Mauritania

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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 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for more than two decades. A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDALLAHI was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania's first freely and fairly elected president. His term ended prematurely in August 2008 when a military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ deposed him and installed a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in July 2009 and sworn in the following month. AZIZ sustained injuries from an accidental shooting by his own troops in October 2012 but has continued to maintain his authority. He was reelected in 2014 to a second and final term as president (according to the present constitution). The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among three major groups: Arabic-speaking descendants of slaves (Haratines), Arabic-speaking "White Moors" (Bidhan), and members of Sub-Saharan ethnic groups mostly originating in the Senegal River valley (Halpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof). Mauritania confronts a terrorism threat by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, which launched successful attacks between 2005 and 2010.

Geography

Location

Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara

Geographic coordinates

20.00° N, 12.00° W

Area 29/257

total: 1,030,700 sq km

land: 1,030,700 sq km

water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico

Land boundaries

total: 5,002 km

border countries (4): Algeria 460 km, Mali 2,236 km, Senegal 742 km, Western Sahara 1,564 km

Coastline

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

Climate

desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

Terrain

mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills

Elevation

mean elevation:

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

agricultural land: 38.5%

arable land 0.4%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 38.1%

forest: 0.2%

other: 61.3% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

450 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

11.4 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 1.35 cu km/yr (7%/2%/91%)

per capita: 420.2 cu m/yr (2005)

Natural hazards

hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind primarily in March and April; periodic droughts

Environment - current issues

overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; limited natural freshwater resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river; locust infestation

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

Mauritania is considered both a part of North Africa's Maghreb region and West Africa's Sahel region; most of the population is concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Mauritanian(s)

adjective: Mauritanian

Ethnic groups

black Moors (Haratines - Arab-speaking slaves, former slaves, and their descendants of African origin, enslaved by white Moors) 40%, white Moors (of Arab-Berber descent, known as Bidhan) 30%, black Africans (non-Arabic speaking, Halpulaar, Soninke, Wolof, and Bamara ethnic groups) 30%

Languages

Arabic (official and national), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French

note: the spoken Arabic in Mauritania differs considerably from the modern standard Arabic used for official written purposes or in the media; the Mauritanian dialect, which incorporates many Berber words, is referred to as Hassaniya

Religions

Muslim (official) 100%

Population 132/238

3,596,702 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 39.18% (male 707,528/female 701,681)

15-24 years: 19.9% (male 350,283/female 365,578)

25-54 years: 32.71% (male 544,670/female 631,891)

55-64 years: 4.55% (male 73,737/female 90,000)

65 years and over: 3.65% (male 55,736/female 75,598) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 76.1%

youth dependency ratio: 70.5%

elderly dependency ratio: 5.7%

potential support ratio: 17.7% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 20.1 years

male: 19.2 years

female: 21 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 37/233

2.23% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 36/224

31.34 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 88/225

8.2 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 144/222

-0.83 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 59.9% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 3.54% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

NOUAKCHOTT (capital) 968,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.86 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.82 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female

total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 19/184

602 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 28/224

total: 54.68 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 59.61 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 49.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 189/224

total population: 62.65 years

male: 60.35 years

female: 65.02 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 39/224

4 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

9.3% (2007)

Health expenditures 100/191

3.8% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.13 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital bed density

0.4 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking water source

improved:

urban: 58.4% of population

rural: 57.1% of population

total: 57.9% of population

unimproved:

urban: 41.6% of population

rural: 42.9% of population

total: 42.1% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved:

urban: 57.5% of population

rural: 13.8% of population

total: 40% of population

unimproved:

urban: 42.5% of population

rural: 86.2% of population

total: 60% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.66% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

15,900 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

1,100 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 127/191

8.6% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 32/138

19.5% (2012)

Education expenditures 120/173

3.8% of GDP (2011)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 9 years

male: 9 years

female: 8 years (2013)

Government

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

etymology: named after the ancient Kingdom of Mauretania (3rd century B.C. to 1st century A.D.), which existed further north in present-day Morocco; the name derives from the Mauri (Moors), the Berber-speaking peoples of northwest Africa

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Nouakchott

geographic coordinates: 18.04° N, 15.58° W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

15 regions (wilayas, singular - wilaya); Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott Nord, Nouakchott Ouest, Nouakchott Sud, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza

Independence

28 November 1960 (from France)

National holiday

Independence Day, 28 November (1960)

Constitution

previous 1964; latest adopted 12 July 1991; amended 2004, 2006, 2012 (2015)

Legal system

mixed legal system of Islamic and French civil law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Mauritania

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ (since 5 August 2009); note - AZIZ deposed President Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI in a coup and installed himself as president in August 2008; he subsequently retired from the military, stepped down from the appropriated presidency in April 2009 to run for the legitimate presidency, and was elected president on 18 July 2009

head of government: Prime Minister Yahya Ould HADEMINE (since 21 August 2014)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 21 June 2014 (next to be held by 2019); prime minister appointed by the president

election results: Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ elected president; percent of vote - Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ (UPR) 81.9%, Biram Dah ABEID (independent) 8.7%, Boidiel Ould HOUMEIT (El Wiam) 4.5%, Ibrahima Moctar SARR (SJD/MR) 4.4%, other 0.5%

