The World Factbook (1982)/Mauritania

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World Factbook (1982) Mauritania.jpg
(See reference map VII)


1,085,210 km2; less than 1% suitable for crops, 10% pasture, 90% desert

Land boundaries: 5,118 km


Limits of territorial waters (claimed): 70 nm (fishing, 200 nm; exclusive economic zone 200 nm)

Coastline: 754 km


Population: 1,561,000 (July 1982), average annual growth rate 1.9%

Nationality: noun—Mauritanian(s); adjective—Mauritanian

Ethnic divisions: 30% Moor, 30% Black, 40% mixed Moor/Black

Religion: nearly 100% Muslim

Language: Arabic is the national language, French is the working language for government and commerce

Literacy: about 17%

Labor force: about 95,000 wage earners (1979); remainder of population in farming and herding; considerable unemployment

Organized labor: 30,000 union members claimed by single union, Mauritanian Workers' Union


Official name: Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Type: republic; military seized power in bloodless coup 10 July 1978

Capital: Nouakchott

Political subdivisions: 12 regions and a capital district

NOTE: Mauritania acquired administrative control of the southern third of Western (formerly Spanish) Sahara under a agreement with Morocco and Spain. Following an August 1979 peace agreement with Polisario insurgents fighting for control of Western Sahara, Mauritania withdrew from the territory and renounced all territorial claims.

Legal system: based on French and Islamic law; military constitution April 1979

National holiday: Independence Day, 28 November

Branches: executive, Military Committee for National Salvation rules by decree; National Assembly and judiciary suspended pending restoration of civilian rule

Government leader: Chief of State and Head of Government, Lt. Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould HAIDALLA

Suffrage: universal for adults

Elections: in abeyance; last presidential election August 1976

Political parties and leaders: suspended

Communists: no Communist party, but there is a scattering of Maoist sympathizers

Member of: AFDB, AIOEC, Arab League, CEAO, CIPEC (associate), EAMA, EIB (associate), FAO, G-77, GATT, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMCO, IMF, IPU, ISCON, ITU, NAM, OAU, OMVS (Organization for the Development of the Senegal River Valley), UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO


GDP: about $689 million (1980 est.), $400 per capita, average annual increase in current prices about 11% (1974-80)

Agriculture: most Mauritanians are nomads or subsistence farmers; main products—livestock, cereals, vegetables, dates; cash crops—gum arabic

Fishing: local catch, 34,170 metric tons (1980 est.); exports, 42,000 metric tons (1980 est.)

Major industries: mining of iron ore and gypsum, fishing

Electric power: 70,000 kW capacity (1980); 105 million kWh produced (1980), 69 kWh per capita

Exports: $194 million (f.o.b., 1980 prelim.); iron ore, fish

Imports: $307 million (f.o.b., 1980); foodstuffs, petroleum, capital goods

Major trade partners: (trade figures not complete because Mauritania has a form of customs union with Senegal and much local trade unreported) France and other EC members, UK, and US are main overseas partners

Budget: $204 million (budgeted) current expenditures, $10.5 million capital expenditures, $114.9 million extra budgetary expenditure, $140.4 million revenue (1980)

Monetary conversion rate: 48.66 Ouguiyas=US$1 as of November 1981

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: 650 km standard gauge (1.435 m), single track, privately owned

Highways: 7,540 km total; 1,350 km paved; 710 km gravel, crushed stone, or otherwise improved; 5,480 km unimproved

Inland waterways: 800 km

Ports: 2 major (Nouadhibouand and Nouakchott), 2 minor

Civil air: 5 major transport aircraft

Airfields: 31 total, 31 usable; 9 with permanent-surface runways; 4 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 14 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: poor system of cable and open-wire lines, a minor radio-relay link, and radiocommunications stations; 3,000 telephones (0.2 per 100 popl.); 2 AM, no FM or TV stations


Military manpower: males 15-49, 337,000; 164,000 fit for military service; conscription law not implemented

Supply: primarily dependent on France; has also received material from Algeria, Morocco, UK, Spain, and Romania

Military budget: for fiscal year ending 31 December 1981, $60.0 million; 26.0% of central government budget