Economy of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Economy of Western Sahara
Currency Moroccan Dirham (MAD) de facto
Fiscal year 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 $908.5 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
Public debt N/A
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars


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 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

(World Heritage Encyclopedia)


External links

  • 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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