Mali is a landlocked country that is heavily economically dependent on agriculture but with limited transportation infrastructure and, until recent years, little market understanding and agricultural export competitiveness. Though the government identified mangoes as an option for diversifying Mali’s export base in the 1990s, it faced several significant inefficiencies: high costs of air freight, poor access to sea ports, and weak harvestincg and post-harvest techniques. These problems were further exacerbated by lack of finance, insufficient management capacities, an unfavorable investment climate, poor organization, and an inexistent land market.
In 1993, Mali began implementing a multi-modal (road, rail, and sea) transportation system to move mango exports to destination markets in Europe more efficiently Through a partnership with private operators and backed by donor financing, a cold-chain (refrigerated) system was developed, phytosanitary improvements were made, certification and traceability programs were implemented, and training in orchard management practices and post-harvest handling was offered to Malian agricultural workers. The overarching goal of the strategy, though, was to increase rural incomes.
Mango exports increased 1,042 percent between 1993 and 2008
Most importantly, Mali’s mango exports increased 1,042 percent between 1993 and 2008, from 1,050 to 11,995 metric tons . Sea freighted exports, which were zero in 1993, rose to 4,600 metric tons. Transit time for mangoes from Sikasso to Northern Europe, meanwhile, decreased from 25 days to 12 days over the same period, and Mali has become an increasingly-recognized origin of fruit imports to the European Union. The approach also brought producers a significantly higher price for mangoes at the farmgate level—125 CFAF in 2008, up from 50 CFAF in 1993.
Mali’s experience underlines the importance of bringing together a combination of ingredients—public-private investment, technical expertise, national capacities, and innovation—that are likely to drive positive economic change. Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of sustained development over time and highlights the importance of leveraging established bilateral relationships (in Mali’s case, with France and Côte d’Ivoire) in supporting value-chain improvements and export growth.