Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa’s Saharan and Sahelian region. Mali is bounded on the north by Algeria, on the east by Niger and Burkina Faso, on the south by Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, and on the west by Senegal and Mauritania.
It is the eighth-largest country in Africa with a relatively small population, largely centred along the Niger River. The name Mali stems from Mali Empire and means "the place where the king lives” carrying a connotation of strength.
Map of Mali
The country was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade; Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. For centuries, its northern city of Timbuktu was a key regional trading post and centre of Islamic culture. The fabled trading and learning centre of Timbuktu is situated in Mali on the upper Niger River.
By 1905, the country was under firm French control as a part of French Sudan and headed by either a governor or a lieutenant governor. Bamako located on the Niger River, became the colony’s capital and still remains the national capital. Mali gained independence on September 22, 1960. After a long period of one-party rule, a coup in 1991 led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state.
French is the official language of Mali whiles national languages like Bambara and Fula are taught in schools. Mande languages including Bambara, Malinke, Khasonke, Wasulunka, and Soninke have the largest number of speakers. The Gur branch which includes Bwa, Moore, Senufo, and Minianka languages and the Atlantic branch which includes Fula, Tukulor and Dogon are also represented.
Colonel Assimi Goïta, Mali’s Junta Head
After a Military Coup in August 2020, the country is governed by a military junta, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), which has promised elections and transition to civilian rule in the near future. The CNSP is headed by Colonel Assimi Goïta effectively making him the Head of State.
The coup, while cheered by many in Mali, was met with regional and international condemnation.
According to the constitution, Executive power is vested in a president, who is elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage limited to two terms.
The president serves as the chief of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. A prime minister appointed by the president serves as head of government and in turn appoints the Council of Ministers. The prime minister also acts as a member of the cabinet of ministers which adopts proposals for laws submitted to the National Assembly.
The unicameral National Assembly is Mali's sole legislative body, consisting of deputies elected to five-year terms. The assembly holds two regular sessions each year, during which it debates and votes on legislation that has been submitted by a member or by the government.
The Legislation has the right to question government ministers about government actions and policies.
As the head of the judicial system, the Supreme Court exercises both judicial and administrative powers. The Supreme Court members are appointed by the Ministry of Justice. The Constitutional Court reviews constitutionality of law. The Constitutional Court members are elected- 3 each by the president, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Council of the Magistracy.
The High Court of Justice tries cases relating to malfeasance of senior government officials. Justices of the peace have full powers to judge ordinary civil, commercial, and financial cases.
The country is divided into the eight régions of Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, and Tombouctou and the district of Bamako. Each of the régions is further divided into administrative units called cercles, which are in turn subdivided into arrondissements. Each région is administered by a governor, who coordinates the activities of the cercles and implements economic policy. The cercles provide nuclei for the major government services; their various headquarters provide focal points for health services, the army, the police, local courts, and other government agencies.
The arrondissement is the basic administrative unit, and its centre usually houses a school and a dispensary. It is composed of several villages, which are headed by chiefs and elected village councils.
Security problems continued to plague Mali during President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s second term, which contributed to growing frustration among the populace with his administration. A weak economy and allegations of corruption also fed the discontent. National Assembly elections, repeatedly postponed due to insecurity, were finally held in March and April 2020.
Highlighting the precarious security situation, was the kidnapping in March of opposition leader, Soumaïla Cissé while he was campaigning for the elections. On April 30, the Constitutional Court overturned the provisional results for some 30 seats, which then resulted in an increase in the number of seats won by Keïta’s party, effectively kicking off months of protests by the opposition. ECOWAS made attempts to mediate the crisis but was not successful.
On August 18, 2020, military troops marched to Bamako and arrested Keïta, the prime minister, and other senior officials. Hours later, Keïta announced that he was resigning. He also dissolved the government and National Assembly. A military junta, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, assumed control.