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament or Barlamane consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; 53 members indirectly elected by municipal leaders by simple majority vote and 3 directly elected by Mauritanians abroad; members serve a 6-year term with one-third of membership renewed every 2 years) and the National Assembly or Al Jamiya Al Wataniya (146 seats; 106 members directly elected in single- and two-seat constituencies by absolute majority vote in two rounds if needed and 40 directly elected in constituencies with three or more seats by proportional representation vote; members serve a 5-year term)

elections: Senate - last held on 23 November 2013 (next election scheduled for 2015 but delayed because of opposition party threats to boycott election); National Assembly - first round last held on 23 November and second round on 21 December 2013 (next to be held in 2018)

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPM 14 (UPR 12, UDP 2), RNRD-TAWASSOUL 1, independent 2; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UPR 75, RNRD-TAWASSOUL 16, El Wiam 10, APP 7, El Karama Party 6, UDP 6, AJD/MR 4, Burst of Youth for the Nation 4, El Vadila Party 3, PRDR 3, PUD 3, Ravah Party 3, other 6; note - parties winning fewer than 3 seats sit as independents unless they join a coalition

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (subdivided into 1 criminal and 2 civil chambers, each with a president and 5 counselors); Constitutional Council (consists of 6 members)

judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court president appointed by the president of the republic to serve a 5-year renewable term; Constitutional Council members appointed - 3 by the president of the republic, 2 by the president of the National Assembly, and 1 by the president of the Senate; members serve single, 9-year terms with one-third of membership renewed every 3 years

subordinate courts: High Court of Justice (cases involving treason and criminal acts of high government officials); courts of appeal; wilaya (regional) courts (located at the headquarters of each of the 13 regions); commercial and labor courts; criminal courts; moughataa (district) courts; informal/customary courts

Political parties and leaders

Alliance for Justice and Democracy/Movement for Renewal or AJD/MR [Ibrahima Moctar SARR]

Burst of Youth for the Nation [Lalla CHERIVA]

Coalition for Pacific Alternation or CAP (coalition of opposition parties, including APP, El Wiam)

Coalition of Majority Parties or CPM including UPR, UDP)

Coordination of Democratic Opposition or COD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH] (coalition including RNRD-TAWASSOUL)

El Karama Party [Cheikhna Ould Mohamed Ould HAJBOU]

El Vadila Party [Ethmane Ould Ahmed ABOULMAALY]

El Wiam [Boidiel Ould HOUMEIT]

National Rally for Reform and Development or RNRD-TAWASSOUL [Mohamed Jamil Ould MANSOUR]

Party of Unity and Development or PUD [Mohamed BARO]

Popular Progressive Alliance or APP [Messaoud Ould BOULKHEIR]

Ravah Party

Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR [Sidi Mohamed Ould Mohamed VALL]

Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]

Union for the Republic or UPR [Sidi Mohamed Ould MAHAM]

Political pressure groups and leaders

General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CGTM [Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, secretary general]

Independent Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CLTM and El Hor [Samory Ould BEYE] (civil society organization)

Mauritanian Workers Union or UTM [Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general]

SOS-Esclaves [Boubacar MESSAOUD] (anti-slavery group)

other: Arab nationalists; Ba'athists; Islamists; Nasserists

International organization participation

ABEDA, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, CAEU (candidate), EITI (compliant country), FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, MIUSMA, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

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; green also represents hope for a bright future; the yellow color stands for the sands of the Sahara

National symbol(s)

star and crescent; national colors: green, yellow

National anthem

name: "Hymne National de la Republique Islamique de Mauritanie" (National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania)

lyrics/music: Baba Ould CHEIKH/traditional, arranged by Tolia NIKIPROWETZKY

note: adopted 1960; the unique rhythm of the Mauritanian anthem makes it particularly challenging to sing

Economy

Economy - overview

Mauritania's economy is dominated by natural resources and agriculture. 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. Recently, GDP growth has been driven by foreign investment in the mining and oil sectors.

Mauritania's extensive mineral resources include iron ore, gold, copper, gypsum, and phosphate rock, and exploration is ongoing for uranium, crude oil, and natural gas. Extractive commodities make up about three-quarters of Mauritania's total exports, subjecting the economy to price swings in world commodity markets. Mining is also a growing source of government revenue, rising from 13% to 29% of total revenue between 2006 and 2013. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, and fishing accounts for about 25% of budget revenues, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue.

Risks to Mauritania's economy include its recurring droughts, dependence on foreign aid and investment, and insecurity in neighboring Mali, as well as significant shortages of infrastructure, institutional capacity, and human capital. Mauritania has sought additional IMF support by focusing efforts on poverty reduction. Investment in agriculture and infrastructure are the largest components of the country’s public expenditures.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 151/230

$16.43 billion (2015 est.)

