Mauritania - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Mauritania's infrastructure is poor compared to its neighbors. The roads are dilapidated, particularly in the countryside; long distances and the difficult desert climate make their maintenance difficult. There are about 7,660 kilometers (4,760 miles) of roadways, 866 kilometers (538 miles) of which are paved, and 704 kilometers (460 miles) of railroad line for carrying iron ore from Zouérat to Nouadhibou. Several roads are under construction, and land conversion and road construction are a top priority for the government.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Mauritania 0 151 91 N/A 0 1.7 5.5 0.00 13
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Morocco 26 241 160 N/A 4 0.7 2.5 0.28 50
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The Chinese-built seaport in Nouakchott receives 85 percent of the country's imported goods. The second seaport in the northern center of Nouadhibou serves fish and iron exports. Other ports include Bogué, Kaédi, and Rosso on the Senegal River; there is ferry traffic on the Senegal River.

The air transport company, state-run Air Mauritanie, provides domestic and international services between Nouakchott, Casablanca, Dakar, Las Palmas, Bamako, and Banjul. With international airports in Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, and Néma, Mauritania is served by Air France, Air Afrique, Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian, and Senegalese carriers.

Electricity production was 152 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year in 1998, with 80 percent coming from thermal plants and 20 percent from hydropower installations. Most companies have their own generators. Electricity consumption is 141 million kWh (1998). Public-sector energy output increased 25 percent between 1993 and 1997 to meet demand in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Mauritania relies on imports of fuel; alternative energy production, such as solar, is limited but growing. It receives 15 percent of electricity output from the Manantali dam on the Senegal river. The Societe Nationale d'Eau et d'Electricite, the state-run electricity and water monopoly , is improving its management, and the government plans to privatize it and has hired a consortium headed by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation to prepare the process. Power projects under construction include the extension of the Nouakchott electricity grid. Firewood fulfills one-half of household fuel demand but the European Union (EU) is promoting the distribution of gas bottles and burners to encourage people to convert to gas. To satisfy its demand for potable water, the government plans to renovate the sanitation network, encourage new well drilling in the countryside, and increase of Nouadhibou and Nouakchott's reservoir capacity.

Mauritania has a poor telecommunications system with only 9,000 main lines in use in 1995, but it has undergone considerable expansion in the late 1990s. The first GSM wireless telephone system with 50,000 lines covering the Nouakchott and Nouadhibou areas was launched in 2000. The system operator, Mauritel—a joint venture between the Tunisian Telecommunications Company and local companies—won the $28 million license in competition with France Telecom and Spanish Starcelle. Privatization of the former state monopoly OPT (postal and telecommunications company) was launched in 1999 with the intention to create 3 separate units run by private operators. The Canadian company Sogema has been hired to reorganize telecommunications, and French Alcatel has captured market share with the installation of a new 10,000-line phone exchange in Nouakchott worth US$4.5 million. In 2000,

the World Bank approved a US$10.8 million loan to the government for assistance in privatization and expanding access to communications.

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