Country Financial Sector Profilesback

Financial Sector Overview

Economic Context

Mauritania recorded a real gross domestic product (GDP) average growth rate of 4.2% (3.8% for sub-Saharan Africa) over the 2010-2017 period, thanks to the mining boom of 2006-2013 and the buoyancy of the agricultural and, more recently, services sectors, which respectively contributed about 26% and 42% to GDP. The country has significant mineral resources like iron, gold, and copper, as well as energy commodities (oil and gas) and fisheries. Despite the diversification efforts initiated by the authorities, the economy remains dependent on agriculture, fishing and particularly mining, which accounted for over 60% of total export earnings in 2017 (80% on average between 2013 and 2014). The fall in international ore prices in 2014-2015 highlighted the vulnerability of the Mauritanian economy to external shocks. This unfavourable economic situation justified the need to consolidate the positive results obtained through the implementation of deep structural reforms in order to increase resilience to external shocks. Faced with this challenge, the authorities have adopted an Accelerated Growth and Shared Prosperity Strategy (SCAPP) for 2016-2030. Its objective is to consolidate the bases of sustained and inclusive growth by accelerating the structural transformation of the economy, with a view to transforming Mauritania into an emerging country by 2030. According to the 2019 Doing Business report, the country substantially improved its business climate, rising in the rankings from 165th in 2010 to the 148th in 2018 (150th in 2017), thus gaining 17 places in eight years. In the 2018 competitiveness rankings of the World Economic Forum, Mauritania slightly improved from 135th in 2010 to 131st in 2017 (128th in 2016), thus gaining 4 places in 8 years.

Financial Sector Overview

The Mauritanian financial system is dominated by the banking sector, which in 2017 comprised 17 commercial banks, five of which are Islamic in nature and another five with predominantly foreign capital. The number of bank branches stood at 221. The non-bank financial system comprised 17 insurance companies, two social insurance funds and 29 microfinance institutions (MFIs). The mobile telephony sector has three operators, with 2G and 3G operating licences granted by the regulatory authority.

Mauritanian authorities have carried out major financial sector reforms, following the recommendations of the Financial Sector Assessment Programme (PESF) established in 2014 with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These reforms concerned, inter alia: the revision of the legal framework governing the status of the Central Bank and banking activity; the adoption in 2018 of new regulations aligned on the Basel III principles, including an increase in the mandatory minimum bank equity capital to MRU 1 billion by 2020; and the establishment of an emergency refinancing mechanism providing liquidity to banks facing cash-flow pressures, based on a set of eligible collateral. In January 2018, the Central Bank, which is responsible for supervising banks and financial institutions, changed the unit base of its currency (at the rate of 10 for 1) and put its new currency (the Ouguiya, MRU) into circulation, to replace the old one (the Ouguiya, MRO). There is a deposit guarantee fund set up to compensate depositors if a banking institution goes bankrupt. The resources of this fund are mainly contributed by banks.

Banking Sector

Banking Market Structure – The banking penetration rate, including for members of MFIs, was 30% in 2017 (4% in 2010). This improvement stems from the increase in the number of automatic teller machines (ATMs) on the national network, which has encouraged the use of inter-bank cards. In 2017, the three largest banks held 38.8% of the sector’s assets. Bank assets rose from 31.1% of GDP in 2010 to 52.5% in 2017, representing an increase of 68.8%. In nominal terms, they more than doubled between 2010 (MRU 37.22 billion or USD 1.01 billion) and 2017 (MRU 92.16 billion or USD 2.5 billion). The loan-to-deposit ratio remained above 80% from 2013. The reuse rate for credit deposits was 111% in 2017, compared to an international standard of 120%.

Islamic banks are authorized to take deposits and extend loans to their customers through products that comply with Sharia requirements. The activities of Islamic banks do not involve the collection and/or payment of interest. The authorities are considering the establishment of a specific regulatory framework for Islamic banks, given the potential of Islamic finance in promoting financial inclusion.

