Despite promising economic opportunities for U.S. firms and enthusiasm for U.S. investment, investors have complained of significant obstacles to investment in Mali, including unreliable electricity access, limited infrastructure, and corruption. According to many businesses, terrorism, drug trafficking, and smuggling, primarily in the northern and central conflict-affected portion of the country, also inhibit investment. Some report that both Malian and foreign businesses face corruption in procurement, importation and export of products, tax payment, administrative processing, and land management.
Several foreign investors report that Mali’s security and political crisis stemming from the 2012 coup d’état is ongoing and exacerbates the already difficult investment climate. Companies claim that continued instability in northern and central Mali has permitted terrorist groups to conduct attacks against Westerners and Malian government forces. Reports show that this instability, initially concentrated in the North, has extended to Mali’s center where terrorist groups are taking advantage of the minimal presence of Malian authorities and security forces. Frequent deadly clashes between livestock herders and crop farmers further contribute to instability, according to U.S. companies.
Despite the ongoing security challenges being reported, Mali has experienced strong annual economic growth (near or exceeding 5 percent) since 2014. Mali welcomes investors in the infrastructure, telecommunication, service, mining, and agricultural sectors. Mali continues to depend upon multilateral financial institutions including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank, and bilateral donors for funding various development projects, mainly in health, infrastructure, education, and agriculture. The investment climate benefits from the financial and economic reform processes that accompany this institutional lending.
The United States and Mali enjoy a strong bilateral relationship. Malian businesses generally view U.S. products favorably and openly search for new partnerships with U.S. firms. The Government of Mali remains committed to reforming the economy, including improving public financial management practices, increasing tax revenues, and the ongoing privatization of several state-owned enterprises. Reforms to the mining code, petroleum products pricing, tax code, and investment code have yet to be completed, though some reforms are in progress. Despite recent reforms, the Government of Mali experienced considerable shortfalls in tax collection in 2018, mainly due to what several companies have identified as corruption, weak taxpayer compliance, and fraud.
The U.S. Department of State maintains a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” Travel Advisory warning against travel to Mali due to reported critically high risks from crime, terrorism, and kidnapping, especially in the Center and North of the country.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||120 of 175||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||145 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||112 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||N/A||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||USD 770||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
Many companies claim that corruption is the greatest obstacle for foreign investment and economic development in Mali. While corruption is a crime punishable under the penal code, bribery is frequently reported in many large contracts and investment projects. Some report that government officials often solicit bribes in order to complete otherwise routine procedures. The Government of Mali passed laws against the illegal accumulation of wealth in 2013 and 2015. The law, however, does not force members of parliament or the executive to declare their assets. The government has pledged to update the law. In 2018, Transparency International’s (TI) global corruption ranking for Mali improved slightly to 120 of 180 from 122 of 180 in 2017. Mali’s perceived public corruption score, as evaluated by Malian citizens, is 32 out of 100 with zero being the worst possible score. Relative to other developing countries, Mali was rated at the 69th percentile for control of corruption in the most recent World Bank/Brookings WGI.
Corruption is allegedly most common in government procurement and dispute settlement. The government has addressed this issue by requiring procurement contracts to be inspected by the Directorate General for Public Procurement, which determines whether the procedure meets fairness, price competitiveness, and quality standards. However, there are allegations of significant political interference in procurement. Mali’s international donor community has been working with the government to reduce corruption, but reports indicate that progress has been slow.
Investors have found the judicial sector to be neither independent nor transparent. Questionable judgments in commercial cases have occasionally been successfully overturned at the Supreme Court’s Court of Appeal. However, there is a general perception among the populace that while prosecution of minor economic crimes is routine, official corruption, particularly at the higher levels, goes largely unpunished.
The President created the Office of the Auditor General (Bureau du Verificateur General or BVG) in 2004 as an independent agency tasked to audit public spending. Since its inception, the BVG has uncovered several significant cases of corruption, including in the Customs office. However, few have resulted in prosecutions. In 2011, inspectors from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria uncovered cases of embezzlement of public and donor funds by officials at the Ministry of Health. The Malian judiciary prosecuted several high-ranking Ministry of Health officials including the Minister of Health who subsequently resigned. However, the trial resulted in an acquittal of the Minister and all 18 co-defendants, due to a lack of evidence. The Unit to Support Financial Control of the Administration (Cellule d’Appui aux Structures de Contrôle de l’Administration) declared in 2015 that 209 reports of corruption were sent to the Ministry of Justice for review and prosecution in previous years; however, no cases have been brought to court and successfully prosecuted.
Both foreign and domestic companies complain about tax collection as they face harassment by officials seeking bribes. In 2016, the Minister of Economy and Finances refused to reimburse a sizeable debt arguing that the lenders failed to provide supporting documents. Many observers contend collusion among government officials and businesspersons artificially inflates Mali’s internal debt.
