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Republic of Mali

Major City:

Other Cities:
Djenné, Gao, Kayes, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, Tombouctou


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Mali. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Mali is not the country to visit for safaris, wild animals, or natural forests. What it does have is surreal landscapes, beautiful artwork, castellated mosques made entirely of mud, pink sandstone villages carved into cliff faces, and undulating desert that looks like a scene from Lawrence of Arabia.

Landlocked Mali is approximately the size of Texas and California combined. It is a country old enough to have rock paintings that date back to a time when the Sahara was a blossoming paradise.

The first known empire in the region was the Empire of Ghana. This was destroyed in the 11th century by Muslim Berbers from Mauritania and Morocco. By the middle of the 13th century, the empire had converted to Islam and had taken out a monopoly on the gold and salt trade. Under the influence of several progressive mansas (lords), Djenne and Timbuktu became the commercial Shangri-La's of West Africa.

Of the numerous ethnic groups in Mali, the largest is the Bambara (80% of the population speak Bambara, though French is the official language). The Bambara occupy many of the civil servant positions, but it is the Dogons and the Tuareg, or "blue men of the desert" (named for their indigo robes and turbans) who practice a more traditional way of life.

Drought and government policy are threatening their traditional way of life, but Tuaregs and their camel-caravans still appear unexpectedly on the horizon before melting into the desert again. The Dogons are incredibly industrious farmers living on the edges of a long narrow escarpment in the inland delta. They are also famous for their artistic abilities and elaborate masks.

Much of Mali's economic woes in the 1980s were due to a devastating drought that bought widespread famine in its wake. People and livestock died, wells dried up, villages disappeared beneath the sand. When it did rain, it rained so violently that cattle, topsoil, and vegetation were washed away. Mali has never fully recovered from these devastations, although recent discoveries of deposits of gold may help lift the country from its economic doldrums.

The climate varies from semitropical to arid, with a rainy season from mid May to mid-September.

Mali has a rich and diverse artistic heritage that is expressed in arts, drama, and music. Through dynamic tourist agencies, tourism is increasing, and trips to many parts of Mali are now available. Although some of these trips are for the adventurous and hardy, the picturesque rewards can be great.



Bamako, the capital of Mali and its largest city, has a population of approximately 1,160,000. The city, situated on the banks of the Niger, is expanding rapidly along both sides of the river. Three bridges cross the Niger, one a submersible bridge not passable during the rainy season.

Most of the houses in Bamako are low, mud-walled compounds built along unpaved streets. Increasingly, however, more modern, cement-walled "villas" with small gardens are being built. Malian government officials, prosperous merchants, and most members of the small foreign community live in quiet residential neighborhoods, some near the river and others in outlying areas of the city.

The cliffs of Koulouba, a short distance away, overlook the city and river below. Above, on the Koulouba Plateau, are located the Presidential Palace, several government ministries, and the Point G Hospital.

Unlike many of the coastal cities of West Africa, Bamako is truly African. It has in fact been called "the most African of all African cities." It is a bustling citytraffic is congested and the streets are filled with cars, mobylettes, bâchées (vans or passenger pick-ups), street vendors, herds of animals, pushcarts and pedestrians.

The Grand Marché, formerly the greatest concentration of artisans and merchants in Bamako, burned to the ground in 1993. A temporary open-air market housing many of the Grand Marché's former merchants has evolved along the Koulikoro Road. Handicrafts available in Bamako's shops and marchés include batik, tie-dye and mudcloth fabrics, patchwork cloth, woven blankets, bronze figures, African trade beads, amber, wood carvings, gold and silver jewelry sold by the gram and many other items.

Government buildings, many in the French-developed Sudanic style similar to Mali's mosques, line Bamako's shady streets. Two landmarks in the city are the 17-story Hotel de l'Amitié, built by the Egyptian Government, and the Grand Mosquée, whose minarets can be seen from a distance. The Grand Hotel and the Grand Salam Hotel are the only two international standard hotels. The Hotel de l'Amitié is in a rather dilapidated state of repair but has a wonderful view, overlooking the river. It is the scene of several large parties and balls. Also overlooking the river and the city's newest and tallest building is the Central Bank of West African CFA Zone, (B.C.E.A.O.). Other points of interest in and around Bamako include the Palace of Culture (a large auditorium) across the river, the newly-constructed Artisanat, where local artisans make and sell gold and silver jewelry, ebony carvings, and leatherwork; the National Museum, a small ethnographic museum; a botanical garden and zoo.


Shopping for food in Bamako is not "one stop" shopping but requires going to several locations for the items on a list. There are open-air markets, several small grocery stores, tiny neighborhood "boutiques," good bakeries, and butchers. There are vendors who sell fish, pork, and vegetables from door-to-door. A good variety of food can be found in Bamako, and the list is constantly expanding. Stores and "boutiques" generally have fixed prices. Boutiques are open between 0900 and 1300 hours, and again between 1600 and 2000. Most other shops are open daily from 0800 to 1700. Except Sundays, most places are either closed or only open in the mornings. The market is bustling at almost any time of the day. There are no fixed prices; bargaining is in order.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold in open-air markets or by vendors who come to the door. A variety of fruits and vegetables are grown, although availability, quality, and price depend upon the season. Vegetables are generally available year round. Potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, parsley, celery (very small stalks, mostly leaves but adequate for cooking), lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, green peppers, hot peppers, green beans, eggplant, and okra. Available for short periods of time, in season, are beets, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, spinach, corn (field corn), turnips, green and red cabbage, peas, green onions and sweet potatoes. Fruits available in season are mangoes, papayas, bananas, guavas, coconut, pineapples, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, strawberries, watermelon, melon, and avocados. Fresh fruits and vegetables are generally reasonable in price, often less expensive than in the U.S. Imported apples are generally available most of the year. On occasion, other fruits and vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, endives, mushrooms, Pascal celery, peaches, cherries, pears, grapes, nectarines, and apricots can be found in the grocery stores; they are imported from France and are extremely expensive.

Peanuts are available year round in the market; almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachio nuts are available in the stores at high prices. Herbs and spices are also found in the market: mint, fresh ginger, basil, piment, caraway seeds, bay leaves, nutmeg, lemon grass (citronella), pepper-corns, salt, curry, bouillon cubes, and many local spices, such as ground baobab leaves. Other spices, imported, are available at very high prices in the grocery stores.

Mali is also West Africa's leading nation in livestock. Very good beef, pork, and mutton is raised here and sold in the market and in several small butcher shops. Beef and mutton purchased in the open market are freshly butchered and should be frozen before use. Beef is quite flavorful, but very lean and often tough. Meat tenderizers and marinades are useful to bring. The French style of cut is available, though some butchers can do the U.S. cuts. Fresh meat is not expensive by U.S. standards; filet sells for about $2.50 a pound. Chicken is seasonal due to the intense heat in the spring. There are poultry farms with excellent chickens in the winter months only; all other time of the year, chickens are skinny and tough. Imported bacon, ham, sausages, and pâtés are available in the grocery stores and butcher shops but are quite expensive.

Chicken, turkey, pigeon, guinea hen, and rabbit are also sold in the market. Excellent river fish (Nile perch or capitaine) and carp are also sold. Both poultry and fresh fish are expensive by U.S. standards. Frozen shrimp is sold in the grocery stores at very high prices. Canned seafood and fish (tuna, salmon, etc.) are also available.

Eggs are available in the market, stores, and from door-to-door salesmen. They are usually small and not always fresh. Fresh milk can be found but must be boiled before use. UHT (ultra-high temperature) long-life milk is sold both in whole, 2%, and skimmed forms; this milk does need refrigeration until opened. Excellent powdered whole milk (full cream) is also available and not expensive. Butter (salted and unsalted) and margarine is available, as is long-life cream. Many European cheeses are available (Roquefort, Camembert, Brie, Gruyere, Chevre, Gouda, Edam) and are quite expensive. Cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and cream cheese are found in the shops occasionally, but American-type cheeses are not available. Imported "creme fraiche" (cultured cream), whipping cream, yogurt, and ice cream are available, but very expensive. Mali Lait, the local milk producer, has passed U.S. Embassy Health Unit tests on its milk, yogurt, and ice cream. Infrequent shortages of staples such as butter, eggs, milk, and sugar do occur.

Several grocery stores and neighborhood shops offer a variety of packaged goods and canned items such as fruits, juices, vegetables, soups, fish, and meat. The quality of some canned goods is not as high as equivalent American items. Paper products, dairy products, sausages, ham, and cold cuts are available. Also found are liquors, wines (mostly French), beer, soft drinks, and fruit juices; cookies and crackers; jams and honey; soaps, detergents, and cleaning products; coffee and tea; limited pasta products and couscous; oils, vinegar, sauces, and condiments; cocoa and spices; even some specialty items for Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. Most of the items stocked in the stores are imported from Europe; there are many Price-Leader brand products. U.S. products are being introduced to Europe and are ending up on the local shelves. All imported items are expensive; i.e., 5 kg of laundry soap at $32.00, 1 liter of cream for $16.00, 1 kg of cheese at $22.75. Store items are not always in stock; items available one week may not be available again for months.

Jars of baby food and baby cereal are sold in the stores; however, there is not much variety; they are expensive and items are often out of stock. Excellent quality European baby formulas are usually available in the pharmacies and are less expensive than American brands.

Local bakeries carry French-style bread (baguettes), pastries, and "pain de mie," loaf-style breads similar to, but heavier than, American bread. Whole wheat and white flour is available, though most people either bring their own or buy from the commissary. Cake and cookie decorating items and food colorings are available in limited variety at some of the Lebanese shops.

Canned pet food is sold in the grocery stores. Most pet owners prefer to have pet food prepared at home, using rice and meat and vegetable scraps. Pet products such as flea collars, worm medicines, heartworm medication, shampoos, rawhide chew bones, and toys are not available.

Malian, French, and some American brands of cigarettes can be found. Pipe tobaccos are not available.


Clothing among Malians is predominantly African in style, although young men often wear Western styles for everyday. Styles for men include the "zerebou," a long tunic over pants, or for dressier wear, a "grand boubou"a long, large embroidered robe worn over a short tunic and pants. Only a small number of women wear Western clothing. For everyday, women wear a "pagne," a length of cloth wrapped into a type of skirt, and a blouse. For dressy wear, women wear a bouboua long flowing robe over a pagne. Women have elaborately braided hairstyles and often wear a scarf wound around their heads.

Among the foreign community, Western-style clothing is worn: slacks, shirts, skirts, dresses, blouses, etc. Casual, lightweight, loose, summery styles are worn most of the time. Cotton and cotton-blend fabrics are preferable because of the heat. Clothing should be washable; it is very dusty during the dry season and muddy during the rainy season. Fairly reliable dry-cleaning is available. Clothing wears out quickly because it must be washed frequently due to the climate.

Western-style clothing is available in some boutiques but prices are generally high and quality is not good. Many local tailors can copy a garment from a picture or sample, although the quality is usually marginal. A good selection of fabrics is available, both imported and local. African tie-dyed and batik fabrics are colorful, brightly patterned, and make nice casual clothing. Patterns are not available and the supply of sewing notionsthread, buttons, zippers and trimsis limited.

Shoes should be low-heeled, sturdy, and comfortable. There are very few sidewalks so shoes wear out quickly from the dirt and rubble. Sandals can be worn most of the year and are practical because of the heat. Shoes can be found in local boutiques, but the selection of styles and sizes is minimal and the quality varies from fair to poor. Hand-crafted leather shoes, sandals, and purses can be made to order at the Artisanat. Plastic sandals and flipflops for adults and children are sold in the market.

Lightweight jackets or sweaters are needed occasionally during the cool season. An umbrella is useful during the rainy season. Bring lightweight hats for protection against the sun. Some warm, winter-type clothing is necessary in case travel to cooler climates is required. Nylon stockings are uncomfortable because of the heat and are rarely worn.

Business dress is informal and more casual than in the U.S.: short-sleeved shirts worn without a tie, sports shirts and pants for men; lightweight casual dresses, suits, and skirts and blouses for women. Dress at informal evening functions is generally casual: sports shirts, short or long dresses, skirts, pants, etc.

For children, be sure to bring a generous supply of summer clothing. Heat and dust often necessitate several changes a day. Playwear should include shorts, pants, jeans, sun-dresses, t-shirts, swimsuits, sandals, sneakers, and sun hats. Dress for school is informal. Other items to bring for children are cotton underwear, socks, pajamas, a lightweight jacket, several sweaters, some winter wear and a coat for travel to cooler climates. For infants, bring a large supply of cloth and disposable diapers, diaper pins, and rubber pants. Disposable diapers are available on the local economy but are very expensive. American-style rubber pants are not available. Some baby clothes are available but the variety is small and the quality is poor. Cotton undershirts, cotton pajamas and summer-weight infant wear should be brought. Plastic sandals for children are available in the market. Also bring baby towels, washcloths, crib sheets and cotton baby blankets.

Supplies and Services

Most basic everyday needs are found in Bamako, however, items that must be imported are generally very expensive. The majority of brands are European with some American products. If you do not want substitutes for favorite items and brands, then bring these items with you. The following are suggested items for shipment to Bamako:

Laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and stain removers are available, but are expensive. Pre-soaks and starch are not available at all. Clothespins, general-purpose liquid soaps for housecleaning and dishwashing, scouring powders, hand soaps, steel wool, and plastic scrub pads are available at reasonable prices. Flashlights are available, and size D batteries are produced locally; other sizes, except AA, are usually not found. Also, bring any specialized batteries your camera and clocks/watches may require. Spray insecticides are sold, but bring fly swatters. An outdoor thermometer, which registers temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees, is useful to have.

Basic office and paper supplies can be found locally, but standard sizes of many items such as envelopes, are different than equivalent American items. Bring a supply of American postage stamps. Printed address labels are very handy. A good French-English dictionary is also important to have.

Most basic toiletries can be found in Bamako. They are generally imported from Europe and are therefore expensive and not the same quality as American brands. European-brand shampoos, deodorants, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, disposable razors, suntan lotions, sunscreens, moisturizers, and feminine hygiene products are available but expensive. Razor blades to fit American razors, hair conditioners and home permanent, dental floss, and disposable "Wash'n Dri"-type towelettes are not available. Bring lots of insect repellent; the locally available insect repellent is oily and heavily perfumed. Some cosmetics and nail care products are available, though the selection of colors and types is limited. You should bring your favorite brands of cosmetics and toiletries.

Bring a supply of usual household medicine chest items such as aspirin, Band-Aids, and standard first-aid supplies, birth control items, diarrhea medication, products for insect bites, heat rash and sunburn, vitamin and mineral supplements, and baby needs such as diaper rash ointment, etc. Also, bring a thermometer, heating pad, ice bag, and vaporizer. Bring at least two extra pairs of prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. The local French optician can grind lenses, but it is expensive. Also, bring contact lens solutions and cleaning items-they are not available here. Before leaving the U.S., arrange for a regular supply of any known needs for prescription medications. Several worldwide web pharmacies will mail order health, drug, and sundry items.

A limited variety of toys can be found here, but the prices are incredibly high. Also, bring activity supplies such as crayons, coloring books, chalk, construction paper, paints, brushes, and paste. Most of these items are not available. Ordinary school supplies such as pencils, pens, tablets and paper are all available and reasonably priced. For younger children and infants, bring booster chairs, car seats, bed guards, potty seats, food grinder, baby bottles, etc.

Many families in Bamako have video equipment. You may want to arrange for someone in the U.S. to record special programs for you. Also, bring a stereo system, CD and/or cassette player, tapes, and CDs. Street vendors sell inexpensive audiocassette tapes. Bring camera equipment, film, batteries, etc. Don't forget film mailers; film can be developed here, but the quality of print is not always good and is very expensive. Because of frequent power fluctuations, bring a voltage regulator/stabilizer to protect your electrical equipment. They are expensive but along with a surge suppressor, they will afford the best protection for your investment. Voltage regulators should be sized according to the power consumption of your equipment. Remember that laser printers draw a lot of wattage.

