Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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Diplomatie & Défense
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  S.E.M. / H.E. Mohamed Salia Sokona

Turning Political Consensus into Economic Growth
Capital city of a stable democracy in the heart of West Africa, Bamako gears up to host the 23rd Africa-France Summit. As President Amadou Toumani Toure has built a successful consensus on development plans for Mali, H.E. Mohamed Salia Sokona, the Ambassador of Mali to France, outlines the key measures that have been launched to fight poverty and put the country’s economic potential to fuller use.
The Diplomatic Letter: With the economy still heavily dependent on exports, led by gold and cotton, Malian authorities are working hard to speed up the country’s industrialization process. What is being done to foster the expansion of the processing industry, along with textiles?


H.E. Mohamed Salia Sokona: As you know, in the early 1990s the Malian government took a firm decision to spur industrial development through private initiative, by limiting its regulatory role and creating a pro-business framework. The government’s primary objective is to ensure orderly, rapid and lasting industrial development by creating competitive industrial units that spur rapid growth and long-term jobs.

There is an urgent need for development in the textile industry, given the weight of cotton in the Malian economy and the low portion currently processed (less than 1%). The government has decided to foster the growth of a number of other industries as well, including: sugar, rice, cattle-beef, fruits and vegetables, and cement.

To this end, we have taken steps to build new factories in the textile industry (spinning and weaving), to launch projects in the sugar industry, to set up fertilizer plants and cements works, and to build factories for processing fruits, vegetables, meat and shea butter.

Working within the framework of the program to promote gratter foreign investment, the State has launched a wide package of measures that go beyond our investment code advantages. These changes have simplified the approval process for opening a business, strengthened the national support system for agricultural industries, and bolstered our industrial processing and packaging firms.  


T.D.L.: The United Nations continues to rank Mali among the world’s poorest countries. In light of your country’s pressing social needs, most notably in terms of jobs and training, could you summarize the main lines of the Poverty Reduction Strategic Plan launched by the Malian government in 2002?


H.E.M.S.S.: Training and jobs have always been two of President Toure’s top priorities. He has always been a great advocate for our youth and children, as we do well to remember. We now have an excellent support system, led by PRODEC (Ten-Year Education Program) and APEJ (Agency for the Employment of Youth), as well as an investment and equipment program targeting a variety of educational disciplines.

As you know, a round table focusing on Mali was held in Geneva in 2004.   These talks, along with the meetings that grew out of them, enabled us to pinpoint all of our vital needs as regards education, training, health care, housing, water management, agricultural development and the best use of our mining potential.

By creating basic infrastructures and promoting our businesses, both public and private, we will lay the bedrock to support all of these   things.

Our bilateral and multilateral partners are, of course, assisting us in carrying out this plan. It must be remembered, however, that the responsibility for carrying through on most of these actions falls directly upon our shoulders.

In recent years the government of Mali has displayed its determination to make the fight against poverty its number one development priority. This determination has been inspired by two pressing needs: first, ensuring our development efforts are effective in helping the poor, by laying out new policies and new instruments; and second, taking fitting short- and medium-term measures that enable the government to use our country’s internal and external resources in a rational and efficient manner.

The final version of the Strategic Framework for Poverty Reduction (CSLP) focuses on three priority areas designed to mutually strengthen each other and thus help us meet our primary goals of achieving strong, sustainable growth and reducing poverty.

The driving force behind the entire CSLP process is our goal of ensuring three key things: effectiveness, fairness, and institutional and financial viability. The priority areas targeted by this strategy are:

– developing our institutions to ensure effective governance and citizen participation;

– developing our human resources and improving access to basic social services;

– developing our infrastructures and supporting our production sectors.


T.D.L.: Could you describe the strides Mali has make towards economic liberalization, as it implements IMF structural adjustment policies? In what specific areas is the government looking to make even deeper structural reforms? What are the main objectives behind the rekindling of the privatization program? How can more foreign investment be drawn to your country, after the drop-off seen in recent years?


H.E.M.S.S.: The drive to liberalize the Malian economy has led to the easing of prices and trade restrictions, the privatization of state-owned companies, and an opening up of state-held monopolies to competition. The private sector is playing a wider and more active role in the economic arena, serving as the driving force behind our country’s development and economic growth.

The liberal policies we have pursued up until now have improved Mali’s macro-economic framework and reduced the weight of public external debt on public finances.

The Malian government plans to expand these structural reforms in several key areas, including: reorganizing our judicial framework; revamping business regulations to ensure that private property is secure and intellectual property and brand names are effectively protected; restructuring the finance sector; reorganizing the rural world through the Agricultural Orientation Law; and finally, promoting investments (public, private and foreign) by restructuring the National Center for Investment Promotion, creating a Presidential Investment Council, and bringing our businesses up to par.

