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close this bookThe Courier N° 122 July - August 1990 - Dossier Tourism - Country Report: Mali (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)
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Open this folder and view contentsMali: (R)evolution in the rural world

(introduction...)

Two good agricultural years in a row have not just made Mali self - sufficient again. They have also made it a net exporter of grain. There would be nothing unusual about this in a normal year, of course, in a country whose vast hydro - agricultural potential once made it seem destined to be the supplier of all West Africa, but nothing has been normal in the Sahel since the early seventies, particularly the rainfall.

Although the weather is still largely outside man’s control, making every economic forecast a matter of chance in this land of long agricultural tradition, people still try to bring the economy into line wherever they can, rectifying the aim if need be. So Mali, too, is in the throes of adjustment. The various structural and macro - econonzic measures there are going well and the positive effects, combined with decent weather, made a successful year of 1989, with 9.9% real growth of GDP.

Sound economic performance is not the only reason for the satisfaction which the Mali an autorities clearly feel, as, for part of last year, their Head of State was also President of the OAU and in a position to bring Mali out more on the international scene.

But the country is still not out of the woods, as its agricultural future is uncertain. The complementarity of the two lines along which it is working to safeguard its future - food strategy and economic adjustment - has borne fruit, however, and a relaunch of cereal production (thanks to proper rainfall), with greater responsibility for the producers, liberalised marketing at long last and better water control, has gone hand in hand with a significant decline in the role of the State and of the weight of what was a cumbersome and often ill managed public sector.

A land of transition

Mali, a landlocked country of the West African Sahel, covers an area of 1 241 238 km² - almost twice of the size of France and Benelux combined - and shares about 6000 kilometres of border with seven neighbours. Bamako, the capital, is almost at an equal distance from the main outlets on the sea, Dakar (1250 km by rail) and Abidjan (1227 km by road). So this is a land of transition, from the Sahara to the forests of Guinea, and more than half of it is desert.

The sub - desert zone, usually referred to as the Sahel, is some 200 000 km² in area, has poor (300 - 500 mm p.a.) rainfall and sparse, mainly thorny, vegetation and is really only suitable for herding. Further south is a Sudan - type zone where dry savannah gradually gives way to wet savannah, with rainfall of 600 - 1300 mm p.a. and land suitable for the traditional millet, sorghum, maize, cotton, rice and groundnut crops as well as livestock.

A dry season tends to alternate with a rainy one (or winter season, as the local usually call it), but duration and intensity vary widely according to region and, alas, year - as the various lengthy droughts of recent decades have shown.

The Senegal and its confluents flow across a small part of the western fringe of Mali, but the lifeblood is the country’s 1500 - km stretch of the River Niger. The Bambara (Mali’s principal national language) word for Niger is “ Djoliba “, meaning “ plenty of blood”. “Niger”, the more common name, has nothing to do with “Black” at all, but apparently comes from the Berber expression “ ghern - ighe’ren” or “ river of rivers” and it is here that it takes on its full meaning, as this is where its famous majestic loop and vast central delta lie. All Mali’s main towns (other than Kayes on the Senegal) are on its banks or by its inland delta - Bamako, the capital, Su, focus of the development of the Delta, Djennwhose architectural splendours earned it the status of a UNESCO protected site, Mopti, the so - called Venice of the Sahara, Timbuctu, the desert capital, and Gao, which marks the end of the navigable part of the river.

And, obviously, it is along the river, and the navigable waterway it is for four or five months of the year, that the vast majority of the population lives. And it is a young population, as the final figures for the 1987 census show, with 46% of the country’s then 7696000 people under 15. The urban population, at 22 % of the total, was still small at that stage, but it in expanding nonetheless, particularly because of the drought, which encourages people is to leave the countryside, but also because of the higher rate of natural expansion in the towns. The same census put population growth at 1.8 % p.a. since 1976, but the figure for the last decade is usually said to be around 2.7%. Although the average density (only six people per km²) is very low, it is also very unevenly spread. But cause of even greater concern is the 1987 literacy rate of only 19.4%, with educational coverage of 27 % major handicaps to any kind of development.

Mali is not only a land of geographical transition. It is a meeting place of cultures, languages and ways of life, too, with Bambara, Fulani (Peuls), Malinka, Songhai, Soninka, Tuareg and Dogon among the main tribes found there. Some of them are sedentary and others nomadic and some are farmers and others herds men - although the distinction between the two is disappearing in many places. Islam predominates in a population which is 80 - 90% moslem, and everyone shares a prestigious past, for the region known as Mali today has a rich and varied history, known particularly for its three successive famous empires - Ghana (6th century to 12th century), Mali (13th to 15th) and Songhai (15th to 16th). Throughout their history, the people of Mali have developed a feeling for trade and few towns in Africa and further afield are without a tradesman of Malian origin, even today. But, as the Planning Minister, Souleymane Demb says, “ trading and bargaining have never developed a country by themselves”, so Mali is currently aiming for a change of direction and outlook, above all, by putting the emphasis on a spirit of enterprise.

Erratic variations

The many natural constraints (being landlocked, having problems with drought, water management, poor soil, etc) are difficult to get under control and they combine with the handicaps of human resources to make the variations in national output extremely erratic. The average growth of GDP, in real terms, over the past five years (1985 - 89) was 5.6%, peaking at 18.6% in 1986, with a - I % trough in 1985. Although there was still a 9.9 % growth last year, the estimated figure for the current year is zero, agricultural output having declined after the record high of 1988 - 89. But the target for the coming years (1991 - 93) is an average of 4% p.a. nonetheless.

The recent and rather spectacular recovery of the productive sector, in particular thanks to the performances in the production and marketing of food and cash crops, has obviously helped reduce some of the financial deficits and imbalances. Historically, Mali has the reputation of having endemic problems here and, in the 1970s, there was much reference to “ unsuitable economic and financial policies” causing structural problems which were worsened, in turn, by a rapid dcterioration in the terms of trade and repeated natural disasters. The Government tackled this by opening discussions with the IMF in 1982 and embarking on a first series of financial and economic adjustment with its help. There was some progress, but, in 1986, the year of the slump in the price of cotton, the country’s main export, there was talk of “serious problems”, leading to a break with the IMF in 1987. However, the financial crisis then took on proportions such that the Government decided to reopen the dialogue with the Bretton Woods institutions and this led to an agreement on a fresh adjustment programme being concluded with the IMF in August 1988. Various multilateral and bilateral donors, including the European Community, backed it and offered varying degrees of help in liberalising the economy and reducing the role of the state, which gave way to private enterprise.

There are signs of improvement on most financial fronts. The balance of payments, for example, has been showing a surplus for two years now (CFAF 18.9 billion in 1989 and CFAF 11.8 billion in 1988), although there were deficits in 1985 ( - CFAF 22 billion) and 1986 ( - CFAF 17.7 billion). The current payments balance went from 31.2% of GDP in 1985 to 15.1 % last year and the budget deficit (on a commitments basis but excluding grants) has been brought down to 9.5% of GDP.

