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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 4.8 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).

Political Context

Mauritania’s 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, 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

  • Growth increased from 2.4% in 2021 to 7.1% in 2022 supported by higher exports on the demand side, and the expansion of the agricultural and extractive sectors on the supply side. In 2023, economic growth is projected to decelerate to 4.3%, 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 6.0% in 2023, as external pressure on prices subsides.
  • The overall fiscal balance registered a deficit of 3.0% of GDP in 2022 compared to a surplus of 2.2% of GDP in 2021, due to higher transfers and lower revenues. The debt to GDP ratio remained stable in 2022 and around 44.7%. 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 2.9% of GDP in 2023, supported by lower current expenditure, whereas debt to GDP ratio should slightly increase to 46.8%.
  • The current account deficit is estimated to have widened to 12.7% 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.

Medium-Term Outlook

The medium-term outlook is broadly favorable but subject to downside risks. During 2024-2025, growth should average 6% (3.4% per capita) supported by higher gold and iron production, commencement of gas exports, and higher agriculture output. The onset of gas production could yield fiscal space of 0.5-1.2% of GDP per annum to support infrastructure expenditures. Average inflation could reach 6% in 2023, driven by lower food and energy prices, and gradually fall to 2.5% by 2025. The CAD is projected to narrow after 2023 with higher production of iron, gas exports and stronger growth in Europe (2025), which should compensate for lower commodity prices and decelerating demand from the main trading partners in 2024. Risks to the outlook remain from a slowdown in the Euro Zone and China, if external demand for exports decelerates, 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: Sep 29, 2023

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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
Loana Billeux
+222 45 25 10 17
For project-related issues and complaints