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Mauritania, See : Flags, Maps

Mauritania (Africa)

(Fr) Études sur L'Islam et les tribus Maures, Paul Marty

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 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 ushered in a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in July 2009. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and white and black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, and is having to confront a growing terrorism threat by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Geography ::Mauritania

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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 country comparison to the world: 29 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: 5,074 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)

Total renewable water resources:

11.4 cu km (1997)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):

total: 1.7 cu km/yr (9%/3%/88%)

per capita: 554 cu m/yr (2000)

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; 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, 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:

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 ::Mauritania


3,205,060 (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 133

Age structure:

0-14 years: 41% (male 643,436/female 638,793)

15-64 years: 55.7% (male 818,778/female 923,046)

65 years and over: 3.4% (male 44,836/female 60,597) (2010 est.)

Median age:

total: 19.3 years

male: 18.5 years

female: 20.2 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.373% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 35

Birth rate:

33.67 births/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 37

Death rate:

9 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 74

Net migration rate:

-0.94 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 155


urban population: 41% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.89 male(s)/female

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

total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 61.94 deaths/1,000 live births country comparison to the world: 34 male: 67.13 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 56.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 60.75 years country comparison to the world: 184 male: 58.57 years

female: 62.99 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:

4.37 children born/woman (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 38

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.8% (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 58

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

14,000 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 89

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

fewer than 1,000 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 78

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: high

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria and Rift Valley fever

respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis

animal contact disease: rabies (2009)


noun: Mauritanian(s)

adjective: Mauritanian

Ethnic groups:

mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%


Muslim 100%


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


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 51.2%

male: 59.5%

female: 43.4% (2000 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 8 years

male: 8 years

female: 8 years (2007)

Education expenditures:

4.4% of GDP (2008) country comparison to the world: 95

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:

military junta


name: Nouakchott

geographic coordinates: 18 07 N, 16 02 W

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

Administrative divisions:

13 regions (wilayas, singular - wilaya); 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 Islamic law and French civil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:

chief of state: President Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ (since 5 August 2009); note - AZIZ, who deposed democratically elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI in a coup and installed himself as President of the High State Council on 6 August 2008, retired from the military and stepped down from the Presidency in April 2009 to run for president; he was elected president in an election held on 18 July 2009

head of government: Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed LAGHDAF (since 14 August 2008)

cabinet: Council of Ministers (For more information visit the World Leaders website ) elections: following the August 2008 coup, the High State Council planned to hold a new presidential election in June 2009; the election was subsequently rescheduled to 18 July 2009 following the Dakar Accords, which brought Mauritania back to constitutional rule; under Mauritania's constitution, the president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held on 18 July 2009 (next to be held by 2014)

election results: percent of vote - Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ 52.6%, Messaoud Ould BOULKHEIR 16.3%, Ahmed Ould DADDAH 13.7%, Other 17.4%

Legislative branch:

bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; 53 members elected by municipal leaders and 3 members elected for Mauritanians abroad to serve six-year terms; a portion of seats up for election every two years) and the National Assembly or Al Jamiya Al Wataniya (95 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)

elections: Senate - last held on November 2009; National Assembly - last held on 19 November and 3 December 2006 (next to be held in 2011)

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPM (Coalition of Majority Parties) 45, COD (Coordination of Democratic Opposition) 7, RNRD-TAWASSOUL 4; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPM 63 (UPR 50, PRDR 7, UDP 3, HATEM-PMUC 2, RD 1), COD 27 (RFD 9, UFP 6, APP 6, PNDD-ADIL 6), RNRD-TAWASSOUL 4, FP 1

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts

Political parties and leaders:

Alternative or El-Badil [Mohamed Yahdhi Ould MOCTAR HACEN];
Coalition of Majority Parties or CPM (parties supporting the regime
including PRDR, UPR, RD, HATEM-PMUC, UCD); Coordination of
Democratic Opposition or COD (coalition of opposition political
parties opposed to the government including APP, RFD, UFP,
PNDD-ADIL, Alternative or El-Badil); Democratic Renewal or RD
[Moustapha Ould ABDEIDARRAHMANE]; Mauritanian Party for Unity and
Change or HATEM-PMUC [Saleh Ould HANENA]; National Pact for
Democracy and Development or PNDD-ADIL [Yahya Ould Ahmed Ould
WAGHEF] (independents formerly supporting President Abdellahi);
National Rally for Freedom, Democracy and Equality or RNDLE;
National Rally for Reform and Development/RNRD-TAWASSOUL [Mohamed
Jamil MANSOUR] (moderate Islamists); 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]; Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR [Mintata
Mint HDEID]; Socialist and Democratic Unity Party or PUDS; Union for
Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]; Union for the
Republic or UPR; Union of Democratic Center or UCD [Cheikh Sid'Ahmed
Ould BABA]; Union of the Forces for Progress or UFP [Mohamed Ould

Political pressure groups and leaders:

General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CGTM [Abdallahi Ould
MOHAMED, secretary general]; Independent Confederation of
Mauritanian Workers or CLTM [Samory Ould BEYE]; Mauritanian Workers
Union or UTM [Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general]

other: Arab nationalists; Ba'thists; Islamists

International organization participation:

IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAS, MIGA, NAM,

Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Mohamed Lemine EL HAYCEN

chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700 through 5701
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Mark M. BOULWARE

embassy: 288 Rue Abdallaye, Rue 42-100 (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott

mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott

telephone: [222] 525-2660 through 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; the gold color stands for the sands of the Sahara

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 ::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. Before 2000, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In February 2000, Mauritania qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and nearly all of its foreign debt has since been forgiven. A new investment code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment. Mauritania and the IMF agreed to a three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement in 2006. Mauritania made satisfactory progress, but the IMF, World Bank, and other international actors suspended assistance and investment in Mauritania after the August 2008 coup. Since the presidential election in July 2009, donors have resumed assistance. Oil prospects, while initially promising, have largely failed to materialize, and the government has placed a priority on attracting private investment to spur economic growth. The Government also emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$6.8 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 152 $6.476 billion (2009 est.)

