By Jemal Oumar
The African Union recently expressed a willingness to lift economic sanctions imposed on Mali after the military coup that derailed the country’s democratic process.
A statement issued by the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on September 5th said that “the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) will meet soon to lift economic sanctions imposed on Mali,” Panapresse reported.
However, the PSC warned in the same statement that it would “effectively punish any entity trying to hinder the return to democratic life and interim course that was started by current acting President Dioncounda Traore”.
Sanctions have had an adverse impact on trade with Mauritania in particular, according to experts. Economic journalist Mohamed Ould Akah, editor of alhassad.net, noted that the embargo prevented Mali from importing several items, on top of unrest in northern Mali.
“Most goods supplied to Timbuktu, its villages and suburbs come from Mauritania through desert paths on cross-desert vehicles,” Ould Akah added.
“Lifting the economic embargo off Mali by the African Union will have a very strong and positive impact, especially as the Malian state doesn’t have any outlets on sea, and therefore, most of its imports come through Nouakchott seaport,” he said. “This is in addition to the vital importance of the paved highway between Nouakchott and Bamako, through which considerable quantities of fish enter Mali.”
In his turn, Said Ould Habib, director of the Millennium Centre for Media Studies, told Magharebia that Mali was “the biggest West African country in terms of economic relations with Mauritania, and therefore, any embargo on it would have negative impact on both countries, and even on other Maghreb countries that send supplies to Mali, especially Algeria”.
Ould Habib said that the Malian crisis has reduced some Mauritanian products in Malian markets and affected livestock in some southeastern areas that used to depend on lush Malian pastures.
“Meanwhile, Mauritanian markets were affected by the stoppage of entry of many goods that come to Nouakchott from West African countries through Mali, especially wood, some vegetables and local industries,” he added.
But journalist Sheikh Mohamed Ould Harmah said that the “current crisis wouldn’t affect the size of economic exchange between the two countries due to depth of relations between them and their need for each other.”
“There are several joint issues between Mali and Mauritania, especially the joint enemy which is represented by terrorist groups,” Ould Harmah said.