The Mauritanian Market is open to international
exporters. It was liberalized in October 1991.
The best strategy to enter the market is to
establish a relationship with a well-connected local partner who knows the
market and can help investors make the necessary contacts. This partner will
help investors to better understand the culture and business environment.
Before deciding on doing any kind
of business, the foreign investor should first visit Mauritania and discuss
their business plan with a local partner. Investors should also meet with
government officials responsible for the sector that he or she is interested in
to discuss the administrative procedures required to become legally established.
Agents and distributors are
commonly used and Mauritanians frequently express interest in representing
foreign companies in all sectors. Western companies and trademarks are
represented in the country.
Almost all of Mauritania’s
imported goods enter Mauritania via Nouakchott's “Friendship Port." From there,
they are trucked to wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. Large wholesalers,
especially those involved in the leading family conglomerates that dominate much
of Mauritania's economy, account for the majority of the country’s import trade.
Agents operating on commission deal mainly in electronic components or heavy
machinery and spare parts.
Most goods are retailed through small shops (boutiques), or by vendors in the
sprawling open-air markets prominent in Nouakchott and other towns. The informal
sector remains pervasive, involved in everything from the sale of livestock and
vehicles to spare parts, used clothing, and vegetables. Medium-sized stores and
"supermarkets" are increasingly popular, especially in Nouakchott and Nouadibou.
Using an Agent or Distributor
Local businessmen frequently express interest in representing foreign
companies, and the number of those doing so is growing. Commercial agents are
found in many sectors, including technology, new and used vehicles, heavy
equipment, oil products distribution, oil and mining exploration,
pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, telecommunications, and electronic tools.
In general, these agents have a written contract and they negotiate sales and
purchases on behalf of producers, manufacturers, and dealers. The distributor
operates independently and is only bound by the written provisions of the
distribution agreement. In general, either party, without prior notification,
may terminate a distribution agreement of specified duration, at the end of the
Visiting the country is necessary to find a good partner. It is recommended
that businessmen come to Mauritania and meet with potential operators in the
sector he or she is interested in. This will allow them to have a better idea of
the business climate in the country and potential agents or distributors for
their products. Maintaining good contact with the government and having
influence within the local business community and civil society will help a
business to succeed in Mauritania.
Establishing an Office
The Government encourages the importation of new technologies and the
creation of new enterprises such as joint ventures in local fish processing or
in agro-business. The Office of Private Sector Development (“Guichet Unique de
l’Investissement”) at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Mauritanian
Chamber of Commerce offer assistance and advice to those wishing to establish an
office in Mauritania. The Employers’ Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and
the "Centre d'Information Mauritanien pour le Développement Economique et
Technique" maintain a list of business groups and/or individuals and other
information useful to companies wishing to do business in Mauritania.
To establish a local office, foreign investors should first visit the Office
of Private Sector Development to submit a proposal for their investment project
and to inquire about the necessary documents to file and steps to be undertaken
in order to be legally established. Investors should also contact the ministry
relevant to their business as well as the Ministries of Economy and Finance,
Interior, and Justice to submit and finalize all documents. They should also
contact the Central Bank to submit documents related to tax registration.
Direct marketing has not yet been developed in Mauritania. Because few buyers
read newspapers and journals, producers and wholesalers rarely use this means of
communication. Instead, they use billboards to exhibit their products. Graphic
billboards on major thoroughfares and roadside banners are an important
advertising medium for the public. The number of billboards is increasing
rapidly in Nouakchott and Nouadibou, as they are a relatively inexpensive means
of advertising. Radio and TV are also used for advertising, but they are
considered too expensive by many local companies. Events such as tradeshows and
exhibitions are limited in Mauritania. The residents of Nouakchott, however, are
acquainted with fairs, and they enjoy visiting and buying the products on
display. A great deal of information also passes by word of mouth.
The legal requirements for joint ventures/licensing are the following:
Foreign investors and
their local partners must create a commercial company and register it in
Mauritania. It is recommended that the local partner handle the
registration. There are several notaries in Nouakchott who specialize in the
creation of new companies.
Foreign investors and
their local partners must prepare the following documents and have them
notarized: the minutes of the joint venture, the rules and procedures of a
constituent assembly, and the regulations and articles of the new company.
The existing joint
ventures are primarily with companies from other Arab countries and are
mainly in the mineral, fishing, telecommunications, and banking sectors.
However, businesses in many sectors are seeking to expand such ventures with
a wide array of foreign partners. The Government of Mauritania offers a wide
range of incentives to foreign investors.
Selling to the Government
Government procurement is divided into three distinct categories:
(a) Procurement related to large development projects worth more than USD10
million. These projects are generally financed by multilateral institutions
(World Bank, Arab Fund, Islamic Development Bank, African Development Bank,
European Bank of Investment, etc.).
(b) Procurement related to medium and small-scale projects financed jointly
by the Government of Mauritania and one or more development partners.
(c) Procurement related to small projects valued at less than $1 million and
financed solely by the Government of Mauritania.
For categories (a) and (b), procurements are made through foreign government
tenders (avis d’appel d’offres international). For category (c), procurements
are made by mutual agreement, without a public tender. Such direct awards are
also used for certain sensitive procurements and projects in categories (a) and
(b), e.g. related to security issues.
The Government's Central Procurement Board (“Commission Centrale des Marchés”),
which falls under the Prime Minister’s authority, is responsible for monitoring
compliance with procurement regulations and conducting most government
negotiations with foreign suppliers. For large projects, the Government often
requires bidders to submit letters of interest, in order to be short-listed
prior to the issuance of a restricted tender. This closed bidding system has
been widely used in privatization schemes in Mauritania. Therefore, it is very
important to be informed of the project and to respond with an "expression of
interest" prior to the published tender. The World Bank is assisting the Central
Procurement Board to improve its procedures, the transparency of its operations,
and its implementation of existing regulations. The regulations governing the
Procurement Board are available at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Product literature must be in French and/or Arabic. The packaging should
describe the nature of the product, its quality and quantity, as well as the
production and expiration dates.
The price of products varies significantly from one locale to another, as
well as from one shop to another in the same locale. Prices depend on
distribution channels as well as price mark-ups determined by individual
retailers for products whose prices are not under government control.
Sales Service/Customer Support
All reliable suppliers provide sales service to their customers. For a
certain period after the sale, this service is free of charge. After this period
has expired, the supplier may charge repair fees to customers. Customer support
is widely available for electronic components, household appliances, vehicles,
heavy equipment and small fishing vessels.