Statistical information Western Sahara 1996Western%20Sahara

Map of Western Sahara | Geography | People | Government | Economy | Energy | Communication
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Western Sahara in the World
Western Sahara in the World


Western Sahara - Introduction 1996
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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.

Western Sahara - Geography 1996
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Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco

Geographic coordinates

Map reference

Total: 266,000 km²
Land: 266,000 km²
Comparative: slightly smaller than Colorado

Land boundaries: Total 2,046 km, 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

Extremes lowest point: Sebjet Tah -55 m
Extremes highest point: 463 m

Natural resources:
Iron ore

Land use

Land use
Arable land: 0%
Permanent crops: 0%
Permanent pastures: 19%
Forests and woodland: 0%
Other: 81%

Irrigated land: NA

Major rivers

Major watersheds area km²

Total water withdrawal

Total renewable water resources

Natural hazards


Western Sahara - People 1996
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222,631 (July 1996 est.)
217,211 (July 1995 est.)

Growth rate:
2.46% (1996 est.)
2.48% (1995 est.)

Noun: Sahrawi(s), Sahraoui(s)
Adjective: Sahrawian, Sahraouian

Ethnic groups: Arab, Berber

Languages: Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic

Religions: Muslim

Demographic profile
Age structure

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

Dependency ratios

Median age

Population growth rate:
2.46% (1996 est.)
2.48% (1995 est.)

Birth rate:
46.51 births/1000 population (1996 est.)
46.9 births/1000 population (1995 est.)

Death rate:
18.02 deaths/1000 population (1996 est.)
18.52 deaths/1000 population (1995 est.)

Net migration rate: -3.94 migrant(s)/1000 population (1996 est.)
3.62 migrants/1000 population 1995 est. Infant Mortality Rate:
145.82 deaths/1000 live births (1996 est.)
148.95 deaths/1000 live births (1995 est.)

Population distribution


Major urban areas

Current issues: sparse water and arable land
Current issues 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
International agreements: NA

Air pollutants

Sex ratio

Mothers mean age at first birth

Maternal mortality ratio

Infant mortality rate

Life expectancy at birth
Total population: 47.01 years (1996 est.), 46.31 years (1995 est.)
Male: 46 years 91,996 est.), 45.34 years (1995 est.)
Female: 48.34 years (1996 est.), 47.59 years (1995 est.)

Total fertility rate:
6.85 children born/woman (1996 est.)
6.91 children born/woman (1995 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

Drinking water source

Current health expenditure

Physicians density

Hospital bed density

Sanitation facility access


Major infectious diseases

Obesity adult prevalence rate

Alcohol consumption

Tobacco use

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

Education expenditures

Literacy: definition:NA

School life expectancy primary to tertiary education

Youth unemployment

Western Sahara - Government 1996
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Country name
Conventional long form: none
Conventional short form: Western Sahara

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)

Dependent areas


National holiday


Legal system

International law organization participation



Executive branch: None

Legislative branch

Judicial branch

Political parties and leaders

International organization participation: None

Diplomatic representation

Flag descriptionflag of Western%20Sahara: Three equal horizontal bands of black (top), white and green with a centered yellow emblem consisting of a moon and a five-pointed star. On the host side there is a red triangle

National symbols

National anthem

National heritage

Western Sahara - Economy 1996
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Economy overview: Western Sahara, a territory poor in natural resources and having little 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 NA

Real gdp purchasing power parity

Real gdp growth rate: NA

Real gdp per capita ppp

Gross national saving
Gdp composition by sector of origin

Gdp composition by end use

Gdp composition by sector of origin

Agriculture products: Limited largely to subsistence agriculture and fishing; some barley is grown in nondrought years; fruit and vegetables are grown in the few oases; food imports are essential; camels, sheep, and goats are kept by the nomadic natives; cash economy exists largely for the garrison forces

Phosphate mining

Industrial production growth rate: Growth rate NA

Labor force: 12,000
By occupation: Animal husbandry and subsistence farming 50%
Labor force

Unemployment rate: NA

Youth unemployment

Population below poverty line

Gini index

Household income or consumption by percentage share

Distribution of family income gini index

Revenues: NA
Expenditures: NA, including capital expenditures of NA

Public debt

Taxes and other revenues


Fiscal year: NA

Current account balance

Inflation rate consumer prices

Central bank discount rate

Commercial bank prime lending rate

Stock of narrow money

Stock of broad money

Stock of domestic credit

Market value of publicly traded shares

Current account balance

Exports: total value. $8 million (f.o.b., 1982 est.)
Commodities: Phosphates 62%
Partners: Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara, so trade partners are included in overall Moroccan accounts

Imports: total value:$30 million (c.i.f., 1982 est.)
Fuel for fishing fleet

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

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

Debt external: NA

Stock of direct foreign investment at home

Stock of direct foreign investment abroad

Exchange rates: Moroccan dirhams (DH) per US$1_8.607 (January 1996), 8.540 (1995), 9.203 (1994), 9.299 (1993), 8.538 (1992), 8.707 (1991), 8.242 (1990)

Western Sahara - Energy 1996
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Electricity access

Electricity production: 79 million kWh

Electricity consumption
Per capita: 339 kWh (1993)

Electricity exports

Electricity imports

Electricity installed generating capacity

Electricity transmission distribution losses

Electricity generation sources


Refined petroleum

Natural gas

Carbon dioxide emissions

Energy consumption per capita

Western Sahara - Communication 1996
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Telephones fixed lines

Telephones mobile cellular

Telephone system: 2,000 telephones; sparse and limited system
Local: NA
Intercity: NA
International: tied into Morocco's system by microwave radio relay, troposcatter, and 2 INTELSAT (Atlantic Ocean) earth stations linked to Rabat, Morocco

Broadcast media

Internet country code

Internet users

Broadband fixed subscriptions

Western Sahara - Military 1996
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Military expenditures

Military and security forces

Military service age and obligation

Terrorist groups

Western Sahara - Transportation 1996
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National air transport system

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix


Airports with paved runways

Airports with unpaved runways






Merchant marine

Ports and terminals

Western Sahara - Transnational issues 1996
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Disputes international

Refugees and internally displaced persons

Illicit drugs


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