But the external debt burden is still very considerable, in spite of rescheduling and some cancellation, with a figure of CFAF 727 billion - 126% of GDP - at the end of 1988. The country expects the external partners’commitment to supporting its development drive to continue and, meanwhile, the state is withdrawing wherever it can so as to relieve the strain on the budget and boost revenue by making way for a productive economy based on the growth of the private sector.

There are no special problems attached to cooperating with the Bretton Woods institutions at the moment, Minister Demb confirmed. “We had already made our own diagnosis before they came back and we were clear about the fact that no structure can live beyond its means. For the moment, we share the same point of view and the Community can follow the common guidelines. Only if there was any divergence with the IMF and the IBRD on this would it have to follow our approach instead... Handling the social side of adjustment is a key issue. Education and health are only productive indirectly and we do not have the money to cope with the enormous demands in these sectors, so we are counting on our partners’ collaboration here”. And the same goes for the private sector, which is currently “ poorly structured and concerned mainly with trade and very little with actual enterprise. Obviously we lack the finance and technology to develop this spirit of enterprise and we have problems with our outlets and vocational training, so we are actively looking for partnerships with operators from the North “.

Peasants into businessmen

The Agriculture Minister, Moulaye Mohamed Haidara, says it is already clear that a whole new class of businessmen, the peasants, has surfaced. “Decentralisation and the greater responsibility now on the peasants’ shoulders has made them take their future into their own hands and more and more of them are beginning to go in for self - management and self administration and no longer seem content just to be producers. They are becoming real economic operators who are unwilling to see their production taken away from them”, he said.

In a country where the primary sector represents half of GDP and occupies nearly 90% of the population, agricultural results such as those achieved in 1988 - 89 tend to give rise to some euphoria. In the cereal sector, for example, millet and sorghum production went up by 44.7 % to more than 1.275 million tonnes and paddy rice by more than 55 % to 289000 tonnes. And the same went for cash crops, where cotton seed harvests were up at the 200 000 - tonne mark, as against 143 000 tonnes in 1988, and groundnut figures increased by 200 % to more than 1 12 000 tonnes. “We are now the only country in CILSS to have a cereal surplus, although we get the same rainfall as the others”, the Agriculture Minister said, “ and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel”.

But the striking thing is this man’s conviction that the liberalisation of the cereal market and the greater responsibility demanded of the peasant are behind a profound (r)evolution in Mali’s rural world. “The effects of liberalised cereal markets” “made the rural world sit up and take itself in hand, so structural adjustment has not had the negative effects that were in fact predicted, and the peasants formed village associations - the most sophisticated ones being the tons, the Bambara word for associations for their particular crops. The World Bank’s mistake, if that’s the word, was believing that the peasant was going to stay just a producer and the tradesman just a tradesman all along the line, when, through its own organisations, the rural world has taken over the marketing of cereals. And in spite of the surpluses, the prices they are getting now are the highest for years and. in the long run, in a couple of years, it would come as no surprise to me to see village associations taking over premises in the towns and retailing their cereals direct and later on even going in for export. This would be a good thing, as all the traditional tradesmen would have to do then would be to invest in the processing of agricultural produce. I am by no means unhappy at the way things are going. Quite the contrary. Why shouldn’t we support the new peasant - trader? Devolution of cereal marketing on the economic operators and abolition of the monopoly of OPAM (Mali’s Agricultural Produce Board, which now does no more than manage a buffer food stock) could have made the peasants vulnerable to speculation by the traditional tradesmen, but their village associations went a long way to protecting them from this and it is the tons which are currently controlling the market”.

The positive effects of the cereal market reorganisation programme, the Minister went on, are such that “ we have no regrets about the State’s withdrawal from the rural sector.” On the contrary. We don’t want to be stuck with that any longer and the private operators have to play their part to the full, even if there are problems to begin with. E;veryone has to pull his weight, because we think that is the only sure and economically viable way, one which reflects the actual situation in the field and the prices and the economic and commercial patterns”.

There is more to it, obviously, than achieving self - sufficiency in food, he said. The most important thing is to guarantee supplies in both good and bad years and this means “working along our other main line of activity and getting both our surface and underground water resources under control “, in addition to organising the rural world. Not only is the hydro - electric potential of the three existing dams (at Manantali, Markala and Snguunder - exploited, but not nearly enough is made of the hydro - agricultural potential either and some sources claim that only 2 million of the total 12 million hectares of arable land available here is being used. There is a general drive - in close collaboration with the external donors, of course - to develop and in some cases redevelop several thousand hectares of irrigated land now to increase the guarantee of regular food supplies. The Minister also mentioned the albeit distant (financing has not yet been ensured) possibility of a fourth, CFAF 120 billion, dam, at Tossaye, near Gao, with a potential area of irrigated land of about 200 000 ha. “ This would mean we could develop virtually the whole area from Mopti to Gao. And something not accounted for in the plans is that, by introducing a kind of green revolution in this part of the country, we could be helping halt the advancing desert “.

A great farming and herding tradition

The anti - desertification campaign is one of the main concerns of the Minister of the Environment and Livestock, Morifing Kontoo. “ This is one of our top priorities”, he maintains and indeed the Government has adopted and launched a national desert control programme with a wide range of components, ranging from a campaign to spread information and make people aware of the legal texts governing everything that may have a negative effect on the ecosystem to comprehensive regional development, the adjustment of traditional activities and the establishment of green “ barriers” (which are far more than belts of trees and include crops, forestry and herding, too).

The livestock rationalisation operation, aimed at making this sector part of the economic life of the nation as a whole, is being undertaken with a view to the least possible risk to the ecosystem. This is no easy matter, however, as Mali has a great farming and herding tradition. Livestock represents almost a fifth of GDP and is a big export earner, too, the estimated CFAF 18 billion it brought into the country in 1988 making it second only to cotton.

Mali has one of the biggest herds in the Sahel (more than 4.7 million head of cattle, plus 11 million sheep and goats and about 231000 camels in 1988) and every move poses problems with relations between the farmers and herdsman and with the cattle itself - whose state of health and supplies of water and feed are such that losses are common. And the situation is exacerbated by drought, obviously. Losses in 1972 - 73, for example, were put at CFAF 13 billion and those in 1982 - 85 at almost CFAF 18 billion.

Most cattle is exported on the hoof, with all the problems that entails, and most of it goes to the neighbouring countries on the coast. Morifing Konays that very few dealers export meat as such, which is why all the professionals of this sector will soon be looking at the problem of livestock as a whole. And one of the items on the agenda, the Minister said, will certainly be “ the ever greater threat to our exports from subsidised meat imports from Argentine and the areas covered by the EEC’s common agricultural policy”.

Here too, structural adjustment is making its presence felt. The idea is to get the herdsman more and more involved in the economic fabric of the nation, a time - consuming task, “ bearing in mind the persistence of tradition”, the Minister said. Livestock associations are gradually educating the herdsman, maybe even making him literate and giving him training, and he is being introduced to the techniques of grazing, animal health and marketing so as to improve the livestock networks and the economy as a whole. The Minister also plans a stage - by - stage integration of farming and herding, which he sees as being “ interdependent and complementary”. And he is convinced that “Mali has learnt from the past and both the people and the authorities are now in a better position to contain the effects of any further drought” - although he obviously hopes they do not have to put this to the test.

