Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali, and Senegal. Its name comes from the Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which existed in modern-day Morocco.
In 2011, it was estimated that Mauritania's population is 30% Arab (Berber and Beidane/Moors), 30% Black (non-Arabized), which includes the Fula, Toucouleur, Bambara, Soninke, Serer, and Haratin people, and 40% mixed. There are several ethnic groups: the Moors (white or Arab), the Haratins, who are descendants of freed Sub-Saharan black slaves, the Soninke, the Serer, who are farmers and breeders, and the Fulas, which includes farmers and nomadic stock-breeders.
Several black ethnic groups, particularly the Fula and Soninke, are often discriminated against in terms of access to loans, employment, and justice. Slavery still exists in Mauritania, and it was not made illegal to own slaves until 2007. It is believed that, in 2012, between 10 and 20% of the population of Mauritania (or up to 680,000 people) lived in slavery.
3/4 of the country being desert or semi-desert. Due to extended droughts, this desert region is expanding in size. While Mauritania has many natural resources, it has one of Africa's lowest GDP rates and most of its population depends on agriculture and livestock, although droughts have forced many nomads and farmers into the cities.
Mauritania Religion, Economy and Politics
Strongly influenced by Sufism or Islamic mysticism, most all people in Mauritania practice Sunni Islam of Maliki school of jurisprudence. Official numbers say that 100% of the population is Muslim, however, it is known that there are small pockets of Christians and Jews throughout the country. Although Islam is not the official state religion, there are laws in place that forbid Muslims to convert to other religions in accordance with Sharia Law. Non-Islamic religious texts are restricted and children are required to have some religious education in school. Mauritania is considered to be the 12th most religiously restrictive country in the world.
Agriculture and livestock are the livelihood of most people in Mauritania. There has been significant foreign investment in the country based on its oil reserves in recent years, but close to half of the population still lives in poverty. There is a significant amount of iron ore in Mauritania, which account for half of their exports, but the demand for it has been slowly decreasing. Waters on the coast are some of the best for fishing in the world, but they are largely run over by foreigners trying to make their own profits. Corruption, drought, and financial mismanagement over the years has put Mauritania in significant debt.
Mauritania Population History
Arab people have been inhabiting the land that is now Mauritania since at least the third century. They were likely the only group living there until the 1500s when Europeans began settling the area, with the French eventually gaining control in the mid-1800s. Mauritania became a self-governing state in 1958 and gained full independence by 1960
Mauritania is considered slavery's last stronghold. It became the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1981, but up to 20% of the population still lives in slavery. Slavery was again outlawed in 2007, although it is likely still practiced in some areas. 44% of the country's population lives on less than $2 per day.