Mauritania, located in Western Africa, has abundant mineral deposits such as iron ore, copper, gypsum, and gold. Its coastal areas have large supplies of fish, and oil was recently discovered offshore. The mining industry, particularly that of Iron Ore, is the country’s largest foreign exchange generator. Only recently has the government made reforms allowing for access to foreign currency. Fishing and the mining of iron ore make up 98% of all export revenues. Of the investment into the economy, 90% came from foreign sources in 2002, including the World Bank, IMF, and corporate contributions. From the US Commercial Guide, “small and medium sized industries in Mauritania include fish processing, chemicals and plastics, food and beverages, metal products, building materials, furniture, gypsum, and cookie production.”
In the past there have been many barriers to establishing a business in Mauritania. Importers not only have to work with inadequate infrastructure, making distribution difficult, but import taxes average 28%. There are also many credit restrictions and high interest rates. Just recently the government has put in place reforms to help the dismal economy. Privatization of many public industries has begun, such as the insurance industry and the national airlines. The government also ran the fish export-marketing company and the petroleum marketing company, both of which have recently begun to see change. The government has stimulated foreign investment interest by making reforms to its investment code in order to increase its transparency. As a result of the reforms, recent trends have occurred such as, the formation of several joint fishing ventures with US companies. Mauritania is also looking to foreign companies to import the huge amounts of updated fishing and agricultural equipment desperately needed. With 70% of its citizens currently living in poverty, it will take many years for a significant entrepreneurial spirit to evolve.