Photos of Mauritania

Introduction

Background

The Berber and Bafour people were among the first to settle in what is now Mauritania. Originally a nomadic people, they were among the first in recorded history to convert from a nomadic to agricultural lifestyle. These groups account for roughly one third of Mauritania’s ethnic makeup. The remainder of Mauritania’s ethnic groups derive from former enslaved peoples and sub-Saharan ethnic groups originating mainly from the Senegal River Valley. These three groups constitute a strict caste system with deep ethnic divides that still exists today.

Formerly a French colony, Mauritania became an independent state in 1960. Mauritania initially began as a single-party authoritarian regime and saw 49 years of dictatorships, flawed elections, failed attempts at democracy, and military coups. Following the last coup in 2008, Ould Abdel AZIZ was elected president in 2009 and reelected in 2014. International observers recognized the elections as free and fair. Following his two terms, AZIZ became the first Mauritanian president to step down and observe a democratic transfer of power. This solidified Mauritania’s status as an emerging democracy. After winning 52% of the vote, Mohamed Cheikh El GHAZOUANI was inaugurated in 2019.

The country faces a number of issues, including ethnic tensions and a terrorist threat. Between 2005 and 2011, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) launched a series of attacks killing American and foreign tourists and aid workers, attacking diplomatic and government facilities, and ambushing Mauritanian soldiers and gendarmes. Although Mauritania has not seen an attack since 2011, AQIM and similar groups remain active in the Sahel region and continue to pose a threat to Mauritanians and foreign visitors.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara

Geographic coordinates

20 00 N, 12 00 W

Area

total: 1,030,700 sq km

land: 1,030,700 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 30

Area - comparative

slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico; about six times the size of Florida

Land boundaries

total: 5,002 km

border countries (4): Algeria 460 km, Mali 2236 km, Morocco 1564 km, Senegal 742 km

Coastline

754 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Climate

desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

Terrain

mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills

Elevation

mean elevation: 276 m

lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m

highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m

Natural resources

iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish

Land use

agricultural land: 38.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 38.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 0.2% (2018 est.)

other: 61.3% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

450 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

11.4 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

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 as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards

hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind primarily in March and April; periodic droughts

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

Mauritania is considered both a part of North Africa's Maghreb region and West Africa's Sahel region; most of the population is concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Mauritanian(s)

adjective: Mauritanian

Ethnic groups

Black Moors (Haratines - Arab-speaking slaves, former slaves, and their descendants of African origin, enslaved by white Moors) 40%, White Moors (of Arab-Berber descent, known as Beydane) 30%, Sub-Saharan Mauritanians (non-Arabic speaking, largely resident in or originating from the Senegal River Valley, including Halpulaar, Fulani, Soninke, Wolof, and Bambara ethnic groups) 30%

Languages

Arabic (official and national), Pular, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French

note: the spoken Arabic in Mauritania differs considerably from the modern standard Arabic used for official written purposes or in the media; the Mauritanian dialect, which incorporates many Berber words, is referred to as Hassaniya

Religions

Muslim (official) 100%

Demographic profile

With a sustained total fertility rate of about 4 children per woman and almost 60% of the population under the age of 25, Mauritania's population is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future. Mauritania's large youth cohort is vital to its development prospects, but available schooling does not adequately prepare students for the workplace. Girls continue to be underrepresented in the classroom, educational quality remains poor, and the dropout rate is high. The literacy rate is only about 50%, even though access to primary education has improved since the mid-2000s. Women's restricted access to education and discriminatory laws maintain gender inequality - worsened by early and forced marriages and female genital cutting.

The denial of education to black Moors also helps to perpetuate slavery. Although Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 (the last country in the world to do so) and made it a criminal offense in 2007, the millenniums-old practice persists largely because anti-slavery laws are rarely enforced and the custom is so ingrained.  According to a 2018 nongovernmental organization's report, a little more than 2% of Mauritania's population is enslaved, which includes individuals sujbected to forced labor and forced marriage, although many thousands of individuals who are legally free contend with discrimination, poor education, and a lack of identity papers and, therefore, live in de facto slavery.  The UN and international press outlets have claimed that up to 20% of Mauritania's population is enslaved, which would be the highest rate worldwide.

