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The Fine Line Between Subsistence and Famine: Mali's Agrarian Desert Economy, the Threat of Drought, and Alternatives to Build Modern Private Sector Skills Open Access

The West African Republic of Mali faces the specter of mass starvation on a scale not seen since the horrors of Ethiopia in the 1980s were beamed into living rooms around the world. Two-thirds of Mali's land is in the Sahara desert. The remaining land is also relatively fragile. Yet 70-80% of Malians, many of them subsistence farmers, work in the agricultural sector. A drought that undercuts the nation's already tenuous soil productivity could cause economic collapse and famine. Malians with advanced education and job skills geared toward creating and engaging in opportunities in Mali's modern private sector could enable the country to avert such calamity. Yet there are too few Malians with such skills as managers, entrepreneurs, scientists, technicians, and technology specialists. This analysis evaluates three potential plans of action that could help develop the advanced skills and education that Mali desperately needs. Potential policies evaluated include continuation of the status quo, increased privatization of state-owned enterprises and reimbursements for companies' training expenses. The analysis concludes that the policy of privatization seems best suited to fostering the development of the advanced modern skills and modern economy that Mali needs.

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