The government of Morocco has announced plans to construct a US $1bn port at Dakhla, a city with a population of about 100,000 in the disputed Western Sahara. A committee, organised by the Ministry of Equipment and Transport; whose mandate will be to oversee the construction has already been put in place and is expected to launch tenders for the mega project before the end of the year.
2030 National Ports Strategy
The project is part of the country’s 2030 National Ports Strategy, which envisages the construction of six ports in Morocco’s southern regions. The government has set a seven-year deadline for the completion of the port.
While announcing the strategy in November 2015, King Mohammed VI said the aim was to integrate the provinces into a unified homeland and to enhance the influence of the Sahara region as an economic hub and a crucial link between Morocco and its African roots.
Apart from ports, the development model includes airports and a railway between Tangier and Lagouira, the southernmost point in the Western Sahara. The projects aim to support the social economy and to create job opportunities.
Morocco has control of most of the territory in the Western Sahara, including all the major cities and natural resources. However, the UN considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, and maintains that the Sahrawis have a right to self-determination.
This investment and the more than US $7bn that Morocco has pledged to invest in the region since 2015 are a rebuttal to Polisario’s claims that Morocco has been exploiting the natural resources of Western Sahara.