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Mauritania Historical and Political Profile








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Mauritania Index

  • Mauritania-International Organizations
  • Mauritania-The Preindependence Period THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARMED FORCE
  • Mauritania-Housing
  • Mauritania-THE RURAL ECONOMY
  • Mauritania-MAURITANIA
  • Mauritania-Postwar Reforms
  • Mauritania-Manpower and Military Training Schools
  • Mauritania-Major Geographic and Climatic Zones
  • Mauritania-BALANCE OF PAYMENTS, DEBT, AND FOREIGN ASSISTANCE
  • Mauritania-Internal Security Threats
  • Mauritania-Iron MINING
  • Mauritania-Wolof
  • Mauritania-PHYSICAL SETTING
  • Mauritania -COUNTRY PROFILE
  • Mauritania-Toucouleur
  • Mauritania-The Qadiriya
  • Mauritania-Black Maures
  • Mauritania-Origins of Islam
  • Mauritania-RELIGIOUS LIFE
  • Mauritania-INDEPENDENCE AND CIVILIAN RULE
  • Mauritania-CONFLICT IN THE WESTERN SAHARA
  • Mauritania-TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
  • Mauritania-MANUFACTURING AND INDUSTRY
  • Mauritania-Relations with Arab States
  • Mauritania-EARLY HISTORY
  • Mauritania-Overthrow of the Ould Daddah Regime
  • Mauritania-White Maure Nobility
  • Mauritania-POLITICAL POWER IN THE MID-1980s
  • Mauritania-Traditional Islamic Education
  • Mauritania-Foreign Policy
  • Mauritania-The Navy
  • Mauritania-Saharan Zone
  • Mauritania-Trade Unions
  • Mauritania-ENERGY
  • Mauritania-Foreign Military Assistance Civic Action and Disaster Relief
  • Mauritania-CHAPTER 3 - THE ECONOMY
  • Mauritania-Involvement of Foreign Countries
  • Mauritania-Artisans and Entertainers
  • Mauritania-Senegal
  • Mauritania-Direction of Trade
  • Mauritania-Imports
  • Mauritania-FISHING
  • Mauritania-Bambara
  • Mauritania-Legal System
  • Mauritania-Women
  • Mauritania-Impediments to Change
  • Mauritania-GOVERNMENTAL POWER
  • Mauritania-French Administration Through World War II
  • Mauritania-ECONOMY
  • Mauritania-Senegal River Valley
  • Mauritania-Internal Factors
  • Mauritania-State Control Mechanisms
  • Mauritania-Role of the Military in Society
  • Mauritania-Tenets of Islam
  • Mauritania-Fighting the Desert War
  • Mauritania-Maures
  • Mauritania-MILITARY WITHDRAWAL FROM THE WESTERN SAHARA
  • Mauritania-Maure Kinship and Marriage
  • Mauritania-Exports TRADE
  • Mauritania-Expansion of the Desert
  • Mauritania-Pacification
  • Mauritania-Black Africans
  • Mauritania-GEOGRAPHY
  • Mauritania-ALMORAVIDS
  • Mauritania-POPULATION
  • Mauritania-Sahelian Zone
  • Mauritania-INTEREST GROUPS
  • Mauritania-ETHNIC GROUPS AND LANGUAGES
  • Mauritania-Modern Education
  • Mauritania-FOREIGN RELATIONS
  • Mauritania-CHAPTER 1 - Historical Setting
  • Mauritania-Ethnic Minorities
  • Mauritania-The Army
  • Mauritania-Herding
  • Mauritania-EDUCATION
  • Mauritania-French Colonial Policy
  • Mauritania-FRENCH COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION
  • Mauritania-Law and Crime
  • Mauritania-Madrid Agreements
  • Mauritania-Relations with Communist States
  • Mauritania-Defense Budget and the Economy
  • Mauritania-Fulbe
  • Mauritania-Brotherhoods and Saints
  • Mauritania-Relations with Other African States
  • Mauritania-Constitutional Charter
  • Mauritania-The Independence Period and the French Military Legacy
  • Mauritania-ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  • Mauritania-Relations with France
  • Mauritania-Zenaga
  • Mauritania-CHAPTER 5 - NATIONAL SECURITY
  • Mauritania-DOWNFALL OF OULD SALEK
  • Mauritania-PREFACE
  • Mauritania-SOCIETY
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania-GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
  • Mauritania-Organization and Strength THE ARMED FORCES
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania-The Road to Independence and the Quest for National Unity
  • Mauritania-War in the Western Sahara EXTERNAL SECURITY PERCEPTIONS AND POLICIES
  • Mauritania-Marabouts
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania-Farming
  • Mauritania-Banking BANKING AND GOVERNMENT FINANCES
  • Mauritania-SANHADJA CONFEDERATION
  • Mauritania-Sonink√©
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania-ARAB INVASIONS
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania-Relations with Morocco
  • Mauritania-Relations with the West
  • Mauritania-Attitudes Toward the Political System POLITICAL CULTURE
  • Mauritania-Background to Mauritanian Policy
  • Mauritania-HEALTH AND WELFARE
  • Mauritania-ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT
  • Mauritania-Relations with Other States of the Maghrib
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania-NATIONAL SECURITY
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritania-SUDANIC EMPIRES AND KINGDOMS
  • Mauritania-THE HAIDALLA REGIME
  • Mauritania-Land Tenure
  • Mauritania-Time of Radicalization
  • Mauritania-EARLY EUROPEAN CONTACTS
  • Mauritania-TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
  • Mauritania-Medical Care
  • Mauritania-Local Elections
  • Mauritania-Constitution
  • Mauritania-CHAPTER 4 - GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
  • Mauritania-CHAPTER 2 - THE SOCIETY AND ITS ENVIRONMENT
  • Mauritania-Regional Security Concerns
  • Mauritania-Emerging Tensions
  • Mauritania-Copper, Gypsym, Phosphates, and Oil
  • Mauritania-Consolidation of Power
  • Mauritania-Government Finances
  • Mauritania-Libya
  • Mauritania-Foreward
  • Mauritania-Local Government
  • BackgroundIndependent 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 August 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 Mahgreb.
    LocationNorthern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
    Area(sq km)total: 1,030,700 sq km
    land: 1,030,700 sq km
    water: 0 sq km
    Geographic coordinates20 00 N, 12 00 W
    Land boundaries(km)total: 5,074 km
    border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km

