NARCO CLOSEHOLD: The Nouakchott Hustle

Friday, December 8, 2017


ExxonMobil signed an exploration deal this week for three offshore blocks. Although the terms are not yet public, Nouakchott is murmuring that XOM paid a US$70 million signing bonus. That’s big. Especially for a country with a 2016 GDP of US$4.6 billion.

But the Exxon deal isn’t the only thing happening in Mauritania these days. Extractive industries in general are booming and Nouakchott is bouncing. Flights and hotels are cheek by jowl with guys who look a lot like Larry the Cable Guy, with the occasional security guy in the mix, decked out head-to-toe in 5.11 gear and carrying a tacticool backpack. Industry executives are in and out, rolling up in 4x4 convoys and departing in under 36 hours. Restaurants and cafes are buzzing with entrepreneurial ambition – logistics companies, catering companies, infrastructure, meet-and-greet. Tout ce qui est petrolier et minier.

All this activity merits a quick update on three big buckets: the political trajectory, the commercial environment, and security...

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