Young Ladji has been a bus driver in Bamako, the capital of Mali, for years but misses out on a promotion because of nepotism. So he decides to find another way of making money – also to help his sister, who is being forced into prostitution by poverty. He contacts a drug dealer and, together with two mates, starts running drugs. He transports cannabis into Mali and Senegal, bringing back cocaine, and later makes trips to Guinea and the city of Timbuctoo, all in a van with stickers of Bob Marley and Ché Guevara on the back windows. The trips become ever more hazardous, particularly when they pass through the desert of northern Mali, which is controlled by Al Qaida and rebel Tuaregs. While his sister (played by singer Inna Modja) immerses herself in a life of luxury, Ladji has to tackle corrupt soldiers and fanatical members of Al Qaida.
Daouda Coulibaly’s overwhelming debut takes place against the backdrop of the 2012 coup in Mali, when drug smuggling brought the country to its knees and led to political destabilisation.