Bilateral relations Switzerland–Mali

Switzerland is committed to improving security, stability and development in Mali. This support is implemented through its three foreign policy instruments: development cooperation, humanitarian aid and peace policy.

On the economic front, a number of bilateral agreements have been signed between the two countries.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

Switzerland and Mali enjoy close bilateral relations with a strong political component based on Switzerland's long-standing commitment to sustainable development and peacebuilding in Mali. 

Treaty database

Government of Mali, official (fr)

Economic cooperation

Switzerland and Mali have signed a wide range of bilateral treaties (trade, economic cooperation, mutual investment protection and civil aviation). With a total trade volume in 2019 of CHF 1.3 billion, Mali is Switzerland's fifth largest trading partner in Africa. Switzerland's leading exports to Mali are pharmaceuticals and machinery. Imports from Mali are almost exclusively made up of gold.

Trade promotion (Switzerland Global Enterprise)

Cooperation in education, research and innovation

Because of the country's low school attendance rates, the Malian government continues to prioritise access to high-quality education for all children. Switzerland is supporting these efforts in different ways. Programmes focusing on this objective facilitate access to high-quality education for marginalised children and young people who are excluded from the education system. In terms of vocational education and training, poor qualifications among the labour force hinder the country's development. The programmes therefore support training courses that respond to the needs of the job market. They are mainly aimed at women, young people and people with disabilities, and are adapted to the needs of the urban and peri-urban labour markets.

Researchers and artists in Mali can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.

Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for Foreign Scholars and Artists, SBFI

Peacebuilding and human security

Switzerland has been supporting activities aimed at preventing violence and peacebuilding in Mali since 2008. It is particularly committed to implementing the 2015 peace agreement and promotes inclusive frameworks for dialogue, such as civil-military exchanges that help build trust between civilians and the Malian security forces. In the past, Switzerland has supported projects that equip women and young people with conflict resolution tools. It is currently promoting dialogue among religious scholars in Mali with the aim of developing and disseminating messages to prevent violence.

Switzerland is also engaged in capacity building in Mali. It is helping to develop the civilian component of the Ecole de Maintien de la Paix and provides one of the few mediation courses available in Africa. It also seconds Swiss civilian and police experts to international organisations like the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the European Union's EUCAP Sahel Mali to support the re-establishment of state authority, judicial and security reform, promotion and protection of human rights, and provision of humanitarian aid.

Development cooperation and humanitarian aid

In Mali, Switzerland is active mainly in rural development, food security, governance, peacebuilding, basic education and vocational training.

Thanks to its long-standing efforts in Mali and focus on participatory decision-making processes that concern local stakeholders, Switzerland has been able to continually develop its activities to help the country's people and its institutions. It supports private and public actors in implementing projects that are urgently needed for rural development. People living in rural areas account for over two thirds of Mali's population and about one third of its GDP. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) helps implement initiatives that increase agricultural productivity and incomes.

In the north of the country, Switzerland has resumed its development cooperation work and has stepped up its humanitarian activities. Humanitarian access in certain areas in the north remains difficult, which hinders local residents' access to basic services.

In those areas where it is active, Switzerland promotes food and nutritional security for local communities and helps the Malian government define and implement the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy for the most vulnerable. Competitive, sustainable agropastoral systems can boost the income of family farms. 

Mali has been gripped by a security and humanitarian crisis since 2012, but it is demonstrating remarkable resilience and offers many opportunities. In fact, the country's economy grew by 5% in 2015. It has a great deal of agropastoral potential that can be exploited and a young population that can be mobilised (demographic growth of 3.6% per year, 65% of the population under 25). Challenges remain in the areas of peace and security, poverty alleviation, governance, education and employment. Switzerland supports the authorities and people of Mali in their efforts to exploit these opportunities and address these challenges.

Switzerland also assists in the country’s efforts to promote national reconciliation, and carries out activities to protect civilians (promotion of international humanitarian law).   

Switzerland and Mali

Swiss nationals in Mali

At the end of 2019, 69 Swiss nationals were living in Mali and 201 Malian nationals were living in Switzerland.

History of bilateral relations

On 26 September 1960, the Federal Council recognised the Republic of Mali, establishing diplomatic relations in 1961.  From 1970 on, Mali attracted the interest of certain industrial leaders specialising in chemicals, textiles and cement. This resulted in a 1977 agreement on technical cooperation and then, in 1978, in two further agreements – on trade and economic cooperation, and on the promotion and mutual protection of investments. In 1989, bilateral agreements to stagger Mali's debt and support the World Bank's structural adjustment programme were concluded.

In 1991, after the overthrow of the president who had been accused by the local press of misappropriating funds, the FDFA took the unprecedented decision of financially supporting the efforts of the Malian government to find and recover public funds suspected of having been deposited in Switzerland. As a result, some CHF 3.9 million was returned to Mali in 1997. Since then, Switzerland has used this approach as a model for dealing with similar cases.

The SDC has been present in Mali since the major droughts of the 1970s. During this initial period, it focused on environmental protection, water supply and health.

Mali, Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (de, fr, it)