Photos of Mauritania

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.

Introduction

Background

The Amazigh and Bafour people were among the earliest settlers in what is now Mauritania and 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 Sub-Saharan ethnic groups originating mainly from the Senegal River Valley, including descendants of former enslaved peoples. These three groups are organized according to a strict caste system with deep ethnic divides that impact access to resources and power dynamics.

A former French colony, Mauritania achieved independence from France in 1960. Mauritania initially began as a single-party, authoritarian regime and experienced 49 years of dictatorships, flawed elections, failed attempts at democracy, and military coups. Ould Abdel AZIZ led the last coup in 2008, was elected president in 2009, and was 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 the country's status as an emerging democracy. International observers recognized the elections as relatively free and fair. GHAZOUANI is seeking re-election in June 2024 for a second, and final, five-year term.

The country is working to address vestigial practices of slavery and its hereditary impacts. 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 western 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

comparison ranking: total 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

Population

total: 4,328,040

male: 2,083,690

female: 2,244,350 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 127; male 129; total 128

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-Amazigh 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 Tamazight 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 3.5 children per woman and almost 60% of the population under the age of 25 as of 2020, 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 subjected to forced labor and forced marriage, while 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: 35.7% (male 776,035/female 770,132)

15-64 years: 59.9% (male 1,227,347/female 1,363,938)

65 years and over: 4.4% (2024 est.) (male 80,308/female 110,280)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 82.7

youth dependency ratio: 76.8

elderly dependency ratio: 6

potential support ratio: 16.8 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 22.1 years (2024 est.)

male: 21.1 years

female: 23.1 years

comparison ranking: total 185

Population growth rate

1.92% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 43

Birth rate

27.2 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 37

Death rate

7.2 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 115

Net migration rate

-0.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 133

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: 57.7% of total population (2023)

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

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

1.492 million NOUAKCHOTT (capital) (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

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

15-64 years: 0.9 male(s)/female

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

total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2024 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

465 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 16

Infant mortality rate

total: 48.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 54.8 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 42.9 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 19

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 65.9 years (2024 est.)

male: 63.4 years

female: 68.5 years

comparison ranking: total population 204

Total fertility rate

3.4 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 38

Gross reproduction rate

1.68 (2024 est.)

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

3.4% of GDP (2020)

Physician 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.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2023)

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

vectorborne diseases: malaria, dengue fever, and sexually transmitted diseases: hepatitis B (2024)

animal contact diseases: rabies

respiratory diseases: meningococcal meningitis

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

12.7% (2016)

comparison ranking: 132

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.)

comparison ranking: total 186

Tobacco use

total: 10.7% (2020 est.)

male: 19.3% (2020 est.)

female: 2.1% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 133

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

22.4% (2022)

comparison ranking: 11

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 15.5%

women married by age 18: 36.6%

men married by age 18: 1.2% (2021 est.)

Education expenditures

1.9% of GDP (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 189

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 67%

male: 71.8%

female: 62.2% (2021)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 9 years

male: 8 years

female: 9 years (2020)

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

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: 57.7% of total population (2023)

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

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Food insecurity

widespread lack of access: due to high food prices - according to the latest analysis, nearly 695,000 people are projected to be in need of humanitarian assistance during the June to August 2023 lean season; this would be an improvement compared to the previous year, mostly due to the substantial cereal production increase in 2022; high food prices continue to worsen food security, while flooding in 2022, which affected about 54,000 people, has further aggravated the conditions of vulnerable households (2023)

Revenue from forest resources

1.3% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 48

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 174

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 41.98 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 2.74 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 6.16 megatons (2020 est.)

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: 100 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

industrial: 30 million cubic meters (2020 est.)

agricultural: 1.2 billion cubic meters (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

11.4 billion cubic meters (2020 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 29 June 2024 (next to be held in June 2029); prime minister appointed by the president

election results:
2024:
Mohamed Ould Cheikh el GHAZOUANI re-elected president in first round; percent of vote - Mohamed Ould Cheikh el GHAZOUANI (UPR) 56.1%, Biram Dah Ould ABEID (independent) 22.1%, Hamadi Sidi el MOKHTAR independent) 12.8%, other 9.0%

