Sample Political Science Paper on The Nexus of Corruption, Poverty, and Politics in Mali

The nexus of corruption, poverty, and politics is at the root cause of both poverty and political instability in the West African nation of Mali. Mali is bedeviled by an unending cycle of political instability characterized by military coups, secession movements, and Islamic jihadist terrorist insurgencies. Grand corruption has left the majority of Malians languishing in wanton poverty and the nation’s democratic government bereft of legitimacy. The corruption, poverty, and politics nexus in Mali is, thus, at the center of the socio-economic and political turmoil threatening to engulf the country. The perennial socio-economic and political issues in Mali begs the question; what are the causes and consequences of the nexus of corruption, poverty, and politics in the country? Grand corruption, the result of Mali’s national political framework of neopatrimonialism, has resulted in wanton poverty and lawlessness in Mali, thus, negatively impacting a wide range of sectors, societal institutions, and social service provisions in the nation.

Corruption in Mali

Corruption has permeated all spheres of life in Mali; thus, resulting in wanton poverty in the nation. There is irrefutable evidence of perennial high-level corruption and embezzlement of public resources in Mali by the nation’s political and economic elite. Financial records published by the Bureau du verificateur general (BVG), Mali’s auditor general’s office, in 2013, estimated that the nation loses more than 7% of its national budget annually to fraud, corruption, and wastage (Bøås, Morten, and Torheim 1280). For example, in 2017, the BVG unearthed a corruption scandal worth over $243 million involving the then incumbent, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (Boeke and de Valk 6). Though corruption and impunity are prevalent at every level of the Malian state, they are especially concentrated at the top echelons of the Mali government, where it has destroyed the military and undermined various administrative institutions and services (Wing 478). In the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index conducted by Transparency International, Mali scored 32 out of 100 that, when translated into country rankings, resulted in the nation being ranked 116 out of 176 countries (Shipley 12). The massive amounts of financial resources being swindled from Mali public coffers have resulted in rising poverty levels in the nation.

Neopatrimonalism in Mali Politics

National politics in Mali is characterized by neopatrimonialism that is the chief cause of Mali’s perennial corruption and political instability. Neopatrimonalism is a political system involving the use of state resources in securing the loyalty of opposition leaders critical to a ruling government (Bøås, Morten, and Torheim 1285). Since neopatrimonialism is based on buying off critics using state resources, it has fueled corruption in Mali. Neopatrimonalism has been the modus operandi of the Malian government since the nation’s independence from France in 1960 (Bøås, Morten, and Torheim 1285). Instead of adopting long-lasting political solutions, such as fostering genuine inclusivity and equitable resource allocation, to tackle Mali’s political challenges, the Malian government has consistently relied on neopatrimonialism that only offers temporary respite with little tangible reform. Neopatrimonalism in Mali politics has contributed to the incessant calls for secession by several factions in the country. Currently, the nation’s Tuaregs, under the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), are demanding to secede from Mali (Whitehouse).  The MNLA has, for years, sought genuine inclusivity and participation in the Malian government, but their efforts have been curtailed by the Mali government’s reliance on neopatrimonialism that is repugnant to long-lasting political reforms.

Consequences of Corruption in Mali 

Poor Economic Performance

Grand corruption in Mali has negatively impacted businesses, both local and foreign direct investments, and, thus, singlehandedly resulted in Mali’s economic slump. According to the World Bank Enterprise Survey 2016, corruption has made doing business in Mali almost impossible due to the hefty bribes that companies are forced to part with in order to operate in the nation (Bastagli and Toulmin 75). Data from the World Bank Enterprise Survey 2016, revealed that more than 189 companies, particularly foreign business organizations, were forced to bribe or offer kickbacks to Malian government officials in order to conduct business activities in the nation (Bastagli and Toulmin 76). Corruption has also negatively affected both domestic and foreign investments in Mali, with potential investors turned away by the high operation costs, fueled by bribes, in the nation. Gold mining, a top driver of Mali’s economy, is also inundated with corruption that has resulted in increased illicit activity in the sector (Harmon 27). Mali’s political elite are also siphoning the foreign aid and grants to the nation, and this has resulted in several international organizations, such as the World Bank, limiting their financial assistance programs to the country, further shrinking the Malian economy.

Undermining of the Rule of Law

The corruption, poverty, and political nexus in Mali have weakened the practice of the rule of law in the nation. According to a 2016 Human Rights Report by the U.S. Department of State, bribery and influence peddling is widespread in Malian courts that have been neglected and mismanaged due to corruption (Boeke and de Valk 7). Data from the Afrobarometer survey 2018 revealed that all most all judges and magistrates in Mali are corrupt, with the public having low trust in the nation’s judicial system (Boeke and de Valk 12). The lack of public trust and confidence in Mali’s judicial system has resulted in large swathes of the Malian population resorting to informal and traditional methods of justice resolution that are not democratic or progressive in nature. The existence of high-octane corruption in Mali’s judicial system has weakened the rule of law in the nation with the rich and those with political connections being exempted from rigorous legal prosecution (Wing 480). Corruption, which is deeply embedded in Mali’s judicial system has, therefore, inculcated a culture of impunity in the nation. The Malian president is also the chair of the Conseil Superieur de la Magistrature, the high judicial council which makes judicial appointments (Wing 480). The presence of the president in the high judicial council undermines the independence of Mali’s judiciary, therefore, fueling impunity and undermining the rule of law in the nation.