MALI ECONOMIC OUTPUT
Macroeconomic performance and outlook
Despite security crisis, Mali’s economy has remained resilient, as the country recorded a 5% real GDP growth (driven by good gold and cotton production) in 2019. The African Development Bank (AfDB) also projects that improving the political and security situation should allow for growth. According to United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) projects real GDP growth of the economy of Mali will be 0.9% in 2020.
However, in response to the deteriorating security situation, military and other security related spending have been taking up an increasing share of public spending at the cost of much needed social spending. As a result, the country faces critical infrastructure deficits with only 3% of the classified road network blacktopped and in good order, as well as an electricity gap is 140MW. In addition, only 75% of children are in primary education, and 41% in secondary education whiles 75% of the population lacks access to health services.
The GDP per capita of Mali in 2019 was 890.7 USD equivalent to 6% of the world's average, according to the World Bank whiles tax revenue is a weak 14.3% of GDP, below the ECOWAS standard of 20%.
The number of jobs created every year (44,520 jobs) cannot absorb labour supply (300,000). The workforce’s poor qualifications are aggravated by discrepancy between the supply of training and the requirements of the labour market.
Mali is a part of the "Franc Zone" (Zone Franc), which means that it uses the CFA franc. Mali is connected with the French government by agreement since 1962 (creation of BCEAO). Today all seven countries of Franc Zone use the BCEAO as their Central Bank.
Mali's great potential wealth lies in mining and the production of agricultural commodities, livestock, and fish. The most productive agricultural area lies along the banks of the Niger River, the Inner Niger Delta and the south-western region around Sikasso.
The total value of exports and imports of goods and services equals 61.4 percent of GDP. Mali imports for 2019 was $5.98B, a 1.6% decline from 2018. The main imports are petroleum, machinery and equipment, construction materials, food, and textiles.
Mali’s exports for 2019 was $4.03B, a 3.73% decline from 2018. Gold and cotton account for the bulk of Mali’s export revenues. Other major export commodities are livestock and fish
The economy remains under industrialized, and the manufacturing industry struggles to develop. This leads to an enormous need for imports and to a current account in deficit of 5.4% of GDP in 2019.
Remittances from Malians working abroad are an imperative source of income. Mali’s major trading partners are China and other Asian countries, neighbouring countries, South Africa, and France.
Agriculture, livestock and fishery signify 32.9% of Mali’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Subsistence and commercial agriculture are the bases of the Malian economy. Some four-fifths of the working population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but the government supports the development of commercial products.
An agricultural area of major importance is the inland Niger delta. Millet, rice, wheat, and corn (maize), as well as yams and cassava (are the main subsistence crops, while cotton is an important commercial crop. Peanuts (groundnuts), sugarcane, tobacco, and tea are also grown for market.
Market gardens produce a variety of vegetables and fruits, including cabbages, turnips, carrots, beans, tomatoes, bananas, mangoes, and oranges. Irrigation projects have been developed on the Niger near the towns of Ségou and Mopti.
Eighty percent of Malian workers are employed in agriculture. Seasonal variations lead to regular temporary unemployment of agricultural workers.
Rice is grown comprehensively along the banks of the Niger river between Ségou and Mopti, with the most important rice-producing area at the Office du Niger, located north of Ségou toward the Mauritanian border. Using water diverted from the Niger river, the Office du Niger irrigates about 600 km of land for rice and sugarcane production. About one-third of Mali's paddy rice is produced at the Office du Niger.
Sorghum is planted extensively in the drier parts of the country and along the banks of the Niger in eastern Mali, as well as in the lake beds in the Niger delta region. During the wet season, farmers near the town of Dire have cultivated wheat on irrigated fields for hundreds of years. Peanuts are grown throughout the country but are concentrated in the area around Kita, west of Bamako.
Mali owns the most significant livestock population in West Africa. Stockbreeding plays a crucial role in Mali’s economy. It accounts for 10.8 % of GDP and represents the third largest export. The major areas for livestock raising (cattle, sheep, and goats) are the Sahel and the region around Macina. There is a high demand for Malian cattle and meat.
