Nouakchott- After the sanctions imposed on it by its neighbors in West Africa, represented by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mali is throwing its weight in Mauritania, where a ministerial delegation held intensive talks and numerous meetings with senior Mauritanian officials. He was also received by the President of the Republic at the presidential palace, The ministerial delegation held a working session with its Mauritanian counterparts.
The Malian Foreign Minister affirmed – in a statement after the meeting – that his country is counting on Mauritania in such circumstances for its support and support. He also stated that President Mohamed Ould Cheikh al-Ghazwani assured him of Mauritania’s commitment to work on settling the problems and difficulties facing Mali.
Many observers believe that the presence of the diplomatic role in the talks and what Mauritania can play as a mediator in the crisis will not be in isolation from the search for mechanisms to provide the financial markets with basic foodstuffs through the ports of Mauritania, in addition to the support that Mauritania can provide to mitigate the repercussions of the crisis.
Among the group of five Sahel countries, Mauritania is the only one that has a view of the sea through the port of Friendship, the main station in the region, and the economic lung not only for Mauritania but also for Mali and Niger.
Malians view the Mauritanian ports as an important sea port to break the blockade of the ECOWAS countries, especially Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire; Mali was exporting 400,000 tons of mangoes, more than one million tons of cotton, and importing one million metric tons of oil derivatives through Ivorian and Senegalese ports.
Does Mauritania have the ability to re-export the same quantity, and benefit from its strategic location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean as a linking point between the Maghreb countries and West African countries to deepen its economic cooperation with Mali?
Due to its distinguished geographical location at the intersection of major sea routes linking Africa, Europe and America, the port of Nouakchott enjoys a major preferential advantage, which qualifies it to play an important role in mitigating the impact of sanctions on Mali.
The Friendship Port, which was established in 1986, is the main import and export port in the country. According to an official confiscation, the port represents about 96.4% of the total annual marine traffic to Mauritania.
A month ago, the Mauritanian president inaugurated a new expansion of the port of Nouakchott, represented by a container berth with a length of 570 meters and a depth of 15 meters, at a cost of $320 million.
According to the Mauritanian news agency, this expansion provided an additional capacity of 600,000 containers annually to the port, in addition to the port’s previous capacity of 350,000 containers.
Previously, the two countries discussed in different periods in frequent meetings ways to make the independent port of Nouakchott the sea gateway to the Republic of Mali, but so far these aspirations have not reached the hoped for it. There are no stimulating privileges offered by the port for financial trade, stressing the existence of harassment and obstacles in front of the financial ones, for which no serious and effective solutions have been provided so far.
Harassment, according to businessman Sheikh Altrad Elal (a supplier who deals with financial traders), “has led in recent times to reduce the financial imports in transit from the port to Mali, stressing that in the past years, more than 300 containers per month were passing through the port of Nouakchott, but now they pass through.” Only 80 containers per month from the port to Mali.
He added to Al Jazeera Net from inside the port, “The large number of checkpoints and the imposition of a certain load on financial trucks is one of the biggest obstacles to financial traders,” calling on the government to seize the opportunity and grant facilities to financial traders who want to raise imports and give privileges to financial warehouses in the Friendship Port in the capital, Nouakchott, and to double exchange and transport goods. to Mali.
And when Al Jazeera Net visited the financial warehouse in the port of Nouakchott, there was no large commercial movement or giant warehouses, but in a special and brief statement from a delegation that came recently from Mali to inspect the status of the warehouse and its stores, they confirmed that officials are working these days on developing perceptions that can solve problems and raise the level of movement trade between the two countries.
The journalist, expert in African affairs, Mahfouz Ould Salek, believes that Mauritania has an opportunity to become the main import destination for Mali, by providing facilities and placing the ports of Nouakchott, Nouadhibou and Ingago at Bamako’s disposal.
Which means – according to Ould Salek – “that the port’s financial imports will double, and the movement of goods and people will know a broader dynamic, which could open the door to strategic economic cooperation between the two countries.”
Will Mauritania respond?
Although ECOWAS tried to persuade Mauritania to close its land, air and sea borders in the face of the Bamako government, in support of the sanctions imposed on it, Mauritania has not yet announced an explicit position on the embargo that ECOWAS countries seek to impose on Mali.
This means that Mauritania is seeking to be a mediator to resolve the crisis, away from alignment, especially after receiving Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould El Ghazouani, the special envoy of the ECOWAS periodic president, and then receiving the financial ministerial delegation.
And because the Malians consider the importance of the Mauritanian ports, what Mali wants from Mauritania in light of the sanctions imposed by the “ECOWAS” – according to the opinion of the expert Al-Salk Mahfouz – is to open Nouakchott its ports in order to provide the Malian markets with basic foodstuffs, which was clearly expressed by the Bamako authorities. .
In the event that Mauritania responds to this request, which Nouakchott is expected to interact with, especially after the recent visit of the high-ranking financial ministerial delegation, Mahfouz Salek indicated that he will not compensate my money 100% for what its markets that depend on imports through several West African ports, especially Senegal, need. Ivory Coast and Guinea Conakry, but it will contribute to alleviating the burdens of the economic embargo imposed by the ECOWAS countries’ closure of their borders.
Mauritania is not the only option for Mali to try to break the economic blockade. There is Guinea Conakry, which has suspended its membership in the ECOWAS group, which announced at first glance that it is not concerned with the closure decision, and thus will constitute a major outlet and outlet for the country.
The landlocked state of Mali, which has no beaches, depended for its foreign trade on the ports of the ECOWAS countries, but after imposing a blockade on it, it is expected that it will resort to the ports of its northern neighbor, Mauritania, with which it shares the longest land border of 2,237 km. It is not the only option, it remains the preferred strategic ally and alternative to Mali.
Malians believe that in order to achieve economic integration and raise the level of trade exchange after the expansion of the new port, it is necessary to develop land transport between the two countries, which requires smoothness and freedom of movement.