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CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Mauritania
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. 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. Mauritania remains, in reality, a one-party state. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.
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:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sebkha de Ndrhamcha -3 m
highest point: Kediet Ijill 910 m
Natural resources:
iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil; fish
Land use:
arable land: 0.48%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 99.51% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
490 sq km (1998 est.)
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
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, 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
2,828,858 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 46.1% (male 653,005; female 650,530)
15-64 years: 51.7% (male 720,473; female 741,094)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 26,251; female 37,505) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.92% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
42.54 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
13.34 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
75.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 51.53 years
female: 53.71 years (2002 est.)
male: 49.42 years
Total fertility rate:
6.15 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
1.8% (2000 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
6,600 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
610 (1999 est.)
noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
Ethnic groups:
mixed Maur/black 40%, Maur 30%, black 30%
Muslim 100%
Hassaniya Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (official), French
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 41.2%
male: 51.5%
female: 31.3% (2002 est.)
Government Mauritania
Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
conventional short form: Mauritania
local short form: Muritaniyah
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
Government type:
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: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA (since 12 December 1984)
head of government: Prime Minister Cheikh El Avia Ould Mohamed KHOUNA (since 17 November 1998)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 12 December 1997 (next to be held NA December 2003); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA reelected with 90.9% of the vote
Legislative branch:
bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats, a part of the 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 (81 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 12 April 2002 (next to be held NA April 2004); National Assembly - last held 19 and 26 October 2001 (next to be held NA 2006)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PRDS 54, RFD 1, UNDD 1; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - PRDS 79%, RDU 3.5%, UDP 3.5%, AC 5%, RDF 4%, UFP 3.5%, FP 1.5%; seats by party - PRDS 64, UDP 3, RDU 3, AC 4, RFD 3, UFP 3, and FP 1
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts
Political parties and leaders:
Action for Change or AC [Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR]; Alliance for Justice and Democracy or AJD [Kebe ABDOULAYE]; Democratic and Social Republican Party or PRDS (ruling party) [President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA]; Mauritanian Party for Renewal and Concorde or PMRC [Molaye El Hassen Ould JIYID]; National Union for Democracy and Development or UNDD [Tidjane KOITA]; Party for Liberty, Equality and Justice or PLEJ [Daouda M'BAGNIGA]; Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]; Popular Progress Alliance or APP [Mohamed El Hafed Ould ISMAEL]; Popular Social and Democratic Union or UPSD [Mohamed Mahmoud Ould MAH]; Progress Force Union or UFP [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]; Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]; Rally for Democracy and Unity or RDU [Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA]; Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]
note: the Action for Change party was banned in January 2002; parties legalized by constitution ratified 12 July 1991, however, politics continue to be tribally based
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Arab nationalists; Ba'athists; 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 Mohamedou Ould MICHEL
chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador John W. LIMBERT
embassy: Rue Abdallaye (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott
mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott
telephone: [222] 25-26-60, 25-26-63, 25-11-41, 25-11-45
FAX: [222] 25-25-92
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 most of the nomads and many 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 half of total exports. The decline in world demand for this ore, however, has led to cutbacks in production. 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. 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. Mauritania withdrew its membership in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2000 and subsequently increased commercial ties with Arab Maghreb Union members Morocco and Tunisia, most notably in telecommunications. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential viable extraction at current world oil prices. However, the refinery in Nouadhibou historically has not exceeded 20% of its distillation capacity, and it handled no crude in the year 2000. A new Investment Code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment.
purchasing power parity - $5 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $1,800 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 25%
industry: 29%
services: 46% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
50% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 30% (2000) (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
37 (1995)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
4.4% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
786,000 (2001) (2001)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 50%, services 40%, industry 10% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
21% (1999 est.)
revenues: $421 million
expenditures: $378 million, including capital expenditures of $154 million
fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum
Industrial production growth rate:
2% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
154 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 84%
hydro: 16%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
143.22 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn, dates; cattle, sheep
$359 million f.o.b. (2000)
Exports - commodities:
iron ore, fish and fish products, gold
Exports - partners:
France 18%, Japan 16%, Italy 13%, Spain 10% (2000)
$335 million f.o.b. (2000)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
France 33%, US 10%, Spain 9%, Algeria 6%, Germany 6%, Benelux 5% (2000)
Debt - external:
$1.6 billion (2000) (2000)
Economic aid - recipient:
$220 million (2000) (2000)
ouguiya (MRO)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
ouguiyas per US dollar - 254.350 (December 2001), 238.923 (2000), 209.514 (1999), 188.476 (1998), 151.853 (1997), 137.222 (1996)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Mauritania
Telephones - main lines in use:
26,500 (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
35,000 (2001)
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: 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 Service Providers (ISPs):
5 (2001)
Internet users:
7,500 (2001)
Transportation Mauritania
704 km
standard gauge: 704 km 1.435-m gauge
note: owned and operated by government mining company (2001)
total: 7,720 km
paved: 830 km
unpaved: 6,890 km (2000)
note: ferry traffic on the Senegal River
Ports and harbors:
Bogue, Kaedi, Nouadhibou, Nouakchott, Rosso
Merchant marine:
none (2002)
26 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 10 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3 6 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 16 17
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 5
914 to 1,523 m: 6 7
under 914 m: 6 3 (2002)
Military Mauritania
Military branches:
Army, Navy, Air Force, National Gendarmerie, National Guard, National Police, Presidential Guard
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 644,294 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 312,276 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$37.1 million (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
3.7% (FY01)
Transnational Issues Mauritania
Disputes - international:

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003