Helen Clark, Director of the United Nations Develop Program, concluding a visit to Mali, has praised this North African country for its democratic governance and for the huge progress it is making towards the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
Mali used to stand at the hub of a vast empire in Western Africa, at the centre of the trading routes for gold, salt and other commodities, a gateway between Central, Northern and Western Africa, its Mediterranean shoreline and Europe. The medieval manuscripts in the ancient city of Timbuktu bear witness to its former days of glory.
It was after visiting the library which houses these manuscripts that Helen Clark spoke of her praise for Mali. Impressed by the spirit of democratic governance after her meetings with President Amadou Toumani Toure, Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe and Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane she stated that not only is Mali committed to a democratic future but also, is taking great strides towards fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals.
Among the various initiatives praised by Helen Clark were the success in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and several business schemes empowering women and simultaneously developing the economy.
In the area of healthcare, Mali reduced its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate from 1.7 to 1.3 per cent from 2001 to 2006, expanding universal access to treatments and widening its healthcare network.
Mali is also a showcase for successful aid for trade initiatives which empower women, increase family income, raise living standards, stimulate the economy through creating opportunities and jobs and more fundamentally, guarantee improved schooling rates.
Agriculture is foremost among the new business schemes, one example mentioned by Helen Clark being the all-women mango cooperative near the capital city, Bamako. This cooperative not only produces mangoes for export but also trains its members, giving people the skills they need to set up their own business or grow their own food.
Each of the farmers in this particular project handle around 35 tons of mangoes per year for export and this poverty-alleviation scheme has seen Mali’s mango exports rise from 2,915 tons to 12,676 tons between 2005 and 2008.
For the future, according to Helen Clark, there are other challenges on the horizon, namely climate change, the status of women and stimulating the key role of agriculture in developing the societies in this part of Africa. Only by allowing the economic empowerment of women, giving them access to legal rights and involving them in decision-making processes, can women’s empowerment be achieved, she stated.
And only through a complete integration of its women can a society ever hope to develop. Mali stands as one of Africa’s many success stories. While one will not find many of these in the controlled media, which likes to create emotions of comfort among its readers/viewers by showing them a wilderness (Africa) or feelings of safety by inventing an enemy (now Iran, formerly Russia and the USSR), Africa is a continent like any other. It has its problems but it also has its success stories.
Half a century after the yolk of Imperialism and colonialism was broken, maybe this new Millennium will belong to Africa.