Mining and industry poorly developed

The primary sector is clearly preponderant in the Malian economy and the secondary sector makes only a relatively small contribution (about 12%) to GDP. Many of the industrial enterprises were public ones until the recent reforms and in great need of rationalisation, privatisation or just plain liquidation. On top of the usual handicaps of a narrow market in a landlocked country, a poor international economic environment and so on, the private firms also had to contend with a national environment which was often not conducive to their development. In any case, this sector depends to a large extent on agricultural performance, agro - industry representing almost 40% of the total and textiles (cotton) accounting for almost a quarter of the value added in industry.

A great deal of work has gone into geological and mineral research because the potential could be considerable, as it is, for example, in neighbouring Niger, Algeria, Mauritania and Guinea. Good deposits of bauxite (800 million tonnes of 40 - 45 grade ore), iron ore (about I million tonnes) and manganese (about 3.5 million tonnes) have been located, for example, but the conditions of exploitation, far away in landlocked areas with no energy supplies, not to mention financial considerations, are far from being encouraging. Uranium and oil prospection has not come up with anything so far, but salt, phosphates and gypsum are already being worked and Mali revived an old production tradition - alongside the small - time panners who have always existed - with the first 55.249 kg of gold from the Dyama field in February.

The tertiary sector is clearly dominated by the import - export trade - which, bearing in mind the limited controls along what is a very long frontier, probably makes a far greater contribution to GDP than the official figures suggest.

Reducing the role of the state

The tertiary sector is also feeling the full force of the austerity policy which accompanies the structural adjustment programme, the main features of which include cutting civil service spending in the state budget, rationalising public firms and making the private sector more dynamic again.

All this, of course, has a direct effect on employment. Automatic state jobs for young graduates were done away with in 1983, for example, and supernumary civil servants are encouraged to resign. And what about all the victims of the rationalisation, privatisation and liquidation of the state firms? The difficult job of finding a solution to this complex problem rests on the shoulders of Mali’s only woman Minister, Diallo Lalla Sy. “Given all our employment problems”, she says, “ we ran a Round Table with our main funders early this year”. The target groups for the moment are young graduates, “ compressed “ (redundant) workers and those taking early retirement. And how can they be catered for? Roughly speaking, the plan hinges on creating a network of small and medium - sized firms and industries. “The idea is to make for an environment that is conducive to the development of a spirit of enterprise and to remove the guilt attached to private initiative, encourage it even, getting lines of credit and guarantee funds organised with our external partners to finance the risks that initiative entails”, she said. The normal way of pruning the civil service currently with about 45 000 people on the payroll, is by means of voluntary departures, and a first, USAID - financed scheme provided an opportunity to retire more than 600 staff although there were about 2000 applications. The pros and cons of the scheme have been assessed and another is to be run soon. “We have already finalised 1800 applications for departure and demand could well outstrip supply... We are not just aiming to save on budget spending and make the private sector more dynamic by injecting these staff into it. We are also trying to improve the efficiency of the people who stay in the civil service”. The ability to analyse and control the labour market absolutely has to be improved, the Minister maintained. She also highlighted the Community scheme for young graduates and civil service departure volunteers (see article on page 32), the first results of which are very encouraging.

What future to choose?

Economic structural adjustment is not the only thing occupying - and preoccupying - Mali, as the country is by no means indifferent to what is going on in the world as a whole and in Africa itself. In April, for instance, the country’s single party, the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UPDM), held a conference on exercising democracy within the party. Djibril Diallo, the political secretary of BEC (the executive office which runs the party) told participants: “ Of course, a new wind is blowing in the four corners of the planet, questioning long - established values and hierarchies. And this wind, which some have no hesitation in calling the wind of freedom and democracy, the only thing which can engender multiparty systems, has already shaken up the countries of the East. The continent of Africa will be unable to avoid the political tempest now blowing through the world and everyone is preparing to receive it in his own way and with his own means.

The Malian people are well aware that multiparty systems have their advantages and disadvantages, just as single party systems do, and it was in 1974 that they opted for a constitutional, single party which derives its strength and distinctive from the fact that it is anchored in Malian culture and in the legitimate concerns of a hard - working population. Is this really outmoded now? We believe that the people of Mali are mature enough to make the choices their development dictates when the time comes, completely democratically, calmly and serenely and in a spirit of constructive dialogue, in accordance with their traditional values.”

Some of Mali’s leaders, and Planning Minister Souleymane Demb for one, think that debating the multiparty issue is maybe being a slave to fashion. “ In this country we have dialogue between the state and the people actually working in development at all levels, so we really do have democracy. Our main task, and our common aim, is to make sure that everyone has a proper standard of living and our society is already organised in such a way as to have a permanent dialogue on this at every level. So there is no point in wasting effort and resources on setting up a multiparty system which isn’t called for here” (see also the interview with the President).

But only time will tell. Meanwhile, Mali is still living with the problems of its landlocked situation and the rigours of a Sahelian climate. Talking about a revolution in the rural world could be overlooking the calm strength with which the peasantry preserves traditions. Calling it evolution could be overlooking the extent to which it is responding to the new environment emerging from structural adjustment. If it rains and if water resources are properly controlled at last, it is not the peasant who will be the main brake on Mali’s drive to go beyond self - sufficiency in food and guarantee its future.

Roger DE BACKER

Interview with Président Moussa Traoré

“No short-sighted mimicking of perestro in Africa “ says President Moussa Traorn an interview with The Courier

General Moussa Traoras been Mali’s Head of State since November 1969, when, at the age of 32, he led the group of officers which took over the reins of power. Now, at OAU summits, he is one of the old guard and people heed his words and support his actions - and indeed there were many of them during his term of off ice as President of the OAU (May 1988 - July 1989), with all the sub - regional conflicts to deal with.

He also took a special interest in Southern Africa and worked hard to do something about the continent’s debt, in combination with the deterioration in its terms of trade, a paradoxical situation he comments on in this interview. But he starts by looking at the political upheavals on the world scene - where perestro seems to be behind some astonishing reversals.

· Things are changing in Eastern Europe. Single parties are becoming a thing of the past and liberalisation and democratisation are the order of the day. Do you think that the needs of this part of the world are in competition with those of the developing countries? And do you have the impression that Africa is swimming against the tide?

- Since perestro, Eastern Europe has undergone profound political and economic reform, in some cases bringing down political systems which had been in place for the past 40 years. That is their prerogative. It is the legitimate aspiration of the peoples of those countries. But we in Africa do not believe we have to do what everybody else does. That would be short - sighted mimickry. Eastern Europe’s culture is different from Africa’s. All the countries of Eastern Europe have their own identity, just like the countries of Africa - Mali, for instance. What applies in the Soviet Union and Hungary and Romania and Poland doesn’t apply in Africa in general or Mali in particular, so it is wrong forever to be thinking that Africa is swimming against the tide of what is going on elsewhere, in Eastern Europe in the case in point.

