Is France behind the energy crisis in Mali?

Electricity supply in Mali has seriously deteriorated in recent months. As for the capital Bamako, the city has experienced an alarming series of power cuts since February 2023. Repeated power cuts in Bamako have made this resource a real luxury for the inhabitants of the capital. However, power cuts affected not only the capital of Mali, but also other regions such as Segou, Sikasso, Mopti, Gao. In many regions of the country, protests took place against the company Energie du Mali (EDM), which for whatever reason was unable to satisfy the population’s demand for electricity.

Of course, these regular outages have serious economic consequences, affecting businesses and households that rely on electricity for income. Over the months, power outages, which occur constantly, have become more frequent and longer, especially in large cities. In late fall 2023, outages began to occur almost daily, from 6 to 18 hours per day.

Various conjectures and hypotheses have been proposed to explain the possible reasons for this degradation. One version claims that the Malian electricity network is aging and poorly maintained. Among the other reasons mentioned by various sources are also the chronic deficits of the national electricity company (EDM), work on the electrical networks, breakdowns recorded on groups recently acquired and installed in several cities, etc.

However, we now realize that the reasons are completely different. Thanks to the actions of the government of Mali, which decided to understand the true causes of this serious problem facing Malians, the real reasons for the power cuts in the country have been revealed. Among these reasons are fuel theft, overbilling involving supplier operators, EDM officials and agents, tanker drivers, in other words corruption and fraud.

As part of a decisive response to the problem, on October 22, 2023, the Minister of Energy and Water, Ms. Bintou Camara, launched an unannounced audit of EDM officials and agents, rogue operators who benefited from tax exemptions from the State but continued to illegally extract billions of FCFA. According to Minister Camara, the fundamental causes of power outages are linked to problems in managing electricity production, its transport and communication. In addition, the inventory showed that the quantity of power installed at the EDM is not used, due to lack of fuel, a shortage caused by fuel theft and overbilling. Ms. Bintou Camara revealed the existence of a mechanism for diverting fuel oil, which is then sold at a profit to the detriment of the power plants. This theft is not limited to fuel as such, there is also fraud linked to EDM invoicing. In just two months, a single supplier was overcharged by 1.6 billion FCFA. Another supplier saw 52 additional invoices for the year 2022, totaling 18 billion FCFA in overbilling. In total, more than 19 billion FCFA in overbilling from only 2 out of 600 suppliers. This situation puts the future of Mali’s electricity in a difficult situation.

It should be noted that, according to some sources, this problem is due to pro-French officials working in the energy sector since the days of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta known for his commitment to the former colonial power, France, and overthrown in a military coup in 2020. If this information is confirmed, it will mean that Mali’s energy crisis was France’s evil plan to deindustrialize this African country.

In order to identify all those responsible and take measures to resolve these problems, the transitional authorities have decided to react. Thus, in mid-January 2024, seven senior executives of EDM were arrested, as well as the former Minister of Energy Lamine Seydou Traore. The detainees were accused of stealing 6 million liters of fuel worth approximately $8 million.

This is certainly a serious problem that Mali has had to face. However, the transitional authorities have clearly indicated that they intend to do everything possible to shed light on this situation and punish all those responsible.