The west African country of Mauritania is moving its weekend to Saturday and Sunday to be more in tune with its European business partners.
“It’s clear that not being on par with our trading partners is causing us huge losses,” says Seyedna Ali Ould Mohamed Khouna, Mauritania’s public service minister. With a Muslim majority, the country has traditionally started the weekend on Friday, and local newspaper Essirage fears there may be large protests when the switch takes effect on 1 October.
The government has tried to move the traditional weekend before. In 2005, ministers shifted to a Monday to Friday work week, saying the country’s economy was losing $70m (£43m) per year without it.
Businesses say they benefitted from the change. “We had to get all our transactions done between Monday and Wednesday, because if they got left to Thursday, they would just get stuck as we wound down for the Mauritanian weekend,” bank manager Moktar Fall said about the last switch. But the next president changed it back in 2007.
As one of the world’s poorest countries, Mauritania wants to further exploit its oil and gas reserves. But other Arab states have accused it of compromising principles to improve its relations with the West.
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