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 political cycle will end by mid-2024. Prime Minister Mohamed Ould Bilal, who took office in August 2020, has been leading the implementation of President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani’s Programme prioritaire élargi du Président de la République. The Program integrated the response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on resilient recovery.
- Growth accelerated from 2.4% in 2021 to 5.2% in 2022 supported by higher exports on the demand side, and the expansion of the agricultural sector on the supply side. In 2023, economic growth is projected to decelerate to 4.5%, driven by lower growth in the extractive industry, resulting from lower production of iron ore and gold, as well as lower agricultural output. The annual average inflation reached 9.5% in 2022 and is expected to decrease to 8.0% in 2023, as external pressure on prices subsides.
- The overall fiscal balance registered a deficit of 3.5% of GDP in 2022 compared to a surplus of 2.2% of GDP in 2021. The debt to GDP ratio remained stable in 2022 and around 49%. The January 2023 joint IMF/WB’s Debt Sustainability Assessment suggests that the risk of overall and external public debt distress is moderate, down from high in the previous DSA, thanks to a recent debt restructuring and continued improvement in fiscal risk management. The fiscal deficit is expected to decrease to 2.3% of GDP in 2023, supported by lower current expenditure, whereas debt to GDP ratio should slightly increase to 49.6%.
- The current account deficit is estimated to have widened to 13.9% of GDP in 2022, up from 8.1% of GDP in 2021, due to high energy and food import prices, and lower export prices. The deficit is expected to be financed by Foreign Direct Investment in the extractive industry and concessional borrowing.
The medium-term outlook is broadly favorable but subject to downside risks. Growth should average 6.2% of GDP in 2024-2025, with 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 5% by 2025, as international commodity prices drop. Risks to the outlook include a protracted Russia war in Ukraine 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 resulting from climate change and that impact agricultural output and household income.
COVID-19 negative impacts on the economy had 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: Mar 20, 2023