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Mali-MapPopulation: 20.25 Million

HDI ranking: 182/189

HDI score: 0.434

Mali has a long history of decentralization; however, in 2012 a brief military coup led the democratic country into a state of political crisis. The recent presidential election was closely watched and, by most accounts, peaceful (IRI, 2013). Yet different obstacles remain to fulfilling the goal of consolidating the democratization process and attaining sustainable development carried out by local actors (IMF, 2013). Military coups in 2020 and 2021, followed by a prolonged wait to establish a civilian-elected government, coupled with continued instability and multiple militant groups’ presences in Nothern Mali has casued decentralization to have fallen to the wayside on the government’s list of priorities (Freedom House, 2022).

Local governance at a glance

  • The country is divided into 8 Regions and the capital district Bamako. The regions and capital district are divided into 49 cercles (districts), which are further subdivided into 703 municipalities (TSEP, 2014).
  • Each municipality has municipal councils whose counselors are elected for five year terms by citizens of the municipality. The counselors in turn elect a mayor (TSEP, 2014).
  • The Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralization and Regional Planning (MATDAT) oversees the local sectors of governance.
  • Mali has no legislated gender quota at the national or sub-national level (Quota Project, 2014).

Civil society actors include

  • SOS Démocratie works to ensure fair elections with increased citizen turnout (SOS Démocratie, 2013).
  • Conseil National de la Société Civile (National Civil Society Council – NCSC) works to increase the impact of civil society by coordinating engagement with the government and private sector and strengthening civil society’s operating environment.
  • The Forum of Civil Society Organizations (FOSC) provides a space for dialogue and participation to strengthen democracy and sustainable development (FOSC, 2011).
  • The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has been implementing the Mopti Coordinated Area Development Programme, including interventions in health, education, rural development and civil society strengthening to improve the quality of life for the residents of Mopti, one of the poorest regions in the country (AKF, 2020).

Capacity building institutions

Fiscal control

  • The budget of local governments is composed of “(i) local tax revenues collected with the help of the tax authorities; (ii) government budget transfers (solidarity subsidies to make up for regional disparities); and (iii) investment grants (…) through the National Local Government Investment Agency” (World Bank, 2010).
  • Local authorities raise few of their own funds, and they rely on transfers from the federal government (World Bank, 2013).
  • Transfers from the central government are set on an ad hoc basis (UCLG Africa and Cities Alliance, 2013).
  • In 2000, The National Local Government Investment Agency (ANICT) was created. The ANICT works with rural municipalities to formulate budgets and manage local funds (World Bank, 2007).
  • A National Budget Directorate oversees the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and local program budgets. They promote greater budget transparency and strengthen ties between local authorities and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (World Bank, 2006).
  • Mali has made an annual allocation of 1-2 million West African CFA Francs to the rural communes to cover their operating costs. The communes are supposed to fund the remaining costs by raising revenue from various taxes and administrative charges (Royal Tropical Institute).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • Modern decentralization in Mali began in 1992 and the government laid out the plan in two phases covering a dozen years (1992-2004). The first phase included designing a democratic reform and following through with the implementation. The second stage was introduced in The National Decentralization Policy Paper and included a plan to further enact and consolidate reforms during the years 2005-2014 (World Bank, 2010; IMF, 2013).
  • While the 1992 Constitution provided the principles for decentralization, the 1993 law set the framework for decentralization. It established regions, cercles and municipalities and constituted elected councils (WRI and Landesa, 2011).
  • The 1996 Principal Decentralization Law shifted responsibilities for protecting natural resources and managing lands to local government (WRI and Landesa, 2011).
  • In 2002, the National Government signed decrees to transfer responsibilities concerning health, education and water to the local authorities (Kit, 2004).
  • Mali adopted a whole package of support policies for decentralization which comprised dissemination of information on decentralization, training services for technical services, subnational entities and citizens as well as support for producer organization (CIESIN, 2004).
  • The 2005 National Decentralization Policy Framework Paper (2005-2014) focuses on “capacity building in territorial communities, improvement of devolution, development of citizenship and development of private service delivery at the local level” (PD, 2011).
  • “On May 23, 2019, the World Bank approved a $50 million grant to support Mali’s efforts to implement the decentralization and institutional capacity development agenda in local governments”(World Bank, 2019).
    •  “The project will ultimately enhance people’s access to services in priority sectors such as health and education, as well as ensure more effective and inclusive local governance.”