Poor Social Services

High-level corruption has negatively impacted the issuance and dissemination of essential social services, such as education and healthcare, in Mali. Grand corruption in Mali drains a large portion of Mali’s national budget, thus, disrupting the equitable dissemination of social services in the nation. According to the Afrobarometer survey 2018, more than 65% of individuals in Mali have no access to clean water, healthcare, or quality education due to wanton looting of the country’s financial resources (Boeke and de Valk 12). Essential services such as healthcare, water, and electricity are the preserve of the few politically connected individuals in Mali. According to the Human Rights Report by the U.S. Department of State 2016, the provision of essential public services in Mali is also undermined by the Direction generale des marches publics (DGMP), considered one of the most corrupt public agencies in Mali, which is responsible for public procurement in the nation (Shipley 29). In 2014, the BVG reported a $100 million corruption heist at the DGMP in form of kickbacks and bribes and incriminated top-ranking Mali government officials in the saga (Shipley 29). The high-level corruption that bedevils the dissemination of essential services in Mali has forced several humanitarian organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to operate social programs in the nation.

Increased Organized Crime and Violence

Corruption in Mali has resulted in increased organized crime and politically instigated violence in the country. According to a 2013 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mali is a central hub of transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking and both migrant and contraband smuggling, globally (Harmon 75). The Malian city of Gao is an integral migrant embarkation point for onward illegal travel to Europe and is also the nerve center of West Africa’s cocaine trafficking network (Boeke and de Valk 10). The 2009 “Air Cocaine” case, where a Boeing 727 transporting hundreds of tons of Cocaine flying into Mali crushed and burnt out in the Malian desert, is a perfect example of the massive cocaine network in the nation (Boeke and de Valk 10). Mali has also been rocked by an ever-increasing number of insurgents such as the Ansar Dine, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who are involved in kidnap for ransom and contraband smuggling. According to the 2015 UNODC report, the high rates of organized crime in Mali are purely due to corruption that has left many youths unemployed, and the Malian security forces disillusioned (Balt). Mali is perennially rocked by politically instigated violence, particularly by the various secessionist factions in the country, such as the MNLA. The ever-rising corruption and poverty levels in Mali have resulted in a restless and despondent population, particularly among the youth, who have resorted to violent political causes, such as the fight for secession, Islamic insurgencies, and inter-ethnic clashes.

Rising Unemployment Levels

High-level corruption in Mali has resulted in an ever-shrinking labor market, therefore, creating massive unemployment in the nation. According to a 2017 World Bank Development Indicators Report, Mali’s unemployment rate was estimated to be 9.8% (Boeke and de Valk 10). The International Labour Organization in a 2017 report estimated that 73% of the economically active population in Mali works in the informal sector, with the youth unemployment rate in the West African country standing at 12% (Boeke and de Valk 10). Incessant corruption has led to the siphoning of financial resources needed by the Malian government to hire new people into the nation’s formal sectors of employment. The ever-rising unemployment levels in Mali, particularly among the youth, is a big political challenge as the disillusioned and unemployed individuals are at a high risk of joining organized crime and Islamic militant groups in the nation such as the AQIM.


Corruption has permeated all socio-economic and political institutions in Mali. High-level corruption, coupled with neopatrimonialism politics, has plunged Mali into an unprecedented economic, social, and political crisis. Corruption has resulted in high levels of poverty in Mali, which has wrecked the equitable and quality dissemination of essential services in the country, such as education and healthcare provision. Moreover, corruption has also destroyed several societal institutions in Mali, such as the judiciary, and undermined the rule of law in the nation, thus, creating impunity. The corruption, poverty, and political nexus in Mali has also spurred political instability characterized by inter-ethnic clashes, violent demands for secession, and increased Islamic insurgency in the West African nation.



Works Cited

Balt, Marije. “Youth Unemployment in Mali: A Magnet for Criminals and Terrorists.” The Broker, 23 Apr. 2015,

Bastagli, Francesca, and Camilla Toulmin. “Mali: Economic factors behind the crisis.” (2014),

Bøås, Morten, and Liv Elin Torheim. “The Trouble in Mali—corruption, collusion, resistance.” Third World Quarterly 34.7 (2013): 1279-1292,

Boeke, Sergei, and Giliam de Valk. “The Unforeseen 2012 Crisis in Mali: The Diverging Outcomes of Risk and Threat Analyses.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (2019): 1-20,

Harmon, Stephen A. Terror and insurgency in the Sahara-Sahel region: corruption, contraband, jihad, and the Mali War of 2012-2013. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2014.

Shipley, Thomas. “Mali: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption.” Transparency International. U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre Michelsen Institute (2017),

Whitehouse, Bruce. “The Malian Governments Challenge to Restore Order in the North.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 16 Nov. 2017,

Wing, Susanna D. “Mali: Politics of a crisis.” African Affairs 112.448 (2013): 476-485,