Morocco’s $8 billion Sahara face-lift underway

Five years after announcing a development model for the southern provinces, the Sahara, Morocco is forging ahead increasing the initial budget to develop the region from 77 billion dirhams to 80 billion dirhams.

The region is already enjoying levels of human development superior to the national average. But Morocco wants to make its south a magnet for investments and a gateway for trade and investments with the rest of Africa as well as a driver for growth.

The flagship projects under the Sahara development model include phosphates industrial units in the mining area of Phosboucraa in Laayoune worth 17.9 billion dirhams, Dakhla’s Atlantic port (10.2 billion dirhams), wind energy farms (8.6 billion dirhams) as well as an express highway linking Dakhla to Tiznit (8.5 billion dirhams) in addition to water desalination plants, dams, and university hospitals in Guelmim and Laayoune.

Most of the projects are underway. Their completion will further improve living conditions and boost the attractiveness and competitiveness of the Sahara.

Since retrieving the area from Spanish colonialism, Morocco has invested heavily in the Sahara allocating significant resources to develop the region as for every 1 dirham received in the region the Kingdom spends 7 dirhams.

In tandem with its work on the ground to make the Sahara stand out in terms of economic and social development, Morocco shows openness to the UN process to find a lasting solution to the artificial dispute over the region on the basis of the autonomy initiative without compromising on its territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

“The Autonomy Initiative provides for that solution, given that it is not only serious and credible, but also rooted in sound principles. It is the only way forward towards a settlement guaranteeing full respect for the Kingdom’s national unity and territorial integrity,” said King Mohammed VI in a speech on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the Green March celebrated on November 6.

The monarch affirmed that this tendency has been reinforced by the growing number of States – now more than 163 – which do not recognize the fictitious entity, noting that the Autonomy Initiative is also confirmed by the partnerships and agreements which have been signed by Morocco with the influential powers as well as with many countries and sister nations, and which concern all the Kingdom’s regions, including the Saharan provinces.

The King said that Morocco has always been clear in its position concerning the Moroccanness of the Sahara as much as in its firm belief in the justness of its cause and the legitimacy of its rights.

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