Deep in the Sahara lies a crater, a nearly a perfect circle that is 1.9 km (1.2 mi) wide, and sports a rim 100 m (330 ft) high. The Tenoumer crater sits in a vast plain of rocks so ancient they were deposited hundreds of millions of years before the first dinosaurs walked the Earth. Close examination of the structure has revealed that the crater's hardened "lava" was actually rock that had melted from a meteorite impact.

On this satellite image the crater's outline is unmistakable, yet it does not necessarily look like a crater; the light and shadows make it look more as if someone pressed a giant cookie cutter into the rock. In this image, the sunlight shines from the southeast (lower right), and the bright arc along the northwestern part of the crater is where the crater walls slope up to the rim. Around the perimeter, the relatively steep walls cast dark shadows. Although it resides in ancient rock, Tenoumer is geologically young, ranging in age between roughly 10,000 and 30,000 years old. Photo courtesy of NASA.
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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 are organized according to a strict caste system with deep ethnic divides that still exist today.

A former French colony, Mauritania achieved independence from France 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. Ould Abdel AZIZ led the last coup in 2008, and was elected president in 2009 and reelected in 2014. Mohamed Ould Cheikh GHAZOUANI was elected president in 2019, and his inauguration marked the first peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected president to another, solidifying Mauritania’s status as an emerging democracy. International observers recognized the elections as relatively free and fair.

The country is working to address a continuing practice of slavery and its vestiges. Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1981, but the practice was not criminalized until 2007. 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.

 

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

Area comparison map
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 5,002 km

border countries (4): Algeria 460 km; Mali 2,236 km; Morocco 1,564 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

highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m

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

mean elevation: 276 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)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Senegal river mouth (shared with Guinea [s], Senegal and Mali) - 1,641 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Niger (2,261,741 sq km), Senegal (456,397 sq km)

Major aquifers

Senegalo-Mauritanian Basin, Taodeni-Tanzerouft Basin

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

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 - Arabic-speaking descendants of African origin who are or were 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

major-language sample(s):
كتاب حقائق العالم، المصدر الذي لا يمكن الاستغناء عنه للمعلومات الأساسية (Arabic)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Arabic audio sample:

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.)

2022 population pyramid
2022 population pyramid

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

28.06 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 37

Death rate

7.43 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 109

Net migration rate

-0.72 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

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: 56.9% of total population (2022)

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

Major urban areas - population

1.432 million NOUAKCHOTT (capital) (2022)

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: 0.86 male(s)/female

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

65 years and over: 0.61 male(s)/female

total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

21.8 years (2019/21)

note: data represents median age at first birth among women 25-49

Maternal mortality ratio

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

country comparison to the world: 7

Infant mortality rate

total: 50.99 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 56.89 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 44.91 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 18

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 65.22 years

male: 62.77 years

female: 67.75 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 204

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 98.7% of population

rural: 68.4% of population

total: 85.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 1.3% of population

rural: 31.6% of population

total: 14.8% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

3.3% of GDP (2019)

Physicians density

0.19 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 83.5% of population

rural: 25.2% of population

total: 57.5% of population

unimproved: urban: 16.5% of population

rural: 74.8% of population

total: 42.5% of population (2020 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

(2020 est.) <500

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

note: on 21 March 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Alert for polio in Africa; Mauritania is currently considered a high risk to travelers for circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV); vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain of the weakened poliovirus that was initially included in oral polio vaccine (OPV) and that has changed over time and behaves more like the wild or naturally occurring virus; this means it can be spread more easily to people who are unvaccinated against polio and who come in contact with the stool or respiratory secretions, such as from a sneeze, of an “infected” person who received oral polio vaccine; the CDC recommends that before any international travel, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series; before travel to any high-risk destination, the CDC recommends that adults who previously completed the full, routine polio vaccine series receive a single, lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 187

Tobacco use

total: 10.7% (2020 est.)

male: 19.3% (2020 est.)

female: 2.1% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 133

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: 21.1%

male: 18.8%

female: 24.9% (2017 est.)

