Mauritania sets eye on becoming Africa’s export hub

Mauritania is looking to position itself as an export hub for Brazilian products in Africa. The country has relevant trade partnerships with nations across the continent that buy from Brazil and it could distribute Brazilian goods to African countries, says Wagne Idrissa, the ambassador of Mauritania in Brasília.

Idrissa visited the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce offices this Monday to speak with personnel from local companies interested in doing business with his country.

“Mauritania is a strategic hub connecting North and Southern Africa. It is home to two big ports and a third one is being built. We also have one of the biggest international airports in Africa,” said Idrissa.

The ports, he said, are the Autonomous Ports of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. The country is also home to the fishing-only Nouadhibou Artisanal Fishing Port.

The ambassador said that many of the African countries Brazil engages in significant trade with, like Angola, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Senegal, often do business via Mauritania.

“In Central Africa, more than 40% of trade involves Mauritania,” said Idrissa.

The diplomat also noted that the embassy of Mauritania in Brazil was established relatively recently, in 2008, and that there is a lot to work on when it comes to trade and government relations between the two countries. Idrissa took office as ambassador in Brasília in February of this year, following a stint in the same capacity in Paris. He said he is in the process of getting acquainted with who are the players in the Brazilian trade scenario, so that he can make them aware of business opportunities in his country.

“I am deeply engaged with building ties in trade and government with Brazil. The Arab Chamber is an important place for these relations to be furthered, and I am here due to the opportunity the Chamber has afforded me, of getting to know the Brazilian companies a bit,” he said.

Idrissa also discussed the goods his country exports, such as iron ore, gold, bauxite, and gas. According to him, Mauritania already ships those products to the likes of China, France, and Italy. The ambassador also mentioned foreign sales of fish and seafood.

One Brazilian business interested in breaking into Mauritania is Grendene. A maker of plastic sandals out of Rio Grande do Sul state, it’s on the lookout for opportunities there and in neighboring countries. “Grendene has never worked with that market before. West Africa is a region with an opportunity gap that can be very well explored, and that’s where our interest comes in,” explained the exports analyst Deivson Althaus.

He said that while Grendene does ship product to other Arab countries in Africa, like Libya, Algeria, and Egypt, it is struggling to break into markets such as Mauritania, Senegal, and Nigeria, and that’s what brought him to the meeting with Idrissa. “In the westernmost parts of Africa, we find it a little bit harder to get information, the markets are a bit more closed off,” he said.

The dairy company Alibra made a one-off, single-product sale to Mauritania three years ago. Export manager Débora Lapa explained that the product sold was a milk replacement powder.

“We are trying to sell again, hence our interest in the meeting with the ambassador of Mauritania. We know that theirs is a good market,” she said.

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