The Republic of Mali, a landlocked country in West Africa, is the eighth-largest country in the continent. Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert, while the country’s southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country’s economy centers on agriculture and fishing. About half the population lives below the international poverty line.
The Internet penetration rate was slightly less than 12% of the population in early 2017. The domestic telecom infrastructure is improving, and the use of local radio loops is slowly increasing to extend network coverage to remote areas. Fixed-line subscribership remains less than 1 per 100 persons, whereas mobile-cellular subscribership has increased sharply to over 130 per 100 persons.
In 2008, the merger of the two main companies in Mali, Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) and Econet, allowed the merged ETL to provide both fixed and mobile services under one license. The main benefit of this merger is that ETL is now able to offer customers total, converged communications solutions for fixed and mobile voice, as well as internet and data needs. The merger has also enabled ETL to improve customer satisfaction by offering the latest services at competitive rates, and to attract new subscribers with innovative product offerings. The Autorité Malienne de Régulation des Télécommunications/TIC et des Postes (AMRTP) is the regulatory body.
Among the 25 poorest countries in the world, Mali is a landlocked country that depends on gold mining and agricultural exports for revenue. The country’s fiscal status fluctuates with gold and agricultural commodity prices and the harvest; cotton and gold exports make up around 80% of export earnings. Mali remains dependent on foreign aid.
Economic activity is largely confined to the riverine area irrigated by the Niger River; about 65% of Mali’s land area is desert or semidesert. About 10% of the population is nomadic and about 80% of the labor force is engaged in farming and fishing. Industrial activity is concentrated on processing farm commodities. The government subsidizes the production of cereals to decrease the country’s dependence on imported foodstuffs and to reduce its vulnerability to food price shocks.
Mali is developing its iron ore extraction industry to diversify foreign exchange earnings away from gold, but the pace will depend on global price trends. A political coup in 2012 slowed Mali’s growth, but the economy has since bounced back, although physical insecurity, high population growth, corruption, weak infrastructure, and low levels of human capital continue to constrain economic development. Strong downside risks exist in the form of renewed political turmoil, and corruption is endemic.
Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) came into being following the merger between Telecom Lesotho and Econet Ezi ~ Cel Lesotho in April 2008. When Eskom Enterprises (Pty) Limited sold its shares to Econet Wireless Global, Econet became a majority shareholder with 70% shareholding while the Government of Lesotho remained with 30%.