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.)

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.)

Urbanization

urban population: 56.9% of total population (2022)

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

Revenue from coal

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

country comparison to the world: 137

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

note: on 21 March 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Alert for polio in Africa; Mauritania is currently considered a high risk to travelers for circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV); vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain of the weakened poliovirus that was initially included in oral polio vaccine (OPV) and that has changed over time and behaves more like the wild or naturally occurring virus; this means it can be spread more easily to people who are unvaccinated against polio and who come in contact with the stool or respiratory secretions, such as from a sneeze, of an “infected” person who received oral polio vaccine; the CDC recommends that before any international travel, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series; before travel to any high-risk destination, the CDC recommends that adults who previously completed the full, routine polio vaccine series receive a single, lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine

Food insecurity

severe localized food insecurity: due to shortfall in agricultural production and economic downturn - according to the latest analysis, about 878,000 people are assessed to be in need of humanitarian assistance between June and August 2022 as a result of shortfalls in cereal and livestock production in 2021 and reduced incomes owing to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy (2022)

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.)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Senegal river mouth (shared with Guinea [s], Senegal and Mali) - 1,641 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Niger (2,261,741 sq km), Senegal (456,397 sq km)

Major aquifers

Senegalo-Mauritanian Basin, Taodeni-Tanzerouft Basin

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.)

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 Ould 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 to be held on 22 June 2024); prime minister appointed by the president

election results: 2019: Mohamed Ould Cheikh El GHAZOUANI elected president in first round; percent of vote - Mahamed Ould Cheikh El GHAZOUANI (UPR) 52%, Biram Dah Ould ABEID (independent) 18.6%, Sidi Mohamed Ould BOUBACAR (independent) 17.9%, other 11.5%

2014: Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ elected president in first round; percent of vote - Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ (UPR) 81.9%, Biram Dah ABEID (IRA) 8.7%, Boidiel Ould HOUMEIT (El Wiam) 4.5%, Ibrahima Moctar SARR (SJD/MR) 4.4%, other 0.5% 

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament or Barlamane consists of the National Assembly or Al Jamiya Al Wataniya (157 seats statutory, 153 current term; 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 (20 seats are reserved for women candidates in the nationwide constituency) , 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 - UPR 95, Tawassoul 14, UDP 6, El Karama 6, AND 4, PUCM 4, RFD 3, UFP 3, Shura Party for Development 3, Burst of Youth for the Nation 3, SAWAB 3, APP 3, DIL 2, El Wiam 2, AJD/MR 2, Coalition of Wava Mauritanian Party 1, El Ghad 1, National Democratic Union 1, Ravah Party 1, Party of Peace and Democratic Progress 1, El Islah 1; composition - men, 122, women 31, percent of women 20.3%

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 court(s): 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 9 members); High Court of Justice (consists of 9 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, 1 by the prime minister, 1 by the leader of the democratic opposition, 1 by the largest opposition party in the National Assembly, and 1 by the second largest party in the National Assembly; members serve single, 9-year terms with one-third of membership renewed every 3 years; High Court of Justice members appointed by Parliament - 6 by the ruling Coalition of Majority Parties and 3 by opposition parties

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 or Sursaut or PSJN [Lalla Mint CHERIF]
El Insaf or Equity Party [Mohamed Melainine Ould EYIH]
El Islah Party [Mohamed Ould TALEBNA]
El Karama Party [Cheikhna Ould Mohamed Ould HAJBOU]
Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement or IRA [Biram Dah ABEID]
National Democratic Alliance or AND [Yacoub Ould MOINE]
National Rally for Reform and Development or RNRD or TAWASSOUL [Mohamed Mahmoud Ould SEYIDI]
Party for Conciliation and Prosperity or HIWAR [Valle Mint Mini]
Popular (or People's) Progressive Alliance or APP [Messaoud Ould BOULKHEIR]
Rally (or Assembly) of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]
Sawab Party [Ahmed Salem Ould HORMA]
Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]
Union of the Forces of Progress or UFP [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]

