Mauritania is a country in North West Africa that sits in the Sahara desert. It has one of the smallest populations in West Africa but it is one of the largest countries. Mauritania’s economy is largely agricultural, with scattered settlements of people throughout the desert. According to the latest official estimates from 2014, 31% of the population lived under the poverty line. The World Bank says income and employment losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced 48,000 people in Mauritania into conditions of extreme poverty. Education and technology developments in Mauritania will help stimulate the economy and alleviate systemic poverty.
Education in Mauritania
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has tried to increase its standards and practices of education in the country, and following COVID-19, technological advancements came inevitably. In terms of access to education, USAID notes the primary school net enrolment rate as 76.86% in 2019, but for upper secondary schools, this rate stood at just 38.87%. The average Mauritanian is expected to receive just seven years of education from birth to the age of 18. Fortunately, the youth literacy rate stood at 76.49% in 2021, a number that international organizations and the Mauritanian government would like to increase.
The World Bank explains that poor education in Mauritania has a direct adverse impact on the economy and that efforts to improve education are necessary. Education and technology developments in Mauritania could strengthen human capital.
The Support of Grants
In March 2020, UNICEF Mauritania received a grant from the Global Partnership of Education to the value of $70,000 to assist the Ministry of Education in developing a strategy to address the impacts of the pandemic on children’s education. Between 2020 and 2022, the Islamic Development Bank gave Mauritania $3.5 million in grants to strengthen the education sector amid the pandemic.
The grants went toward ensuring the continuation of education through distance learning, for example, through radio and TV broadcasts and digital learning platforms. Funding also went toward establishing “remedial and accelerated learning programs” to address learning losses arising from school closures.
The introduction of digital technology into education systems also formed an imperative part of reforms. The grants also funded awareness campaigns to “address the barriers that stop children from going to school” and give more attention to vulnerable impoverished children. Teachers also received training in psychosocial support, with an emphasis on supporting girls.
Developments in Technology
More than 40% of the people in Mauritania live in rural areas, which are often remote with little access to infrastructure. In 2017, only 21% of Mauritanians utilized the internet, rendering much of the population inactive on the internet. Increasing internet and digital education is a large part of the country’s national development plan going forward.
The High-Level Digital Council (HCN) and the Ministry of Digital Transition, Innovation and Public Sector Modernisation (MNTIMA) look toward “digital transformation” solutions to strengthen “regulation, infrastructure, e-government, digital business, sectoral transformation and human capital.”
The West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP) has delivered new programs and launched initiatives as well. WARCIP has put down 1,700 km of fiber optic cable to provide internet connectivity and access in previously inaccessible areas of Mauritania since 2012 when the project began.
These broadband networks are working to lower the cost of communication in Mauritania. WARCIP recognizes Mauritania’s geographical potential to be a center of economic activity and hopes to expand the growth of information and communications technology to spur economic growth and job creation.
Education and technology developments in Mauritania play a large role in economic growth and communications advancement. These areas suffered during COVID-19 but have seen an uptick in funding that must continue in order for the country to thrive.
– Anna Richardson