Using an Agent or Distributor
U.S. exporters should identify a local agent or distributor to assist in bringing goods to market in Mali. Businesses should be aware, however, that entering a successful partnership or representational relationship can be difficult in Mali, as the Malian judicial system is widely reported to be under-resourced, corrupt, and lacking in transparency. U.S. businesses should therefore exercise extreme caution when entering contract arrangements. The U.S. Embassy in Bamako encourages American businesses to meet with the Embassy’s Commercial Office when traveling to Mali. The U.S. Embassy can provide information on local business practices and regulatory requirements, give market suggestions, and provide fee-based commercial services. Fee-based services available for U.S. exporters include an International Company Profile (ICP) to provide due diligence research on a prospective partner, a Gold Key Service to design a tailored schedule of meetings with potential partners and/or distributors, a Single Company Promotion to reach a target audience of clients and key decision-makers, and other U.S. Department of Commerce-branded services.
More information is available on Trade.gov website.
Establishing an Office
Establishing a business in Mali has been simplified through the creation of a guichet unique, or one-stop shop, at the Investment Promotion Agency (API-Mali). API-Mali has English-speaking staff who can respond to queries from interested businesses, as well as an active website with information on forms and applications for business registration. For business creation, API-Mali requests certain documents, including but not limited to ID card, birth certificate, residence certificate, wedding certificate, letter to the court clerk, criminal record, and letter to the Minister of Investment. Different fees are applied according to the sector and the type of company the investor aims to create. The incorporated company, as well as branch, subsidiary, and affiliate thereof, must pay CFA 500,000 (approximately $775) to a notary and CFA 8,500 (approximately $13) to the one-stop-shop. The limited liability company (LLC), general partnership, joint-stock company, economic interest group, and branch, subsidiary, and affiliate thereof must pay CFA 250,000 (approximately $385) to the notary and CFA 6,000 (approximately $9) to the one-stop-shop.
Limited franchising opportunities exist in Mali, including in soft-drink bottling, hotels, courier services, and gasoline service stations.
The opportunities for direct marketing in Mali are limited. U.S. firms should seek a local agent or distributor who speaks French and is familiar with local business practices and regulatory requirements. The U.S. Embassy Commercial Office can provide an Agent/Distributor Service (ADS) to firms that make a request through a U.S. Department of Commerce local trade specialists at https://www.trade.gov/contact-usfor a listing of Export Assistance Centers.
There are opportunities for joint ventures and licensing in some manufacturing and import sectors. Malian law does not have local content requirements. There are some specific limits on ownership in the mining and media sectors. Foreign investors in the mining sector can own up to 90 percent of a mining company. Foreign investors in media companies must have a 50 percent or lower ownership stake.
Mali’s publicly owned post office, Office National des Postes du Mali, is the main express delivery service company in Mali, alongside private international companies like DHL and TNT. Some private firms also exist. Delivery from New York or Washington to Bamako can take 24 to 72 hours.
The U.S. Embassy highly recommends conducting due diligence before establishing a business or when choosing a Malian distributor or partner company. The Embassy’s Commercial Office can perform International Company Profiles (ICP) and Gold Key Services (GKS) for a fee, through U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Centers. Mali’s judicial system is regarded as inefficient and corrupt. The dispute resolution process can take multiple years and is reportedly fraught with corruption, political influence, and demands for payments to facilitate the legal process. The use of a local attorney as a source for consultation and guidance, especially in the case of business disputes, is therefore recommended. The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section maintains a list of local attorneys (https://ml.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/legal-assistance/), though the list should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any of the attorneys listed.
The U.S. Embassy cautions U.S. investors that importing gold from Mali is a high-risk activity. The Embassy has received reports of numerous cases where gold was “switched out” just prior to being loaded onto an airplane, or where Malian transporters absconded with advance fees paid by the U.S. client. Please be advised that there is essentially no recourse for recovering money lost as a result of a gold scam. Additionally, artisanal gold is a known vehicle for tax evasion and money laundering, and the artisanal and small-scale gold sector is associated with a number of serious issues, including corruption, child labor, and trafficking.