The following computer equipment is available: Full representation of IBM, Compac, Apple, Dell, and the French make, Zenith. Bring a good UPS with a built-in stabilizer and runs on 220v (50hz). Computer with modem-56K is recommended, and printer and ink cartridges. There is reliable technical service for repairs and upgrades from in-house staff, and some Mission spouses are computer wizards. The brands listed above have good repair technicians.

Bring tennis racquet and balls, softball gloves and bat, golf clubs, camping equipment (tent, sleeping bags, lanterns, coolers, etc.), lawn games such as badminton and croquet, indoor games, playing cards, scorecards, fishing equipment, tack if you ride, and pool toys and games. Bird watching is excellent; if interested bring binoculars and the Field Guide to West African Birds (see Recommended Reading).

Bring musical instruments and sheet music. Needlework, sewing and craft supplies are difficult to find here; a list of mail-order sources for craft and hobby supplies is very useful.

Many tailors in Bamako will make simple clothing, do piecework such as buttonholes, sew slipcovers and curtains, and do mending. Tailors make all types of clothing for women, both Western and African styles; safari-type suits, pants and shirts are the most common items for men. The work is generally reasonably priced and quality is usually fair.

Simple shoe, leather, purse, and watchband repairs can be done at the Artisanat. The work is done by hand, but is adequate and inexpensive.

Laundry is done at home as government-furnished housing is supplied with a washer and dryer. Some people employ a domestic to do the washing and ironing. Drycleaning services have improved, however, not to U.S. standards.

Bamako has a limited number of unisex hair salons that offer standard services at moderate to high prices. Quality varies.

Bamako has radio repair shops, but parts for U.S. equipment are rare. The quality of work is improving.

Repair service for other types of U.S.-manufactured equipment, machines, and appliances are not generally available in the city; however, local technicians with the proper parts are capable to do repairs. Parts are not available locally and must be ordered from the U.S.

Domestic Help

Most American families employ domestic help. Household help is readily available at reasonable wages. Servants can be male or female, although women are usually hired to care for children. The average family employs a housekeeper/cook and a gardener; families with small children often have a nanny. Many families employ a full-time cook in addition to a housekeeper. Servants rarely live in, although they can be asked to work in the evenings, and/or weekends; they are usually paid extra for these occasions. English-speaking domestics are rare; many will speak some French, although fluency varies, but most domestics do not know how to read or write.

Most domestics seeking employment have "attestations," letters of recommendation, which you should read. Servants should have a physical examination and chest X-ray before employment, and annually thereafter.

The workweek is generally 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. Salaries, paid in CFA Francs, range from $60 to $160 monthly, depending on the employees' responsibilities and experience. Food or an allowance for one meal per day and a transportation allowance should be provided. Some employers also provide coffee, tea and sugar as well as clothing money to buy uniforms. Although the employer is not obliged to give the employee bonuses for holidays, it is customary to give something at Ramadan and at Tabaski, the two major Muslim holidays in Mali, or at Christmas. Employees are entitled to a month's vacation each year, although extra pay may be given in lieu of vacation if mutually acceptable.

Unlike many countries, Mali has established a work code for household help that stipulates working hours, overtime pay requirements, probationary periods, vacation and sick leave policies, meal and uniform policies, salary increases, and regulations for termination of employees.

A contribution is required for every 3-month period to the Malian social security system for each employee even during the trial period. This protects both employer and employee in case of accident or illness and provides hospitalization, a monthly stipend for each child of the employee, a pregnancy stipend, and retirement benefits to the employee.

Religious Activities

Islam is the predominant religion in Mali. A large mosque is located in the center of Bamako, and many small neighborhood mosques are situated around the city. Both Catholic and Protestant churches are in Bamako as well. Mass in French and Bambara are regularly given at the large, centrally located Roman Catholic Cathedral. Protestant services in French and Bambara are held at the International Protestant Church run by the Gospel Missionary Union, and worship services in English take place on Sunday evenings at the Protestant Mission compound. There is also a Bahai and Jehovah's Witness Community in Mali. There is no synagogue. Protestant Sunday school classes taught by Gospel Missionary Union staff is held at the American School on Sunday mornings during the school year. An Adult Bible Study group meets Sunday mornings at the American school.


The American International School of Bamako (AISB) was established in January 1977 to provide an American curriculum for children from nursery to pre-kindergarten (from age 2) through 8th grade. AISB is a private, non-profit institution governed by a school board, of seven elected members and the Ambassador's Representative. They are responsible for governing policy and financial management of the school. The school is 95% funded by day school tuition and fees. The school also receives grant monies from the Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools. Accreditation is by the Commission on Elementary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Admission to AISB is open to children from the official American community, American business and missionary groups, and from other diplomatic and international organizations. School enrollment during the 1999-2000 school year included 86 students. A third of the student body is from the U.S.; 18 other nationalities are represented.

In school year 99-00, the faculty consisted of five overseas hired homeroom teachers plus locally hired French language, art, music, library, and PE teachers. Course work is based on a standard U.S. curriculum and testing program. Placement tests in mathematics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension are given to all new students. Admission is based on previous school achievement, age, the placement tests, and a personal interview. In addition to regular courses, classes are given in art, music, French, physical education, and computer science. English as a second language (ESL) classes are provided to AISB students who are not fluent in English; an additional fee is charged for this. There is also an after-school activities program for sports, games, and handicrafts. Classes are small, with a student-teacher ratio of less than 10 to 1. Only students with mild learning disabilities or physical handicaps that meet all other admission requirements will be accepted. The school buildings were constructed in 1982 and are located on a pleasant site facing the Niger River. There are 10 classrooms, a library, and a principal's office. All classrooms are air-conditioned. Grounds for outdoor activities and physical education classes are located on campus. The school is equipped with a well-stocked library, playground equipment, and all of the necessary texts and school materials. Two houses have also been acquired to serve as School Office and the Early Learning Center. There is a computer room using Macintosh computers for instruction and computer literacy classes.

School is in session Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. There is a mid-morning break for snacks and recess. The academic year, which starts in late August and ends in mid June, is divided into semesters and totals 180 school days. Classes commence in late August and run through mid-January; the second semester runs from mid-January through mid-June. There is a 3-week winter holiday vacation in December-January.

The local school system includes a French-language school, Lycee Francais Liberte A, for French citizens and other French-speaking foreign children. Liberte A provides primary classes from the 1st through 5th grades, and secondary grades equivalent to American grades 6 through 12. Secondary studies are preparatory to the French baccalaureate degree. Liberte A will not allow non-French speaking children into its program. Only if the children have already attended a French school, will they be permitted admittance. Generally, students attend Liberte A from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, though higher grades do have some afternoon classes from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m, supplemented with French, PE, Drama and other coursework. Thirty-seven nationalities are represented, including French, American, German, Malian, Russian, and others. The school year starts at the beginning of September and runs to the middle of June. Tel: 223-22-41-23. Fax: 22322-06-66, Email: [email protected] or

Bamako has several French-language pre-schools. Rose et Blue is not equivalent to an American day-care center; however, it does provide childcare and play activities for children between the ages of 1 and 6 years. It is open all year. Les Lutins offers a pre-school program, which is a preparatory for entrance to Liberte As elementary classes. Les Lutins is open from the beginning of October through the middle of June. There is generally a waiting list for admission, so enrollment plans should be made early. E-mail Mr. Coulibaly, Director, PTA, at: [email protected]

The American International School has an Early Learning Center. The nursery program provides daycare service for 2-year-olds within a safe and caring environment. The emphasis is on sensory-motor skills and simple symbolic play. The pre-kindergarten concentrates on social and emotional development. An individual approach is used to meet the needs of each child and to encourage growth from their current developmental level in a stimulating and nurturing atmosphere. The child must be 3 and 4 years of age. The kindergarten program emphasizes pre-readiness skills utilizing an individual "play-based" approach. Each child is given the opportunity to develop at his/her own rate in a child-centered environment. The child must be the age of 5 by the first day of school.

Special Educational Opportunities

There are no formal, English-language training or educational facilities for handicapped children in Bamako. On occasion, there have been teachers at AISB who have had training or experience in special education, but the school does not have a formal program.

The new American Cultural Center will be opening soon and once again will sponsor lectures, movies, and other presentations. The French Cultural Center offers movie and concert series, plays, lectures, and exhibits. It also has a large lending library.

Individual or group lessons in English, French, and Bambara are available at the OMBEVI language training school sponsored by the Malian Ministry of Rural Development. Many local private tutors are also available to teach various foreign languages.

Afternoon music, craft and sports classes are available for children at the French Cultural Center and American School. Several local teachers are available to give lessons for piano, flute, and other musical instruments.

Swimming lessons are offered at the Amitié Hotel. Informal exercise groups have been organized in several neighborhoods. Tennis lessons are available at various clubs.

French-language classes, using FSI course methods or "French in Action," are avialable locally. Beginning Bambara lessons are also available.

Other types of classes are taught and various interest groups are established at different times, depending upon the skills and interests of individual members of the community.


Americans in Bamako spend a lot of time out-of-doors, swimming, golfing, playing tennis, and enjoying other outdoor sports and activities.

Swimming is a year-round pastime in Bamako and a good way to "beat the heat." All government-owned and-leased houses have swimming pools. The Hotel de UAmitie, the Grand Hotel, Hotel Salam, and the Mandé Hotel offer swimming pool memberships. UAmitié has a very large pool, a children's wadingpool, an outdoor restaurant and bar, two tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course, and gardens with peacocks and other birds and animals wandering about.

Small boat owners may join the Bamako Canoe Club, which provides docking and storage facilities. During the July-November season, the Niger is high enough for a boat to travel upriver from Bamako to the Guinea border. When the river level is low (December to June), the river is not navigable for larger craft (10 hp and above), but smaller boats can still be used in some places.

The biggest spectator sport in Mali is soccer. Mali has several good national teams, whose games in the Omnisport Stadium are enthusiastically attended. Every neighborhood has a soccer field and as many as 10-15 neighborhood teams. Games are played on Sundays and any other day that teams can get together to arrange a game. Basketball is also popular and there are several national teams.

Adult and children's softball games are played on weekends. Some equipment, i.e., bases, bats, and balls are available; however, you should bring your own glove. Bamako has fielded teams to participate in the various West African softball tournaments, including the West African Invitational Softball Tournament (WAIST), usually held in February in Dakar.

The Marine House hosts a number of unofficial functions open to the American community, including family day twice a month on Sunday afternoons and Friday night movies. Volleyball, swimming, badminton, and table games are available most weekends at the Marine House. There is also exercise/aerobic equipment for the Direct Hire American Community located on the premises. The Marines occasionally plan social/holiday activities for general community participation.

The Hash House Harriers run every Saturday.

The Bamako Tennis Club has three tennis courts for members and one court rented out at hourly rates for nonmembers. This club is very popular and has a waiting list of about 1-year for membership; outstanding players and chiefs of mission are exempted from the waiting list. Temporary summer memberships are available for the months of July, August, and September. Four major tennis tournaments are held each year at the club.

The Club Hippique de Bamako (riding club) offers English-style riding and jumping lessons. Members may board horses at the club for CFA 100,000 per month. Non-members may rent horses, with tack provided, at hourly rates. The Gendarmerie in the Dar es Salaam neighborhood will also rent horses on an hourly basis. If you bring your own tack, remember that local horses are small Arabian horses, 1.5 to 1.6 meters at the shoulder.

Bamako has a lovely, green, rather short, nine-hole golf course and clubhouse, located behind the UAmitie Hotel in central Bamako. Membership is equivalent to approximately $550 per year (2000) plus a $250 joining fee per person. The course is scheduled for relocation out of town in 2002-2003.

Horse races are held on Sundays in season at the local Hippodrome. African ballet, judo, karate and other martial arts are taught at several clubs in Bamako.

Jogging is popular; early morning is the best time for running due to high temperatures later in the day.

Fishing is good on the Niger River during the dry season and large capitaine (Nile perch), carp, and catfish are common catches. Hunting is officially prohibited in Mali.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The Government of Mali is making an effort to encourage tourism. A number of private travel agencies have offices in Bamako and in other cities of interest to tourists. Tours can be arranged through local travel agents or the hotels. Be sure to bring photography equipment and film. Photo opportunities are limitless and varied in Mali. A photo permit is not required, but photography of airports, bridges, and military installations is forbidden.

The best time to see the country is during the cool dry season from November to February. Travel is sometimes difficult in Mali, but always interesting. Many Malian towns can be reached by paved road. Beyond the paved network, roads are laterite and dirt and vary from fair to nearly impassable. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are necessary off the main roads.

Bring camping equipment such as tents, lightweight cots, sleeping bags, canteens, cooking equipment, camping foods, coolers, etc. Hotels are found only in the larger cities and towns. In other areas of Mali, simple overnight lodging and cooking facilities are available only at primitive "campements."

Several interesting places are close enough to Bamako for day or weekend trips. Kati, a pleasant little town about 30 minutes from Bamako, has a colorful market on Sunday mornings. A drive down the Guinea Road affords views of waterfalls and various picnic spots. The Sibi market on Saturdays is also worth a visit. The drive along the canal to Baguineda is also very picturesque and great for picnics.

The Selingue Dam, a 2-hour drive south of Bamako, is an interesting site to spend a day or a weekend. Although accommodations are not up to Western standards, there are furnished villas available for rent, a large swimming pool, a restaurant, and a tennis court nearby in the small "company town," which once housed employees of the firm who built the dam. Reservations for food and lodging must be made in advance.

Segou, a pleasant 3-hour drive from Bamako, is located on the right bank of the Niger River near the spot where the explorer Mungo Park first saw the river. The city is notable for its red-colored mud brick walls and the government buildings, built in the Sudanic architectural style. Hand-knotted wool rugs with Malian-inspired designs are made at the Nieleni rug cooperative located in Segou. The cooperative is open to tourists and it is interesting to watch as the women card, spin, dye the wool, and knot the rugs on their looms. Segou also has a large and colorful market on Mondays.

Mopti, an 8-hour drive from Bamako on a paved road, is located at the point where the Niger and Bani Rivers meet. It is an important fishing port, which becomes a city of islands during the rainy season. The harbor is usually crowded with large pirogues that ply the river carrying passengers and goods up and down river. It is an area of many different ethnic groups including Bambara, Peuhl, Tuareg, and others. Mopti has a large mosque and a lively market, with a section reserved for Malian handicrafts including the distinctive Mopti wool blankets, Peuhl wedding blankets, hats, earrings, trade beads, Tuareg jewelry, leatherwork, and carvings. The Kanaga hotel in Mopti, modeled after the mud-walled styles of the region's mosques, is modern and comfortable.

Djenne, 2 hours southwest of Mopti, is famous for its imposing mud-brick mosque, a major religious center, and its Monday market. Three kilometers away are the excavations at Jenne-Jeno ("ancient Djenne"), an important Iron Age site and the oldest known city in Africa south of the Sahara.

Several hours' drive from Mopti is the town of Sangha in the heart of Dogon country, along the Bandiagara cliffs. The rock and mud-cliff dwellings of the Dogon people and the distinctive round granaries with their conical straw roofs dot the steep, rocky walls of the Bandiagara escarpment. Clustered into small groups decreed by tradition, the dwellings blend into the landscape, making them almost invisible from a distance. The animist Dogon are culturally distinct from other tribes in Mali. They adhere to their own ancient traditions and beliefs based on a complex system of myths, which explain and create order in their universe. They are renowned for their art, and for their dances, which they will occasionally perform for tourists for a fee.

