The threat of attacks by Al Qaeda-linked operatives in Mali has cost the West African state some 50 billion CFA francs (US$108 million) in lost tourism receipts and 8,000 jobs over the past two years, the government said in a statement yesterday.
A draw to travellers for its dramatic desert-scapes and the ancient trading town of Timbuktu, Mali is struggling with a growing presence of gunmen from Al Qaeda’s African wing, believed to be behind a rash of kidnappings.
“This situation has resulted in a loss of more than 50 billion CFA francs and 8,000 jobs,” the statement from Mali’s presidency said, pointing to negative publicity the country had received over Al Qaeda’s presence.
Mali is Africa’s third largest gold miner and a big cotton producer. Tourism receipts also contribute to an annual gross domestic output of just over US$9 billion.
Mali was forced to move its annual ‘Festival au Desert’ music event from a remote region north of Timbuktu in 2010 for security reasons after a series of kidnappings of Western tourists and aid workers in the Sahel, but is seeking to shore up security this year.
A joint-force of Mali and Mauritanian soldiers attacked a suspected Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb camp in western Mali in late June, the latest clash with the group which derived from Algeria’s Salafist movement.