Mauritania flag Mauritania: Investing in Mauritania

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Mauritania

FDI in Figures

Foreign investment flows to Mauritania have been historically weak. According to UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2021, FDI inflows increased in Mauritania by 10% in 2020, to USD 1 billion, as a result of investments from China, despite the global economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The total stock of FDI reached USD 10 billion in the same year. Most of the investments are directed to oil exploration and exploitation, mineral mining of iron ore and gold, telecommunications with the acquisition of mobile phone licenses and the construction sector. China has been showing a steadily increasing interest in Mauritania, and its traditional trading partners, including its European partners (primarily Hungary and France), seem likely to pursue their investment projects in the country (infrastructure and telecommunications).

The country is trying to promote its strategic geographical location to attract new investors. It is rich in minerals and fisheries resources and presents a great energy potential (gas, renewable). Mauritania constructed its first deep-water port in an effort to promote Nouadhibou as a multi-purpose service platform in the sub-region. There is no law prohibiting or limiting foreign investment in any sector of the economy, and both domestic and foreign entities can engage in all forms of remunerative activities (with the exception of activities involving selling pork meat or alcohol). However, the government performs mandatory screening of foreign investments, which are non-discriminatory. Mauritania is making steady progress in the matter of business climate: in the latest Doing Business report published by the World Bank, the country ranked 152nd worldwide for the ease of doing business. According to the report, Mauritania improved access to credit information and made enforcing contracts easier. Among the factors hindering FDI, there are political and security instability, corruption, inefficient and politically vulnerable judicial system and a poorly diversified and highly informal economy.

Foreign Direct Investment 201920202021
FDI Inward Flow (million USD) 88792822
FDI Stock (million USD) 8,9959,9739,995
Number of Greenfield Investments* 215
Value of Greenfield Investments (million USD) 1598331

Source: UNCTAD, Latest available data

Note: * Greenfield Investments are a form of Foreign Direct Investment where a parent company starts a new venture in a foreign country by constructing new operational facilities from the ground up.

Country Comparison For the Protection of Investors Mauritania Sub-Saharan Africa United States Germany
Index of Transaction Transparency* 6.0 5.5 7.0 5.0
Index of Manager’s Responsibility** 3.0 3.5 9.0 5.0
Index of Shareholders’ Power*** 7.0 5.5 9.0 5.0

Source: Doing Business, Latest available data

Note: *The Greater the Index, the More Transparent the Conditions of Transactions. **The Greater the Index, the More the Manager is Personally Responsible. *** The Greater the Index, the Easier it Will Be For Shareholders to Take Legal Action.

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What to consider if you invest in Mauritania

Strong Points
The main strong points of the country to attract FDI are:

- Support from donors and international organizations;
- Mineral and fishery resources;
- Favourable energy outlook (gas, renewable energies).
Weak Points
The main weak points of the country impeding FDI are:

- Its political instability, as shown during the last coup that took place in August 2009;
- Security problems (such as development of armed groups claiming being part of Al-Qaïda);
- Inadequate infrastructures which hamper the economic development of the country;
- A very young population (more than 64% of the population is under 25 years old) without an adequate level of qualifications for management positions;
- An increase of desertification phenomena;
- A high level of poverty (40% of its population);
- Corruption, which affects all the sectors of the economy;
- Low level of diversification of the economy, vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices;
- Restricted size of the formal economy.
Government Measures to Motivate or Restrict FDI
Business environment in Mauritania is rather poor, the World Bank ranked the country on the 150th spot out of 190 economies in its 2018 Doing Business Report.

Historically, Mauritania has been relatively open to foreign direct investment, especially in the mining, hydrocarbon, agriculture and fishing sectors. In June 2012, to encourage further investment, the government updated provisions in the Investment Code to enhance the security of investments and facilitate administrative procedures. The Code provides for free repatriation of foreign capital and wages for foreign employees. The code also created free points of importation and export incentives.  Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which register through OPPS, do not pay any tax or customs duties. The Code also created the formation of Special Economic Zones to encourage regional development. Separately, the Nouadhibou Free Zone was created with its ownregulatory scheme.  

The Civil and Commercial Codes protect contracts, although court enforcement and dispute settlement can be difficult.

The government has set up a system of a single office in order to facilitate the administrative work of foreign investors. It deals with the submission of files in order to obtain permits, administrative procedures, establishment of businesses and issuing work permits for foreign workforce.

Bilateral investment conventions signed by Mauritania
Mauritania has signed bilateral investment agreements with the Arab Maghreb Union (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) as well as with Saudi Arabia, France, Belgium, and Romania. Also, agreements exist with Burkina Faso, Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Mauritius, Italy, Lebanon, Qatar, Yemen, Korea, and Egypt.

To find out more about Bilateral Investment Treaties signed by Mauritania, please visit the UNCTAD's Investment policy hub website.

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Latest Update: March 2023

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