Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents



Located between the rich civilizations of Sudanic Black Africa and Arab North Africa, Mauritania was historically a crossroads for trade. In modern times, the trans-Saharan trade-- based on the exchange of gold, slaves, and salt--was superseded by trade with Senegal, Mali, and France. Mauritania's chief export during colonial times was gum arabic. Since independence, however, there has been a radical shift toward the export of mineral raw materials and the import of food, petroleum, and manufactured goods.


Since independence, Mauritania's main exports have been iron ore and fish. Between 1963 and 1980, iron ore exports were clearly most important, averaging 80 percent of the value of total exports. By the mid-1980s, however, fish exports had outstripped iron ore exports. Between 1980 and 1986, the value of fish exports rose to 59 percent of total exports; in 1983 fishing replaced iron ore as the major foreign exchange earner. During the same period, iron ore exports fell to around 40 percent of total exports. This circumstance did not reflect a significant decline in iron ore production, but rather a change in the way fish catches were recorded.

Data as of June 1988