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

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament or Barlamane consists of:
Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats, 53 members elected for a six-year term by municipal councilors, with one third renewed every two years)
National Assembly or Al Jamiya Al Wataniya (176 seats statutory; 88 members filled from one or two seat constituencies elected by a two-round majority system and the other 88 members filled from a single, nationwide constituency directly elected by proportional representation vote); 20 seats are reserved for women candidates in the nationwide constituency, 11 seats are reserved for young candidates (aged between 25 and 35), and 4 members directly elected by the diaspora; all members serve 5-year terms

elections: last held on 13 May 2023 with a second round on 27 May 2023 (next to be held in May 2028)

election results: National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - El Insaf 107, Tawassoul 11, UDP 10, FRUD 7, El Islah 6, AND 6, El Karama 5, Nida Al-Watan 5, Sawab 5, AJD/MR 4, HIWAR 3, HATEM 3, El Vadila 2, UPC 1, Hakam 1; composition- men 135, women 41, percentage women 23.3%

note: the early parliamentary elections in 2023 were the first to be held under President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El GHAZOUANI, elected in 2019 in the first peaceful transition of power; the elections followed the agreement between the government and parties in September 2022 to renew the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and hold the elections in the first semester of 2023 for climatic and logistical reasons

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]
El Insaf or Equity Party [Mohamed Melainine Ould EYIH]
El Islah or Reform Party [Mohamed Ould TALEBNA]
El Karama or Dignity Party [Cheikhna Ould Mohamed Ould HAJBOU]
El Vadila or Virtue Party [Ethmane Ould Cheikh Ahmed Eboul MEALY]
Mauritanian Party of Union and Change or HATEM [Saleh Ould HANENNA]
National Democratic Alliance or AND [Yacoub Ould MOINE]
National Rally for Reform and Development or RNRD or TAWASSOUL [Hamadi Ould Sidi MOKHTAR]
Nida El-Watan [Daoud Ould Ahmed AICHA]
Party for Conciliation and Prosperity or HIWAR [Valle Mint MINI]
Party of the Mauritanian Masses or Hakam [El Khalil Ould ENNAHOUI]
Republican Front for Unity and Democracy or FRUD [Kadiata Malick DIALLO]
Sawab Party [Ahmed Salem Ould HORMA]
Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]
Union of Planning and Construction or UPC [Qari Ould Mohamed ABDALLAHI]

International organization participation

ABEDA, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AIIB, 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, 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 Cissé Mint Cheikh Ould BOIDE (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:
ambarimwashington@diplomatie.gov.mr

mauritaniaembassyus.org – Mauritania Embassy washington

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Cynthia KIERSCHT (since 27 January 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 28 November 2017, preceded by "National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania"

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

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

lower middle-income West African economy; primarily agrarian; rising urbanization; poor property rights; systemic corruption; endemic social and workforce tensions; wide-scale terrorism; foreign over-fishing; environmentally fragile

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$25.245 billion (2022 est.)
$23.731 billion (2021 est.)
$23.557 billion (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 149

Real GDP growth rate

6.38% (2022 est.)
0.74% (2021 est.)
-0.36% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 50

Real GDP per capita

$5,300 (2022 est.)
$5,100 (2021 est.)
$5,200 (2020 est.)

note: data in 2017 dollars

comparison ranking: 170

GDP (official exchange rate)

$9.781 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

9.53% (2022 est.)
3.57% (2021 est.)
2.39% (2020 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 153

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 27.8% (2017 est.)

industry: 29.3% (2017 est.)

services: 42.9% (2017 est.)

comparison rankings: services 202; industry 82; agriculture 22

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, sorghum, goat milk, sheep milk, lamb/mutton, beef, camel meat, camel milk, dates (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage

Industries

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

note: gypsum deposits have never been exploited

Industrial production growth rate

7.31% (2022 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 35

Labor force

1.135 million (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

comparison ranking: 144

Unemployment rate

10.79% (2022 est.)
11.33% (2021 est.)
11.17% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment

comparison ranking: 168

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 23% (2021 est.)

male: 20.8%

female: 27.9%

comparison ranking: total 70

Population below poverty line

31.8% (2019 est.)

note: % of population with income below national poverty line

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

32.6 (2014 est.)

note: index (0-100) of income distribution; higher values represent greater inequality

comparison ranking: 128

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3%

highest 10%: 24.9% (2014 est.)

note: % share of income accruing to lowest and highest 10% of population

Remittances

0.51% of GDP (2022 est.)
0.14% of GDP (2021 est.)
2.04% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget

revenues: $1.617 billion (2019 est.)

expenditures: $1.407 billion (2019 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-0.8% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 70

Public debt

96.6% of GDP (2017 est.)
100% of GDP (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 22

Taxes and other revenues

27.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 35

Current account balance

-$1.424 billion (2022 est.)
-$807.862 million (2021 est.)
-$576.175 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 134

Exports

$4.132 billion (2022 est.)
$3.18 billion (2021 est.)
$2.784 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 144

