Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents


Direction of Trade


Senegal River ferry at Rosso
Courtesy Larry Barrie

Loading iron ore at Nouadhibou
Courtesy Embassy of Mauritania, Washington

At independence, Mauritania traded mostly with its African neighbors. In 1961 almost 75 percent of the country's exports-- then primarily livestock--went to Senegal and Mali. Imports of modern consumer goods came principally from France, moving through the ports of Senegal before transshipment to Mauritania.

With the emergence of the iron industry and of large-scale development projects in Mauritania, this picture changed. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France imported most of Mauritania's iron ore. By the 1980s, as fishing exports increased, Western Europe became less important as a market for Mauritania's exports. Among industrial countries, which in 1986 took around 90 percent of the country's recorded exports, Japan received 28 percent, Italy 24.6 percent, Belgium 15.8 percent, and France 14.7 percent. The rise in Japan's portion of Mauritania's exports reflected both a diversification in iron ore customers and Japan's appetite for fish.

Since independence, France has remained Mauritania's most important supplier. In 1964 France provided 54 percent of the country's imports. That percentage dropped to 39 percent in 1969 and to 22 percent in 1981 but rose again to about 30 percent in 1985. Between 1981 and 1985, Spain, West Germany, and the United States also were important suppliers. Developing countries provided between 23 and 27 percent of Mauritania's imports between 1981 and 1985, of which African countries supplied as much as 15 percent.

Data as of June 1988