countryaah, Mauritania is a poor country, where primary nutrition
dominates. About 50 percent of the labor force is in
agriculture and fishing. While agriculture has been hit hard
by repeated drought, fishing has been of great economic
importance. The development of mining and industry has been
hampered by the lack of infrastructure, the lack of skilled
labor and limited domestic demand. In most cases, state and
semi-state companies, which have controlled the mining and
industrial sectors, have been uneconomical and have suffered
from a lack of skills and planning.
A program to revitalize and privatize business began in
the 1980s, and several state monopolies have been dissolved.
Liberalization, new mineral deposits and significant debt
write-offs have made Mauritania a good economic growth
during the 1990s. In addition to iron, which has long been
the most important export commodity, gold, oil and copper
are mined in the country.
Agriculture, which accounts for about 50 percent of
employment, is undeveloped and focused on self-sufficiency.
The arable land, located in the country's southern parts
along the Senegal River, comprises only 0.4 percent of the
country's area. Primarily, rice, millet, sorghum and, in the
oases, dates. Nomadic livestock management, mainly with
sheep and goats, is more important than arable farming and
provides almost half of the rural population. Recurring
drought with the resulting desertification has hit this
As a result of the dry periods, yields vary greatly in
agriculture and livestock management. Even in good years,
Mauritania is not self-sufficient, and dependence on food
aid is significant. Comprehensive programs to improve rural
water supply have increased the proportion of rural people
who have access to clean water from just over 30 percent in
1995 to just under half in 2008.
Mauritania is relatively mineral rich, and exports of
iron, oil, gold and copper account for a large proportion of
GDP. The country is one of Africa's largest exporters of
iron ore, and its plaster deposits are among the largest in
the world. In addition, there are deposits of gold, uranium
The waters off the coast of Mauritania are among the
world's richest fish and fish has long been the second most
important export commodity. However, the largest revenue
comes from the sale of fishing licenses to mainly EU
countries. Failure to monitor the fishing waters has led to
extensive poaching, with overfishing as a result. However,
the government has taken measures against depletion, among
other things by reducing the quotas in licenses to EU
Mauritania traditionally has a surplus in the trade
balance. Since the extraction of oil, gold and copper
started in the 00s, export earnings have increased further.
The country's low industrialization rate makes Mauritania
highly import dependent. Imports, which come mainly from
Belgium, the United Arab Emirates, USA, consist of consumer
goods (especially food), chemical products, petroleum
products, machinery and transport. Nearly half of exports go
to China. Other important exporting countries are
Switzerland and Spain. Smuggling to Senegal and Mali is
extensive. Foreign debt is significant despite large
depreciation, and Mauritania is heavily dependent on aid.
Tourism and gastronomy
Due to the troubled political situation, Mauritania has a
small tourism industry. The country's strangest sights are
still difficult to access, although there is a gradual
adjustment to tourism needs.
This applies to the millennial Islamic cities that have
so lost the battle against desert sand: Ouadane and
Chinguetti in the north, Dhar Tichitt and Oualata in the
southeast are still vibrant cities with ancient mosques and
beautifully painted residential buildings. Ruins from the
same periods are being dug out of the sand. All are listed
on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
In contrast to the sand, the area along the Senegal River
and the oases in the north and east appear as intensely
green. South of Nouadhibou is the Banc d'Arguin National
Park, with sea birds, for example.
Modern hotels are found in the cities of Nouakchott and
For a long time most of the population was nomadic, which
has resulted in a tradition of simple kitchens: grilled meat
or pots with goat or mutton, perhaps mixed with rice or
millet. Coconut as well as legumes are often used. In the
south, millet porridge and bean pan are everyday food. Along
the coast, fishing for bands provides different rock, shark,
sea bass, sea bream and bonit a completely different diet.
Grilled fish is common, as are pots seasoned with, for
example, garlic, pepper, cayenne pepper and coconut.