How the U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to MaliA landlocked country in West Africa, Mali gained its independence from France in 1960. It is the eighth-largest country in Africa and its population currently consists of 18 million people. As one of the world’s younger nations, Mali still faces many challenges, from the effects of heavy rainfalls and floods to human rights violations such as terrorism and trafficking. In order to overcome these challenges, Mali needs foreign aid. However, there are many ways that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali.

Since its inception as an independent country, Mali has maintained diplomatic relations with the U.S. Over the years, the foreign aid Mali received from the U.S. has helped it to foster democracy and reduce poverty in the country. For instance, conflict in the country since 2012 has resulted in displacement, and food insecurity still remains an issue in Mali. Due to the foreign aid it received through USAID, Mali has been able to improve the availability of food and basic services, which led to the return of 60,200 displaced people to their areas of origin. Additionally, aid through USAID/OFDA helps improve access to emergency healthcare, protection services, safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure in Mali.


Eradication of Extremism

Similarly, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali since it is committed to the eradication of extremism. Extremism negatively impacts every nation including the U.S., and the focus on Mali is crucial, as it has been called the deadliest country for U.N. peacekeepers. Extremist groups have carried out violent attacks in the country, and most of the recruits associated with such groups explained that their actions were not affected by their religious beliefs. In fact, they expressed the anger they felt due to the longstanding neglect of their communities, which led them to seek a sense of community in extremist groups. In order to eradicate extremism, the USAID has taken some key steps.

Utilizing locally-informed assessment and analysis, USAID has focused on “youth empowerment, social and economic inclusion, media and messaging, improving local governance, reconciliation and conflict mitigation.” The USAID tailors its activities to meet specific threat levels, the political environment and other material needs of each community, especially focusing on groups that need more assistance, such as at-risk young men. Armed bandits and extremists still occupy northern Mali, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the country. Poor governance and extreme poverty contribute to the rise of extremist groups, which is why many of the USAID activities focus on improving these areas.

For instance, in order to stop the spread of extremism and foster development, USAID and Mali have jointly taken a different approach than previous ones that concentrated more on individual projects. USAID and Mali will target the country’s institutional weaknesses while contributing to ending extreme poverty, and the projected $600 million in investments for fiscal years 2016-2010 will focus on four key objectives:

  • Stabilization of Conflict-Affected Areas Reinforced (transition)
  • Public Trust in Government Improved (governance)
  • Adaptive Capacity of Vulnerable Communities and Households Improved (resilience)
  • Socio-Economic Well-Being Advanced (prosperity)

Combating Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is another serious issue in the country. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali because it is committed to fighting human trafficking globally, and Mali is a source, transit and destination country for women, men and children subjected to forced sex and labor trafficking. The government of Mali does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. Hence, the aid it receives from the U.S. makes a considerable difference. For example, foreign aid from the U.S. through the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons provides not only crucial training and technical assistance, but also child protection compact partnerships, emergency victim assistance and research projects that focus on innovative ways to combat human trafficking.

In short, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali because the latter is facing some dangerous challenges that the U.S. has committed to eradicating. By working together with Mali, the U.S. could help put an end to the violence that is caused by extremism and human trafficking.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

credit access in MaliFor many of the poor in developing nations, securing loans is often an unfeasible task. Reforms to credit access in Mali, however, are providing much-needed relief to smallholder farmers endeavoring to improve conditions for themselves and their families.

The Importance of Microfinance in Development

The practice of providing access to financial resources and small loans to those in developing nations, known as microfinance, has become the latest instrument in the effort to alleviate poverty. Too often, the world’s poor are denied access to loans, making it exceedingly difficult to start businesses or make capital investments that would enable them to improve productivity and elevate their incomes. Although microfinance across developing economies has yielded mixed results previously, the capacity remains for well-structured and pragmatically targeted initiatives to succeed.

Credit Access in Mali Denied

When these programs are successful, the implications can be powerful, especially for women and smallholder farmers. In developing economies, women reinvest 90 cents of each dollar they earn into “human resources” like healthcare, nutrition and education, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review. This is substantially more than men and illustrates the impact small investment opportunities can have for the well-being of women and their families.

Despite this, securing loans is harder for women because most do not have property in their names to offer as collateral, typically make lending to them impractical. Furthermore, in Mali, 70 percent of loan applications sought by farmers are rejected because they are deemed risk-prohibitive. Because farmers’ incomes typically fluctuate with seasonal variance in agricultural output, banks are usually hesitant to provide financial backing.

