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Flag of Mauritania
Map of Mauritania
Introduction Mauritania
Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as flawed, but October 2001 legislative and municipal elections were generally free and open. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council headed by Col. Ely Ould Mohamed VALL, which declared it would remain in power for up to two years while it created conditions for genuine democratic institutions and organized elections. Accordingly, parliamentary elections were held in December of 2006 and senatorial and presidential elections will follow (January and March 2007 respectively). The newly-elected legislature is expected to assume power following the inauguration of the new president. For now, however, Mauritania remains an autocratic state, and the country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population and different Moor (Arab-Berber) communities.
Geography Mauritania
Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
Geographic coordinates:
20 00 N, 12 00 W
Map references:
total: 1,030,700 sq km
land: 1,030,400 sq km
water: 300 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico
Land boundaries:
total: 5,074 km
border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km
754 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m
Natural resources:
iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
Land use:
arable land: 0.2%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 99.79% (2005)
Irrigated land:
490 sq km (2002)
Natural hazards:
hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts
Environment - current issues:
overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; very limited natural fresh water resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river; locust infestation
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
most of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
People Mauritania
3,177,388 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 45.6% (male 726,376/female 723,013)
15-64 years: 52.2% (male 818,408/female 839,832)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 28,042/female 41,717) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 17 years
male: 16.8 years
female: 17.3 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.88% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
40.99 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
12.16 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 69.48 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 72.44 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 66.43 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.12 years
male: 50.88 years
female: 55.42 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
5.86 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
9,500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and Rift Valley fever are high risks in some locations
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis (2005)
noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
Ethnic groups:
mixed Maur/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%
Muslim 100%
Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, French, Hassaniya, Wolof
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 41.7%
male: 51.8%
female: 31.9% (2003 est.)
Government Mauritania
Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
conventional short form: Mauritania
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
local short form: Muritaniyah
Government type:
name: Nouakchott
geographic coordinates: 18 06 N, 15 57 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
12 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 capital district*; Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh Ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott*, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza
28 November 1960 (from France)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 28 November (1960)
12 July 1991
Legal system:
a combination of Shari'a (Islamic law) and French civil law
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Col. Ely Ould Mohamed VALL, whose Military Council for Justice and Democracy deposed longtime President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA in a coup on 3 August 2005
head of government: Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould BOUBAKAR (since 8 August 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second consecutive term); note - passage of a constitutional reform referendum in July 2006 limits president to two five-year terms; election last held 7 November 2003 (next to be held 11 March 2007); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA reelected for a third term with 60.8% of the vote
Legislative branch:
bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; a portion of seats up for election every two years; members elected by municipal leaders to serve six-year terms) and the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani (95 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 9 and 16 April 2004 (next to be held 21 January 2007); National Assembly - last held 19 November and 3 December 2006
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CFCD 41 (including RFD 16, United Forces for Progress (UDP) 9, APP 5, Islamists 5, HATEM-PMUC 3, RD 2, FP 1), RNI (coalition of independent candidates) 38, PRDR 7, Union for Democracy and Progress (UDP) 3, RDU 3, Alternative (Al-Badil) 1, RNDLE 1, UCD 1
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts
Political parties and leaders:
Alternative or Al-Badil; Coalition for Forces for Democratic Change or CFCD (coalition of political parties including RFD, United Forces of Progress or UDP, APP, Islamists, HATEM-PMUC, RD, UDC); Democratic Renewal or RD; Islamists (Centrist Reformists); Mauritanian Party for Unity and Change or HATEM-PMUC; National Rally for Freedom, Democracy and Equality or RNDLE; Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]; Popular Progressive Alliance or APP [Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR]; Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]; Rally for Democracy and Unity or RDU [Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA]; Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR (formerly ruling Democratic and Social Republican Party or PRDS) [Boullah Ould MOGUEYA]; Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]; Union of Democratic Centre or UCD
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Arab nationalists; Ba'thists; General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CGTM [Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, secretary general]; Independent Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CLTM [Samory Ould BEYE]; Islamists; Mauritanian Workers Union or UTM [Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general]
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Tijani Ould Mohamed EL KERIM
chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700, 5701
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Charles H. Twining
embassy: 288 Rue Abdallaye (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott
mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott
telephone: [222] 525-2660/525-2663
FAX: [222] 525-1592
Flag description:
green with a yellow five-pointed star above a yellow, horizontal crescent; the closed side of the crescent is down; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam
Economy Mauritania
Economy - overview:
Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many of the nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for nearly 40% of total exports. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In the past, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt which now stands at more than three times the level of annual exports. In February 2000, Mauritania qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and in December 2001 received strong support from donor and lending countries at a triennial Consultative Group review. A new investment code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment. Ongoing negotiations with the IMF involve problems of economic reforms and fiscal discipline. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential extraction at current world oil prices. Mauritania has an estimated 1 billion barrels of proved reserves. Substantial oil production and exports began in early 2006 and averaged 75,000 barrels per day for the year. Meantime the government emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and promoting privatization of the economy.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$8.397 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.641 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
19.4% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$2,600 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 25%
industry: 29%
services: 46% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
786,000 (2001)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 50%
industry: 10%
services: 40% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
20% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:
40% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 30.2% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
39 (2000)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
7% (2003 est.)
revenues: $421 million
expenditures: $378 million; including capital expenditures of $154 million (2002 est.)
Agriculture - products:
dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, sheep
fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum
Industrial production growth rate:
2% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
176.7 million kWh (2004)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 85.9%
hydro: 14.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
164.3 million kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
75,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - consumption:
24,200 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - proved reserves:
1 billion bbl (2005)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2005 est.)
$784 million f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:
iron ore, fish and fish products, gold
Exports - partners:
Italy 14.8%, Japan 12.2%, France 11.9%, Belgium 8.5%, Germany 8.2%, Cote d'Ivoire 7.1%, Spain 7.1%, Russia 5%, Netherlands 4.4% (2005)
$1.124 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
France 18.2%, UK 7.1%, US 6.9%, China 6%, Spain 5%, Belgium 4.3% (2005)
Debt - external:
$2.5 billion (2000)
Economic aid - recipient:
$305.7 million (2002)
Currency (code):
ouguiya (MRO)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
ouguiyas per US dollar - NA (2005), NA (2004), 263.03 (2003), 271.74 (2002)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Mauritania
Telephones - main lines in use:
41,000 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
745,600 (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: limited system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations (improvements being made)
domestic: mostly cable and open-wire lines; a recently completed domestic satellite telecommunications system links Nouakchott with regional capitals
international: country code - 222; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 2 Arabsat
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)
410,000 (2001)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (2002)
98,000 (2001)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
32 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
5 (2001)
Internet users:
14,000 (2005)
Transportation Mauritania
25 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 17
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 1 (2006)
717 km
standard gauge: 717 km 1.435-m gauge (2005)
total: 7,660 km
paved: 866 km
unpaved: 6,794 km (1999)
Ports and terminals:
Nouadhibou, Nouakchott
Military Mauritania
Military branches:
Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Air Force (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2005)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age (est.); conscript service obligation - two years; majority of servicemen believed to be volunteers; service in Air Force and Navy is voluntary (April 2005)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 18-49: 606,463
females age 18-49: 607,955 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 370,513
females age 18-49: 384,269 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$19.32 million (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.4% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Mauritania
Disputes - international:
Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara have been dormant in recent years
Trafficking in persons:
current situation: Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor, begging, and domestic servitude; adults and children are subjected to slavery-related practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships in isolated parts of the country where a barter economy exists
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Mauritania is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to show evidence of increased efforts to combat trafficking, particularly in the area of law enforcement

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007