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Executive Summary

In August 2019, Mauritanians elected a new reform-minded government that took steps to increase foreign investment inflow, improve business climate and fight corruption.  On October 17, 2019 the Court of Accounts published a ten-year audit report covering fiscal years 2007 through 2017. The report highlighted lack of transparency in government tenders, weakness in public finances management and provided credible recommendations.  Based on the audit report findings, a parliamentarian committee was set up to further investigate four major government infrastructure and fisheries projects that were awarded to Chinese companies.  The government also established an inter-ministerial investment committee presided by the Prime Minister to review the requirement for entry visas to Mauritania.  The committee is expected to reduce requirements for countries where foreign investments are more likely to come from.

In December 2019, Mauritania signed and ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement and implemented Commune Tariffs Agreement with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

To fight against corruption and meet international standards, the Central Bank ordered 691 money transfer offices to close for failure to comply with the 2005 Law related to the Fight Against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism.

Despite a strong commitment to right the wrongs of the previous administration, the new government is struggling to overcome years of neglect and lack of attention on corrupt practices.  The new government inherited USD 527 million in debt, with USD 300 million in debt service payments due in FY2020.  In order to fully benefit from the newly discovered offshore hydrocarbons, a significant investment in infrastructure (particularly power generation) is required. There are several major infrastructure projects with feasibility studies under way, but no funding for any of the projects has been identified.

The new government benefitted from USD 30 million in increased revenue in its first six months, thanks to strong growth in the hydrocarbon, mining, fisheries and tourism sectors.  However, that financial buffer is quickly being drained due to COVID 19 response measures.

U.S. investment in Mauritania is primarily in the hydrocarbon and mining sectors, including heavy machinery. However, other sectors (i.e. tourism, agriculture, telecommunication and infrastructure projects) provide opportunities for U.S. investment.  Mauritania is currently our 172nd largest goods trading partner with USD 189 million in total (two-way) goods trade during 2019.  The total U.S. exports to Mauritania in 2019 were USD 127 million and imports from Mauritania were USD 61 million, resulting in a U.S. trade surplus with Mauritania of USD 66 million.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 137 of 180
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 152 of 190
Global Innovation Index N/A N/A
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) N/A N/A
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $1,160
Investment Climate Statements
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U.S. Department of State

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