Securing loans is also rare for farmers in Mali because banks focus primarily on commercial lending and often refuse the longer term loans many Malian farmers in the young mango, papaya and cashew nut industries need to get their businesses off the ground. Unstable political institutions in the country, like inconsistent enforcement of contracts, and poorly defined property rights further exacerbate these challenges.

Credit Where Credit is Due

An initiative which began in 2013 is addressing these issues and attempting to increase credit access in Mali. The Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project by the World Bank seeks to “reduce the risk of investing in agricultural endeavors through technical assistance, new technology and greater knowledge of the supply chain and key actors,” according to World Bank Agribusiness Specialist Yeyande Kasse Sangho.

To provide loans, the program relies on the Innovation and Investment Fund (IIF) and the Guarantee Fund. The IIF offers a three-tiered lending system with each tier providing different levels of subsidies based on the size of the enterprise, with smaller enterprises receiving a greater subsidy. The Guarantee Fund, also financed by the World Bank, offers up to 50 percent of the loan guarantee, giving a needed cushion to the two commercial banks in Mali receiving the deposits.

In addition to this World Bank initiative, Mali sought in 2016 to improve access to credit by improving its credit information system regarding the regulations of credit bureaus in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. In 2017, it established another credit bureau, doubling-down on its resolve to ensure its citizens have access to capital.

With initiatives like these, Mali is demonstrating its commitment to making accessible credit the new normal for its people. Further improvement to credit access in Mali will only serve to assist in lifting more people out of poverty.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

infrastructure in mali
Mali is the eighth largest country in Africa bordering Algeria, Niger, Mauritania, Guinea, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso and is located in the North-Western region of the continent.

Infrastructure Development

Most of the population in Mali is concentrated in the southern area with mostly nomads inhabiting farther north. In the south, there is easier access to resources, agriculture and the market for buying/selling goods.

Infrastructure greatly reflects the accommodation to this geographic and demographic distribution. Road infrastructure in Mali is particularly keen on creating a network of connectivity between people, resources and export ports. This is why Mali has one of the most spatially concentrated infrastructure networks in the continent.

There are three international corridors that link landlocked Mali to the sea: Tema-Ouagadougou-Bamako, Dakar-Bamako and Abidjan-Ferkesessedougou-Bamako. These routes help bring Malian exports to central ports for shipping as well as interregional trade between other nations. Both of these help build the economy in Mali rather than keeping it as a self-reliant country struggling with poverty.

Local and Global Connectivity

The connectivity of road infrastructure in Mali has greatly improved local and global business prospects. For example, there is a transnational intercity highway known as Kankan-Kourémalé-Bamako that is the only way to enter and exit between Conakry (a port city in Guinea) and Bamako (the capital city of Mali). The African Development Bank Group highlights how this highway has “revolutionized the daily lives of thousands of people.” The highway has seen an increase in traffic for commuting workers who are now able to travel longer distances for better work. Traders set up their stalls along the highway and have seen a significant increase in customers and profits.

Mali does excellent work to maintain their roads, especially the significant highways and interregional methods of transport. Road infrastructure in Mali has guaranteed excellent safety for all users; in fact, a newly generated Road Authority has allowed for necessary maintenance throughout the year.

Despite inadequate funding, road infrastructure in Mali has been a highlighted priority to pave the way for economic growth. The nation’s government has directed much of its national funds toward maintenance and development of the overall road network, and as a result, Mali has set an excellent example for neighboring countries for how to diversify the economy by expanding transportation networks.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to MaliMali is a landlocked country of 17 million people located in West Africa. It is a country in which poverty and disease are commonplace, and only 33 percent of people are literate. As with many of its West African neighbors, Mali experiences frequent droughts and violence and Malians rely heavily on humanitarian efforts. In 2016, humanitarian aid to Mali totaled $354 million. Largely in response to the conflict in the northern parts of the country, these funds were expected to influence 127 projects and reach more than one million Malians.

The Bamako Agreement

The 2016 Mali Humanitarian Response Plan followed a peace and reconciliation agreement the year prior, otherwise known as the Bamako Agreement. The Bamako Agreement was a response to the continued violence from a 2012 uprising of Tuareg-led rebels. It sought to bring peace between separatists and Mali loyalists and to provide better representation in government affairs.

However, due to limited funding, the Bamako Agreement did not immediately live up to its potential. One of the most negatively affected areas was Mali’s healthcare sector.  Mali is a country in which only 24 percent of citizens have access to improved sanitation and 6,000 died from HIV/AIDS in 2016. As a result, access to proper healthcare is a major concern. Underfunding following the Bamako Agreement was reflected by health concerns such as increased infant mortality and the spread of disease.

