West African state of Mali seeks greater economic ties with the UAE, according to Baber Gano, Minister of Investment Promotion and Private Sector of the Republic of Mali.
The UAE and Mali signed a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to boost bilateral ties that will benefit both the countries. In an interview on the eve of the 8th Annual Investment Meeting that takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Baber Gano, Minister of Investment Promotion and Private Sector of the Republic of Mali, elaborated his thoughts. Excepts:
Question: The UAE and the Republic of Mali are seeking investment partnerships with each other in a number of avenues. Can you talk about them?
Babar Gano: Indeed, the cooperation between the UAE and Mali recently received a boost, which was underlined by the recent visit to Mali by Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the UAE.
This fruitful visit resulted in the signing of a number of MoUs to strengthen bilateral relations. It has helped put in place a number of agreements including a MoU between the Malian and Emirati governments covering areas such as: security, diplomacy, economy, trade, culture and sports.
Another agreement on investment protection which creates favourable condition for investment in both the countries and help increase cooperation between private sector and stimulate growth and job creation.
Furthermore, a convention aiming at preventing double taxation and tax evasion with respect to taxes on income has been signed. Its main purpose is to promote economic relations between our two countries.
Those conventions are means of strengthening the relations between both countries in all areas.
Tell us about the importance of the development of the Taoussa Dam project, which is a challenging project funded by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development?
The Taoussa hydropower project, estimated at around 200 billion FCFA, includes a 25 MW hydroelectric power dam with an average output of 118 GWh, or 87 percent of local energy demand.
It also covers: The paved road of 130 kilometres from Gao to Taoussa, The hydro-agricultural developments on 139,000 hectares (including 84,000 hectares in controlled submersion), 45,000 hectares of new irrigated perimeters in the river valley, 10,000 hectares in the valley of Tilemsi and in the Gourma basins between Bamba and Taoussa, The creation of a 3 billion cubic metres reservoir to promote fishing and stockbreeding and improve the river regime downstream with a guaranteed flow rate of 75 cubic metres per second (cusec).
The project will also establish a real green bulwark against silting in the area.
It is a major project for the development of the country, especially the northern regions of Mali. Its implementation has been delayed due to the security situation and the government is making every effort to resume work quickly.
What do you think of the contribution of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development to the development of projects in Mali?
We are very pleased to be among the beneficiaries of this institution.
In its policy for assisting the developing countries to achieve sustainable socio-economic growth, the Abudhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) supports Mali in many projects through financial assistance. A concrete example of this support is the extension of a loan of Dh33 million to the government of Mali to finance the construction of a hybrid solar energy plant, a project that will help in delivering power supply to 30 Malian villages and create job opportunities for the local communities.
This loan agreement was signed by Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, Director-General of ADFD and Mamadou Frankaly Keita, Malian Minister of Energy and Water, during a ceremony at the ADFD.
What are the most important sectors that you want to promote through your participation in the Annual Investment Meeting this year?
In its efforts to diversify the country's economy, the government is focusing on four key economic sectors:
Malian agriculture, which occupies and feeds 80 percent of the active population, is often considered to have a large unexploited potential. Mali has up to 40 million hectares of arable land, easily irrigable.
It also benefits from climatic conditions of choice (continuous sunshine almost all the year), and of course a labor and peasant workforce of quality and at a rather low cost;
Livestok is a major contributor to Mali’s economy. Mali wants to uplift this sector into a veritable agro industrial business. The country holds the largest livestock population in the West African Economic and Monetary Union with 7.8 million cattle, 22 million sheep and goats, 674,000 camels. Livestock sector accounts for 11 percent of GDP.
Mali holds a remarkable renewable energy potential. With a sunshine rate of 5-7 kwh/m2, investing in renewable and other forms of energy is highly profitable given the increasing demand for a rapidly growing population and economic growth.
Finally, infrastructure present an unprecedented investment and growth potential. With more than 18,000 kilometres of roads to surface and a numerous highly profitable projects, infrastructure is genuinely a promising sector.
What are your ways to promote and attract foreign direct investment in the Republic of Mali?
For several years, Mali has embarked on a policy, which aims at improving the business climate and attracting foreign capital through tax and regulatory reforms. It resulted in Mali’s noticeable rebound in the famous “Doing Business” report of the World Bank in 2016.
The revised Investment Code offers several facilities to accredited companies, that include being exempt from import duties and taxes, corporate income tax as well as industrial and commercial profits tax.
The creation of an Investment Promotion Agency has considerably eased the administrative procedures, thanks to the establishment of a single counter for registration. It is now possible to create and allows business in just 72 hours.
The organisation and success of the International Investment Forum “Invest in Mali” marked the climax of those efforts undertaken by the government. The forum has brought together major Malian, Pan-African and International stakeholders from public and private sectors and resulted in the acquisition of $70 milion of investment and more than 500 business linkages.
How much foreign direct investment is in the Republic of Mali?
Despite the crisis that the country has been through, foreign capital continues to flow into Mali.
This is due to the government's commitment to promoting investment through strong reforms to attract FDI. These reforms led to the adoption of a law on public-private partnerships, which encouraged competition and increased private participation in almost all sectors.
In 2016, Mali held a stock of FDI of US$3 billion. Foreign investors are mainly attracted by the textile industry and exploration of gold and oil.
France, China, Thailand and South Africa are the largest investors in Mali. Since 2010, Morocco is also part of the list of investors with whom we weave a rich and dynamic economic partnership.
The UAE and Mali signed a MoU to exempt citizens from visas to visit the countries, reflecting the strength of the relationship between the two parties.
Mali and UAE have always enjoyed several regional and international common interests as proven by the many trade exchanges between our countries.
The signing of this memorandum was therefore natural and strengthens the joint co-operation ties between the UAE and Mali.
How do you see cooperation between UAE and Mali in the face of terrorism and insurgents?
The signing of the MoU on strengthening security clearly illustrates Abu Dhabi's commitment to engage with Mali in its fight against this plague, which today can affect any country.
This MoU will strengthen cooperation and coordination between the Abu Dhabi Ministry of the Interior and the Malian Ministry of Security and Civil Protection, as regards to the fight against different types of crimes, exchange of information and best police practices.