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Mauritania is essentially a desert country, with vast expanses of pastoral land and only 0.5% of arable land. The population is about 4.9 million (2023), and the density of 5 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 (61.2%) (2023).

Political Context

Mauritania’s political cycle will end by mid-2024, with presidential elections due in June 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, whose priorities are among education and social justice, gives a key role to private sector and a better development of Mauritania's potential in natural resources.

Economic Overview

  • Real GDP growth is estimated to have moderated to 3.4% in 2023 down from 6.4% in 2022, reflecting a significant contraction of public investment and a slowdown in exports due to lower industrial production. Average inflation halved from its peak of 9.5% in 2022 to 5% in 2023 and is expected to further decrease to 2.5% in 2024.
  • The overall fiscal deficit improved to 2.4% of GDP in 2023 compared to 3.7% of GDP in 2022, driven by a fall of capital expenditure. The debt to GDP ratio slightly increased to 48.1% of GDP in 2023 (+0.8 percentage point of GDP), due to the depreciation of exchange rate at the end of 2023. According to the December 2023 joint IMF/WB’s Debt Sustainability Assessment, external debt remains sustainable, and the risk of debt distress moderate.
  • The current account deficit has improved to 10% of GDP in 2023, down from 16.6% of GDP in 2022, due to lower imports of capital goods in the extractive industry, oil and foods products. The Mauritanian Central Bank's foreign exchange reserves rose from 4.5 months of goods imports in 2022, to 6 months in 2023.The current account deficit was mainly financed by Foreign Direct Investment in the extractive industry and budget support from various technical and financial partners. 

Medium-Term Outlook

The medium-term outlook is broadly favorable but subject to downside risks. Over 2024-2026, growth should average 4.9% (3.1% per capita) supported by the launch of gas production in the second half of 2024, sustained private consumption and investment as prices return to pre-crisis levels, higher exports, and the implementation of the government’s public investment program. Average inflation will further fall and reach 2.5% in 2024, as external pressures ease, and stabilize around 2% in 2025 and 2026. The current account balance should improve, reaching 8.5% of GDP in 2024 and average 6.7% of GDP in 2025-2026, driven by gas exports, lower imports in the extractive industry and lower import prices. Fiscal pressures should ease, leading to an average budget deficit of 2% of GDP in 2024, supported by gas revenue, lower current transfers, and greater mobilization of tax revenues. In 2026, the fiscal deficit is projected to narrow to 0.2% of GDP. Debt should gradually decline to 47.7% of GDP in 2024. Risks to the outlook stem from a slowdown in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) inflows due to a delay in the second and third phases of the gas extraction project, as well as vulnerabilities to climatic shocks, and regional insecurity.

Social Context

COVID-19 negative impacts on the economy had repercussions on the labor market and on the living conditions and well-being of the population. Extreme 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 schooling adjusted for learning are 4.2 years per child on average, while 25% 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 19, 2024

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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments
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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
Loana Billeux
+222 45 25 10 17
For project-related issues and complaints