Mauritanians are voting Saturday in general and local elections viewed as a key test of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s record with the international community calling for a credible and peaceful vote. The mobile phone market in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott never sleeps. Under faded umbrellas to protect them from the searing Saharan sun, traders nimbly switch SIM (subscriber identification module) cards and replace overheated phone batteries. In a country with a scarce telecom infrastructure and its approximately 4.5 million strong population spread across vast, often inhospitable terrain, mobile phones are a lifeline in this impoverished West African nation.
With a poverty rate of 31 percent and an official growth rate of three percent, the informal economy in Mauritania enables a large number of otherwise unemployed young people to scrape by. Elections should be a time to address the problems afflicting citizens, but at the mobile market in Nouakchott, Saturday’s elections do not hold out much grounds for hope.
“We have a lot of problems, especially the young people,” explained Hamadi, an unemployed youth. “They don’t believe in the elections because of the huge unemployment issue, the problem of waste. There are a lot of problems here and not enough solidarity between ethnic groups.”
Full Article: Mauritania votes in key test for democracy – France 24.