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Economic Overview

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Despite major security concerns, Mali’s economy has enjoyed steady growth rates during these last years, supported by strong agricultural production (especially for cotton) and high gold prices. However, the country’s GDP contracted by -1.6% in 2020 as a consequence of the global economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic activity rebounded by an estimated 4% in 2021 and is expected to further accelerate to 5.3% in 2022 and 5% in 2023 (IMF), boosted by strong agricultural and mining sectors.

Mali’s public finances deteriorated due to the pandemic-induced economic slowdown and increased spending, and did not improve in 2021 despite the economic recovery. The debt-to-GDP ratio continued to increase, from an estimated 47.4% in 2020 to 51% in 2021, and is forecast to only slightly decrease to 50.6% in 2022 and 50.1% in 2023 (IMF). The public debt is mostly external and concessional, and relies on international lenders (Coface). Budget deficit increased from -5.4% GDP in 2020 to -5.5% GDP in 2021, and is forecast to narrow to -4.5% GDP in 2022, remaining above the WAEMU community criterion of 3% GDP (Coface). Revenues from gold mining and cotton production are expected to increase, but capital spending supporting major infrastructure projects will remain significant (Coface). Inflation increased from 0.5% in 2020 to 3% in 2021, but is forecast to decrease to 2% in 2022 and 2023, staying below the ECOWAS convergence criteria thanks to the CFA franc’s euro peg (IMF). The 2022 budget is focused on fiscal consolidation and implementation of the IMF program. In February 2021, the IMF Executive Board allowed for an immediate disbursement of about USD 57.6 million to help meet the country’s financing needs and support social spending, as part of a 3-year Extended Credit Facility with a total value of USD 192 million. With such funds, Mali is also expected to implement a structural reform program aiming at improving public finances and debt management, while promoting economic diversification, energy infrastructure enhancement (electricity), and human capital improvement. However, political instability could compromise access to financing. The main challenges faced by the country are the fragile security situation, political instability, inadequate infrastructure, financial and governmental capacity constraints, commodity prices volatility, and unfavourable weather conditions (drought).

Mali is classified as a heavily indebted poor country (HIPC) and, as such, it benefited from debt cancellation under the IMF's HIPC Initiative. According to the latest World Bank figures, 42.3% of Malians live in extreme poverty. Poverty is concentrated in rural areas (90% of all poor) and in the south of the country. According to ILO estimates, almost three-quarter of the economically active population work in the informal economy; whereas the unemployment rate in 2020 stood at around 7.7% of the total workforce (World Bank).

Main Indicators 20202021202220232024
GDP (billions USD) 17.4919.1518.4319.3921.00
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -
GDP per Capita (USD) 864918858876921
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 47.351.955.955.855.3
Inflation Rate (%)
Current Account (billions USD) -0.39-1.92-1.45-1.37-1.35
Current Account (in % of GDP) -2.2-10.0-7.9-7.1-6.4

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Country Risk

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Main Sectors of Industry

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 62.4 7.6 30.0
Value Added (in % of GDP) 35.7 20.6 35.4
Value Added (Annual % Change) 1.4 1.0 5.1

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 593.01582.09555.72585.90575.59

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.



Foreign Trade

Mali has an open economy in which trade accounts for around 65% of the country’s GDP (World Bank, 2020). Customs duties are relatively low (the average applied tariff rate is 10%), and there are very few legal or regulatory trade barriers. Mali mainly exports gold (72.9% of total exports in 2019, Comtrade), cotton (11.6%), live animals, and fertilisers; importing chiefly petroleum oils (27% of total imports), cement (4%), medicaments, and electrical apparatus.

The country is a member of WTO, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), whose objective is to reduce trade barriers through the creation of a common market. One of Mali’s primary objectives was to reach self-sufficiency regarding cereal production and to become the leading grain supplier for countries in West Africa. However, although it has achieved satisfactory results, Mali is yet to become a net exporter of cereals. Cotton production, on the other hand, has been on the rise over the last agricultural season, allowing Mali to become the largest supplier of cotton in Africa. The adoption of economic sanctions by ECOWAS and UEMOA early 2022, including a trade and financial embargo and border closures, could negatively impact trade. The bulk of Mali’s exports go to South Africa (36.5% of total exports), followed by Switzerland (35.6%), Bangladesh (7.1%), Ivory Coast (4.2%) and Burkina Faso (2.8%). Senegal (which accounts for 22.5% of Mali’s total imports) is the biggest supplier, followed by China (15.8%), Ivory Coast (10.6%) and France (7.9%) (Comtrade, latest data available).

Mali’s trade balance is structurally in deficit and is largely dependent on commodity prices. According to figures by WTO, in 2020 the country’s exports of merchandise increased to USD 3.92 billion (from USD 3.68 billion in 2019), while imports of merchandise decreased to USD 4.88 billion (from USD 5.13 billion). Mali is also a net service importer: the value of commercial services imports stood at USD 1.61 billion, against USD 542 million in exports. According to Malian government, in spite of expected higher cotton production in 2022, lower gold prices will contribute to the deterioration of the trade balance. The import bill will remain large, due to the recovery of domestic demand and high energy prices (Coface).

Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 4,2864,7225,1344,8776,530
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,8963,5843,6753,9235,015
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,3231,3941,5321,6052,343
Exports of Services (million USD) 441486672542513

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)
Trade Balance (million USD) -705-383-638504n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -2,200-1,895-2,117-1,144n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -14.2-12.15.9-2.914.1
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 11.4-
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 35.935.638.036.340.2
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 22.224.525.730.729.6

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20222023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

International Economic Cooperation
Member of West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)

Member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
South Africa 36.5%
Switzerland 35.6%
Bangladesh 7.1%
Ivory Coast 4.2%
Burkina Faso 2.8%
See More Countries 13.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
Senegal 22.5%
China 15.8%
Ivory Coast 10.6%
France 7.9%
India 3.1%
See More Countries 40.1%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data