NOUAKCHOTT, June 1, 2021 —Despite a slowdown in economic growth in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Mauritania could increase its wealth by 19% if it was to place greater reliance on the economic potential of women by promoting gender equality and human capital. This is the conclusion of the Fourth Economic Update for Mauritania, released today by the World Bank.
Titled “Accelerating Economic Recovery by Unlocking Women’s Potential,” the report notes that the health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant decline in growth from 5.9% in 2019 to -1.5% in 2020, which has had a particularly severe impact on households and urban workers in the service sector. The report argues, however, that emergency financial assistance provided by donors and improved terms of trade have eased pressures on the current account and the budget. In fact, the debt-to-GDP ratio has remained stable at 73.5%, but the risk of debt distress remains high.
“To support economic recovery and rebuild a more sustainable and equitable economy, the government is encouraged to use available fiscal space to support growth-enhancing spending while ensuring public debt sustainability,” says Cristina Santos, World Bank Country Manager for Mauritania.
Increased extractive activity, especially with the onset of gas production at the Greater Tortue/Ahmeyim (GTA) offshore gas field in 2023 and the recovery of the non-extractive sector, should pave the way for a gradual return to economic growth. These projections are, however, subject to numerous risks and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic, climatic shocks, delays in structural reforms, and insecurity in the Sahel region.
The report devotes a special chapter to gender inequality and examines the main barriers to women’s participation in the Mauritanian economy. It notes, in particular, that notwithstanding the progress made in the enrolment of girls in school, girls obtained lower scores and had a lower level of educational attainment than boys. This is due to a number of reasons, including early marriage and pregnancy, which force girls to leave school at a very young age and also have serious consequences for their health and that of their children, as well as for their cognitive development. Lack of access to good jobs and financing, in addition to restricted land rights, prevent Mauritanian women from developing professionally and contributing to the economic transformation of their country.
According to the report’s authors, a number of reforms could be considered by the authorities to bridge the economic gender gap and facilitate the inclusion of women, starting with legal reforms to facilitate women’s access to employment, assets, and other productive resources. In addition, child marriage must be progressively eliminated, and women must be granted the same land and employment rights as men. The report concludes that society as a whole will benefit from new reforms that protect women and allow them to contribute fully to their country’s economic development.