Africa Leaders Magazine

MOHAMED OULD BOUAMATOU – A Self-Made Man Who Has Become Mauritania’s Leading Businessman

After having begun his career as a modest seller of foodstuffs, 63-year-old (as at 2016) Mohamed Ould Bouamatou has gradually established himself as a major business figure in Mauritania. His BSA group is present in all the key sectors of the country’s economy, whether it be banking and insurance or the distribution of cigarettes, and is managed as a family affair, with the help of his tribal allies and a number of faithful associates.

In a country dominated by clan logic, his success has inevitably whetted appetites and provoked bitter conflict. Bouamatou found himself early on in the political sphere. He stays out of the limelight but little by little has found himself in the role of king-maker. The last one to benefit from his influence was a cousin who is currently the president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. After carrying out his coup in 2008 and acceding to the presidency, Abdel Aziz let his relations with Mohamed Ould Bouamatou deteriorate. The latter, who now lives permanently in Morocco, presents himself as supporting former head of state Ely Ould Mohamed Vall in the 2019 presidential elections.

In 1995, he created the Générale de Banque de Mauritanie (GBM), Mauritania’s first private bank followed by several insurance companies. He also became a shareholder in various domestic and international companies, founded Mauritania’s first mobile phone company and a cement works. From 2000 to 2006, he was the president of the Confédération Nationale du Patronat de Mauritanie (National Confederation of Mauritanian Employers).Today he is at the head of BSA Group, a giant in the Mauritanian and West African economy that is present in numerous sectors: banking, insurance, the automobile sector, food, building, and technology. In 2001, he created the Fondation Bouamatou eye hospital to help beat blindness. The hospital has gone on to become one of the largest ophthalmology hospitals in Africa treating more than 5,000 patients a year for cataracts completely for free. Their motto is: “first come, first served.” In 2004, Mohamed Bouamatou financed ten thousand connections to provide access to running water for the inhabitants of Kiffa, as well as building an extension to Cheikh Zayed Hospital maternity unit (surgical units, intensive care, hospital rooms etc). Mohamed Bouamatou also funds primary and secondary schools in Mauritania and in other countries. In August 2015, together with two European lawyers specialised in Human rights law, Mohamed Bouamatou created the Fondation pour l’Egalité des Chances en Afrique (Foundation for Equal Opportunity in Africa), a registered charity recognised as such by a Belgian royal decree. The aim of this new structure is to facilitate the consolidation of such infrastructures as are required to reinforce the Rule of law and democracy in Africa. Mohamed Bouamatou is on the board of the Spanish foundation, ‘Mujeres por Africa’.

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