[Country map of Mauritania]



Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara

Map references: Africa

total area: 1,030,700 sq km
land area: 1,030,400 sq km
comparative area: slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico

Land boundaries: total 5,074 km, 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

International disputes: boundary with Senegal in dispute

Climate: desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

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

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

Land use:
arable land: 1%
permanent crops: 0%
meadows and pastures: 38%
forest and woodland: 5%
other: 56%

Irrigated land: 120 sq km (1989 est.)

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
natural hazards: hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts
international agreements: party to - Climate Change, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands; signed, but not ratified - Biodiversity, Desertification, Law of the Sea

Note: most of the population concentrated along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country


Population: 2,263,202 (July 1995 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 48% (female 544,674; male 551,099)
15-64 years: 49% (female 574,282; male 542,762)
65 years and over: 3% (female 28,955; male 21,430) (July 1995 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.17% (1995 est.)

Birth rate: 47.32 births/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Death rate: 15.66 deaths/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1995 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 83.5 deaths/1,000 live births (1995 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 48.54 years
male: 45.66 years
female: 51.54 years (1995 est.)

Total fertility rate: 6.92 children born/woman (1995 est.)

noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian

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

Religions: Muslim 100%

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

Literacy: age 15 and over can read and write (1988)
total population: 35%
male: 46%
female: 25%

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


conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
conventional short form: Mauritania
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
local short form: Muritaniyah

Digraph: MR

Type: republic

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, state security courts (in the process of being eliminated)

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state and head of government: President Col. Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed TAYA (since 12 December 1984); election last held NA January 1992 (next to be held NA January 1998); results - President Col. Maaouya Ould Sid 'Ahmed TAYA elected
cabinet: Council of Ministers

Legislative branch: bicameral legislature
Senate (Majlis al-Shuyukh): elections last held 15 April 1994 (nex to be held NA 1996); results - percent of vote by party NA; seats (56 total, with 17 up for election every two years) PRDS 16, UFD/NE 1
National Assembly (Majlis al-Watani): elections last held 6 and 13 March 1992 (next to be held NA March 1997); results - percent of vote by party NA; seats - (79 total) UFD/NE 67, PMR 1, RDU 1, independents 10

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

Other political or pressure groups: Mauritanian Workers Union (UTM)


Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Ismail Ould IYAHI (since 22 September 1994)
chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700

US diplomatic representation:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dorothy Myers SAMPAS
embassy: address NA, Nouakchott
mailing address: B. P. 222, Nouakchott
telephone: [222] (2) 526-60, 526-63
FAX: [222] (2) 515-92

Flag: 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


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 gloomy because of the heavy debt service burden, rapid population growth, and vulnerability to climatic conditions.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $2.4 billion (1993 est.)

National product real growth rate: 5% (1993 est.)

National product per capita: $1,110 (1994 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 10% (1993)

Unemployment rate: 20% (1991 est.)

revenues: $280 million
expenditures: $346 million, including capital expenditures of $61 million (1989 est.)

Exports: $401 million (f.o.b., 1993 est.)
commodities: iron ore, fish and fish products
partners: Japan 27%, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg

Imports: $378 million (c.i.f., 1993 est.)
commodities: foodstuffs, consumer goods, petroleum products, capital goods
partners: Algeria 15%, China 6%, US 3%, France, Germany, Spain, Italy

External debt: $1.9 billion (1992 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate NA%; accounts for almost 30% of GDP

capacity: 110,000 kW
production: 135 million kWh
consumption per capita: 61 kWh (1993)

Industries: fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum

Agriculture: accounts for 25% of GDP (including fishing); largely subsistence farming and nomadic cattle and sheep herding except in Senegal river valley; crops - dates, millet, sorghum, root crops; fish products number-one export; large food deficit in years of drought

Economic aid:
recipient: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-89), $168 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-89), $1.3 billion; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $490 million; Communist countries (1970-89), $277 million; Arab Development Bank (1991), $20 million

Currency: 1 ouguiya (UM) = 5 khoums

Exchange rates: ouguiyas (UM) per US$1 - 125.910 (January 1995), 123.575 (1994), 120.806 (1993),87.027 (1992), 81.946 (1991), 80.609 (1990)

Fiscal year: calendar year


total: 690 km (single track); note - owned and operated by government mining company
standard gauge: 690 km 1.435-m gauge

total: 7,525 km
paved: 1,685 km
unpaved: gravel, crushed stone, otherwise improved 1,040 km; unimproved earth 4,800 km (roads, trails, tracks)

Inland waterways: mostly ferry traffic on the Senegal River

Ports: Bogue, Kaedi, Nouadhibou, Nouakchott, Rosso

Merchant marine: none

total: 28
with paved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
with paved runways 1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
with paved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 1
with paved runways under 914 m: 2
with unpaved runways 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
with unpaved runways 1,524 to 2,438 m: 6
with unpaved runways 914 to 1,523 m: 10


Telephone system: NA telephones; poor system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radio communications stations (improvements being made)
local: NA
intercity: mostly cable and open wire lines
international: 1 INTELSAT (Atlantic Ocean) and 2 ARABSAT earth stations, with six planned

broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 0, shortwave 0
radios: NA

broadcast stations: 1
televisions: NA

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Gendarmerie, National Guard, National Police, Presidential Guard

Manpower availability: males age 15-49 483,916; males fit for military service 236,323

Defense expenditures: exchange rate conversion - $36 million, 2.7% of GDP (1994)