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Mauritania's GDP growth is considerably exposed to fluctuations in global mineral commodity prices given the large share of extractive industries in the country's economy. After contracting by 0.9% in 2020 following the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the economy rebounded by an estimated 2.4% in 2021. In 2022, economic growth accelerated and was estimated to reach 5.3%, driven primarily by the mining sector, agriculture, and fisheries (IMF), with a positive outlook over the forecast horizon as the IMF projects growth to reach 4.8% this year and 8.1% in 2024. However, the country remains vulnerable to shocks such as security risks in the Sahel region, the effects of the conflict in Ukraine, and drought-related threats that could result in lower economic activity and increased poverty.
The performance of the economy will depend on the continuation of current reforms in the areas of agriculture, port infrastructure, and business climate and on increased production in the extractive sector following the expansion of the country’s gold mines. Concerning public finances, the debt-to-GDP ratio decreased to 50.7% in 2022 (from 51.7% one year earlier), and is forecast to increase slightly to 51.6% this year, as the end of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) translated into higher debt servicing costs. In 2022, the IMF approved a 42-month arrangement of USD 86.9 million under the Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility with Mauritania, of which USD 21.7 million were made available immediately and the remaining amount will be phased in over the duration of the program, subject to semi-annual reviews. Inflation continued its upward trend throughout 2022, fuelled by rising energy and food prices, and reached an estimated 7.1%. Despite the Central Bank’s tight monetary policy, inflation is expected to remain high in 2023 (7.8%) before decreasing to around 5.8% the following year (IMF).
Overall, the government will need to modernise the country and support education and industrial diversification to limit its dependence on raw materials price fluctuations (iron, copper, gold, quartz, cattle, and fish). To this extent, authorities have elaborated an inclusive growth strategy for the period 2017-30, planning structural reforms and significant investment in infrastructure. The three pillars of this investment strategy are inclusive economic growth, human capital development and governance improvement. The country's unemployment rate was estimated at 11.3% in 2021, with around 6.3% of the population living in poverty (World Bank, latest data available). Mauritania is considered a lower-middle-income country, with a GDP per capita (PPP) estimated at USD 6,925 in 2022 by the IMF.
|Main Indicators||2020||2021||2022 (E)||2023 (E)||2024 (E)|
|GDP (billions USD)||8.61||9.89||10.32||10.97||11.39|
|GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)||-0.9||2.4||5.0||4.4||5.1|
|GDP per Capita (USD)||2,076||2,333||2,381||2,475||2,516|
|General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP)||55.8||50.9||47.7||47.9||48.2|
|Inflation Rate (%)||2.4||3.6||9.6||9.5||7.0|
|Current Account (billions USD)||-0.58||-0.77||-1.47||-0.79||-0.98|
|Current Account (in % of GDP)||-6.7||-7.8||-14.3||-7.2||-8.6|
Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data
Note: (e) Estimated Data
A vast desert bordered to the west by the 700km-long Atlantic coast, to the east by the desert border with Mali and to the south by the Senegal River, Mauritania has long-lived out of its key resources of iron ore and fishery products, its main production sectors. The country also has large deposits of gold and copper and many oil-gas fields have been discovered in recent years. The primary sector represents 18.6% of the GDP and employs nearly 31% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). Mauritania possesses iron mines and its maritime coasts have some of the world's largest fish reserves. The country has an estimated potential for 500,000 ha of arable land with high productivity averages, largely in the fertile southern areas bordering the Senegal River where irrigated agriculture is concentrated. While Mauritania produces millet, sorghum, dates and rice, domestic cereal production only meets about one-third of the national food needs, forcing reliance on imports, especially for sorghum, millet and wheat. Farming, practised by Mauritanian nomads, is also an important area of activity. The latest projections by the USDA for agricultural production in the 2022/23 season are as follows: rice 220k tonnes, sorghum 70k tonnes, and corn 15k tonnes.
The country has mineral, oil and gas resources, which is an expanding market. Regarding the production of liquefied natural gas, an agreement has been reached with Senegal on equal distribution of revenues from operating the Grande Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) offshore project, where the first production is expected by 2023, having been delayed by more than a year. Dominated by gold, iron (Mauritania being the second-largest African producer) and copper, the mining sector represents 24% of the country’s GDP and roughly 60% of its exports (data Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). Overall, the secondary sector (including construction) contributes to 32.9% of the country's GDP and employs 18% of its workforce. The manufacturing sector alone accounts for around 5% of GDP.