Credit Structure and Banking Sector Deposits – The volume of loans reached MRU 47.2 billion in 2017 (USD 1.3 billion). Some 70% of loans granted over the period 2010-2015 are short-term credits; this reflects the weakness of bank loans in financing long-term investments. The sectoral distribution of loans to the economy is characterized by the predominance of trade, whose share in total bank lending declined (from 27% in 2012 to less than 20% in 2017). Deposits, mostly sight deposits, reached MRU 52.5 billion (USD 1.4 billion) in 2017.

Lending and Borrowing Interest Rates – The average borrowing rate declined steadily until 2010 when it stabilized at 17% until 2017. This decline partly stems from increased competition between banks. The average lending rate remained stable at 8% until 2011 before dropping to 4% from 2012.

Financial Strength of the Banking Sector – The ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) fell from 45.3% in 2010 to 22.7% in 2017, representing a decrease of 50.5%. This decrease stemmed from the adoption of a more stringent credit policy by banks and the gradual transfer of fully provisioned NPLs from the balance sheet. The provisioning of NPLs improved gradually from 30% in 2010 to 70.7% in 2017. The liquidity ratio (liquid assets to short-term liabilities) remained above the statutory minimum of 20% over the 2010-2017 period, despite the noted decline.

Since 2012, banks have had an adequate capital level that is higher than the required minimum (MRU 10.2 billion, or USD 277.2 million), notwithstanding a still low profitability. In 2012, return on equity (ROE) and return on assets (ROA) reached their highest levels at 6.4% and 1.4%, respectively. The African average in 2012 for ROE and ROA was 24.03% and 2.56 %, respectively, with the highest recorded levels being 75.26 % (Ethiopia) and 7.3 % (Malawi), respectively. The solvency ratio was well above the statutory minimum of 10% in 2010-2017.

Financial Inclusion

There was no real progress in financial inclusion in Mauritania between 2014 and 2017. The proportion of the adult population with an account (of any type) declined from 2014 to reach 20.9% in 2017, well below the sub-Saharan average (42.6%). This decline could be explained by the strong propensity of the Mauritanian population to use cash for payment transactions; a situation compounded by the weak performance of the non-bank financial sector such as insurance. The proportion of adults with a mobile money account plummeted from 38.4% to 4% in 2017, well below the sub-Saharan average (20.9%). This decline contrasts with the mobile telephony penetration rate, which was 104% in 2017, and the growing supply of Islamic financial products.

Microfinance Sector

The legal and regulatory framework of MFIs is governed by Ordinance No. 005/2007 which defines three categories of MFIs, namely: cooperative or mutualist structures (Category A), public limited liability companies (Category B) and lending programmes or projects (Category C). There were 29 MFIs in operation in 2017. Outstanding MFI loans represented 1% of the total net loans of the banking system, while the volume of MFI deposits represented 2% of total deposits collected by the banking system. MFI loans showed an erratic trend marked by a significant drop of 89.6% between 2013 and 2014, following a decrease in loans awarded by Savings and Credit Cooperative Unions (CAPEC). Deposits have increased steadily, standing at MRU 0.5 - 1 billion (or USD 13.6 - 27.2 million). Many MFIs do not comply with most prudential standards governing their activity. Although all MFIs complied with the liquidity ratio between 2010 and 2015, they remained insolvent, especially from 2014. In a bid to reduce the information asymmetry and credit risk, the authorities have extended credit bureau coverage to MFIs.

The products and services offered by MFIs are not very varied and focus on savings, credit, and money transfer. Some Islamic products are offered by MFIs. Loan interest rates, which vary from one MFI to another, generally range from 15% to 24% per year, and the loan term is three to 24 months. At the institutional level, MFIs are supervised by the Central Bank of Mauritania (BCM) which has a duty of control, supervision, and compliance monitoring, as well as the issuance and withdrawal of licences. The National Microfinance Strategy (SNMF) was updated for 2015-2019. Prudential measures have capped the loans granted by MFIs at MRU 0.1 million (USD 2,717.5), for Category A MFIs, and MRU 0.2 million (USD 5,435), for Category B MFIs.

