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  Transnational Issues

In general, information available as of 1 January, 2004
was used in the preparation of The World Factbook 2004.

This page was last updated on 30 November, 2004

Map of Mauritania

Legend: DefinitionDefinition Field ListingField Listing Rank OrderRank Order
   Introduction    Mauritania
Definition Field Listing
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.
   Geography    Mauritania
Definition Field Listing
Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
Geographic coordinates:
Definition Field Listing
20 00 N, 12 00 W
Map references:
Definition Field Listing
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 1,030,700 sq km
land: 1,030,400 sq km
water: 300 sq km
Area - comparative:
Definition Field Listing
slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico
Land boundaries:
Definition Field Listing
total: 5,074 km
border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km
Definition Field Listing
754 km
Maritime claims:
Definition Field Listing
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
Definition Field Listing
desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
Definition Field Listing
mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Elevation extremes:
Definition Field Listing
lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m
Natural resources:
Definition Field Listing
iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
Land use:
Definition Field Listing
arable land: 0.48%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 99.51% (2001)
Irrigated land:
Definition Field Listing
490 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
Definition Field Listing
hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts
Environment - current issues:
Definition Field Listing
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
Environment - international agreements:
Definition Field Listing
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
Definition Field Listing
most of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
   People    Mauritania
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
2,998,563 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
Definition Field Listing
0-14 years: 45.9% (male 689,371; female 686,486)
15-64 years: 51.9% (male 767,551; female 788,520)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 27,106; female 39,529) (2004 est.)
Median age:
Definition Field Listing
total: 16.9 years
male: 16.7 years
female: 17.2 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
2.91% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
41.79 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
12.74 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
Definition Field Listing
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
Definition Field Listing
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 72.35 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 75.22 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 69.39 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total population: 52.32 years
male: 50.15 years
female: 54.56 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
6.01 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0.6% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
9,500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
less than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
Definition Field Listing
typhoid fever, malaria, Rift Valley fever
overall degree of risk: very high (2004)
Definition Field Listing
noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
Ethnic groups:
Definition Field Listing
mixed Maur/black 40%, Maur 30%, black 30%
Definition Field Listing
Muslim 100%
Definition Field Listing
Hassaniya Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (official), French
Definition Field Listing
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 41.7%
male: 51.8%
female: 31.9% (2003 est.)
   Government    Mauritania
Country name:
Definition Field Listing
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:
Definition Field Listing
Definition Field Listing
Administrative divisions:
Definition Field Listing
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
Definition Field Listing
28 November 1960 (from France)
National holiday:
Definition Field Listing
Independence Day, 28 November (1960)
Definition Field Listing
12 July 1991
Legal system:
Definition Field Listing
a combination of Shari'a (Islamic law) and French civil law
Definition Field Listing
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
Definition Field Listing
chief of state: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA (since 12 December 1984)
head of government: Prime Minister Sghair Ould M'BARECK (since 6 July 2003)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 7 November 2003 (next to be held NA 2009); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA reelected for a third term with 60.8% of the vote
Legislative branch:
Definition Field Listing
bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats, a part of the seats up for election every two years; members elected by municipal leaders to serve six-year terms) and the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani (81 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
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%, 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:
Definition Field Listing
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts
Political parties and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
Action for Change or AC [Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR]; Alliance for Justice and Democracy or AJD [Kebe ABDOULAYE]; Democratic and Social Republican Party or PRDS (ruling party) [President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA]; Mauritanian Party for Renewal and Concorde or PMRC [Molaye El Hassen Ould JIYID]; National Union for Democracy and Development or UNDD [Tidjane KOITA]; Party for Liberty, Equality and Justice or PLEJ [Daouda M'BAGNIGA]; Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]; Popular Progress Alliance or APP [Mohamed El Hafed Ould ISMAEL]; Popular Social and Democratic Union or UPSD [Mohamed Mahmoud Ould MAH]; Progress Force Union or UFP [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]; Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]; Rally for Democracy and Unity or RDU [Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA]; Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]