Timbuktu (Tombouctou), the fabled city of gold, legendary for its camel caravans and renowned in the 15th century as a city of wealth and Moslem scholarship, was once the crossroads between the Arab world to the north and black Africa to the south. Now a sleepy, sandy town on the edge of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu is still worth the visit. The ancient mosques of Djingueriber and Sankore, as well as the rooming houses of some of the famous explorers Barth, Caille, and Laing, can still be seen. Stoned walls line the quiet streets and mud-brick houses with latticed windows and carved wooden doors decorated with metal studs. Tuareg nomads, the fierce "Blue Men" of the desert, can be found in camps outside the city. The difficult 2-day drive to Timbuktu has been discouraged due to the banditry in the area. A travel ban on overland travel to Timbuktu was reinstated in June 2000.

Three riverboats (the Tombouctou, the General Soumare, and the Kankan Moussa) leave from Koulikoro (an hour north of Bamako) and go to Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao. River-boats generally operate between early September and mid-December, depending on the depth of the river. The trip is 5 days, one way to Gao, and 7 days (against the current) on return. Many people travel one-way down river on the boat and return to Bamako by road. Others board the boat in Mopti after visiting Djenne and Dogon country. The riverboats are austere even in deluxe or first class. All meals are provided, although it is a good idea to bring drinking water, fruit and snacks. The cost for a one-way trip to Gao ranges from CFA 418,757 ($782) for deluxe class for two persons, and CFA 272,283 ($508) first class for one person. The trip is quite an experience, the life of the fishing people and herders along the riverbanks is fascinating, and you may even see hippopotami swimming in the river. With current restrictions on travel, it is best to check with the U.S. Embassy before traveling by river to points north of Mopti (e.g., Timbuktu, Gao). Travelers should read the relevant section of the Consular Information Sheet before traveling in Mali.

Road trips may be driven through Côte d'Ivoire, where there are several interesting towns and a game park. You can also drive to Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, to Niamey, capital of Niger, and on from these cities to other African countries. The rocky track to Dakar is not recommended, but the hardy may want to go there overland by train. The road between Bouake, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Malian border has had recent carjackings.


Several local theatrical groups present plays in French regularly at the French Cultural Center. The French Cultural Center also sponsors numerous cultural presentations annually, including popular and classical music.

Several local theaters show French, American, Indian, Italian, and Chinese movies. Two large theaters in town, one at the Amitié Hotel and the other at the Palace of Culture, show current French films or American films dubbed in French.

The French Cultural Center presents film series and regular children's matinees. A travel film and lecture series in French is presented each year at the Hotel de l'Amitié. Popular American movies are also shown weekly at the Marine House.

You will have plenty of time to listen to music and to enjoy reading. Bring along a good collection of CD's, tapes, and books. Both the American and French Cultural Centers have lending libraries.

Bamako has a number of restaurants that serve African, French, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Italian, and Lebanese specialties. There are a few fast-food restaurants and several local bakeries where sandwiches are served. The Grand Hotel, Hotel Salam, and the Mandé Hotel offer a Sunday buffet brunch. Restaurants generally open at 7 p.m. for the evening and reservations are rarely required.

A number of nightclubs and discotheques offer either live or recorded dance music.

Social Activities

Social activities among the American community in Bamako are relaxed and informal. Cocktail parties, buffets, informal dinners, and barbecues around the pool are popular ways to entertain. Rotary and Lions Clubs hold regular meetings in Bamako. An International Women's' Club meets bi-monthly. Every Thursday is a "Play Group" for children ages 1 to 4 years.

Different groups such as the Rotary and Lions Club give several formal charity balls each year. These affairs are generally open to all.

An international duplicate bridge club meets twice a week in the evenings at the Hotel de 1'Amitié. The club is registered by European Bridge organizations, and master's points can be awarded. Games are played in French.


DJENNÉ is a small town about 50 miles south of Mopti in southern Mali. It is situated on the flood lands of the Niger and Beni rivers southwest of Tombouctou. Djenné is famous for its mosque built in unique Sudanic style. It is also known for traditional handicrafts in wood, textiles, and terra-cotta.

GAO is situated on the Niger River at the southern edge of the Sahara in eastern Mali. It is best known as the capital of the Songhai empire which rose to power in the late 15th century. Today, Gao is the point of departure for trans-Saharan expeditions. The mosque of Askia Mohammad, a Songhai ruler, is here. The region around Gao is irrigated and permits the growing of rice, wheat, and sorghum.

KAYES is situated in southwest Mali, about 250 miles west of Bamako. With a population of about 48,000, Kayes is a stop on the railroad between Dakar, Senegal, and Bamako. Peanuts are grown here and livestock is also raised.

KOULIKORO is the capital city of the Koulikoro region in southwestern Mali. Established in 1977, the city is about 35 miles from Bamako and had a population of almost 20,000 in 1987. Koulikoro is a transportation and industrial center, producing soap, cottonseed oil, and peanut oil.

MOPTI is a chaotic port and marketplace located on the Bani River, one of the fingers of the Niger, 275 miles northeast of Bamako in eastern Mali. With a population of about 75,000, Mopti is sometimes called "the Venice of Africa"; the comparison, however, does not do the city justice. Its appeal lies in the fact that it is thoroughly African, not quasi-European. It does not have the high-rise hotels and game parks of Kenya, nor the sophistication of Dakar (Senegal), nor the commercial and architectural appeal of Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire. Rather, Mopti's appeal lies in its rich history as a crossroads of trade and crafts. Some of the sights in Mopti include the gaily painted, hand-poled dug-outs that travel up and down the river; fish being bartered at the water's edge; and the central marketplace, which is alive and bustling. The city's mosque is a commanding sight on the horizon. Major crops grown in the surrounding area are rice, millet, onions, cassava, and peanuts. Fishing and livestock raising are significant. Mopti's market and rest camp are both tourist stops.

SÉGOU is located on the Niger River, about 120 miles northeast of Bamako. It has a population of about 90,000. It is the headquarters of the Office du Niger, an extensive irrigation system begun in 1932. A textile factory at Ségou, built by the Chinese, has proved to be one of Mali's most successful industrial undertakings.

SIKASSO is about 190 miles southeast of Bamako, near the Cote d'Ivoire border. It has a population of about 73,000. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Kénédougou in the late 19th century, Sikasso is currently a center for cotton ginning and textile manufacturing. A main road links the city with Bamako.

TOMBOUCTOU is fascinating and mysterious only in that it is indeed the Tombouctou (Timbuktu) of legendary salt caravans, traffic in slaves and gold, and trade in spices and cloth. Although the city has inspired many tales of the French Foreign Legion, riches, and adventure, it is now just a sleepy, sandy town on the edge of the Sahara, about 425 miles northeast of Bamako. If one has the time and the spirit, he can rent a camel and join the Tuaregs in having "tea on the dunes," which consists of three tiny cups of strong mint tea and the ghosts of explorers long gone. Tombouctou has a population close to 20,000; it reached its height of prosperity as a Muslim commercial and cultural center under Songhai rule about 1500, when its population was estimated to be one million.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Mali is located in the interior of West Africa, north of the Equator, reaching to the Tropic of Cancer. The country covers 478,764 square miles, an area about the size of Texas and California combined. It is landlocked, sharing borders with seven other African nations: Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), Niger and Algeria. Situated in the same time zone as Greenwich, Mali is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. The capital city of Bamako lies at an elevation between 950 and 1,000 feet.

Mali stretches across three different climatic regions. To the south is tropical Sudanese savanna, wooded grasslands broken occasionally by cliffs and rock formations, watered by the Niger and Senegal Rivers and their tributaries. In the middle are the semi-arid steppe-lands of the Sahel. This transitional zone between the savanna and the desert to the north is characterized by dry, sandy plains dotted with sparse trees and bushes and a vast plateau broken by isolated rocky masses. Among the latter are the Bandiagara escarpment, famous as the home of the Dogon people, and the spectacular rock buttes of Hombori. The desert zone in the north covers the largest area of Mali and is a hot, barren plain whose terrain is contoured by sand dunes and rocky outcroppings with little vegetation other than occasional patches of thorn bush.

The dry season and the rainy season are the two primary seasons in West Africa. The dry period can be further divided into two distinct seasons, mild and hot, particularly in the savanna and Sahelian regions of Mali. The rainy season usually begins in June and continues into October. Almost all of the annual rainfall occurs during this season. As much as 60-80 inches of rain may fall in the southern savanna. The amount of rainfall decreases, however, as one proceeds north. The air is warm, from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and humid. The more pleasant cool season lasts from December to mid-February. The dry, moderate temperatures range from 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night to the mid-80's during the day. The hot season starts in mid-February and goes through July. The air is dry, dusty, and very hot; temperatures often reach over 100 degrees and clouds of dust hang in the air. This is the season of the Harmattan, the dry, dusty wind that blows south from the Sahara.

Mali has two large river systems, the Senegal and the Niger. The Senegal River crosses into Mali from Guinea in the south and follows a northwest course into Senegal. The Niger River flows across the heart of Mali and serves as its most important waterway. The river courses 2,600 miles, the third longest in Africa, and played a large role in European exploration of Africa. The Niger flows northeast to the edge of the Sahara at Tombouctou (Timbuktu) where it turns east and then south, passing the town of Gao before entering Niger. The Niger is navigable from Koulikoro to Gao by large riverboats from September to November and by smaller craft for most of the rest of the year. Just beyond the Mali-Niger border rapids prevent the riverboats from going further downstream into Niger.


The population of Mali in 2000 was estimated to be around 9.3 million. The annual population growth rate for Mali is calculated at 3.2 percent, and life expectancy is probably 48-50 years. Most of the country is sparsely populated; the average population density is 18.0 inhabitants per square mile, ranging from 65 persons per square mile in the savanna and Sahelian regions, to less than one person per square mile in the less hospitable desert regions of the north. Approximately 20 percent of Mali's people live in Bamako and towns of more than 5,000 inhabitants. The rest live in villages or travel as nomads. Bamako, the capital of Mali and its largest city, has a population of approximately 1,020,000 people. The major towns include Segou (90,900), Mopti (79,800), Sikasso (113,800), Kayes (67,000), Gao (54,900) and Timbuktu (28,500).

French is Mali's official language. Bambara, the most widely spoken local language, is used by 80 percent of the population, although all ethnic groups have their own language. Mali is officially a secular state, but 90% of the population is Muslim. Only a small percentage (4%) is Christian. There are animists among the Dogon, Bambara and other ethnic groups. The intermingling of these ethnic groups, facilitated by the Niger River and a common understanding of Bambara, have given Mali an impressive legacy of harmony rare among African states.

Bambara is a written language, as is Tamashek, the Berber dialect spoken by the Tuaregs. Most other tribal languages do not have this advantage. The literacy rate in Mali is approximately 31%.

Ethnic groups in West Africa can be distinguished not only by language and physical characteristics, but also by the occupations to which each group is traditionally tied. Mali's cultural diversity includes desert nomads, cliff-dwelling cultivators, river fishermen, and the farmers of the savanna, placing it among the most interesting countries in Africa. Within each ethnic group are the hereditary castes: nobles and farmers, artisans, blacksmiths and griots, the entertainers and "keepers" of the oral history preserved through their songs.

The three geographic zones of Mali serve as rough boundaries for the delineation of the various ethnic groups. Among the groups found in the savanna zone are the Manding or Mandé. They occupy most of the southern half of the country and are the largest cultural group in Mali, representing nearly 50 percent of the population. The Manding speak dialects of Bambara and trace their origins to a small area located where the present-day borders of Mali and Guinea meet. This Manding heartland formed the center of the vast Mali Empire, which dominated West Africa from the 12th to the 17th centuries. The Manding are divided into several groups, among them the Bambara, the Malinke and the Dioula. Also found in the south of Mali, along the borders of Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso are Voltaic groups: the Minianka, Senufo, Mossi and Bobo, primarily subsistence farmers. The Voltaic peoples represent about 12 percent of Mali's population.

Among the groups found in the Sahelian zone are the Sarakole, the Peulh, Bozo, Dogon and Songhai. The Sarakole (or Soninke) are primarily merchants, who have historically migrated to other parts of the continent and who can be found in most of the important market places of West and Central Africa.

The Peulh or Fulani are found throughout Mali except in the true desert areas north of the Niger in the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth regions. Primarily cattle herders, many Peulh move with the changing of the seasons in search of grazing lands for their cattle. During the wet season they take advantage of the marginal lands away from the Nigerin the dry season they must move toward the more permanent watering places of the great inland delta of the Niger. The Peulh represent 17 percent of Mali's population. The Bozo, semi-nomadic fishermen, also move up and down the Niger and Bani Rivers following the Niger's flood and the seasonal migrations of the fish.

The Dogon occupy the rocky cliffs of the Bandiagara plateau east of Mopti. They have resisted outside influence throughout their history and have maintained much of their traditional way of life, their animist faith, and their art forms, which have been the subject of study by numerous anthropologists and art historians. The Dogon are renowned as industrious farmers, cultivating the rocky areas of the plateau and the sandy Senou plain to its southeast. The banks of the Niger near Gao are peopled by the Songhai (or Sonrhai), heirs to the great Songhai empire of the 14th through 16th centuries. The Songhai, who make up 6 percent of Mali's population, are primarily subsistence farmers. They also make up the majority of the population of the fabled city of Timbuktu.

The Saharan desert zone is populated by two nomadic groups of Berber origin, the Tuaregs or Tamashek, who also are found in Algeria and Niger; and the Moors (Maurs) in the northwest, who live on both sides of the Mali-Mauritania border. These two groups represent five percent of Mali's population. The harshness of the desert climate shapes their way of life. They are nomadic herdsmen who are forced to move from place to place in search of water and forage for their herds of camels, cattle, sheep and goats. The Tuareg are the fabled "Blue Men of the Desert," often pictured swathed in indigo turbans, and remembered for their battles to control the deserts' caravan routes.

Public Institutions

French colonial penetration into the Soudan, the area covered by present-day Mali, began around 1880. A French civilian governor was appointed in 1893, but serious resistance to French control was not eliminated until 1898 when the Malinke warrior Samory Toure was defeated. The Soudan was then administered with other French colonial territories as the Federation of French West Africa.

In 1957, France's "Loi Cadre" (Basic Law) granted extensive powers to a Territorial Assembly. A French constitutional referendum in 1958 accorded complete internal autonomy. The following year, representatives from Mali, Senegal, Dahomey (now Bénin), and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), met to draft a constitution founding the Federation of Mali. When the constitution was presented in January of 1959, only Mali and Senegal voted to join the Federation, which became fully independent within the French Community on June 20, 1960. The Federation collapsed in August when Senegal seceded. On September 22, 1960, Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community. President Modibo Keita, whose Union Soudanaise party had dominated pre-independence politics, declared a single-party state. Keita's government pursued a socialist policy based on extensive nationalization.

Deterioration of the economy led to mounting discontent within the country. In November 1968, a group of young military officers staged a bloodless coup and set up the 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN) with Lieutenant Moussa Traore as President. The military leaders renounced socialism and attempted to pursue economic reforms despite several years of debilitating internal political struggles and the disastrous Sahelian drought. The first move toward a return to civilian rule occurred in 1974 when a new constitution was approved by referendum. The military government remained in power for the five-year transition period until elections were held in June 1979. General Moussa Traore, former leader of the military government, was voted into power as the first President under the new constitution.

The single party Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM) governed the country with the support of the military until 1991. Increasing demands for multi-party democracy in the late 1980's-early 90s culminated in several days of violent street demonstrations which left around 120 people dead. On March 26, 1991, a group of officers led by Lt. Col. Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) overthrew the government, arresting the President and a number of his followers. A "Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People" (CTSP) was established and appointed a Prime Minister, who in turn appointed a transition government which governed for 14 months. In a series of six direct elections between January and April 1992, Malians ratified a new constitution, elected municipal councilors, National Assembly deputies, and, finally a president. Twenty-one political parties nationwide participated in elections, judged by international observers to be free and fair. Alpha Oumar Konare was elected to a five-year term in the second round of the presidential elections and was inaugurated on June 8, 1992.

