Situation and cooperation

Women carrying a German and a Malian flag on the occasion of the visit of federal minister Gerd Müller to Mali in March 2014

Since the dictator Moussa Traoré was overthrown in 1991, Mali has seen major changes. Democratic structures have been developed and a programme to promote decentralisation has been initiated. Until 2012, however, the implementation of many reforms progressed slowly.

In 2013, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita became the new President of Mali. His election raised high expectations among the people. Meeting them still is a huge challenge. Around half of Mali's population lives in extreme poverty. Out of 1,000 newborns, 115 children die before they reach the age of five. Almost one quarter of the people have no access to safe drinking water, three-quarters lack adequate sanitation. Life expectancy in Mali is a mere 58 years. The level of education is poor. The school enrolment rate is just 60 per cent and only about 53 per cent of the children finish primary school. Two-thirds of the population is illiterate. 80 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, earning a living from farming and livestock breeding. At the same time, there is an increasing trend towards urbanisation that is linked to population growth and rural exodus. This brings with it the challenge of creating jobs and access to basic services for growing numbers of people.

The security situation in the north of the country remains tense and even for the south, terrorism is a threat, albeit less severe. Criminals and terrorist groups finance their activities mainly through illegal trade with drugs and weapons and human trafficking. Its geographic position has made Mali a transit country for human trafficking and refugees who cross Mali on their journey from West Africa to North Africa.

Governance and human rights

The regional and municipal elections that had been scheduled for spring 2014 have been postponed more than once. The tense security situation, a shortage of administrative staff in the north of the country and the high number of Malians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries are the reasons given for this move. By autumn 2015, some 200,000 refugees and internally displaced persons still had not returned to their homes.

Fighting corruption is high on the agenda of the government under President Keita, continues to be a huge challenge however. A considerable amount of attention is given to the annual reports published by the independent auditor (Verificateur Général) appointed by the president in 2004, which has raised public awareness of corruption. But there is no guarantee that every case will be prosecuted.

Human rights are enshrined in Mali's constitution and are largely respected by the government. During the political crisis in 2012, however, cases of human rights violations occurred, especially in the northern provinces. At the request of the Malian government, the International Criminal Court is carrying out preliminary investigations into possible violations of international law.

Female genital mutilation is still being practised in Mali and more than 85 per cent of women and girls are affected by this practice. In 2014, the government announced a law to abolish this cruel practice.

Economic framework

A farmer in Mali is irrigating his field.

Mali's economy is heavily dependent on world market prices for the country's two most important export goods, cotton and gold. Shortcomings in the country’s infrastructure and its dependence on oil imports are, however, a serious obstacle to economic development.

80 per cent of the working population is employed in the agricultural sector. Yet, traditional dry field cultivation has proved unable to provide food security for the rapidly growing population. With support from Germany's programme of development cooperation and from other donors, Mali is therefore now focusing its efforts on an expansion of irrigated agriculture for small farmers along the Niger River.

Following three economically weak years, Mali managed to increase its gross domestic product by 7.2 per cent in 2014. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting economic growth of five per cent for 2015 and 2016. However, in view of Mali's population growth of three per cent, that rate is not sufficient to improve people's living conditions in the long term.

Development cooperation between Germany and Mali

Tailor with his sewing machine on a street in Bamako, Mali

Germany is one of Mali’s largest development partners. When development cooperation was resumed after the crisis in 2012, the BMZ committed some 130 million euros for cooperation with Mali for the years 2013 and 2014. An additional 25 million euros of non-public funds were announced for the same timeframe.

At the end of 2015, the BMZ committed new funds for Mali totalling more than 73 million euros for public development cooperation for the period from 2015 to 2017. Development cooperation between Germany and Mali focuses on the following priority areas:

  • Decentralisation and good governance (including resource governance)
  • Promotion of productive and sustainable agriculture
  • Drinking water supply and wastewater management.

