Economic and Political Overview

flag Mauritania Mauritania: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

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. The estimated real GDP growth moderated to 3.4% in 2023, down from 6.4% in 2022. This decline can be attributed to a significant contraction in public investment and a slowdown in exports, driven by reduced industrial production. The medium-term outlook appears generally positive, although it remains vulnerable to potential risks. Growth is projected to average 4.9% over the period from 2024 to 2026. This growth will be underpinned by several factors, including the commencement of gas production in the latter half of 2024, sustained levels of private consumption and investment as prices rebound to pre-crisis levels, increased exports, and the execution of the government's public investment program (World Bank).

Concerning public finances, in 2023, the overall fiscal deficit improved to 2.4% of GDP, a notable improvement from 3.7% of GDP recorded in 2022, primarily attributed to a decrease in capital expenditure. However, the debt-to-GDP ratio saw a slight increase to 48.1% in 2023, marking a 0.8 percentage point rise, mainly due to the depreciation of the exchange rate towards the end of 2023. Despite this increase, a joint Debt Sustainability Assessment conducted by the IMF and World Bank indicates that external debt remains sustainable, with a moderate risk of debt distress. In 2023, the current account deficit showed improvement, decreasing to 10% of GDP from 16.6% of GDP in 2022. This improvement can be attributed to reduced imports of capital goods in the extractive industry, oil, and food products. Moving forward, fiscal pressures are expected to alleviate, resulting in an average budget deficit of 2% of GDP in 2024. This improvement will be supported by revenue from gas, reduced current transfers, and increased tax revenue mobilization. By 2026, the fiscal deficit is forecasted to narrow even further to 0.2% of GDP. Additionally, debt levels are anticipated to gradually decrease, reaching 47.7% of GDP by 2024 (World Bank). Average inflation has halved from its peak of 9.5% in 2022 to 5% in 2023. It is anticipated to continue decreasing to 2.5% in 2024, attributed to a reduction in external pressures.

Overall, the government will need to modernize 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 10.8% in 2022 (from 11.3% one year earlier), with around 31.8% 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 6,295 in 2022 by the World Bank.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 9.9010.3610.9111.6512.10
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 6.54.55.37.03.9
GDP per Capita (USD) 2,2852,3382,4082,5172,557
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 50.849.548.247.446.1
Inflation Rate (%) n/a7.54.04.04.0
Current Account (billions USD) -1.52-1.02-1.21-0.98-0.83
Current Account (in % of GDP) -15.3-9.9-11.1-8.4-6.9

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

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 thrived on its key resources of iron ore and fishery products, its main production sectors. The country also boasts large deposits of gold and copper, with many oil and gas fields discovered in recent years. The primary sector represents 22.2% of the GDP and employs one-third of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). Mauritania possesses an estimated potential for 500,000 hectares of arable land with high productivity averages, mainly 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, necessitating reliance on imports, especially for sorghum, millet, and wheat. Farming, practiced by Mauritanian nomads, is also a significant area of activity. The latest projections by the USDA for agricultural production in the 2023/24 season are as follows: rice 240,000 tonnes, sorghum 70,000 tonnes, and corn 15,000 tonnes.

The country possesses mineral, oil, and gas resources, constituting an expanding market. Concerning the production of liquefied natural gas, an agreement has been reached with Senegal on the equal distribution of revenues from operating the Grande Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) offshore project, where the first production is expected by 2024, 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 almost 24% of the country’s GDP and roughly 77% of its exports (data from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). Overall, the secondary sector (including construction) contributes to 30.2% of the country's GDP and employs 15% of its workforce. The manufacturing sector accounts for a mere 6% of GDP.

The tertiary sector represents more than 33.7% of the GDP and employs 52% 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. As of April 2023, there are currently 16 banks, both national and foreign, operating in Mauritania. However, it's notable that only around 21% of the population actually holds bank accounts.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 29.5 18.9 51.7
Value Added (in % of GDP) 19.2 34.7 39.8
Value Added (Annual % Change) 4.0 7.7 4.5

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20152017201820192020
Ouguiya (MRU) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 9.261.041.051.030.96

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

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.

Score:
56,1/100
World Rank:
128
Regional Rank:
23

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Mauritania is very open to international trade, which represents around 104% 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. Mauritania's export composition comprises 35% iron ore (wholly produced by the state-owned mining company SNIM), 31% gold, 28% fishery products, and 3.5% copper. Based on Mauritanian statistics, the primary import category remains petroleum products, accounting for 39% of total imports (including fuel and diesel). This is followed by food products at 23% (such as oils, fats, sugar, and wheat), construction materials at 13% (including processed iron-based products), and equipment goods at 8% (data France Ministry of Finance for 2022).

