Mali is a focus country for Norwegian aid. The country is marked by a challenging security situation. The main priorities for Norwegian support in 2014 were climate-robust food security, peace and reconciliation and security, as well as the reinforcement of democratic institutions, including human rights and good governance.

Facts about Mali

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Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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The flag for Mali

The conflict in the country is geographically concentrated in North Mali, but armed groups have also struck in neighbouring Niger. It is a complex conflict, marked by a large number of armed groups, ethic violence, theft of cattle and battles for access to water and arable land. Increasingly, it is also concerns control of illegal trade in narcotics, weapons and people.

High unemployment among young people lures many into armed groups and crime. Frustration with the lack of peace, weak governmental control and public services, a high level of corruption and increasing socio-economic problems also cause dissatisfaction among the population in the south.

After the crisis peaked in 2012, economic growth was nearly imperceptible, but it has slowly crept upwards since then. Mali ended 2014 with relatively good economic growth (5.8 per cent), but this is expected to abate somewhat in 2015, primarily due to lower growth in the agricultural sector.

Inflation is still calculated to be low – around 1 per cent. As much as 40 per cent of Mali’s budget consists of aid funds, 15 per cent of which is budget support.

The investment climate in Mali is poor, and the country ranks at number 146 out of a total of 189 countries in the World Bank’ s Ease of Doing Business index. The country ranks at 176 on the UN list of human development in 187 countries.

The lack of infrastructure combined with the country’s lack of access to the sea, as well as a weak system of laws and law enforcement, along with security challenges, contribute to this situation. In addition, corruption is widespread (115 out of 174 countries in the Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index), and the country has a large illegal economy.

There is a large trade in narcotics, weapons and people in North Mali, where control is non-existent and the borders are porous. This economy attracts unemployed young people. Adding to this population growth and a food and humanitarian crisis in the north, the prospects for an immediate improvement in the situation are minimal.

The crises have resulted in a large migration of people from the northern provinces to the southern provinces and neighbouring countries. Around 500.000 fled from fighting in 2012 and 2013.  Many have returned, but there are still 86.000 displaced persons in their own country, and there are around 140.000 people in refugee camps in Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The humanitarian situation in Mali continues to be precarious with acute food shortages, especially in the north. Many people are completely dependent on humanitarian aid.


Mali experienced two independent outbreaks of Ebola infection in 2014. While there was no contagion in the first outbreak, six additional persons were infected in the second outbreak and four of them perished. Internal preparations in Mali and the rapid mobilization of personnel and resources from international partners and organizations explain why the outbreak was contained so quickly.

The enduring conflict has put human rights under pressure. Armed groups in the north have been accused of serious, fundamental human rights violations, such as sexual assault, pillaging, executions, recruitment of child soldiers and inhuman treatment associated with a strict practice of Islamic law.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread in Mali. The most recent estimates available from 2013 show that 91.4 per cent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have been circumcised. Female circumcision has not been criminalized by law, but Mail has ratified the Maputo Protocol, which requires that the Government seek to eliminate female circumcision. 

Norwegian development cooperation with Mali

The drought disaster in Sahel in the 1980s was the starting point for the extensive Norwegian Sahel programme, the goal of which is to reduce and prevent hunger, poverty and conflict through greater food production and improved food security. Sahel is the dry savannah belt that spans the African continent from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east. This cooperation continues today through various actors: Public institutions of Mali, multilateral organizations, Norwegian voluntary organizations and research institutions. Over the last two years, this has been supplemented by a focus on stabilization and democratization.

The main focus of support in 2014 was climate-robust food security, peace, reconciliation and security, as well as the reinforcement of democratic institutions, including human rights and good governance. These are measures that ensure Mali’s transition to a constitutional order in a post-crisis situation. The health sector has been supported through the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).

Climate-robust food security

Mali is very vulnerable to drought, unpredictable precipitation patterns, floods and desert storms. Climate change is expected to further increase this vulnerability through rising temperatures and unpredictable drought and rain periods. This in turn may have major consequences for economic growth and the daily life of people. The Government has attempted to solve these problems through a strategy for a green economy and climate-robustness. Norway supports the implementation of this strategy.