Decentralisation and good governance

Decentralisation is considered to play a key role in political reform processes in order to make progress in poverty reduction and in peace and stabilisation processes. German development cooperation is aimed at strengthening the capacity of decentralised state structures (regions and municipalities) so as to enable them to provide better basic services, promote local economic development and make tax collection at the local level more efficient.

With German support, Malian communities have managed to significantly increase their performance in the last few years so that they were able to contribute to stabilising the country during the 2012/2013 crisis. Today, 90 per cent of the 761 municipalities, districts and regions have staff who have the knowledge and skills required in administration and financial management. More than 50 per cent of local authorities engage in a dialogue with their citizens in order to account publicly for their administrative activities.

The measures under Technical and Financial Cooperation that are aimed at promoting decentralisation in Mali focus on strengthening local authorities. This involves Germany making significant contributions to the local development fund (Fonds National d’Appui aux Collectivités Territoriales, FNACT). This fund is used to finance via Malian public entities the development and maintenance of local infrastructure such as schools, health centres, city halls, granaries and markets.

Resource governance is also part of this priority area. Mali has significant mineral resources, so far however, they have contributed too little to finance sustainable development. It is important to further develop the mining sector in such a way as to ensure that the revenue from it benefits the people. An important step in this direction was the introduction of a digital concession management system, a process which Germany supported. The software provides the authority in charge with a tool to make the process of granting mining concessions more efficient and transparent. What is more, the programme helps to better assess the revenue generated by mining.

Promotion of productive and sustainable agriculture

Market stall in Bamako, Mali

Mali's agricultural sector is affected by huge, climate-related variability in production. With an annual population growth of three per cent, the pressure to make use of all available land is growing all the time. However, the country has huge water reserves and thus enormous potential to expand irrigated agriculture.

Germany is supporting small-scale irrigated agriculture in Mali by helping to develop new irrigation areas, offering the government advisory services and building capacities. The aim is to make more of the potential offered by small farmers using irrigated agriculture and thereby contribute to improving food security and employment opportunities.

Small farmers are trained in managing their land in a sustainable manner and in storing, processing and marketing their produce properly. The family farms receiving support have been able to significantly increase their yields through the new irrigation systems. The increase in vegetable production has led to many more women engaging in agriculture, thus making a contribution to economic and social stability.

Another project involves developing a network of green innovation centres under the "One World – No Hunger" special initiative. Promoting applied research and wide-ranging vocational training, enhancing value chains and food security (mainly by diversifying agricultural production) through the innovation centre and other networked training institutions helps to make the most of the investments in irrigation. The purpose is to support in particular efforts of small farms to increase their production and income.

Another aim is to create new jobs in the processing of agricultural products in order to ensure more of the valued added remains in rural areas.

Drinking water supply and wastewater management

A girl in Mali buys water from a water trader.

Through its development cooperation work, Germany wants to help provide sustainable and safe drinking water supply and adequate sanitation to people in rural areas and smaller towns in Mali. It is intended to improve living conditions especially for poor people and reduce health risks related to unsafe water.

Germany concentrates on building and maintaining drinking water systems. Investment is made available for wells, pipe networks, solar-driven pumps and storage capacities. Some 500,000 people have already been supplied with safe drinking water.

And Germany also promotes projects on wastewater management and sanitation in smaller towns and rural areas. This involves building decentralised wastewater treatment plants and public latrines, for instance at schools and health centres, and running hygiene campaigns.

Promotion of non-governmental organisations

Non-governmental organisations, political foundations, the Civil Peace Service (CPS), agencies engaged in "social structural programmes" and church-based organisations are important partners for implementing development cooperation in Mali. These organisations play a special role, especially in implementing projects in the north of Mali via local staff. A special focus is put on improving the situation of returning refugees by rebuilding social and economic infrastructure in hosting communities in the northern regions and strengthening peaceful conflict resolution processes.

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