Mali has one the most plentiful fisheries in the Sahel with a potential of more than 200.000 tons. Mali provides 40% of the fresh water fish production in West Africa thanks to Rivers Niger and Senegal making one of the largest producers of fish in western Africa. The two major fishing zones are the Lake zones-Selingue and Manantali and the flooded zones -Central Niger Delta. About 80% of the catches are processed on a small scale by producers into smoked, dried and burned fish.
Industry signifies 21.3% of the country’s GDP. Mali is involved in food processing, textiles, cigarettes, fish processing, metalworking, light manufacturing, plastics and beverage bottling.
Less than one-fifth of the labour force is employed in industry, and many people are involved in small-scale commerce. Most manufacturing enterprises process food and other agricultural products or make construction materials or consumer goods, the bulk of production being for the domestic market.
Products include cotton fibre, printed cloth, and blankets. There are also shops for the construction of motorcycles, the repair of machinery, and the assembly of radios. Handicrafts are important, and the Malians are noted for their clothing, pottery, shoes, baskets, and wood carvings.
This sector reports for a significant part of the national economy, representing 12% of GDP. Mali was always seen as a country gifted with a genuine mining potential. This was verified by a large number of historical references as well as recognized artisan mining activity, which is still being carried out.
Gold represents Mali’s primary export and the country is the third-biggest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana. Mali’s commercial mines have produced over 10 Moz of gold since 1990, and their measured and designated resources total approximately 25 Moz. There are currently seven active commercial mining operations in Mali: Sadiola, Yatela, Morila, Syama, Loulo, Tabakoto and kalana. Other natural resources mined include kaolin, salt, phosphate, and limestone
Mali however, has many mineral deposits that are not commercially exploited, owing to the country’s limited infrastructure. Iron is the most widespread, with deposits found in the west near the Senegal and Guinea borders. Bauxite deposits are located near Kayes and on the Mandingue Plateau. Manganese is also found, and there are phosphate deposits in the area around Ansongo. Lithium has been discovered near Kayes and Bougouni, and there are uranium deposits in the Iforas. There are also small quantities of tungsten, tin, lead, copper, and zinc.
Electricity is largely produced in thermal power stations, but the role of hydroelectric power is growing. Thermal stations are located in Bamako and other large towns. Energie du Mali (EDM) is an electric company that provides electricity to Malian citizens. Solar-powered pumps provide electricity to some villages, and the world’s first commercial solar-power station was established at Diré.
Mali is endowed with renewable energy resources and according to the index of geopolitical gains and losses after energy transition (GeGaLo Index), it can gain significant benefits from the global transition to renewable energy. It is ranked no. 11 among 156 nations in the GeGaLo Index.
The existence of hydrocarbons in Mali has been known since the 1970s, when very scattered seismic and drilling tests gave strong indications of oil resources. But a turbulent political history and the very remoteness of the Malian part of the Sahara Desert have prevented further serious investigations into the possibility of worthwhile oil production in the country.
The country has a good potential for oil and gas exploration with links to North African basins, stretching from north-west Africa to Arabia, which links the Taoudeni Basin prospectively to the prolific Palaeozoic basins of Libya and Algeria.
Mali therefore remains a basically unexplored country, offering excellent frontier basin opportunities to companies prepared to take the challenge.
Mali, along with seven other French-speaking countries in Western Africa, is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine). These countries share a common bank, the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest), which is headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. The bank issues the currency used by the member countries, the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc, officially pegged to the euro since 2002.
Mali has several commercial banks, development banks, and other financial institutions. Several French insurance companies maintain offices in Bamako. A regional stock exchange based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and serving Mali has a branch in Bamako.
Mali lies within the inter-tropical zone and has a hot, dry climate, with the sun near its apex throughout most of the year. In general, there are two distinct seasons, dry and wet. The dry season, which lasts from November to June, is marked by low humidity and high temperatures and is influenced by the alize and harmattan winds.
During the rainy season, from June to October, the monsoon wind blows from the southwest. Preceded by large black clouds, the heavy rainstorms often include gusty winds and much lightning and thunder. Temperatures are somewhat lower in August, when most of the rainfall occurs.