In 2022, China remained the primary destination for Mauritanian exports, with imports totaling EUR 806 million. However, China's share of Mauritanian exports decreased from 41% in 2021 to 23%. Following were Canada, accounting for 18% (EUR 637 million), and Spain, at 11% (EUR 388 million). Canada is the largest importer of Mauritanian gold, with increased international prices and gold production explaining its significant position. Meanwhile, China imports nearly all of Mauritania's copper production, half of its iron production, and fishery products. The United Arab Emirates was Mauritania's top supplier, providing 18% of total imports, mainly consisting of manufactured goods. Spain ranked as the country's second-largest supplier, contributing 16% of imports, followed by Japan at 7% and France at 6%. Mauritania primarily imports petroleum products (comprising over half of total imports), food items, and equipment goods from Europe (data France Ministry of Finance for 2022).

According to WTO, in 2022, Mauritania's exports reached USD 3.2 billion (down by 2% year-on-year), whereas imports stood at USD 4.6 billion, marking a 19.6% increase vis-à-vis one year earlier. As per services, Mauritania’s exports are historically really low (at USD 219 million in 2022), whereas imports increased notably to USD 1.3 billion. According to the World Bank’s estimates, the total external trade balance for goods and services was negative by 5.7% of GDP in 2022 (from 8.6% one year earlier).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 3,1833,5202,7443,8604,618
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,0522,2662,8293,2673,204
Imports of Services (million USD) 6827937967931,357
Exports of Services (million USD) 167205193267219
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 37.211.92.125.110.1
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.816.7-8.6-11.76.2
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 52.654.654.060.977.7
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 36.641.640.739.546.5
Trade Balance (million USD) -706-570-288-606-1,002
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -1,222-1,158-891-1,132-1,637
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 89.196.294.7100.4124.2

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
China 23.3%
Canada 18.4%
Spain 11.2%
Switzerland 5.8%
United Arab Emirates 5.5%
See More Countries 35.7%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
United Arab Emirates 18.3%
Spain 16.1%
Japan 6.8%
France 6.7%
Belgium 4.9%
See More Countries 47.2%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

3.8 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 35.4%
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 30.9%
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 13.8%
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 8.6%
Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates 3.5%
See More Products 7.7%
5.1 bn USD of products imported in 2022
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 37.4%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 6.3%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 5.8%
Tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, seamless, of...Tubes, pipes and hollow profiles, seamless, of iron or steel (excl. products of cast iron) 2.9%
Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not...Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 2.6%
See More Products 45.0%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

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Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Development
Statistical Office
National Statistical Institute (in French)
Central Bank
Central Bank of Mauritania (in French)
Stock Exchange
There is no stock market or other public trading of shares in Mauritania
Search Engines
Directory of Cities, Towns and Regions in Mauritania
Economic Portals
Mauritania Internet Guide (In French)

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (since 1 August 2019).
Prime Minister: Mohamed Ould Bilal (since 6 August 2020).
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 22 June 2024
Legislative: May 2028
Main Political Parties
The main political parties in Mauritania include:

- Equity Party (El Insaf): a rebranding of the Union for the Republic party; it is the main political party in the country, centre-right, liberal
- Union for Democracy and Progress (UDP): centre
- National Democratic Alliance (AND): centrist
- National Rally for Reform and Development (Tewassoul): Islamic democracy, religious conservatism, it is associated with the Mauritanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood
- Mauritanian Party of Union and Change (HATEM): centre-right to right-wing
- Dignity Party (El Karama): centre
- Tewassoul group: right-wing parliamentary group.
Type of State
Islamic Republic state based on parliamentary democracy (presidential system).
Executive Power
The chief of state is the president elected by a popular vote for a five-year term. The President's executive powers include the command of the armed forces, the right to appoint high-level executives as well as the promulgation and execution of the law. The democratic system has been restored since 2009 following a military coup.
Legislative Power
The legislature in Mauritania is unicameral. The parliament consists of the National Assembly or Al Jamiya Al Wataniya, composed of 176 statutory seats. Out of the total, 88 members are chosen from either one or two seat districts through a two-round majority system, while the remaining 88 members are elected from a single nationwide constituency through proportional representation. Within the nationwide constituency, 20 seats are specifically allocated for female candidates, 11 seats for candidates aged between 25 and 35, and 4 members are directly elected by the diaspora. All members serve 5-year terms.
The President of the Republic may dissolve the National Assembly after consultation with the Prime Minister and the President of the National Assembly.
Until 2017, the parliament had an upper house, the Senate (Majlis al-Shuyukh/Sénat), which was abolished following a referendum.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

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.).

World Rank:
94/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

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.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
5/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the government of Mauritania, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: April 2024