    Coastline(km)754 km

    Climatedesert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

    Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
    highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m
    Natural resourcesiron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
    Land use(%)arable land: 0.2%
    permanent crops: 0.01%
    other: 99.79% (2005)

    Irrigated land(sq km)490 sq km (2002)
    Total renewable water resources(cu km)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 hazardshot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts
    Environment - current issuesovergrazing, 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 agreementsparty 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 - notemost of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
    Population3,129,486 (July 2009 est.)
    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) (2009 est.)
    Median age(years)total: 19.2 years
    male: 18.3 years
    female: 20 years (2009 est.)
    Population growth rate(%)2.399% (2009 est.)
    Birth rate(births/1,000 population)34.11 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)9.16 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

    Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.96 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
    Urbanization(%)urban population: 41% of total population (2008)
    rate of urbanization: 3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
    Sex ratio(male(s)/female)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 (2009 est.)
    Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 63.42 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 68.65 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 58.03 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

    Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 60.37 years
    male: 58.22 years
    female: 62.59 years (2009 est.)

    Total fertility rate(children born/woman)4.45 children born/woman (2009 est.)
    Nationalitynoun: Mauritanian(s)
    adjective: Mauritanian
    Ethnic groups(%)mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%

    Religions(%)Muslim 100%
    Languages(%)Arabic (official and national), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French, Hassaniya

    Country nameconventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
    conventional short form: Mauritania
    local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
    local short form: Muritaniyah
    Government typemilitary junta
    Capitalname: Nouakchott
    geographic coordinates: 18 07 N, 16 02 W
    time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions12 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
    Constitution12-Jul-91

    Legal systema combination of Islamic law and French civil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

    Suffrage18 years of age; universal
    Executive branchchief 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 Military High Council of State on 6 August 2008, was elected president in an election held 18 July 2009
    head of government: Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed LAGHDAF (since 14 August 2008)
    cabinet: Council of Ministers
    elections: following the August 2008 coup, the Military High Council of State pledged to hold a new presidential election which was subsequently scheduled and held on 18 July 2009; under Mauritania's constitution, the president is 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 branchbicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; 53 members elected by municipal leaders and 3 members elected by Mauritanians abroad to serve six-year terms; a portion of seats up for election every two years) and the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani (95 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
    elections: Senate - last held 21 January and 4 February 2007 (next to be held in 2009); National Assembly - last held 19 November and 3 December 2006 (next to be held in 2011); note - it is unclear when the Senate elections originally scheduled for 2009 will be held
    election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Mithaq (coalition of independents and parties associated with the former regime) 37, CFCD (coalition of political parties) 15, representatives of the diaspora 3, undecided 1; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Mithaq 51 (independents 37, PRDR 7, UDP 3, RDU 3, Alternative (El-Badil) 1), CFCD 41 (RFD 16, UFP 9, APP 6, Centrist Reformists 4, HATEM-PMUC 3, RD 2, PUDS 1), RNDLE 1, UCD 1, FP 1