Drought, poverty, and unemployment have driven outmigration from Mauritania since the 1970s. Early flows were directed toward other West African countries, including Senegal, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, and Gambia. The 1989 Mauritania-Senegal conflict forced thousands of black Mauritanians to take refuge in Senegal and pushed labor migrants toward the Gulf, Libya, and Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mauritania has accepted migrants from neighboring countries to fill labor shortages since its independence in 1960 and more recently has received refugees escaping civil wars, including tens of thousands of Tuaregs who fled Mali in 2012.

Mauritania was an important transit point for Sub-Saharan migrants moving illegally to North Africa and Europe. In the mid-2000s, as border patrols increased in the Strait of Gibraltar, security increased around Spain's North African enclaves (Ceuta and Melilla), and Moroccan border controls intensified, illegal migration flows shifted from the Western Mediterranean to Spain's Canary Islands. In 2006, departure points moved southward along the West African coast from Morocco and then Western Sahara to Mauritania's two key ports (Nouadhibou and the capital Nouakchott), and illegal migration to the Canaries peaked at almost 32,000. The numbers fell dramatically in the following years because of joint patrolling off the West African coast by Frontex (the EU's border protection agency), Spain, Mauritania, and Senegal; the expansion of Spain's border surveillance system; and the 2008 European economic downturn.

Age structure

0-14 years: 37.56% (male 755,788/female 748,671)

15-24 years: 19.71% (male 387,140/female 402,462)

25-54 years: 33.91% (male 630,693/female 727,518)

55-64 years: 4.9% (male 88,888/female 107,201)

65 years and over: 3.92% (male 66,407/female 90,707) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 75

youth dependency ratio: 69.5

elderly dependency ratio: 5.6

potential support ratio: 18 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 21 years

male: 20.1 years

female: 22 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 187

Birth rate

28.49 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 36

Death rate

7.54 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 101

Net migration rate

-0.74 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 135

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 as shown in this population distribution map

Urbanization

urban population: 56.1% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 3.84% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

1.372 million NOUAKCHOTT (capital) (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.87 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.83 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female

total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

766 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 7

Infant mortality rate

total: 52.05 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 57.96 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 45.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 19

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 64.86 years

male: 62.43 years

female: 67.37 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 204

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 98.7% of population

rural: 68.4% of population

total: 84.4% of population

unimproved: urban: 1.3% of population

rural: 31.6% of population

total: 15.6% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.19 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 83.5% of population

rural: 25.2% of population

total: 56% of population

unimproved: urban: 16.5% of population

rural: 74.8% of population

total: 44% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<500 (2019 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever

animal contact diseases: rabies

respiratory diseases: meningococcal meningitis

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 53.5%

male: 63.7%

female: 43.4% (2017)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 9 years

male: 9 years

female: 10 years (2019)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 15.2%

male: 14.1%

female: 17% (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 90

Environment

Environment - current issues

overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; limited natural freshwater resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river; locust infestation

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 40.82 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 2.74 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 6.16 megatons (2020 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 95.4 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 31.8 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 1.223 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

11.4 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Climate

desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

Land use

agricultural land: 38.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 38.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 0.2% (2018 est.)

other: 61.3% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 137

Urbanization

urban population: 56.1% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 3.84% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever

animal contact diseases: rabies

respiratory diseases: meningococcal meningitis

Food insecurity

severe localized food insecurity: due to poor performance of pastoral cropping season - according to a March 2020 analysis, about 609,000 people were estimated to be in need of food assistance during the lean season between June and August 2020; pastoral households, affected by recurrent shocks during the last years, are facing the highest prevalence of food insecurity (2021)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 454,000 tons (2009 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 36,320 tons (2009 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 8% (2009 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania

conventional short form: Mauritania

local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah

local short form: Muritaniyah

etymology: named for the ancient kingdom of Mauretania (3rd century B.C. to 1st century A.D.) and the subsequent Roman province (1st-7th centuries A.D.), which existed further north in present-day Morocco; the name derives from the Mauri (Moors), the Berber-speaking peoples of northwest Africa

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Nouakchott

geographic coordinates: 18 04 N, 15 58 W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: may derive from the Berber "nawakshut" meaning "place of the winds"

Administrative divisions

15 regions (wilayas, singular - wilaya); Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott Nord, Nouakchott Ouest, Nouakchott Sud, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza

Independence

28 November 1960 (from France)

National holiday

Independence Day, 28 November (1960)

