Many expats who travel to Mali end up working in Bamako. It is the largest city in the country and the administrative capital, so there are more jobs here than anywhere else. The most common work in Bamako is relief work with one of the many charities in the area. However, in recent years the thriving music scene and newly discovered gold mines have led to a small export boom.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Bamako is visibly impoverished in certain areas. There is a lot of homelessness in the city, and temporary villages around the city limits house large numbers of refugees from the north of Mali and neighboring countries.
Much of Bamako’s economy is driven by foreign aid and World Bank loans. However, some signs of economic independence are emerging. In 1999, a number of gold mines were found to be viable, and these have led to a small uptick in the country’s export trade. Bamako is situated in the fertile lower 10% of the country, and agriculture plays a huge role in the city’s development. Cotton, peanuts, corn and rice are the county’s main agricultural exports, and approximately 80% of Mali’s population work within this sector.
As an expat, job hunting in Bamako will be a lot easier if you can speak fluent French or, better yet, Bambara. Most local jobs are offered by word of mouth, so it pays to be able to join in the conversations.
The city is home to some large and small aid agencies, which offer anything from medical care to administrative support. Contact charities such as UNICEF, WaterAid, World Vision and Oxfam, but make it clear that you are looking for paid work, not a voluntary placement.
Bamako has a very loose approach to taxation. Expats and residents are expected to self-register at a local tax office, where they will be expected to pay one year’s tax bill up front, usually in cash. The standard rate for income tax is either 3% or 30%, depending on your circumstances, although this can usually be negotiated.
Once a year, the tax officials take a census in the city’s different neighborhoods and fines are meted out to anyone who has been avoiding taxation. When paying your taxes, make sure you get everything in writing so that you can prove that you have paid if you are ever asked.