Growing pressure from international donors for more transparency in public resource management led to changing the appointment process of the Directors of Finance and Equipment. As result, in March 2017, the Minister of Economy and Finances dismissed 15 Directors of Finance and Equipment. Eighteen others were moved to other ministries. The Government of Mali opened a new office in 2017, the Office to Combat Illicit Enrichment (Office central de Lutte contre l’Enrichissement illicite or OCLEI), to combat illicit enrichment by government officials. The OCLEI has the authority to receive asset declarations from public servants, to conduct investigations against government officials suspected of corruption, and to refer cases for prosecution if sufficient evidence is gathered against the defendant. However, the OCLEI’s operations were suspended following civil servants’ union protests against “an unfair law” to fight against illicit enrichment. Negotiations between the unions, the Government of Mali, and donors eventually yielded a satisfactory solution that enabled the office to resume operations, and the office has begun registering asset declarations for certain categories of civil servants.
Resources to Report Corruption
Name: Mamadou Bandiougou Diawara
Economic and Financial Unit (Pole Economique et Financier de Bamako)
Tel. (+223) 20 29 71 34
Samba Alhamdou Baby
The Auditor General (Bureau du Verificateur General)
Tel. (+223) 20 29 70 25
The Accounts Chamber of the Supreme Court (Section des Comptes de la Cour Supreme).
Tel. (+223) 20 22 15 02
Mme. Konaté Salimata Diakité
The Comptroller of Public Services (Controleur General des Services Publics,)
Tel. (+223) 20 22 58 15
10. Political and Security Environment
The U.S. Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Mali is available at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2828.htm. Travel warnings can be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html.
Throughout nearly three decades of multi-party democracy, Mali has consistently encouraged private enterprise and investment. However, a political crisis that unfolded throughout 2012 pushed the country into what has been reported as unprecedented turmoil, leading to deterioration of the economic situation and uncertainty in the investment climate. Some have noted that Mali continues to face significant political and security challenges amidst slow implementation of a peace agreement signed in 2015 that aims to resolve the ongoing conflict in northern Mali. A disparate group of politically-motivated armed groups, militias, bandits, and extremist groups continue to exert influence in wide swathes of northern and central Mali. The Malian government is generally not present in those areas outside of major cities. Furthermore, terrorist groups have increased the frequency and range of their attacks – particularly against the base camps of the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal – in an effort to destabilize the country. The situation in central Mali – namely in the Segou and Mopti Regions – is increasingly unstable due to intercommunal conflict and localized political violence, as well as an increasing number of armed attacks.
Terrorist groups with varying degrees of allegiance to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) operate in Mali, and often pursue local agendas complementary to these global jihadist movements. Groups linked with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which have merged under the banner of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), continued to conduct terrorist attacks throughout 2017 and 2018, primarily targeting international and Malian military forces. These groups have claimed responsibility for recent gun and improvised explosives attacks, kidnappings, and other violent actions in northern and central Mali.
MINUSMA and French troops, in collaboration with Malian security forces, are deployed in the country and are conducting counterterrorism operations that target extremist elements. However, their presence is not sufficient to counter every threat. Extremist groups have attacked UN peacekeepers’ northern base camps in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal throughout 2018 and early 2019. Attacks by violent Islamist extremist groups have moved beyond the traditional conflict zone in the north to the center and south of the country. The area along the border with Burkina Faso, and some remote parts of southern Mali, are increasingly under threat of attack.
While the Malian government, backed by MINUSMA and French forces, has taken steps to reassert control over most of the major cities, much of the North and Center remain unstable. AQIM, long entrenched in northeastern Mali, remains dangerous. AQIM has demonstrated a pattern of kidnapping hostages for ransom and launching operations against neighboring Algeria, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger. AQIM and its local affiliates have been involved in various recent terrorist attacks in Mali, including at a restaurant in Bamako in March 2015; at a hotel frequented by foreigners in Sevaré in August 2015; against the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako in November 2015; and against the Campement de Kangaba hotel in June 2017.
While previous jihadist attacks spared foreign companies except hotels and restaurants, recent attacks targeted infrastructure projects involving foreign companies. In October 2017, jihadists attacked a foreign company in charge of the construction of a road in Timbuktu and destroyed several vehicles. In March 2018, terrorists attacked and destroyed a USD 66 million dam construction project in Djenne. In early 2019, terrorists attacked numerous localities in central Mali resulting in numerous deaths and exacerbating intercommunity violence. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, attacks in the Mopti region alone have led to 600 deaths and thousands of displaced persons since March 2018. The Malian Ministry of Security announced that 150 Malian and foreign soldiers and 440 civilians were killed since the beginning of 2019.