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Cablegate: Mali Reaches Out to Its Diaspora


DE RUEHBP #0643/01 2791153
R 061153Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 86401

1.(SBU) Summary: Over four million Malians, or roughly one
quarter to one third of all Malians, live outside of Mali.
While the largest numbers of Malian emigrants live in nearby
Cote D'Ivoire and Senegal, there are also significant
communities in France, Spain, and the United States. Mali's
expatriates are highly organized, and remittances constitute
a sizeable portion of Mali's foreign exchange earnings. On
September 29, PolOff met with Mamadi Traore,
Secretary-General of the Ministry of Malians of the Exterior,
to discuss the Malian government's efforts to maintain
relations with and offer support to its compatriots living
abroad. End Summary.

Land of Emigrants?

2. (SBU) On September 29, PolOff met with Mamadi Traore,
Secretary-General of the Ministry of Malians of the Exterior
and African Integration. According to Traore, the Malian
diaspora is four million strong, representing a quarter to
one third of all Malians. Traore admitted the strongest
pressure behind Malian emigration is poverty and lack of
economic opportunity in Mali, but also noted that foreign
travel is a valued Malian cultural tradition, repeating the
Malian joke that when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, a
Malian vendor approached trying to sell his wares. Although
the largest numbers of Malian emigrants are in neighboring
countries such as Cote D'Ivoire and Senegal, there are also
significant Malian communities in France and Spain.
According to the Embassy's consular section, Malian
communities in the United States can be found in New York
City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Arizona.

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3. (SBU) The Malian diaspora is highly organized. Malian
diasporans have formed associations at the level of each host
major host country, with delegates representing that host
country's association in the Mali-based High Council of
Malian Expatriates. The purpose of the High Council is to
bring difficulties of expatriates to the attention of the
Malian government, and assure representation of expatriates
in domestic political discussions. In addition, Malian
expatriates join "village associations," consisting of
expatriates who originate from the same town or village in
Mali. This is facilitated by tight kinship networks that
result in many Malians from the same village emigrating to
the same location abroad.

An Economic Necessity

4. (SBU) The Malian diaspora contributes significantly to the
economy of Mali in the form of remittances. According to the
World Bank, remittances from Malian expatriates totaled 177
million USD in 2006, or 3.3% of Mali's GDP that year.
Similarly, remittances form a large share of Mali's foreign
exchange, equivalent to 18 percent of its total exports and
surpassing livestock and cotton exports as a source of
external income. The national figures fail to reflect the
importance of the remittances for individual communities, as
the number of emigrants (and remittances) is highest in rural
areas that have been hardest hit by the vagaries of an
agriculture-based economy.

5. (SBU) In addition to remittances, the village associations
pool financial resources in order to fund small
infrastructure improvements in the community of origin. Such
improvements include wells, schools, clinics, and even
mosques. Traore provided the example of his home village of
Yelimani, in Kayes region. Yelimani is one of a group of 12
closely-knit villages, which were formerly served by one
school building built by the French in 1956 and which had no
primary health care facility. According to Traore, village
associations abroad paid for the construction of small school
houses and simple health clinics in each of the 12 villages.

The Government sees an Opportunity

6. (SBU) The Ministry of Malians of the Exterior and African
Integration was originally a division of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. In 2004, the Direction was upgraded to
Ministry status because the Malian Government recognized that
the massive Malian diaspora represented Mali's largest
untapped asset. Today, the Ministry's role includes both
assisting Malians abroad (e.g., the Minister recently
traveled to Libya to argue for improved conditions for
Malians held in detention there) and facilitating
opportunities for members of the Malian diaspora to re-invest
in Mali. For example, the Ministry arranges for Malians
abroad with advanced degrees in domains where local knowledge
is lacking to return to Mali to teach courses at local
universities and training colleges.

7. (SBU) The Ministry's most difficult task is convincing
expatriates to invest in business opportunities in Mali.
Traore said that Malian expatriates have the same misgivings
about investing in Mali as do foreign businesspersons --
lack of infrastructure, high rates of corruption,
bureaucratic hurdles, etc. The Ministry attempts to allay
those concerns by facilitating contacts between Malian
expatriates and local businesses and financiers that can
serve their needs.

Managing the Diaspora

8. (SBU) As Mali's dependence on its diaspora has grown, so
too has the need to deal with the concerns of host countries
facing large numbers of illegal economic migrants. Mali has
entered into a number of immigration accords with several
European countries -- although not yet France -- to control
the flow of Malians across the Mediterranean Sea. In
addition, Mali is currently serving as the site of a Pilot
Project known as CIGEM, short for Center for Information and
Management of Migrations. CIGEM's purpose is to locate
employers in Europe in need of temporary labor and match
those employers up with Malians willing to provide that
labor, who are then provided temporary work visas in the
European Union. If the CIGEM project is a success, it will
be expanded to other West African nations.

9. (SBU) Malian expatriates have found a variety of methods
to participate in the political life of their nation. Malian
expatriates, who are able to vote at Malian diplomatic
missions in their host country, are actively courted by
politicians seeking office. Recently, the President of the
up-and-coming Malian party CODEM, Housseini Guindo, traveled
to Cote D'Ivoire, in part to address a crowd of thousands of
Malians resident in that country. Malian expatriates are
also exceptionally active on Malian interactive news websites
and blogs, including and

10. (SBU) Embassy is not aware of any time the Malian
government has specifically requested the assistance of the
diaspora in disaster relief, nor has the diaspora
distinguished itself as either a hindrance or a help in
matters of conflict resolution.

Embassy's Role

11. (SBU) To date, the Embassy has not engaged in any public
diplomacy outreach specifically targeting the Malian
diaspora. While the Embassy has been contacted by Malian
expatriate groups, those contacts have primarily solicited
financial support only, and current Embassy staff do not
recall any specific instance in which the Embassy was able to
fund the project proposed, either because the project bore no
relation to the Embassy's strategic goals, or because of
budgetary limitations. More generally, PAO believes current
budgeting levels do not allow for a robust public diplomacy
program that is aimed specifically at Malians living abroad.
The Embassy POC for this submission is Fred Noyes, who can be
reached at (223) 2070 2533 or


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