Mauritania 2002Mauritania

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Mauritania - Introduction 2002
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Background: 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. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as flawed but October 2001 legislative and municipal elections were generally free and open. Mauritania remains in reality a one-party state. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.

Mauritania - Geography 2002
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Location: Northern Africa bordering the North Atlantic Ocean between Senegal and Western Sahara

Geographic coordinates: 20 00 N 12 00 W

Map referenceAfrica

Total: 1,030,700 km²
Land: 1,030,400 km²
Water: 300 km²
Comparative: slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico

Land boundaries
Total: 5,074 km
Border countries: (4) Algeria 463 km; , Mali 2,237 km; , Senegal 813 km; , Western Sahara 1,561 km

Coastline: 754 km

Maritime claims
Contiguous zone: 24 NM
Territorial sea: 12 NM
Continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
Exclusive economic zone: 200 NM

Climate: desert; constantly hot dry dusty

Terrain: mostly barren flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills

Extremes lowest point: Sebkha de Ndrhamcha -3 m
Extremes highest point: Kediet Ijill 910 m

Natural resources: iron ore gypsum copper phosphate diamonds gold oil; fish
Land use

Land use
Arable land: 0.48%
Permanent crops: 0.01%
Other: 99.51% (1998 est.)

Irrigated land: 490 km² (1998 est.)

Major rivers

Major watersheds area km²

Total water withdrawal

Total renewable water resources

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

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

Mauritania - People 2002
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Population: 2,828,858 (July 2002 est.)
Growth rate: 2.92% (2002 est.)
Below poverty line: 50% (2001 est.)

Noun: Mauritanian
Adjective: Mauritanian

Ethnic groups: mixed Maur/black 40% Maur 30% black 30%

Languages: Hassaniya Arabic (official) Pulaar Soninke Wolof (official) French

Religions: Muslim 100%

Demographic profile
Age structure

Age structure
0-14 years: 46.1% (male 653,005; female 650,530)
15-64 years: 51.7% (male 720,473; female 741,094)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 26,251; female 37,505) (2002 est.)

Dependency ratios

Median age

Population growth rate: 2.92% (2002 est.)

Birth rate: 42.54 births/1000 population (2002 est.)

Death rate: 13.34 deaths/1000 population (2002 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1000 population (2002 est.)

Population distribution


Major urban areas

Current issues: overgrazing deforestation and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; very limited natural fresh water resources away from the Senegal which is the only perennial river
International agreements party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
International agreements signed but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

Sex ratio
At birth: 1.03 male/female
Under 15 years: 1 male/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male/female
Total population: 0.98 male/female (2002 est.)

Mothers mean age at first birth

Maternal mortality ratio

Infant mortality rate: 75.25 deaths/1000 live births (2002 est.)

Life expectancy at birth
Total population: 51.53 years
Female: 53.71 years (2002 est.)
Male: 49.42 years

Total fertility rate: 6.15 children born/woman (2002 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

Drinking water source

Current health expenditure

Physicians density

Hospital bed density

Sanitation facility access

Adult prevalence rate: 1.8% (2000 est.)
People living with hivaids: 6,600 (1999 est.)
Deaths: 610 (1999 est.)

Major infectious diseases

Obesity adult prevalence rate

Alcohol consumption

Tobacco use

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

Education expenditures

Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 41.2%
Male: 51.5%
Female: 31.3% (2002 est.)

School life expectancy primary to tertiary education

Youth unemployment

Mauritania - Government 2002
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Country name
Conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Conventional short form: Mauritania
Local short form: Muritaniyah
Local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah

Government type: republic

Capital: Nouakchott

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

Dependent areas

Independence: 28 November 1960 (from France)

National holiday: Independence Day 28 November (1960)

Constitution: 12 July 1991

Legal system: a combination of Shari'a (Islamic law) and French civil law

International law organization participation


Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch
Chief of state: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA (since 12 December 1984)
Head of government: Prime Minister Cheikh El Avia Ould Mohamed KHOUNA (since 17 November 1998)
Cabinet: Council of Ministers
Elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 12 December 1997 (next to be held NA December 2003); prime minister appointed by the president
Election results: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA reelected with 90.9% of the vote

Legislative branch
Elections: Senate - last held 12 April 2002 (next to be held NA April 2004); National Assembly - last held 19 and 26 October 2001 (next to be held NA 2006)
Election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - PRDS 54, RFD 1, UNDD 1; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - PRDS 79%, RDU 3.5%, UDP 3.5%, AC 5%, RDF 4%, UFP 3.5%, FP 1.5%; seats by party - PRDS 64, UDP 3, RDU 3, AC 4, RFD 3, UFP 3, and FP 1

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

Political parties and leaders
Note: the Action for Change party was banned in January 2002; parties legalized by constitution ratified 12 July 1991, however, politics continue to be tribally based


Diplomatic representation
In the us chief of mission: Ambassador Mohamedou Ould MICHEL
In the us chancery: 2,129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20,008
In the us fax: [1] (202) 319-2,623
In the us telephone: [1] (202) 232-5,700
From the us chief of mission: Ambassador John W. LIMBERT
From the us embassy: Rue Abdallaye (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott
From the us mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott
From the us telephone: [222] 25-26-60, 25-26-63, 25-11-41, 25-11-45
From the us fax: [222] 25-25-92

