Mali's trucks race to the border as sanctions ease

STORY: Mali's trucks are back on the road.

The lifting of regional sanctions last week is allowing trade to flow again, to the relief of one of the world's poorest economies.

And it's also good news for drivers like Ibrahima Sangare who has been stuck at home for months, unable to provide for his family.

"If there are sanctions, we can not work. It makes the work difficult. Now that the sanctions are lifted, it is a joy for us to find work again and to pass through here."

Sangare is one of the first cotton truckers to be processed at this dusty crossing into Ivory Coast.

On July 3 regional bloc ECOWAS announced that borders with landlocked Mali could reopen.

The next day Sangare loaded his truck with cotton bales and set off on the 500-mile journey to the Ivorian port San Pedro.

Jacques Kouadio, regional manager of the Ivorian Shippers Office, says 150 to 200 trucks carrying cotton are expected to reach San Pedro and Abidjan per week.

Cotton, alongside gold, are major economic drivers in Mali and the revenue from resumed exports will be a much needed boost for the economy.

According to an African Development Bank forecast, it will see growth fall to 2.1% in 2022 compared with 3.2% last year.

That's due to war in Ukraine as well as the sanctions, imposed by ECOWAS after Mali's military-led interim government said it would delay elections following a 2020 coup.

Mali has pledged to honor some $300 million of missed debt repayments caused by having been cut off from the region's financial markets and central bank.

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