Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Corruption in Mali

More news from the incredibly energetic and generous Tan Wee Cheng, from Singapore, who notes in his recent post from Timbuktu:

"Upon arrival, a half-Turaeg-Songhai guy named “Alibaba”, obviously a member of the local tourist syndicate aka mafia with a name that sounded probably less trustworthy than he had intended, picked me up and sent me to Hotel Colomb on a motorcycle ride through desert wastes into town. Alibaba tried hard to sell his guide services. After I dumped my luggage, we walked next door to the tourist office where Alibaba showed me his photo on the tourist office’s register of travel guides. In my presence, the official at the tourist office also concurred with Alibaba’s assertion that new rules require tourists to walk around town with a guide, as too many tourists had upset locals by taking photos indiscriminately. With a guide, permission to take photos would be more readily granted. No choice but to agree to a half day guided tour for an outrageous sum of FCFA 10,000 (about US23), in a country where GDP per capita is less than US$1 a day."

Can anyone confirm this new state of affairs?

Later, in Djenné:

"The Mosque of Djenne was once opened to tourists. Some years ago, it was closed to non-Muslims when a European director was found filming a skimpily dressed model in the mosque. We were approached by an acquaintance who is a mosque official. He said I could go into the mosque if I pay him FCFA 20,000. I declined the offer. Why should I pay FCFA 20,000 (30 euros) to see a mosque? Simply too expensive. World Heritage Sites elsewhere don’t charge that much. This also once again marked the problem of corruption in Africa. They should allow tourists to enter but charge a high but more reasonable entrance fee of, say, FCFA 5000, which is probably okay for a WHS. This would get quite a number of visitors and generate income for the community. (Rules on modesty should be enforced with fines). Instead, individual officials benefit from the very small group of visitors willing to pay ridiculous sums of money."

CFA5000 is plenty – in fact, frankly it's a crazy amount of money if you simply want to gurantee maximum revenue, as you'll put off probably 30% to 50% of potential visitors (Peace Corps, VSOs, low-budget travellers, etc) who wouldn't pay more than CFA1000–2000 ($2–$4) for the privilege.

You can read the rest of Wee Cheng's post here.

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