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

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

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 1.8% in 2020 following the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the economy rebounded by an estimated 2.7% in 2021, underpinned by the resumption of public and private investment and structural reforms. The IMF expects growth to reach 5% this year and to accelerate to 8.6% in 2023, as exports and domestic demand continue to gradually improve. However, the slowdown in Chinese demand will probably hamper iron ore exports, as prices are expected to moderate.

The performance of the economy will depend on the continuation of current reforms in the sectors of agriculture, port infrastructure, business climate and on increased production in the extractive sector following the expansion of the country’s gold mines. The Covid-19 outbreak prompted large financing needs and the country received larger loans from the IMF than initially envisaged. IMF loans were complemented by international donor financing, which overall contained the budget deficit to 1.7% of GDP in 2021 despite the pandemic. As revenues from mining and fiscal receipts will continue to benefit from the economic recovery, the deficit is expected to narrow to 0.6% of GDP in 2022 (Coface). The debt-to-GDP ratio decreased to 55.4% in 2021 (from 59.2% one year earlier), and is forecast to increase slightly to 57.6%  this year and the next (IMF), as the end of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) will translate into higher debt servicing costs. Nevertheless, in 2021 Mauritania found an agreement with Saudi Arabia for the suspension of USD 8.2 million of debt payments, and Kuwait (restructuring of USD 82.7 million). Inflation accelerated by 0.4%in 2021, reaching 2.7%, and is expected to spike to 3.8% in 2022 and 4% the following year, as per the IMF forecasts.

Overall, the government will need to modernise the country and to support education and industrial diversification to limit its dependence on raw material prices 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 2020 (World Bank, latest data available), with more than 16.6% of the population living below the extreme poverty line according to Oxfam.

Main Indicators 20202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 8.619.8910.0910.4811.95
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -
GDP per Capita (USD) 22222
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 55.851.750.751.647.6
Inflation Rate (%)
Current Account (billions USD) -0.58-0.93-1.17-0.95-0.95
Current Account (in % of GDP) -6.7-9.4-11.6-9.1-7.9

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

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

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 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 18.1% of the GDP and employs over 30.8% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). The country possesses iron mines and its maritime coasts have some of the world's largest fish reserves. 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 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. The secondary sector (including construction) contributes to 27.6% of the country's GDP and employs 17.6% of its workforce. The manufacturing sector alone accounts for 6% 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.

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) 18.1 27.6 44.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) -0.3 0.4 -3.0

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


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

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


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Indicator of Economic Freedom


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.

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

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 90.7% of the GDP (World Bank, 2020 – latest data available). Iron (34.5%) and copper ore (7.6%), fishing products, gold, inedible flours, meals, and pellets were the main exports of Mauritania in 2020. The country mainly imported petroleum oils, wheat and meslin, raw sugar soya-bean oils (Comtrade).

In the same year, China (33.9%), Switzerland (17.1%), Canada (10%), Spain (6.6%), and Italy (4.6%) were the main export destinations, whereas imports came chiefly from Spain (14.6%), the UAE (14.2%), France (8.4%), China (8.2%), and Belgium (6.8%). 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). The country recently signed a free-trade agreement with ECOWAS and is a signatory of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

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 2020, Mauritania's exports reached USD 2.8 billion (up by almost 25% year-on-year), whereas imports stood at USD 2.7 billion, marking a 22% decrease vis-à-vis one year earlier. As per services, Mauritania’s exports are historically really low (at USD 110 million in 2020), the same as for imports (USD 789 million). According to the World Bank’s estimates, the total external trade balance for goods and services was negative by 11.5% of GDP in 2020 (from 13.6% one year earlier).

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 2,0943,1833,5202,7453,564
Exports of Goods (million USD) 1,7222,0522,2662,8304,343
Imports of Services (million USD) 698640741789782
Exports of Services (million USD) 133113124110193
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.6-
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 52.957.353.049.5n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 39.139.340.041.1n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -372-706-570n/an/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -944-1,222-1,158n/an/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 92.096.693.090.7n/a

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


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
China 33.9%
Switzerland 17.1%
Canada 10.0%
Spain 6.6%
Italy 4.6%
See More Countries 27.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
Spain 14.6%
United Arab Emirates 14.2%
France 8.4%
China 8.2%
Belgium 6.8%
See More Countries 47.8%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

2.8 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 34.5%
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 26.1%
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 11.3%
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 9.9%
Copper ores and concentratesCopper ores and concentrates 7.6%
See More Products 10.6%
2.7 bn USD of products imported in 2020
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 27.6%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 6.4%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 6.0%
Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not...Soya-bean oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 5.4%
Parts suitable for use solely or principally with...Parts suitable for use solely or principally with the machinery of heading 8425 to 8430, n.e.s. 4.6%
See More Products 50.1%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.


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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: 2023
Main Political Parties
- Union for the Republic: the main political party, led by former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
- Tewassoul - the National Rally for Reform and Development: Islamist opposition, associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
- El-Wiam: close to former President Maaouiya Ould Taya (ousted in a 2005 coup)
- The People's Progressive Alliance (APP): led by outgoing National Assembly Speaker Messaoud Ould Boulkheir
- Alliance for Justice and Democracy Movement for Renewal ( AJD-MR): black minority interests
- Rally of Democratic Forces: centre-left, social-liberalism
- Republican Party For Democracy and Renewal: right-wing, liberal conservatism
- Union of Progress Forces: centre-left, social democracy
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 bicameral. The parliament consists of: the Senate (upper house) having 56 seats; with its members elected by municipal leaders to serve six-year terms and the National Assembly (lower house) having 81 seats; with its members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. The National Assembly exercises little independence from the executive. It can be dissolved by the President at his will. The people of Mauritania enjoy very limited political rights.

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


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:

Indicator of Political Freedom


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.

Not Free
Political Freedom:

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


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COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the COVID-19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID-19 disease in Mauritania, you can visit the Ministry of Health website.
For the international outlook you can consult the latest situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To discover the latest public health situation in Mauritania and the current sanitary measures in vigour, you can consult the report from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
For the information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual restrictions on imports and exports, if applicable), please consult the website of the Mauritania´s Customs.
For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Mauritania on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
Given the extremely low number of cases reported, the Mauritanian government took few economic measures to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some information on its response is available on the World Bank´s website.

For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Mauritanian government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Mauritania in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.

Support plan for businesses
The country's government official sources do not provide yet information with regards to specific schemes in support of business or exporting companies following the coronavirus epidemic outbreak. For the updated information please visit the website of Mauritania´s Ministry of Economy.
For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters
The country's government official sources do not provide yet information with regards to specific schemes in support of business or exporting companies following the coronavirus epidemic outbreak. For the updated information please visit the website of the Mauritania´s Ministry of Economy.

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Latest Update: November 2022