Mali: Youth unemployment in Mopti remains a source of insecurity in the region

Mopti

Since 2015, Mr. Diallo returned to Mopti after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in private law from a private university in Bamako. In Bagnetaba, the old neighborhood of Sevaré where we met him, he confides that he tries to fool the boredom by often visiting the parents and helping a friend of his brother who is in the field of event management. Why did you leave the capital, which is a source of opportunity? “It’s better to be unemployed beside your mother than in a capital where you do not know anyone”. He responds with a smile, his eyes sparkling behind his glasses. At 24, he lives hardly this “frustrating” situation for him and his parents who, he says, are counting on him. “After 16 years of study! If I had taken this time to do something else, I would now be a carpenter, a mason. I call it a mess!”

 In Mali, the phenomenon of unemployment generates a feeling of frustration among young people who, for almost a year, are constantly demanding the 200 00 jobs promised during the electoral campaign in Kayes in 2013 by Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, then candidate of the Rassemblement Pour le Mali (RPM, in power). In July 2016, the National Directorate for Employment stated that the rate of achievement of the presidential promise was 61%, ie 121,000 jobs created. Figures challenged by youth leaders and observers. One thing remains clear: in Mali, the fight against unemployment and the issue of youth employment are extremely topical. In 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated the unemployment rate of young people around 11%. Each year, about 300,000 young people enter the labor market; many of them are unable to access decent work due to lack of adequate vocational training. As a result, the unemployment rate rises at a gallop.

Fall of the local economy

The history of Moborou is symptomatic of the situation of the country where the unease of the young, unemployed and without jobs, is considered a time bomb that it is urgent to defuse. In the Mopti region, where the incidence of poverty was over 47%, according to a report by the government and its partners published in 2013, unemployment is endemic due to the fall of the local economy. In four decades, the region has collapsed “due to the severe disruption of coastal markets”, according to Adam Thiam, an editorial writer and assessment consultant who has worked in the region for a long time. To the point that “meat produced in Europe is sold cheaper on the market than the one from the Sahel which is expensive, consumed only by the elite”.

 There has been a slump in livestock and fisheries due to climate change, the disruption of the high water and recession system required for the fish cycle, from spawning to hatching. “Adding to this, is a very heavy indebtedness of the fishermen. Because of the bank’s loans, they leave the region for Farafeni, Gambia and Chad”, adds Adam Thiam. Downturn also in agriculture that has lost in productivity, also affected by climate change, especially the drought of the 1970s.

Former mayor of the urban commune of Mopti, Oumar Papa Bathily is one of those who think that the important natural resources of the region have not been capitalized. “Mopti was the only region that exported livestock. Inland fisheries were developed, and agriculture was also developed. It was the Eldorado. But there was no investment. We thought it was providence”.

Around 2000, there was a divestment of rural areas, development cooperatives closed, creating a shortfall for the local economy. Tourism, which accounted for 25% of the regional economy and generated nearly 20 billion francs CFA according to the Ministry of Tourism, has been affected by insecurity in the north “since the early 2000s”, thus putting hotel, transporters, boat workers, tourist guides into unemployment . About 300 to 400 tourist guides, according to Issa Kansaye, mayor of the urban commune of Mopti, are unemployed due to insecurity. The region, since 2012, has become a new sanctuary of instability due to the activity of violent extremist groups and social conflicts. In a study published in March 2017, Adam Thiam writes: “The crisis of the regional economy thus constitutes a breeding ground for the development of insecurity. In addition to intensifying conflicts of a land-based nature, it also deprived people of the inability to reconvert peacefully, feeding instead a criminogenic dynamic. Indeed, the unemployment rate is frequently advanced as a direct cause of the switch of certain young people into banditry, especially the theft of cattle”.

Insecurity

In Mopti, many are those who support the thesis that there is a correlation between the reign of insecurity and the question of unemployment: “You are faced with unemployment and are looking for a means of subsistence. You grab the chance. Young people are there wandering”. At his side, Ibrahim Maïga, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), having participated in the study on “Young Malian “Jihadists”, guided by faith or circumstances?” estimates that unemployment, whether seasonal or long-term, is not a “primary factor” in the engagement of young people in small armed groups. “Our interlocutors were mostly shepherds or pastors and therefore already had an economic activity. It is above all the will to protect oneself (against the army, the thieves of cattle or sometimes the Dozos) as well as the perceived or experienced injustice on the part of the administrative authorities, especially in relation to the management of pastures, which precipitated some in the arms of the jihadist groups”.