Flag descriptionflag of Mauritania: 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

National symbols

National anthem

National heritage

Mauritania - Economy 2002
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Economy overview: Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood even though most of the nomads and many 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 half of total exports. The decline in world demand for this ore however has led to cutbacks in production. 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. 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. Mauritania withdrew its membership in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2000 and subsequently increased commercial ties with Arab Maghreb Union members Morocco and Tunisia most notably in telecommunications. In 2001 exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential viable extraction at current world oil prices. However the refinery in Nouadhibou historically has not exceeded 20% of its distillation capacity and it handled no crude in the year 2000. A new Investment Code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment.

Real gdp purchasing power parity

Real gdp growth rate: 4% (2001 est.)

Real gdp per capita ppp

Gross national saving
Gdp composition by sector of origin

Gdp composition by end use

Gdp composition by sector of origin
Agriculture: 25%
Industry: 29%
Services: 46% (2001 est.)

Agriculture products: dates millet sorghum rice corn dates; cattle sheep

Industries: fish processing mining of iron ore and gypsum

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

Labor force: 786,000 (2001) (2001)
By occupation agriculture: 50%
By occupation services: 40%
By occupation industry: 10% (2001 est.)
Labor force

Unemployment rate: 21% (1999 est.)

Youth unemployment

Population below poverty line: 50% (2001 est.)

Gini index

Household income or consumption by percentage share
Lowest 10: 3%
Highest 10: 30% (2000) (2000)

Distribution of family income gini index: 37 (1995)

Revenues: $421 million
Expenditures: $378 million, including capital expenditures of $154 million

Public debt

Taxes and other revenues


Fiscal year: calendar year

Current account balance

Inflation rate consumer prices: 4.4% (2001 est.)

Central bank discount rate

Commercial bank prime lending rate

Stock of narrow money

Stock of broad money

Stock of domestic credit

Market value of publicly traded shares

Current account balance

Exports: $359 million f.o.b. (2000)
Commodities: iron ore fish and fish products gold
Partners: France 18% Japan 16% Italy 13% Spain 10% (2000)

Imports: $335 million f.o.b. (2000)
Commodities: machinery and equipment petroleum products capital goods foodstuffs consumer goods
Partners: France 33% US 10% Spain 9% Algeria 6% Germany 6% Benelux 5% (2000)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

Debt external: $1.6 billion (2000) (2000)

Stock of direct foreign investment at home

Stock of direct foreign investment abroad

Exchange rates: ouguiyas per US dollar - 254.350 (December 2001) 238.923 (2000) 209.514 (1999) 188.476 (1998) 151.853 (1997) 137.222 (1996)

Mauritania - Energy 2002
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Electricity access

Electricity production: 154 million kWh (2000)
By source fossil fuel: 84%
By source hydro: 16%
By source other: 0% (2000)
By source nuclear: 0%

Electricity consumption: 143.22 million kWh (2000)

Electricity exports: 0 kWh (2000)

Electricity imports: 0 kWh (2000)

Electricity installed generating capacity

Electricity transmission distribution losses

Electricity generation sources


Refined petroleum

Natural gas

Carbon dioxide emissions

Energy consumption per capita

Mauritania - Communication 2002
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Telephones fixed lines

Telephones mobile cellular: 35,000 (2001)

Telephone system
General assessment: limited system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations (improvements being made)
Domestic: mostly cable and open-wire lines; a recently completed domestic satellite telecommunications system links Nouakchott with regional capitals
International: satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 2 Arabsat

Broadcast media

Internet country code: .mr

Internet users: 7,500 (2001)

Broadband fixed subscriptions

Mauritania - Military 2002
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Military expenditures
Dollar figure: $37.1 million (FY01)
Percent of gdp: 3.7% (FY01)

Military and security forces

Military service age and obligation

Terrorist groups

Mauritania - Transportation 2002
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National air transport system

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

Airports: 26 (2001)
With paved runways total: 10 9
With paved runways 2438 to 3047 m: 3
With paved runways 15-24 to 2437 m: 3 6 (2002)
With unpaved runways total: 16 17
With unpaved runways 2438 to 3047 m: 2
With unpaved runways 15-24 to 2437 m: 1 5
With unpaved runways 914 to 1523 m: 6 7
With unpaved runways under 914 m: 6 3 (2002)

Airports with paved runways
Total: 10 9
2438 to 3047 m: 3
15-24 to 2437 m: 3 6 (2002)

Airports with unpaved runways
Total: 16 17
2438 to 3047 m: 2
15-24 to 2437 m: 1 5
914 to 1523 m: 6 7
Under 914 m: 6 3 (2002)



Standard gauge: 704 km 1.435-m gauge
Note: owned and operated by government mining company (2001)


Note: ferry traffic on the Senegal River

Merchant marine: none (2002)

Ports and terminals

Mauritania - Transnational issues 2002
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Disputes international: none

Refugees and internally displaced persons

Illicit drugs

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