Overview

  • Mauritania is a desert country, with as little as 0.5% of its land considered arable. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Senegal, Mali, Algeria and a disputed region of Morocco, it has a population of about 4.3 million (2016). Its population density of 3.9 inhabitants per square kilometer makes it the fourth least densely populated country in Africa.

    Political Context

    After gaining its independence from France in1960, Mauritania enjoyed political stability until a military coup in July 1978 ousted its first president, Mokhtar Ould Daddah. A coup in August 2008 brought General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to power. He won election in 2009 and was re-elected in 2014 for a second and last term. A referendum in 2017 abolished the Senate, established Regional Councils for local development, modified the national flag and anthem, and combined various entities in a single Haut Conseil de la Fatwa et des Recours Gracieux (High Council for Fatwa and Administrative Appeals).

    A total of 105 political parties took part in the parliamentary, regional, and commune-level elections held in September 2018; 25 of them won seats in Parliament and more than 35 won seats on regional and municipal councils. The Union for the Republic (Union pour la République, UPR) and its allies in the ruling majority hold 116 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition holds 39, including 30 for Islamist party, Tawassoul. Two Assembly members have no party affiliation. The next presidential election will be held in 2019. President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz is constitutionally barred from running again.

    Economic Overview

    Helped by a prudent fiscal policy and the gradual recovery of global mineral prices, Mauritania has emerged from a period of slow growth caused by falling commodity prices. Real GDP growth rose to 3.5% in 2017, up from 2% in 2016, pushed primarily by improved performances in the fishing, livestock, manufacturing, and commerce sectors. Given the population growth rate (about 3%), however, the pace of the economic recovery remains slow, with real per capita income having risen only a scant 1.1%. This situation jeopardizes the gains made in poverty reduction between 2008 and 2014.

    Budgetary tightening, coupled with a rebound in mining exports, has led to a drop in the current account deficit—from 15.8% of GDP in 2016 to 11% in 2017. This has reduced external financing pressures and kept central bank reserves stable at a level equivalent to 5.1 months of imports. The size of the deficit remains a structural challenge for macroeconomic policies in Mauritania, however, as does the concentration of external resources in extractives-related foreign direct investment and foreign borrowing for public investment. 

    Medium-term Outlook

    The economic outlook remains favorable, despite a slowdown in growth. The growth rate is expected to be 3% in 2018, mainly as a result of the drought in the Sahel, which has affected agricultural production. Economic activity is projected to accelerate in 2019–2020, provided current reforms continue, especially in the agriculture and port infrastructure sectors. Those reforms are expected to help boost the productivity of the primary sector. The performance of the economy will also depend on reforms affecting the business climate and on increased production in the extractive sector following the expansion of the country’s gold mines.

    Fiscal policy, guided by Mauritania’s program with the International Monetary Fund, should remain prudent in the medium term and generate a surplus in the primary balance (excluding grants) of 1.2% of GDP by 2020.

    Finally, pressure on the external balance will likely be reduced by the rebound in exports of extractive and fishing products, which will also ease pressures on foreign exchange reserves.

    Social Context

    Mauritania experienced sustained GDP growth from 2008 to 2014, accompanied by significant improvements in household welfare. The annual real growth in mean household expenditure per capita was 1.52%. All quantiles did well and there was a sharp decline in the proportion of poor population, which fell from 44.5% of the country’s population in 2008 to 33% in 2014. The improvement in living standards has been more marked among the poor and extremely poor than among the non-poor. Inequality, measured by the Gini index, decreased from 35.3 in 2008 to 31.9 in 2014. These developments are explained by improvements in production, productivity, and income in rural areas following the restructuring of the agriculture and livestock sector and by other factors such as internal migration and changes in relative prices.

    Despite the progress, though, some population groups have been left behind, and the country is still lagging behind too in many social dimensions. Poverty has not fallen in the capital, Nouakchott, probably because of migration to urban areas and because the capital tends to attract the poorest of the poor. Labor force participation and the employment rate have not improved, and groups that have not benefited from social progress, such as the youth, women, and low-income workers, are increasingly marginalized. Only 55% of children aged 6 to 11 are enrolled in primary school, one third of households live in precarious housing, and 38% of the population has access to electric lighting.

    Last Updated: Jan 15, 2019

  • The World Bank Group undertook its first development project in Mauritania in 1963, with the financing of MIFERMA, a multinational mining enterprise. Since 1985, this partnership has been gradually expanded. The Bank’s portfolio in Mauritania currently comprises nine national projects and eight regional projects, for an overall commitment of $390.76 million. The commitments of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, totaled $49.5 million in June 2018, while the gross commitments of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) amounted to $302.7 million in May 2018.

    On July 12, 2018, the World Bank Group approved a new country partnership framework that will guide its activities in Mauritania over the next six years, with the objective of creating conducive conditions for sustainable and equitable growth.

    Last Updated: Jan 15, 2019

  • Developing the National Education Sector

    The Bank is supporting two education projects—a $15 million higher education project and a $16 million skills development project. Both aim to improve the relevance and efficiency of technical and vocational training, enabling the country’s labor force to be more responsive to market demands and strengthening the country’s institutional framework. One of the top priorities is to help modernize training institutes and the quality of programs: seven technical training institutes have negotiated performance contracts, and several programs are being certified to meet international standards. A regulatory framework for private sector training institutions is being put in place with a view to increasing the number of programs capable of meeting demand. In March 2015, the Bank approved $11.3 million in additional financing for skills development.

    Local Government Development Program

    The National Integrated Support Program for Decentralization, Local Development, and Youth Employment (PNIDDLE), is a flagship program of the Mauritanian Government targeting the country’s poorest communes. Financed with $52 million from the national budget and $25 million from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank fund for the poorest countries, this program, launched in 2014, aims to promote local governance with a focus on participatory approaches.

    Last Updated: Jan 15, 2019

  • Mauritania is receiving external financial assistance from the African Development Bank, European Union, United Nations and bilateral donors. It also receives financial assistance from Arab funds, and China has recently scaled up its assistance. 

    Last Updated: Jan 15, 2019

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LENDING

Mauritania: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments


PHOTO GALLERY

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Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Main Office Contact
Thiane Dia
Executive Assistant
Lot N. 02 F Nord Liaison Ksar
BP 667
Nouakchott, Mauritania
TEL.: (+222) 45 25 10 17
TEL.: (+222) 45 25 13 59
FAX.: (+222) 45 25 13 34
For general information and inquiries
Mademba Ndiaye
Sr. Communications Officer
Dakar, Senegal
+221-33-859-41-00
mademba@worldbank.org
For project-related issues and complaints
mauritaniaalert@worldbank.org