Digital Finance

The volume of interpersonal digital money transfers is particularly low. The total amount of person-to-person payments was MRU 1.954 billion (USD 53.1 million). Provisions (cash to cash) constitute 98% of transactions in value, of which only 2% originate from or are directed to an electronic wallet. Informal money transfer channels exist and are heavily used by the population. They are used in particular for sending funds which, though involving small amounts per transaction, generate substantial financial flows.

SME Financing

SME access to bank financing remains problematic and constitutes an obstacle to private sector development in Mauritania. The main source of business financing is internal funds and reinvested earnings. Only 12% of small businesses (5 to 9 employees) have access to bank financing compared to 50% for firms with over 50 employees. The perceived high risk of loans to SMEs and the absence of acceptable collateral are, among others, the causes of this deficit. Support from MFIs is limited, due to the cap on the amount of credit they are authorised to grant. Another option for MFIs is to partner with a bank for amounts exceeding the statutory limit. Over the 2013-2017 period, the resources mobilised by the Central Bank and the Deposit and Development Fund reached a total of USD 70 million. The resources were used to finance close to 200 businesses for a total of about USD 18.6 million. These businesses employ more than 2,700 people. Furthermore, a line of credit amounting to USD 50 million has been mobilised from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) and has, to date, financed the creation of 102 SMEs.

Insurance Sector

The insurance market comprises 17 insurance companies with an estimated overall turnover of USD 23 million, 70% of which comes from the automotive branch. Most of the companies are predominantly Mauritanian. The sector is characterised by a low penetration rate (0.6% in 2014) and low insurance density (USD 7.1 per capita in 2014). Total premiums were estimated at USD 28 million in 2014, comprising 7.85% for life insurance and 92.15% for non-life insurance. Auto insurance accounts for most premiums (34%). Companies in the sector lack specialisation and some do not meet the prudential standard for minimum share capital, which is MRU 30 million (USD 815,243). The insurance sector is supervised by the Directorate for Insurance Control and governed by Law No. 93-40 of 20 July 1993 to define the Insurance Code, which was revised by an ordinance in 2007. Mauritania is also part of the Arab General Insurance Union (UGAA) created in 1964.

Capital Market

The money market is poorly developed and consists of a treasury bill market and an inter-bank market. There is no bond or stock market. Treasury bills with maturities of 26 and 50 weeks were introduced as early as 2009. The volume of treasury bills issued increased from MRU 17.9 billion (USD 486.5 million) in 2006 to MRU 48.7 billion (USD 1.3 billion) in 2010, representing an average annual growth rate of 28.43%. In the annual ranking of 54 African economies under the African bond market development index and published by the African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI), Mauritania ranked 42nd in 2017, its position having deteriorated for two successive years (40th  in 2015 and 41st 2016). The weaknesses identified relate to: (i) bond market infrastructure; (ii) issuers, issuance strategies and market access; and (iii) the pool of local investors (considering total assets held by pension funds, mutual funds, and insurance companies).

Social Security

Mauritania has several social security systems. According to the National Social Security Fund (CNSS), contribution revenue for all branches amounted to MRU 571.9 million (USD 15.5 million) as of 31 December 2013. Management fees account for about 30% of contributions, while their collection is one of the major problems facing the CNSS and which generate significant arrears amounting to about MRU 1.6 billion (USD 43.5 million), 56% of which is owed by the State. Furthermore, the CNSS holds MRU 0.23 billion (USD 6.3 million) in treasury bills (yielding 4.5%), RMU 0.14 billion (USD 3.8 million) in demand deposits and MRU 0.17 billion (USD 4.6 million) at the treasury. An innovative information and reimbursement mechanism for policyholders of the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM) was established in 2011, based on the mobile telephony SMS system. The initiative cut administrative costs by 50% and shortened the reimbursement period from three months to four days. One of the barriers to mobilising savings is the lack of reliable statistical data on employers, employees and the labour market that would be made available to the supervisory ministry. Furthermore, the low collection rate for contribution arrears and the volume of unpaid deposits (sight and treasury account deposits) are some of the obstacles to the investment of funds.