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

    Political pressure groups and leadersGeneral 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 participationABEDA, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, CAEU, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAS, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    Flag descriptiongreen 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 - overviewHalf 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. In December 2007 donors pledged $2.1 billion at a triennial Consultative Group review. 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 and Mauritania made satisfactory progress, but IMF and World Bank suspended their programs in Mauritania following the August 2008 coup; following the July 2009 Presidential elections, the IMF and World Bank agreed to meet with the Goverment to discuss a resumption. Oil prospects, while initially promising, have largely failed to materialize. The Government continues to emphasize reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy.
    GDP (purchasing power parity)$6.323 billion (2008 est.)
    $6.109 billion (2007 est.)
    $6.048 billion (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP (official exchange rate)$3.161 billion (2008 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate(%)3.5% (2008 est.)
    1% (2007 est.)
    11.4% (2006 est.)
    GDP - per capita (PPP)$2,100 (2008 est.)
    $2,000 (2007 est.)
    $2,100 (2006 est.)
    note: data are in 2008 US dollars
    GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 12.5%
    industry: 46.7%
    services: 40.7% (2008 est.)
    Labor force1.318 million (2007)

    Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 50%
    industry: 10%
    services: 40% (2001 est.)
    Unemployment rate(%)30% (2008 est.)
    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 index39 (2000)
    37.3 (1995)
    Budgetrevenues: $770 million
    expenditures: $770 million (2007 est.)
    Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)7.3% (2007 est.)

    Stock of money$NA (31 December 2008)
    Stock of quasi money$NA (31 December 2008)
    Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
    Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
    Economic aid - recipient$190.4 million (2005)

    Agriculture - productsdates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, sheep
    Industriesfish processing, oil production, mining of iron ore, gold, and copper; gypsum deposits have never been exploited

    Industrial production growth rate(%)2% (2000 est.)

    Current account balance-$184 million (2007 est.)
    Exports$1.395 billion (2006)

    Exports - commodities(%)iron ore, fish and fish products, gold, copper, petroleum
    Exports - partners(%)China 41.4%, France 10.2%, Spain 7%, Italy 6.9%, Netherlands 5.4%, Belgium 4.7%, Cote d'Ivoire 4% (2008)
    Imports$1.475 billion (2006)

    Imports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
    Imports - partners(%)France 16.7%, China 8.8%, Netherlands 6.4%, Spain 6%, Belgium 5.4%, US 5.1%, Brazil 4.5% (2008)

    Debt - external$NA

    Exchange ratesouguiyas (MRO) per US dollar - NA (2007), 271.3 (2006), 267.04 (2005), 265.8 (2004), 263.03 (2003)

    Currency (code)ouguiya (MRO)

    Telephones - main lines in use76,400 (2008)
    Telephones - mobile cellular2.092 million (2008)
    Telephone systemgeneral 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 60 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) (2008)
    Internet country code.mr
    Internet users45,000 (2008)
    Airports27 (2009)
    Roadways(km)total: 11,066 km
    paved: 2,966 km
    unpaved: 8,100 km (2006)

    Ports and terminalsNouadhibou, Nouakchott
    Military branchesMauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Islamic Air Force of Mauritania (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2008)
    Military service age and obligation(years of age)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 servicemales age 16-49: 740,675
    females age 16-49: 744,709 (2008 est.)
    Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 450,289
    females age 16-49: 544,598 (2009 est.)
    Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 34,546
    female: 35,272 (2009 est.)
    Military expenditures(% of GDP)5.5% of GDP (2006)
    Disputes - internationalMauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant

    Electricity - production(kWh)415.3 million kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 85.9%
    hydro: 14.1%
    nuclear: 0%
    other: 0% (2001)
    Electricity - consumption(kWh)386.2 million kWh (2007 est.)
    Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
    Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
    Oil - production(bbl/day)12,830 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - consumption(bbl/day)21,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
    Oil - exports(bbl/day)30,620 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - imports(bbl/day)20,610 bbl/day (2007 est.)
    Oil - proved reserves(bbl)100 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
    Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
    Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
    Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)28.32 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.8% (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS14,000 (2007 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 1,000 (2007 est.)
    Major infectious diseasesdegree 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)
    Literacy(%)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)(years)total: 8 years
    male: 8 years
    female: 8 years (2006)
    Education expenditures(% of GDP)2.9% of GDP (2006)








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