It needs reforms - economic ones certainly and in some cases political ones too, maybe, when the legitimate aspirations of the people require it. Your trip to Mali coincides, in fact, with the start of a national debate on democracy in the Party. A large majority of our leaders and cadres think that the Party texts are good, but that an effort is needed to choose cadres within the Democratic Union of the Malian People. To paraphrase the Pope, who talked about “happiness merchants”, I should say that it’s by no means sure that these merchants do indeed sell happiness. It’s not true. Our people will only agree to consume what they produce - by which I mean that they will only embark on courses of action which fit in with their own cultural values.

As to whether Eastern European needs are in contradiction with ACP ones - I should like to say that there is a Convention linking the Twelve to the ACPs. I am not convinced that there is any conflict between Eastern European and ACPs needs, but if the Twelve want to help their brothers in the East, is it their absolute right to do so and the ACPs have absolutely nothing against it. It is up to the ACPs, and the Africans in particular, to find the best ways of ensuring that their development is founded on their own peoples and that the Community contribution is only a top - up. So I am not party to the fear about Eastern Europe taking the bread out of the ACPs’ mouth.

· And you don’t subscribe to the view that Africa is becoming marginalised, becoming less and less competiive, with a tendency to disinvestment...?

Listen - you hear about “ the marginalisation of Africa” in some circles, but what is it supposed to mean? For several decades now, Africa, which has plenty of raw materials, has been exporting its commodities to the industrialised world, with the gap between the cost of production and price of external sales widening all the time. But over this period, Africa has run itself into debt to develop its agriculture, its communications facilities and so on - its development infrastructure in general, that is to say - and, with dwindling raw materials prices, it is perfectly normal for it to be finding repayments difficult.

Some people call this marginalisation - which is why, when I was President of the OAU, I kept saying that the continent’s debt problem had to be linked to its development. Until it is, the debt won’t be paid. When you bring down the price of raw materials and say: “ You’ve still got to pay your debts”, it is like telling someone who can usually jump two metres that you’re going to stop giving him anything to eat but he’s still got to jump that high anyway. He’ll be too weak to do so. Africa is going to overcome its problems and stop being called marginalised, of course. Practical steps have been taken in the subregions to create regional economic communities and even a big African common market. That is one way of solving Africa’s problems - which will stop being expressed in terms of marginalisation.

· Mali is currently applying the global and sectoral structural adjustment policies negotiated with the Bretton Woods Institutions. What are you hoping for in this field from the other donors, including the Community, where structural adjustment is one of the major innovations of LomV? Do you expect to see some kind of specificity in the EEC’s involvement?

Mali is indeed involved in a number of adjustment programmes, as you said. There is the 4th structural programme with the IMF and three is the public enterprises adjustment programme with IDA. And there other programmes are being negotiated with IDA, too, including an adjustment programme for agriculture and one for education. We have made some progress, thanks to the structural adjustment programmes, but all the country’s economic difficulties haven’t been ironed out yet.

We hope to be able to overcome them with the help of our development partners, who include the EEC. Mali is delighted that LomV provides extra resources to help with economic rationalisation policies, and it thinks it can meet the criteria of eligibility laid down in Article 246. There are three things we hope our adjustment programme donors will do. First of all, we hope that they make their financial assistance within a concerted framework which is in line with the position of the adjusting country. It will be easy to make a success of a programme in which each party is dovetailed like a piece in a puzzle. Secondly, we hope the donors give more and more of their financial support to programmes to retrain people who have been made redundant and encourage self - employment schemes for youngsters. And lastly, we hope that the structural adjustment programmes don’t lead our economies into debts which we cannot handle.

· Some people are worried about the social side of structural adjustment and its effects on sectors such as education and health. What do you think about this and what policy do you recommend in the long term?

- We have always maintained that man was the alpha and the omega of all development, or, to put it plainly, that the aim of all development is to raise the standard of living and create happiness. That is to say that no process which fails to take education and health into account can claim to create wellbeing. Can you produce without being in good health? Can you produce and boost production and productivity without having training or skills? If the answer is a resounding no, then clearly education and health are a sine qua non of successful economic and financial recovery programmes.

· The welfare state duesn’t seem to be a viable proposition in Africa and so the idea is to look to the people. But there will always be sections of the urban population who are unable to cope. Will they be passed over?

- To the best of my knowledge, the welfare state doesn’t work anywhere and I defy anyone to show me it does. But the urban populations of Africa have always tended to be favoured in spite of being relatively better off and more demanding than the rural populations. So if the rural populations can get themselves organised to take their development in hand, why can’t the urban ones? It’s a question of justice and fairness. Why should the have - nots support the haves? The urban populations should get themselves organised to cater for their own development demands in the same way as the rural ones and all the State will have to do is top up where its help is vital and coordinate, harmonise and control for the benefit of the communities.

How do you see the emergence of a private sector and of an entrepreneurial spirit rather than just a trading one in your country? How can you avoid the disappearance of the old stale monopolies leading to a monopolistic private sector?

- Mali has always had a private sector. It didn’t develop to any great extent, but that was more a matter of economic and historical choice than anything else. Our civilisation has always had an entrepreneurial spirit in trade, and barter too. As you know, Mali’s economic fabric is relatively weak and flimsy and has to be strengthened and diversified and organised - a long - term aim which can only be achieved in successive stages.

The private sector, as the industrialised nations see it through trade, industry and business, is certainly not so strong in Mali and the reforms being carried out here at the moment are aimed at getting it to be a driving force in economic growth, with the State only involved in the strategic firms. What the State has to do to help the emergence of a modern private sector is to create the sort of institutional, economic, tax and legal environment that encourages private initiative and makes for the growth of national economic activity.

· What are the main practical results of the recent Round Table on employment and how does Mali intend coping with its urgent job creation requirements?

- As you know, our country has embarked upon a series of economic and institutional reforms to get the economy off the ground again - with very marked contraction of the job market as a direct result of the trimming of the public sector and the policy of cutting public spending by restricting civil service recruitment. For all these reasons and because of the overriding need to do something about the situation, the Party and the Government held a national debate to sound out the possibilities of promoting employment in our country and see what stratogies to use in the short, the medium and the long term. The recent Round Table on employment is, if you like, the culmination of the national process of greater consultation of the development partners who had manifested support - and indeed their support was confirmed at this major meeting.

The practical results, we think, are the willing ear which our partners have lent to our concerns, consolidating the framework of joint consultation and making it more operational, and the commitments to help us with technical support schemes to back up the creation and development of firms and assist individuals and socio - professional groups with integration, reintegration and conversion through training, advanced training and induction courses and with developing our analytical skills and national employment policy management ability.

This common desire to invest in people, developing their sense of initiative and their basic and advanced training to invest in public, private and associative institutions so as to support firms and the transfer of technical, management and commercial know - how and to invest in improving analytical skills and the management of the programmes of the institutions responsible for running the employment policy, together with its translation into effective schemes, is, we believe, the platform which will bring us practical results.