Constitution

history: previous 1964; latest adopted 12 July 1991

amendments: proposed by the president of the republic or by Parliament; consideration of amendments by Parliament requires approval of at least one third of the membership; a referendum is held only if the amendment is approved by two-thirds majority vote; passage by referendum requires simple majority vote by eligible voters; passage of amendments proposed by the president can bypass a referendum if approved by at least three-fifths majority vote by Parliament; amended 2006, 2012, 2017

Legal system

mixed legal system of Islamic and French civil law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Mauritania

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Mohamed Cheikh El GHAZOUANI (since 1 August 2019)

head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed Ould BILAL (since 6 August 2020) 

cabinet: Council of Ministers - nominees suggested by the prime minister, appointed by the president 

elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 22 June 2019 (next scheduled for 22 June 2024); prime minister appointed by the president

election results: Mohamed Cheikh El GHAZOUANI elected president in first round; percent of vote - Mahamed Cheikh El GHAZOUANI (UPR) 52%, Biram Dah Ould ABEID (independent) 18.6%, Sidi Mohamed Ould BOUBACAR (independent) 17.9%, other 11.55%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament or Barlamane consists of the National Assembly or Al Jamiya Al Wataniya (157 seats; 113 members in single- and multi-seat constituencies directly elected by a combination of plurality and proportional representation voting systems, 40 members in a single, nationwide constituency directly elected by proportional representation vote, and 4 members directly elected by the diaspora; all members serve 5-year terms)

elections: first held as the unicameral National Assembly in 2 rounds on 1 and 15 September 2018 (next to be held in 2023)

election results: National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition - NA

note: a referendum held in August 2017 approved a constitutional amendment to change the Parliament structure from bicameral to unicameral by abolishing the Senate and creating Regional Councils for local development

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (subdivided into 7 chambers: 2 civil, 2 labor, 1 commercial, 1 administrative, and 1 criminal, each with a chamber president and 2 councilors ); Constitutional Council (consists of 6 members)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court president appointed by the president of the republic to serve a 5-year renewable term; Constitutional Council members appointed - 3 by the president of the republic, 2 by the president of the National Assembly, and 1 by the president of the Senate; members serve single, 9-year terms with one-third of membership renewed every 3 years

subordinate courts: Courts of Appeal; courts of first instance or wilya courts are established in the regions' headquarters and include commercial and labor courts, criminal courts, Moughataa (district) Courts, and informal/customary courts

Political parties and leaders

Alliance for Justice and Democracy/Movement for Renewal or AJD/MR [Ibrahima Moctar SARR]
Burst of Youth for the Nation [Lalla Mint CHERIF]
Coalition of Majority Parties or CPM (includes UPR, UDP)
El Karama Party [Cheikhna Ould Mohamed Ould HAJBOU]
El Vadila Party [Ethmane Ould Ahmed ABOULMAALY]
National Forum for Democracy and Unity or FNDU [Mohamed Ould MAOLOUD] (coalition of hard-line opposition parties, includes RNRD-TAWASSOUL)
National Rally for Reform and Development or RNRD-TAWASSOUL [Mohamed Mahmoud Ould SEYIDI]
Party of Unity and Development or PUD [Mohamed BARO]
Popular Progressive Alliance or APP [Messaoud Ould BOULKHEIR]
Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]
Ravah Party [ Mohamed Ould VALL]
Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR [Mintata Mint HEDEID]
Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]
Union of Progress Forces [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]
Union for the Republic or UPR [Seyidna Ali Ould MOHAMED KHOUNA]

International organization participation

ABEDA, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, CAEU (candidate), EITI (compliant country), FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, MIUSMA, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Mohamedoun DADDAH (since 27 June 2016)

chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700 through 5701

FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Michael J. DODMAN (since 5 January 2018)

telephone: [222] 4525-2660 or [222] 2660-2663

embassy: Avenue Al Quds, Nouadhibou, Nouadhibou Road, Nouakchott

 


mailing address: use embassy street address

FAX: [222] 4525-1592

Flag description

green with a yellow, five-pointed star between the horns of a yellow, upward-pointing crescent moon; red stripes along the top and bottom edges; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam; green also represents hope for a bright future; the yellow color stands for the sands of the Sahara; red symbolizes the blood shed in the struggle for independence

National symbol(s)

five-pointed star between the horns of a horizontal crescent moon; national colors: green, yellow

National anthem

name: "Hymne National de la Republique Islamique de Mauritanie" (National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania)

lyrics/music: Baba Ould CHEIKH/traditional, arranged by Tolia NIKIPROWETZKY

note: adopted 1960; the unique rhythm of the Mauritanian anthem makes it particularly challenging to sing; Mauritania in November 2017 adopted a new national anthem, "Bilada-l ubati-l hudati-l kiram" (The Country of Fatherhood is the Honorable Gift) composed by Rageh Daoud (sound file of the new anthem is forthcoming)

Economy

Economic overview

Mauritania's economy is dominated by extractive industries (oil and mines), fisheries, livestock, agriculture, and services. 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, 2000s, and 2017. Recently, GDP growth has been driven largely by foreign investment in the mining and oil sectors.

