Overview

  • Mauritania is essentially a desert country, with vast expanses of pastoral land and only 0.5% of arable land. According to the National Statistics Office, Mauritania has a population of about 4 million (2018), and a population density of 3.9 inhabitants per square kilometer, making it the fourth least densely populated country in Africa. By 2020, the country will have more urban than rural inhabitants, with 52.8% of the population living in urban areas, against 48.3% in 2013.

    Political Context

    Following the decision by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to abide by the Constitution and not seek a third term, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won the first round of the presidential elections held on June 22, 2019 with 52% of the vote, marking the first democratic transition of power in Mauritania. President Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani assumed office in August 2019 and formed his government.

    Economic Overview

    • The economy continued its gradual recovery in 2018. GDP growth has been on an upward trajectory since 2015, rising from 3.1% in 2017 to 3.6% in 2018. This increase was driven by robust activity in the telecommunications, transport, electricity, and primary sectors.
    • By contrast, the extractive sector continues to curb growth. In addition, strong population growth (roughly 2.8%) is outstripping the pace of economic recovery, which remains slow, with real GDP per capita income having risen a mere 0.6%. This situation jeopardizes the gains made in poverty reduction between 2008 and 2014.
    • The fiscal position continued to improve in 2018. Efforts to achieve fiscal rebalancing helped transform the deficit of 0.3% of GDP in 2017 into a surplus of 1.5% in 2018, the first surplus since 2013. However, unfavorable terms of trade, combined with persistent production challenges in the extractive industries, exacerbated the current account deficit, which rose from 13.9% of GDP in 2018 to 18.7% of GDP in 2019. Despite the deepening deficit, financing was ensured by an increase of foreign direct investment linked to offshore gas exploration and financial flows from the extractive sectors.

    Medium-Term Outlook

    The medium-term economic outlook is favorable. Growth is projected to increase to an average of 6.2% for the 2019-2021 period. Continued expansion of the primary sector, strengthening of the services sector through the implementation of structural reforms, and an increase in mining production are expected to keep the country on this sound path. This robust macroeconomic framework is expected to strengthen, provided the government maintains fiscal prudence, by ensuring that public debt remains viable. An improvement in the terms of trade owing to an increase in international iron prices is expected to mitigate external pressures and allow the central bank to respond to financing needs.

    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, 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 has narrowed, as  the Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, 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.

    However, some population groups in Mauritania have not benefited from this phenomenon, and the country is still lagging on many social indicators. 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 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: Oct 18, 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 six national projects and nine regional projects, for an overall commitment of $342.36 million.  The commitments of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, totaled $55.3 million in August 2019, while the gross commitments of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) amounted to $300 million as of August 31, 2019.

    In addition, on July 12, 2018, the World Bank Group approved a new country partnership framework that is guiding its activities in Mauritania until 2023, with the objective of creating conducive conditions for sustainable and inclusive growth.

    Last Updated: Oct 18, 2019

  • 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 that targets the country’s poorest municipalities. Financed with $52 million from the State budget and with support totaling $25 million from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, this program, launched in 2014, aims to promote local governance by focusing on a participatory approach by the municipalities. The program, which supports 100 municipalities distributed over 10 wilayas in the country, financed the construction and equipping of close to 563 municipal infrastructure projects (schools, health centers, city halls, youth centers, and stadiums) and a significant number of commercial services (municipal markets, slaughterhouses, bus stations). It has facilitated the creation of the equivalent of 1,232 annual full-time jobs and training of 2,000 people (elected officials and municipal and technical staff). The PNIDDLE has also helped with capacity development in the central administrations most involved in its implementation. Lastly, the PNIDDLE financed the completion of numerous studies and reforms relating to decentralization, such as studies on local finances and taxation, the Rural Development Fund (FRD), decentralization of the municipal procurement system, and the national decentralization and local development strategy.

    Breaking the Cycle of Intergenerational Poverty

    The Social Safety Net System Project supports the government’s social protection strategy aimed at protecting poor and vulnerable households and investing in their human capital, with the goal of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. The project supports three key instruments:

    • The social register provides all social programs with an efficient, transparent mechanism for targeting the poor and vulnerable. In April 2019, close to 100,000 households were included in this register.
    • The national social transfer program, Tekavoul. In April 2019, around 30,000 extremely poor households benefited from cash transfers and outreach on best practices in the areas of health, hygiene, and early childhood development.
    • The shock-responsive safety net program, Elmaouna. Since 2017, this program has provided support to several thousands of households experiencing food insecurity during the period preceding the harvest.

    Promoting Women’s Empowerment in the Sahel

    The Sahel Women's Empowerment and Demographics Project (SWEDD) is a regional initiative that aims to boost the level of empowerment of women and adolescent girls with the goal of expediting demographic transition in the region. The project targets girls aged 10 to 19 who are at a higher risk of early marriage and motherhood and provides them with support through a package of evidence-based, age-appropriate interventions in order to end harmful practices, improve their life skills, keep the girls in school, and boost their earning potential. The Mauritania SWEDD received a total of $17 million in financing, with $2 million coming from the State budget and $15 million from an IDA grant. Based on work completed under the SWEDD, one pillar was devoted to capturing the demographic dividend in the Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Shared Prosperity (SCAPP) for 2016–2030. Mauritania has thus launched a communication campaign geared toward behavior change, covering the subjects of girls’ education, women’s economic empowerment, child marriage, and birth spacing, with strong support from Imams and religious leaders as the campaign’s messages are anchored in the context of the position of Islam on these issues.

    Last Updated: Oct 18, 2019

  • Mauritania is receiving external financial assistance from various external organizations such as  the African Development Bank, European Union, United Nations, and bilateral donors, and also receives support from the International Monetary Fund through the extended credit facility. It also receives financial assistance from Arab funds, and China recently scaled up its assistance.

    Last Updated: Oct 18, 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