the aim to provide that energy generated to African and European countries.

In April 2010, a Desertec spokesperson confirmed to the English newspaper The Guardian that the project will not be placed in disputed Western Sahara, saying: "We want to confirm… officially that our reference projects will not be located in the West Sahara. When looking for project sites, Desertec Industrial Initiative will also take political, ecological or cultural issues into consideration. This procedure is in line with the funding policies of international development banks."[10]

Also that month, the Norwegian state-owned company EWOS stopped the purchases of fish oil from Western Sahara and Morocco (with an amount of around 10 million euros annually, and estimated between 12.000 and 20.000 tons of fish oil in total),[11] for "not being in line with the norwegian authorities recommendations".[12]

In May 2010, Swedish grocery store chain Axfood stopped selling Western Sahara tomatoes. The company media officer stated: "It turns out that the tomatoes are from Dakhla in occupied Western Sahara, so we are not going to sell them anymore. These things are not supposed to happen".[13]

In August 2010, The Minnesota-based fertilizer company The Mosaic Company send a mail to Western Sahara Resource Watch where the Social responsibility director of the firm states:

  • "Mosaic does not hold any delivery contracts with OCP for the purchase of Western Sahara rock."
  • "The last shipment of Western Sahara rock purchased by Mosaic arrived in Tampa on January 29, 2009."
  • "No Western Sahara rock has been purchased since this date and the Mosaic Company has no plans to purchase Western Sahara rock in future."[14]

In October 2010, thousands of Sahrawis fled from El Aaiun, Smara or Bojador to the outskirts of Lemseid (Gdeim Izik), raising up a campament of thousands of "jaimas" (Sahrawi tents) called the "Dignity camp", in the biggest Sahrawi movilization since the Spanish retreat.[15] They protest for the discrimination of Sahrawis in labor and for the spoliation of the natural resources of Western Sahara. They were surrounded by Moroccan Army and police, who made a blockage of water, food and medicines to the camp.[16][17]

See also


  1. ^ "RASD launches the second licensing round for the exploration of the natural resources in Western Sahara". Sahara Press Service. 06-02-2008. Retrieved 03-09-2010. 
  2. ^ "Upstream Online: Total turns its back on Dakhla block, 2004". Western Sahara Resource Watch. 03-12-2004. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  3. ^ "Last oil company withdraws from Western Sahara". Afrol News. 02-05-2006. Retrieved 01-10-2010. 
  4. ^ "Recommendation on Exclusion from the Government Petroleum Fund’s Investment Universe of the Company Kerr-McGee Corporation". Ministry of Finance of Norway. 12-04-2005. Retrieved 01-10-2010. 
  5. ^ "Inversoras venden acciones Kerr-McGee por conflicto Sahara" (in Español). Western Sahara Resources Watch (EFE). 2005-06-30. Retrieved 01-10-2010. 
  6. ^ "Campaña internacional contra la última petrolera que opera en Sáhara" (in Español). Western Sahara Resources Watch (Afrol News). 01-03-2005. Retrieved 01-10-2010. 
  7. ^ Sarrar, Salah (2007-12-26). "Libya-based Tamoil Africa said on Wednesday it had won a licence to explore for oil in Chad but denied media reports it had a plan to invest in oil exploration in the disputed Western Sahara.". Reuters. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  8. ^ "Shipping companies desist from Western Sahara trade". Western Sahara Resource Watch. 2009-03-24. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  9. ^ "Coop stops import of occupation tomatoes". Norwatch. 11-03-2009. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  10. ^ Maung, Zara (2010-04-23). "Solar giant Desertec to avoid Western Sahara". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  11. ^ "EWOS avslutter kjøp av fiskeolje fra Marokko og Vest-Sahara" (in Norwegian). EWOS. 09-04-2010. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  12. ^ "Gir etter for laksepress" (in Norwegian). Dagbladet. 10-04-2010. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  13. ^ "Swedish grocery chain stops selling Western Sahara tomatoes". Western Sahara Resource Watch. 03-05-2010. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  14. ^ "No more Mosaic phosphate imports from Western Sahara". Western Sahara Resource Watch. 2010-08-26. Retrieved 02-09-2010. 
  15. ^ "Los saharauis realizan su mayor protesta desde hace 35 años" (in Español). El País. 2010-10-19. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  16. ^ "Exodus in protest of the pillage". WSRW. 2010-10-15. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  17. ^ "Los saharauis acampan en masa contra la ocupación marroquí del Sáhara Occidental" (in Español). El Periódico. 2010-10-18. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 

External links

  • Economy of Western Sahara at DMOZ
  • SADR Oil and Gas exploration, licence offering
  • Western Sahara Resource Watch International non-governmental coalition of organisations and individuals working for the protection of natural resources in Western Sahara.
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