Mauritania's extensive mineral resources include iron ore, gold, copper, gypsum, and phosphate rock, and exploration is ongoing for tantalum, uranium, crude oil, and natural gas. Extractive commodities make up about three-quarters of Mauritania's total exports, subjecting the economy to price swings in world commodity markets. Mining is also a growing source of government revenue, rising from 13% to 30% of total revenue from 2006 to 2014. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, and fishing accounts for about 15% of budget revenues, 45% of foreign currency earnings. Mauritania processes a total of 1,800,000 tons of fish per year, but overexploitation by foreign and national fleets threaten the sustainability of this key source of revenue.

The economy is highly sensitive to international food and extractive commodity prices. Other risks to Mauritania's economy include its recurring droughts, dependence on foreign aid and investment, and insecurity in neighboring Mali, as well as significant shortages of infrastructure, institutional capacity, and human capital. In December 2017, Mauritania and the IMF agreed to a three year agreement under the Extended Credit Facility to foster economic growth, maintain macroeconomic stability, and reduce poverty. Investment in agriculture and infrastructure are the largest components of the country’s public expenditures.

Real GDP growth rate

3.5% (2017 est.)

1.8% (2016 est.)

0.4% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 85

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

2.2% (2019 est.)

3.1% (2018 est.)

2.2% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 120

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$23.52 billion (2019 est.)

$22.203 billion (2018 est.)

$21.743 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 147

GDP (official exchange rate)

$706 million (2018 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$5,197 (2019 est.)

$5,042 (2018 est.)

$5,077 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 174

Gross national saving

33.5% of GDP (2019 est.)

29.2% of GDP (2018 est.)

30.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 27.8% (2017 est.)

industry: 29.3% (2017 est.)

services: 42.9% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 64.9% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 21.8% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 56.1% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: -3.2% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 39% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -78.6% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 51.1 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 92.2 (2020)

Trading score: 60.3 (2020)

Enforcement score: 66 (2020)

Agricultural products

rice, milk, goat milk, sheep milk, sorghum, mutton, beef, camel milk, camel meat, dates

Industries

fish processing, oil production, mining (iron ore, gold, copper)

note: gypsum deposits have never been exploited

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 50%

industry: 1.9%

services: 48.1% (2014 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.5%

highest 10%: 29.5% (2000)

Budget

revenues: 1.354 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 1.396 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

96.6% of GDP (2017 est.)

100% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 21

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$711 million (2017 est.)

-$707 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 133

Exports

$321 million (2019 est.)

$290 million (2018 est.)

$302 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 185

Exports - partners

China 32%, Switzerland 13%, Spain 9%, Japan 9%, Italy 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

iron ore, fish products, gold, mollusks, processed crustaceans (2019)

Imports

$318 million (2019 est.)

$321 million (2018 est.)

$319 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 204

Imports - partners

China 26%, France 6%, Spain 6%, Morocco 6%, United Arab Emirates 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

ships, aircraft, wheat, raw sugar, refined petroleum (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$875 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$849.3 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 138

Debt - external

$4.15 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$3.899 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 139

Exchange rates

ouguiyas (MRO) per US dollar -

363.6 (2017 est.)

352.37 (2016 est.)

352.37 (2015 est.)

319.7 (2014 est.)

