Among the world’s poorest countries, Mali has an economy that is heavily dependent on farming and fishing (along with foreign aid) and is vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations, especially in its key export, cotton. Remittances are another main flank of the economy – and these are also at risk due to the global recession.

Raw material decline

“We have to be precise about what the risks are [from the economic downturn],” says Sanoussi Toure, minister of finance and economy. “The first one is that our country exports raw materials, so if the European countries are hit by the financial crisis, the demand on raw materials decreases. It is one of the main problems for us.”

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Remittance drop

“The second impact is that the Malian population represents an important diaspora – Malian people who live abroad, especially in Africa and Europe, and who have decided to go to work in Europe in order to send the money they earn to their family in Mali. They also work to plan their return to Mali. Consequently, people who are facing unemployment in those countries can’t transfer money to Mali.”

Growth strategy

However, the government, which has carried out an IMF-prescribed structural adjustment programme that has helped the economy grow roughly 5% a year since the mid-1990s, intends to try to keep growing – literally – its way towards a higher income bracket.

“We have a strategy of growth which is based on our main sector: agriculture. It is extremely important, and we are looking to attract a large quantity of foreign investments in agriculture,” says Mr Toure. “It has huge potential and can enable us to produce more and more – we will base our economic growth on this sector.”