Hopeful signs from Mali.

The West African country of Mali, population 13.5-million, according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), would not enter into any discussion of consumer markets under normal circumstances. Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Much of the huge expanse of the country-it is about the same size as Colombia or Peru-is desert (the Sahara). And for a time the popular image of the country was one of a country being totally overtaken by desert.

A former United States (US) ambassador to Mali, writing in the Spring 2006 edition of The Wilson Quarterly (Washington) says that more recent science shows the desert by turns advancing and retreating. The Wilson Quarterly is a publication of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a nonpartisan policy think tank.

The former ambassador says there is much other new information about Mali that suggests a viable economic future may be, relatively soon, within reach. At minimum, he says, "despite persistent poverty and ongoing turmoil in neighboring states, in a single decade Mali has launched one of the most successful democracies in Africa."

It turns out that Mali has a number of collective communication skills that make its situation anything but normal. Among the most prominent is a...

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