The President, who is the head of State, appoints a Prime Minister as head of the Government. The National Assembly is a unicameral body with 117 members elected from Mali's eight regional districts. Twelve political parties are represented in the National Assembly, with the "Alliance for Malian Democracy-African Party for Solidarity and Justice" (ADEMA) holding the majority. Mali's legal system is largely based on codes inherited at independence from France. The judicial branch is mostly independent but depends on the Ministry of Justice for its budget. The highest court within the judicial system is the Supreme Court. There is a Constitutional Court and Administrative and Commercial Courts as well. The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, assembly, association and religion. There are nearly 50 independent newspapers and journals in Malipublished with varying regularityas well as over sixty independent radio stations in Bamako and others serving Mali's regional capitals.

Administratively, Mali is divided into eight regions and the capital district of Bamako, each under the authority of an appointed governor. Each region has from five to nine districts, or "cercles," administered by commandants. Cercles are divided into arrondissements, and arrondissements into villages. In the North, a National Pact was signed in 1992, ostensibly to end the Tuareg and Maur rebellion against the Bamako government. The northern part of the country continued to be the scene of occasional clashes between rebels and government troops until 1994, when the Government of Mali and a majority of rebel movements agreed on a peace settlement. In March 1996 more than 3,000 firearms were burned in a symbolic "flame of peace" ceremony. During 1996 there has been a steady stream of Malian Tuareg and Maur refugees returning from Mauritania, Algeria and Burkina Faso.

Arts, Science and Education

The richness and diversity of Mali's artistic heritage is evident throughout the country. Not only do craftsmen continue to work in towns and villages, but also in Bamako where the Institut National des Arts (INA) offers instruction to traditional artists. Courses are taught in the carving of masks and other wooden objects, in music, dance and weaving, in iron-working, and the manufacture of silver and gold jewelry. Malian craftsmen also use traditional designs to create objects in bronze and leather, as well as to fashion baskets and pottery. Craftsmen trained at the INA often work in small shops in the Artisanat, a center for handicrafts.

Mali has a small but impressive National Museum whose collection consists of Malian carvings, masks, textiles, items from everyday village life, and historical artifacts. The museum also presents special exhibitions on a regular basis.

The National Institute of Arts, the French Cultural Center, and the National Museum also hold frequent exhibitions of contemporary art. Modern interpretations of traditional designs, works in nontraditional media, traveling exhibits from other countries, and the works of individual artists, both African and Western, are presented.

Traditional music, song, dance and drama are encouraged by the government through radio and television broadcasts, a national dance troupe, and frequent arts festivals. At every important occasionbaptisms, marriages, circumcision ceremoniesdances are organized, and the sound of the tamtams and the singing of the griot storytellers can be heard in even the most urban of areas. Traditional instrumentsthe balafon, a type of gourd xylo-phone, stringed gourd instruments such as the kora and dossongoni, tamtams (drums), and reed flutesare still played.

Several international medical research and treatment facilities are based in Mali. The Institut Opthalmologique Tropical d'Afrique (IOTA) specializes in the prevention and treatment of eye diseases. The Institut Marchoux, established in 1934, is a well-known leprosarium that conducts research into the prevention of leprosy and other skin diseases.

The Malaria Research and Training Center, funded in part by the National Institute of Health (U.S.), is on the campus of Mali's National School of Medicine. A malaria vaccine is in the testing/trial stages from the work of this research.

The research division of Comité Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Secheresse au Sahel (CILSS), the Sahel Institute, is based in Bamako. Made up of representatives from the drought-stricken Sahelian countries, the institute is seeking ways to counter desertification and promote economic development.

In principle, primary education is free and compulsory, however, parents must pay registration fees and purchase books and supplies. These costs make it difficult for most families to keep children in school for long. School attendance is 42 percent at the primary level (34 percent for girls), and 10 percent at the secondary level (two percent for girls). Primary education is divided into two cycles, the first lasting six years and the second, three years. Secondary education lasts for three years and consists of either technical training or general secondary instruction leading to the baccalaureate degree. For the more than 12,000 existing communities in Mali (villages, towns and cities), there are 2,200 schools, which means that children must frequently walk long distances to get to the nearest school.

In 1996 several "grandes ecoles" united to form the University of Mali. This institution grants degrees equivalent to the BA and BS. Malian students pursue their further studies in universities abroad (primarily France, Canada, and the United States). The "grandes ecoles," each now a "Faculte" of the University, exist for specialized training: a teacher's college, schools of engineering, medicine and pharmacy, administration, and others. These colleges grant BA or BS equivalent diplomas.

Commerce and Industry

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world with a per capita income under $250 and a GDP of approximately $1.3 billion. An estimated 85 percent of the labor force engages in farming, livestock production or fishing, most at the subsistence level. About 100,000 work in the formal sector.

The most important food crops are millet, sorghum, rice, field corn and peanuts. Sugar cane, tobacco and tea are also grown for local manufacture and consumption. Cotton is Mali's most important export crop and chief foreign exchange earner.

Livestock (cattle, sheep, goats) is raised for both domestic and export markets. Already Mali's second most important export, livestock has great potential for further developmentthanks to the January 1994 CFA devaluation. It is relatively free of diseases which inhibit animal husbandry in the coastal areas to the south. Fish from the Niger, Bani and Senegal Rivers supplement Malians' diets and provide an additional source of income.

Periodic drought has resulted in decreased agricultural production and serious food shortages. The disastrous Sahelian droughts of 1973-74 and 1983-84 caused much suffering and dislocation and forced the Government of Mali to request emergency food aid in large quantities. Above average rainfall in 1988 and 1989 produced a cereal surplus; 1990 saw less favorable rains and led to renewed requests for food aid. Food output has increased since then1994 and 1995 registered record harvests for most major crops.

Mali's industrial sector is small. Most factories are concentrated in or near Bamako and Segou. Firms engage in food processing and the manufacture of low technology consumer items, agricultural tools and construction materials. Many state enterprises have been privatized in recent years, including textile, cement and ceramic plants and a tannery and tea plantation. The government still owns a match and tobacco plant, slaughterhouse and other units but is committed to further privatization. Private businesses produce soap, candy, vinegar, bleach, plastic goods, flour, noodles, construction materials, beverages, etc. Local enterprises vary from the large cotton ginning monopoly to mid-size transport and trading houses to sidewalk merchants. Local markets offer a wide variety of traditional and modern goods. Many companies are wholly or partially French-owned.

With assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and bilateral donors including the U.S., the government continues to make major steps to encourage development of the private sector, to increase agricultural productivity and improve health, education and family planning in Mali.

France is Mali's leading source of imports with ties going back to the colonial era. France, West Germany, Côte d'Ivoire, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.S., the United Kingdom, China, Senegal, Belgium and Japan provide Mali with imports of food, equipment and spare parts, vehicles, petroleum products, textiles, chemicals and pharmaceutical, and other manufactured goods. Imports cost $740 million. Exports of Mali are $556 million (1998), going primarily to the major markets of France, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, Cote d'Ivoire and Algeria. Mali sells cattle and sheep mainly to Cote d'Ivoire. Gold, Mali's third leading export, is exported to Europe. Mali imports $773 million worth of goods (1998), including over $29 million from the U.S. (1999) for items such as tobacco and cigarettes, equipment and spare parts, food and used clothing, and plastics.

Deposits of gold, marble, iron ore, bauxite, manganese, uranium, phosphate, kaolin, salt and limestone are found in Mali, but only gold is exploited on a major scale. Deficient infrastructure and capitalization costs have prevented exploitation of other minerals. The only major gold mine, operated by BHP International, an Australian firm, began production in January 1990. Additional gold mining projects are at various stages of exploration and development. Limited petroleum exploration has yielded disappointing results.

Mali belongs to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA), the Organization to Develop the Upper Senegal Valley (OMVS) and is an associate member of the European Economic Community.



Vehicles purchased on the local economy take longer to register due to extensive title searches designed to curb cross border vehicle theft.

There is a Chrysler/Jeep dealership and distributor for Chrysler parts located in Bamako, as well as Mitsubishi and European dealerships. However, in terms of overall service and availability of parts, Peugeot, Renault, Toyota, and Nissan remain the most practical cars to have in Mali. Malian mechanics are most familiar with the French-made Peugeots and Renaults, although some can work on Japanese, German and other types of cars; mechanics are not trained to work on American cars. Spare parts are readily available for French-made autos and often available for Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes. Spare parts for American cars and some foreign makes are not immediately available; they must be ordered from the U.S. or shipped with your household effects. Consider bringing spare parts such as spark plugs, air and oil filters, fan belts, water hoses, and wiper blade replacements. A repair manual for your auto is very useful. Jerry cans for gasoline are also useful for traveling out in the bush where there are no gas stations.

If you are purchasing a new car, air conditioning is advisable. If you have a choice, select heavy-duty options, such as heavy springs and shock absorbers. Avoid dark colors because of the high temperatures.

Most major streets in Bamako are paved but are in disrepair. Most residential streets are unpaved, rutted, and filled with potholes; they become dusty during the dry season and muddy during the rainy season. Roads to some tourist areas such as Dogon Country are difficult and, depending on the season, can be impassable for most cars, except those with four-wheel drive. You may wish to consider purchasing a four-wheel-drive vehicle if you intend to do a lot of traveling out of Bamako. A diesel engine works well in Bamako and is more economical than a gas engine.

Catalytic converters should be removed from vehicles before shipment, if possible. A letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required for this work to be done in the U.S. (This letter can be obtained through the Office of Transportation, Department of State.) Catalytic converters must be replaced if you intend to return the vehicle to the U.S. at the end of your tour.

Vehicles shipped from the U.S. do not transit Antwerp, but still can take about 6-10 weeks to arrive in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, where clearance procedures can take up to 4 weeks. Cars are normally left in the 20-foot containers and trucked to Bamako. Due to the recent escalation of car thefts in Côte d'Ivoire all cars are trucked to Bamako in containers. For the most recent guidance on shipping instructions, please refer to your welcome cable.

To minimize chances of theft, remove small items such as cigarette lighters, mirrors, antennas, hubcaps, windshield wiper blades and arms, radios, cassette players, and clocks. Lock them inside the trunk or ship them with your household effects. Do not store other items in the car for shipment. Private insurance is recommended for shipment of vehicles.

Autos purchased in the U.S. and France, such as the Peugeots ordered through diplomatic sales programs, are shipped directly to Abidjan.

You are not allowed to drive a vehicle in Mali without proper registration documents (Carte Grise), which must be kept in the vehicle at all times.

Third-party liability insurance is compulsory in Mali. Insurance policies can be easily obtained from several agencies in town.

A valid driver's license is required to drive in Mali; an U.S. or international driver's license is acceptable. Vehicles may be rented through several local agencies, but discouraged. It is quite expensive to rent a car and often the agency requires that you pay an agency chauffeur to do the driving.


The regional security officer does not recommend the use of local transportation, due to the poor quality of vehicles and unqualified drivers.

Local transportation in Bamako is provided by taxis, buses called bâchées vans, and small pick-up trucks with benches and a canvas top in the back. Public transportation is hot, crowded, and often unreliable, as vehicles frequently break down.

Taxis are usually easy to find in the city. Fares range from about CFA 250, if a taxi is shared with others, to about CFA 1,000 if there is only one passenger. Taxis do not have set routes; they can be used to go to the surrounding countryside, however, since it is difficult to find one to return to the city, it is advisable to hire one by the hour for out-of-town trips.

Bâchées carry 16-18 closely packed passengers, as well as chickens, goats, and all kinds of parcels bound to and from market. Bâchées have regular routes within town and are inexpensive, starting at about CFA 150, depending upon the distance traveled.

Small "mini-buses" operate around the city for about CFA 150 a trip. They carry 18-20 seated passengers and as many "standees" as possible. A few large buses have been imported and are being put into use for travel between major cities. Some are air-conditioned.

Peugeot station-wagon "bush taxis" provide transportation from town to town. Fares depend upon the destination. They are generally very crowded and often slowed down by delays and breakdowns. Bâchées are usually painted green. Taxis are usually yellow and have "taxi" signs on top. A commercial service, "Tababus," provides bus service on set routes in Bamako and to some major cities. The Bamako fare is about 250 CFA per trip. All legal taxis, buses, and vans are marked by the red license plate.


Mali has one primary system of paved roads totaling approximately 1,700 miles. This network connects Bamako with Côte d'Ivoire in the south via Bougouni and Sikasso, and with Burkina Faso in the southeast via Segou and Koutiala. The road continues to the north, from Segou, connecting Bamako with Mopti and Gao. There are approximately 5,000 miles of permanent dirt roads and an additional 3,700 miles of seasonal tracks, usable only during the dry season. The European Union has begun surveying a future road connecting Bamako with the Senegalese border.

Travel by car off paved roads is often difficult, except with four-wheel-drive vehicles. Traveling by vehicle, outside city limits at night can be inherently dangerous and as such is not advised. Any travel in Mali should be coordinated after reading the most recent travel advisory in Mali's Consular Information Sheet.

The sole railway system in Mali connects Bamako with Dakar (Senegal) via Kayes. The scheduled 36-hour trip to Dakar is difficult and recommended only for the hardy traveler. Couchettes and first-class service are available, but electric lights and toilets often do not work. Air-conditioning is inoperative. Travelers should bring their own food and drinks.

International flights to several points in Europe and West Africa, as well as a few internal flights to cities within Mali, are available from the Bamako-Segou airport, located about 9 miles south of the city.

Airlines serving Bamako are Air Afrique, Air France, Sabena, Air Algerie, Ethiopian Air Lines, Air Ivoire, Air Gabon, Air Burkina, Ghana Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Air Guinee, Air Mauratania, and Air Mali. You can fly from Bamako to most of the major cities in neighboring West African countries. Direct flights also serve Paris daily and Brussels several times a week. Code share flights are being introduced with American carriers. A weekly flight exists to Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao via Air Mali, but expect delays and cancellations.


Telephone and Telegraph

Direct-dial long-distance telephone service is available to most countries and to the U.S. The quality of the connection is usually good. Within Mali telephone service has improved since 2000 when eight new Bamako exchanges were added to the two existing ones. Cellular phone service has been available in Bamako since 1996. Long-distance calls to the U.S. are expensive. The cost for a 3-minute call to the east coast of the U.S. is about $21. Call-back services are now available in Mali at reduced costs (about $1 a minute). Commercial telegrams cost approximately 18 cents per word to the east coast of the U.S.

Internet was introduced to Mali in 1998, and there are currently five Internet service providers in Bamako.

Local postal facilities are generally reliable for airmail letter services. International airmail for letters to and from the U.S. may take 10 days to 2 weeks. Packages sent from the U.S. by airmail arrive in 3 to 4 weeks. International airmail for packages sent to the U.S. is quite expensive and not always reliable. Surface mail is even less reliable and not recommended. Packages sent to or from the U.S. by surface mail may take three months to a year or more to arrive. Service and customs fees of 60% of the value of the package are charged for receipt of packages for nondiplomatic persons.

U.S. postage stamps can be purchased from the American Community Services Association (ACSAM); however, they do not always have them in stock, so you should bring your own supply with you. U.S. postage stamps can also be ordered online directly from the U.S. Postal Service.

Radio and TV

Radio Mali is the government radio station in Mali. Programs include government published newscasts, local and Western music, and special features. Broadcasts are generally in French and Bambara, with some programming in other local languages and English. Radio programs are broadcast from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. Radio in Mali is an important means of communication for public announcements and local community news. There are many private FM stations (currently around 15) in Bamako as well, which play mostly popular African music and present public discussion programs in French and Bambara.

For international programs, a strong short-wave radio is useful. BBC, VOA, France International, Radio Paris, Christian Science Monitor, and Deutsche Welle are some of the stations that can be received. Quality of reception is erratic. An outside antenna often improves reception. Radio France International and Africa No. 1 broadcast on FM in Bamako. VOA news in French is available every evening on Radio K1édu, the local VOA affiliate. There are about 100 FM radio stations outside of Bamako, most broadcasting local community news, announcements, and music.