Chairperson of the Fulani Observatory, Kisal, and a researcher following closely the evolution of the situation in the center of the country, Dougoukolo Alpha Oumar Ba-Konaré explains that there is certainly a “professional transition problem, in the sense that there is still much needed work. We can say that there is work. But this work is not marked in a socially, physically or mentally secure way”. The analysis that the situation of insecurity is due to social factors is widely accepted in the region plowed by violent extremism and social tensions: “Physical insecurity, combined with the feeling of insecurity about the future, as for food, the inter community, or the judiciary, creates the ground for a social grumbling nourishing more all these insecurities. Resolving the problem of employment thus necessarily involves identifying the social needs of the communities and providing them with access to their available jobs. In this sense, it is a matter of valuing the work, as can be done in urban areas”, adds Dougoukolo Alpha Oumar Ba-Konaré.

Modernization

In the region, school drop-out is growing, while in the city of Mopti itself, the enrollment rate reaches 98% according to the NGO Action Mopti. A paradox. According to its coordinator, Mady Bagayoko, the unemployment rate in the region is high among students leaving the universities of the capital and that the NGO is working to recycle in other disciplines. Unemployment is also wreaking havoc in rural areas, deserted by young farmers, because of insecurity, to increase the rate in urban centers where they cannot prove their know-how. For Bagayoko, a civil and industrial engineer trained in Russia, 55 years old, there is an urgent need to modernize the growing sectors. In the Sokoura, Tongoronko and Mopti localities, the NGO and its partners are working on the development of fish ponds which he hopes, will employ a considerable number of young people. Livestock, which also employed many people in this region must be controlled especially by the State, by creating livestock parks to encourage an animal industry, “instead of letting people walk around with the flocks”.

Other NGOs, such as Swisscontact, intervene in this region where, according to the most shared feeling, “the State is absent”. Since 2014, explains Yaya Mariko, coordinator of Swisscontact, the NGO is working to implement a vocational training support program in collaboration with the local authorities. It travels the region to find out about training needs, finances income-enhancing projects, of integration. For Mariko, “the problem is that young people do not know what to do, who to turn to, which door to knock”. The NGO trains young people as a group in plumbing, reinforcement, tiling, and find themselves on construction sites in the region, especially in the Dogon country.

Idrissa Konda, 36 years old, has received training from the NGO in livestock fattening, after his passage through the Youth Orientation Space (EOJ), an apparatus of the Agency for the Promotion of Youth Employment (APEJ) which works with young people aged 15 to 40, since 2015. According to the orientation counselor, Boubacar Haïdara, the space has received more than 1,000 young people, 50% of whom are young girls, and 200 have passed the first stage of their integration. “The State is therefore making efforts through structures such as APEJ”, says Haidara. In Gangal, a Mopti neighborhood, Idrissa Konda, after losing his job as a sales clerk, is now devoted to livestock fattening. In 4 years, he now has 17 heads against 3 at the start. His oxen, which he says buying between 150,000 francs and 250,000 francs CFA to fatten, are sold between 300000 francs and 650 000 francs on the market. He is on the verge of transforming his activity into a microenterprise that Swisscontact has agreed to finance to the tune of 13 million francs CFA. Entrepreneurship is another area towards which young people are pushed. For, “the most important thing is training. You have to teach young people how to start a business”, believes the mayor Issa Kansaye. An opinion half-shared by Mady Bagayoko: “Mali is the most opaque country in terms of business settlements. They do not come to Mopti because the conditions are not there. Corruption discourages and contributes to the non-employment of young people”.

Here in Mopti, like everywhere else in the country, the question of unemployment is a Gordian knot waiting to be settled: “As long as unemployment is not absorbed, jihadism will prosper and proliferate. The unemployed are the most vulnerable. However, jihadists support hope by money”, said Mady Bagayoko, his eyes dark, sitting behind his desk. “We must not let Mopti burn, otherwise it’s over”, warned Oumar Papa Bathily, the former mayor. Meanwhile, young people who migrated to Segou, Sikasso, Bamako during the off-season, are returning gradually to the village for the rainy season. A rainy season that looks bad, with land abandoned because of the insecurity and the rain that is making people wait.

Boubacar Sangaré, special envoy

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