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publication July 22, 2020

Mauritania: Improving Education to Foster Social Cohesion and Support Economic Development



  • The World Bank has just published its third Economic Update for Mauritania, an annual publication highlighting recent economic trends and focusing on development issues relevant to the country.
  • Despite an increase in growth in 2019, the economic outlook will depend largely on the impact and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and government policies aimed at mitigating the crisis.
  • A special chapter on education notes that despite the progress made in recent years in terms of access to and gender equality in education, there are still major shortcomings in the education system, which is also being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Nouakchott, July 22, 2020 – Economic growth increased from 2.1% in 2018 to 5.9% in 2019, driven by a rebound in the extractive sector due to increased mining production, particularly of gold and iron. In parallel, non-extractive growth remained robust (at 5% in 2019) thanks to strong growth in the energy and telecommunications sectors, which compensated for the deceleration in the agricultural and fishing sectors. 

So says the World Bank’s third Economic Update for Mauritania, Improving Education to Foster Social Cohesion and Support Economic Development. It notes that while macroeconomic stability has improved in recent years, it will be greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The outbreak will mainly affect the economy due to the global economic slowdown and the contraction of domestic consumption, which will be impacted by the social distancing measures put in place by the authorities to reduce the spread of the virus. As a result, GDP growth could plummet from 5.9% in 2019 to between -2% and -6.8 % in 2020.  

Samer Matta, World Bank economist and main author of the report, states that “to address this crisis and mitigate its socioeconomic impact, the government is encouraged to develop a strategy that revolves around two areas: saving lives and protecting livelihoods.” 

The second chapter of the report focuses on strengthening the Mauritanian education system, given that education is the main obstacle to human development. A good education system is a prerequisite for successful economic diversification and inclusive growth in Mauritania. With a score of 0.35 in the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI), the country currently ranks 150th among 157 economies. This means that a Mauritanian child born today will, on average, realize only 35% of his or her potential in professional development and health relative to what would have been possible had he or she received a complete and solid education and health care.  

“Despite the strides made in terms of access, the poor quality of education in Mauritania is an impediment to economic growth and human capital development,” explains World Bank senior economist Waly Wane, who leads education projects in Mauritania and co-authored the report.  

Several deficiencies in the basic education system account for this finding: 

  • Extremely low levels of teacher competence and a shortage of qualified teachers 
  • Poor management of the sector and high levels of teacher absenteeism 
  • Poor condition of school facilities and inadequate learning materials 
  • Lack of continuity in the education cycle 

To address these significant challenges, the report proposes a number of recommendations aimed at vastly improving the Mauritanian education system. It recommends that the government focus on improving the quality of teachers by introducing evaluations on a regular basis and developing continuing education programs for teachers. The study also recommends providing management and leadership training for school principals and decentralizing management of the school map. In addition, it would be important to establish a system of sanctions to curb the high rate of teacher absenteeism. Lastly, the report proposes improving  learning conditions by introducing scripted lesson plans to provide guidance to teachers and increasing the financial independence of schools through greater use of a direct funding mechanism.