Loading centre of an iron ore company in Nouadhibou, Mauritania

Economic situation Lack of prospects for young people

Mauritania is rich in natural resources such as iron ore, copper, zinc, phosphate, gold, oil and natural gas. Furthermore, the country’s coastline is one of the richest fishing grounds in the world.

Yet the government has so far not managed to channel sufficient state revenue from the use of these resources into specific measures to reduce poverty so that the entire population can draw benefit from the country’s natural assets.

This is where German development cooperation comes into play, promoting the development of sustainable value chains in the fishery and natural resource sectors.

Growth through commodity exports

Growth rates of between 4.8 and 6.3 per cent between 2017 and 2019 were followed by a drop in Mauritania’s gross domestic product (GDP) of 0.9 per cent in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic activity expanded by 5.2 per cent in 2022, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts GDP growth of 4.4 per cent for 2023.

Exporting raw materials is very much the focus of Mauritania’s economy. It does not provide enough employment for the country’s growing population, however, as the manufacturing industry is poorly developed. The country’s foreign exchange earnings are dependent on the heavily fluctuating world market prices for natural resources.

Green hydrogen as a future market

• Image symbolising hydrogen (H2): circles in different sizes, each surrounding the chemical molecular formula of hydrogen, H2

Together with Senegal, Mauritania intends to begin extraction at a gas field located off the coast of the two countries at the end of 2023 and to start producing liquefied natural gas.

At the same time, Mauritania is also planning to start manufacturing à green hydrogen. The country is well placed to do so, as it has large unpopulated areas with strong solar radiation and high wind speeds. The Mauritanian government has set ambitious targets for expanding the use of renewable energy. The BMZ is supporting Mauritania in its plans to generate green hydrogen, and in its contract negotiations with the project developers and consortia involved.

Jobs mainly in the informal sector

The majority of the population either work as subsistence farmers or are employed in the informal sector, where they have no social protection.

Large areas of the country cannot be used for agricultural purposes, meaning that much of the country’s food has to be imported. The little crop land that is available is being overused in a lot of cases, with more and more fertile soil being lost.

Especially for young people, the prospects are very poor. Many of them suffer from the lack of employment opportunities and because of low-quality education and training conditions. At the same time there is a shortage of skilled workers in all areas. That is why Germany is targeting these areas in its development cooperation activities.

As at: 25/07/2023