Sept. 18 - Mali's cotton and gold industries are still pushing the economy forward despite political chaos reigning in the country, and the tourism industry being brought to its knees. But lack of new investment and frozen foreign aid will start to bite soon if the security situation is not solved. Joel Flynn reports.
More than half a million people rely on aid in Mali. But the economy in this west African country is booming. It might not look much but this is a gold mine. Mali's president may have been toppled in March allowing rebels to seize two thirds of the country, but the twin pillars of the economy - gold and cotton - were not only unharmed, they're actually growing. Alhousseini Abba Maiga is a mining consultant. SOUNDBITE: Consultant to Canadian and South African mining companies, Alhousseini Abba Maiga, saying (French): "Ultimately the crisis was not as bad as people thought... for example, three weeks ago a new mine in the southwest went into production and another mining company, the Avion Gold Corporation, was bought in August." It's a similar story at the national cotton company. Malian army mutineers stormed the offices during the uprising. But after rushing in and firing automatic rounds in the air they realised they'd actually meant to raid the state television HQ next door. Like much of the country's economy, cotton was left untouched. Now Mali is expected to produce more cotton and gold in 2012 than it did last year, and boost national growth to around 6%. Salif Abdoulaye Cissoko is the firm's CEO. SOUNDBITE: Malian national cotton company, CMDT, CEO, Salif Abdoulaye Cissoko, saying (French): "The cotton sector has not felt any direct impact from these events. There's an important cotton production that was already there, we were in the process of finishing payments for the 2011-2012 season." But it's not an entirely rosy picture. The decline in foreign aid and new investment that followed the political upheaval could soon start to bite. Mali's tourism industry has already collapsed. Djenne is a world heritiage site. But vistors are staying away from the ancient trading town. The resilience of cotton and gold may not be enough to sustain the country's long term future. Joel Flynn, Reuters