Mauritania - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing
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Methods of Payment

Mauritania’s economy is largely informal and most day-to-day transactions are cash-based. The World Bank’s most recent estimates indicate that only 21 percent of Mauritanians have bank accounts.  As a result, modern methods of payment, such as credit cards, exist but their use is concentrated in major urban cites.  There are no restrictions enforced on foreigners who wish to obtain an individual or business banking account.  To open a bank account, the company needs to provide proof of a physical address, the company’s local registration documents, copy of a photo ID, and two photos.

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For more information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide.

Banking Systems

The IMF has assisted Mauritania with the stabilization of the banking sector.  As a result, access to domestic credit has become easier and cheaper.  A proliferation of banks has fostered competition that has contributed to the decline in interest rates from 30 percent in 2000 to 10 percent in 2018, not including origination costs and other fees.  Interest rates have remained stable since 2009, ranging between 10 to 17 percent.

Since 2018, Mauritania has not had any correspondent banking relationships with banks in the United States, although intermediary banks are still clearing transactions in U.S. dollars for Mauritanian banks.  This occurred because of de-risking policies applied by U.S. banks.

The banking system is stable as the economy gradually recovers from COVID-19, but this rebound remains fragile as liquidity constraints in the financial market, arising from fiscal consolidation and an ineffective monetary policy, continue to dampen liquidity in the banking sector.  The country’s five largest banks are estimated to have US $100 million in combined reserves; however, these figures cannot be independently verified, making an evaluation of the banking system’s strength impossible. The interbank market rate was reduced from 6.5 percent to 5 percent in 2020.  As of April 2023, 16 banks, national and foreign, currently operate in Mauritania, even though only some 21 percent of the population holds bank accounts. The Central Bank of Mauritania oversees the Mauritanian banking industry and has made reforms to streamline the financial sector’s compliance with international standards.  The Ministry of Finance mandates that the Central Bank perform yearly audits of Mauritanian banks.

Since 2017, the Central Bank has significantly reduced direct foreign currency sales to the private sector to better enforce foreign exchange regulations as part of its drive to allow for a more flexible determination of the exchange rate.

Foreign Exchange Controls

There are no legal or policy restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with foreign investments.  Investors are guaranteed the free transfer of convertible currencies at the legal market rate, subject to the availability of such currencies.  Similarly, foreigners working in Mauritania are guaranteed the prompt transfer of their professional salaries.  To transfer funds, investors are required to open a foreign exchange bank account in Mauritania.  There are no maximum legal transaction limits for investors transferring money into or out of Mauritania, although regulations to withdraw money may be complicated in practice.

The local currency, the “Ouguiya,” is freely convertible within Mauritania, but its exportation is not legally authorized.  Hard currencies can be obtained from the Central Bank and local commercial banks. The Central Bank holds regular foreign exchange auctions, allowing market forces to fix the value of the Ouguiya. Individuals and companies may obtain hard currency through the informal market and commercial banks for the payment of purchases or the repatriation of dividends.  If the bank has hard currency available, there is no delay in effect for remitting investment returns.  However, if the bank does not have sufficient reserves, the hard currency must be obtained from the Central Bank to conduct the transfer. The Central Bank is required to prioritize government transfers, which could present further delays. Delays of one to three weeks, although uncommon, can occur.

U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks

There are no U.S. banks that currently operate in Mauritania.  Due to the global phenomenon of de-risking, no Mauritanian banks currently have correspondent banking relationships with U.S. banks.  Only one international bank is operating in Mauritania, Attijari, which maintains a banking relationship with U.S. banks. Société General, the only other bank that had a U.S. banking relationship, exited Mauritania in June as part of a  global decision to sell out assets in the Sahel region.

For more information on the banking systemplease read the section Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment of the Investment Climate Statement.