Mauritania flag Mauritania: Economic and Political Overview

The economic context of Mauritania

Economic Indicators

Mauritania's GDP growth is considerably exposed to fluctuations in global mineral commodity prices given the large share of extractive industries in the country's economy. After contracting by 0.9% in 2020 following the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the economy rebounded by an estimated 2.4% in 2021. The estimated real GDP growth moderated to 3.4% in 2023, down from 6.4% in 2022. This decline can be attributed to a significant contraction in public investment and a slowdown in exports, driven by reduced industrial production. The medium-term outlook appears generally positive, although it remains vulnerable to potential risks. Growth is projected to average 4.9% over the period from 2024 to 2026. This growth will be underpinned by several factors, including the commencement of gas production in the latter half of 2024, sustained levels of private consumption and investment as prices rebound to pre-crisis levels, increased exports, and the execution of the government's public investment program (World Bank).

Concerning public finances, in 2023, the overall fiscal deficit improved to 2.4% of GDP, a notable improvement from 3.7% of GDP recorded in 2022, primarily attributed to a decrease in capital expenditure. However, the debt-to-GDP ratio saw a slight increase to 48.1% in 2023, marking a 0.8 percentage point rise, mainly due to the depreciation of the exchange rate towards the end of 2023. Despite this increase, a joint Debt Sustainability Assessment conducted by the IMF and World Bank indicates that external debt remains sustainable, with a moderate risk of debt distress. In 2023, the current account deficit showed improvement, decreasing to 10% of GDP from 16.6% of GDP in 2022. This improvement can be attributed to reduced imports of capital goods in the extractive industry, oil, and food products. Moving forward, fiscal pressures are expected to alleviate, resulting in an average budget deficit of 2% of GDP in 2024. This improvement will be supported by revenue from gas, reduced current transfers, and increased tax revenue mobilization. By 2026, the fiscal deficit is forecasted to narrow even further to 0.2% of GDP. Additionally, debt levels are anticipated to gradually decrease, reaching 47.7% of GDP by 2024 (World Bank). Average inflation has halved from its peak of 9.5% in 2022 to 5% in 2023. It is anticipated to continue decreasing to 2.5% in 2024, attributed to a reduction in external pressures.

Overall, the government will need to modernize the country and support education and industrial diversification to limit its dependence on raw materials price fluctuations (iron, copper, gold, quartz, cattle, and fish). To this extent, authorities have elaborated an inclusive growth strategy for the period 2017-30, planning structural reforms and significant investment in infrastructure. The three pillars of this investment strategy are inclusive economic growth, human capital development, and governance improvement. The country's unemployment rate was estimated at 10.8% in 2022 (from 11.3% one year earlier), with around 31.8% of the population living in poverty (World Bank, latest data available). Mauritania is considered a lower-middle-income country, with a GDP per capita (PPP) estimated at USD 6,295 in 2022 by the World Bank.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 9.8010.5410.6311.3611.94
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 6.44.85.15.54.5
GDP per Capita (USD) 2,2612,3802,3472,4532,524
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 49.249.948.547.847.2
Inflation Rate (%) 9.64.92.84.04.0
Current Account (billions USD) -1.52-1.18-1.24-1.05-0.85
Current Account (in % of GDP) -15.5-11.2-11.7-9.2-7.1

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021

Main Sectors of Industry

A vast desert, bordered to the west by the 700km-long Atlantic coast, to the east by the desert border with Mali, and to the south by the Senegal River, Mauritania has long thrived on its key resources of iron ore and fishery products, its main production sectors. The country also boasts large deposits of gold and copper, with many oil and gas fields discovered in recent years. The primary sector represents 22.2% of the GDP and employs one-third of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). Mauritania possesses an estimated potential for 500,000 hectares of arable land with high productivity averages, mainly in the fertile southern areas bordering the Senegal River, where irrigated agriculture is concentrated. While Mauritania produces millet, sorghum, dates, and rice, domestic cereal production only meets about one-third of the national food needs, necessitating reliance on imports, especially for sorghum, millet, and wheat. Farming, practiced by Mauritanian nomads, is also a significant area of activity. The latest projections by the USDA for agricultural production in the 2023/24 season are as follows: rice 240,000 tonnes, sorghum 70,000 tonnes, and corn 15,000 tonnes.

The country possesses mineral, oil, and gas resources, constituting an expanding market. Concerning the production of liquefied natural gas, an agreement has been reached with Senegal on the equal distribution of revenues from operating the Grande Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) offshore project, where the first production is expected by 2024, having been delayed by more than a year. Dominated by gold, iron (Mauritania being the second-largest African producer), and copper, the mining sector represents almost 24% of the country’s GDP and roughly 77% of its exports (data from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). Overall, the secondary sector (including construction) contributes to 30.2% of the country's GDP and employs 15% of its workforce. The manufacturing sector accounts for a mere 6% of GDP.

The tertiary sector represents more than 33.7% of the GDP and employs 52% of the workforce. The main sub-sectors are transport and telecommunications. Despite the potential in tourism, the sector has yet to attract significant foreign investment due to a lack of infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. As of April 2023, there are currently 16 banks, both national and foreign, operating in Mauritania. However, it's notable that only around 21% of the population actually holds bank accounts.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 29.5 18.9 51.7
Value Added (in % of GDP) 19.2 34.7 39.8
Value Added (Annual % Change) 4.0 7.7 4.5

Source: World Bank, Latest Available Data. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.}}

Score:
56,1/100
World Rank:
128
Regional Rank:
23

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

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Latest Update: May 2024

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