Not willing to accept a failed Bamako Agreement, the 2016 allocation of funds sought to improve humanitarian aid to Mali. This was done by allocating funds appropriately to the most urgent needs such as health, water and nutrition. It also created a more coordinated success strategy between humanitarian groups.

Humanitarian Aid to Mali: Moving Forward

While the situation in Mali remains perilous, there are encouraging signs of a turnaround. The country is stabilized compared to the time before the Bamako Agreement. The $354 million dispersed in a scrupulous manner will have lasting benefits for the people of Mali.

By further coordinating humanitarian aid to Mali, organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) have the resources to make a difference. The WHO is seeking additional funds from the U.S. to improve health information systems, increase access to health clinics and create better responses to calamities. The need is clear and the U.S. should increase aid efforts to better an improving, but still volatile, situation in Mali.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr

development projects in mali
Located in West Africa, Mali is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world. It needs the extensive support of foreign aid. Some of the challenges Mali faces include deforestation, soil erosion, desertification and a lack of potable water. As a result, development projects in Mali are crucial.

Major development projects in Mali focus on areas in which Mali has great potential.

Top Development Projects in Mali

  1. The 2SCALE project, funded by DGIS-Netherlands, is working to improve agribusiness opportunities in Mali. One of the main objectives of 2SCALE is to increase productivity and farmer incomes. It helps farmers to link with “buyers, technical support providers, bank and other partners” by developing agribusiness clusters, thereby helping farmers to gain access to profitable markets.
  2. The Scaling Up Fertilizer Deep Placement and Microdosing Technologies project is funded by USAID. This project focuses on increasing cereal productivity in Mali, with the main goal to increase food security and smallholder farmer incomes. One of the methods this project promotes is using microdosing (MD) technology on the land, which entails applying a small amount of fertilizer directly to plant roots. This is done to increase fertilizer efficiency and the project has already proven to be successful with a notable yield increase in rice, sorghum and millet. As of 2015, the estimated value of additional crop production was more than $5 million.
  3. The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) is working with schools and early childhood development centers to improve the education sector by promoting “low or no cost teaching and learning materials.” The AKF is working to improve the instruction of specific subjects, has helped develop infrastructure and provided school furniture and other learning materials to 21 schools. Additionally, with financial help from UNICEF and the World Bank, the AKF has supported the development of 11 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centers. In partnership with Plan International, World Vision and Save the Children, the AFK also launched a new program in 2014 that will “support 10,000 children in 12 communes around Mopti and Djenne by building 12 schools and 10 early childhood development centers.”
  4. Finding employment is extremely difficult in the rural areas in Mali and youth unemployment is a major concern. The International Fund for Agricultural Development has an ongoing project called Rural Youth Vocational Training, Employment and Entrepreneurship Support Project that targets rural youth in Mali who lack technical skills and are denied access to financing. The project aims to improve young people’s professional skills and support them in establishing their own businesses. The project aims to help 100,000 rural youth by the end of its eight-year implementation period.
  5. Deforestation is a serious problem in Mali, and Tree Aid has been working there since 1993 to help villagers in arid areas to utilize the potential of trees in order to fight poverty and protect nature. With the help of local conservation organizations, such as the Malian Association for the Conservation of Wildlife and Environment (AMCFE), Tree Aid is aiming to facilitate a 400-kilometer-long corridor between Mopti and Segou. Around 1,000 farmers in 15 villages are involved in this project. By learning how to manage their land better, these farmers contribute toward increasing tree density per hectare.

While these development projects in Mali are being carried out, the armed conflict that took place at the end of 2012 in the north of Mali is still making development more difficult. This is because the military and political situation remain unstable. But with these ongoing efforts from stakeholders all around the world, Mali will begin to see the seeds of future prosperity and sutainable development.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in MaliMali adopted a new Family Code in 2011 which stated that men are to be considered the head of the household and women have to obey their husbands. The Family Code grants men sole parental authority and allows them to have up to four wives. In light of such discriminatory laws, biases and social norms, women’s empowerment in Mali remains a distant dream.

