The state of Western Sahara or Sahrawi Republic lies along the coast of West Africa between Mauritania to its south and east, and Morocco on its northern border, and forms part of the West African region.

The country, whose political future is still to be finalised, is Africa’s last colony to gain independence after a long struggle. Formerly the Spanish colony of Rio de Oro, Western Sahara was annexed by both Morocco and Mauritania when Spain withdrew in February 1976. After Mauritania withdrew from the territory in August 1979, it was incorporated into and administered by Morocco. However the Polisario Front liberation movement continued its struggle to end all foreign occupation of its country. It formed a government-in-exile in 1976 and declared the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). In November 1984, the Polisario Front’s SADR was recognised by the Organisation for African Unity leading to the withdrawal of Morocco from the OAU in protest. In May 1991, the Polisario Front and Morocco ended many years of fighting following a UN sponsored peace settlement. The final future of the state of Western Sahara will be settled when the forthcoming UN-supervised referendum is held in which the country’s inhabitants must choose between independence or integration with Morocco.

The capital is El-Aaiun (La’youne) and the official language is Arabic. The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (DH).

The Sahrawi Republic has potential deposits of oil, natural gas, uranium, iron and phosphates.

Agriculture includes fruit, vegetables, camels, sheep and goats.

Fishing holds potential for development.