macrohistory & world report

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Map of Mauritania

Mauritania (capital Nouakchott) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: "Mauritania's economy is dominated by natural resources and agriculture. 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's extensive mineral resources include iron ore, gold, copper, gypsum, and phosphate rock and exploration is ongoing for uranium, crude oil, and natural gas. Extractive commodities make up 75% of Mauritania's total exports. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, and fishing accounts for 20% of budget revenues, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. Risks to Mauritania's economy include its recurring exposure to droughts, dependence on foreign aid and investment, and insecurity in neighboring Mali, as well as significant shortages of infrastructure, institutional capacity, and human capital."

Estimated per capita GDP (2010 US dollars)
2010: $2,100

Unemployment rate
2008: 30%

Food production has been rising since 1960, but because of population growth per capita food production has been declining.

corruption perception rating
2010: 2.3

Infant mortality (deaths before the age of one year per 1,000 live births)
2011: 60.42 (ranks 35th)
2008: 66.65

Average life expectancy at birth
2011: 61.14
2005: 52.73


July 2013: 3.44 million
Living in an urban area
2010: 41%

Literacy (15 and older)
2000 census: males 59.9%, females 43.4%

Ethnic groups
mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%

100 percent Muslim


Western Africa. 754 kilometers of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Desert. Hot, dry and dusty. More than three times the size of New Mexico.


Type: military junta. Bicameral legislature: Senate with 56 members serving six-year terms; National Assembly with 95 members elected by popular vote and serving five-year terms.

Capital: Nouakchott.

Recent History

1960: independence from France.

Slavery, March 2005: A young woman, Jabhallah Mint Mohamed, employed to tend sheep and goats, was receiving neither salary nor other kind of compensation, and she had been ill-treated by her "employers." She worked on an estate near Abokak, approximately 20 km from Mederdra. She had worked on the estate all of her life. Her parents had been slaves. After complaining to the local police she was escorted back to her "masters." Then she was set up in a neighboring town with her husband and children. (From the International Freedom of Expression Exchange).

2005: In  Mauritania, newspapers may be banned for publishing material that "undermines" Islam or is perceived to threaten national security.

2006; The president since 1984 – more than 20 years – Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, was overthrown on August 3 in a military coup led by Ely Ould Mohamed Vall. Many were tired of twenty years of repression under Taya, and thousands are reported to have "flocked into the streets" at news of the coup. Within hours of the coup, opposition parties gave it their backing. Shopkeepers have torn down the obligatory portrait of the former president, and the glowing praise that had for him they are now giving to the new military leaders. The African Union has suspended Mauritania until elections are held for a  government to replace coup leaders. Vall and his military council have pledged to hold elections within two years and to forbid any of its member from standing for office in that election. 

April 2007: Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdullahi is inaugurated. He is said to be the country's first first freely and fairly elected president.

August 2008: A military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz takes power in a coup.

July 2009: Aziz is elected president.   

The World Factbook

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.