Exports - partners

China 24%, Canada 12%, UAE 12%, Spain 9%, Turkey 6% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

gold, iron ore, fish, processed crustaceans, animal meal (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$5.77 billion (2022 est.)
$4.312 billion (2021 est.)
$3.675 billion (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 143

Imports - partners

China 18%, Spain 7%, Morocco 6%, UAE 6%, Indonesia 6% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, iron pipes, wheat, raw sugar, palm oil (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$2.039 billion (2021 est.)
$1.493 billion (2020 est.)
$1.029 billion (2019 est.)

note: holdings of gold (year-end prices)/foreign exchange/special drawing rights in current dollars

comparison ranking: 123

Debt - external

$4.15 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$3.899 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 139

Exchange rates

ouguiyas (MRO) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
36.063 (2021 est.)
37.189 (2020 est.)
36.691 (2019 est.)
35.678 (2018 est.)
35.794 (2017 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 49% (2022 est.)

electrification - urban areas: 91.6%

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 675,000 kW (2022 est.)

consumption: 1.658 billion kWh (2022 est.)

imports: 193.742 million kWh (2022 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 231.44 million kWh (2022 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 65; imports 106; consumption 152; installed generating capacity 143

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 70.1% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

solar: 8.3% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

wind: 9.2% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

hydroelectricity: 12.4% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

Coal

imports: 58 metric tons (2022 est.)

Petroleum

refined petroleum consumption: 29,000 bbl/day (2022 est.)

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

Natural gas

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

Carbon dioxide emissions

4.322 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 4.322 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 139

Energy consumption per capita

13.306 million Btu/person (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: 143

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 48,000 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 157

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 5.358 million (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 113 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 123

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; this has impacted 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 related 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 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular teledensity of roughly 141 per 100 persons (2021)

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)

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: 2.714 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 59% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 125

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 18,457 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 0.4 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 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

25 (2024)

comparison ranking: 130

Heliports

3 (2024)

Railways

total: 728 km (2014)

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

comparison ranking: total 98

Roadways

total: 12,253 km

paved: 3,988 km

unpaved: 8,265 km

comparison ranking: total 130

Waterways

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

comparison ranking: 67

Merchant marine

total: 11 (2023)

by type: general cargo 2, other 9

comparison ranking: total 158

Ports

total ports: 2 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 1

small: 1

very small: 0

ports with oil terminals: 2

key ports: Nouadhibou, Nouakchott

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Mauritanian Armed Forces (aka Armée Nationale Mauritanienne): National Army, National Navy (Marine Nationale), Mauritania Islamic Air Force; Gendarmerie (Ministry of Defense)

Ministry of Interior and Decentralization: National Police, National Guard (2024)

note 1: the National Police are responsible for enforcing the law and maintaining order in urban areas, while the paramilitary Gendarmerie is responsible for maintaining civil order around metropolitan areas and providing law enforcement services in rural areas; like the Mauritanian Armed Forces, the Gendarmerie is under the Ministry of Defense, but also supports the ministries of Interior and Justice

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

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.)
2.3% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 45

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 16,000 Mauritanian Armed Forces personnel (15,000 Army; 700 Navy; 300 Air Force); estimated 3,000 Gendarmerie; estimated 2,000 National Guard (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the military's inventory is limited and made up largely of older French and Soviet-era equipment; in recent years, Mauritania has received small amounts of mostly secondhand military equipment from a variety of suppliers, with China as the leading provider (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; has a compulsory two-year military service law, but the law has reportedly never been applied (2023)

Military deployments

450 (plus about 325 police) Central African Republic (MINUSCA) (2024)

Military - note

founded in 1960, the Mauritanian military is responsible for territorial defense and internal security; it also assists in economic development projects, humanitarian missions, and disaster response; securing the border and countering terrorist groups operating in the Sahel, particularly from Mali, are key operational priorities; since a spate of deadly terrorist attacks on civilian and military targets in the 2005-2011 timeframe, the Mauritanian Government has increased the defense budget (up 40% between 2008 and 2018) and military equipment acquisitions, enhanced military training, heightened security cooperation with its neighbors and the international community, and built up the military’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism forces and capabilities; equipment acquisitions have prioritized mobility, flexibility, and intelligence collection, including light ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft, assault helicopters, patrol vessels, light trucks, and surveillance radars; Mauritania has received foreign security assistance from France, NATO, and the US in areas such as commando/special forces operations, counterterrorism, and professional military education (2023)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Terrorist group(s): Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Transnational Issues

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 26,000 (Sahrawis) (2021); 104,080 (Mali) (2023)