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Mauritania is a republic located on the west coast of Africa. The country is bounded north by Western Sahara, north-east by Algeria, east and south-east by Mali, and south by Senegal, with access to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Human settlement dates to the arrival of the nomadic Bafour people from the north during the Neolithic period. The region which is now present-day Mauritania formed the northern border of the Ghana Empire (c. 400–c. 1200) and Mali Empire (c. 1230–c. 1600). Mauritania became a French protectorate in 1903 and a colony within French West Africa in 1920. It became an autonomous republic in 1958, and declared full independence in 1960. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott. Estimated population of Mauritania in 2012 was 3,359,185.