5 February 2014

Mauritania Mulls National Stock Exchange

Nouakchott — Mauritania has long sought its own stock exchange. But after influential business leaders from across the region visited Nouakchott last month for the country's first-ever investment conference, the project could finally get under way.

Magharebia met in the capital with Taghi Ould Cheikhna of the Mauritanian Multi-sector Regulation Authority to discuss the potential exchange and what it could mean for youth employment.

Magharebia: Is it the right time to create a stock exchange?

Taghi Ould Cheikhna: Mauritania experienced a rate of growth of 6.9% in 2013, the highest rate in the Middle East and West Africa region, and it has about twenty banks despite the relatively low take-up of banking services compared with other countries in the sub-region.

We think that the establishment of the Mauritania Investment Forum, with the presence of over five hundred domestic and foreign investors and 250 billion ouguiyas, or approximately US $840 million of funding for projects... will reassure investors and send out a signal favourable to investment in Mauritania.

Such progress in a safe country could lead to the creation of a securities exchange through the implementation of a legal framework, which will make it possible to protect investors' interests and keep financial information secure... .

Magharebia: What will this stock exchange do for Mauritania's economy?

Ould Cheikhna: The aim of the stock exchange is to finance growth through the short-term, medium-term and long-term exchange of capital. Capital will be raised by creating new shares which will be sold to investors, and this will give businesses money that they can invest.

Magharebia: Could it also attract foreign investment?

Ould Cheikhna: The launch of a securities market in a climate that will make it possible to protect investors' interests and guarantee the security of financial information (reliable, relevant, transparent and neutral information) could spur foreign investors to take an interest in Mauritania.

Magharebia: Will it have an impact on the socio-economic situation of families?

Ould Cheikhna: Globally, the phenomenon of hoarding (low take-up of banking services) is due to a lack of confidence and transparency between savers and lending institutions, among other factors.

If the stock exchange is set up in transparent and reassuring conditions that make it possible to protect the interests of investors and savers through an attractive interest rate, this will help to foster a savings culture in Mauritania, and it could change families' priorities by encouraging them to focus on saving rather than investing in property or parcels of land.

Magharebia: What about youth unemployment in Mauritania?

Ould Cheikhna: The availability of labour market figures in Mauritania is limited and does not enable the labour market information system to fully play its role as a tool to aid rational decision-making...

The most recent survey on employment and the informal sector carried out by the ONS (National Office for Statistics) in 2012 estimated Mauritanian unemployment at 10.1%. This rate is relatively low compared with other countries in the sub-region.

According to the results of the National Reference Survey on Employment and the Informal Sector in Mauritania (ENRE/SI 2012), 52% of the population is of working age. Young people between the ages of 15 and 35 make up more than 60% of the workforce.

Magharebia: What should be done to help young graduates who cannot find work?

Ould Cheikhna: We think that the creation of a profession monitoring centre which will make it possible to identify available careers in the primary (agriculture, fisheries etc.), secondary (industry, public buildings and works etc.) and tertiary (services, ICT etc.) sectors of the economy, along with the creation of new vocational training centres and flexibility in the provision of start-up financing for young graduates, could help bring down youth unemployment in Mauritania.

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