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • The Network for Advocacy for Peace, Security and Development in Northern Mali criticized former President Tourés’ 2010 Special Program for Peace, Security, and Development in Northern Mali (PSPSDN) for not including the participation of local governments and affected communities. The program increased police and military presence in northern Mali (USIP, 2013).
  • Local government faces several challenges: transfer of competences to the local level has been accompanied by insufficient resources, weak resources-mobilization leads to dependency on transfers from central government, lack of budget decentralization, and insufficient representation of civil society (World Bank, 2013).
  • Financial transfers from the central government are unpredictable and conditional, thus impeding local autonomy (UCLG Africa and Cities Alliance, 2013).
  • Mali is currently in a state of extreme instability that not only threatens the country’s ability to further their decentralization efforts, but puts much of the civilian population at risk of being completely disenfranchised as the military junta has appointed both the president and prime minister.
    • “Overdue parliamentary elections were held in two rounds in March and April 2020, but the process was marred by violence, low turnout, and disagreement over the results” (Freedom House, 2022). This election was followed by two military coups, rendering the results essentially null in terms of the elected parties abilities to take office and create change in their communities.
    • “The economic and financial sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) on January 9, 2022, after the military junta took power, have considerably clouded the economic outlook for 2022” (World Bank, 2022).
  • Nothern Mali is considered a heavy conflict zone and Mali as a whole has been engaged in conflict with Islamist Militant groups for the past decade. This conflict divides Northern and Southern Mali – creating a gap in communication and collaboration between the North and the South, specifically the capital in Bamako.
    • This conflict means that decentralization and local governance reforms cannot be emphasized in the North, and are severely handicapped in the South.
    • A 2020 paper from Clingendael states, “The current decentralisation process is captured in a logic of territorial control that remains dominated by the armed signatories, whose representation takes precedence before the needs and interests of marginalised tribes and communities in northern regions” (Clingendael, 2020).

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources:

Association of Municipalities of Mali (AMM), 2014:

Evaluation of the Paris Declaration (PD), 2011: “Country Evaluation Mali. Executive Summary.”

Freedom House, 2022: “Mali”

Forum of Civil Society Organizations (FOSC), 2011:

Gender Quota, 2014: “Mali.”

Royal Tropical Institute, “Decentralisation in Mali”

Groupe Pivot Droits et Citoyenneté des Femmes au Mali (GP/DCF), n.d.:

International Republican Institute (IRI), 2013: “Election Watch Mali”

International Monetary Fund (IMF), 2013: “Mali: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.”

Kit Development, Policy and Practice, 2004: “Decentralisation in Mali: Putting Policy into Practice”

SNV and CDELO, 2004: “Decentralisation in Mali: Putting Policy into Practice.”

SOS Démocratie, 2013:

Support Program for Local Authorities (PACT):

Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), 2020

Trans-Saharan Elections Project (TSEP), 2014, University of Florida: “The Electoral System. Mali.”

United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) and Cities Alliance, 2013: “Assessing the Institutional Environment of Local Governments in Africa.”

UN Human Development Index, 2012: “Mali”

US Institute of Peace (USIP), 2013: “Crisis in Mali: Root Causes and Long-Term Solutions”

World Bank, 2006: “Mali.”

World Bank, 2007: “Development of the Cities of Mali – ­Challenges and Priorities.”

World Bank, 2010: “Mali Public Expenditure Management and Financial Accountability Review.”

World Bank, 2013: “Implementation Status & Results. Mali. ML- Governance and Budget Decentralization Technical Assistance Project (P112821).”

World Bank, 2019: “Mali: World Bank Supports Decentralization by Scaling Up Resource Deployment and Capacity Development in Local Governments”

World Bank, 2022: “Mali Economic Update: Resilience in Uncertain Times – Renewing the Social Contract”

Center for International Earth Science Information Network, 2004: “Republic of Mali”
Clingendael, 2020: “Decentralisation amidst hybrid governance”

World Resources Institute (WRI) and Landesa, 2011: “The Challenge of Decentralization in Mali.”