Banque Mauritanienne pour le Commerce International

Avenue. Gamal Abdel Nasser
 Nouakchott - Mauritanie

(+222) 45 25 28 26


Banque Nationale de Mauritanie

Avenue Roi Faiçal BP 291 & 614 Nouakchott

(+222) 45 25 26 02


(+222) 45 25 27 07



Avenue Gamal Abdel NASSER Ilot U Lot N° 17 et 18
BP 626
Nouakchott - Mauritanie

(+222) 45 25 21 73


(+222) 45 25 21 42


Banque El Wava Mauritanienne Islamique

758, rue 22-018, Avenue du Roi Fayçal
BP 650
Nouakchott - Mauritania

(+222) 45 25 14 24


(+222) 45 25 22 66


Générale de Banque de mauritanie

6, avenue de l’Indépendance
B.P.  5558 – Nouakchott

(+222) 45 25 36 36


Banque El Amana

Avenue Mamadou Konaté, BP : 5559 Nouakchott, Mauritanie

(+222) 4525 59 53


Banque pour le Commerce et l’Industrie

57, Avenue Gamal Abdel Nasser
BP 5050
Nouakchott - Mauritanie

(+222) 45 29 28 76


Orabank Mauritanie

54, avenue du Général Charles De Gaulle

Rue 42-060 Tevragh Zeïna RC 1673

(+222) 45 29 19 00


Société Générale de Mauritanie

Avenue Charles De Gaulle, Nouakchott BP 5085

(+222) 45 29 70 00


Attijari Bank Mauritanie

Rue Abdallaye, Mamadou Konaté lot 091/92, Travragh Zenia
BP. 412
Nouakchott - Mauritania

(+222) 45 26 63 74


QNB Mauritanie

AlKhaima City Center
10, Rue Mamadou Kanote

(+222) 45249651


Banque Populaire de Mauritanie

Avenue Charles De Gaulle, SOCOGIM Tevragh-Zeina

(+222) 45 29 05 69


Banque Mouamelat Sahiha

6, avenue de l’Indépendance
B.P 5558
Nouakchott - Mauritania

(+222) 45 25 36 36


Banque Islamique de Mauritanie

402 avenue Roi Fayçal Ksar
BP 5056
Nouakchott - Mauritanie

(+222) 45 25 25 07


Nouvelle Banque de Mauritanie (NBM)

Rue de I Ambassade du Senegal, Nouakchott, Mauritanie

(+222) 45 25 16 77


Banque pour la Finance Islamique (BFI)

Ilot T : lot n° 7 Bp :3475

Nouakchott, Mauritanie

(+222) 45 25 09 01


Banque Mauritanienne de l’Investissement (BMI)

Socogim Tevragh Zeina ZRA 24
BP 30032 Nouakchott,Mauritanie

(+222) 45 25 53 58


International Bank of Mauritanie (IBM)


(+222) 45249424




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At a Glance

At a Glance Source
Population in thousands (2019): 4,525.69
GDP per capita (current US$) 2019 - World Average 10,721.61: 1677.91
Account (%) age 15+) - (2014 vs 2017): 23% | 21%
Agriculture Orientation Index - Credit ( Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries share of GDP) (2015 vs 2016): n/a
Financial Inclusion Strategies: Financial Sector Development Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2017
Domestic credit provided by financial sector (% of GDP) 2017: 4.25
Made or received digital payments in the past year (% age 15+) (2014 vs 2017): 17% | 16%
Remittances % of GDP for 2018: 0,011
Mortgage Interest Rate / Mortgage Term (years): 8% | 35

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