Investing in West-Africa is not for the faint-hearted. Risks are serious. But so are the business opportunities. Especially for agriculture.
Mali assigns 15% of the national budget to agriculture. This is far above the 10% as recommended in the Maputo-declaration, that most African states don’t even reach. And it is the same amount that is allocated to safety.
Moussa Ismaila Toure proudly presents those figures. The general manager of API Mali, the Investment Promotion Agency, is very eager to convince companies to come and invest in Mali. He even invites journalists to come over and show them the opportunities of his country. “We have so many opportunities. All we need are the right players in this country.”
Mali is in the center of West-Afrika. It is part of the economic union Ecowas and, as most of those countries, it needs investors in all sectors. Most important, above energy, infrastructure and telecom, are agriculture and livestock, Toure emphasises.
Jihadism and mafia
Safety problems hamper those kinds of economic development. “But they will be tackled”, Toure promises. The war against Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, local freedom fighters and all robberies and criminalities that come with it, make the north of the country a no-go-area.
Yes, it is only in the north. In the southern parts, where it’s green and all economic activities take place, lives around 90 percent of the population. Here it is relatively safe. Toure, however, does not want to diminish the gravity of the safety issue in his country. “The fact remains that we need to tackle jihadism and mafia.” Which is even a bigger problem, he admits. “There’s a lot of trafficking of drugs and weapons up there. They do not want the presence of the government. We really need to work on that.”
One of the ways to work on that is investing in economic opportunities. Mali needs investors `who can improve smallholder farming, to ensure a rural economy to slow down urbanisation. But it will not stop urbanisation, simply because of the huge population growth. The population will be doubled by 2035. “Therefore, Mali needs a transition into agribusiness,” Toure urges.
Large scale and modern agriculture, however, is not quite understood by regional banks, Amadou Sidibe experienced. This entrepreneur has the first and only greenhouse in Mali where he grows vegetables and roses for the local market on about three hectares covered with nets against high temperatures and insects.
© Marc van der Sterren, Farming Africa
Read more about all kind of investment opportunities in Mali and the experiences of investors like Sidibe and others. In this feature, also quotes from Cyril Askar, general manager of Groupe AMI and president of the industrial employers’ organization of Mali; entrepreneur Aïssata Diakité, director of Zabbaan, which produces 5.000 to 10.000 bottles of fruit juice per day and Dutch agricultural consultant Kees-Jan Van Til who lives in Mali for twelve years.