Television broadcasting in Mali was inaugurated in mid-1984. One television station exists and is operated by the Malian Government. Programs are broadcast in color from 7:00 p.m. to about 11:00 p.m. On weekends programming runs between 10:00 a.m. and midnight. Nightly broadcasts include a news program, a children's program, and cultural and entertainment programs or movies. Programs are broadcast in French and Bambara, and in other local languages.

Most people subscribe to one of two cable services offered locally, Multi-Canal and TV KLEDU. A special antenna and decoder can be purchased locally for approximately $350. The cable companies offer special programming packages ranging from $20 to $35 for a month's subscription. Channels currently available are two movie channels, daytime Kid TV, Super Sport, CNN International, ESPN2, which are all broadcast in English. There are also French-and Arabic-language channels. The local ORTM/Mali TV is included on the cable systems. More charnels will be added in the future.

There is no digital mini-dish, direct-from-satellite services here that cover Mali. The problem is that the satellites that cover Europe and southern Africa have a "footprint" that does not reach West Africa. You can get an older-type large dish (about 2.5 meters in diameter), but these are very expensive (up to $4,000) and will not pick up encrypted signals.

Mali uses PAL/SECAM transmission systems, which are not compatible with U.S. TV's. If you plan to purchase a TV or video equipment, consider buying a multi-system TV and multi-system, multi-speed video equipment. Black-and-white and color TV's are available locally, but generally very expensive.

Newspaper, Magazines, and Technical Journals

There are more than 15 French-language daily newspapers published in Mali: L'Essor les Echos, and Nouvel Horizon are examples. L'Essor, the official government newspaper, is the oldest and perhaps most influential in Mali. It contains local news and a limited amount of international news. A weekly edition, L'Essor Hebdo, centers primarily on

social issues. Les Echos is published by a private company that also publishes novels, books, and news on tapes; it is generally supportive of the ruling party. Nouvel Horizon generally opposes the government.

In addition to the three daily newspapers, there are about 30 weekly publications: Aurore, la Roue, Le Tambour, l'Observateur le Democrate, le Malien, and le Republicain. All of these deal primarily with local news. Specialized publications such as le Scorpion and la Cigale Muselee (satire) or Kabako and l'Inspecteur (crime) appear biweekly.

Foreign newspapers and magazines, in English and in French, can be purchased locally at bookstores and hotels. The international editions of Newsweek and Time cost from $5 to $7 per issue; the International Herald Tribune costs about $2. These publications are somewhat less expensive by subscription; they are delivered by airmail several days after issue. Subscriptions from the U.S. through the pouch can take up to a month or more to arrive.

Books in English can be borrowed from the American Cultural Center lending libraries. Children's books in English can be borrowed from the American International School library. The French Cultural Center has a large library of books and periodicals in French and a small collection of books in English.

Local shops carry a small selection of books in French, and occasionally a few books in English. Technical books and dictionaries are not available.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Dental care in Bamako is very limited. Although simple or temporary work can be handled in Bamako, complicated work such as crowns, inlays, and partials must be done outside. Be sure to have a thorough dental checkup and complete all dental work before departing for Mali.

A local optician is available who can grind prescription lenses; the selection of frames is limited and very expensive. Bring several extra pairs of prescriptions glasses. Contact lenses are not available.

Local pharmacies are not well stocked; supplies of even simple remedies and common drugs are limited or nonexistent at times. Medications available are generally French and European brands; familiar American medications are not stocked.

Hospital care in Bamako is inadequate. Hospitals do not meet minimum standards for sanitation and lack services, trained personnel, basic supplies, and equipment. Two public hospitals are located in Bamako: Point G and Gabriel Touré.

Community Health

Standards of community sanitation and public cleanliness in Bamako are poor. Local health and sanitation control measures to protect the public health are inadequate.

Bamako's garbage collection system is erratic and not adequate for the size of the city. Only a small area of Bamako is served by a sewage system, and open sewers exist even in the better city sections. Most American homes have their own septic tanks.

Local water supplies are not safe. Bamako's public water supply is chlorinated, and water is potable when it leaves the filtration plant, but the distribution system is inadequate and contamination often occurs.

During the rainy season particularly, and also at other times of the year, the city is infested with flies, mosquitoes, and other insects. individuals are advised to bring a large supply of mosquito repellents.

Good household insecticides are available but are more expensive than in the U.S. and are often strongly scented.

Locally (commercially) bottled beverages and processed foods are generally of satisfactory quality. Fresh milk is not safe to drink unless you pasteurize it, but you can buy imported UHT-treated, long-life milk in sterile packages. Fresh meats and poultry are available in groceries where refrigeration is generally available.

Preventive Measures

Sanitation and disease prevention and treatment practices in Mali are not fully developed. The typical diseases associated with poor, under-developed countries are found here. Among endemic diseases in Mali, malaria is one of the most serious. It affects nearly all the population and is a major cause of infant mortality. Also endemic are schistosomiasis (bilharzia) which causes liver and intestinal damage, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), onchocerciasis (river blindness), tuberculosis, and rabies. Other diseases present in Mali are meningitis, yellow fever, and cholera. Intestinal diseases such as amoebic and bacterial dysentery are common.

For Americans in Bamako, the risk of disease is lessened considerably by following recommended disease prevention practices, keeping up with immunizations and booster shots, and by using malaria prophylaxis. Most illnesses suffered by Americans could be encountered anywhere; diarrhea and minor intestinal problems, colds and respiratory infections, and skin irritations periodically spread through the community. You will probably need a time of physical adjustment to tropical heat. More rest, more fluids, and more salt intake are essential, but you will soon learn to judge your own needs.

Before leaving, have necessary immunizations, start malaria suppressants, and take care of needed dental work. Start immunizations early. More than one injection is required for several of the immunizations, and a specified time must lapse between them.

Malarial suppressants must be taken throughout your entire tour in Bamako. Mefloquine is the recommended suppressant for this area. Mefloquine should be started one (1) week before arrival and continued for four (4) weeks after departure. Other alternatives to mefloquine are doxycycline, and chloroquine with paludrine.

Other precautions against malaria include keeping your house well screened, using mosquito netting around beds, and using insect repellent on exposed areas of skin.


Passage, Customs & Duties

A passport and visa are required. All travelers must have international vaccination cards with a current yellow fever immunization. Travelers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy of the Republic of Mali, 2130 R Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 332-2249. Internet: Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Malian embassy or consulate.

Mali is signatory to the Treaty on Cultural Property that restricts exportation of certain Malian archeological objects, in particular those from the Niger River Valley. Visitors seeking to export any such property are required by Malian law to obtain an export authorization from the National Museum in Bamako.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Mali are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bamako at the intersection of Rue Rochester NY and Rue Mohamed V, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Mali. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali. The telephone number is (223) 22-38-33. The fax number is (223) 22-37-12.


Mali has no quarantine restrictions for pets, however, they must be accompanied by proof of rabies vaccination and a current certificate of good health. Dogs and cats are required to have yearly rabies shots. Veterinary services and routine immunizations are available through several private veterinarians and the local veterinary school.

Firearms & Ammunition

Malian Government procedures for clearance of arms and ammunition are, at best, complicated and drawn out, and there is no assurance that permission will be granted for importation.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

Mali is a part of the West African Monetary Union, whose members use the CFA Franc, a convertible currency tied to the French franc at a fixed rate of exchange (100:1). Mali withdrew from the Zone in 1962, establishing its own currency, the Mali franc, and its own issuing bank. After a 22-year hiatus, Mali reentered the West African Monetary Union (UMOA) in mid 1984, and returned to the CFA franc as its official currency on September 1, 1984. The current average daily exchange rate is 695 CFA = $1.

The CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) group of countries includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The CFA community has its own central issuing bank; however, the monetary reserves of the CFA countries are held on deposit in the French Treasury in French francs. French francs are readily accepted by most local shops.

Banking services such as checking accounts are available through several local banks, but procedures are cumbersome and slow, so they are seldom used by Americans. Payments for local purchases are generally made in cash, except in the larger stores where checks for CFA francs are accepted.

Travelers checks are accepted by banks, airlines, and hotels; however, they are not accepted in local shops. American dollar or French franc travelers checks may be purchased at several banks in Bamako; however, it is easier to bring a supply from home and less expensive.

Credit cards are not accepted in local stores. The larger hotels will take American Express, Visa and Diner's Club. International airlines such as UTA and Air Afrique accept several credit cards including American Express and Diners Club, but only up to certain limited amounts.

The metric system is used as the standard system of weights and measures.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 20 Army Day

Mar. 26 Day of Democracy

May. 1 Labor Day

May 25 Africa Day

Sept. 22 Independence Day

Nov. 19 Liberation Day

Dec. 25 Christmas

Id al-Adah*


Id al-Fitr*

Mawlid na Nabi*



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.

Africa South of the Sahara 2000. Europa Publications: Bernan Associates. October 1999. (In print.)

Auster, Paul. Timbuktu. St. Martin's Press. April 2000.

Conde, Maryse, Barbara Bray (Translator). Segou. Penguin USA. September 1998. A bestselling novel based on the history of a Malian family from the last great pre-colonial kingdom. (In print)

Cornell, Christine. The Dogon of West Africa. Rosen Publications Group: August 2000.

Courlander, Harold and OusmaneSeko. The Heart of the Ngoni: Heroes of the African Kingdom of Segu. University of Massachusetts Press: September 1994. Traditional history from the kingdom of Segou.

Imperato, Pascal James. A Wind in Africa: A Story of Modern Medicine in Mali. Warren H. Green: St. Louis, January 1975. Memoirs of the author's 5 years as a USAID epidemiologist in Mali.

Imperato, now a professor of public health at SUNY Brooklyn, became an expert and prolific writer on Malian history, medicine, art history, and much more. A fascinating introduction to modern Mali, still available from the publisher.

Imperato, Pascal James. Historical Dictionary of Mali. Africa Historical Dictionaries, No. 11. 2nd ed. Scarecrow Press: Metuchen, N.J., January 1996. Up-to-date reference work on Malian history, geography, and personalities, also with a comprehensive bibliography. (In print.)

Joris, Lieve. Mali Blues. Lonely Planet Publications: 1998. A colorful novel observing the life of a Malian musician.


Bovill, E.W. The Golden Trade of the Moors. Markus Wiener, publisher. November 1994. Classic account of early trans-Saharan trade.

Chu, Daniel and Elliott Skinner. A Glorious Age in Africa: The Story of Three Great African Empires. Africa World Press: September 1996.

de Gramont, Sanche. The Strong Brown God. Houghton Mifflin Co.: Boston, 1976. History of Niger River exploration, in highly readable form. (Out of print, but possible to find in book stores.)

Miner, Horace. The Primitive City of Timbuctoo. Princeton University Press: Princeton, N.J. 1953. What the famous old city was really like just after World War II as observed by an anthropologist. (Out of print.)

Perimbam, B. Marie, Shula Marks (editor). Family Identity and the State in the Bamako Kafu c. 1800-1900. Westview Press. April 2000.


Imperato, Pascal James. Buffoons, Queens and Wooden Horsemen: The Dyo and Gouan Societies of the Bambara of Mali. Kilima House: January 1983.

Ouattara, Mouhamadou. Essential Bambara: For English-Speaking Travelers. Osborne Communications: September 1992.


Brenner, Louis. West African Sufi. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1984. Historical study of Islam in Mali by a leading scholar of the subject. (In print)

Griaule, Marcel. Conversations with Ogotemmeli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas. Oxford University Press: London, September 1990. One of many works on the Dogon by a famous French scholar. (Out of print, but can buy through the stores.)


Ezra, Kate. Art of the Dogon. Selections from the Lester Wunderman Collection. Yale University Press: January 1998.

Lawal, Ibironke O. (Editor). Metalworking in Africa South of the Sahara. Greenwood Publications Group Inc.: January 1995.

O'Toole, Thomas (Editor). Mali in Pictures. Lerner Publications. February 1990.


Gann, Lewis H., Duignan, Peter,Africa South of the Sahara: The Challenge to Western Security. Hoover Institution Press, January 1981. (In print.)

Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine, David Maisel (translator). Africa: Endurance and Change South of the Sahara. University of California Press. May 1992. (In print.)

Bingen, R.J., Robinson, D., Staatz, J. Democracy and Development in Mali. Michigan State University Press: October 2000

Lucke, Lewis. Waiting for Rain: Life and Development In Mali, West Africa. Christopher Publishing House: August 1999.


Brooks, Larry, Ray Webb (illustrator). Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Timbuktu. Learner Publishing Group. April 1999.

Jackson, Elizabeth, Paul Quinn (illustrator). South of the Sahara: Traditional Cooking from the Lands of West Africa. Fantail: July 1999.

McIntosh, Susan and Roderick."Finding West Africa's Oldest City." National Geographic Magazine. Vol. 162, No. 3 (September 1982), pp. 396-418. Article for the general reader on Mali's most significant archeological site.

van Maydell, H.J. Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ): Eschsborn, Germany, 1986. A guide to "the bush" published by the West German AID program. Along with the Serle and Morel bird book, this is a useful reference for those working in Mali's rural areas.

Serle, William and Gerard J. Morel. A Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa. Collins: London, 1977. First-rate field guide to Mali's diverse bird life. (In print)

Note: The best location for many of the Mali-related books are found in any of the Book-Dot-Com internet sites. Otherwise, these books are available only from a good library or (if still in print) direct from the publisher. Consult Books in Print at your local library for publisher's addresses.

World Wide Web Sites on Mali

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Republic of Mali

République du Mali


FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of green, yellow, and red vertical stripes.

ANTHEM: National Anthem begins "At thy call, O Mali."

MONETARY UNIT: The Malian franc (mf), a paper currency that had been floating with the French franc, was replaced in June 1984 by the French Community Franc (CFA Fr) at a ratio of mf2 = CFA Fr1. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 CFA francs and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00189 (or $1 = CFA Fr528.28) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Armed Forces Day, 20 January; Democracy Day, 26 March; Labor Day, 1 May; Africa Day, 25 May; Independence Day, 22 September; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', Milad an-Nabi, and Easter Monday.



A landlocked country in West Africa, Mali has an area of about 1,240,000 sq km (478,767 sq mi), extending 1,852 km (1,151 mi) enewsw and 1,258 km (782 mi) nnwsse. Comparatively, the area occupied by Mali is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. Bounded on the n and ne by Algeria, on the e and s by Niger, on the s by Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, on the sw by Guinea, on the w by Senegal, and on the w and nw by Mauritania, Mali has a total boundary length of 7,243 km (4,661 mi). Mali's capital city, Bamako, is located in the southwestern part of the country.


There are few prominent surface features in Mali, which is crossed by two river systemsthe Niger and the Senegal. In the southwest are low mountains deeply notched by valleys formed by the coursing of water. A second upland, in the circle formed by the Niger River, is virtually a plateau and contains Hombori Tondo, 1,155 m (3,789 ft), the highest point in Mali. In the northeast is Adrar des Iforas, an extension of Algeria's Ahaggar Mountains. The republic is divided into three natural zones. The Sudanese zone is an area of cultivation covering some 200,000 sq km (77,200 sq mi) in the south and in the inland delta (a pre-Tertiary lake bed into which the upper Niger once flowed). The Sahel stretches east to west through the center of the country and the Sahara stretches across the northern region. A number of seasonal lakes can be found in the central Sahel region.


Southern and western Mali have a Sudanese climate with a short rainy season from June to September. Rainfall averages 140 cm (55 in) at Sikasso in the far south. To the north is the Sahelian zone, a semiarid region along the southern border of the Sahara. At Gao, in Mali's northeast Sahel, rainfall is about 23 cm (9 in) a year. Actual year-to-year rainfall, however, is extremely erratic. In the Sahelian zone there are considerable variations of temperature, especially in April, May, and June, the period of maximum heat, and in December, when the hot, dry harmattan blows. Continuing north, one gradually enters into a Saharan climate, marked by the virtual absence of rain and an extremely dry atmosphere. Over 40% of the country is desert, and unsuitable for agriculture.

