Mauritania is essentially a desert country, with vast expanses of pastoral land and only 0.5% of arable land. The population is about 4.8 million (2021), and the density of 4 inhabitants per square kilometer makes it one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Further, more than half of Mauritanians live in urban areas (56%) (2021).
Mauritania is in the third year of its political cycle, which should end by mid-2024. Prime Minister Mohamed Ould Bilal, who took office in August 2020, is leading the implementation of President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani’s Programme prioritaire élargi du Président de la République. The Program integrates the response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on resilient recovery.
- Growth rebounded to 2.4% in 2021, fueled by an increase in private consumption and investment, as well as improved performance of the services sector. The economy is expected to continue this positive trajectory and grow by 4% in 2022, supported by higher production of extractives and improved activity in services. The annual average inflation reached 3.6% in 2021 and is expected to peak to 8.9% in 2022, driven by higher food and energy prices.
- The fiscal surplus (2.2% of GDP) and high growth reduced the debt-to-GDP ratio from 55.8% of GDP in 2020 to 51.7% in 2021. Higher energy subsidies are expected to turn the fiscal balance into a deficit for the first time since 2018; this is thus expected to reach 3.8% of GDP, and debt to increase slightly to 52% of GDP.
- The balance of payments pressures increased in 2021 on the back of high energy and food imports. After reaching 8.1% of GDP in 2021, the current account deficit is projected to widen further to 13.8% of GDP in 2022 due to higher prices of imports, lower prices of main exports, and a deceleration of demand from the main trading partners (China and Europe). The deficit is expected to be financed by Foreign Direct Investment in the extractive industry.
The medium-term outlook is broadly favorable but subject to various risks. Growth should average 6.5% of GDP in 2023-2024, sustained by the opening of new mines, the onset of gas production in 2024, and a scale up of public investment. The fiscal deficit is expected to gradually narrow as revenue collection improves and spending related to energy subsidies decreases. Average inflation is expected to gradually fall to 4.5% by 2024 as international commodity prices drop. Risks to the outlook include a protracted Ukraine crisis with additional negative spillovers on real, fiscal, and external sectors. Sustained high oil and food prices, combined with volatile commodity exports prices pose additional risks that could slow down economic activity and increase food insecurity. Regional insecurity in the Sahel is another source of risk. Mauritania is also exposed to recurring cycles of droughts that impact agricultural output and household income.
COVID-19 negative impacts on the economy have repercussions on the labor market and on the living conditions and well-being of the population. Poverty is estimated to have increased due to the pandemic, reaching 6.3% in 2022.
According to Mauritania’s Human Capital Index (HCI), a child born today will only achieve 38% of his/her productivity in adulthood. Expected years of school adjusted for effective learning are 4.2 years per child on average, while 23% of children are stunted, against a background of relatively low public spending on health and education. Social Assistance spending is high for the region (7.5% of GDP), and the existing safety nets programs reach 47% of the poorest quintile of the population - one of the highest coverages in the region. (Also see ‘Results’ section.)
Last Updated: Sep 13, 2022