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Western Sahara: Impact Of Political Instability

Western Sahara has a disputed political status and ongoing quest for independence have profoundly impacted its economic development. The territory split during a war between Morocco and the Polisario Front from 1975-1991. Though a ceasefire was reached, no permanent resolution emerged. This instability continues hampering the economy.

Morocco built defensive sand berms during the war partitioning off areas it seized and still controls today, containing valuable fishing grounds and phosphate rock mines. The Polisario Front administers isolated desert areas beyond these berms with the remaining population subsisting mostly on international aid due to minimal economic activity.

This impasse has left Western Sahara fragmented without a unified economy. Morocco exploits resources in the areas it occupies, while refusing to negotiate independence. The Polisario Front meanwhile lacks enough contiguous land and population to establish a viable sovereign state. So the status quo continues.

Consequently – Western Sahara endures high poverty and unemployment levels around 30 percent. Food, medicine and other critical supplies must be imported at high costs. And there is negligible private sector investment due to political uncertainty and security risks.

Resolving Western Sahara’s statehood would enable economic planning and development for the first time. As a new country, the territory could join multilateral organizations and establish international relations to increase trade and investment. Its offshore fishing and mining industries likely would expand rapidly.

Integrating Western Sahara into Morocco could achieve some similar effects by unifying administration of the entire territory. But this remains unlikely without meeting demands for Sahrawi self-determination from the Polisario Front. Western Sahara’s economy continues suffering without a clear political settlement after decades of conflict. Achieving independence or unification with Morocco would remove barriers to stabilize and rebuild the economy over the long term. Until then, economic potential will remain constrained by ongoing instability.

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