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Brief History

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania gained its independence from France in 1960. President Moktar Ould Daddah, originally installed by the French after independence, was ousted in a bloodless coup on 10 July 1978, after bringing the country to near-collapse through a disastrous war to annex the southern part of Western Sahara, in an attempt to create a "Greater Mauritania". A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania's first freely and fairly elected president. His term ended prematurely in August 2008 when a military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz deposed him and ushered in a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in July 2009. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and white and black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, and is having to confront a growing terrorism threat by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Geography

Mauritania, capital Nouakchott, is located in North Africa covering an area of 1,030,700 square kilometers. It is the world's 29th-largest country and it is comparable in size to Egypt. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast and by Senegal in the southwest. Approximately three quarters of Mauritania is desert or semi-desert. As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. It has the climate of a desert constantly hot, dry and dusty. It has tremendous natural resources of iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil and fish.

People

Mauritania has a population of 3,205,060 (2010) of which 40% is mixed Moor/Black, 30% is Moor and the remaining 30% is black. The main and only religion in the country is Islam.The official language is Arabic, which is spoken by all the population. Other spoken languages are Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof, French and Hassaniya. The literacy rate is 51.2% and the unemployment rate in 2008 was 30%.

Government

Mauritania is an Islamic republic with a military junta government. Its legal system is based on a combination of Islamic law and French civil law and has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. The chief of state is President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz who has been assuming the position since 5 August 2009; whereas the head of government is Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf (since 14 August 2008). The Mauritanian ouguiya is the official currency, where 282.2 ouguiya are equivalent to US$1 (2010).

Economy

Mauritania has one of the lowest GDP rates in Africa with a GDP per capita of US$2,100, despite being rich in natural resources. However, a majority of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood. About 20% of the Mauritanian population lives on less than US$1.25 per day.

Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. With the current rises in metal prices, gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue.

Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti deposit. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, it remains to be seen how much it will help the country. Mauritania has been described as a "desperately poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa's newest, if small-scale, oil producer."There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.

In December 2007 donors pledged US$2.1 billion at a triennial Consultative Group review. A new investment code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment. Mauritania and the IMF agreed to a three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement in 2006. Mauritania made satisfactory progress, but IMF and World Bank suspended their programs in Mauritania following the August 2008 coup; following the July 2009 Presidential elections, the IMF and World Bank agreed to meet with the government to discuss a resumption. Oil prospects, while initially promising, have largely failed to materialize. The Government continues to emphasize reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy.

In 2009, the real GDP growth was 1.5% and its inflation rate was also 7.3% in the same year. Gambia’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is US$906.17 (2010).


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