Mali launched a climate fund for climate adaptation and climate-reducing measures in 2014. The fund is the first of its kind in Africa. Civil social organizations, authorities and international organizations may apply, and the fund covers initiatives throughout Mali. As one of several donors, Norway supports the fund in the amount of NOK 7 million.

Norway has contributed to food security and more climate-robust agriculture in Mali through supporting cooperation in applied agricultural research between Noragric (UMB) and the government agency Institut d’économie rurale (IER) in the amount of NOK 9,5 million. A midway review of the project shows that research results are being produced that can be used for methods that enhance the efficiency of small-scale agriculture.

Greater food production

Norway supports a project to reinforce food ­security in Lac Faguibine outside of Timbuktu in the amount of NOK 7,5 million. The project shall contribute to re-establishment of the traditional canal system in this agricultural area. This has contributed to increasing food production for nearly 150.000 persons who live in the area by securing the supply of water through excavating sand from the canals and by distributing seed corn and simple agricultural equipment.

Gender equality award

The water reached Lake Faguibine in 2014 as a result of this project. In addition, the project has at times employed several hundred young people and women. By ensuring that the local population has food and jobs, the project has a conflict-reducing effect, contributed to people staying in the area and made it easier for refugees and internally displaced persons from the area to return. On International Women’s Day in 2015, the project received an award certificate for its integration of gender equality initiatives.

In light of the enduring humanitarian crisis in North Mali, funds were reallocated to assist the population throughout a difficult time. Through Norwegian Church Aid, Norway has contributed to securing access to food and better access to drinking water for tens of thousands of people in the Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu regions.


To help improve governance and establish peace and democracy, Norway is supporting a project between Mali and the UNDP to re-establish government authority in North Mali in the period 2014-15. A partnership has also been established with the Danish embassy in Bamako to support the embassy’s regional Sahel programme for peace and stabilization. Both of the initiatives strengthen the authorities’ efforts to establish democratic institutions, counteract conflict and contribute to stability.

Only 72 per cent of children of compulsory school age start school and fewer than 60 per cent complete primary school. The numbers for girls are much lower than for boys. The quality of education is unsatisfactory, and there are great differences between rural and urban schools. Several schools are currently run by national or international organizations. The Strømme Foundation is a Norwegian organization that runs “speed schools” in Mali that enable children to catch up on missed schooling in a short period of time.

Unique manuscripts saved

Norway has also supported cultural heritage initiatives through UNESCO. This support helped to save old unique manuscripts stored in Timbuktu, for example. The rebels were intending to destroy the manuscripts. In addition, support is given to the annual music festival “Festival du Désert”, which has been held in South Mali in recent years due to the security situation in Timbuktu.


Norway is supporting the work of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria in the amount of NOK 1,7 billion for the period from 2014 to 2016. In total, Mali has received close to USD 173 million between 2003 and 2015. Of the total support, 65 per cent goes towards fighting HIV/AIDS, 28 per cent goes towards fighting malaria and 7 per cent goes towards fighting tuberculosis.

The support has contributed to 28.000 HIV-infected persons receiving antiretroviral treatment, 19.000 have been diagnosed with tuberculosis contagion and are receiving treatment, and 1.7 million mosquito nets have been distributed for the prevention of malaria.

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Norwegian organizations

In 2014, seven voluntary organizations received support from Norad for work in Mali. The oganizations received approximately NOK 40 million. The largest actors are Norwegian Church Aid, the Strømme Foundation, Care and Digni.

The majority of the support goes to initiatives aimed at education, gender equality and economic development.

Through support to the Strømme Foundation, children who have not been able to go to school have been given an opportunity to start at the right level after having completed the Strømme Foundation’s “speed school”.

CARE currently supports 2.811 savings and loan groups with close to 90.000 members throughout the country. The goal is to use the savings and loan groups to make women more familiar with their rights and give them greater knowledge and the self-confidence to demand these rights. 

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 02.10.2015