The work of the SA-Mali Project has various aspects. It has taken it upon itself to promote public awareness, interest and understanding of the value and significance of the Timbuktu manuscripts...
The project collaborates with the Government of Mali and with other stakeholders and role-players in preserving, cataloguing and appropriately and securely housing the documentary heritage at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu. Specifically it is assisting with the conservation of the historic manuscripts of Timbuktu through the provision of training, technical support and assistance for the development of conservation facilities. In 2003, the South African Government, has through the National Archives of the Department of Arts and Culture, instituted a training programme for Malian conservators and heritage professionals at appropriate South African institutions. This programme completed the second phase of a three-year internship programme to train conservators from the Ahmed Baba Institute in preservation and conservation repair. The final stages of the programme involve conservation and repair to the manuscripts.
 
The South African National Archives and the South African National Library have also embarked on a programme to provide materials and to train conservation staff at the Ahmed Baba Institute on ways to improve preventive measures to avoid further deterioration of fragile manuscripts. This involves determining and executing the best techniques for the removal of foreign and potentially harmful materials from the manuscripts, the development of correct handling procedures, and the construction of appropriate storage boxes, to avoid further damage and deterioration. Further preventive measures will include the development of a disaster plan which takes into account the need for good “house-keeping” in view of the potential destructiveness of the fine Saharan sand, pest control and the extreme temperatures experienced in the desert.  
 
The project has also encouraged academics at South African universities to visit Timbuktu with a view to promoting the formal study of the manuscripts. To this end Dr. Shamil JEPPIE of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town has a two-year  project with a team of researchers studying a selection of materials. The materials selected for study deal with the development of law and scholarship in Timbuktu. Future research will include work on a selection of science materials.
 
Lastly, the project raises funds from South African business and the public for the construction of a purpose-built archive/library which will provide the protection required so as to properly house, preserve and protect the manuscripts. It has already executed a preliminary investigation and a needs-analysis, on the basis of which a concept design and costing exercise was completed. The Provincial government of the Western Cape has supported this aspect of the project by convening a group of professionals in the construction industry to take this process further. Accordingly a team of builders, engineers, quantity surveyors and architects from the Western Cape was sent to Timbuktu to investigate the requirements for the actual construction of the archive in Timbuktu. Their findings will inform the specifications and procurement requirements for the final design and construction of the building.
 
The Government of South Africa is providing strategic direction and capacity for the implementation of the SA Mali Project through an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC). The IMC is supported by a technical implementation team which is drawn from government officials in the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the Presidency. A project manager was appointed on contract by DAC. The Department of Arts and Culture acts as the lead government department in South Africa.
 
Through the work of the IMC the Timbuktu Manuscripts Trust has been established with a view to ensure prudent governance for the implementation of the Project. The Trust further ensures coordination between South Africa and Mali and also assists with raising the necessary funds for the execution. These include costs of design and construction, infrastructure, fieldwork, provision of equipment and materials.
 
 
 
On Africa Day in 2003, President MBEKI officially launched the project at the official South African celebrations with the continental broadcast of a 10 minute promotional video which resulted in widespread interest and inquiry. Various members of the Project team have also written articles in popular media on various aspects of the project and on the manuscripts. It is anticipated that a major documentary will be commissioned within the next year or two.
 
 
Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Ntombazana BOTHA with Malian Minister Badi Ould GANFOUD in Bamako, November 2004.