Good momentum, but still vulnerable


HIGH RISK for entreprise

  • Economic risk

  • Business environment risk

  • Political risk

  • Commercial risk

  • Financing risk

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GDP USD 14.05bn (World ranking 118, World Bank 2016)
Population 17.99 million (World ranking 62, World Bank 2016)
Form of state Republic
Head of government Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
Next elections 2018, presidential and legislative
  • Natural resource base includes gold and agricultural crops such as cotton.
  • Low inflation and limited transfer and exchange rate risks as a result of membership in the CFA franc zone.
  • Large-scale debt relief in 2003-06 resulted in a more manageable external debt burden.
  • Access to IMF financing.
  • Significant domestic and regional security and stability risks. Existential threat to the current sovereign state.
  • High levels of poverty.
  • Poor infrastructure and a landlocked position limit economic development and impose additional trading costs.
  • Lack of significant economic diversification.
  • Narrow fiscal base and inefficient tax administration partly explain large and recurrent fiscal deficits.
  • Large current account deficits, only partly covered by FDI.
  • Weak business environment

Improved policy performance despite high political risk

The Malian economy relies on agriculture and mining. It is the second biggest cotton producer in Africa after Burkina Faso, but gold accounted for 70% of total exports in 2016. The domestic situation is mainly organized around the agricultural sector, which accounts for a sizeable share of employment.

Political instability is strong and generates boom-bust cycles that prevent a decisive reduction in the proportion of the population living below the poverty line. Moreover, land-sharing between herders and farmers is a source of recurrent and violent conflicts. A weak state means that the country is still vulnerable to foreign influence (Islamic State).

However, the economic situation improved during the last few years and growth stabilized at a higher level (+5.8% on average during the last five years). This in turn helped to stabilize public debt to 38% of GDP in 2019 under IMF guidance (external debt represents 28.2% of GDP), with also a fiscal deficit at -3% of GDP.

The current account deficit is still quite significant (-7.8% of GDP in 2019), but foreign currency liquidity remains at manageable levels (FX reserves at 4.3 months of import cover). Moreover, domestic credit growth remains under control and the exports to external debt ratio is still at a healthy 116% level.

Mali still doesn’t make the most of a business climate that is not so bad

Mali is one of the 30 poorest countries in the world. Economic diversification is not well-established, with an over-reliance on the agricultural sector, which accounts for around 39% of GDP and 80% of the labor force, and on gold mining.

As a result of these dependencies, combined with periodic water shortages, Mali is vulnerable to external shocks. Moreover, the landlocked nature of the country increases the costs of external trade and renders it dependent on access routes to and from foreign ports through a region with a history of instability.

These bottlenecks do not allow Mali to make the most of the reforms implemented in the past. Its business climate is far from good, but above lower middle-income economies such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Benin. Mali has two key relative strengths compared to its regional peers: “trading across borders” (92nd) and “resolving insolvency” (97th).

The ease of starting a business (110th) also shows some progress made. Room for improvement exists particularly on aspects such as access to power (159th on getting electricity) and the tax regime (165th on paying taxes).

Payments in cash are the byproduct of the current economic and political situation in the country. This means that many transactions cannot be implemented as a result of the lack of cash. The ability of the country to ease the access to credit and increase financial inclusion would be decisive in order to stabilize growth in the long-run. In economies with poor existing institutions, more access to mobile-banking solutions would help to leapfrog as needed.

Trade structure by destination/origin

(% of total)

Exports Rank Imports
UAE 33%
16% Senegal
Switzerland 19%
13% China
South Africa 19%
11% Côte d'Ivoire
India 5%
10% France
China 3%
5% Ghana

Trade structure by product

(% of total)

Exports Rank Imports
Overall positive economic outlook 68%
20% Petroleum, petroleum products and related materials
Textiles fibres and their wastes 13%
8% Road vehicles
Fertilizers other than group 272 6%
6% Non metallic mineral manufactures, n.e.s.
Oil seeds and oleaginous fruits 2%
5% Specialised machinery
Live animals other than animals of division 03 2%
5% Medicinal and pharmaceutical products

  • Low

  • Medium

  • Sensitive

  • High

  • Payments

  • Court proceedings

  • Insolvency proceedings


Contact Euler Hermes

Economic Research Team

Contact Stéphane Colliac

Senior Economist for France and Africa

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