These priorities will most certainly have an impact on the CMDT (Mali Textile Development Company), SOTELMA (telecommunications company), and the Malian Airport Company.

We offer a great number of advantages that will help us convince foreign investors to invest in Mali: a stable political and social climate; economic reforms favoring the private sector; a framework for fostering dialogue between the   State and the private sector, as well as a Presidential Investment Council; an excellent geographic location, sharing borders with seven countries and belonging to two subregional areas; low labor costs; a favorable tax system; wide untapped investment potential; a simplified and shortened administration process for opening new businesses (with the creation of a one-stop procedure); and the creation of structures to support and advise the private sector.


T.D.L.: As the leading cotton producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, what is your stance on the problem of industrialized countries subsidizing their agricultural exports?


H.E.M.S.S.: Malian production of cotton and grains for the 2005/06 season is projected at 609,000 tons, a figure that could even be revised upwards.

Unfortunately, our relative advantage of producing high quality cotton – an advantage shared by most of the African cotton industry – does make us competitive on a market driven by the subsidy policies of developed countries, starting with the United States and the European Union.

In light of this situation,   in 2001 Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad submitted a “Sectoral Initiative in Favor of Cotton and Poverty Reduction” to the World Trade Organization (WTO), first in Geneva then again in Cancun. They demanded that all cotton subsidies be discontinued and asked that countries adversely affected by these subsidies be granted financial compensation. The developed countries refused to discuss the proposal, which led to the failure of the Cancun Conference in September 2003.

In June 2005, Africa’s Trade Ministers issued a joint statement that gave the West until December 2005 (when the next WTO ministerial conference is set to be held in Hong Kong) to do away with subsidies for their agricultural exports, starting with cotton subsidies. Mali continues to wholeheartedly support this demand.


T.D.L.:   As a landlocked country that used Abidjan as its main port of transit and trade, Mali has suffered heavily from the crisis in the Ivory Coast. Could you tell our readers how this simmering crisis has affected your country? What is your country doing to widen its access to international markets?


H.E.M.S.S.: Mali is, indeed, a landlocked country. Most of its imports and exports transit through the port of Abidjan, the best equipped and closest port to Bamako. This situation has made Côte d’Ivoire Mali’s closest partner in UEMOA.

The Ivorian crisis has totally disrupted the circulation of goods from Mali to the ports of Lome in Togo, Cotonou in Benin, and Tema in Ghana.

This situation has also led to an increase in product costs, most notably of oil products, and increased transportation costs along these different routes.

The port of Dakar has experienced an unprecedented backlog, due to the railways’ relatively limited capacity for carrying out goods, compared to the very high demand.

On a broader level, the Ivorian crisis has caused a drop in imports coming into Mali, which has in turn brought a considerable drop in customs revenue.

The problems we have had experienced in getting our products to the ports of Lome, Cotonou and Tema have led to a slowdown in exports, causing earning losses for our country in this area as well.

The sectors hit the hardest include agriculture, commerce, industry, services, and hydrocarbons.

In order to diversify its access to international markets, Mali is focusing on finding a quick solution to this crisis. It is drawing up and implementing policies to open up the country both internally and externally, by finishing and diversifying road networks like   Bamako-Conakry, Bamako-Nouakchott and Bamako-Dakar. All of these routes are already under construction, and are well on the way to being finished.


T.D.L.: Mali has stepped up its diplomatic efforts considerably since 1993, reflected by Soumaila Cisse’s duties as President of the West African Monetary Union and former president Konare’s role as President of the Commission of the African Union. Your country has also been involved in regional peacekeeping operations, most notably in Liberia. Could you summarize President Amadou Toumani Toure’s “peace-seeking policies”? What role is Mali playing in the drive to stabilize the African continent and build true integration?


H.E.M.S.S.: Malian foreign policy is founded on active and “purposeful” diplomacy, focused on developing the country and advocating “peace-seeking diplomacy,” as you so eloquently put it. This is reflected, first, in our good neighbor policy, and in the strengthening of our bilateral ties with other countries. Mali has always played a key role in resolving conflicts at the subregional level, working within the CEDEAO, as well as at the continental level. Malian soldiers, known as “peace soldiers,” have been active in the peacekeeping operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and many other countries as well.

Promoting peace around the world has always been the credo of Mali’s Head of State. Before taking over the country’s highest office, he had already helped to resolve several conflicts across Africa. All of which goes to say that Mali plays a very active role in managing the crises that African countries are, sadly, experiencing.

As to African integration, Mali is playing a major role in this process as well, most notably within the organizations to which we belong (CEDEAO, UEMOA, CILSS, CENSAD, etc.). The fact that two Malians are now the respective heads of the Commission of the African Union and the Commission of the West African Monetary Union is very telling.

