Identifies common practices used in selling in this market, including sales material that needs to be in the local language.
French is the main language of business. Entrepreneurs or their local agents should be proficient in French. Sales and technical literature must be in French. Attractive payment/financing arrangements may be crucial, as European and Chinese competitors often provide such options. Competitive pricing, more than quality, often determines purchasing decisions in Mali.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
Advertising is increasingly used in Mali. Several daily newspapers (including l’Essor, les Echos, Nouvel Horizon,Le Soir de Bamako, Le Republicain, L’Independant, and Info-Matin) and weekly newspapers (Le Point, Le Sphinx, and Journal du Mali) run advertisements. Radio and television advertisements in French and local languages are often more effective than print ads, given that Mali’s literacy rate is only 35 percent and even the largest newspapers have relatively small distributions, limited to Bamako and the regional capitals of Kayes, Sikasso, Segou, Koulikoro, and Mopti. The Malian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIM) holds a yearly tradeshow (Foire Exposition Internationale de Bamako or FEBAK) providing opportunities to local and international businesses for B2B and B2C meetings. The Ministry of Energy and Mines organizes the Mali Mining and Petroleum Conference and Exhibition (JMP) to shed light on Mali’s mining and petroleum potentials and give opportunities to mining companies. The government organizes trade events through the ministries of investment and industries and with support from international donors, providing more exposure opportunities to businesses.
Price is the single most important factor in selling in Mali, followed closely by generous trade terms/financing packages for investors. A law on competition underscores companies’ freedom to price products. The government, however, often intervenes to control the prices of foodstuffs as well as petroleum products. The Value Added Tax (VAT) rate is fixed at 18 percent of the selling price. Companies collect the VAT.
Sales Service/Customer Support
Offering customer support is a relatively new phenomenon in Mali but particularly important for vehicle or equipment/machine sales arrangements, given the harsh environmental conditions and lack of well-developed downstream service facilities. Competition between telecommunication companies, banks, and retailers is pushing more businesses to offer frequent discounts.
Local Professional Services
Finding a local attorney is highly recommended for establishing a business, and essential for resolving business disputes and litigation. When seeking a lawyer, please be aware that a phone call may be more effective than an email. The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section maintains a list of local attorneys, though the list should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any of the attorneys listed.
Principal Business Associations
Businesses are organized by sector, or chamber, based associations and are open to foreign entities, including U.S. businesses. The main associations are the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie for trade and industry, the Chambre d’Agriculture for agriculture, and the Chambre des Mines for mining operators. There are also marketwide organizations such as the National Council of Employers (Conseil National du Patronat). The Council can represent employers and industries during negotiations with the government and unions. Currently, it represents 40 business associations and seven local councils from different regions of Mali. The business associations and the National Council of Employers have taken an active role in defending the interests of the private sector in judicial cases as demonstrated in a case relating to the cancellation of an executive order on copyrights. In addition, the National Council of Employers organizes trade exhibitions and business-to-business networking sessions to increase connections between local businesses and foreign firms. Business associations carry weight in political decisions and inform members about major activities relating to their sectors.
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
There are no specific limitations on the selling of U.S. products and services in Mali.