Mauritania [Country Flag of Mauritania]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Mauritania]



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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 references: Africa

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:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

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

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

Natural resources: iron ore, gypsum, fish, copper, phosphate

Land use:
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 38%
forests and woodland: 4%
other: 58% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 490 sq km (1993 est.)

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

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
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


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Population: 2,511,473 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 46% (male 584,303; female 583,526)
15-64 years: 51% (male 624,144; female 660,478)
65 years and over: 3% (male 24,813; female 34,209) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.52% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 44.46 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 14.59 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: -4.65 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 78.22 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 49.99 years
male: 46.95 years
female: 53.11 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 6.41 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian

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

Religions: Muslim 100%

Languages: Hasaniya Arabic (official), Pular, Soninke, Wolof (official), French

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 37.7%
male: 49.6%
female: 26.3% (1995 est.)


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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

Data code: MR

Government type: republic

National capital: Nouakchott

Administrative divisions: 12 regions (regions, singular—region); Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh el Gharbi, Inchiri, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza
note: there may be a new capital district of Nouakchott

Independence: 28 November 1960 (from France)

National holiday: Independence Day, 28 November (1960)

Constitution: 12 July 1991

Legal system: three-tier system: Islamic (Shari'a) courts, special courts, and state security courts (in the process of being eliminated)

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Col. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA (since 12 December 1984)
head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed Lamine Ould GUIG (since 7 December 1997)
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 Col. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA reelected with 90% of the vote

Legislative branch: bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; 17 up for election every two years; members elected by municipal leaders to serve six-year terms) and the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani (79 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate—last held 12 April 1996 (next to be held NA 1998); National Assembly—last held 11 and 18 October 1996 (next to be held NA 2001)
election results: Senate—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—PRDS 16, UFD/NE 1; National Assembly—percent of vote by party—NA; seats by party—PRDS 71, AC 1, independents and other 7

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Cour Supreme)

Political parties and leaders: legalized by constitution passed 12 July 1991, however, politics continue to be tribally based; emerging parties include Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS), led by President Col. Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed TAYA; Union of Democratic Forces-New Era (UFD/NE), headed by Ahmed Ould DADDAH; Assembly for Democracy and Unity (RDU), Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA; Popular Social and Democratic Union (UPSD), Mohamed Mahmoud Ould MAH; Mauritanian Party for Renewal (PMR), Hameida BOUCHRAYA; National Avant-Garde Party (PAN), Khattry Ould JIDDOU; Mauritanian Party of the Democratic Center (PCDM), Bamba Ould SIDI BADI; Action for Change (AC), Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR

Political pressure groups and leaders: Mauritanian Workers Union (UTM), Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general; General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers (CGTM), Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, secretary general

International organization participation: ABEDA, ACCT (associate), ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, CAEU, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Ahmed OULD SID'AHMED
chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Timberlake FOSTER
embassy: Rue Abdallahi Ould Oubeid, Nouakchott
mailing address: B. P. 222, Nouakchott
telephone: [222] (2) 526-60, 526-63
FAX: [222] (2) 515-92

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


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Economy—overview: A majority of 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 almost 50% 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 recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a substantial buildup of foreign debt. The government has begun the second stage of an economic reform program in consultation with the World Bank, the IMF, and major donor countries. Short-term growth prospects are poor because of the heavy debt service burden, rapid population growth, and vulnerability to climatic conditions.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$4.1 billion (1996 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 6% (1996 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$1,750 (1996 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 26%
industry: 31%
services: 43% (1996)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 4.7% (1996)

Labor force:
total: 465,000 (1981 est.); 45,000 wage earners (1980)
by occupation: agriculture 47%, services 29%, industry and commerce 14%, government 10%

Unemployment rate: 23% (1995 est.)

revenues: $329 million
expenditures: $265 million, including capital expenditures of $75 million (1996 est.)

Industries: fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum

Industrial production growth rate: 7.2% (1994)

Electricity—capacity: 105,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 143 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 63 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: dates, millet, sorghum, root crops; cattle, sheep; fish products

total value: $494 million (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: fish and fish products, iron ore, gold
partners: Japan 22%, Italy 16%, France 14%

total value: $457 million (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities: foodstuffs, consumer goods, petroleum products, capital goods
partners: France 30%, Algeria 10%, Spain 7%, China 6%, US 3%

Debt—external: $2.5 billion (1995)

Economic aid:
recipient: ODA, $NA

Currency: 1 ouguiya (UM) = 5 khoums

Exchange rates: ouguiyas (UM) per US$1—169.880 (January 1998), 148.916 (1997), 137.222 (1996), 129.768 (1995), 123.575 (1994), 120.806 (1993)

Fiscal year: calendar year


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Telephones: 17,000 (1991 est.)

Telephone system: poor 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

Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 0, shortwave 0

Radios: 300,000 (1993 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 1 (1987 est.)

Televisions: 50,000 (1992 est.)


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total: 704 km (single track); note—owned and operated by government mining company
standard gauge: 704 km 1.435-m gauge (1995)

total: 7,660 km
paved: 866 km
unpaved: 6,794 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: mostly ferry traffic on the Senegal River

Ports and harbors: Bogue, Kaedi, Nouadhibou, Nouakchott, Rosso

Merchant marine: none

Airports: 26 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 18
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 9
under 914 m: 2 (1997 est.)


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Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Gendarmerie, National Guard, National Police, Presidential Guard

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 555,492 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 269,884 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $33 million (1995)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2.5% (1995)

Transnational Issues

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Disputes—international: none