As per the 2013 International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) by CARE International, the following are the key factors that hinder women’s empowerment in Mali:

  1. The support for inequitable norms by men and women is extremely high.
  2. Younger men and women, those in urban areas and those with more education generally show support for more equitable norms but are in the minority.
  3. The vast majority of men continue to be resistant to women’s work outside the home.
  4. Polygamy, which is the reality for 18 percent of men and 47 percent of women, continues to be supported by many.
  5. Exposure to violence as children (witnessing and experiencing it directly) is strongly associated with women experiencing Inter-Partner Violence and men perpetrating it.
  6. High rates of violence, including sexual violence, both witnessed and experienced during childhood (in the home, in communities and in schools).
  7. Economic stress was reported frequently in qualitative results, particularly the pressure on men to provide for their families.
  8. Gender socialization of children in Mali continues to reinforce gender inequality.
  9. There is extremely limited participation by men in domestic chores and the care of children.
  10. High support for some traditional practices, including excision, which 95 percent of women interviewed said they had experienced.

However, a bold step has been made towards bringing about women’s empowerment in Mali by adopting a landmark gender quota bill that requires a minimum of 30 percent of elected and appointed officials to be women. Young educated men and women continue to struggle for gender parity.

Gender inequality has been reduced in primary education due to campaigns that encourage the enrollment of girls in school but no progress is visible in secondary education because of lack of targeted action and a prevailing sexist attitude.

The transition to women’s empowerment in Mali remains too slow and limited in the presence of strong resistance and gender biases by the women themselves. The most effective method would be to increase men’s understanding of the benefits of an equal society like family health, increased income and child survival. As per the IMAGES report, the key is to develop a more positive notion of masculinity and integrate men’s role in promoting gender equity.

– Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

How Emergency Transportation Has Addressed Disparity Gaps in Women's HealthIn September 2017, the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) High Impact Health Services Project constructed emergency transport systems in Tienfala, a small community located in Mali, which has allowed for pregnant women to be transported to health facilities in order to give birth. This project was a part of USAID’s efforts to increase health outcomes around the world and close the consistently widening disparity gaps in women’s health.

According to USAID, the completion of the emergency transport systems were in large thanks to a community effort. People from the small Tienfala community worked together in order to help increase the health outcomes of pregnant women in their community. USAID’s project in Tienfala is very promising for the promotion of women and girls in developing countries.

Many other organizations have placed a focus on increasing the health outcomes of women and girls in developing countries in order to address the widening disparity gaps in women’s health around the world. In fact, the aim of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in regards to women and girls, is to “promote the equal rights of women and girls and to support their full participation in the political, social and economic development of their communities.”

Like UNICEF, USAID has placed a value on promoting women’s health in developing countries like Mali. Specifically, according to USAID, the focus of the High Impact Health Services Project is to decrease the incidence of maternal and child deaths, and the construction of the emergency transport systems in Tienfala has greatly helped reduce such mortality rates.

Kadia Coulibably, a woman from Tienfala, lacked any sort of prenatal care during her fourth pregnancy, reports USAID. However, the emergency transport systems allowed Coulibably to experience an organized, healthy childbirth. Without the valuable help of U.S. foreign aid through the governmental agency USAID, Coulibaly may have faced complications during her childbirth due to the lack of proper care.

Of course, a focus on the health of women and girls in developing countries is incredibly vital to the empowerment of women in their respective communities. When pregnant women can receive accessible, adequate health care, they can thrive happily and healthily. Thus, the construction of the emergency transport systems for pregnant women in Mali is a step in the right direction for the advancement of women’s health.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change

A military coup has worsened Mali’s national security, amplifying the impact climate change has had on the country and its people. Conflict erupted in northern Mali in 2012. The violence of the proceeding five years has since destroyed the nation’s land, diminishing the abilities local farmers have to grow vegetation.

Since 2012, Mali has witnessed a wave of poor harvests, pushing a food crisis upon the country. Hostile physical and environmental circumstances have forced about 475,000 people from their homes to neighboring countries, and those who remain in Mali face food shortages and security threats. With 25 percent of families moderately to severely food insecure, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimates that 270,000 people face starvation.

Two thirds of Mali is a desert or semi-desert that experiences long yearly periods of drought. Furthermore, the Sahara Desert is expanding southward at a rate of 48 km per year. Climate change has significantly decreased the amount of rainfall, dropping by 30 percent since 1998. Consequently, Mali is also suffering from water scarcity. Only three-fifths of Malians have access to safe drinking water and only about one-third have proper sanitation.

