Back to basics: making government effective in Mali, Africa


Sutherland recently interviewed Yeah Samake, mayor of Ouelessebougou, Mali, to discover which principles have helped him effectively lead a city in the second-poorest country in the world. Watch the video report below to hear what he said:


Here’s the script for the video:

VOICE-OVER: What can a mayor from Mali, Africa, the second-poorest country in the world teach Utahns about principles of sound government? Yeah Samake overcame many obstacles en route to becoming the mayor of Ouelessebougou, a small city in Mali, and, at the same time, earned a master’s degree from BYU. On the way, Samake learned and applied essential principles of effective government.

YEAH SAMAKE: “Having learned some principles and leadership skills from BYU, as I did a masters of public policy – so having enjoyed certain type of principles like respect of property right of others, I decided I would like to get involved, so before running for mayor, I went to several villages and told them I would like to be mayor, and if they will trust me. But this means we will work together.”

VOICE-OVER: After graduation, Samake soon became the executive director of the Mali Rising Foundation. Its mission is to build schools in Mali. In 2009, based in part on the success of the foundation, Samake was elected mayor of Ouelessebougou. Prior to being elected, Samake knew that due to lack of confidence in the government, few were paying taxes. There was only a 20 percent collection of taxes in the whole country of Mali. Samake explains how he overcame this barrier.

SAMAKE: “First of all I asked for the trust of the people. I said if you trust me with your tax money. I will not use one dollar on myself without justification. So you will know exactly where the money will go, which I did. So it really was both bringing the trust, but also showing to the people exactly what the money needs to be used for. The most enticing thing to them I said, the tax money is used to pay teachers, the tax money is used to build schools, pay hospitals, pay doctors, if you don’t pay taxes your teachers will not get paid, if you don’t pay taxes you won’t get a school building in your village. So that is where the money comes from.”

VOICE-OVER: By applying these principles, Oulessebougou’s tax collection rate increased to 70 percent. Mayor Samake fought hard to combat corruption. He was able to do so by giving power back to the people and localizing government. Samake says another key to ensuring the proper role of government is instilling a culture of transparency.

SAMAKE: “If we only come into office with the intent of serving the people, sure enough we will display the characteristics like trust and integrity. And efficiency of using the money in the right way, as we do that, the people will become more involved, and they trust us more, and they take interest in the local government.”

VOICE-OVER: Because these principles are universal, Samake argues that they can be applied in any community.

SAMAKE: “The principles are simple – first of all it’s integrity; leaders have to exhibit the principles of integrity, but also the respect of the public property or property rate. Citizen participation is key to the success of any local government. So those are the fundamental things that I do believe that in any community it will be able to have leaders that we can consider to have integrity; strong integrity that they are principle centered, and they care about the property that has been confided to them, and the citizens are participating. I think together they will really lift any community a little higher than they stand.”

VOICE-OVER: These same principles can and should guide Utah and National officials entrusted to wisely govern. Yeah Samake is running in the 2012 race to become the president of Mali, and, if he continues to apply these principles, he will be an effective leader for his fellow Malians. For Sutherland Institute, I’m Alexis Young.