At independence, Mauritania became a member of the West African Monetary Union (Union Monétaire Ouest Africaine— UMOA), but withdrew in 1973 to demonstrate its independent economic identity. When it withdrew, the government also relinquished membership in the African Financial Community (Communauté Financière Africaine—CFA), whose currency—the CFA franc—was freely convertible to French francs. Mauritania then created its own currency, the ouguiya, and a national bank, the Central Bank of Mauritania (Banque Centrale de Mauritanie), which was established in 1973.
After privatization in 1989, banks in Mauritania included Banque Arbe Libyene-Mauritanienne pour le Commerce Extérieur et le Développement (BALM). BALM, founded in 1990, was 51% owned by Libyans and 49% owned by the state. Other banks included Banque Al-Baraka Mauritanie Islamique (BAMIS), Banque Mauritanie pour le Commerce Internationale (BMCI), and Banque Nationale de Mauritania (BNM). BAMIS, established in 1990, was 50% Saudi owned and 10% BCM owned. BMCI, founded in 1990, was 10% BCM owned, and 90% of the bank was held by private interests. BNM, established in 1988, was 50% state owned.
In 2001, there were seven commercial banks, among them BAMIS, BMCI, BNM, Generale de Banque de Mauritanie (GBM), and the World Bank Representative in Mauritania. There are also three credit agencies and four insurance companies. The Saudi Al-Baraka firm owned 85% of BAMIS, and the Belgium Belgolaise bank was the second largest shareholder in commercial banks. There was also one bank specializing in housing construction, and three credit agencies (Credit Maritime, Credit Agricole, and Mauritanie Leasing).
A significant drawback for the Mauritanian economy, partly due to the small number and low income of the population, was a dearth of domestic capital. The poor reputation of the domestic banking system, notwithstanding its recent overhaul, discouraged local savings. In 1997, the government encouraged the creation of popular saving agencies to revitalize the financial sector; and in 1998, the government introduced incentives to encourage fish exporters to keep their assets in the country.The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $108.6 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $151.4 million.