Like an exquisite sandcastle formed in a harsh desert landscape, Mali is blessed by an extraordinary amount of beauty, wonders, talents and knowledge. However, tourism numbers have plummeted in Mali due to security reasons.
The nation, which has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Timbuktu has seen ongoing conflicts cause tourism to dwindle due to the ongoing risks of attacks against foreign nationals.
Since 2012, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for instance, has recommended against all but essential travel to several areas of the country, and a complete ban on travel to others. While this does not mean that travellers from the UK cannot travel there, they would have to do so independently and without insurance.
The other three UNESCO World Heritage Sites include, Bandiagara Escarpment, Djenné and the Tomb of Askia.
Art & Culture
Mali has long functioned as a crossroads between northern and western Africa and has thus developed a rich cultural tradition. In addition, its location between the Arab nations to the north and the sub-Saharan African nations to the south has for centuries made it a cultural meeting place.
The most common cultural activities involve music and dancing. Dogon dancers wear masks that are more than 10 feet (3 metres) tall to act out their conception of the world’s progress, and Bambara animal-spirit masquerades do a fertility dance in which they imitate the movements of animals.
Traditional music from women of the southern area known as Wassoulou is very popular. Several Malian musicians are internationally known including Oumou Sangaré, Sali Sidibi, Ali Farka Touré, Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia (who perform together as Amadou and Mariam), and Salif Keita, a descendant of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali empire. Their music combines elements of rock and roll with indigenous traditions.
The Tuareg group, Tinariwen attracted a large following in the West with a unique electric-guitar-driven sound that fans dubbed “desert blues.”
The Bambara and other groups excel in the creation of wood carvings of masks, statues, stools, and objects used in traditional religions. The Tyiwara, or gazelle mask, of the Bambara is remarkable for its fineness of line and distinct style.
Localized handicrafts include jewellery making by the Malinke people and leatherworking around the Niger Bend. Carved statues and cotton cloth woven with geometric designs are produced for the tourist trade in urban areas.
Though Mali's literature is less famous than its music, Mali has always been one of Africa's liveliest intellectual centres. Mali's literary tradition is passed mainly by word of mouth, with Jalis reciting or singing histories and stories known by heart. Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Mali's best-known historian, spent much of his life writing these oral traditions down for the world to remember.
The best-known novel by a Malian writer is Yambo Ouologuem's Le devoir de violence, which won the 1968 Prix Renaudot but its legacy was marred by accusations of plagiarism. Other well-known Malian writers include Baba Traoré, Modibo Sounkalo Keita, Massa Makan Diabaté, Moussa Konaté, and Fily Dabo Sissoko.
There are three main religions dominated by Sunni Islam. Sunni Islam is practiced by more than nine-tenths of the population, traditional religions by most of the rest, and Christianity (primarily Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) by a small number.
The constitution establishes a secular state and provides for freedom of religion, and the government largely respects this right
The most popular sport in Mali is football, which became more prominent after Mali hosted the 2002 African Cup of Nations. Most towns and cities have regular games with the most popular teams nationally being Djoliba AC, Stade Malien, and Real Bamako, all based in the capital.
Basketball is another major sport and the Mali women's national basketball team, led by Hamchetou Maiga, competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Traditional wrestling (la lutte) is also somewhat common with great wrestlers spoken of as cultural icons. Even today, traditional wrestlers are held in high esteem and matches are festive occasions that are accompanied by drumming, music, dancing, praise-singing, and the wearing of costumes.
Mali has a conscripted army, which requires two years of service, including the possibility of non-military service. Mali’s military forces include army and air force contingents and a limited navy contingent as well. Paramilitary forces include the national police force, the republican guard, the militia, and gendarmerie units.
Foreign troops including French troops and those under the banner of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and a UN peacekeeping operation, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were present in Mali since 2013 to thwart the actions of Islamist fighters and maintain security while the country recovered from the 2012 coup and prepared for fresh elections.