Mauritania is the fifth largest country in the Arab region, with an estimated population of 4 million in 2018, growing at an annual rate of 2.7 percent, and with a life expectancy at birth reaching 63.4 years.[1] With an urban population rate of 53.7 percent, Mauritania slightly levels below the world average at 55.3 percent.[2] As a result  of the drought in 2017, Mauritania was affected by high levels of food insecurity, with around 250,000+ people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2018.[3] Moreover, following the onset of the Mali conflict, large numbers of Malians have been seeking refuge in Mauritania, which hosted 54,975 by early 2019.[4]


Mauritania is a lower middle-income country in Northwestern Africa, with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (purchasing power parity) amounting to USD 3,890.[5] Higher oil prices and lower commodity prices since mid-2014 weighed on the external and fiscal positions. Despite a prudent fiscal policy and a recent increase in international mineral prices, the pace of economic recovery remains slow.[6] Real GDP registered a growth of 2.5 percent in 2018, recovering from a low of 0.4 percent in 2015,[7] spurred by advancements in the livestock, manufacturing, fisheries and commerce sectors.[6] At the fiscal level, and after falling into a deficit for five consecutive years, the fiscal balance registered an almost zero deficit in 2018. Mauritania’s risk of debt distress remains high and despite a slight decrease of gross government debt to 97.5 percent of GDP in 2018, down from 100 percent of GDP in 2016. Reaching 3.8 percent in 2018, inflation has been steadily increasing, up from 0.5 percent in 2015.[7] In this context, Mauritania continues to face several development challenges and considerable risks remain given the inefficient use of revenues derived from natural resources, lack of diversification, poor infrastructure and weak capital.[6]


The main challenges hindering the country’s growth comes in tandem the water and food insecurity conditions. A recurrent series of drought since 2017, coupled with an increase in food and livestock prices have affected a large number of people, with 830,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance.[8] Children’s nutrition was particularly affected, with over 224,000 children under the age of 18 in need of assistance,[3] 23 percent of children between 6-59 months suffering from chronic malnutrition, and 2.3 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from the most severe form of malnutrition.[8][9]

At the educational level, Mauritania seems to be lagging behind, where the gross tertiary enrollment rate is low at 4.5 percent, compared to a regional average of 32.4 percent in 2017. Nevertheless, the gross primary enrollment rate increased from 821. percent in 2000 to 95.4 percent in 2017, with a Gender Parity Index (GPI) of 1.1, compared to 0.5 at the tertiary level.[10]

Labor force participation in Mauritania has been dropping over the past two decades, reaching 46.3 percent in 2018, down from 50.9 percent in 2000. Along the same lines, youth unemployment was high at 16 percent in 2018, particularly for women at 17.9 percent. At the sectoral level, Mauritanians constitute a large part of the agriculture sector workforce, where 55.4 percent work in agriculture, compared to only 11.1 percent in the industry sector.[11]

This overview was last updated in February 2019. Priority is given to the latest available official data published by national statistical offices and/or public institutions.

[1] Office National de la Statistique, Mauritanie. 2018. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 February 2019]. 
[2] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. 2018. World Urbanization Prospects. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 February 2019].
[3] United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). 2019. Humanitarian action for children: Mauritania. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 February 2019].
[4] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 2019. Operational portal refugee situations. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 February 2019].
[5] The World Bank. 2018. World Development Indicators. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 February 2019].
[6] The World Bank. 2018. The World Bank in Mauritania, Overview. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 February 2019].
[7] International Monetary Fund. October 2018. World Economic Outlook. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 February 2019].
[8] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2018. Sahel overview of humanitarian needs and requirements. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 February 2019].
[9] World Food Programme. December 2018. WFP Mauritania country brief. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 February 2019].
[10] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 2018. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 February 2019].
[11] ILOSTAT. 2018. International Labour Organization. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 15 February 2019].


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Data Highlights

  • The inflation rate remained relatively low at 3.5% in 2014 but declined to 0.5 in 2015 and the cash deficit shrunk from MRO minus 53.8 billion in 2013 to MRO minus 24.74 billion in 2014.

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