International organization participation

ABEDA, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, CAEU, 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, UNHRC, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador BOIDE Cisse (since 15 September 2021)

chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700

FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623

email address and website:
office@mauritaniaembassyus.com

http://mauritaniaembassyus.com/

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Cynthia KIERSCHT (since 29 March 2021)

embassy: Nouadhibou Road, Avenue Al Quds, NOT PRTZ, Nouakchott

mailing address: 2430 Nouakchott Place, Washington DC  20521-2430

telephone: [222] 4525-2660

FAX: [222] 4525-1592

email address and website:
consularnkc@state.gov

https://mr.usembassy.gov/

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: "Bilāda l-ʾubāti l-hudāti l-kirām" (Land of the Proud, Guided by Noblemen)

lyrics/music: unknown/traditional, Rageh DAOUD

note: adopted 16 November 2017

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 2 (1 cultural, 1 natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Ancient Ksour (Fortified Villages) of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt, and Oualata (c); Banc d'Arguin National Park (n) 

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 (purchasing power parity)

$23.17 billion (2020 est.)

$23.52 billion (2019 est.)

$22.2 billion (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 147

Real GDP growth rate

3.5% (2017 est.)

1.8% (2016 est.)

0.4% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 85

Real GDP per capita

$5,000 (2020 est.)

$5,200 (2019 est.)

$5,000 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 173

GDP (official exchange rate)

$706 million (2018 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

2.2% (2019 est.)

3.1% (2018 est.)

2.2% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 119

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.)

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.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 21.1%

male: 18.8%

female: 24.9% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 70

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

$2.52 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$2.06 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$302 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 147

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

$3.68 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$3.28 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$319 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 152

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)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 656,000 kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 1.577 billion kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 245 million kWh (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 73.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 8.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 6.8% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 11.9% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 27,500 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 4,800 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 20 million barrels (2021 est.)

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 28.317 billion cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

4.041 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 4.041 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 141

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 62,099 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 151

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 4,932,571 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 106 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 121

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Mauritania’s small population and low economic output has limited the country’s ability to develop sustained growth in the telecom sector; low disposable income has restricted growth in the use of services, and thus of revenue which telcos can hope to gain from subscribers; this has impacted on their ability to invest in network upgrades and improvements to service offerings; this has been reflected in the repeated fines imposed against them by the regulator for failing to ensure a good quality of service; there are also practical challenges relating to transparency and tax burdens which have hindered foreign investment; financial support has been forthcoming from the government as well as the World Bank and European Investment Bank; their efforts have focused on implementing appropriate regulatory measures and promoting the further penetration of fixed-line broadband services by improving the national backbone network, ensuring connectivity to international telecom cables, and facilitating operator access to infrastructure; progress has been made to improve internet bandwidth capacity, including the completion of a cable link at the border with Algeria, and the connection to the EllaLink submarine cable; the final stage of the national backbone network was completed in December 2021, which now runs to some 4,000km; penetration of fixed telephony and broadband service is very low and is expected to remain so in coming years, though growth is anticipated following improvements to backbone infrastructure and the reduction in access pricing; most voice and data services are carried over the mobile networks (2022)

domestic: fixed-line teledensity roughly 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular network coverage extends mainly to urban areas with a teledensity of roughly 106 per 100 persons; mostly cable and open-wire lines; a domestic satellite telecommunications system links Nouakchott with regional capitals (2020)

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 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced a downturn, particularly in mobile device production; progress toward 5G implementation has resumed, as well as upgrades to infrastructure; consumer spending on telecom services has increased due to the surge in demand for capacity and bandwidth; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home is still evident, and the spike in this area has seen growth opportunities for development of new tools and increased services

