Facts about Mauritania

World Facts Index

MauritaniaIndependent 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 over 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 coup deposed him and ushered in a military council government. Meanwhile, the country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and White and Black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities.

Geography of Mauritania

Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
20 00 N, 12 00 W
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
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
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

Population of Mauritania

3,364,940 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 45.6% (male 726,376/female 723,013)
15-64 years: 52.2% (male 818,408/female 839,832)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 28,042/female 41,717)
Median age:
17 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
69.48 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.12 years
male: 50.88 years
female: 55.42 years
Fertility rate:
5.86 children born/woman
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: 41.7%
male: 51.8%
female: 31.9% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of 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: Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ who led a coup that deposed the democratically elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI on 6 August 2008
head of government: Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed LAGHDAF (since 14 August 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second consecutive term); election last held 11 March 2007 with a runoff between the two leading candidates held on 25 March 2007; prime minister appointed by the president.
Legislative branch:
bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; a portion of 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)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts


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. In the past, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt, which now stands at more than three times the level of annual exports. 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. A new investment code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment. Ongoing negotiations with the IMF involve problems of economic reforms and fiscal discipline. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential extraction at current world oil prices. Oil prospects, while initially promising, have failed to materialize. Meantime the government emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and promoting privatization of the economy.

$5.974 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 25%
industry: 29%
services: 46% 
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 50%, services 40%, industry 10% 
revenues: $421 million
expenditures: $378 million, including capital expenditures of $154 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 85.9%
hydro: 14.1%
other: 0%
fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum
dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn, dates; cattle, sheep
iron ore, fish and fish products, gold
Export partners:
Italy 14.1%, Japan 12.4%, France 11.9%, Germany 9%, Belgium 8.5%, Cote d'Ivoire 7.3%, Spain 6.6%, Russia 4.7%, Netherlands 4.1% 
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Import partners:
France 18.4%, UK 7.6%, US 7%, China 6%, Spain 5%, Germany 4.2%
ouguiya (MRO)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

Copyright 2004 - 2008 worldfacts.us