Mali: Foundations or Quicksand?

 The “Savior” of Mali

François Hollande hailed in Timbuktu as the savior of Mali.

François Hollande hailed in Timbuktu as the savior of Mali.

Mali

Arriving in Timbuktu, President François Hollande has been mobbed by thousands of ecstatic Africans as the French military has returned to restore white supremacy and colonialism in Mali.

Mali, formerly known as French Sudan, became an independent country in September 1960.

Modibo Keita, the first president of Mali, famously described his vision of African socialism as “a system where there will be no unemployed, and there will be no multimillionaires … a system where there will be no beggars, and where each will eat if hungry.”

Now in the 53rd year of independence from France, Martin Meredith describes the result of Keita’s “African socialism” in Mali on page 278 of The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence:

“Mali, a poor country even by African standards, set up twenty-three state enterprises after independence, all of which fell into muddle and chaos, accumulating huge deficits; its list of state enterprises included garages, repair shops, metal works, a printing plant, pharmacies and bookshops.”

Jim Hudgens and Richard Trillo’s The Rough Guide to West Africa has some more insight into Mali’s economic decline under “African socialism”:

“By the mid-1960s, Keita had created a heavy state machinery that dragged mercilessly on the nation’s already fragile economy. The situation was characterized by numerous national enterprises (almost all of them running a deficit), a plethora of civil servants clogging the administrative machinery, a soaring balance-of-trade deficit and foreign debt, and a rapid weakening of the currency. Inflation soared and wages were frozen – a combination that wasn’t calculated to enthuse Malians.

By 1967, taking his cue from Peking, Keita engaged in a “cultural revolution” to purge the nation of enemies within. He was supported in this by radical students, some of the unions, and the lower grades of the civil service who resented the corruption of senior officials and business profiteers. But in the same year, Keita was forced to devalue the Malian franc by fifty percent.”

Mali under “African socialism” sounds eerily reminiscent of the trajectory of the American economy under Barack Obama.

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