France and Mauritania historically have strong relations, and France is Mauritania’s leading bilateral partner. Development and cultural cooperation is coupled with extensive security and defence cooperation.
Recent bilateral meetings
The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, visited Nouakchott on 6 December 2018, 2 July 2018 and 12 June 2017. His predecessor, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, visited Nouakchott on 6 April 2017.
Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, visited Mauritania in May 2014 to attend the meeting of the Interior Ministers of the Sahel G5 group.
Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz was received by the French President on 12 April 2017. He also visited France for the One Planet Summit in December that year and the centenary commemorations of the First World War in November 2018. He took part in the Paris Climate Conference on December 2015 where he co-chaired, along with his French counterpart, the “mini-summit” dedicated to Africa.
With €147 million of exports in 2016, France is Mauritania’s second-largest supplier behind China. Its exports are concentrated in the food and pharmaceutical sectors.
The bilateral trade balance posted a surplus of €104 million for France in 2016.
French imports, meanwhile, stood at €49 million in 2014, while China was by far the country’s leading customer. Most of the country’s exports are made up of iron ore.
Some 60 French companies are present in Mauritania. They are active in a variety of sectors, including energy, construction, logistics, banking and other services, directly employing almost 3,000 people in the country. France remains the main holder of foreign direct investment in Mauritania outside the extractive industries, with a stock of €84 million in 2016.
Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
Mauritania is one of the 19 priority countries for development assistance from France.
The priorities of French development cooperation are governance, cultural and scientific cooperation, sustainable development and human development. Via the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency), France implements major programmes for local development (€11 million), agroecology (€10 million, including €5 million under EU delegation), energy (hybrid plant in Kiffa, with €19 million of AFD funding and €4.8 million via the EU) and health (€7 million, including €2 billion delegated to the EU). In addition, France supports the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria through its contribution to the Global Fund (second-largest global contributor) and funding for technical expertise and research worth more than €1.15 million since 2014. France also supports the implementation of the COP21 objectives. It is the key partner of the Banc d’Arguin natural park, one of the largest protected nature reserves in Africa and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1989 (€1 million per year since its creation in 1976).
France’s cooperation supports scientific preparatory classes and, more generally, all the reforms conducted by Mauritania’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. In 2016-2017, 1,250 students from Mauritania were studying in France The French Lycée Théodore Monod school in Niamey has almost 1,000 pupils, at every stage of schooling, and was expanded in 2017.
Cultural cooperation is built around the Institut Français in Mauritania, situated in Nouakchott, which is home to a Campus France office which received more than 5,000 students in 2017, as well as five Alliance Française branches in Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Kiffa, Atar and Kaédi.
In view of the security challenges in the Sahel-Sahara region, there is extensive security and defence cooperation between France and Mauritania. It aims in particular to strengthen Mauritania’s expertise in combating terrorism and trafficking, in a challenging regional environment.
Along with its European partners, France supports the creation of a G5 Sahel Defence College in Nouakchott.
Mauritania is on our list of priority countries for our development assistance. The Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) has been active in Mauritania since 1978. From 2012 to 2017, the total volume of AFD commitments in Mauritania totalled €190 million (including EU funds delegations). The ongoing portfolio includes 18 projects with total funding of €104 million, including in the mining sector and in water and sanitation.
Updated: 24 June 2019