Basically, we have agreed to make the employment programme hinge on the setting up of companies. These seem to me to be very practical results indeed and the Government will be monitoring the implementation process very carefully. Lasting employment promotion, of course, cannot be managed outside the global context of the national economy, which has to be rationalised and revived with the help of all the sectors concerned with investment. Our country is being determined about this and the results are generally thought to be very considerable.

· In this time of budgetary austerity, with all the pressure for reform in the short and medium term, what has happened to the longer - term priorities such as agriculture, infrastructure and anti - desertification?

- Africa still has a long way to go with its development. As long as there are Africans without enough to eat, as long as the continent is without the basic infrastructure it needs to develop its resources and as long as we are still waiting for the present large - scale schemes to have a practical effect on the protection of the environment, our priority aims - which are clearly set out in African documents such as the Lagos Plan of Action and the programmes of the CEAO and ECOWAS, of which Mali is a member - will remain so.

It is sometimes very difficult, technically and politically, to reconcile the furtherance of these aims with our present short - term economic difficulties.

· Although young people are a major asset as far as development is concerned, there has to be a population policy - and this is one of the new aspects of Lom V. What are the main features of your birth spacing policy?

- Young people are a big asset as far as development is concerned, of course, but is goes without saying that they have to be hale and hearty and not suffering the effects of debilitating childhood diseases or malnutrition. This is why we have introduced a birth spacing policy, aimed primarily at protecting the health of mothers and children. Properly spaced births give the mother a chance to recover and more time to look after the baby’s health and diet, particularly if she breast - feeds. And it has to be admitted that this has its effects on the rational management of the family’s budget.

This birth spacing policy of ours has had practical, conclusive results and has won the total support of the people because of it, thanks to the many publicity campaigns the Party and the Government have organised and, above all, to the National Union of Malian Women, which is behind it all the way. And apart from the publicity, which is a vital part of the policy of course, we had to make known all the methods of contraception which would help achieve our aim. Family planning centres were opened, training and advanced training courses run for all levels of staff and an association, the Malian Association for the Welfare and Promotion of the Family, was formed. And, of course, our development partners gave considerable support to the Government’s efforts. All this is being evaluated at the moment.

· Mali still has very poor educational coverage and literacy rates. How can you overcome this sort of obstacle to development? On the other hand, the country’s Medersa establishments, (Koran schools), are on the increase. Do you see them as a good alternative to stagnating lay schools?

- Schooling in Mali is indeed 30 %,at the moment, which is very low, and there are a number of things we have to do if we are going to improve it. First of all we have to use the national languages, which have proved their worth over nearly a decade now. And then we have the Medersa schools, which existed before French was taught in Mali. Timbuctu was a major centre of culture, the pride of Arabic teaching in Africa, with great scholars, at a time when the industrialised countries of today were still at a tribal stage, and Djennas a very important cultural centre, too, and in mediaeval times it had more than 1000 teachers, doctors and scholars who had studied in Arabic. So if we are to achieve our socioeconomic development aims, we have to start by using our own cultural resources.

· Mali has been self - sufficient in food and producing supluses for two years now. Can you capitalise on this in future by, for example, protecting yourselves against the volatility of agricultural production?

- Mali has indeed been had a food surplus for the past two years. The combined cereal surplus from 1988/89 and 1989/90, for example, was an estimated 600 000 tonnes at the end of 1989. Obviously there is benefit to be derived from this situation actual self - sufficiency thanks to proper supplies through greater domestic trade between one area and another, sales from cross - border trade, processing to add value and the replenishment of our buffer stocks. There could have been more if the sub - region had been properly integrated, but we have the moral satisfaction of helping to ease the food supply situation of some of our brothers in area.

As to being prepared for the ups and downs of agricultural production, let me tell you that we are using this as an opportunity to launch major (surface and underground) water control programmes to make our agriculture more reliable. And the cereal surplus is forcing us to expand and improve our storage facilities and try and process the product and get the producers interested in diversification. What we have to do is to produce and diversify both quantity and quality in the best combination of agriculture and livestock.

Interview by R.D.B.

Interview with Dr. N’Golo Traoré, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

“ Africa is not swimming against the tide “ says Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister N’Golo Traor

Dr N’Golo TraorMali’s Foreign Minister, is also in charge of International Cooperation and therefore National Authorising Officer as well. A Courier interview with him cavered a wide range of topics and some of what he had to say on specific, up - to - the - minute issues, is printed here.

· On poor regional trade

- Mali does a lot of trade with its neighbours, with Cd’Ivoire, Senegal and so on, and it is trying to see that this sort of thing becomes the rule throughout the sub - region. Obviously there is a lot more trading between North and South now because of imported capital goods and our exported raw materials, but the interests of the countries of Africa would be served, maybe not by a reversal of the present trends, but by further development of the trade between the various nations. And the possibilities are enormous. Mali is a fundamentally agricultural country with vast animal production potential, and places like Cd’Ivoire and Ghana and Nigeria are traditionally short of such things, so there is a huge and fruitful opening here for trade between coastal countries like them and countries like us and Burkina Faso and Niger. The processing industries growing up here and there would also be more profitable propositions if they were harmonised so they could all aim for the same big market. The work could be judiciously shared out among the different units so that every country gained something from having the various factories working for the same big market in the CEAO and ECOWAS.

· On the sometimes controversial role of the IMF and the World Bank

- I have to say that, when Mali asks the Bretton Woods institutions for their help, it has already diagnosed the situation itself - I am harking back here to 1978 - 79, when we had to take stock of the critical situation of our state companies and firms, which accounted for 70 % of the national economy. Obviously, the Bretton Woods institutions have their own rules. We knew exactly what they were. We analysed them and we analysed our programme and we assessed our ability to accept some features and reject others and it is in the light of this that we decided on the economic recovery and structural adjustment plan with the help of the IMF, the World Bank and the other partners. Obviously programmes of this sort are extremely difficult from the point of view of their social effects and of the technical and professional skills you need to keep proper control of all the essential workings of the economy and go for growth when there is no guarantee that the international economic situation is such that you can actually get the results your efforts should bring. Mali knows what it is doing in having this programme and in acting to run it to the country’s best advantage.

· On the Single Market of 1992

- I don’t know whether Europe will be a closed fortress or whether it will still be open to cooperation with Africa as it has been in the past, but this is an extremely important issue and must be monitored carefully. It is linked to the way Europe perceives its interests in a reorganising world and, obviously, the present keenness on Eastern Europe is an historical fact which Europe’s partners are forced to cater for. But I don’t see any call for alarm. I think it’s perfectly natural for Europe to want to organise itself inside its boundaries, with all the peoples of Europe, and try and get the problems of the technical, human, social and cultural sides of development under control. But I am sure that Africa, which is a privileged partner of Europe in a number of fields, will find a mutually advantageous way of cooperating with it. I think the problem has to be seen in terms of real, identified interests which are embodied in a real policy of cooperation. I think that Europe is showing signs of opening up. And at all events, there is no point in Africa shutting its doors - unless it has to for reasons beyond its control.

