major macro economic indicators
|2020||2021||2022 (e)||2023 (p)|
|GDP growth (%)||-0.9||2.4||4.0||4.7|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||2.2||3.7||7.1||7.4|
|Budget balance (% GDP)*||2.7||2.7||-2.0||-2.3|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-6.7||-9.4||-11.0||-10.0|
|Public debt (% GDP)**||55.8||51.6||50.0||51.0|
(e): Estimate (f): Forecast *Grants included **Including debts to the Central Bank and Kuwait
- Lower terrorist risk than its Sahelian neighbours
- Support from donors and international organisations
- Macroeconomic stability, to some degree, even in challenging circumstances
- Mineral (iron ore, gold, copper) and fishery resources
- Energy potential (gas, oil, renewables)
- Relatively significant domestic budgetary resources
- Poor governance including high levels of corruption, non-existent insolvency treatment
- Under-diversified economy is vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices
- Growth not very inclusive, weak education system and high unemployment
- Limited formal economy
- Very little arable land, as more than 2/3 of country surface is dessert
- Exposure to volatile weather patterns
- Persistent community tensions: discrimination against the Haratines, or black Moors, who make up 30% of the population and are descended from slaves of the Beydanes, also known as white Moors
Economic diversification, an essential component of growth
Mauritania's economic growth will remain on a positive trajectory in 2023. The agricultural sector (which accounts for 25% of GDP and provides a living for about half the population) is admittedly driven by high prices, but also by the increased demand for food due to population growth. The government can also count on the development of fishing (25% of exports) and livestock farming which contribute to economic diversification. In addition, the processing of agricultural raw materials and fish will be stimulated by the high level of food prices. This indicates strong potential for the agri-food sector which could attract investors, foreign or otherwise. But the main driver of growth will remain the production of iron ore and, secondly, gold, the volumes of which will increase again in 2023, despite declining world prices. Mineral production, mainly through the Société Nationale Industrielle Minière (SNIM), contributes 15% of GDP and provides almost 60% of exports. The economy will also benefit from the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim gas field, which is expected to come on stream in late 2023. Despite persistently high inflation due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, domestic demand will remain strong, chiefly on back of consumption. The Mauritanian central bank has raised interest rates by 200 basis points to 7% in August 2022, but the impact of its policy is limited by the circulation of money outside official channels.
Deficits linked to iron ore prices and the start of gas production
The budget surplus turned into a small deficit in 2022 which is likely to persist in 2023. This is due to a modest increase in revenues, especially from iron ore exports (17% of total) to China and the EU, due to unfavourable global prices that are not offset by increased volumes. Subsidies on fuel prices also weighed on the deficit. Public investment expenditure, particularly in agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure, will remain robust, with the long-term objectives of reducing poverty (7% of the population lives in extreme poverty) and unemployment, which is around 12%. The gradual reduction of fuel subsidies will, however, mitigate expenditure. The deficit will be financed by loans mainly contracted from the Gulf States, which will add to the public debt, which is mainly made up of foreign debt.
The current account deficit, after having increased in 2022 on back of a rise in imports of goods and services necessary for the development of the gas fields and a stagnation of iron ore revenues should decline from the end of 2023 with the start-up of the large gas field, which will give oil companies greater optimism about the prospects for future discoveries. The current account deficit will continue to be financed mainly by FDI, especially as debt restructuring agreements with Kuwait in August 2021 and Saudi Arabia in April 2022 have helped improve investor confidence.
Overhaul of the electoral system
President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, elected in August 2019, will have difficulty in securing a fresh majority following the legislative elections scheduled for September 2023. The country’s complex electoral system had to be redesigned after the 2018 elections, in which the presidential party, the Union for the Republic (UPR), won a majority with only 19.5% of the votes on the national list. Under the new system, 51 seats in the National Assembly will be filled by proportional representation on three national lists (one for women, one for men and one for youth). The remaining 125 seats will be filled by the two-round majority system, where there are one or two seats (in the latter case with a ticket comprising one woman and one man), and by the proportional list system alternating women and men, where there are three or more seats to be filled. In addition, the electoral commission will no longer be appointed by the president, but will be independent. These changes are the result of proposals made by the government and accepted by all political parties.
Faced with strong social discontent fueled by poverty, particularly among the Haratine community, the government has made the fight against social injustice its priority. The president continues underscore the corruption and mismanagement of the previous administration.
Internationally, the country will be able to count on the improvement of its relationship with Senegal, notably thanks to the joint offshore gas project which has eased tensions over fishing rights along their maritime border. Mauritania can also count on its close ties with the United Arab Emirates, materialised in the shipment of vaccines and medical supplies to deal with Covid-19 in 2021, and also with Saudi Arabia, which converted its $300 million deposit with the Mauritanian central bank into a concessional loan. On the other hand, the country could see its relationship with Mali deteriorate due to the latter's political instability and following the UN investigation into the March 2022 deaths of 29 Mauritanian citizens, in which the Malian army and "white soldiers" were reportedly involved.
Last updated: April 2023