The water shortage has weakened Mali’s agricultural activities, taking an immense toll on its citizens. Agriculture employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population and 70 per cent of Mali’s entire labor force. Cotton, gold and livestock make up 80 to 90 percent of total export earnings.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working on generating food security, particularly between harvests. The organization built a total of 3,966 environmental assets such as ponds, dams, and canals to help alleviate Mali’s lack of water. Technical and economic assistance have been provided for local farmers, broadening Mali’s market and strengthening the agricultural sector.  WFP has also begun providing nutrition support for pregnant women, nursing mothers, underweight children and children under five suffering from chronic and moderate-to-acute malnutrition. Further assistance from organizations like WFP is necessary to lift Mali‘s people from the harsh grips of military conflict and climate change.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Google

Despite achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by 50 percent, Mali continues to struggle with extreme poverty. 50 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. There are nearly 59,000 internally displaced people and 143,500 Malian refugees located in neighboring countries. More than 600,000 Malians are in need of food assistance. A low-income nation, Mali was ranked 179 out of 188 countries on the 2015 Human Development Index. Though Mali’s economy is projected to grow by 5 percent over the 2017-2019 period and all economic sectors are projected to contribute to this growth, poverty persists. Why is Mali poor?

The answer to this question must consider the negative effects that drought and erratic rainfall have had on the country. Climate change has also led to higher temperatures, less rainfall and growing desertification in Mali, already one of the hottest countries in the world. 90 percent of the rural population works in the agricultural sector. Most farming is done on a subsistence basis; therefore, there is little to no reinvestment made in mechanization. Due to the adverse conditions, 25 percent of families are moderately to severely food insecure. During the 2016 lean season, approximately 315,000 Malians experienced severe food insecurity. One in three Malian children under the age of five is affected by stunting, a condition brought on by poor nutrition which affects both physical and cognitive development.

With an undiversified economy dependent on commodity exports, Mali is also extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices and the consequences of climate change. Though growth accelerated to 7 percent in 2014, its highest level in over a decade, and is expected to remain steady at 5 percent, Mali’s economic prospects are contingent on several important factors, including the stability of global prices for cotton and gold, Mali’s two biggest exports. Climatic shocks that negatively affect harvests could also cause a drop in economic growth and an increase in food insecurity.

Another contributing factor to why Mali is poor is the military coup that took place in the country in 2012. The coup resulted in the occupation of the northern regions of Mali by armed non-state groups. The signing of a peace agreement in 2015 between the Malian government and two rebel coalitions allowed for the implementation of a program of accelerated development in the northern regions. Due to fragile security and attacks on United Nations forces and the Malian army by terrorist groups in the northern regions, putting the program into action is difficult.

In addition to adverse weather conditions and conflict, poverty in Mali has also been perpetuated by the lack of access to education and career training. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the expected amount of schooling in Mali is 8.4 years, while the average amount of schooling is only 2.3 years. Educational programs such as those implemented by the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) have taken steps to make education more accessible to children in Mali, particularly those who have been out of school for a prolonged period of time.

“In Mali, 89 [percent] of out-of-school students who enrolled in a CARE accelerated learning program also completed it,” says CARE’s Senior Technical Advisor for Education, Katherine Begley. “100 [percent] of them successfully transitioned into formal schools.”

With the emphasis put on reaching those most affected by conflict and poverty, it is the belief of organizations like CARE that the cycle of poverty can be ended in Mali.

Amanda Quinn

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in MaliMali, the eighth-largest country in Africa sits landlocked in the western region of the continent. Hunger in Mali is often driven by drought and conflict in the region. There have been three major droughts that affected Mali in the last decade. In March 2012, the country faced a coup and a rebellion in the north.

According to a report from the World Food Programme, approximately 475,000 people were displaced from their homes after a major conflict in the northern part of the country. The country also suffered from food insecurity and faced issues of nutrition during this time.

In the northern regions of Mali, including Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, about one-fifth of the households experience food shortages. Additionally, approximately 15 percent of children are afflicted with acute malnutrition in Mali, according to the report.

According to an article from Action Against Hunger, rates of malnutrition in Mali “exceed the critical threshold on a national level.” Specifically, the Sahel region of northern Mali is perpetually in a state of nutrition emergency.

Since 1996, Action Against Hunger has provided treatment for malnourished Malians and helped to develop support malnutrition management in public health facilities.

In 2015, the World Food Programme reported that 2.5 million Malians were struggling to feed their families, and just over 300,000 of the country’s residents were considered to be in need of severe food assistance.

The report also stated that over half of the women in Mali are anemic. Furthermore, approximately 80 percent of children in Mali suffer from anemia.

Hunger in Mali is also worsened by over half the country living below the national poverty line. However, aid from global organizations has helped Mali in respect to food insecurity.

According to their report, the World Food Programme utilizes a cross-border operation from Niger to transport food to northern Mali. This organization also assists the country’s residents by providing them with cash to purchase fresh produce.

While hunger in Mali remains a pressing issue, the stress of food insecurity has the potential to be lessened by global organizations.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr