Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents



Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Real growth rate of GDP averaged 8 percent in 1960s, then fell to 2.3 percent from mid1970s through mid-1980s, reflecting cumulative effects of drought, war in Western Sahara, and falling prices for iron ore. In 1986 GDP per capita US$410, same as in 1976.

Mining: Until mid-1980s largest contributor to GDP and source of export earnings. In 1960s provided as much as one-third of GDP and 80 percent of export earnings. By mid-1980s mining accounted for about 10 percent of GDP and 40 percent of export earnings, as prices for iron and copper ores dropped in world markets. By 1987 mining accounted for only 8.6 percent of GDP, although mining operations remained largest nongovernmental employer.

Fishing: Mauritainia's offshore waters among richest in world but in danger of being overfished. Before 1975 fishing and fish processing accounted for 5 percent of GDP, mainly through licensing and royalties. After government began participating in 1979, fishing industry grew rapidly and by 1983 accounted for 54 percent of foreign exchange and approximately 10 percent of GDP.

Herding and Agriculture: Employed most workers but least productive sector because Mauritania has one of poorest agricultural bases in West Africa. In 1960s livestock and crop production 35 to 45 percent of GDP. In mid-1970s 20 percent of total population farmed and 60 to 70 percent herded. From mid1970s through mid-1980s, combined contribution to GDP approximately 25 percent, and 85 percent of nomadic herders moved into cities. In 1986 Mauritania produced about one-third of its grain needs, up from 3 to 8 percent during 1983-85 drought years.

Imports: In 1986 approximately US$494 million. Major imports foodstuffs and other consumer goods, petroleum products, and capital goods.

Exports: In 1986 approximately US$400 million. Major exports fish, iron ore, and small amounts of gypsum and gum arabic. Also unrecorded but important export of cattle on the hoof to Senegal.

Major Trade Partners: Western Europe, Japan, United States, and various African countries.

Balance of Payments: By 1985 external public debt nearly 250 percent of GDP, making Mauritania one of most deeply indebted nations in world. Depended extensively on foreign economic credits and grant aid, in particular from oil-producing Arab states and France.

Exchange Rate: 73.7 ouguiyas to US$1.00 (September 1986).

Data as of June 1988