Nouakchott — Mauritania is working to improve its economy by strengthening its partnership with the World Bank.
World Bank Group Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director Bertrand Badré wrapped up a three-day visit to Mauritania Tuesday (July 15th), during which he attended a series of meetings with government officials and private-sector business figures.
Badré on Monday travelled to the economic capital, Nouadhibou, together with Economy Minister Sidi Ould Tah.
The World Bank official reviewed the progress made in establishing the Nouadhibou Free Zone (ZFN).
He hailed the "satisfactory level of the projects currently under way, especially those relating to infrastructure and fisheries" and reiterated the World Bank's commitment to continuing its support for the ZFN, which it will finance to the tune of $20 million.
During a meeting with senior Mauritanian officials, Badré also discussed the advancement of transformational infrastructure programmes and the partnership strategy. The scheme focuses on agriculture, fisheries, the development of the private sector and the improved management of public resources in order to enhance the provision of basic social services.
Mauritania's economy is currently experiencing an upturn.
According to the World Bank, "Mauritania's macroeconomic stability is due to a prosperous mining sector. GDP grew by 6.7% in 2013 and this rate will probably remain at around 6.5% over the next three years."
Mauritanian economy has benefited from "the rise in the prices of raw materials on the international markets and a prudent economic policy", the institution noted.
Thanks to the "Gas-to-Power" programme, the country's production of offshore gas will begin in 2015 and will generate 300 MW, which will be exported to Mali and Senegal, it added.
Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank congratulated Mauritania last year on its economic performance.
But tourism continues to face challenges, according to analysts.
According to economist Ba Amadou, "This sector has been completely devastated since the events in Aleg in 2007 with the murder of French tourists."
This collapse plunged "the country into a lengthy period of lethargy", he said, adding that as security improved, tourists would return.
Public reaction to the country's economic progress is mixed.
Mohamed Ould Salem, a street trader, told Magharebia: "We are always being told on the radio and on TV that our economy is performing well. In any case, that has no impact on people, the majority of whom are very poor."
"Everything is expensive. So I can't see what the point of all this aid is," he said.
For his part, primary school teacher Ali Traore said, "Our economy is definitely growing, and that's positive for everyone. There have been pay rises for public-sector workers, and the government is subsidising prices through the Emel programme."
"People are even saying that Mauritania will become a middle-income country. This is great progress," Traore added.
With regard to security, journalist Jidou Ould Sidi said: "The situation has improved considerably since the Mauritanian authorities decided to invest in the army and implement an effective counterterrorism strategy. But as you know, Mauritania is in a turbulent region and not all aspects are necessarily under control."
Analyst Abdou Ould Mohamed agreed, noting that "the deployment of combat units in all sensitive areas has encouraged mining activity by increasing the confidence of prospecting companies, which have returned in force".
"This favourable situation is partly responsible for the boom in the mining sector. Of course there are still risks, especially in the north, but the situation is virtually under control," he added.