The year is divided into three main seasons varying in length according to latitude: OctoberJanuary, a cool and dry season; FebruaryMay, a hot and dry season; and JuneSeptember, a season of rains characterized by lower temperatures and an increase in humidity. Between 1968 and 1974, Mali, with neighboring Sahel states, experienced the worst drought in 60 years. Drought returned during 198285, and there is continuing concern over the southward advance of the desert.


The Saharan zone of Mali, an area of fixed dunes and false steppes, contains vegetation made up of thick-leaved and thorny plants (mimosas and gum trees). The vegetation of the Sahelian zone resembles that of the steppes, with thorny plants and shrubby savannas. The Sudanese zone is an area of herbaceous vegetation; its trees are bastard mahogany, kapok, baobab, and shea.

In the Saharan, or desert zone, animal life includes dorcas, cheetah, and maned wild sheep, the latter in the mountains. In the Sahelian region are found oryx, gazelle, giraffe, wart hog, ostrich, bustard, red monkey, and cheetah, as well as lion, jackal, fox, hyena, and cynhyena. In the Sudanese zone there are large and small antelope, buffalo, elephant, lion, and monkey, plus such small game as hare, bustard, guinea fowl, quail, pigeon, and such water birds as duck, teal, sandpiper, peetweet, godwit, and woodcock. Other birds include pelican, marabou, ibis, egret, heron, eagle, and vulture.

As of 2002, there were at least 137 species of mammals, 191 species of birds, and over 1,700 species of plants throughout the country.


The major environmental problem in Mali is the increasing desertification of the country. Soil erosion, deforestation, and loss of pastureland pose additional problems for the environment. Mali also has an inadequate water supply: only 76% of city dwellers and 35% of people living in rural areas have access to pure water. The country has about 60 cu km of renewable water resources, of which 97% of annual withdrawals is used for farming and 1% is used for industrial purposes.

The nation's wildlife is threatened by drought, poaching, and the destruction of the environment. Mali has a national park and four animal reserves that cover a total of 808,600 ha (1,998,100 acres), as well as six forest reserves covering 229,400 ha (566,900 acres). In addition, the Sahel has an elephant reserve of 1,200,000 ha (2,965,000 acres) and a giraffe reserve of 1,750,000 ha (4,324,000 acres). However, the authorities lack the means to prevent poaching of protected animals or cutting down of trees for firewood. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 12 types of mammals, 5 species of birds, 1 type of reptiles, 1 species of fish, and 6 species of plants. Threatened species include the addax, cheetah, and barbary sheep. The Sahara oryx has become extinct in the wild.


The population of Mali in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 13.5 million, which placed it at number 65 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 47% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 3.2%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 24 million. The population density was 11 per sq km (28 per sq mi), but the western quarter of the country has three-quarters of the population, and along the Niger River, population density exceeds 1,300 per sq km (500 per sq mi). By contrast fewer than 4 people per square km (1.5 per sq mi) live in the northern three-fifths of Mali. About 10% of the inhabitants are nomadic, and the remainder rural.

The UN estimated that 30% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 5.20%. The capital city, Bamako, had a population of 1.26 million in that year. Other important towns are Ségou, Mopti, Sikasso, and Kayes.


The Fulani, Tuareg, and other nomadic groups of northern Mali move freely across desert borders to and from neighboring countries. As many as two million Malians migrate seasonally to Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, and Libya. In addition, 150,000 Malians fled to Algeria, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania in the early 1990s to escape government repression. Between June 1995 and 1999, some 131,780 Malian refugees returned home from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. Malian refugees of Tuareg and Moor ethnic origin continue to return. There is also increasing migration from rural to urban areas.

In 1999, about 6,000 Mauritanians were refugees in Mali's Kayes region. There were also 1,924 urban refugees from 17 African and Middle Eastern countries, predominantly Sierra Leone and Liberia. Of the 16,800 initial Mauritanian refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helped to repatriate some 10,800. In 2004 there were 11,256 refugees in Mali, primarily from Mauritania, and 1,086 asylum seekers. In that same year some 2,000 Malians sought asylum in France, Spain, and Switzerland. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -0.33 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


The main ethnic groups of Mali are the Mande, including the Bambara, Malinke, and Sarakole, accounting for about 50% of the total population. Other groups include the Peul (or Fulani), accounting for 17%; the Voltaic, making up 12%; the Songhai, constituting 6%; the Tuareg and Moors 10%; and other groups 5%.

The Bambara, mostly farmers, occupy all of central Mali bounded by the Côte d'Ivoire frontier in the south and Nara and Nioro in the north. Malinke live chiefly in the regions of Bafoulabé, Kita, and Bamako. The Peul (or Fulani), semisedentary herdsmen, are to be found throughout the republic, but mainly in the region of Mopti. The Songhaifarmers, fishermen, and merchantslive along the banks and islands of the Niger River, east of the inland delta. The nomadic Tuareg, of Berber origin, are mainly in the north, in the Adrar des Iforas. The Minianka, largely farmers, populate the region of Koutiala, and the Senufo, also farmers, are found principally in the region of Sikasso. The Dogon, often considered to be the first occupants of Mali, are believed to have survived owing to the inaccessibility of their villages in the Hombori cliffs. The Dogon have won international esteem for their unique ceremonial artifacts. The majority of the peoples in Mali are Negroid; the Tuareg are classified as Caucasoid; and the Puel (Fulani) are of mixed origin.


French, the official language, is the language of administration and of the schools and is the main unifying tongue for the country's diverse population elements. There are virtually as many languages as there are ethnic groups. However, Bambarawidely spoken in western, central, and southern Maliis understood by about 80% of the population. The Semitic-speaking Arabs and Hamitic-speaking Tuareg are the only groups with a traditional written language, although in recent years other languages, most of which belong to the Niger-Congo group of African languages, have come to be written. Fulani is spoken in the Niger delta, and Songhai in the east and northeast.


It is estimated that about 90% of the people are Muslims, the vast majority being Sunnis. The Islamic fundamentalist sect of Dawa has grown in Kidal, Mopti, and Bamako. The Wahabi movement is important in Tombouctou. About 5% of the population are Christian, with a split of about two-thirds Catholics and one-third Protestant. Most of the remainder practice indigenous religions. The constitution provides for freedom of religion and defines the country as a secular state.


Transportation is controlled by the government's Malian Transport Authority. Mali has some 729 km (453 mi) of railroad, all of it narrow gauge, and served by diesel electric locomotives. The main line, from Dakar in Senegal to Bamako, runs a twice-weekly passenger service. There is more frequent service between Bamako and Koulikoro, the last stop on the line, and between Bamako and Kayes. The IBRD has helped finance the modernization of the Malian rail system.

Mali's road network includes about 15,100 km (9,383 mi) of highways of which some 1,827 km (1,135 mi) were paved as of 2002. A major project, completed in 1986, was the construction of a 558-km (347-mi) road between Gao and Sévare, near Mopti, to be part of a trans-Sahara highway linking Algeria and Nigeria. In 2003, there were 7,920 passenger cars and 9,900 commercial vehicles in Mali.

Mali is landlocked but it is served by the port of Dakar in Senegal. The Niger River, which in Mali is 1,782 km (1,107 mi) long, is navigable except for a 59-km (37-mi) stretch between Bamako and Koulikoro (the main river port), where it is cut by rapids. The Bani River, a tributary of the Niger, is navigable for 224 km (139 mi) between San and Mopti. Regular service on the Niger is generally maintained from July through January. The Senegal is navigable between Kayes and Saint-Louis, Senegal. Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania make up the Senegal River Development Organization.

There were an estimated 28 airports in 2004, only 9 of which had paved runways as of 2005. An international airport is at Senou, 14 km (9 mi) from Bamako. Air Mali, the state-owned airline, flies to Gao, Mopti, Kayes, Nioro, Tombouctou, Nara, Yelimané, and Goundam. There are also airports at Ségou, Tessalit, Bourem, and Kidal. In 1992, Mali joined the ten other signatories of the Yaoundé Treaty and became a partner in Air Afrique. In 2003, about 46,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


The recorded history of the area now called Mali begins with the empire of Ghana. This means it dates from about the 4th century ad. At its height in the 10th century, the Ghana Empire occupied eastern Senegal, southwest Mali, and southern Mauritania and carried on a steady trade across the Sahara with Arab states. It disintegrated by the 13th century and was succeeded by the Mali Empire, from which the independent republic takes its name.

The Mali Empire reached its peak in the 14th century under Mansa Musa (r.131237), who captured Tombouctou and made Mali a center of Muslim scholarship. Tombouctou and Djenné became key centers for trans-Sahara trade. By the 17th century, however, the empire had ceased to exist, and the Tuareg took much of the northern area.

Meanwhile, to the east, the Songhai Empire was founded around ad 700 on the middle Niger. Later centered at Gao, the empire was at its zenith after the capture of Tombouctou in 1468. The chief rulers in this period were Sonni Ali Ber (r.146492) and Askia Muhammad I (r.14921528). In 1591, the Songhai fell to an invading Moroccan army, which established secure bases at Gao, Tombouctou, and Djenné. Under Moroccan rule, a military caste known as the Arma developed, which controlled the countryside, but by 1780, the area had become fragmented into petty states.

In the 19th century, al-Hajj Umar, a member of the Tukulor tribe, waged a Muslim holy war against the pagans of the area. In 1862, he conquered Ségou and Macina, and the next year he plundered Tombouctou. He was killed in 1864 while trying to put down a rebellion. Around 1880, the French began their advance into what was to become the Republic of Mali. They were opposed from 1882 to 1898 by Samory Touré, a Malinké (Mandingo) leader who was ultimately captured and exiled. The capture of Sikasso in 1898 completed the French conquest.

Under French administration, the area became known as French Sudan (Soudan Français) and was a part of French West Africa. Achievements of French rule included the building of the Dakar-Bamako railway and a Niger Delta development scheme. In 1946, the Sudanese became French citizens, with representation in the French parliament. Under the constitution of 1946, the franchise was enlarged and a territorial assembly was established. Universal suffrage was established in 1957, when enlarged powers were conferred on the territorial assembly, which was also given the right to elect a council of ministers responsible for the administration of internal affairs. In 1958, under the constitution of the Fifth French Republic, French Sudan became an autonomous republic, called the Sudanese Republic, within the French Community.


In January 1959, in Dakar, representatives of the Sudanese Republic, Senegal, Dahomey (now Benin), and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) drafted a constitution of the Federation of Mali (named after the medieval African empire), but only the assemblies of the Sudanese Republic and Senegal ratified it and became members of the federation. Later that year the new Mali Federation asked the French Community to grant it complete sovereignty while permitting it to remaining a member of the Community. The Mali Federation became a sovereign state in June 1960.

Discord soon arose over external and internal policy, and on 20 August 1960, the federation was dissolved. On 22 September 1960, the Sudan declared itself independent as the Republic of Mali. Modibo Keita, a cofounder of the African Democratic Assembly and political secretary of the Mali Federation's African Federation Party, took control of the government. The break with Senegal was followed by the decision to leave the French Community. All ties between Senegal and Mali were severed, and Mali embargoed trade with or through Senegal until 1963, when an accord was reached.

The one-party dictatorship led by President Keita evolved into a socialist regime modeled on that of the People's Republic of China. However, by 1968, economic problems and discontent became severe. On 19 November, Keita was overthrown in a bloodless coup led by Lt. (later Gen.) Moussa Traoré. The 1960 constitution was abolished, and a 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation took command. The junta brought Mali back into the franc zone in 1968 and opened its doors to investment from non-socialist as well as socialist countries.

Lt. Traoré became president in 1969, following an interim period of Yoro Diakité's presidency. (Diakité was expelled from the Military Committee in 1972 and died in the prison salt mines of Taoudenni in 1973.)

The military regime's efforts to improve the economic situation in Mali were frustrated by the prolonged period of drought that began in 1968 and peaked in 197273. It was estimated that, during that time, one-third of the population was rendered destitute. Severe drought conditions also prevailed in 198285.

In 1978, 29 army and police officers were convicted of plotting against the regime, and political unrest continued in later years. Traoré was elected president in 1979 under a new constitution, which also confirmed Mali as a one-party state. He was reelected in 1985. Fighting broke out between Mali and Burkina Faso on 25 December 1985 over possession of the Agacher Strip, an arid tract of land along their common border. About 6570 men were killed before a cease-fire on 30 December. On 22 December 1986 the International Court of Justice, to which the dispute had been submitted in 1983, divided 2,952 sq km (1,140 sq mi) between the two countries in roughly equal parts.


On 26 March 1991, Lt. Col. Amadou Toumani Touré engineered a coup that toppled the Traoré government. Following bloody confrontations between youth groups and the army in 1990 and 1991 in which more than 200 were killed, Touré immediately set up a National Reconciliation Council which appointed a broad-based Transitional Committee for Popular Salvation to oversee the transition to civilian democracy. In May 1991, a public trial broadcast over Malian radio eventually resulted in the conviction (February 1993) of former President Traoré and three associates, who received a death sentence for the March 1991 massacres.

A crisis was averted by a national conference, which included 48 political parties and some 700 civic associations. The participants met from 29 July to 14 August 1991, drafting new electoral rules, party statutes, and a new constitution, which was adopted by referendum in January 1992, and established an agenda for the transition. There were elections for municipal councilors and National Assembly deputies and, finally, presidential elections on 12 and 26 April 1992. Dr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, the leader of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA) became Mali's first democratically elected president with 69% of the vote. The Third Republic was launched. ADEMA also won 76 of the 116 National Assembly seats.

One of the last acts of the Touré transitional government was to negotiate (with Algerian mediation) a peace treaty in April 1992 with rebel Tuaregs in the north. The government acknowledged the Northerners' special status, and the Tuaregs renounced their claims to independence. Algeria agreed to guarantee the truce, which ended two years of fighting. In 1992 and 1993, between 60,000 and 100,000 Tuareg refugees returned from abroad. In February 1993, the government and the rebel group, the Unified Movements and Fronts of Azawad (MFUA), agreed to integrate MFUA guerrillas into the national army and, in May 1994, arrived at a further agreement to implement the 1992 National Pact. In May 1995, President Konaré personally visited refugee camps in bordering states in an effort to assure Tuareg refugees that it was safe to return home. In March 1996, after 3,000 Tuareg rebels had been integrated into the military, there was a massive ceremonial burning of their surrendered weapons in downtown Tombouctou. In January 2000, some 1,000 Tuareg returned home to northern Mali from Niger.

A culmination of pressures led to a new government in April 1993. Abdoulaye Sekou Sow replaced Younoussi Touré as prime minister, and the National Congress of Democratic Initiative (CNIT) took a portion of the ministerial portfolios. However, this government was short-lived. Student disgruntlement with the economy, high unemployment, the negative effects of structural adjustment, and the devaluation of the CFA franc contributed to much popular dissatisfaction, and to the fall of the Sow government in February 1994. In the subsequent government, ADEMA took 11 of the 16 ministries. Several ADEMA members left the party following Ibrahim Boubakar Keita's election as secretary of ADEMA and his appointment as prime minister. The detractors formed the Movement for Independence, Renaissance, and African Integration (MIRIA). The Patriotic Movement for Renovation (MPR) was also formed at this time, along with a splinter from the CNID, the Party for National Liberation (PARENA). Upset with the pace of reforms, students continued their violent unrest, resulting in the January 1996 arrest of several student leaders. The crackdown was widely criticized, and in late January 1996, the CNID introduced a motion of no confidence in parliament, which the government this time was able to survive.

Malians took a step toward national healing in January 1999 when President Alpha Oumar Konaré commuted death sentences imposed on Traoré and his wife after they were convicted of embezzlement. The successful rural community elections of MayJune 1999 strengthened Mali's quest for decentralized democracy. In spite of the low voter turnout caused by the boycott of the radical left, opposition groups won nearly 40% of the 10,000 council seats, though none of the parties won more than 10% of the seats. Given this new avenue for political participation, observers felt that the radical left, grouped under the Collectif des Partis Politiques de l'Opposition (COPPO), marginalized by its boycott, would want to contest future elections.

