Interview with Mohamed Waled, President, Federation of services at the National Union Of Mauritanian Employers (UNPM)

Interview with Mohamed Waled, President, Federation of services at the National Union Of Mauritanian Employers (UNPM)

Business Focus: The Mauritanian economy experienced sustained growth of 2.4% in 2021 and 5.2% in 2022, driven by its natural and mining resources, as well as its important agricultural and fishing industry. In 2023 and 2024, GDP growth is expected to be around 6.5%. What are the main sectors and factors supporting this growth in your opinion? And what is the share of the services sector in GDP? What are the sub-segments where Mauritania has developed a certain competitiveness?

Mohamed Waled: According to estimates provided by the National Agency for Statistics and Demographic and Economic Analysis (ANSADE), the anticipated growth for Mauritania is expected to reach an average of 5.9% between 2023 and 2026. This growth trajectory is set to be propelled by advancements across all three sectors of the economy.

In specific terms, the primary sector and secondary sector are projected to witness average increases of 5.7% and 7.5%, respectively, during this period. The impetus for this growth is rooted in the robust performance anticipated in the agricultural and fishing sectors for the primary segment, while the secondary sector is expected to benefit from gas production and the forthcoming escalation in SNIM’s production.

The tertiary sector, constituting 44% of the GDP, is targeted to achieve an average growth rate of 6.5% over the specified period, fueled by the expected moderation in the price level.

Highlighting the sub-segments where Mauritania boasts a competitive edge, it is noteworthy that the country, spurred by significant reforms implemented since 2019 at political, economic, and social levels, along with the diverse development potentials at its disposal, currently presents lucrative investment prospects across various sectors. While not exhaustive, notable areas include mines and hydrocarbons, agriculture, livestock breeding, fishing, and the processing industries associated with these sectors. Infrastructure projects, particularly within the scope of public-private partnerships (PPPs), as well as various service subsectors, further contribute to the array of promising investment opportunities available in the country.


BF: What do you think are the main areas to prioritize to unlock the country’s economic potential and in particular its potential as a service hub? What reforms should be put in place or what initiatives should be deployed? What has been the government’s action so far, and how are the government and the private sector working together to make the necessary transformations?

Mohamed Waled: Despite challenges posed by a complex global landscape marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian conflict, Mauritania’s national economy has demonstrated resilience and commendable performance in recent years. This positive trajectory can be attributed to a series of reforms instigated by public authorities. The primary objectives of these reforms include maintaining robust macro-economic indicators and enhancing the overall business climate through continuous collaboration between the public and private sectors.

The government is actively pursuing these reforms, achieving notable advancements, particularly in close consultation and coordination with the national private sector. Key areas of progress include the overhaul of the legal and regulatory framework, the reform of the judicial system, and the reinforcement of the arbitration and mediation center within the chamber of commerce.

In response to these dynamics, the private sector has proactively adapted by modernizing its enterprises and enhancing its capabilities to partake in collaborative ventures. This strategic positioning is geared towards ensuring better resilience in the face of evolving economic challenges.


BF: Mauritania not only offers attractive resources, but it also enjoys a fiscal framework and a solid legal system. What about its infrastructure? What are the infrastructure development priorities, opportunities and main challenges?

Mohamed Waled: Indeed, Mauritania possesses substantial resources, and recent years have seen a clear demonstration of the political commitment to their development.

Infrastructure plays a pivotal role in attracting investors and determining the competitiveness of the economy. Recognizing this, the State has prioritized infrastructure development, evident in both the substantial public investments allocated and the emphasis on promoting Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a financing and management model.

A comprehensive investment program has been implemented to bolster the country’s infrastructure. Key initiatives include the development of roads, ports, and digital infrastructure. This encompasses the expansion and rehabilitation of road networks, the operationalization of the Tanit and Ndiago ports, and the establishment of a national optical fiber network, local loops, and a third access point to the submarine cable. These endeavors collectively contribute to positioning Mauritania as an attractive investment destination.


BF: What are the existing logistics platforms, and the main development projects in port, rail or road infrastructure in Mauritania? How will these contribute to closer trade ties with neighboring countries and beyond? How can external investors participate? What are the main benefits to be expected?

Mohamed Waled: The Autonomous Port of Nouakchott, along with the Autonomous Port of the Free Zone of Nouadhibou, features efficient logistics platforms that provide satisfactory services to national operators, as well as mining and oil companies active in the country. 

Several significant structuring projects are currently in progress, including the Nouakchott-Boulimat highway project, expansion of the railway network to the north and south of Mauritania, the Rosso bridge, the Trarza industrial zone (with a focus on Agriculture, Livestock, and Tourism), dry ports, and the development of urban and inter-urban transport. 

Given its strategic geographical position, Mauritania is well-positioned to serve as a production center and a regional distribution hub, fostering exchanges with the G5 Sahel and ECOWAS, among others. These ongoing initiatives contribute to enhancing the country’s attractiveness for investors.


BF: Digitalization remains an absolute priority in Mauritania’s national development strategy. In2020, the country saw its first digital banks, kicking off a new fintech market. How do you think digitalization can accelerate the country’s economic growth? What are the latest advances to highlight in the field?

Mohamed Waled: The government is firmly committed to the path of sustained digital transformation for the benefit of national economic development. To this end, a dedicated ministerial department responsible for digital transformation was established, and a national strategy was adopted, encapsulated in the 2022-2025 digital agenda, signaling a clear political will.

As the chair of the services federation, I recently spearheaded a day of consultation involving stakeholders in the sector to support this vision. Key themes addressed during this event included:

  • The development of digital infrastructures as an accelerator of digital transformation.
  • The development of content and digital services through national skills as a factor of sovereignty.
  • The development of an innovative ecosystem as a lever for economic growth.

In support of the burgeoning Fintech sector, a legal framework has been established, and a continuous consultation process among various stakeholders has been instituted to foster its development. This concerted effort reflects the commitment to creating a conducive environment for digital innovation and growth in Mauritania.


BF: Education and training are another of the government’s priorities. How do you assess the level of skills and training in Mauritania, and what are the main avenues to better train the workforce and better meet the needs of businesses?

Mohamed Waled: Recognizing the pivotal role of human capital in the development of our businesses, my federation places a strong emphasis on professional training. We actively participate in the implementation of training programs and are actively involved in the management of training structures. In recent years, we have undertaken the organization of the National Job Fair in collaboration with the government, a dedicated event addressing the crucial issue of training-employment adequacy. This theme has consistently been a focal point in all editions of this event.

A noteworthy development in recent times has been the significant surge in youth entrepreneurship, marked by the emergence of startups, SMEs, and income-generating projects entirely conceived and managed by young Mauritanian graduates. This trend underscores the growing entrepreneurial spirit and innovation within our youth demographic, reflecting a positive trajectory for the economic landscape of Mauritania.


BF: Do you have any final messages for USA TODAY readers?

Mohamed Waled: I would like to tell your readers that Mauritania is a business destination with proven potential, a solid legal framework guaranteeing the interests of investors, stable politically and in terms of security, rich in its diversity and a tourist destination to discover.