· On contagious democracy from the East

- The events in the East are not just a spontaneous phenomenon, in spite of the fact that they occurred at a virtually unheard - of speed, and the changes were only possible because of a certain maturing of the peoples of Eastern Europe meeting an intense need for freedom, democracy and the satisfaction of various social and cultural needs. I don’t think it will be spontaneous generation in Africa either. There will be a maturing of the peoples of the continent and, whenever the conditions are right, I think the African countries will find the proper response, in their midst, to this need for freedom and democracy and for access to social and cultural goods through the conquest of industrial technology. So I don’t think that Africa is swimming against the tide.

· On structural adjustment under LomV

- We have noticed a substantial improvement in the way our problems are understood, because the fact that structural adjustment programmes are taken into account now is something to be welcomed, particularly in view of the emphasis on the ACPs being autonomous when it comes to identifying the need for structural adjustment, laying down guidelines (political ones included) for it and deciding on the programmes which are to get support. Too big a gap between the hard - line measures and the cushioning ones is a very, very serious threat to the structural adjustment programmes - and not just to their political and social acceptability either, but to efficient implementation, because of the difficulties it creates with the partners and I think it is a good thing for the EEC to set the example here.

Interview by R.D.B.

Nomads who refuse to die out

Nomad - what a strange shift in meaning. Etymologically, it means “ rearer of animals on pasture “, but now it is ordinarily applied to someone who is forever on the more, be he farmer (as in Indonesia, where itinerant growers raise crops on burnt earth), hunter (as in Amazonia) or fisherman (as round the great lakes of Africa) or of course herdsman, like the Tuareg of the Sahara, who are among the biggest nomadic tribes, along with the Bedouins and, far from Africa, the Kirghiz, the Mongols and the Tibetans.

Nomads, wherever they are, are never popular with the politicians, who usually try and get them to settle and may even persecute them - Europeans still remember Hitler’s attempts at eliminating the gypsies. Their way of life seems a malediction to many, as the myth of the “wandering jew” shows, yet many people still follow it and there are probably about 900 000 Tuareg, for example, on the move between the Touat group of oases in southern Algeria, west of Tad and the Sudano - Sahel zone. Most of their camps are in northern Mali and Niger, where they go to look for water and grazing land for their animals (cattle, camels, sheep and goats) and to obtain the one or two consumer goods they needs the semolina, millet, tea and sugar, and the salt they have to go hundreds of miles in caravans to Taoudenni to fetch, to add to their own curds and rancid butter and, on good days, mutton from their herd.

In northern Mali, there are many groups moving about in this way, travelling up to the Adrar des Iforas, for example, or down to Gao or the Niger border with the changing seasons and the situation of water and grazing resources. Every man and every boy over the age of 12 covers many miles every day, rising early in the morning to take the animals to the well or the pasture, feeding and watering them, rounding up strays, drawing water from the well to fill the skins the donkeys carry, and getting back to camp before nightfall - all this because the pastures are soon exhausted, since there is no water to replenish them, and water points are rare even rarer since resources have been run down to nothing by the drought of 1974 and 1984, causing traditional grazing grounds’ now useless, to be abandoned. And fewer pastures means over - use of those which remain, friction between the herdsmen, and a harder and harder life for the nomads. But water, precious water, exists. It is there, after every rainfall, when dried up up wadis turn into violent torrents carrying gallons and gallons of water, most of it to evaporate or be lost in the sand. Once upon a time, they say, many of these wadis flowed naturally into large ponds, but some of them eroded their beds, hollowing them out until the waterline was below the overflow level. So now the level has to be raised again during periods of flow.

Hence the idea of a man who is no ordinary Tuareg (he is of French origin), El Bechir, who has been adopted by the Chamanamas group and lived in the desert for years. He suggests channelling surface water to feed the water table, regenerating ponds and natural pastures and setting up reserves of water stored in tanks. Two dams and two tanks could be built on a 20 000 km² area of grazing land south of Kidal (stones and earth to be shifted cement purchased local labour to provide the maintenance small items of equipment) for CFAF 3 million per dam and CFAF 4.5 million per tank, such a ridiculously small sum that “ there is no point” in bothering a financial institution. An NGO maybe... but could it be found’?

Technically speaking, the idea is a simple one. The (filter) dams built of large blocks of rock piled one on top of the other and fixed with gablons, with downstream protection of the wadi banks should, when the wadi is in spate after a storm, allow for an outflow to be channelled through tracks downstream to stagnant ponds to constitute important reserves for herds.

Siphons along the flowpaths should feed the water table. An experimental dam of this type, built with the help of Mali’s National Directorate of Rural Engineering, enabled the technical and financial assumptions to be checked. The 900 m³ tanks, filled with rainwater run - off, should mean that a few herding families (with 200 - 300 head of cattle) can settle on a seasonal basis in an area of abundant pastureland 50 km from any other water point.

What is the point, it will perhaps be asked, of trying to keep the Tuareg in such a “ primitive” way of life instead of getting them to settle down and have the benefits of modern “ civilisation “? Quite simply because this is what they seem to want. There are still people for whom happiness is not congregating in a slum on the edge of an averagely wealthy city, breaking with tradition and desperately seeking a job in town.

Should they be left to die out?

M. - H.B.

EEC - Mali cooperation

Mali’s relations with the Community are especially important because the country very much depends on the outside world for both supplies and development financing. And the Community is its biggest trading partner, accounting for more than half its exports.

Since the advent of Lomolicy with the 4th EDF, resources have been increased and adapted to the needs of the moment and there has been non - programme aid on top of them to help cope with the harmful effects of unforeseeable situations caused by drought, export price slumps, epidemics and so on.

A total of Ecu 97.7 million was provided under Lom - Ecu 79.9 m of it for EDF - EIB projects and programmes, Ecu 9.8 m in Stabex payments (for groundnuts, cotton and gum arabic), Ecu I m in exceptional aid and Ecu 7 m from the Natali Plan. The total for LomI was Ecu 124.6 m, with Ecu 99.4 m of it going to EDF - EIB projects and programmes, Ecu 10.6 m in Stabex payments (for groundnut oil and other groundnut products and karit Ecu 13.3 m in exceptional aid and Ecu 1.3 m from the Natali Plan. The various figures for LomII, totalling Ecu 178.6 m, were Ecu 157.5 m (EDF - EIB projects and programmes), Ecu 20.3 m (Stabex, for cotton), Ecu 0.8 m (exceptional aid) and Ecu 15 m (Debt Programme).

And then there has been aid outside the framework of the Convention, such things as food aid (worth Ecu 41.2 m over the 1979 - 89 period) and cofinancing with NGOs (Ecu 3.8 m).

Regional cooperation allocations have also been stepped up over the successive Conventions and, by LomII, the sum of Ecu 185 m was available for West Africa under this heading. Mali is involved in a number of regional schemes aimed at improving the forecasting of agricultural conditions (there is a permanent Diagnosis project, for example) and preserving the region’s natural resources.

But despite the considerable increase in resources, the rate of disbursement has not always kept up with the rate of commitment, delays being caused both by the cumbersome procedure of all parties concerned and the complexity of recent programmes (Food Strategy Support, Food Security in the 5th region etc).