In February 2000, President Alpha Konaré announced a new national government spearheaded by Prime Minister Mande Sidibe, whose main task was to relaunch the economy. Konaré's cabinet included seven women and seven colonels. Six former ministers remained in government, including Foreign Minister Modibo Sidibe. Despite criticisms of corruption and failed economic policies, under Konaré, government became more representative and responsive to citizens. Society also became more open to debate. More than 40 newspapers, including 4 of 5 daily papers, were privately owned. Although the state controlled television, some 15 private radio stations operated in Bamako, and more than 40 stations broadcast freely up-country. Having served as chairman of ECOWAS, and being one a few African heads of state to stand down after completing his constitutional term of office, Alpha Konaré enhanced Mali's reputation internationally.

On 28 April 2002, Amadou Toumani Touré, nicknamed "ATT," emerged the leader of the first-round presidential election with 29% of the vote, defeating former prime minister and rival, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. In the run-off election on 12 May, Touré obtained 64% of the vote, defeating Soumaila Cissé to become the second democratically elected president of the Republic of Mali. Cissé won 35.6% of the vote. Eleven francophone African leaders witnessed the transfer of power from one constitutionally elected president to anotherthe first in Mali's history. New elections are due in May 2007.


After independence, Mali was governed by the 1960 constitution, which provided for a national assembly. This body was abolished by the Keita regime in January 1968. Following the military coup of November 1968, the constitution itself was abolished and a provisional regime, the Military Committee for National Liberation, was established.

A long-awaited constitution was drawn up by the Military Committee in 1974 and endorsed in a public referendum on 2 June 1974. In this first national ballot since 1964, 99% of the electorate voted for acceptance. The constitution, which took full effect in 1979 and was amended in 1981, provided for a president with a six-year term, an 82-member national assembly, and a one-party system. The assembly was elected for a three-year term. There was universal suffrage at age 21. The 1979 constitution was replaced by a new constitution adopted by referendum in January 1992.

In 1997, the national assembly had 116 deputies with 10 parties represented. Presently, the total number of seats is 147 with members popularly elected serving five-year terms. Led by ATT, the Hope 2002 coalition holds 66 seats to 51 for ADEMA, and 30 held by other parties with the next rounds of elections scheduled for 2007.

The president, elected by popular vote, chooses the prime minister who selects a cabinet. Attempting to remain above party politics, ATT insisted that all of the main parties having won parliamentary seats in the July 2002 elections be represented by cabinet members in the government.


The first political party in Mali, the Sudan Progressive Party (Parti Soudanais ProgressistePSP) was an affiliate of the French Socialist Party. It dominated political activity in French Sudan for 10 years. It was followed by the Sudanese Union, a revolutionary, anticolonial party, which had its main strength in the towns. In the two elections of autumn 1946, the Sudanese Union won 32% and 38% of the total votes.

The PSP continued to maintain its majority in the Territorial Assembly until the end of 1955, when a split in its ranks enabled the Union to capture a majority. By March 1957, the Sudanese Union won 60 of the 70 seats in the new Territorial Assembly, and in the Legislative Assembly election of March 1959 it obtained 76.3% of the votes and all the seats. After the break with Senegal, it emerged as the only party in the Republic of Mali, one with control that extended even to the smallest Muslim villages through its national political bureau. In the parliamentary elections of April 1964, the single list of 80 deputies presented by the Sudanese Union was elected by 99.5% of the voters. The party was disbanded at the time of the 1968 coup d'état.

The Democratic Union of Malian People (Union Démocratique de Peuple MalienUDPM) was created as the sole legal political party in 1979. It chose the presidential candidate and the single list of candidates for the National Assembly. In National Assembly elections in 1979, UDPM candidates received 99.89% of the votes cast; in 1982, 99.82%; and in 1985, 99.47%. The party's general secretary since 1979 has been Gen. Moussa Traoré.

Shortly after the military coup in March 1991, some 48 parties were functioning, of which 23 contested the 1992 elections and 10 elected deputies to the National Assembly. The Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA) was the majority party, but with the change in prime minister and government on 12 April 1993, opposition parties were brought into cabinet; the National Committee for a Democratic Initiative (CNID) gained three cabinet posts.

In 1997, ADEMA held 76 seats in parliament, CNID held 9. Other parties represented in the National Assembly included the Sudanese Union/African Democratic Rally (US/RAD) with eight seats; the Popular Movement for the Development of the Republic of West Africa with six seats; Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) and the Union for Democracy and Development (UDD) with four seats each; and four other parties with the remaining seats. The UDPM, the former ruling party, attempted to relaunch itself in mid-1993, but the Supreme Court rejected its application for official recognition. It applied again in 1995 and was again rejected. Splits in ADEMA and CNID in 1995 resulted in the formation of the Movement for Independence, Renaissance, and African Integration (MIRIA)headed by former vice president Traoré, the Patriotic Movement for Renovation (MPR), and the party for National Renovation (PARENA). In anticipation of the 1997 elections, PARENA announced it would form an alliance with ADEMA. However, flaws in the electoral process led to cancellation of the results by the Constitutional Court. The repeat elections, though ruled free and fair by international observers, were boycotted by 18 opposition parties.

In 2000, ADEMA had not lost its grip on the National Assembly, holding 130 of 147 seats, with 12 more held by allied parties, and only 5 by the opposition. Despite the tradition of male domination in Mali, 18 seats were held by women, and women held 6 cabinet posts in the government.

Elections to the Assembly were held 14 July and 28 July 2002, giving Amadou Toumani Touré's government a substantial show of popular support with the following breakdown of seats: L'Espoir (hope) 2002 coalition 66, ADEMA 51, other parties 30. Despite Touré's attempt to ensure balance in the cabinet, the two main coalitions, Espoir 2002 and Alliance pour la République et la démocratie (ARD), criticized the new cabinet as being unrepresentative. L'Espoir 2002 objected to having received only two positions more than the ARD, even though they had backed the president in the second round of the elections. Nevertheless, Espoir did take most of the nonministerial parliamentary positions.

On 1 June 2003, in the presence of over 5,000 people gathered from around the country and abroad, Soumaila Cissé, vice president of ADEMA, who lost against Touré in the presidential election, announced the creation of a new party, Rally for Republic and Democracy (URD). The URD was expected to welcome an outflow of ADEMA supporters, perhaps as many as 25 deputies. ADEMA was working hard to stem the flow and estimated that no more than 10 of its deputies would defect to the URD. Legislative elections are to be held in July 2007.


In recent years, Mali has undertaken an ambitious decentralization program, which involves the capital district of Bamako and eight regions: Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Mopti, Segou, Sikasso, and Tombouctou. The state retains an advisory role in administrative and fiscal matters, and it provides technical support, coordination, and legal recourse to these levels. Opportunities for direct political participation and increased local responsibility for development have been improved.

In AugustSeptember 1998, elections were held for urban council members, who subsequently elected their mayors. In MayJune 1999, citizens elected their communal council members for the first time. Female voter turnout was about 70% of the total, and observers considered the process open and transparent. With mayors, councils, and boards in place at the local level, newly elected officials, civil society organizations, decentralized technical services, private sector interests, and donor groups began partnering to further development.


Mali's legal system derives from French civil law and customary law, and provides for judicial review of legislative acts in a Constitutional Court (which was formally established on 9 March 1994). Mali has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

A Supreme Court was established in Bamako in 1969. It is made up of 19 members, nominated for five years. The judicial section has three civil chambers and one criminal chamber. The Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative powers. The administrative section deals with appeals and fundamental rulings.

The Court of Appeal is also in Bamako. There are two magistrate courts of first instance, courts for labor disputes, and a special court of state security. Customary courts have been abolished. The 1992 constitution established a separate constitutional court and a High Court of Justice charged with responsibility for trying senior government officials accused of treason.

The 1992 constitution guarantees independence of the judiciary. Constitutional provisions for freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion are generally respected. Nonetheless, the executive has considerable influence over the judiciary. The president heads the Superior Judicial, the body that supervises judicial activity, and the Ministry of Justice appoints judges and oversees law enforcement. Trials are public, defendants have the right to an attorney of their choice, and court-appointed attorneys are available to indigent defendants in criminal cases. However, the judicial system has a large case backlog resulting in long periods of pretrial detention.


As of 2005, Mali's armed forces had 7,350 active personnel, all of of whom were in the Army, which also included a 50 member naval force, and a 400 member air arm. The Army was equipped with 33 main battle tanks, 18 light tanks, and over 46 artillery pieces. The air arm had 16 combat capable aircraft made up of fighter aircraft. The service also operated two support and two utility helicopters. The naval arm consisted of three river patrol boats. Paramilitary forces number 4,800, including a gendarmerie of 1,800, a republican guard of 2,000, and a national police force of 1,000. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $101 million.


Mali was admitted to the United Nations on 28 September 1960, and is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNSECO, UNIDO, the World Bank, IFC, IAEA, ILO, and the WHO. It also belongs to the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, G-77, ECOWAS, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), the African Union, the West African Development Bank, the West African Economic and Monetary Union, and the WTO.

With Senegal and Mauritania, Mali comprises the Senegal River Development Organization. It is also a partner in the Liptako-Gourma regional development scheme with Burkina Faso and Niger. Mali is a member of the International Committee for the Control of the Drought in the Sahel (CILSS)

As a member of ECOWAS, Mali is participating in the six-nation group mediating the conflict in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire. In 2003, Mali contributed 200300 troops for peacekeeping operations in that war-torn country. Mali has also offered support to UN missions and operations in Liberia (est. 2003), Sierra Leone (est. 1999), Burundi (est. 2004), and the DROC (est. 1999). Mali is a member of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Mali is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Economic activity in Mali centers on domestic agricultural and livestock production. Vast stretches of Sahara desert limit Mali's agricultural potential and subject the country to severe, prolonged, recurrent drought. In periods of adequate rainfall, Mali approaches food self-sufficiency. The GDP growth rates are affected by the rainfall as well. GDP has gone to a high of 12.5% in 1989 when rainfall was good to negative growth in dry years. The growth rate of GDP in 2005 was estimated to be 6%.

About 80% of the population was engaged in agriculture as of 2005. Irrigated lands along the Niger River have been the focus of infrastructure development loans designed to increase the production of rice. Historically, livestock production was a mainstay of the Malian economy. About 10% of the population is nomadic. The dry savannah plains are free of the tsetse fly and production has been oriented to serve the growing market in Côte d'Ivoire to the south. Unfortunately, the severe droughts in the 1980s reportedly wiped out upwards of 80% of Malian herds, which were still recovering as of the early 2000s.

State-centered policies pursued in the years following independence were largely unsuccessful and led to a reintegration of the Malian economy into the CFA franc zone. Subsequent economic plans imposed on Mali, first by the French and then by the IMF, sought to dismantle the parastatals, privatize industry, and disengage the government from manipulative agriculture policies and price controls. These measures were hindered by the influential Malian civil service, the drought in the early 1980s and, in 1986, the fall in cotton prices, which led the government to suspend its debt-servicing obligations and to a suspension of IMF and World Bank credits. However, deficits fell sharply in 1990 and 1991 as a result of higher taxes and reduced civil service and parastatal demands. Unfortunately, the political repercussions of the government's austerity measures led to its downfall in 1991. The new government, however, continued the structural adjustment process, and the effort to reduce the budget deficits was intensified.

In January 1994 France devalued the CFA franc, cutting its value in half. The devaluation was designed to encourage new investment, particularly in the export sectors of the economy, and discourage the use of hard currency reserves to buy products that could be grown domestically. Unlike exporting countries, however, Mali imported most of its food, had little to export, and therefore, benefited little from the devaluation. A period of inflation, where the rate approached 35%, followed devaluation in 1994, but by 2001 it had moderated to a level of approximately 5% and in 2005 it was estimated to be 6%.

The country remains heavily dependent upon foreign aid, which amounted to 20% of GNP in 2002, mostly from France. Key sectors of economic growth in recent years have been in cotton production and gold: Mali as of 2005 was the leading producer and exporter of cotton in sub-Saharan Africa, and the second-largest producer of gold in West Africa.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Mali's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $11.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.5%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 4.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 45% of GDP, industry 17%, and services 38%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $138 million or about $12 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.2% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $528 million or about $45 per capita and accounted for approximately 12.7% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Mali totaled $2.80 billion or about $239 per capita based on a GDP of $4.3 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.1%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 53% of household consumption was spent on food, 7% on fuel, 4% on health care, and 5% on education. It was estimated that in 2001 about 64% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Of the total estimated workforce in Mali of 3.93 million in 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), agriculture and fishing accounted for an estimated 80%. In that same year, the estimated unemployment rate was 14.6%.

With the breakup of the Mali Federation in 1960, all the unions in the country joined together to form the National Union of Malian Workers (Union National des Travailleurs du MaliUNTM). The UNTM was disbanded at the time of the 1968 coup, but was reestablished in 1970. Most workers organized in Mali belong to a union that is a member of UNTM federation. A second federation, the Syndicated Confederation of Malian Workers, was formed following a split in the UNTM in 1997. The two groups divide the nation's 12 unions between them. In 2002, essentially all wage earners were union members. The constitution provides for the right to strike within certain limitations in some sectors. For instance, civil servants and state-employed workers must engage in mediation and give two weeks notice of an intent to strike.

Workers in the formal industrial sector may start to work as young as 12, with parental permission. However, this provision does not apply to the millions of children working in rural areas or in the urban informal economy. Wage workers are given extensive protection under the labor laws, including a maximum workweek, a minimum wage, and a specified number of days of paid annual leave. In 2002, the minimum wage was about $40 per month. The legal maximum workweek was set at 40 hours in industry, and 45 hours for agricultural laborers. Foreign, even illegal, workers are provided with the same protections.


Only the southern part of Mali is suited to farming and less than 2% of Mali's area is cultivated. Agriculture accounted for about 38% of GDP, 36% of exports, and over 80% of the active labor force in 2003. Millet, rice, and corn are the basic food crops. Millet and sorghum are cultivated mainly in the areas around Ségou, Bandiagara, and Nioro. Paddy rice is cultivated on irrigated farms in the area around Mopti, Ségou, and Niafounké. Cereals are produced for subsistence by 90% of farmers. Peanuts are grown in the Sudanese zone, as are cotton, fruits, vegetables, and henna. The shea tree nut, which grows wild, is exploited by Malians for its oil.

Output fluctuates widely as a result of the amount and distribution of rainfall. In 2004, coarse grain production was estimated at 2,118,000 tons. Production estimates in 2004 for principal agricultural crops grown for domestic use included millet, 815,000 tons; sorghum, 650,000 tons; sugarcane, 350,000 tons; corn, 365,000 tons; cassava, 24,000 tons; and sweet potatoes, 75,000 tons. The rice production figure was 877,000 tons.

Cotton is Mali's major foreign exchange earner. In 2004, Mali had a production of 239,500 tons. Buoyant world prices have increased foreign exchange earnings from cotton. In 2004, Mali's trade surplus in agricultural products was $188.5 million.

The Niger Office, now a state-controlled agency, was set up in 1932 to aid in improving cotton and rice production. It developed the irrigation and modern cultivation of some 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) in the dry inland delta of the Niger; in 2003, about 236,000 hectares (583,000 acres) in Mali were irrigated. The infrastructure includes a dam (2.6 km wide/1.6 mi), irrigation canals, ditches and dikes, and such installations as housing stores, warehouses, rice and oil mills, cotton-ginning factories, sugar refineries, soap factories, research stations, schools, and dispensaries. Growing cotton in irrigated fields did not succeed and was abandoned in 1970. All cotton is now grown in nonirrigated fields in the regions of Bamako, Ségou, and Sikasso.


