North Africa is by most measures already an exceedingly hostile environment. It has relatively little arable land, next to no rainfall beyond the narrow coastal strip, and extreme temperature highs, which regularly top 45°C. Such is the region’s stark aridity that one can travel from the Nile river to the Atlantic Ocean, some 4000km (2500 miles), without stumbling on a single surface water source. These natural challenges have long posed considerable governance difficulties for regional states, who have struggled to bring development or prosperity to their poor, unsettled desert interiors. That failure has contributed to much of the Sahara’s emergence as a lawless node of discontent and instability.
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