Cruising to Mauritania
Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as flawed, but October 2001 legislative and municipal elections were generally free and open.
A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council headed by Col. Ely Ould Mohamed VALL, which declared it would remain in power for up to two years while it created conditions for genuine democratic institutions and organized elections. For now, however, Mauritania remains an autocratic state, and the country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population and different Moor (Arab-Berber) communities.
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between
Senegal and Western Sahara
Territorial sea: 12 nm
Desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
Mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many of the nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for nearly 40% of total exports. The decline in world demand for this ore, however, has led to cutbacks in production. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue.
The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In the past, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt which now stands at more than three times the level of annual exports. In February 2000, Mauritania qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and in December 2001 received strong support from donor and lending countries at a triennial Consultative Group review. A new investment code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment.
Ongoing negotiations with the IMF involve problems of economic reforms and fiscal discipline. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential extraction at current world oil prices. Mauritania has an estimated 1 billion barrels of proved reserves. Substantial oil production and exports are scheduled to begin in early 2006 and may average 75,000 barrels per day for that year. Meantime the government emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and promoting privatization of the economy.
Airports: 24 (2005)
Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals
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