afrol News, 8 July - The Mauritanian capital's harbour is increasingly used by Malian exporters and importers. Traffic from landlocked Mali to Nouakchott has become easier and cheaper due to less bureaucracy and checkpoints on the road. Côte d'Ivoire's Abidjan, Senegal's Dakar and Ghana's Tema are losing out.
In April, the Malian-Mauritanian harbour cooperation was even made official as Aminata Traoré - then Malian Minister of Transport - inaugurated 12.000 m2 of warehouses in the Nouakchott harbour. The euro 265,000 construction was to accommodate all kinds of products intended for Mali. Since that, Mali's use of the Mauritanian transfer has only increased.
Minister Traoré had reacted to established facts, as Malian companies already had found the 1,500-kilometre Bamako-Nouakchott route a practical alternative. While the northwards road from Bamako to Néma - in the south-western corner of Mauritania - is of limited quality, the Néma-Nouakchott "Trans-Mauritanian highway" (around 1,000 kilometres) is easily managed.
The ports traditionally used by Mali are however closer. Still, Nouakchott competes on both time and price due to little harassment and bureaucracy on road. The "Malian" ports used in addition to the main outlets Abidjan and Dakar - Tema (Ghana), Lomé (Togo) and Cotonou (Benin) - even include two border crossings. Traffic over Néma was however less problematic, as even the Abidjan-based media 'Altercom' had noted.
Nouakchott further is the regional harbour closest to Europe; Mali's major trade partner, making also sea traffic shorter and cheaper.
The Nouakchott harbour, which mostly was built by China in the 1980s, has been growing of size and importance over the last decades. The Trans-Mauritanian highway to Néma has existed since 1978, and is now one of Mauritania's three paved roads.
For Mauritania, the transit of Malians has meant increased trade and higher revenues for the Nouakchott port authorities. For Mali, the Nouakchott outlet means diversifying the country's sources of provisioning and lower import/export costs.
One of the main reasons behind the late Malian "discovery" of the Nouakchott harbour has been the traditional feud between the two nations, separated by almost 2,000 kilometres of common borders in the Sahara-Sahel zone. During the 1990s, the relationship between Nouakchott and Bamako however gradually became friendlier, reaching the current stage of close cooperation and a regional development union together with Senegal.