Reference > World Factbook, 2008
  The World Factbook.  2008.
Flag of Mauritania                                Map of Mauritania
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. 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.
Location:Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
Geographic coordinates:20 00 N, 12 00 W
Map references:Africa
Area:total: 1,030,700 sq km
land: 1,030,400 sq km
water: 300 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
Coastline:754 km
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
Climate:desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
Terrain: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:490 sq km (2002)
Total renewable water resources:11.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):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; very limited natural fresh water 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 concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
Population:3,270,065 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure:0-14 years: 45.5% (male 744,995/female 741,369)
15-64 years: 52.4% (male 845,272/female 866,998)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 28,564/female 42,867) (2007 est.)
Median age:total: 17.1 years
male: 16.8 years
female: 17.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate:2.867% (2007 est.)
Birth rate:40.56 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate:11.89 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate:0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio:at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.005 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.975 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.666 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate:total: 68.07 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 71.07 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 64.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:total population: 53.51 years
male: 51.24 years
female: 55.85 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate:5.78 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS—adult prevalence rate:0.6% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS—people living with HIV/AIDS:9,500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS—deaths:less than 500 (2003 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)
Nationality:noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
Ethnic groups:mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%
Religions:Muslim 100%
Languages:Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, French, Hassaniya, Wolof
Literacy:definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 51.2%
male: 59.5%
female: 43.4% (2000 census)
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:Democratic Republic
Capital: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: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
Independence:28 November 1960 (from France)
National holiday:Independence Day, 28 November (1960)
Constitution:12 July 1991
Legal system:a combination of Islamic law and French civil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:chief of state: Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI (since 19 April 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Zeine Ould ZEIDANE (since 20 April 2007)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second consecutive term); election last held 11 March 2007 with a runoff between the two leading candidates held on 25 March 2007 (next to be held 2012); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: percent of vote - (second round) Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI 52.8%, Ahmed Ould DADDAH 47.2%
Legislative branch:bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; members elected by municipal leaders 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 (yet to be chosen) 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
Judicial branch:Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts
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
Political pressure groups and leaders:Arab nationalists; Ba'thists; General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CGTM [Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, secretary general]; Independent Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CLTM [Samory Ould BEYE]; Islamists; Mauritanian Workers Union or UTM [Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general]
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
Diplomatic representation from the US:chief of mission: Ambassador Mark M. BOULWARE
embassy: 288 Rue Abdallaye (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott
mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott
telephone: [222] 525-2660/525-2663
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
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.
GDP (purchasing power parity):$5.818 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):$2.747 billion (2007 est.)
GDP—real growth rate:1.5% (2007 est.)
GDP—per capita (PPP):$1,800 (2007 est.)
GDP—composition by sector:agriculture: 25%
industry: 29%
services: 46% (2001 est.)
Labor force:786,000 (2001)
Labor force—by occupation:agriculture: 50%
industry: 10%
services: 40% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:20% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:40% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 29.5% (2000)
Distribution of family income—Gini index:39 (2000)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):7% (2003 est.)
Budget:revenues: $421 million
expenditures: $378 million (2002 est.)
Agriculture—products:dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, sheep
Industries:fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum
Industrial production growth rate:2% (2000 est.)
Electricity—production:248 million kWh (2005)
Electricity—consumption:230.6 million kWh (2005)
Electricity—exports:0 kWh (2005)
Electricity—imports:0 kWh (2005)
Oil—production:75,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil—consumption:20,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil—exports:0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil—imports:19,960 bbl/day (2004)
Oil—proved reserves:0 bbl (1 January 2006)
Natural gas—production:0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas—consumption:0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas—exports:0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas—imports:0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas—proved reserves:0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports:$1.395 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Exports—commodities:iron ore, fish and fish products, gold
Exports—partners:China 26.1%, Italy 11.7%, France 10.5%, Spain 6.9%, Belgium 6.8%, Japan 5.4%, Cote d'Ivoire 4.6% (2006)
Imports:$1.475 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Imports—commodities:machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Imports—partners:France 11.9%, China 8.1%, Belgium 6.8%, US 6.7%, Italy 5.9%, Spain 5.7%, Brazil 5.5% (2006)
Debt—external:$2.5 billion (2000)
Market value of publicly traded shares:$NA
Economic aid—recipient:$190.4 million (2005)
Currency (code):ouguiya (MRO)
Exchange rates:ouguiyas per US dollar - NA (2007), 271.3 (2006), 267.04 (2005), 265.8 (2004), 263.03 (2003)
Fiscal year:calendar year
Telephones—main lines in use:34,900 (2006)
Telephones—mobile cellular:1.06 million (2006)
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 35 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 - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean), 2 Arabsat
Radio broadcast stations:AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)
Television broadcast stations:1 (2002)
Internet country
Internet hosts:14 (2007)
Internet users:100,000 (2006)
Airports:25 (2007)
Airports—with paved runways:total: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2007)
Airports—with unpaved runways:total: 17
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Railways:717 km
standard gauge: 717 km 1.435-m gauge (2006)
Roadways:total: 7,660 km
paved: 866 km
unpaved: 6,794 km (1999)
Ports and terminals:Nouadhibou, Nouakchott
Military branches:Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Air Force (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2007)
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 18-49: 606,463
females age 18-49: 607,955 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:males age 18-49: 370,513
females age 18-49: 384,269 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures—percent of GDP:5.5% (2006)
Transnational Issues
Disputes—international:Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant
Trafficking in persons:current situation: Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor, begging, and domestic servitude; adults and children are subjected to slavery-related practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships in isolated parts of the country where a barter economy exists
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Mauritania is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to show evidence of increased efforts to combat trafficking, particularly in the area of law enforcement


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