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Mali: Mali Communication Profile


Mali has a challenging geography for the provision of telecommunication services, with large tracks of the country being sparsely populated desert. Many settlements are hard to reach, making them difficult and expensive to service with effective backhaul infrastructure.

Compounding these difficulties is the fact that underinvestment in fixed-line networks has meant that telecom infrastructure is barely adequate to serve consumer needs in most towns, and is barely present in large areas of the country. In addition, a combination of poverty, high illiteracy and low PC use has led to a very low take-up of fixed-line internet services. In common with many other countries in the region, Mali has taken to mobile networks for voice and data services.

Orange Mali was extremely successful when it entered the market as the second mobile and fixed-line operator in 2003. The company quickly amassed more than 80% market share, offering converged fixed, mobile and broadband Internet services.

The national telco, Sotelma, with its mobile subsidiary Malitel was privatised in 2009 when a 51% stake was sold to Maroc Telecom. The fresh capital and management has enabled the incumbent to compete much more aggressively and regain market share.

A third mobile operator was licensed in 2012, but the joint venture was put in limbo after the local partner defaulted on its share of the licence fee. Building for the network was only begun in 2014. Mobile penetration in the country is relatively high, and given the sparse nature of the fixed-line infrastructure there is high enormous potential in the development of mobile broadband services. Nevertheless, Mali’s landlocked location makes it dependent on neighbouring countries for international fibre bandwidth, which has kept prices high. Improvements in this sector can be expected from the recent arrival of several new competitive international submarine fibre optic cables in the region.

Key developments:

  • Guinea and Mali sign agreement to abolish roaming and harmonize interconnection rates;
  • Work starts on 4,500km terrestrial Trans-Saharan Backbone network;
  • Vodafone Wholesale completes its second fibre-optic network connecting Ghana to Mali and Niger;
  • Orange Mali and Ecobank develop m-banking service;
  • Sonatel begins project to upgrade its network infrastructure;
  • Operators sell cell towers infrastructure;
  • Third mobile licence awarded to Alpha Telecom but operator is slow to deploy services;
  • Mobile penetration approaches 143%;
  • Report update includes the regulator’s market data for 2014, telcos’ operating data to Q3 2016, recent market developments.

Market penetration rates in Mali’s telecoms sector – 2016 (e)

Penetration of telecoms services: Penetration
Fixed-line telephony 1.1%
Internet users 12.2%
Mobile SIM (population) 143%

(Source: BuddeComm)

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