Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 3/27/2019

Despite the effects of a multidimensional crisis that included a 2012 coup d’etat, a separatist insurrection, and ongoing terrorist threats, Mali’s economy has sustained strong economic growth rates at above 5 percent per year since 2014 and similar performance is expected in 2018.  The country, while facing significant development challenges, is open for business and sees importing high quality American products and partnerships with U.S. firms as an attractive new frontier.
Opportunities for well-targeted, price-competitive U.S. exports to Mali's private sector may be found in agriculture, agro-industry, telecommunications, mineral exploitation, defense, power generation and distribution equipment, machinery, new and used clothing, computers, processed foods, vehicles, electronics, consumer goods, office equipment, and water resources.  Malian government contracts for donor-supported development projects offer additional opportunities.  Such projects might require equipment and technical services for hydroelectric and solar power generation and distribution, irrigation, telecommunications, public health, and agricultural and agro-industrial development.  France has traditionally supplied Mali with many imported goods, but imports from other countries, particularly China, have gained market share.  Malian entrepreneurs are eagerly looking to diversify from traditional business networks to new business partnerships with Europe and the United States. 

Brief synopsis of commercial environment: Mali’s economy depends on two major products – gold and cotton.  These two goods represented 79 percent of Malian exports in 2017.  After reaching an unprecedented record production of 66 tons in 2002, gold output declined during the following years due to exploitation difficulties. However, as old mines have closed and news ones have come on line, Mali has seen a surge in exports reaching approximately 50 tons of gold in 2017.  Current mapping suggests Mali has 800 tons of gold reserves.  The Government of Mali has made mining sector diversification a development priority. Opportunities also exist in uranium, bauxite, phosphates, iron, and manganese.

Cotton is Mali's second largest export.  Expanding cotton production has increased Mali's foreign exchange receipts.  After ranking first in 2003-2004 and second in 2004-2005 among African cotton producers with respectively 600,000 and 624,000 metric tons of production, cotton output dropped at the end of last decade, reaching a low of 196,000 tons in 2008, due to poor rainy seasons and a drop in the global price of cotton, prompting farmers to experiment with more lucrative crops.  Cotton production increased from its low point to 445,143 and 456,000 tons respectively during the 2012 and 2013 seasons as many farmers returned to cotton farming due to higher world prices.  Production in 2017-2018 reached 706, 000 tons against 645,000 tons for 2016-2017 due to good rainfalls, subsidies, and inputs provided by government authorities. Some experts, however, suggest cotton yields may fall in the coming years with decreasing soil fertility.

Eighty percent of Mali’s population is involved in farming, livestock, or fishing.  Domestically manufactured goods include textiles, agricultural tools, cosmetics, batteries, paint, plastics, processed foods, cement, cigarettes, and beverages. Construction materials (including cement), chemicals(including fertilizers) and pharmaceuticals, vehicles and spare parts, machinery, electronics, telecommunications, mining equipment, and most other manufactured items are imported. Although French products traditionally dominate imports in many areas, Chinese imports are rapidly increasing.

Exports of U.S. goods to Mali totaled $73 million in 2016 and $62 million in 2017.  This consisted mainly of exports of pharmaceuticals, telecommunications equipment, vehicles, industrial engines, excavating machinery, computers and electronic products, textiles, foods, and agricultural products.  Exports of Mali to the United States amounted to $4.3 million in 2016 and $2.9 million in 2017.  Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the principal U.S. imports from Mali are arts, antiques, stamps, and foods. 

Host country business attitudes toward the United States: Mali maintains good relations with the United States.  Since 1992, the government has placed a strong emphasis on free trade and private enterprise as evidenced by economic reform policies supported by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the United States, and other donors. Mali welcomes foreign investment. The government promotes the privatization of public enterprises. Mali's investment, mining, oil, and commercial codes offer duty-free importation of capital equipment and tax benefits for ventures in priority industries, and unhindered repatriation of capital and profits. Mali is eligible for AGOA, OPIC loan guarantees, investment financing, and insurance programs, and some EXIM Bank financing programs. The United States resumed its assistance programs in Mali in September 2013, following the inauguration of a democratically elected government.  Assistance had been suspended after the March 2012 coup d’etat.  Since 2013, The United States has provided over $1 billion in support to the Malian people.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

Mali Trade Development and Promotion