Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, currency, language, health, local time, business hours and holidays, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, temporary entry of materials and personal belongings,etc.

 

Business Customs

Given the complexity of Mali’s social and economic customs, U.S. companies are strongly encouraged to establish local contacts. Rampant corruption, onerous bureaucracy, and several years of political instability mitigate the beneficial effects of laws and procedures encouraging investment in Mali.

In practice, it is difficult and time consuming to conduct business without paying bribes in Mali. This can leave U.S. companies at a disadvantage, as they must comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  Enforcement of the law in Mali is irregular and inefficient. It is crucial that businesses understand that bribery is common and that they prepare themselves to appropriately address and deflect bribery attempts.

Mali’s population is approximately 95% Muslim. Businesses are likely to encounter similar challenges and opportunities found in other West African/Muslim countries. Malians place great emphasis on protocol and courtesy. Discussions should begin with an extensive exchange of greetings and pleasantries. Western business attire or local respectful attire are the norm. Business cards are commonly exchanged during meetings.

Travel Advisory

Any U.S. citizen considering travel to Mali should consult the Department of State Travel Advisory for Mali.

Visa Requirements

U.S. travelers to Mali must obtain a visa in advance from a Malian Embassy or Consulate. The Embassy of Mali’s website provides information on required documents, fees, and visa categories.
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s):  State Department Visa Website

Currency

Mali uses the CFA franc and belongs to WAEMU. The CFA franc is the only currency used in Mali. Travelers can exchange foreign currencies against the CFA franc in currency bureaus (bureaus de change) when arriving in Mali. Bureaus de change are located in the international airport as well as in major cities. Commercial banks also exchange foreign currencies against the CFA franc and vice versa. Informal currency exchange is common, particularly in Bamako. The U.S. Embassy advises against informal exchange of currency because of the potential risks involved, including robberies. It is possible to use debit cards to withdraw cash from ATMs. Some merchants will accept credit cards; however, cash remains the most common method of payment in Mali. International credit networks—particularly Visa and Mastercard—are accessible, as are regional and local networks. Travelers checks are often accepted by commercial banks.

Telecommunications/Electronics

Local and long-distance telephones, fax, and Internet services are available in Bamako and other major cities. Mali obtained Internet access in 2000, and there are currently numerous Internet service providers in Bamako including Orange, Afribone, and Malitel.  There is little difference among the providers in terms of costs. Service is quite reliable but normal dial-up, VSAT, and broadband speeds are slower than in the United States. International mail is slow and not wholly reliable. Private courier services including DHL, Federal Express, EMS Postadex, and Airborne Express operate in Bamako. Most business hotels are equipped with WiFI, and there are cybercafés in many major and mid-sized cities. Two different kinds of plugs are used in Mali: C and E. The voltage is 220 and the frequency is 50 Hz.

Transportation

Taxis are common in Bamako and major cities but are poorly maintained and dangerous. Privately operated public transport vans and pick-up trucks, referred to as "Bachés" or "Sotramas," are also poorly maintained, routinely overloaded, and dangerous. For safety reasons, it is recommended to avoid using local transport vans. Intra- and inter-urban bus service is available. There is passenger rail service between Bamako and Dakar, Senegal, but the service is not currently operational. Train travel between Bamako and Dakar requires a minimum of 36 hours and is subject to significant delays. Most business visitors rent four-wheel-drive vehicles with drivers for in-country travel. Passenger air service does not exist in Mali to the regional airports of Kayes, Mopti/Sevare Timbuktu, and Gao, but air travel is possible through a few private companies that have contracts with the United Nations. Air travel within West Africa is common. Frequent flights are available to Addis Ababa, Paris, Nairobi, and Istanbul. Travelers should carry copies of their passports while traveling within Mali.

Language

French is the official language of government and business.  Local languages (especially Bambara) are also widely spoken, particularly outside of Bamako. Most Malian businesspeople speak little or no English. Commercial interpreters and translation services are available if required, and cost roughly $250-350 per day.

Health

All travelers must have international vaccination cards (WHO) with current yellow fever immunization documented. Mali has chloroquine-resistant malaria. It is strongly recommended that travelers take malaria prophylaxis and avoid drinking tap water. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has more information regarding health precautions to take while traveling to Mali, available here.

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

Mali follows Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Business hours are typically Monday through Thursday, 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM and 1:30PM to 4:00 PM; and Friday, 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM and 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM. Saturday and Sunday are non-working days. The U.S. Embassy in Bamako’s holiday calendar is available here

Holidays in Mali in 2019 include:

January 1 – New Year's Day
January 20 – Army Day
March 26 – Martyr’s Day
April 22– Easter Monday
May 1 – International Labor Day
May 25 – Africa Day
June 3 – Eid al-Fitr (Conclusion of Ramadan) 
August 11 (approximate) – Tabaski (Eid al-Adha)
September 22 – Independence Day
November 10 (approximate) – Mawlid (Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday)
November 17 (approximate) – Prophet Muhammad’s Baptism 
December 25 – Christmas
(Dates listed as “approximate” are Islamic holidays based on the lunar calendar and therefore subject to variation).

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Temporary entry of materials are subject to prior approval or an authorization from the customs department, when there is proof that materials will be re-exported out of the country at the end of the stay.

Travel Related Web Resources

U.S. Embassy Bamako

U.S. Embassy Bamako Economic and Commercial Service
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of State Travel Website
Mali travel procedures 
 

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of more than 100 offices across the United States and in more than 75 markets, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Mali Business Travel and Etiquette