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Besides its rich fishing waters and long Atlantic coasts of almost 1400Km, Western Sahara is very rich in many other natural resources especially Phosphate, of which it holds almost a third of the international reserves, and which was first exploited by the Spanish colonization in the sixties followed by the Moroccan colonization, which is still over-exploiting it with the complicity of many international companies in total violation of the international law.
This African last colony is also very rich in other resources that are exploited by the colonial power, such as salt and sand, while strong indicators from surveys and explorations reveals a lot of other minerals to be promising, especially Iron, Gold, Diamond, Uranium, possibly Oil and Gaz.
In addition to that, the territory has got huge potentials to be one of the main sources of clean and renewable solar and wind energy in the region in the future. Morocco and some European companies and countries has already put the concepts of some huge Solar Energy projects and are working to realize them to provide Europe with electricity.
In terms of agriculture, and though the rainfall and fresh water resources for most agricultural activities is very scarce, Western Sahara has a big underground water reserve, which is actually threatened by over exploitation by the Moroccan authorities for agricultural projects especially in the occupied city of Dajla in the South of the territory. In Dajla, as clearly stated in a report of the international watch, Western Sahara Resource Watch, Moroccan and French agricultural firms are producing important products that are directly exported to the European Market and wrongly labeled as “Moroccan products”. It is not surprising that most of the money invested in these huge projects belongs to the Moroccan King’s Holding itself , and to some of his foreign friends, especially French firms.
Tourism also has very important potentials in the territory’s future and current economy, with the long and verging Atlantic coast of 1400 Km, with pure sand dunes covering the beaches, and a diverse desert landscape inland.
After reasonably exploitable oil fields were located in Mauritania, speculation intensified on the possibility of major oil resources being located off the coast of Western Sahara. Other possibilities also point to the part of the territory under the Saharawi Republic’s control in the East, bordering the Algerian rich Tindouf Basin.
In 2002, Hans Corell, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and head of its Office of Legal Affairs issued a legal opinion following a request from the President of the Security Council on the matter of Moroccan and foreign exploitation of Saharawi resources, especially Oil and Gaz in this case. The opinion was rendered following an analysis of relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations General Assembly resolutions, the case law of the International Court of Justice and the practice of sovereign states. It concluded that while the existing “exploration contracts” for the area were not illegal, “if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law.” After pressures from corporate ethics-groups, the French Total S.A., which was present in the territory on the basis of an illegal contract with Morocco pulled out in late 2004.
In May 2006 the remaining company Kerr-McGee also left following sales of numerous share holders like the National Norwegian Oil Fund, due to continued pressure from NGOs and corporate groups.
Nonetheless, The European Union, which usually claims to give priority to the respect of human rights and democracy in its accords with third countries, has always had fishing agreements with Morocco that illegally include Western Sahara despite a vibrant and steady opposition from the Saharawi authorities and civil society. In a previously confidential legal opinion (published in February 2010, although it was forwarded in July 2009), the European Parliament’s Legal Service ruled that fishing by European vessels under a current EU – Morocco fishing agreement covering the Western Sahara’s waters is in violation of international law. Yet, the European Union has lately renewed these agreements with Morocco to cover the coming four years despite all European and international critics and denunciation.
Similarly, the exploitation of phosphate mines in Bou Craa has led to charges of international law violations and divestment from several European states especially in Scandinavian countries.
Economically speaking, Western Sahara will be one of the richest countries in Africa once completely liberated. The Saharawi Arab democratic Republic already started negotiating and signing agreements with international companies, and started putting strategies and plans for a sustainable and reliable exploitation and ecologic use of all this resources to the benefit of the people of Western Sahara.
The Human resources of Western Sahara is also a very important factor in the potentials of this rich African country. The Saharawi Republic in three decades succeeded to change the rate of letiracy from almost 10 or 20% among the population to reach now over 90% rate of education. All Saharawi children, girls and boys, go to school and are provided with free education in primary and secondary schools. A good part of them succeed to follow their studies in foreign universities especially in other brother countries such as Algeria, Cuba, Libya before the revolution, and in less degree in Venezuela, Spain and some other small groups in the US, Norway etc.
Saharawi women enjoys similar rights as men thanks to the norms and values of the Saharawi culture, but also thanks to the Saharawi revolution support and plans to emancipate the women since the seventies. The women occupies actually 14% positions in Government, 24% in parliament, 60% in education and health systems, and almost 80 to 90% in local governments especially at the level of municipalities.