City on the move: Sikasso, Mali

Traders at a market in the Sikasso region. Photo by Hugues

According to the World Trade Organisation, the landlocked West African nation of Mali has “enormous agricultural potential”. The country, however, still imports most of its food products and capital goods.

“Mali imports fruit, which is ridiculous,” says Simballa Sylla, CEO of Mali Shi, a Malian company that processes shea butter from the nuts of the shea tree. “We also import large quantities of vegetables. Why don’t we grow it here?” he says of the opportunity that exists for investors interested in agribusiness.

While the country is currently facing security issues that could deter investment, Sylla says these incidents are more acute in the north and centre of the country. He believes an ideal region for investors to look at would be around the city of Sikasso in the south, near Mali’s borders with Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

Sikasso is Mali’s second-largest city and the capital of the Sikasso region, close to some of the country’s large mines and where the climate provides ideal conditions for crops such as mangoes.

Agriculture is identified by the Mali Investment Agency (L’Agence pour la promotion des investissements au Mali – API-MALI) as one of the potential growth industries in the country for which incentives are provided.

“It is not really difficult to acquire land for crop production,” says Sylla. “There is land available that no one is using.”

He does advise that potential foreign investors take the time to find the right Malian partners, something that API-MALI could assist with. “The right partner can navigate the business environment, find the right information and help you overcome any challenges,” he says.

Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have plans to establish a special economic zone that will encompass the Sikasso region of Mali, Korhogo in Côte d’Ivoire and Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso.

Further reading

[July 2020] From batteries to shea butter: Company sees potential for agri-processing in Mali
[March 2020] The story of a West African hotel group built on an appetite for risk
[March 2019] Malian entrepreneur fights digital exclusion for the illiterate with voice-based social media app
[March 2020] Is the time right for a single currency in West Africa?
[April 2020] Rebecca Enonchong on doing business as a tech startup in French-speaking Africa