Mauritania is principally a Saharan country – 75 percent desert. At nearly 400,000 square miles, Mauritania is slightly larger than Texas and New Mexico combined. The southern strip of Mauritania, along the Senegal River and toward the border with Mali in the east, is part of the Sahel, the semi-arid belt south of the Sahara. Culturally, Mauritania straddles two distinct regions: the Sahel countries that form the northern edge of western Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Maghreb countries of North Africa. A little more than half of Mauritania’s 4.8 million population lives in urban areas, principally the capital city of Nouakchott and the northern trade-hub of Nouadhibou. With a density of four inhabitants per square kilometer, Mauritania is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
Mauritania has long been associated with a tradition of North-South trade and is favorable to free markets, personal mobility, and entrepreneurship. The country is seeking to overcome a history of poverty while also rekindling its relationship with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and playing a more active role within the African Union as Mauritania was among the first countries to ratify the agreement for the creation and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). In addition, Mauritania offers a small but steadily growing market to investors. With an average per capita GDP of US $2,083, growth has fluctuated over the years, largely due to the economy’s dependence on commodity prices. The government continues to ramp up its support of social programs and investment spending to support a resilient recovery from post-pandemic effects.
According to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Mauritania’s economy displayed remarkable resilience amidst global economic challenges, with its growth rate rising from 2.4% in 2021 to 5.2% in 2022. This uptick is attributed to boosted exports, a surge in private consumption, advancements in the agricultural sector, and a rebound in gold production. However, this growth remains just below pre-pandemic figures. The inflation rate also experienced a notable increase from 3.6% in 2021 to 9.5% in 2022, largely due to global commodity price surges. The medium-term outlook for Mauritania remains positive, spurred by an expanding extractive industry and policies emphasizing economic diversification and private sector investment. Although a slight growth deceleration to 4.5% is anticipated in 2023, mainly because of drops in iron ore and gold production, projections for 2024-2025 suggest an average growth rate of 6.2%. This optimism is bolstered by the anticipated start of gas production from the Greater Tortue/Ahmeyim (GTA) offshore field. Lastly, while inflation is predicted to remain high at 8% in 2023, fiscal and monetary strategies—including a tightened monetary policy by the Central Bank of Mauritania and reductions in subsidies—are expected to address the nation’s current and budgetary deficits.
Visit the State Department’s website for background on the country’s political and economic environment