Mauritania's financial sector is underdeveloped, although it has been restructured and privatized over the 1990s. It includes the Banque centrale de Mauritanie (the central bank, which issues currency and oversees monetary policy ), and 5 commercial banks, the Banque nationale de Mauritanie, the Banque mauritanienne pour le commerce et l'industrie, the Banque al baraka mauritanienne Islamique, Chinguetti Bank, and the Generale de banque de Mauritanie. All banks are burdened by bad (irrecoverable) loans in the struggling fishing sector. The Saudi Al-Baraka firm, owning 85 percent of Al-Baraka Bank, and Belgium's Belgolaise bank, holding a stake at Generale, are the largest foreign shareholders in local banks. Government participation in the other banks is significant, but 2 of them are negotiating partnerships with foreign investors. There is 1 bank specialized in housing construction, 3 credit Agencies (Credit Maritime, Credit Agricole, and Mauritanie Leasing), and 2 private insurance companies. Since 1997, the government has encouraged popular saving agencies to diversify the sector and mobilize small savers' assets to promote investment.
Mauritania's retail trade is mostly traditional, represented by small family enterprises. It has a good tourist potential as the Banc d'Arguin reserve and ancient towns such as Chinguetti were declared World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. There are, however, very few facilities and the only international hotels are in Nouakchott.
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Mauritania|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|