Region: Northern Africa
Population: 3,364,940 (July 2008 est.)
Surface area: 1,030,700 sq km
Currency: ouguiya (MRO)
GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity US $2,000 (2007 est.)
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. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and White and Black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, although the new government is attempting to ameliorate some of these tensions.
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. 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.
Major Export Commodities: iron ore, fish and fish products, gold
Remittances: US $2 million (2006)
Human Development Index 2007/2008 ranking: 137 out of 177
Official Development Assistance and Major Development Partners: Net ODA in 2006 was US $93.69 million. Major development partners include the IDA, the African Development Fund, and France.
Total External Debt: Not available
United Nations membership date: 27 October 1961
New York Mission:
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to the United Nations
116 East 38th Street
New York, N.Y. 10016
Telephone: 212-252-0113 / 0141
CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. www.cia.gov
World Development Indicators. World Bank www.worldbank.org
Development, Recipient Aid Charts. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.oecd.org
Human Development Report 2007/2008.United Nations Development Programme. www.undp.org
Updated June 2008