Broadcast media

12 TV stations: 6 government-owned and 6 private (the 6th was started in early 2022, owed by the President of Mauritanian Businessmen); in October 2017, the government suspended most private TV stations due to non-payment of broadcasting fees, but they later negotiated payment options with the government and are back since 2019. There are 19 radio broadcasters: 15 government-owned, 4 (Radio Nouakchott Libre, Radio Tenwir, Radio Kobeni and Mauritanid) private; all 4 private radio stations broadcast from Nouakchott; of the 15 government stations, 4 broadcast from Nouakchott (Radio Mauritanie, Radio Jeunesse, Radio Koran and Mauritanid) 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 all the regions. (2022)

Internet users

total: 1,906,360 (2020 est.)

percent of population: 41% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 18,457 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 0.4 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 168

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

2,438 to 3,047 m: 5

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2021)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 21

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 10

914 to 1,523 m: 8

under 914 m: 2 (2021)

Railways

total: 728 km (2014)

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

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

1,086 km (2022) (some navigation possible on the Senegal River)

country comparison to the world: 67

Merchant marine

total: 5

by type: general cargo 2, other 3 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 165

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Nouadhibou, Nouakchott

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Mauritanian Armed Forces: National Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne), Islamic Republic of Mauritania Air Group (Groupement Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, GAIM); Gendarmerie (Ministry of Defense); Ministry of Interior and Decentralization: National Police, National Guard, General Group for Road Safety (2022)

note 1: the National Police is responsible for enforcing the law and maintaining order in urban areas, while the Gendarmerie is responsible for maintaining civil order around metropolitan areas and providing law enforcement services in rural areas

note 2: the National Guard performs a limited police function in keeping with its peacetime role of providing security at government facilities, to include prisons; regional authorities may call upon the National Guard to restore civil order during riots and other large-scale disturbances 

note 3: the General Group for Road Safety maintains security on roads and operates checkpoints throughout the country

Military expenditures

2.5% of GDP (2022 est.)

2.4% of GDP (2021 est.)

2.5% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.1% of GDP (2019 est.) (approximately $440 million)

2.3% of GDP (2018 est.) (approximately $430 million)

country comparison to the world: 42

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 16,000 active armed forces personnel (15,000 Army; 700 Navy; 300 Air Force); estimated 3,000 Gendarmerie; estimated 2,000 National Guard (2022)

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 second-hand military equipment from a variety of suppliers, with China as the leading provider (2022)

Military service age and obligation

18 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2022)

Military deployments

470 (plus about 320 police) Central African Republic (MINUSCA) (May 2022)

note: Mauritania is part of a four (formerly five)-nation anti-jihadist task force known as the G4 Sahel Group, set up in 2014 with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali (withdrew in 2022), and Niger; it has committed 550 troops and 100 gendarmes to the force; as of 2020, defense forces from each of the participating states were allowed to pursue terrorist fighters up to 100 km into neighboring countries; the force is backed by France, the UN, and the US

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 (2022)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Mauritania-Algeria: none identified

Mauritania-Mali: there are no border disputes, but the border has not been demarcated; talks on demarcation were reportedly being held in February 2022

Mauritania-Morocco: Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant; tensions arose in 2016 when Mauritanian soldiers were deployed to Lagouira, a city in the southernmost part of Morocco, and raised their flag

Mauritania-Senegal: none identified

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 26,001 (Sahrawis) (mid-year 2021); 90,240 (Mali) (2022)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Mauritania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to conditions of 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 boys  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 in the country or transported to countries in the Middle East for the same purpose

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List — Mauritania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so and was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List; the government convicted five hereditary slaveholders, drafted new anti-trafficking legislation and a national action plan, raised awareness on child forced begging in Quranic schools with imams and religious leaders by establishing an inter-ministerial committee, published a child protection guide, and operated a cash transfer program; however, the government rarely imprisoned convicted slaveholders and did not identify any victims; government agencies lacked resources; government officials refuse to investigate or prosecute political offenders (2020)