By Francis Kokutse

Accra–Mali offers good opportunities and prospects for Indian entrepreneurs and investors in the gold mining and food processing space, among others, the Indian Embassy in capital Bamako has said.

“Mali is Africa’s third-leading gold producer (after South Africa and Ghana) and has an estimated reserve of 600-800 tonnes. There is considerable scope for joint ventures between the two countries for the production of gold and fabrication and marketing of jewellery in Mali,” the embassy said in an email interaction with IANS.

The West African country currently produces 60 tonnes of gold per year.

“For Indian businessmen, Mali has great scope of investment especially in the field of agriculture (cotton, food processing, abattoirs and tanneries); mining (gold, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, zinc, manganese, tin and copper); automobile (two-wheeler segment), and pharmaceuticals (generic drugs),” the embassy said.

With a population of around 15 million exposed to tropical diseases, Mali is also a good market for Indian generic medicines and pharmaceutical products.

“There is already an awareness of our capabilities and competitiveness in this area, the Embassy said, adding that this needed to be translated into commercial contracts for Indian companies.”

“Malian economy is primarily based on agriculture and livestock husbandry which together account for almost 50 per cent of the country’s GDP,” the embassy said, adding that “Mali is the second largest producer of long staple cotton in Africa, after Egypt.”

It said the country is also one of the largest producers of mangoes in Africa but lacks processing facilities.

“Mali also has one of the largest livestock in Africa with 35 million cattle heads inclusive of eight million cows, 26 million sheep and goats and approximately one million camels,” the embassy said, adding that this provided opportunities in the food processing sector, including meat — processing and setting up of modern abattoirs.”

The Malian government also welcomed investments in modern tanneries.

“India’s total trade with the West African country has grown steadily over the past few years culminating in $350.72 million for the 2015-16 financial year. It represents 64.87 per cent increase over the previous year’s $212.72 million,” the embassy said.

It said India’s exports during 2014-15 totalled $134.12 million, whilst imports from Mali accounted for $78.59 million.

During 2015-16 however, Indian exports slumped to $107.93 million whilst imports suged to $242.78 million.

The trade figure for the first 10 months of 2016-17 is at $167.54 million, with India’s exports at $87.13 million and imports at $80.41 million.

The Malian government is keen to undertake exploration and exploitation of its mineral resources and has formally offered the rights on lease to the Government of India or government-designated companies, said the Embassy.

“This provides our public as well as private companies with ample opportunities to exploit the rich mineral resources of Mali,” it added.

Businessman Seydou Brahima said: “Most businessmen would want to do business with India, but the fact that we are a Francophone country has been a challenge.”

“A few of us have tried to get into business with Indian partners and the response has been good.” (IANS)