The Commission has announced an initial allocation of Ecu 155 m for the indicative programme under LomV (this includes Ecu 19 m from EIB - managed resources) and there will no doubt be further Commission resources over and above this, particularly from Stabex and the structural adjustment support facility. And there is the regional aid quota and extra - Convention aid, too.

Cooperation under LomII



(ECU million)

Indicative programme (revised)



· Food strategy support programme


19.5

· Support for grass - roots schemes (micro - projects)


3.0

· Food security programme


21.4

· Programme to intensify rice crops on large irrigated plots


61.2

· Studies, technical assistance and miscellaneous


2.4

· Company creation support


3.5

· Special import programme


25.0

· Risk capital


14.0

· not committed


1.0





Sub - total

151.0

Outside indicative programme



· Emergency aid

0.8


· Stabex

20.3


· Risk capital (EIB)

6.5






Sub - total

27.6





Total

178.6

Adapting to circumstances

The relative weight of the different sectors of Community assistance has changed and new types of aid have appeared as one Convention has followed another. The 4th EDF, for example, put the emphasis on infrastructure (with the SnguDiama and Manantali dams and the Sienso - Srnd Bla - San roads) and the rural sector (Su Rice Scheme, the development of fisheries, food crops, etc) and paid some attention to the social sector, too (improvements to health facilities in Bamako and the Nioro region and the building of health posts and dispensaries). The 5th EDF continued along these lines with further financing for the Sngund Manantali dams, roads, phase II of the Su Rice Scheme, health infrastructure at Bamako and so on, although there were new projects too the village water engineering operation in the 1st, 2nd and 5th regions, livestock development in the north east, geological and mineral prospection, micro - projects and assistance for the Ministry of Planning to facilitate the programming of Commission schemes in Mali.

With the 6th EDF, some original features have appeared, multi - sectoral programmes (including a special import programme) now being included and Commission schemes being focused on the 4th and 5th regions. The programmes should enhance the effect of EEC cooperation in that focal area. Two more programmes, on food security and agricultural production, plus a programme of micro - projects, are also being run and there is a special import programme of Ecu 25 m to cushion various economic and financial imbalances by financing imports of two products which are vital to the Malian economy - sugar (20 000 tonnes) and hydrocarbons (60 000 tonnes). These products will be sold on the local market and the money used for a counterpart fund to finance job creation, development schemes and structural adjustment support.

None of this of course means that the Community is neglecting either its schemes in other parts of the country or its regional operations. The 6th EDF has also seen financing for trade events, the purchase and distribution of vital medicines in the 6th and 7th regions, the financing of an HT line between Bamako and Su and support for the CMDT with EIB capital (Ecu 20.5 m) and there have been two original high - impact schemes in addition, one to provide support for the reorganisation of the cereal market (PRMC) and the other to set up small businesses.

Original, high - impact schemes

We shall take the older of these, the cereal market reorganisation operation, first. Since 1981 - 82, the Malian Government has been running a new policy with its Cereal Market Reorganisation Programme (PRMC) and backing from nine countries and bodies providing food aid (i.e. seven bilaterals Belgium, Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the USA and two international organisations the EEC and the WFP).

Reorganisation of the cereal market

The new policy, which includes the liberalisation of cereal prices and the cereal trade, marks state withdrawal by changing the Cereal Board, which had a monopoly, into a competitive body whose job is now confined to looking after food security. The informal private sector is being converted into a socio - professional sector which can take over most of the work hitherto carried out by the public sector.

The first phase of implementation of the policy (1981 - 82 1985 - 86) was at a time of considerable shortages, so the approach had to be in terms of cereal availability - i.e. local production plus external aid donations and commercial imports.

During these years of penury, the Government stuck to its major political commitment to liberalisation and refrained from bringing back the old economic controls. And the authorities organised direct exchanges on the primary circuit between groups of producers and consumer cooperatives and producers and breeders, too, and encouraged the private sector to transport goods from the production sites to the urban centres and places with shortfalls. At the same time, OPAM (Mali’s Agricultural Produce Board) set up a buffer stock and this was sold mainly through the consumer cooperatives in accordance with a national food plan produced annually with a view to sharing the programme resources fairly.

These measures did not solve all the problems, but they considerably relieved what had looked like very dangerous tension. From 1985 - 86 onwards, with the long - awaited return to “ normal “ harvests, food security (in which the country’s consumer requirements are covered by the tonnage it harvests) was able to be tackled. The problem was to contain the real supply with the actual demand too low, and this was achieved by encouraging the peasants to store, the village organisations to purchase and store and the private sector to store. The private sector kept its buying strictly to National Buffer Stock (SNS) requirements. New ways of financing had to be found to go from cereal shortage to cereal balance - and without too much help from the state either, in view of the resources which could be mobilised.

The Community, which has made a massive contribution to the PRMC (45000 tonnes of cereal supplied in money equivalent since 1986), is also financing a technical assistant in the Ministry of Finance to act as a link between the Malian authorities and the group of donors.

The other distinctive aspect of the Community’s work in Mali has to do with setting up firms and settling young graduates in employment. Thanks to four offices in Bamako, Su, Sikasso and Mopti (a fifth is to be opened in Kayes soon), almost 300 small firms have been financed by the project and almost 1100 jobs made available. Almost every area of the economy (agri - food, distribution, art and craft, health etc) has received financing through the informal sector which has always found it very difficult to get bank credit hitherto (see article on page 32). the encouraging results of the first two - year phase, which is just coming to an end, mean that a second phase can be envisaged with optimism.

Regional cooperation schemes

Any review of the Community’s fields of cooperation in Mali would be incomplete without mention of the regional schemes. Priority schemes here include:

- using photo-voltaic energy to pump surface and underground water and run community equipment (medical retrigeration facilities, lighting, TV and batteries);

- promoting butane gas as a substitute for energy derived from wood;

- providing primary school teachers and pupils with training in and information on the protection of the environment.

These will supplement schemes already being run as part of DIAPER, the regional food security permanent diagnosis operation. They are aimed at building up a better knowledge of the rural world to make for more efficient forecasting and they are backed by a European Community Statistical Office unit, which has been operating in Mali since 1985. In addition to its work with DIAPER, this unit has also helped the Early Warning System responsible for detecting areas threatened with food imbalances and targeting populations suffering from chronic or periodical food shortages.

Creating an entrepreneurial class

by Georges NICOLET

An EDF project to help set up companies and settle young graduates in jobs first saw the light of day in July 1987. The aim was to start providing an opening both for young graduates with no jobs to go to and civil servants taking voluntary retirement. Others interested in business could take advantage of the scheme, too. So the basic aim, it could be said, was to create an entrepreneurial class in Mali.

It is a pilot project, under the aegis of the Ministry of Employment and the Civil Service, and it has so far resulted in four offices being opened (in Bamako, Su, Sikasso and Mopti), with a probable fifth scheduled for Kayes in the coming months. A first line of credit of Ecu 1.4 million has already been used up and a second, of Ecu 3.2 m, is now available. To date (end February 1990), 263 small and medium - sized firms have been financed, creating almost 1100 new jobs, with investments totalling upwards of CFAF 1.2 billion.

