Improving the Business Environment for Mauritanian Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Guides & Tools | Anna Cutler

The Club des Entrepreneurs de Mauritanie (CEM) recently released an activity report with contributions from the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) that provides recommendations on how to build an economic development model that raises the profile of SMEs for wealth generation.

This report was prepared following a workshop hosted by the CEM in partnership with CIPE earlier this year, titled “Atelier sur l’Amélioration du Climat des Affaires” (“Workshop on Business Environment Improvement”). The workshop was held as part of an ongoing project established to promote public-private dialogue in the G5 Sahel for economic development and security. Recommendations of the report are set to be integrated into a broader regional dialogue on economic development and security at the regional level with the G5 Sahel.

This workshop had two objectives: (1) to allow SMEs to provide input on the national economic development agenda, and (2) to promote a culture of economic dialogue in Mauritania.

The workshop engaged high-level officials from the Mauritanian government, including representatives from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Promotion of Productive Sectors (MAEPSP), the Agency for Promotion of Investment in Mauritania (APIM), as well as over 70 participants from the private sector, academic groups, financial organizations, NGOs, and civil society organizations.

The discussions focused around three core topics: the current institutional and legal framework for defining SMEs in Mauritania; the existing taxation framework for Mauritanian SMEs; and a look into the Mauritanian SME business environment and income-generating value chains — including a review of previous interventions to support SMEs in the country. The review evaluated Mauritania’s recent compliance with International Double Taxation agreements and the 2021 creation of a body centralizing investment promotion, based on recommendations from the World Bank Doing Business Index. Following the presentations, the participants and speakers engaged in collective discussions about how to promote SME interests in Mauritania.

After the collaborative discussions, participants created six prioritized recommendations for the CEM and its affiliates:

  1. Establish a clear legal definition of “SME,” adapted to the Mauritanian business laws and responding to the expectations of local entrepreneurs. With a clear legal definition, the private sector will be able to better coordinate its promotion of SME needs, and advocate policies that support SME growth and inclusion in the economy.
  2. Establish a mechanism that ensures ongoing and inclusive national public dialogue on improving the business environment.
  3. Increase collaboration and partnership among private sector associations and the public sector to allow the government to be more inclusive of youth, women, the informal sector, and rural business by working to further integrate these groups into the job market.
  4. Revise the tax system to ensure the country’s attractiveness to local and foreign investors, as well as protect the legal security of local investors and actors.
  5. Revise social law texts, such as labor codes and connected regulations, to respond to the reality of the market and economic developments.
  6. Call for more coordination and mobilization of international development partners to support advocacy efforts for private sector development.

The CEM was satisfied with the interest that government authorities and private sector organizations demonstrated regarding these recommendations. CEM noted that this framework for participation supports the current transformation of the national economy. Additionally, CEM hopes to continue this approach for engagement by aiming to align Mauritania’s industrial policy with the European Commission’s ten principles of the Small Business Act, adopted by the European Parliament in 2016. The Club hopes to share these six recommendations with national departments such as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and regional organizations such as the G5 Sahel, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union to encourage agenda reform in support of SMEs in the West Africa and Sahel region.

The full workshop report is available here (in French).

Published Date: November 29, 2022