Mauritania is an African nation situated on the northwestern corner of the continent, which covers an area of 400,000 square miles and a population of 4,301,018 according to the estimates of 2016. Mauritania is classified as a developing nation, and in 2018, the country’s nominal GDP was the 154th highest in the world at roughly $5.2 billion, while GDP based on purchasing power parity was 134th highest standing at $18.117 billion. In the same period GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity was $4,563, while nominal GDP per capita was $1,309. The economy of Mauritania is heavily dependent on the country's natural resources that include iron, oil, and gold.
According to the estimates of 2011, Mauritania's oil reserves accounted for about 0.01% of the global oil reserves. The first oil discovery in Mauritania was in 2001 when Woodside Petroleum discovered the Chinguetti oil field, which was estimated to contain 692,167,467 cubic feet of oil. Initially, Chinguetti produced 75,000 barrels of oil each day, but because of geological challenges, oil production soon decreased. In 2003, Woodside Petroleum also discovered two other oil fields in Tiof and Banda. In 2005, another oil field, Tevet, was discovered in the same area and it is believed that it would be developed as a satellite field of the Chinguetti. Woodside petroleum planned to invest $600 million in Mauritania's oil sector to develop the oil fields already discovered. However, the Mauritanian government and the company were involved in a dispute over the contract as the Mauritanian government claimed that the contract was unfair to the country. The Mauritanian government later decided to sell the Chinguetti oil field to the PETRONAS group. One of Mauritania's biggest oil discoveries was in 2006 when roughly 950 million barrels of oil reserves were discovered in the Atlantic Ocean. After the discovery, the Mauritanian government planned to increase its oil production to 30,000 oil barrels per day, but by 2016, Mauritius produced only 6,000 barrels of oil each day. The Mauritanian government invited other corporations such as Tullow Oil and Total to explore for oil in the country. The government of Mauritania granted Tullow Oil 3 exploration licenses to explore an area of roughly 7,956 square miles. Total and the Mauritanian government signed an agreement that allowed the company to explore for oil in the country.
In 2014, the arable land in Mauritania accounted for about 0.44% of the country's total land area, and it remained relatively constant from 2013 to 2014. Much of the agriculturally productive land in Mauritania is situated close to the country's oases. Irrigation is also common in Mauritania, and it is mainly centered on the basin of the Gorgol River. Despite the small size of Mauritania's arable land, agriculture is one of the country's most important economic activities. In 2012, the Mauritanian government estimated that agriculture contributed 14% of the country's GDP. The Mauritanian labor department estimated that in 2001 agriculture employed about 50% of the country's workforce. Some of the most important crops grown in Mauritania include millet, sorghum, and rice. Despite the vast array of crops grown in Mauritania, the country has been unable to achieve food security because of its climate. Apart from Mauritania's climate, other challenges that face the country's agrarian sector include the high cost of farm inputs and overreliance on traditional agricultural techniques. The Mauritanian government has partnered with the Food and Agricultural Organization to improve the country's agricultural sector. The organization has urged Mauritanian farmers to practice drip irrigation to conserve water.
The livestock sector is considered one of Mauritania's essential industries, particularly in rural areas. During the late 1970s, the Mauritanian government estimated that almost 70% of the country's population was engaged in livestock keeping. Some of the animals kept by Mauritanian farmers include camels, sheep, and cattle. The most common cattle kept in Mauritania is the short-horned Zebu which is commonly referred to as the Maure. The Mauritanian government estimated that the Maure made up of about 85% of the country's cattle population. Another common breed of cattle kept in Mauritania is the long-horned Zebu which is commonly referred to as the Fulani. The major challenge facing the country's livestock industry is the country's climate as it limits the areas where the livestock can be raised.
Mauritania has a diverse array of minerals which play a significant role in the economy, which include gold, copper, and iron among others. Mauritania's mineral industry is one of the most critical industries in the country and it accounted for 17.2% of the country’s GDP in 2014. The Mauritanian government has set up several agencies to regulate the country's mineral sector such as the Department of Mines and Geology. The department is responsible for granting mining and exploration licenses. The Mauritanian government has put in place several incentives to attract organizations to invest in the country's mineral sector such as exempting the companies from custom duty on their equipment during exploration. The Mauritanian government also exempts mining companies from corporate income tax during the first three years of production.
One of Mauritania's most essential minerals is gold. Mauritania has two major gold mines, the Tasiast mine and the Guelb Moghrein Mine. The Guelb Moghrein Mine is situated in the western region of the country in the Inchiri region. In 2014, the mine produced about 3,368 pounds of gold which was a decline of about 16% from the production in 2013. The Tasiast mine is situated in the northwestern section of the country in Khatt Atui valley. The mine began producing gold in 2008, and in 2010 it was purchased by Kinross Gold and started to undertake expansion which was to be completed in 2014. In 2014, the mine produced about 17,861 pounds of gold which was a 5% increase from the production in 2013. Several companies have licenses to explore for gold in Mauritania such as Drake Resources Limited and Gryphon Minerals Limited.
Unemployment in Mauritania
One of the significant challenges facing the Mauritanian economy is the country's high unemployment rate. In 2017, the Mauritanian government reported that the country's unemployment rate was 11.8% which was an increase from the previous year's rate of 11.66%. The Mauritanian government has urged companies to invest in the country and increase the number of jobs and to reduce the country's unemployment rate.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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