$6.542 billion (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$3.486 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

5% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 58 -1% (2009 est.)

3.5% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$2,100 (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 187 $2,100 (2009 est.)

$2,100 (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 12.5%

industry: 46.7%

services: 40.7% (2008 est.)

Labor force:

1.318 million (2007) country comparison to the world: 135

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 50%

industry: 10%

services: 40% (2001 est.)

Unemployment rate:

30% (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 179 20% (2004 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:

39 (2000) country comparison to the world: 71 37.3 (1995)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

7.3% (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 185

Central bank discount rate:

NA% (31 December 2009) country comparison to the world: 33 12% (31 December 2007)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

Stock of domestic credit:

Market value of publicly traded shares:

Agriculture - products:

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


fish processing, oil production, mining of iron ore, gold, and copper

note: gypsum deposits have never been exploited

Industrial production growth rate:

2% (2000 est.) country comparison to the world: 132

Electricity - production:

415.3 million kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 162

Electricity - consumption:

386.2 million kWh (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 164

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2008 est.)

Oil - production:

16,510 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 77

Oil - consumption:

20,000 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 126

Oil - exports:

30,620 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 85

Oil - imports:

20,610 bbl/day (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 109

Oil - proved reserves:

100 million bbl (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 68

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 146

Natural gas - consumption:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 137

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 151

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 94

Natural gas - proved reserves:

28.32 billion cu m (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 72

Current account balance:

-$184 million (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 86


$1.395 billion (2006) country comparison to the world: 141

Exports - commodities:

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

Exports - partners:

China 42.06%, Italy 9.71%, Japan 7.57%, Cote d'Ivoire 6.16%, Spain 5.63%, Netherlands 4.32% (2009)


$1.475 billion (2006) country comparison to the world: 163

Imports - commodities:

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

Imports - partners:

France 14.3%, Netherlands 10.33%, China 9.94%, Brazil 5.58%, Belgium 4.87%, Germany 4.04%, Spain 4.02% (2009)

Debt - external:

Exchange rates:

ouguiyas (MRO) per US dollar - 261.5 (2010 est.), 262.4 (2009), 238.2 (2008), 258.6 (2007), 271.3 (2006)

Communications ::Mauritania

Telephones - main lines in use:

74,500 (2009) country comparison to the world: 151

Telephones - mobile cellular:

2.182 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 130

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 70 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); optical-fiber and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) cables for internet access (2008)

Broadcast media:

broadcast media state-owned; 1 state-run TV and 1 state-run radio network; Television de Mauritanie, the state-run TV station, has an additional 6 regional TV stations that provide local programming (2008)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

23 (2010) country comparison to the world: 216

Internet users:

75,000 (2009) country comparison to the world: 169

Transportation ::Mauritania


28 (2010) country comparison to the world: 120

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 9

2,438 to 3,047 m: 5

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2010)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 19

1,524 to 2,437 m: 9

914 to 1,523 m: 8

under 914 m: 2 (2010)


728 km

standard gauge: 728 km 1.435-m gauge (2008)


total: 11,066 km country comparison to the world: 133 paved: 2,966 km

unpaved: 8,100 km (2006)


some navigation possible on Senegal River (2010)

Ports and terminals:

Nouadhibou, Nouakchott

Military ::Mauritania

Military branches:

Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine
Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Islamic Air Force of
Mauritania (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2010)

Military service age and obligation:

18 years of age (est.); conscript service obligation - 2 years; majority of servicemen believed to be volunteers; service in Air Force and Navy is voluntary (2006)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 16-49: 699,028

females age 16-49: 783,108 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 16-49: 464,959

females age 16-49: 562,765 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:

male: 35,322

female: 36,035 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:

5.5% of GDP (2006) country comparison to the world: 13

Transnational Issues ::Mauritania

Disputes - international:

Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant

Trafficking in persons:

current situation: Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation; slavery-related practices, rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships, continue to exist in isolated parts of the country; Mauritanian boys called talibe are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging; children are also trafficked by street gangs within the country that force them to steal, beg, and sell drugs; girls are trafficked internally for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation; women and children from neighboring states are trafficked into Mauritania for purposes of forced begging, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation

tier rating: Tier 3 - the Government of Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government did not show evidence of overall progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders, protecting trafficking victims, and preventing new incidents of trafficking during the past year; progress that the previous government demonstrated in 2007 through enactment of strengthened anti-slavery legislation and deepened political will to eliminate slavery and trafficking has stalled; law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking including traditional slavery practices decreased (2009)


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