Various sectors of the Malian economy are involved, but the more traditional activities have benefited most, with farming and herding accounting for 32 % of investment, trade and service for 48%, art and craft 11%, industry only 3 % and the rest shared between transport, tourism and distribution.

Projections suggest that 400 small firms could be created by June 1991 and 600 by June or July 1992 - an increase in numbers which poses a problem, since one of the main components of the project is management training and technical assistance for promoters and the productivity of the Malian management monitoring the firms (or indeed the number of Malian management with the project) has to keep pace with this rapid expansion.

The above figures indicate that the EDF project is a success and well on the way to achieving its main aims of:

- creating jobs;
- running an imaginative operation to train promoters (to develop a spirit of enterprise, handle savings, learn technical and commercial management and use the banking service);
- training the Malian management on the project to supervise various aspects of the SME;
- showing that it is possible to lend money to small firms and get high rates (around 85%) of repayment;
- giving promoters an incentive to save;
- creating economic interest groups to drain the savings and perhaps one day make investments themselves.

The main reasons for choosing the project formula, independently of its intrinsic merit as a system, were as follows:

- the project is a non-institutionalistic, non-bureaucratic structure which is properly integrated in the SME environment and independent of the various pressure groups;
- this autonomy makes for highly motivated project managers;
- there is very considerable supervision before and during the period of the loan (the project is an expensive one as a result) and it justifies the high rate of reimbursement. G.N.

The new businessmen young graduates and ex - civil servants

Abdoulaye, our chauffeur, cut the engine on the corner of 30th and 25th streets in the dusty Bagadadji district of Bamako, just in front of “Mali’s Modern Honey Works”, and the company’s new - style young boss, Kissima Sylla, who was expecting us, came bounding out to meet us. Not without a certain pride he showed us round his modest shop, where rows of different - sized pots of various types of honey were waiting for their buyers, and then took us to the annexe where staff pot the honey under his supervision. He has become a “promoter” (he prefers the classification to “ entrepreneur “) and now, since production and sales began on 3 June 1989, he is an employer too, with four people on his payroll.

Sylla qualified as a waterways and forestry engineer, wrote his dissertation on beekeeping and took a course at the National Horticulture Centre. “ But I didn’t want to go into the civil service”, he said, “ I’ve always wanted to be a promoter and I have nothing to complain about, because I make a relatively good living and business is ticking over nicely”. Having produced an investment dossier, Sylla got a CFAF I 926 000 loan and financing of CFAF 690 000 (repayable at 10 % over four years) from the EDF line of credit on 28 November 1988.

He gets his basic materials, the raw, unheated honey which he and his staff then process and pot, from the beekeeping associations of Sikasso.

“Getting the pots - supplies have to be imported from France - is a big problem and I absolutely have to find a solution”, he says.

He sells to both supermarkets and local shops, as well as retailing from his own premises. His success provoked imitators, but. “ the other manufacturers were no competition because they had neither the equipment nor the know - how to turn out the same quality”. His dream is to build an extension for closed - circuit honey conditioning i.e. the whole process from extraction to potting, including filtering and dosing, all of which are currently carried out with individual pieces of apparatus.

Sylla’s enterprising attitude and know - how - and the added boost of finance and backing at the right moment - should mean he can achieve this.

On the other side of Bamako’s as - yet only bridge over the Niger and a difficult one to cross, with 10 - minute waits and more at peak periods - the atmosphere in the area where we visited the Les Castors (“ the beavers”) nursery school was different, less working - class and, if the houses were anything to go by, altogether smarter.

Shouting and laughter come from behind the walls and fences of the school, housed in twin villas, whose gate is guarded during the daytime by a (sleepy) porter, for what child would not like to slip out and explore? Once we are in the courtyard, with all the swings and games, little children, grinning broadly, come crowding round the big white man with his camera - “Sir, Sir, take my picture, Sir”. But the arrival of the headmistress, Oumou Louise Sidibwho commands respect and brings calm to the noisy gathering, means we can move on to her office and hear about her “enterprise”

“ I was a high school teacher until my voluntary departure in 1987”, she said, “and as soon as I heard about the IMF - inspired voluntary retirement scheme, and the allowance that went with it, I applied for it and the authorities agreed. When I left, I thought about opening a nursery school of my own, and later on a primary school, and I started up in March 1988, right in the middle of the academic year. I only had five pupils to begin with but things went so fast that we’ve already got 110, 19 of them in the primary section. There were teething troubles of course, but now it’s mainly a question of keeping up with the demand which is growing all the time as the word gets round “.

Thanks to the EDF line of credit, Mrs Sidibas able to get a CFAF 3.147 million loan for the nursery school proper, and a further CFAF 1.5 m for the primary school. Her initiative filled a gap, because there were no state kindergartens or nursery schools before, other than the “ Les Lutins” establishment for the children of cooperation officers whose headmistress offered advice lending Mrs Sidibo make French the language of teaching at Les Castors.

Mrs Sidiblready employs seven teachers, plus the porter, and further expansion is on the cards as the parents, who pay the fees from their own pockets, are insisting that full primary school facilities be provided. But there are material constraints here. “ We can build three more classrooms on the roof of the twin villas, which are rented, but that would only do for another two years, so we have to build a completely new school if we are to keep pace with demand. And that, I hasten to add, would mean aid from an international organisation”, she said...

This former civil servant, who is clearly delighted at having made a success of her change of career, went back to the playground to pose for a last photo with her “little beavers”, whose enthusiasm is in itself a guarantee of the continuing success of this “educational enterprise”.

R.D.B.

Profile

Area: 1 241 238 km²

Population (1987): 7.696 million (46 % under 15).

Growth rate: 2.7% p. a.(1982 - 87).

Literacy rate: 19.4 %

Educational coverage: 27%

Capital: Bamako (approximately 800 000 inhabitants).

Main towns: Su, Mopti, Kayes and Sikasso.

Independence: 22 September 1960.

President of the Republic: General Moussa Traorelected by universal suffrage in 1979.

Constitution of June 1974: A President of the Republic, a single party (the UDPM), a national assembly and a civil government.

Official language: French.

Agriculture: Main products (1988 - 89):

millet and sorghum:

1 275 000 tonnes

paddy rice:

289 000 t

cotton seed:

202 000 t

groundnuts:

112 000 t

sugar cane, dah and vegetables.

Livestock: Approximately 4.7 million head of cattle, 11 million sheep and goats and 231 000 camels.

Fisheries: Approximately 100 000 t fresh fish p.a.e

GDP 1989 (current prices): CFAF 641.8 billion.

Real growth of GDP: 1989: 9.9% 1985 - 89: 5.6 %

Contribution to GDP: Agriculture: 49%; Secondary sector: 12%; Tertiary sector: 34%.

Trade balance (19X9): Negative balance of CFAF 69.9 billion.

Balance of payments (1989): CFAF 18.9 billion.

External debt (end 1988): CFAF 727 billion.

Debt servicing as a percentage of exported goods and services (1989): 29.1 %.


Map 1.