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  Introduction Back To Top

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 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 military junta 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 Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 1.7 cu km/yr (9%/3%/88%)
per capita: 554 cu m/yr (2000)

Total renewable water resources:
11.4 cu km (1997)

Land boundaries:
total: 5,074 km
border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km

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

desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

Map references:

Geographic coordinates:
20 00 N, 12 00 W

Natural resources:
iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m

mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills

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

total: 1,030,700 sq km
land: 1,030,400 sq km
water: 300 sq km

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

754 km

Area - comparative:
slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico

Irrigated land:
490 sq km (2002)

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

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

Natural hazards:
hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts

Land use:
arable land: 0.2%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 99.79% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
5.69 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.66 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
9,500 (2003 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.91 years
male: 51.61 years
female: 56.28 years (2008 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 (2008)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 51.2%
male: 59.5%
female: 43.4% (2000 census)

Net migration rate:
NA (2008 est.)

Ethnic groups:
mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%

Median age:
total: 17.2 years
male: 16.9 years
female: 17.4 years (2008 est.)

3,364,940 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
2.9% of GDP (2006)

Population growth rate:
2.852% (2008 est.)

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

Death rate:
11.61 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 66.65 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 69.69 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 63.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 500 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 8 years
male: 8 years
female: 8 years (2006)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 45.3% (male 763,845/female 759,957)
15-64 years: 52.5% (male 872,924/female 894,980)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 29,147/female 44,087) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
40.14 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Muslim 100%

noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian

  Government Back To Top

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] 525-2660/525-2663
FAX: [222] 525-1592

National holiday:
Independence Day, 28 November (1960)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:
military junta

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

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Ibrahima DIA
chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700, 5701
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623

International organization participation:

Legislative branch:
bicameral 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 2009); National Assembly - last held 19 November and 3 December 2006 (next to be held in 2011)
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

Legal system:
a combination of Islamic law and French civil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

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

28 November 1960 (from France)

Country name (Goverment):
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
conventional short form: Mauritania
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
local short form: Muritaniyah

Political parties and leaders:
Alternative or El-Badil; Centrist Reformists (independent moderate Islamists); Coalition for Forces for Democratic Change or CFCD (coalition of political parties including APP, Centrist Reformists (independent moderate Islamists), HATEM-PMUC, PUDS, RD, RFD, UFP); Democratic and Social Republican Party or PRDS; Democratic Renewal or RD; Mauritanian Party for Unity and Change or HATEM-PMUC; Mithaq (coalition of independents and parties associated with the former regime including Alternative or El-Badil, PRDR, UDP, RDU); National Rally for Freedom, Democracy and Equality or RNDLE; 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]; Rally for Democracy and Unity or RDU [Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA]; Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR [Boullah Ould MOGUEYA] (formerly ruling Democratic and Social Republican Party or PRDS); Socialist and Democratic Unity Party or PUDS; Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]; Union of Democratic Centre or UCD; Union of the Forces for Progress or UFP

name: Nouakchott
geographic coordinates: 18 07 N, 16 02 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

12 July 1991

Executive branch:
chief of state: Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ, President of Military High Council of State (since 6 August 2008); note - AZIZ deposed democratically elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI in a coup
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 and subsequently scheduled it for June 2009; under Mauritania's constitution, the president is elected by popular vote for a five-year 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
election results: percent of vote - (second round) Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI 52.8%, Ahmed Ould DADDAH 47.2%

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

Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
China 30.5%, France 9.5%, Italy 8.5%, Spain 8.5%, Japan 5.5%, Netherlands 5.3%, Belgium 5%, Cote d'Ivoire 4.7% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
383.4 million kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
-$184 million (2007 est.)

Debt - external:

Unemployment rate:
20% (2004 est.)

Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$1,900 (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$6.492 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$3.625 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
39 (2000)

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

GDP - real growth rate:
4% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:

Labor force:
786,000 (2001)

Imports - partners:
France 16.5%, China 8.1%, Spain 6.7%, US 6.1%, Belgium 5.8%, Brazil 5.7% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
7.3% (2007 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 25%
industry: 29%
services: 46% (2001 est.)

Oil - imports:
23,630 bbl/day (2005)

$1.395 billion f.o.b. (2006)

Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
ouguiya (MRO)

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. 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 have suspended their programs in Mauritania since the August 2008 coup. Oil prospects, while initially promising, have largely failed to materialize. Meantime the government emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and promoting privatization of the economy.

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods

fish processing, oil production, mining of iron ore, gold, and copper; gypsum deposits have never been exploited

Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:
40% (2004 est.)

Stock of quasi money:

Electricity - production:
412.3 million kWh (2006 est.)

$1.475 billion f.o.b. (2006)

Oil - proved reserves:
100 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 50%
industry: 10%
services: 40% (2001 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
28.32 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
19,320 bbl/day (2006 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 29.5% (2000)

Exports - commodities:
iron ore, fish and fish products, gold, copper, petroleum

Economic aid - recipient:
$190.4 million (2005)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 85.9%
hydro: 14.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $421 million
expenditures: $378 million (2002 est.)

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Oil - production:
14,990 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
30,000 (2006)

Telephones - main lines in use:
34,900 (2006)

98,000 (2001)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)

410,000 (2001)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.3 million (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
1 (2002)

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 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular network coverage extends mainly to urban areas with a teledensity approaching 40 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)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
5 (2001)

Internet hosts:
34 (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

some navigation possible on Senegal River

717 km
standard gauge: 717 km 1.435-m gauge (2006)

Ports and terminals:
Nouadhibou, Nouakchott

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2007)

total: 11,066 km
paved: 2,966 km
unpaved: 8,100 km (2006)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 17
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 1 (2007)

25 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

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: 740,675
females age 16-49: 744,709 (2008 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 463,305
females age 16-49: 484,777 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Islamic Air Force of Mauritania (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2008)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 38,191
female: 38,638 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
5.5% of GDP (2006)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:
Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant

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