$15.78 billion (2014 est.)

$14.76 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$4.677 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 60/225

4.1% (2015 est.)

6.9% (2014 est.)

5.5% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 172/230

$4,500 (2015 est.)

$4,400 (2014 est.)

$4,100 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 94/179

18.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

19.8% of GDP (2014 est.)

25.6% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 50.6%

government consumption: 30.7%

investment in fixed capital: 41%

investment in inventories: 6.6%

exports of goods and services: 24.3%

imports of goods and services: -53.2%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 23.2%

industry: 37.4%

services: 39.4% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, sheep

Industries

fish processing, oil production, mining (iron ore, gold, copper)

note: gypsum deposits have never been exploited

Industrial production growth rate 8/202

9.6% (2015 est.)

Labor force 135/233

1.318 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 50%

industry: 2%

services: 48% (2001 est.)

Unemployment rate 190/207

31% (2013 est.)

31% (2013 est.)

Population below poverty line

40% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.5%

highest 10%: 29.5% (2000)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 70/144

39 (2000)

37.3 (1995)

Budget

revenues: $2.076 billion

expenditures: $2.22 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 27/219

44.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 116/220

-3.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 163/226

4.3% (2015 est.)

3.5% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 33/156

9% (31 December 2009)

12% (31 December 2007)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 21/184

18% (31 December 2015 est.)

18% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 137/191

$2.157 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$1.969 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

$NA

Current account balance 115/197

-$856 million (2015 est.)

-$1.471 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 145/224

$1.705 billion (2015 est.)

$2.265 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

iron ore, fish and fish products, gold, copper, petroleum

Exports - partners

China 45.3%, Italy 7.6%, Spain 6.1% (2014)

Imports 159/223

$2.142 billion (2015 est.)

$2.74 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods

Imports - partners

China 21.6%, Netherlands 9.4%, France 7.8%, Spain 6%, Morocco 5.3%, US 4.6% (2014)

Debt - external 135/206

$3.807 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$3.571 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Exchange rates

ouguiyas (MRO) per US dollar -

301.5 (2015 est.)

299.5 (2014 est.)

299.5 (2013 est.)

296.6 (2012 est.)

281.12 (2011 est.)

Energy

Electricity - production 148/220

1.035 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 154/219

962.6 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 170/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 176/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 152/214

293,000 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 120/214

66.9% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 144/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 68/214

33.1% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 202/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 83/214

6,003 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 65/214

11,250 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 99/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 85/215

20 million bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 213/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 147/212

12,800 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 204/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 130/213

12,810 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 105/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 173/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 149/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 102/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 71/212

28.32 billion cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 146/212

2.408 million Mt (2012 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 160/219

total subscriptions: 51,400

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 126/217

total: 3.8 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 107 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: limited system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations; mobile-cellular services expanding rapidly

domestic: Mauritel, the national telecommunications company, was privatized in 2001 but remains the monopoly provider of fixed-line services; fixed-line teledensity 2 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular network coverage extends mainly to urban areas with a teledensity of roughly 106 per 100 persons; mostly cable and open-wire lines; a domestic satellite telecommunications system links Nouakchott with regional capitals

international: country code - 222; satellite earth stations - 3 (1 Intelsat - Atlantic Ocean, 2 Arabsat); fiber-optic and asymmetric digital subscriber line cables for Internet access (2009)

Broadcast media

one state-run TV (Television de Mauritanie) and one state-run radio network (Radio de Mauritanie); Television de Mauritanie has three channels, Al Mahadra station (for Islamic content) and Channels 1 and 2, which cover news, sports, and other programming; Radio de Mauritanie runs 12 regional stations, as well as a radio station for youth and the Holy Quran station; five private TV channels and five private radio stations also broadcast from Mauritania; six private international radio stations broadcast in Mauritania on the FM band; with satellite connections, Mauritanians also have access to hundreds of foreign TV channels (2013)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)

Television broadcast stations

1 (2002)

Internet country code

.mr

Internet hosts 220/232

22 (2012)

Internet users 134/217

total: 402,000

percent of population: 11.4% (2014 est.)

Transportation

Airports 116/236

30 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 9

2,438 to 3,047 m: 5

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 21

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 10

914 to 1,523 m: 8

under 914 m: 2 (2013)

Railways 100/136

total: 728 km

standard gauge: 728 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)

Roadways 133/223

total: 10,628 km

paved: 3,158 km

unpaved: 7,470 km (2010)

Waterways

(some navigation possible on the Senegal River) (2011)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Nouadhibou, Nouakchott

Military and Security

Military branches

Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Islamic Republic of Mauritania Air Group (Groupement Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, GAIM) (2013)

Military service age and obligation

18 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2012)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 26,001 (Western Saharan - Sahrawis) (2014); 50,419 (Mali) (2016)