299.5 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 32% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 56% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 4% (2019)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 53,742

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1.37 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 158

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 4,083,199

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 104.09 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 130

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: limited system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations; mobile-cellular services expanding; 3 mobile network operators; monopolies and little stimulus for competition; 3G penetration high yet little development in LTE and consequently mobile broadband access speeds are low; World Bank and European Investment Bank support attempts to improve telecom and improve regulatory measures; regulator struggles to enforce good quality of service; efforts to improve backbone of network (2020)

domestic: fixed-line teledensity 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular network coverage extends mainly to urban areas with a teledensity of roughly 104 per 100 persons; mostly cable and open-wire lines; a domestic satellite telecommunications system links Nouakchott with regional capitals (2019)

international: country code - 222; landing point for the ACE submarine cable for connectivity to 19 West African countries and 2 European countries; satellite earth stations - 3 (1 Intelsat - Atlantic Ocean, 2 Arabsat) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

10 TV stations: 5 government-owned and 5 private; in October 2017, the government suspended all private TV stations due to non-payment of broadcasting fees; as of April 2018, only one private TV station was broadcasting, Al Mourabitoune, the official TV of the Mauritanian Islamist party, Tewassoul; the other stations are negotiating payment options with the government and hope to be back on the air soon; 18 radio broadcasters: 15 government-owned, 3 (Radio Nouakchott Libre, Radio Tenwir, Radio Kobeni) private; all 3 private radio stations broadcast from Nouakchott; of the 15 government stations, 3 broadcast from Nouakchott (Radio Mauritanie, Radio Jeunesse, Radio Koran) and the other 12 broadcast from each of the 12 regions outside Nouakchott; Radio Jeunesse and Radio Koran are now also being re-broadcast in the regions (2019)

Internet users

total: 798,809

percent of population: 20.8% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 145

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 13,222

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 6

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 454,435 (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 9 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 5 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 21 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 10 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 8 (2013)

under 914 m: 2 (2013)

Railways

total: 728 km (2014)

standard gauge: 728 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)

country comparison to the world: 100

Roadways

total: 12,253 km (2018)

paved: 3,988 km (2018)

unpaved: 8,265 km (2018)

country comparison to the world: 131

Waterways

(some navigation possible on the Senegal River) (2011)

Merchant marine

total: 5

by type: general cargo 2, other 3 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 165

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Nouadhibou, Nouakchott

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne), Islamic Republic of Mauritania Air Group (Groupement Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, GAIM); Gendarmerie (Ministry of Defense); National Guard (Ministry of Interior) (2020)

Military expenditures

2.8% of GDP (2019 est.)

3% of GDP (2018)

2.9% of GDP (2017)

2.9% of GDP (2016)

2.8% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 30

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Mauritanian Armed Forces have approximately 16,000 active personnel (15,000 Army; 700 Navy; 300 Air Force); est. 3,000 Gendarmerie; est. 2,000 National Guard (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Mauritanian Armed Forces' inventory is limited and made up largely of older French and Soviet-era equipment; since 2010, Mauritania has received a limited amount of mostly secondhand military equipment from a variety of suppliers, including Brazil, China, France, and Turkey (2020)

Military deployments

450 Central African Republic (MINUSCA) (Jan 2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2019)

Military - note

since a spate of terrorist attacks in the 2000s, including a 2008 attack on a military base in the country’s north that resulted in the deaths of 12 soldiers, the Mauritanian Government has increased the defense budget and military equipment acquisitions, enhanced military training, heightened security cooperation with its neighbors and the international community, and built up the military’s special operations and civil-military affairs forces

Mauritania is part of a five-nation anti-jihadist task force known as the G5 Sahel Group, set up in 2014 with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger; it has committed 550 troops and 100 gendarmes to the force; in early 2020, G5 Sahel military chiefs of staff agreed to allow defense forces from each of the states to pursue terrorist fighters up to 100 km into neighboring countries; the G5 force is backed by the UN, US, and France; G5 troops periodically conduct joint operations with French forces deployed to the Sahel under Operation Barkhane (2020)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 26,001 (Western Saharan Sahrawis) (2019); 66,723 (Mali) (2021)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Mauritania is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; adults and children from traditional slave castes are subjected to slavery-related practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships; Mauritanian boy students called talibes are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging; Mauritanian girls, as well as girls from Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, and other West African countries, are forced into domestic servitude; Mauritanian women and girls are forced into prostitution domestically or transported to countries in the Middle East for the same purpose, sometimes through forced marriages

tier rating: Tier 3 - Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts were negligible; one slavery case identified by an NGO was investigated, but no prosecutions or convictions were made, including among the 4,000 child labor cases NGOs referred to the police; the 2007 anti-slavery law remains ineffective because it requires slaves, most of whom are illiterate, to file their own legal complaint, and the government agency that can submit claims on them did not file any in 2014; authorities arrested, prosecuted, and convicted several anti-slavery activists; NGOs continued to provide the majority of protective services to trafficking victims without support from the government; some steps were taken to raise public awareness about human trafficking (2015)