major macro economic indicators
|2016||2017||2018 (e)||2019 (f)|
|GDP growth (%)||5.8||5.3||5.0||4.7|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||-1.8||1.8||2.1||2.5|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-3.9||-2.9||-3.3||-3.0|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-7.2||-5.8||-6.9||-7.4|
|Public debt (% GDP)||35.9||36.0||37.1||37.8|
(e): Estimate. (f): Forecast.
- Substantial natural resources: agriculture (cotton) and mining (gold, bauxite and iron)
- Political situation is stabilising; drive to restructure the economy
- International aid
- Economy vulnerable to weather and commodity price fluctuations
- Geographically isolated
- Precarious security situation
- Dependent on international aid
Growth is vibrant but volatile
Economic growth, although still strong, is expected to continue slowing in 2019. Agricultural and gold production, the twin driving forces of the economy, are having to contend with less benign economic conditions (raw material prices, security risks, etc.) than in previous years, making growth more volatile. Gold production levels are expected to remain broadly similar to those of the previous year. In August, the government upped its stake in the Fekola mine, which entered full production in 2018, in a move that is expected to boost its revenues by around 1% of GDP. Uncertainties surrounding the price of gold, which accounts for more than 60% of exports and 12.5% of GDP, will therefore have a major bearing on the country's performance. Once again becoming Africa's leading producer in 2017, the cotton sector should continue to grow, assuming weather conditions are favourable. Cultivated land has increased by nearly 5%, paving the way for more rational use of inputs and capital goods, and should ensure that the country maintains its leadership. Public investment will remain strong (around 9.5% of GDP) in 2019. One of the main objectives is to improve energy infrastructure (electricity), the lack of which is undermining the competitiveness of Malian companies. The government is also looking to improve its human capital, which has long been hampered by high levels of poverty, inequality and low literacy (about 35%). To this end, the government met with Huawei, a Chinese ICT firm, on the sidelines of the 2018 China-African summit and signed a training partnership to help young Malians acquire ICT skills. Private consumption will remain the biggest contributor to GDP and should get a lift in 2019 as inflation is kept in check while agricultural incomes, on which 80% of the population depends, go up.
Public and external accounts exposed to cyclical risks
The government’s 2019 budget aims at reaching the WAEMU convergence criteria, which requires the deficit to be under 3%. Government spending, which is equivalent to more than 20% of GDP, is highly sensitive to cyclical risks – particularly security risks – and is expected to continue to rise slightly in 2019. Since unrest first broke out in the north of the country in 2012, military and security spending has more than doubled, reaching 3.8% of GDP in 2017, and will probably remain at a fairly high level in 2019, notably due to the financing of the G5 Sahel force. In addition to these current expenditures, the country must, on the IMF’s recommendation, continue its investment expenditure to address the infrastructure deficit and build a foundation for sustainable growth. Faced with these expenditures, which cannot easily be reduced, the government will have to rely on more effective mobilisation of tax revenues if it is to meet its budget promises in 2019.
The trade deficit, which is largely dependent on commodity prices, is expected to widen in 2019. Rising prices for oil, which accounted for over 25% of imports in 2018, and food products (about 15%) are expected to weigh heavily on the balance. The increase in public investment, particularly in capital goods, is also likely to contribute to higher imports. Increased cotton production will not be sufficient to prevent exports, which are also being hurt by uncertainty about gold prices, from stagnating. The deterioration in the trade balance, coupled with a small increase in the services deficit (over 11% of GDP in 2018), is unlikely to be offset by increased foreign budget support and the improvement in the transfer balance (12% of GDP), which can be attributed to the persistently high level of expatriate remittances, with the IMF forecasting a 5% increase in 2019. As a result, the current account deficit is set to remain high and will be financed mainly through increased project grants and slight increases in FDI and portfolio investments.
Re-election for IBK and no change in the security situation
August 2018 saw President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) re-elected with more than 67% of the votes in the second round. While IBK's victory was hardly in doubt, his score (lower than in 2013), the fact that he had to take part in a second round of voting, and accusations of fraud by the opposition point to growing unrest within Malian society. Source of discontent include corruption (the country is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s index) and insecurity, which represents the country’s biggest challenge.
Terrorist attacks by Islamist groups are continuing, and despite the Algiers Agreement of 2015, conflict persists between the central government and the northern Tuareg tribes, who want more autonomy. Managing these tensions remains a complicated task – in particular because of difficulties surrounding financing for the G5 Sahel force – for a country that has to fight on this front while simultaneously trying to rebuild its democracy. This fragile situation puts a heavy strain on the country's business climate, which dropped two more places in the 2019 Doing Business ranking to 145th worldwide.
Last update: February 2019