Mali – At the Dawn of a New Year

MD's Updated HeadshotBy Christine Lagarde

(Version in Français)

My second stop on this trip to Africa, after Kenya, was Mali—a country that is facing an extraordinarily difficult transition: from restoring political stability to securing economic stability—from crisis to recovery.

Having gone through massive turmoil in 2012, Mali is emerging successfully, thanks to the perseverance and fortitude of its people. Parliamentary and presidential elections have been held, and the newly elected government has put forth a new economic program aimed at increasing growth and reducing poverty.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde visits a primary school January 10, 2014 in Bamako, Mali. Lagarde is on a two country visit to Africa. IMF Photograph/Stephen Jaffe

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde visits a primary school January 10, 2014 in Bamako, Mali. Lagarde is on a two country visit to Africa. IMF Photograph/Stephen Jaffe

Before the 2012 coup, Mali had been one of the bright spots in Sub-Saharan Africa, posting an average annual growth rate of 5.5 percent. Social indicators, while admittedly still low, had also posted real progress. Primary school enrollment had reached 70 percent of all children; male and female literacy rates had doubled; child mortality had been almost halved; and the poverty rate was down.

These were impressive achievements. The challenge now is to ensure that Mali returns to this positive trajectory.  I came away confident that it will be able to do it.

Mali’s government leaders told me that with the political situation settled and national reconciliation underway, the focus is now on getting the economy back on track. I heard the same message in my meetings with the civil society—women leaders to farmers and the teaching staff of schools. They all want to put the past two years in the rear-view mirror as fast as possible.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Mail's women leaders for a luncheon January 9, 2014 at the Hotel Salam in Bamako, Mali. Lagarde is on a two country visit to Africa. IMF Photograph/Stephen Jaffe

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Mail’s women leaders for a luncheon January 9, 2014 at the Hotel Salam in Bamako, Mali. Lagarde is on a two country visit to Africa. IMF Photograph/Stephen Jaffe

The challenges are huge, but no doubt about it, Mali has large and untapped economic and human potential that can help it deliver a better future. Unleashing that potential will require concerted action along three key areas—what I called the “Three Ps”.

  • First, Public investment. Mali has huge investment needs and the fiscal space for the necessary spending needs to be created. This will require action to increase revenues, address inefficient energy subsidies, and tackle governance and public financial management issues. This requires stepping up efforts to fight corruption in a resolute and sustained manner.
  • Second, Private investment. Supporting entrepreneurship is a key component of Mali’s development. The necessary pre-conditions need to be in place. In a country where only 10 percent of the population has a bank account, greater financial sector development and a stronger business environment will be powerful factors to promote initiatives.
  • Third, Participation for all. To my mind, it is crucial to increase investment in the country’s greatest potential—its people. Growth in Mali must be more equitable and more inclusive. This means that all sectors in Mali’s economy, as well as all actors—men and women—should have access to opportunity, including in the education sector and participate in the benefits of growth. Women, in particular, can and should play a key role in unlocking Mali’s potential.

I leave Mali with a feeling of hope and tremendously encouraged about the country’s future. 2012 was the year of the crisis; 2014 can and must be the year of recovery. The IMF is Mali’s partner in this great endeavor.

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