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Gas, Mauritania's opportunity to boost economic growth

The African country is positioning itself as a major player in the gas market. The development of this industry could have a favourable impact on the national economy if Nouakchott plays its cards right
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PHOTO/OLIVIER HOSLET via REUTERS  -   The President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani

Mauritania's natural gas reserves are attracting the interest of international energy markets. The country recently announced a gas field capable of producing up to 10 million tonnes per year. In total, Mauritania has gas reserves of 100 trillion cubic feet, more than other African countries such as Libya and Egypt.

However, despite its gas wealth, Mauritania does not have sufficient funds to invest in the necessary infrastructure for gas extraction and the construction of liquefaction and storage plants. For this reason, the African nation relies on investments from foreign companies to boost its gas industry. Among the companies operating in the country are US-based Kosmos Energy, France's TotalEnergies and Britain's BP and Shell.

Mauritania is trying to attract foreign investors to exploit the country's great gas potential. Specifically, the government is seeking to develop gas pipelines and port infrastructure to enable the export of liquefied natural gas, which will begin to be produced in 2023. As African Business points out, among Nouakchott's objectives is the country's port city and commercial centre, Nouadhibou, which they hope to turn into a gas processing, import and export hub. 

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PHOTO/FILE - Mauritania is trying to attract foreign investors to exploit the country's vast gas potential

The development of Mauritania's gas industry will have a positive impact on the country's economic growth. Al-Arab even compares the African nation's current situation to that of the Gulf states before the discovery of oil, its main source of income today.

The Arabic newspaper notes that Mauritania has a population of 4.6 million people, a figure similar to that of Kuwait (4.4 million). However, while the Gulf state is among the 40 richest countries in the world, the African nation is among the 25 poorest. This could change if Mauritania plays its cards right and takes advantage of its gas reserves.

In addition to having natural resources, it is necessary to know how to manage them and enjoy security and stability at the political level. Libya, for example, is home to some of the largest oil reserves in Africa, but due to the situation in the country, it has not been able to develop its national economy. Instability and lack of security since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 have plunged the North African nation into a serious political and economic crisis, despite being one of the continent's oil powers.

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PHOTO/AFP - Oil refinery in Libya's northern city of Ras Lanuf
A favourable situation

Mauritania, on the other hand, enjoys political stability and security. The last elections in 2019, which gave victory to Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, were held without incident and under the control of international observers from the African Union, the United Nations and the embassies of the United States, Spain and France.

On the other hand, the country has not been the target of any terrorist attacks in recent years, despite the insecurity that plagues the Sahel region. As Al-Arab notes, "Mauritania's fight against terrorism represents a unique experience in the G5 Sahel, as it is the only country in the region to have defeated armed groups and extremists". 

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PHOTO/NATO - Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg seeks to enhance Mauritania's capabilities in counterterrorism, border security and crisis management in the Sahel. Pictured here with President Mohamed Ould El Ghazwani in January 2021

Nouakchott has an important cooperation with France to tackle terrorism in the region. Moreover, at the last NATO summit in Madrid in June, Mauritania and the Atlantic Alliance forged closer ties with the same objective. However, the African country has also signed military cooperation agreements with Russia in 2021 in an attempt to diversify its partners.

Nouakchott also has strong ties with its Maghreb neighbours, in particular Morocco and Algeria in trade matters. Through various agreements with Mauritania, both countries trade with West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. 

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PHOTO/FILE - Morocco-Mauritania Economic Forum

Nouakchott's main challenges are poverty and illiteracy. The government will have to manage gas revenues in such a way as to reduce both problems. It will also have to invest in infrastructure and diversify the national economy.

Through its gas industry, Mauritania could also become a key energy partner for Europe as it seeks to wean itself off its dependence on Russian gas.

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PHOTO/AP - The government should manage gas revenues in such a way as to reduce poverty and illiteracy rates

"Mauritania is destined to become a major player in the global natural gas supply chain. The country is poised to see an influx of new investments that will help kick-start its gas revolution," says NJ Ayuk, executive president of the African Energy Chamber, as quoted by African Business.