At end-2010, Mauritania’s fixed-line and internet market was split between operators. The incumbent, Mauritel, offered Internet access via PSTN, ISDN, leased lines and ADSL, launched in 2006. Its local network included standard wire cables and wireless local loop (WLL). Mauritel is as well relying on satellite technologies. Its satellite transmission network is 97% digital and operates using satellites. These satellites are Intelsat, serving direct traffic and transit traffic to Europe, the Americas, Africa and the rest of the world; and Arabsat, serving regional and domestic traffic.
Despite difficult terrain, Mauritel is investing in fixed infrastructure. In May 2011, the operator launched a MRO 3-billion cable project, which will link Nouakchott to Kobonni via 24 fibre-optic pairs. The backbone will provide broadband capacity to the towns and villages along its path. It could as well serve as a thoroughfare for mobile Internet communications. The Autorité de Régulation is in charge of the regulation of activities done on the territory of Mauritania in the water, electricity, telecommunications, postal mail, and other sectors.
Mauritania’s economy is dominated by natural resources and agriculture. Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Recently, GDP growth has been driven by foreign investment in the mining and oil sectors.
Mauritania’s extensive mineral resources include iron ore, gold, copper, gypsum, and phosphate rock, and exploration is ongoing for uranium, crude oil, and natural gas. Extractive commodities make up about three-quarters of Mauritania’s total exports, subjecting the economy to price swings in world commodity markets. Mining is also a growing source of government revenue. The nation’s coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue.
Risks to Mauritania’s economy include its recurring droughts, dependence on foreign aid and investment, and insecurity in neighboring Mali, as well as significant shortages of infrastructure, institutional capacity, and human capital. Mauritania has sought additional IMF support by focusing efforts on poverty reduction. Investment in agriculture and infrastructure are the largest components of the country’s public expenditures.