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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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close this folderMali: (R)evolution in the rural world
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInterview with Président Moussa Traoré
View the documentInterview with Dr. N’Golo Traoré, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
View the documentNomads who refuse to die out
View the documentEEC - Mali cooperation
View the documentCreating an entrepreneurial class
View the documentProfile

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”.