Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976 but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for more than two decades. A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDALLAHI was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania's first freely and fairly elected president. His term ended prematurely in August 2008 when a military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ deposed him and installed a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in July 2009 and sworn in the following month. AZIZ sustained injuries from an accidental shooting by his own troops in October 2012 but has continued to maintain his authority. He was reelected in 2014 to a second and final term as president (according to the present constitution). The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among three major groups: Arabic-speaking descendants of slaves (Haratines), Arabic-speaking "White Moors" (Bidhan), and members of Sub-Saharan ethnic groups mostly originating in the Senegal River valley (Halpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof). Mauritania confronts a terrorism threat by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, which launched successful attacks between 2005 and 2011.
Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
Population - distribution
with most of the country being a desert, vast areas of the country, particularly in the central, northern, and eastern areas, are without sizeable population clusters; half the population lives in or around the coastal capital of Nouakchott; smaller clusters are found near the southern border with Mali and Senegal
Arabic (official and national), Pular, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French
NOUAKCHOTT (capital) 968,000 (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Islamic Republic of Mauritania
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 18 04 N, 15 58 W
- Time difference
- UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
Mauritania's economy is dominated by extractive industries (oil and mines), fisheries and agriculture. Half the population still depends on farming and raising livestock, even though many nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s, 1980s and 2000s. Recently, GDP growth has been driven largely by foreign investment in the mining and oil sectors.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 3,690,589,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ -955,946,938
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 3,034,964,061
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 1,716,020,525
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 501,726,766
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 202,499,614
dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, camel and sheep
fish processing, oil production, mining (iron ore, gold, copper)
- iron ore, fish and fish products, livestock, gold, copper, crude oil
- China 32.7%, Switzerland 11.1%, Spain 8.6%, Italy 6.7%, Cote dIvoire 6.6%, Japan 5.7% (2015)
- machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
- China 27.8%, France 6.9%, Morocco 5.6%, Spain 5.2%, Brazil 4.9%, US 4.4% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A high-risk political and economic situation and an often very difficult business environment can have a very significant impact on corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is very high.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is very difficult. Corporate financial information is rarely available and when available usually unreliable. The legal system makes debt collection very unpredictable. The institutional framework has very serious weaknesses. Intercompany transactions can thus be very difficult to manage in the highly risky environments rated D.
- Support from donors and international development organizations
- Mineral and halieutic resources
- Energy source potential (oil, gas, and renewables)
- Enduring political instability and security concerns
- Poorly diversified economy, vulnerable to fluctuations in mineral (iron, copper gold, quartz, phosphates), food, oil, and gas prices
- Non-inclusive growth and high unemployment, especially among young people
- Restricted formal economy
Activity should pick up in 2017. Growth should be underpinned by increased fish sector production (reinforced by a 4-year agreement reached with the EU in 2016) which will partly offset the slowdown in the manufacturing and mining sectors. Despite the decline in manufacturing output, the secondary sector is also central and is likely to be boosted by construction and civil engineering, as part of an investment plan. The mining sector, dominated by copper production as well as iron ore, will continue to suffer weak foreign demand and from the lack of any upturn in the prices for these raw materials, despite an expected increase in output with the start of operations at the Guelb II iron ore mine. The financial and retail sectors should continue to grow, boosted by domestic consumption that is being stimulated by increased use of consumer credit.
Inflation is expected to increase in 2017 as a result of slightly higher prices for food stuffs and the depreciation of the Mauritanian currency.
Despite its vigorous growth, the Mauritanian economy remains vulnerable to external shocks. This is because of its heavy reliance on mineral exports that make up most of its overseas sales. The balance of trade is thus likely to struggle with the worsening in the terms of trade due to the fall in mineral prices and waning demand in China. The deterioration in the current account balance will be further exacerbated by the reduction in current account transfers and revenues.
The budget deficit, after improving in 2016 thanks to improved management of the tax collection, is likely to widen in 2017 because of the collapse in non-tax revenues, mainly associated with declining revenues from the mining and oil and gas sectors.
In this context, the public debt will remain at a high level despite the debt relief granted to the country. The country is heavily indebted to the Kuwaiti sovereign fund (Kuwait Investment Authority) and debt reduction talks are ongoing with Kuwait.
The public debt is mainly external and contracted by the State. 90% of the external debt stock is denominated in foreign currencies (mainly Kuwaiti dinars and US dollars). The ouguiya has lost around 13% of its value against these two currencies since January 2016. Faced with such pressure on its currency, there is a possibility that the authorities will apply a larger devaluation.
On 21 June 2014, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was re-elected President for five years, with 82% of the votes, in an election boycotted by the leading opposition parties. The Constitutional Council confirmed the result, which has allowed the President to consolidate his legitimacy after the 2008 coup d’état. However, with the high levels of poverty (50%) and unemployment (estimated at 31% in 2015), the risk of social unrest remains significant, further fueled by an inequitable distribution of resources.
Among the key challenges is that of slavery: It is estimated that in 2014 the number of slaves was in excess of 150,000, i.e. 4% of the population of Mauritania. As of 13 August 2015, a new law increased the penalties for those involved in slavery. It includes courts to deal with crimes of enslavement. In addition, Mauritania is in a fragile geopolitical situation. Security remains a critical challenge for the country, given the presence of terrorists groups in the Sahara, such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI). These terrorist cells, active in the Mauritanian territory, represent the greatest threat to the internal stability of the country. With the aim of preventing their return to its territory, at the beginning of 2014 Mauritania launched a security cooperation structure known as “G5 du Sahel”. In this context, the business climate in Mauritania is difficult, reflecting the lack of financial and banking infrastructure and the level of corruption. The business climate has however improved in 2016. According to the 2017 Doing Business survey, Mauritania rose from rank 165th to 160th (among 190 countries). The government is thus hoping to consolidate these gains with the continued application of the strategies implemented in 2015 and 2016.