To answer your last question, let me simply refer you to our Constitution, which stipulates that “the Republic of Mali may enter into agreements establishing associations or communities with other African States which require the partial or total relinquishment of its sovereignty, with a view to achieving African unity.” We can thus readily affirm that Mali is, indeed, a great champion of integration.


T.D.L.: The Sahel Desert covers two-thirds of your country. Though not as hard hit as Niger, Mali still suffers cyclical food shortages brought on by drought and the advancing desert. What is the government doing to protect your country? What could be done to build closer regional cooperation to combat these problems? Is Mali working to help improve the management of water resources in the Niger basin?


H.E.M.S.S.: It is true that Mali, like other Sahel countries, is hit by cyclical food shortages brought on by drought and the advancing desert. This problem is particularly bad in northerly regions.

Our agricultural production is impaired by the scarce rainfall in this region, and its unpredictable nature.

Over the past thirty years, in addition to irregular rains, Mali has experienced a drop in total rainfall and the advance of the desert southward. This problem was compounded by bad periods of drought in the 1980s, especially in 1983-84 and 1987-88. This left a good number of our rural residents extremely vulnerable to food shortages. Low rainfalls in 2004 created a similar situation, which was exacerbated by a massive invasion of locusts.

Building water control structures is one way to turn around this troublesome trend of shrinking flows in the Niger River, and fight this persistent hydrological deterioration and the threat that the Niger River could stop flowing altogether.

A variety of steps have already been taken to alert the country when climate conditions worsen, creating food insecurity. The Agricultural Orientation Law and the construction of water control structures are two examples of this.

The Taoussa development project is helping us ensure greater food security by augmenting, diversifying and increasing the value of Malian production in the agricultural, breeding, fishing and forestry sectors. It is also helping protect the environment by mapping out the long-term management of our natural resources, through the creation of basic infrastructures and the expansion of production sectors.

We should also mention the work being done by our rural development offices, such as the Office du Niger, whose great potential has yet to be fully tapped.

Malian water policy aims, among other things, to control the flow of our main rivers at both the national and subregional levels. We are working in cooperation with neighboring States to improve resource management and spur the development of agricultural, fishing and breeding activities, fight the advancing desert, open up the region, and produce more hydroelectric energy. This water policy is also helping us combat poverty.  

Our country is a founding member of all the organizations responsible for managing natural resources, especially water resources: the Organization of Boundary States of the Senegal River (OERS), the Senegal River Basin Organization (OMVS), the Niger River Commission, and the Niger River Basin Authority (ABN), among others.

Given its geographic location, along the path of the Niger River, Mali plays a key role in the management of basin’s water resources. The Niger flows for 1,700 kilometers through our country, which is home to three major river races: the Upper Niger, the inland delta, and the middle reaches. What’s more, the location of the site of the future Taoussa Dam will play a key role in controlling downstream zones. This has spurred Mali to strike various subregional accords, and to launch local cooperation projects within the framework of cooperation agreements signed with Guinea (to develop the Upper Niger) and Niger (to develop the Lower Niger, at the Timbuktu-Gao race).


T.D.L.: Bolstered by their strong and long-standing cultural relations, the peoples of Mali and France have forged close ties that stretch to the highest levels of State. In light of the recent meeting of the French-Malian Migration Committee, what can be done to expand joint development initiatives that encourage Malian migrants to become directly involved in bilateral cooperation efforts?


H.E.M.S.S.: French public authorities have enacted numerous legislative reforms over the years with the aim of controlling immigration flows. The 1945 Ordinance has thus been modified over and over again, following the ups and down of French political life and the changing economic situation. The law passed on 26 November 2003, known as the “Sarkozy Law,” is the latest reform to date.

This new law reflects the French government’s determination to combat illegal immigration and to deal with people who, according to the law, have no right to stay in France.

The Sarkozy law holds that France will no longer put up with immigration as it is currently occurring, but will choose new immigrants according to its own needs.

This new law also calls for a restriction of the right to family reunification.

It should also be noted that, as part of the implementation of this new law, the French government expects to escort between 20,000 and 23,000 people back to the border before the year 2005 is out.

These measures have inspired the Franco-Malian Migration Committee to launch new initiatives to mobilize migrants, working within the scope of various joint development programs. These initiatives focus on local and regional development (in particular by opening up and ensuring security in the first region), expanding the production system, providing initial and professional training (especially a basic education), and mobilizing migrants’ savings.

These steps are not a substitute for our preexisting cooperation. They are a way to enhance it, by taking greater account of the needs of migrants, both present and future, as key actors in the development of both Mali and France and in the future of Franco-Malian relations.

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