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Overview

Mauritania is essentially a desert country, with vast expanses of pastoral land and only 0.5% of arable land. The population is about 4.6 million (2020), 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 (53%) (2017).

Political Context

Mauritania is in the second 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.

Economic Overview

  • COVID-19 severely impacted the economy, leading to a contraction of 1.8% in 2020. In 2021, growth recovered to 2.3 percent, fueled by a strong extractive sector and fewer containment measures. The annual average inflation increased from 2.4 percent in 2020 to 3.6 driven by food prices which contributed 2.9 percentage points (ppts) to the index in 2021.
  • Despite the negative effects of the pandemic, the primary fiscal balance (excluding grants) remained in surplus at 1.1 percent of GDP in 2020, and to 0.9 percent of GDP in 2021. The total public debt to GDP ratio fell from 65.3 percent in 2020 to 59.3 percent (excluding Kuwaiti debt) in 2021, driven by a strong fiscal position and higher nominal GDP. The current account deficit narrowed from 7.2 percent of GDP in 2020 to 6.6 percent of GDP in 2021, driven mainly by the reduction in the trade deficit The deficit was financed by Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) in the extractive industry, donor financing, and the suspension of debt service through the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSI).

Medium-Term Outlook

The medium-term outlook is broadly favorable. Growth is projected to increase 4.5 percent in 2022 as the government reaches its target to vaccinate 65 percent of the population by mid-2022 and the spread of the virus slow significantly. This is lower than the pre-pandemic level (5.8 percent) and the potential (5.5 percent). In per capita terms, growth will average 3.3 percent for 2022-24, similar to pre-pandemic average (3.4 percent for 2016-2019). Growth is projected to average 5.8 percent over the period 2022-2024 Despite some fiscal pressures in 2021, as the authorities’ ramp-up social and investment spending to support a resilient recovery, the fiscal position is expected to remain strong over the outlook period. Public debt is sustainable, but the risk of debt distress remains high. The outlook is subject to several risks including an emergence of new COVID variants, sustained inflationary pressures, climatic hazards, delayed structural reforms, and regional insecurity.

Social Context

COVID-19 negative impacts on the economy have had repercussions on the labor market and on the living conditions and well-being of populations.

International measurements suggest an increase in poverty corroborated by households’ pessimistic perceptions on their well-being and suggest that COVID-19 would cause poverty to rise from 5.4 percent to 6.3 percent between 2019 and 2020 before reaching 6.4 percent in 2021.

According to Mauritania’s Human Capital Index (HCI), a child born today will only achieve 38% of the 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 (with 7.5% of GDP), and the safety net reaches 47% of the poorest quintile, one of the highest coverages in the region. (Also see ‘Results’ section.)

Last Updated: Apr 19, 2022

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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments
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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. External Affairs Officer
Dakar, Senegal
+221-33-859-41-00
For project-related issues and complaints