As of 2016, Mauritania had a population of approximately 4.3 million. The local population is divided into three main ethnic tiers: Bidhan or Moors, Haratin, and West Africans.

The Bidhan represent around 30% of citizens. They speak Hassaniya Arabic and are primarily of Arab-Berber origin. The Haratin constitute roughly 40% of the population.

They are descendants of former slaves, and also speak Arabic. The remaining 30% of the population largely consists of various ethnic groups of West African descent. Among these are the Niger-Congo-speaking Halpulaar (Fulbe), Soninke, Bambara and Wolof.