Living in Mauritania guide for expats

All the information you need to relocate and live in Mauritania.

About Mauritania

European traders started to head to Mauritania in the 15th century, and in 1904 it formally became a French protectorate. The country gained independence in 1960, but French is still widely spoken. However, Modern Standard Arabic is the official language, and HassÄnÄ«ya Arabic is the dialect that most Mauritanians use in daily life, while the Berber languages are limited to the south.

Mauritania means "land of the Moors", who represent around 80% of the 4.3 million population. Most of them were traditionally nomadic herdsmen, and are mainly divided into two Moorish groups ' the Bidan and the Harattin. However, despite certain ethnic differences, tribes tend to be contiguous, and Islam is the main religion across the land.

Since the 1970s, the country has been butting heads with Algeria and Morocco about the disputed territory of Western Sahara. However, in spite of such conflicts, the current president, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who came to power after the last coup in 2008, is still considered to be a valuable ally of the West and neighbouring states in opposing Islamist extremist groups in the Sahel region. Mauritania has one of the most open media environments in the Maghreb and, in 2014, France established a long-term military operation to prevent jihadist groups from establishing safe havens in the country.

Most of Mauritania is hot and dry with very little rain, apart from in the south, which has a rainy season from July to September. The country is mostly desert, which pushes up against the Atlantic coast, and only 0.5% of the land is considered to be fertile. Mauritania has the second highest rate of urbanisation on the continent, and the expanding capital of Nouakchott is where expats will find elements of modernity in a largely desert region.

Mauritania is blessed with an abundance of diversified mineral resources, particularly iron and ore. In fact, one of the longest trains in the world, which is around three kilometres in length, carries the iron ore from Adrar to the coast. From 2008 to 2014, during the commodity boom, the country experienced an acceleration in poverty reduction. After decades of sluggish performance, Mauritania's GDP growth accelerated thanks to the revenue from the extractives sector, which resulted in significant foreign and state-driven public investments. This growth is now slowing down as a result of the end of the commodity supercycle, as well as the recent drop in mining and oil production. However, Mauritania is one of Africa's newest oil producers, so there are still opportunities for expatriates in this sector.

There are further prospects for economic diversification and employment creation in Mauritania ' notably in the livestock and fisheries sectors. The economic potential of both of these hasn't been harnessed to its full potential, and it's worth noting that the known upwelling phenomenon off the coast of Nouadhibou (the country's second largest city), makes it one of the richest regions in the world in terms of fishing resources. This natural resource is still underused, so Mauritania is one of the few countries where the fishing industry still has room to develop.

Quick Information

Official Languages : French , Wolof
Currency : Ouguiya
Area : 1030700 Km2
Population : 3205060
Calling Code : +222
Timezone : Africa/Nouakchott

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