“If you give a man nothing to eat, he lives by the force of his gun,” he said, gesticulating to friends sat on plastic chairs in the street.
Beyond security support, Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has also pledged to increase its own aid commitments to provide alternative employment to the criminal and jihadist groups fuelling unrest.
DFID said in a document released in July it was “increasing its engagement in the Sahel as part of increased UK government support to the region,” adding the department was “addressing the root causes of instability and pervasive poverty – which can indirectly increase the risk of violent extremism”.
On her visit to Africa in August, Theresa May pledged £145m million in family planning assistance for Sahel and northern Nigeria, and investment in the Sahel’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund has already doubled this year to £8.7 million.
Mali and Niger’s average fertility rate is six-seven children per woman, exacerbating a lack of education funding and sky high unemployment.
The future is unclear for several other projects, including funding for the EU military training programme, pending the results of Brexit negotiations.
Mr Maiga, the tax collector in Gao, believes the roots of Mali’s conflicts can be traced back to the dire economic situation of the country’s north.