The tertiary sector represents more than 44.1% of the GDP and employs 51.6% of the workforce. The main sub-sectors are transport and telecommunications. Despite the potential in tourism, the sector has yet to attract significant foreign investment due to a lack of infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. According to estimates by the French Ministry of Economy, the services sector was expected to grow 5.8% in 2022.
|Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector||Agriculture||Industry||Services|
|Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment)||30.8||17.6||51.6|
|Value Added (in % of GDP)||18.6||32.9||40.4|
|Value Added (Annual % Change)||-3.6||-6.6||6.4|
Source: World Bank - Latest available data.
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|Ouguiya (MRU) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR||9.26||1.04||1.05||1.03||0.96|
Source: World Bank - Latest available data.
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The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.
Mauritania is very open to international trade, which represents around 100% of its GDP (World Bank – latest data available). The government has taken steps to liberalize the economy, reduce trade barriers, and promote foreign investment. Mauritania has signed several trade agreements aimed at promoting trade and investment. These include the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which aims to create a single market for goods and services across the continent, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which aims to promote economic integration among West African countries. The country has also signed bilateral trade agreements with several countries, including China and the United States.
Its main exports include iron (around 50% of total exports, wholly produced by the state-owned mining company SNIM), fisheries (of which molluscs accounted for 11.3% and frozen fish for 8.5% in 2021), gold (9.9%), and copper (7.9%); whereas imports are led by petroleum products (around 25% of total imports), followed by food products, machinery and equipment (data Comtrade 2021).
In 2021, the main export partners were China (41.5%), Italy (10.7%), Canada (9.9%), Spain (9.6%) and Japan (6.9%). In the same year, imports came chiefly from Spain (14.9%), the UAE (14%), France (11.4%), Belgium (6.8%), and China (5.8%). Overall, Europe remained the biggest trading partner of Mauritania. While regional trade remains essentially informal and unrecorded, there has recently been a surge in fish exports to some West African countries, especially Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria (WTO).
After a fall in exports of iron and other minerals in 2011, the country's trade balance has remained deep in negative numbers due to the increased level of imports. In 2021, Mauritania's exports reached USD 4.3 billion (up by almost 53.5% year-on-year), whereas imports stood at USD 3.5 billion, marking a 29.8% increase vis-à-vis one year earlier. As per services, Mauritania’s exports are historically really low (at USD 193 million in 2021), the same as for imports (USD 782 million). According to the World Bank’s estimates, the total external trade balance for goods and services was negative by 21.5% of GDP in 2021 (from 13.3% one year earlier).
|Foreign Trade Indicators||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021|
|Imports of Goods (million USD)||2,094||3,183||3,520||2,745||3,564|
|Exports of Goods (million USD)||1,722||2,052||2,266||2,830||4,343|
|Imports of Services (million USD)||698||640||741||789||782|
|Exports of Services (million USD)||133||113||124||110||193|
|Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||14.7||37.2||11.9||2.1||25.1|
|Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)||7.1||1.8||16.7||-8.6||-11.7|
|Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||44.3||52.6||54.6||54.0||60.9|
|Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)||34.5||36.6||41.6||40.7||39.5|
|Trade Balance (million USD)||-372||-706||-570||-288||-606|
|Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD)||-944||-1,222||-1,158||-891||-1,132|
|Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)||78.8||89.1||96.2||94.7||100.4|
Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data
(% of Exports)
|See More Countries||21.4%|
(% of Imports)
|United Arab Emirates||14.0%|
|See More Countries||47.1%|
Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data
|3.3 bn USD of products exported in 2021|
|Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites||54.8%|
|Molluscs, fit for human consumption, even smoked,...Molluscs, fit for human consumption, even smoked, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine; flours, meals and pellets of molluscs, fit for human consumption||11.3%|
|Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form||9.9%|
|Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304)||8.5%|
|Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates||7.9%|
|See More Products||7.6%|
|3.9 bn USD of products imported in 2021|
|Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals||25.0%|
|Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin||5.7%|
|Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form||4.3%|
|Medicaments consisting of two or more constituents...Medicaments consisting of two or more constituents mixed together for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, not in measured doses or put up for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006)||4.1%|
|Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not...Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified)||3.7%|
|See More Products||57.2%|
Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data
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Until 2017, the parliament had an upper house, the Senate (Majlis al-Shuyukh/Sénat), which was abolished following a referendum.
The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).
The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.
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Latest Update: September 2023