The Mauritania, Islamic Republic, is located in West Africa. It is limited to the North by Algeria, to the West by the Atlantic Ocean, to the South by Mali and Senegal, to the North West by Western Sahara (Morocco).

This geographical position makes Mauritania the link between North Africa (Maghreb) and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Some geographical and institutional indications

carte_rimThe surface area of Mauritania is 1,030,000 km ², of which nearly 80% are desert. The population is estimated in 2004 at 3 million inhabitants (2,980,000 exactly). The territory is administratively divided into 13 Wilayas (regions), 53 Moughâtaas (departments) and 216 municipalities.

  • The capital is Nouakchott, it brings together nearly a third of the total population of the country.
  • Religion is Islam
  • The national languages are: Hassâniyya, Poular, Wolof and Soninké.
  • The official language is Arabic and that of the work French.
  • Former French colony, Mauritania has been independent since November 28, 1960.

Since its independence, Mauritania has experienced three institutional phases in its history:

1. 1960-1978, the country is governed under a presidential system with a national assembly resulting from a single party.

2. 1978-1991 Mauritania was ruled by an exceptional military power.

3. Since 1991, a process of democratization has been put in place. It aims to liberalize political, union and media life.

However the results are questionable because the country is still under the yoke of the same president since 1984; the very one that was at the origin of an unprecedented repression against part of the Mauritanian population living in the southern regions. The press remains muzzled; as for the political party, despite their number (17), they are not very representative and have very limited room for maneuver.

Some economic benchmarks

The economic situation of Mauritania is very difficult. With nearly 3 million inhabitants as we have already mentioned, Mauritania is 152nd out of the 174 poorest countries on the planet listed by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program).

The per capita income there was 367 dollars per capita in 2000. About 46% of the population live below the poverty line. The healthcare access rate is around 65% and the gross enrollment rate is around 86%. The Mauritanian economy suffers from several handicaps, including a very small export and tax base and poor integration in the West African region as well as in the Maghreb.

The main natural resources are iron ore (13% of GDP and 61.6% of exports in 2002) and fishing (16% of GDP and 37.7% of exports). The country will be able to count in the years to come (in fact from the end of 2005) on its off-shore and on-shore oil and gas reserves. Production is estimated at nearly 300,000 barrels / day by 2007. Mauritania may also depend on its gold and diamond potential from this year.

While waiting for better days, Mauritania experienced a dizzying increase in its inflation rate which reached 13% this year without taking into account the variation in oil prices. Mauritania's main trading partners are France with 30% of foreign purchases. It also remains its first investor and its second client after Italy. France is also the second largest donor after Japan in bilateral aid granted to Mauritania, which represents 26% of ODA (Official Development Assistance) or 27 million dollars.

After studying the main characteristics of the Mauritanian economy, we will highlight the profile of poverty to better demonstrate the conditions attached to it and the relevance of our project.

Some clues about poverty

As we have already mentioned, half of the Mauritanian population lives above the poverty line even if, moreover, the social indicators that we are going to see tend towards improvement. To illustrate this, we take a single example, that of household poverty, which went from 50.4% in 1990 to 40.7% in 1996. It is the tree that hides the forest.

In the educational field, the data show an exceptional catching up with the statistics of the sub-region. They highlight the alignment of the enrollment rates of girls (83.5%) and boys (87.6%). However, disparities exist between rural areas and urban centers where schooling is much more pronounced. As for literacy, its rate rose among adults over 60% illiterate in 1990 to almost 42% today.

In the health field, the persistence of certain infectious and parasitic diseases remains significant. Their impact is compounded by the high rate of malnutrition and a considerable emergence of non-communicable diseases.

The construction and repair of numerous health posts and centers have allowed a rapid increase in the rate of accessibility to health structures. This initiative was accompanied by a redeployment of health personnel. However, and as is often the case, coverage varies from region to region due to the dispersion of populations and problems of geographic mobility.

Access to drinking water also remains a crucial problem, only 19.1% of the population had a connection at the start of the second millennium in Mauritania. If rural areas are more deprived in terms of basic social service infrastructure, it goes without saying that urban areas also concentrate significant pockets of poverty, especially in precarious housing districts. Hygiene conditions are very poor and a third of the inhabitants do not have direct access to drinking water.

Socio-economic profile of Mauritania

Economic indicators: indicators.pdf