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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... See More



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

Geographic Coordinates:

 20 00 N, 12 00 W


 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: 5,074 km
Border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km


 754 km (Rank: 92)

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:

 450 sq km (2008)

Total Renewable Water Resources:

 11.4 cu km (1997)

Freshwater Withdrawal:

 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 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:

 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

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 Noun: Mauritanian(s)
Adjective: Mauritanian

Ethnic Groups:

 Mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%


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


 Muslim (official) 100%


 3,281,634 (July 2011 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 40.4% (male 665,314/female 660,352)
15-64 years: 56.2% (male 866,859/female 975,821)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 48,075/female 65,213) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 19.5 years
Male: 18.6 years
Female: 20.4 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 2.349% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 33.23 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 8.83 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 -0.91 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)


 Urban population: 41% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 2.9% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 NOUAKCHOTT (capital) 709,000 (2009)

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 (2011 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate:

 550 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 60.42 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 65.55 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 55.13 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 61.14 years
Male: 58.94 years
Female: 63.41 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 4.3 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Health Expenditures:

 5.7% of GDP (2009)

Physicians Density:

 0.13 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital Bed Density:

 0.4 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking Water Source:

 Urban: 52% of population
Rural: 47% of population
Total: 49% of population
Urban: 48% of population
Rural: 53% of population
Total: 51% of population (2008)

Sanitation Facility Access:

 Urban: 50% of population
Rural: 9% of population
Total: 26% of population
Urban: 50% of population
Rural: 91% of population
Total: 74% of population (2008)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 0.7% (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 14,000 (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 Fewer than 1,000 (2009 est.)

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)

Children Under 5 - Underweight:

 16.7% (2008)

Education Expenditures:

 4.4% of GDP (2008)


 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 51.2%
Male: 59.5%
Female: 43.4% (2000 census)

Average Years of Schooling:

 Total: 8 years
Male: 8 years
Female: 8 years (2007)

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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)


 July 12, 1991

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


 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

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 in November 2009; National Assembly - last held on 19 November and 3 December 2006 (election scheduled for 16 October 2011 postponed)

Election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPM (Coalition of Majority Parties) 45, COD 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 or 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 MAOULOUD];

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:


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 Jo Ellen POWELL
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 Symbols:

 Star and crescent

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

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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):

 $6.655 billion (2010 est.)
$6.358 billion (2009 est.)
$6.437 billion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $3.799 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 4.7% (2010 est.)
-1.2% (2009 est.)
3.5% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $2,100 (2010 est.)
$2,000 (2009 est.)
$2,100 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 20%
Industry: 36.3%
Services: 43.7% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 1.318 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 / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: 2.5%
Highest 10%: 29.5% (2000)

Distribution of Family Income - Gini Index:

 39 (2000)
37.3 (1995)

Investment (Gross Fixed):

 28.6% of GDP (2010 est.)


 Revenues: $934.4 million
Expenditures: $1.078 billion (2010 est.)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 24.6% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 -3.8% of GDP (2010 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 6.3% (2010 est.)
2% (2009 est.)

Central Bank Discount Rate:

 9% (31 December 2009 est.)
12% (31 December 2007)

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:

 17% (31 December 2010 est.)
19.5% (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Narrow Money:

 $940.5 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$886 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Broad Money:

 $1.137 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.061 billion 31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $1.718 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$1.603 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

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.)

Electricity - Production:

 547 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Production By Source:

 Fossil fuel: 85.9%
Hydro: 14.1%
Nuclear: 0%
Other: 0% (2001)

Electricity - Consumption:

 508.7 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Imports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Oil - Production:

 11,640 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 20,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 10,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 17,750 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 100 million bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 28.32 billion cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 -$378.7 million (2010 est.)
-$412.7 million (2009 est.)


 $2.04 billion (2010 est.)
$1.37 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - Commodities:

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

Exports - Partners:

 China 41.5%, France 9%, Cote dIvoire 6.3%, Italy 6.2%, Japan 6%, Spain 5.6%, Netherlands 4% (2010)


 $2.029 billion (2010 est.)
$1.45 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - Commodities:

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

Imports - Partners:

 China 12.3%, France 11.4%, Netherlands 10.8%, Belgium 5.7%, Brazil 4.6%, Spain 4.5% (2010)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:

 $280 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$238 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - External:

 $2.344 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$2.03 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Mauritania Ougulya to Any Currency

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

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Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 71,600 (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 2.745 million (2010)

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); fiber-optic 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)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 1 (2002)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 23 (2010)

Internet Users:

 75,000 (2009)

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 28 (2010)

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 (2010)


 Total: 11,066 km
Paved: 2,966 km
Unpaved: 8,100 km (2006)


 (some is navigation possible on the Senegal River) (2010)

Ports and Terminals:

 Nouadhibou, Nouakchott

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Military Branches:

 Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Islamic Air Force of Mauritania (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2011)

Military Service Age and Obligation:

 18 years of age for obligatory consription of all males; conscript service obligation - 2 years; majority of servicemen believed to be volunteers; service in Air Force and Navy is voluntary (2011)

Manpower Available For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 718,713
Females age 16-49: 804,622 (2010 est.)

Manpower Fit For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 480,042
Females age 16-49: 581,473 (2010 est.)

Manpower Reaching Militarily Significant Age Annually:

 Male: 36,116
Female: 36,826 (2010 est.)

Military Expenditures:

 5.5% of GDP (2006)

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Disputes - International:

 Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant

Trafficking in Persons:

 Current situation: Mauritania is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking; women, men, and children from traditional slave castes are subjected to slavery-related practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships; Mauritanian boys called talibe are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging; Mauritanian girls, as well as girls from Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, and other West African countries, are forced into domestic servitude; Mauritanian women and girls are forced into prostitution in the country or transported to countries in the Middle East for the same purpose

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 acknowledges that some forms of trafficking are a problem in the country, and during the year, it created a multi-stakeholder body to lead its efforts related to child trafficking, child smuggling, and child labor; hereditary slavery was officially outlawed in 2007, but many officials do not recognize that the practice continues despite its prohibition; the government did not take proactive measures to identify trafficking victims or provide them with protective services, and it continued to jail individuals in prostitution and detain illegal migrants without screening either population for trafficking victims (2011)

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Last Updated: December 2011

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