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Cablegate: Mali's Unfunded Road to the Future

DE RUEHBP #1114/01 2791410
R 061410Z OCT 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

B. BAMAKO 0590

1. SUMMARY: Mali's road system, particularly to the north
and east, is inadequate to promote either security or
economic development. The Malian government has addressed
this concern with a comprehensive fifteen year building plan,
but is able to fund little more than maintenance on the
current network. Mali currently depends on donor funding for
nearly all new construction. Prior to the civil war in Cote
D'Iviore, Abidjan was the port of entry or departure for over
80 percent of Mali's exports and imports. The war disrupted
the link between Mali and Abidjan, and as a result the GOM
has asked donors to support construction projects focused on
improved access to ports in Dakar and Nouakchott, and even as
far afield as Lome and Tema (in Ghana). Roads to the north
and east of Bamako needed to spur economic and political
integration and facilitate regional security (reftel A) are
included in the national plan, but important segments would
not be initiated until 2008 and as late as 2012--and only if
more donor funding is forthcoming. Until the roads are
built, the underdevelopment and insecurity that plagues
northern Mali will likely continue unabated into the
foreseeable future. End Summary.

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Priority of Priorities

2. Mahamadou Diallo, Technical Advisor to the Minister of
Transport and a civil engineer by profession, said that roads
are the "priority of priorities" in Mali, and provided
details of current programs and future ambitions in a
discussion September 25. Diallo contributed to an ambitious
plan that, if implemented fully, would link Bamako with most
major towns by paved roads by 2020, with an overall price tag
of 1.6 Trillion FCFA (about 3.13 billion USD). Diallo says
nearly every government official understands the need to
expand and/or improve the current transportation network, and
road funding is intensely debated at the National Assembly,
but funding for nearly all aspects of the plan will have to
come from donor countries. Diallo says the Transport
Ministry's allocation of the Malian state budget, 13 billion
FCFA (2.3 million US dollars), is only enough to maintain the
road network already in place.

3. Diallo said the war in Cote D'Ivoire was shock to the
Malian transport system; before the war he estimated that
over 80 percent of Malian exports and imports passed through
Abidjan. Mali now depends heavily on the port at Dakar,
which Diallo believes is overcrowded and inefficient.
Consequently, the GOM has ongoing projects with donors to
improve or build roads and infrastructure facilitating access
to a variety of ports. The targeted ports not only include
Dakar and Nouakchott but also ports as far afield as Lome and
Tema (Note: access to the last two ports depends on the
quality of roads through Burkina Faso as well as Mali. End
Note). These road projects, not coincidentally, are also
concentrated to give better export channels for cotton,
Mali's principal cash crop. Diallo says that Mali currently
has nearly 195 billion FCFA (382 million USD) in ongoing
donor-fund infrastructure projects, mostly supported by the
EU, World Bank, and the Islamic Development Bank.

4. Important northern segments in the national plan,
essential for security as well as economic development
according to many Malian observers (reftel A), include the

--Bamako-Timbuktu: 635 kilometers, 100 billion FCFA (196
million U.S. dollars), with segments initiated in 2008 and
completion unlikely until 2012.

--Mopti-Gao: 568 kilometers, with a projected cost of 48
billion FCFA (94 million USD) and a construction date of
2008. The paved road was poorly maintained and needs
significant rehabilitation. The road linking Mopti to Bamako
is in a good state of repair.

--Gao-Bourem: 95 kilometers, 15 billion FCFA (29 million
USD), 2008.

--Bourem-Kidal: 260 kilometers, 41 billion FCFA (80 million
USD), 2012.

--Kidal-Algerian border: 300 Km, 24 billion FCFA (47 million
USD), 2012. This segment would be an improved all weather
unpaved road, thus the relatively low price for the distance

5. COMMENT: The roads linking Bamako with Timbuktu, Gao,
and Kidal are critical for security as well as economic
reasons (reftel A), and until constructed, the economic,

BAMAKO 00001114 002 OF 002

political, and cultural trends pulling northern and southern
Mali apart are likely to continue.

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