The Mauritanian economy is essentially based on three factors: the mining and export of natural resources, fishing and agriculture in the south. Iron ore, which is mined in the area around Fderîck and transported by the train, is the most important export commodity, accounting for almost half of all exports. Since the Atlantic coast off Mauritania is one of the richest in fish, it´s export plays a substantial role as well with 42%. The fish for domestic consumption are often caught in a traditional way, for example with pirogues (dugout canoes) used in Nouakchott. There are hundreds of larger fishing boats in Nouadhibou, with 95 % of the catch exported abroad. Catching and processing thereby tie up a lot of local workers. Mauritania continues to grant fishing concessions to international corporations from countries such as the EU and China. It is precisely these corporations that threaten to permanently reduce fish stocks through overfishing.
Mauritania's exports go mainly to China (32 %), followed far behind by Switzerland and Spain. Exports and concessions for mining other raw materials, such as gold, take place, but are negligible in terms of overall economic output. Due to the climate conditions, livestock farming takes place primarily in the south. Mauritania requires practically no meat imports; its needs are met by camels, cattle, sheep and goats. Successful agriculture is also only possible in the rainy regions of the Senegal River. Various NGO and development projects, however, are trying to make the desert in the north more fertile and productive.
The nomadic culture of Mauritania knows little culinary diversity. The small amount of different ingredients for traditional cuisine is often produced by the people themselves. Admittedly, GDP per capita (1.97 out of a total output of 8.2 billion in 2020) is among the lowest in the world. But even though Mauritania is a state with rampant poverty, economic performance cannot be used as the sole criterion given widespread self-sufficiency. Tourism, by the way, also accounts for only a tiny portion of GDP (0.2 %). However, it can be assumed that its importance is not fully captured by bare figures either. Especially in regions like Adrar, the number of souvenir sellers, auberge and restaurant owners, drivers and museum guides, and all other people working in the tourism industry, along with their families, allows us to draw only one conclusion: visitors and travelers are a major source of income for the entire region.
All data from 2019, unless otherwise stated.