Sunday, June 20, 2010
Coulibay from Mali
Koman Coulibaly has rocketed from anonymity as a soccer referee from one of the world's poorest countries, Mali in West Africa, to one of instant hostile global fame in the World Cup for a poor call going against the US team. Yes, it was a bad call, yes, Coulibaly has long soccer experience and "can do better," but still it can't be much fun to be in the spotlight for a mistake rather than an accomplishment.
So what about Mali - Mr Coulibaly's country where he is a financial enforcement inspector in his day job. It is the largest country in West Africa in acres, not in population, and one of the world's poorest. Like Egypt and the Nile (I didn't know this), Mali is a country that is intimately related to a great river--in this case, the Niger. In addition, Mali is the location of legendary Timbuktu. 90% of its people live in the southwest part where the river is, and much of the Northeast is actually part of the Sahara desert. The Malian population is quite young: 46 percent are less than 15 years old, and only three percent are age 65 or older (compare to Japan)
Which brings about an important aspect of many countries of the world - their water. Egypt, since it has been referred to, has a 50-year old agreement on water rights regarding the Nile River on which it depends, with its up-river neighbors of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda. Sharing and negotiating is key. This is one of 3000 agreements around the world between countries sharing 260 water basins.
In Mali, water management is rather rudimentary. It has few modern village drinking wells, and the US Peace Corps and other aid agencies (and church groups) are active in well drilling projects (not for oil, for water). Clean, sanitary drinking water is HUGE for any country. On a larger scale, Mali is one of nine countries that share the Niger river basin (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad) and who are all signatories to an agreement that led to the creation of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA). Between wells and larger projects, these are the behind-the-scenes basic development challenges of many poorer countries.
The last item of note is one town in Mali called Mopti, which in turn is called the Venice of Mali. See the posted picture as well as more at a personal travel blog http://www.paulstravelblog.com/2008/12/mopti-harbor.html
This is Coulibaly's world, and I wouldn't have known it except for his poor soccer call. Thanks Coulibaly and have a nice day ...