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
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
Arab nationalists; Ba'athists; 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]
International organization participation:
Definition Field Listing
Diplomatic representation in the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador Mohamedou Ould MICHEL
chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623
Diplomatic representation from the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador Joseph E. LEBARON
embassy: 288 Rue Abdallaye (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott
mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott
telephone: [222] 525-2660/525-2663
FAX: [222] 25-25-92
Flag description:
Definition Field Listing
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    Mauritania
Economy - overview:
Definition Field Listing
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 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. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential extraction at current world oil prices. 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. Substantial oil production and exports probably will not begin until 2005. Meantime the government emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and promoting privatization of the economy.
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
purchasing power parity - $5.195 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
4.5% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
purchasing power parity - $1,800 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture: 25%
industry: 29%
services: 46% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Definition Field Listing
50% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
Definition Field Listing
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 30.2% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
Definition Field Listing
37.3 (1995)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
7% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
786,000 (2001)
Labor force - by occupation:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture 50%, industry 10%, services 40% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
21% (2004 est.)
Definition Field Listing
revenues: $421 million
expenditures: $378 million, including capital expenditures of $154 million (2002 est.)
Agriculture - products:
Definition Field Listing
dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn, dates; cattle, sheep
Definition Field Listing
fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum
Industrial production growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
2% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
157.4 million kWh (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
146.3 million kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
Definition Field Listing
0 kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
Definition Field Listing
0 kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
24,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
NA (2001)
Oil - imports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
NA (2001)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$541 million f.o.b. (2002)
Exports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
iron ore, fish and fish products, gold
Exports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
Japan 12.5%, France 12.1%, Spain 11.4%, Italy 10.4%, Belgium 7.8%, Germany 7.4%, Russia 5%, Cote d'Ivoire 4.2%, Netherlands 4% (2003)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$860 million f.o.b. (2002)
Imports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
France 16.8%, Spain 7.7%, China 6.3%, Belgium 5.1%, Germany 4.9%, Japan 4.3%, UK 4.1%, US 4% (2003)
Debt - external:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$2.5 billion (2000)
Economic aid - recipient:
Definition Field Listing
$220 million (2000)
Definition Field Listing
ouguiya (MRO)
Currency code:
Definition Field Listing
Exchange rates:
Definition Field Listing
ouguiyas per US dollar - NA (2003), 271.739 (2002), 255.629 (2001)
Fiscal year:
Definition Field Listing
calendar year
   Communications    Mauritania
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
31,500 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
300,000 (2003)
Telephone system:
Definition Field Listing
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: country code - 222; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 2 Arabsat
Radio broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
1 (2002)
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
Internet hosts:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
25 (2003)
Internet users:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
10,000 (2002)
   Transportation    Mauritania
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
717 km
standard gauge: 717 km 1.435-m gauge (2003)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 7,720 km
paved: 830 km
unpaved: 6,890 km (2000)
Definition Field Listing
some ferry traffic on Senegal River (2004)
Ports and harbors:
Definition Field Listing
Bogue, Kaedi, Nouadhibou, Nouakchott, Rosso
Merchant marine:
Definition Field Listing
Definition Field Listing
24 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2003 est.)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 16
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 1 (2003 est.)
   Military    Mauritania
Military branches:
Definition Field Listing
Army, Navy (including Naval Infantry), Air Force, National Gendarmerie, National Guard, National Police, Presidential Guard (BSSP)
Military manpower - availability:
Definition Field Listing
males age 15-49: 686,629 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
Definition Field Listing
males age 15-49: 332,633 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$40.8 million (2003)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.7% (2003)
   Transnational Issues    Mauritania
Disputes - international:
Definition Field Listing
Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara have been dormant in recent years

This page was last updated on 30 November, 2004

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