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Cablegate: Mali's Input On West Africa Ict Conference

VZCZCXRO1094
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHBP #0168 0500749
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190749Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAMAKO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8746
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BAMAKO 000168

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AORC ECPS ECON ML
SUBJECT: MALI'S INPUT ON WEST AFRICA ICT CONFERENCE

REF: STATE 9659

1. In response to reftel, Embassy discussed the upcoming
West Africa ICT conference in Accra with Dr. Mamadou Diallo,
Telecommunications Specialist at the Ministry of
Communications, who also attended the last ICT conference in
San Francisco. He stated that mobile phone technology is the
fastest growing sector in Mali. Many Malians forego even
having a land line and buy cell phones directly. Although
many Malians already use cell phones, there is still great
opportunity for investment in this sector.

2. The biggest handicap for Mali is its sheer size. While a
West African initiative to link fiber-optic cable to all the
capitals has been completed in Mali, the distance covered
here was only 1,500 km, which leaves the majority of the
country still uncovered. This provides a potential
investment opportunity to extend fiber optic cable to other
regions of Mali.

3. Dr. Diallo believes that the presence of only two
telecommunications companies in Mali -- French-owned Orange
and the state-owned Sotelma--presents a problem. It creates
a near monopoly situation where consumers have few options
and prices remain high. The privatization of Sotelma,
delayed the last couple of years, is scheduled for 2008. Six
undisclosed buyers have expressed interest in the buy-out.

4. A further limitation to the growth of the telecom
industry is the lack of qualified individuals with knowledge
of new technologies. Diallo believes a technical university
in Bamako would be a well-received investment.

5. Finally, the current infrastructure for internet service
in Mali is very poor. Coverage only extends to major cities
while the majority of the population lives in rural areas.
Prices remain high and connection speeds slow, e.g. one month
residential service at 128kb costs around USD 60 and one
month service for a business at 512kb is almost USD 400.

6. For the conference, Diallo felt that private companies
and all related associations should be invited to discuss the
region's problems and opportunities. It appears to him that
the sector is ripe for development where much investment is
needed and Malian-American joint ventures would be welcome.

7. COMMENT: The Embassy agrees with Diallo's sentiments
that the telecommunications sector offer American and other
companies considerable investment opportunities.
MCCULLEY

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