In 2005, there were an estimated 12,050,000 goats, 8,370,000 sheep, 7,700,000 head of cattle, 720,000 donkeys, 472,000 camels, 172,000 horses, 68,000 hogs, and 31 million chickens in Mali.

Virtually all cattle are owned by nomads. Cattle herding is centered in the Sahel (Nioro-Nara), the central Niger Delta (Ségou-Mopti-Bandiagara-Niafounké-Goundam), and the curve of the Niger (Tombouctou-Gao). A significant portion of trade in live animals is clandestine, because of higher prices in neighboring countries. Principal clients for cattle are Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, and for sheep and goats, Côte d'Ivoire and Algeria. Meat and cattle are also exported to other African neighbors, such as Guinea, Senegal, Niger, and Benin.

There are two modern slaughterhouses, in Bamako and Gao. Total meat production was estimated at 248,700 tons in 2005. Livestock exports are the second-largest source of foreign exchange after cotton. Milk production was estimated at 608,440 tons (39% goat, 31% cow, 21% sheep), and the production of hides and skins at 15,040 tons.


The Niger and its tributaries are extensively fished, and the Mopti region, where the Niger and Bani rivers flood the delta during the rainy season, accounts for 90% of the catch. The Senegal River accounts for most of the rest. Fishermen use nets, harpoons, and snares. About 90% of the fishing catch is dried or smoked for domestic consumption and export; Nile tilapia and North African catfish are the main species. River fishing was severely affected by the 196874 and 198285 droughts. The total catch was 101,098 tons in 2003.


Forest and woodland are estimated to cover some 13.1 million hectares (35.6 million acres), or about 10.8% of the total land area. A total of six forest reserves cover 229,400 hectares (566,900 acres). Mali's Water and Forests Service works to preserve and increase the amount and quality of general and classified forest domain and to assure reasonable exploitation. However, wood is Mali's primary energy source, and overcutting for fuel is a serious problem. Roundwood production in 2004 amounted to 5.38 million cu m (190 million cu ft), with 92% used for fuel.


Mali's mineral sector is dominated by gold mining. The country is Africa's third-largest gold producer, behind South Africa and Ghana, with gold accounting for 57% of Mali's total exports in 2003, or $542 million. Total gold mine output (metal content) was 45,535 kg in 2003, down from 56,043 kg in 2002. The Sadiola Hill open-pit mine produced about 14,000 kg in 2003, from a resource of 120,000 kg. The Syama mine, which produced 8,000 kg, was mothballed in 2001, pending higher gold prices; it had the country's largest resources, 196,000 kg. The Morilla gold mine, opened in 2001, produced 24,700 kg in 2003, from a resource of 140,000 kg. The Loulo (105,000-kg resource), Yatela, Segala, and Alamoutala deposits were in development. Since 1997, Mali has attracted $850 million in new gold development investments and expected to produce 50,000 kg per year by 2006. Large-scale gold mining began in 1984, at Kalana, southwest of Bougouni, with aid from the former USSR.

Mali, in 2003, also produced gypsum and salt. Salt output in that year totaled 6,000 metric tons. Gypsum production in 2003 totaled an estimated 500 metric tons. Salt mining provided an evocative link between Mali's present and past. Artisanal gold miners have also found diamonds in the Kenieba area.

Mali's mining sector remains undeveloped due to a lack of infrastructure needed to support mining. Bauxite, iron, calcium, kaolin, copper, manganese, phosphate, tin, zinc, lead, marble, and lithium deposits have been located. Manganese reserves were 7.5 billion tons, of 3040% grade ore. Western Mali had numerous bauxite deposits, ranging from 10 to 580 million tons, at 248% aluminum content. Phosphate reserves were estimated at 10 million tons, with anhydrous phosphate content of 31%. There was a marble quarry at Sélinkégni, a limestone quarry at Diamou, and a phosphate complex at Bourem. Mineral exploration interest was focused on diamond, gold, and oil.

All mines were owned by the state; some quarries were privately owned. At the request of mining companies, the government set up a regional mining office in Kayes, to eliminate the 500 km journey between Bamako and the primary mining region in western Mali, for routine administrative operations. The government eliminated the tax on insurance for vehicles used on mining sites, and reduced taxes on sales by mining companies (from 63%), and on proceeds from the transfer of shares in mining companies (from 2010%). The government also lengthened the tenure for medium-scale mining permits, and introduced a four-year permit for small-scale mining. To address Mali's underdeveloped transportation network, the Africa Development Fund approved a loan to finance the multinational Kankan-Kouremale-Bamako road project in Guinea and Mali.


Mali, as of 1 January 2003 had no known reserves of crude oil, natural gas, or refining capacity.

In 2002, the consumption and imports of petroleum products each averaged 4,070 barrels per day. There was no demand or imports of natural gas in that same year

In 2002, Mali's electrical generating capacity stood at 0.250 million kW, of which 54% was dedicated to conventional thermal fuels, and the remainder to hydroelectric power. In that same year, electric power output totaled 0.668 billion kWh, of which almost 75% came from hydroelectric sources, and the rest from conventional thermal fuel sources. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 0.621 billion kWh. However, given Mali's drought-prone circumstances, hydroelectric production is unreliable, and production at the Selingué plant is suspended when reservoir levels are low.


Mali has a small industrial sector, mostly enterprises producing textiles and consumer goods. There is growing local demand for consumer goods. Textiles account for about 50% of export value. In 2004, industry accounted for 25% of GDP. In 2002, the government was undertaking a program of privatization and restructuring of state-owned enterprises.

Groundnut-oil, rice-polishing, fruit-preserving, sugar-distilling, tea, and cottonseed-oil and cottonseed-cake plants are in operation, as are slaughterhouses. Industrial facilities include a vinegar factory, a cigarette factory, a soft-drink plant, a flour mill, a shoe factory, a tannery, and two textile plants. Other plants make tiles, furniture, farm implements, batteries, paint, and cosmetics and assemble radios, bicycles, and motorcycles. There are a few construction related facilities, including a brick factory, a ceramics factory, and a cement plant. Mali has no known oil or natural gas reserves.


Mali has a shortage of trained scientists and technicians and relies heavily on foreign, chiefly French, assistance. A French tropical agronomy research center is located in Bamako. The National Directorship for Meteorology, also in Bamako, publishes bulletins on agrometeorology and climatology. National centers for fruit and zootechnical research are located in Bamako. A national association for mineral research and mining is located in Kati. The National Center of Scientific and Technological Research in Bamako coordinates all research activity in Mali. National schools of engineering and of medicine and pharmacology are also in Bamako. The Rural Polytechnic Institute of Katibougou provides instruction and conducts research in agronomy, agricultural economics, stockbreeding, forestry, veterinary science, and rural technology. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 12% of college and university enrollments.


Following independence, the government initiated an extensive program for the organization of rural cooperatives in the villages, with central purchasing organizations in the chief towns of the administrative districts. However, Mali's postindependence socialism has recently given way to emphasis on free trade and private enterprise. Agriculture is the basis of the economy with about 70% of the population employed in farming.

Since 1988, the government has been working on economic reforms that include a large scale privatization process and legal changes to encourage domestic commerce. For instance, business applications can generally be processed through a single ministry, in a program called guichet unique or "one window." This reform allows businesses to open sooner and with far less red tape than before. The government has also eliminated price controls on consumer goods and developed both a commerce code and commercial courts to encourage fair business development.

Normal business hours are from 8 am to noon and from 3 to 5 pm, MondaySaturday. On Fridays, most businesses close at noon. Banks are open from 8 am to 2:30 pm, MondayThursday, and from 8 am to 12:30 pm, Friday and Saturday.


Cotton, gold, and livestock are Mali's leading exports. Increased cotton production and rising world prices have increased foreign exchange receipts, as has increased gold production. The 50% devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994 helped boost cotton, livestock, and other exports but doubled the cost of imports. Comparing 1994 to the index year of 1987, export activity decreased by 5% while import activity rose by 10%. Machinery and equipment, construction materials, petroleum, foodstuffs, and textiles are imported.


Mali's chronic deficit in trade and other goods and services is largely offset by aid from other governments and international organizations.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 519.3 1,013.4 -494.1
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 197.5 197.5
South Africa 168.5 44.1 124.4
France-Monaco 54.0 188.3 -134.3
Côte d'Ivoire 42.8 245.6 -202.8
Senegal 26.7 53.7 -27.0
Belgium 8.5 38.8 -30.3
Netherlands 6.1 14.0 -7.9
Burkina Faso 3.5 3.5
United States 2.4 36.3 -33.9
Guinea 2.2 2.2
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account -148.8
     Balance on goods 162.7
         Imports -712.5
         Exports 875.1
     Balance on services -217.6
     Balance on income -240.2
     Current transfers 146.4
Capital Account 104.2
Financial Account 188.6
     Direct investment abroad -1.6
     Direct investment in Mali 243.8
     Portfolio investment assets -0.5
     Portfolio investment liabilities 54.1
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -248.4
     Other investment liabilities 141.1
Net Errors and Omissions -6.1
Reserves and Related Items -137.8
() data not available or not significant.

The balance of payments is sharply influenced by the volume in cotton exports and the world price of cotton, the price of gold, the volume of official livestock exports, and the value of government-purchased imports. The value of exports covers only about 75% of imports. Mali's minimal industrial base and its dependence on imported machinery and petroleum negatively impact its balance of payments.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Mali's exports was $988 million while imports totaled $1,185 million resulting in a trade deficit of $197 million.


In 1959, the Central Bank of the West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'OuestBCEAO) succeeded the Currency Board of French West Africa and Togo as the bank of issue for the former French West African territories, known now as the franc zone: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. Foreign exchange receipts of the member states went into the franc zone's exchange pool, which in turn covered their foreign exchange requirements. In July 1962, however, Mali withdrew from the BCEAO and West African Monetary Union and established a bank of its own, the Bank of the Republic of Mali, which issued a new currency, the Malian franc.

In 1967, Mali returned to the franc zone, with its franc set at half the value of the CFA franc. In March 1968, the banking system was reorganized, and the Central Bank of Mali was established as the central issuing bank. In December 1982, Mali's application to rejoin the West African Monetary Union was rejected, as Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), which had a border dispute with Mali, continued to oppose Mali's readmission until 1983. In 1984 it rejoined the BCEAO and the monetary union.

In addition to the Central Bank, commercial banks in 1997 included: the Bank of Africa, Banque Commerciale de Sahel, Banque Malienne de Crédit et du Depots, and the Financial Bank Mali. Development banks in Mali include the Banque de Développment du Mali and the Banque Nationale de Développment Agricole. Domestic savings have increased since 1994. Along with other members of the Union économique at minétaire ouest-africaine (UEMOA), Mali now faces the problem of diversifying credit instruments in favor of small and medium-sized enterprises, which have historically relied upon informal sources of investment.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $514.6 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $664.6 million. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.95%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.


There were at least six insurance companies in Mali in 1995, the largest being the National Fund of Insurance and Reinsurance, a state company. Third-party motor insurance is compulsory.


Foreign aid accounted for 20% of Mali's budget in 1999. In order to fulfill its IMF responsibilities, the country has been privatizing companies for the past several years. Only about 14 companies remain in the hands of the government. Mali was judged eligible for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and has been benefiting from it since 2000 as a budgetary support.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2002 Mali's central government took in revenues of approximately $764 million and had expenditures of $828 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$64 million. Total external debt was $2.8 billion.


Elements of a progressive taxation system were introduced in 1992. There is a tax on business profits and a general income tax with a graduated rate. There is also a value-added tax (VAT) with a standard rate in 2003 of 15% for most goods and services, as well as an excise tax on alcoholic beverages, fuels and lubricants, cartridges and bullets, tobacco, and other goods. In addition, there are taxes on property, livestock, motor vehicles, and firearms and a head tax, among others. There are also registration and stamp fees.


Customs duties constitute the leading source of government income and are imposed on both imports and exports. Import policies have been liberalized and import licensing eliminated since 1988. However, imports from Israel and South Africa are banned.

Duties on most goods range from 530% for imports from countries that do not belong to the West African Economic Community (CEAO), except for taxes on luxury goods, including cars and videocassette recorders, which vary from 80100%. Duties for imports from CEAO members are approximately half the rate charged nonmembers.


Foreign investment in Mali is relatively small and is mainly in retail trade or light industry. With independence and Mali's announcement of an economic policy aimed at "planned socialism," private foreign investment came to a standstill in 1961. By 1968, after seven years of almost no private foreign investment, the trend was reversed and Mali specifically requested private foreign investment to aid its development. The parastatal sector was to be dismantled, although it has remained a significant part of the economy.

The 1991 investment code offers certain incentives, mostly in the form of tax holidays of five to ten years to companies prepared to invest in certain areas. In the three free zones, companies are granted permanent exemption from all fees and taxes, but must sell 20% of their production on the national market. Foreign and national investors are treated equally by law.

In 1998, annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Mali fell to $35.8 million, down from $74.3 million in 1997. FDI inflow increased to $51.3 million in 1999, and for 2000 and 2001, averaged $104.6 million. In 2002 FDI peaked at $244 million but fell to $132 million in 2003 and $180 million in 2004. Mali's share of world FDI inflows during the period 1998 to 2000 was only 70% of its share of world GDP, although this was an improvement on its performance a decade earlier when its share of world inward FDI was only 30% of its share of world GDP. The recent increases in FDI are a reflection of international investment in mining and oil exploration.


Fiscal management reform and continued dependence on foreign aid into the foreseeable future are the hallmarks of the economic development effort in the coming years. The 1994 devaluation of the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc resulted in increased exports of cotton, livestock, gold, and other products, but raised the price of imports. Strong prices for cotton worldwide, combined with record production in Mali in 1995, were both positive factors for the Mali economy. However, the agricultural sector is still highly vulnerable to drought and, in spite of its natural potential, unlikely to produce at self-sufficiency levels. In 1999, the EU provided $82 million for the development of roads and bridges in Mali, and the West African Development Bank offered a loan to upgrade urban roads.

The government has taken steps to liberalize the regulatory climate in order to encourage foreign investment. Price controls on consumer goods (including on petroleum products), import quotas, and export taxes have all been eliminated. Privatization of state-owned enterprises continued throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century. In 1999, Mali negotiated a $64 million four-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2003, Mali was granted $675 million in debt service relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, to improve governance, strengthen social services, and develop infrastructure and key productive sectors. Economic development has been hindered by drought and falling world cotton prices.


Social welfare services are available mainly in urban areas, basically as an extension of labor benefits and medical aid under the labor code, which includes provisions for medical care, workers' compensation, and retirement benefits. Pensions were paid for by employee contributions of 3.6% and employer contributions in the amount of 5.4%. A system of family allowances, implemented in 2004 for wage earners, provides maternity and children's allowances, along with classes in prenatal and infant care. Employers are required to provide free sick leave to their employers, as well as maternity benefits equal to 100% of earnings for 14 weeks. Under tribal organization, the individual's basic welfare needs are traditionally cared for by the group. This system, however, is breaking down as the country develops.

The government has made a special effort to improve the status of women, and a few women have entered government employment. Yet, social and cultural factors still sharply limit educational and economic opportunities for most women. Despite legal protections, most women face active discrimination in the areas of divorce, inheritance, and child custody. Domestic abuse and violence against women is a common and tolerated problem. Women have little access to legal services. Female genital mutilation, a painful and often life-threatening procedure, is also commonly performed on young girls. It was estimated in 2004 that 95% of women underwent this procedure. The government is actively seeking to eliminate this practice by 2008. Child labor persists.

Human rights are generally respected although prison conditions remain poor.


Most health care is provided by the public medical services. At Bamako are the Institute of Tropical Ophthalmology and the Marchoux Institute for Leprosy, which, in addition to treating patients, carry out research. The number of private doctors and well-equipped medical institutions is small. There were fewer than five physicians per 100,000 population in 2004. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.3% of GDP. The pharmaceutical policies adopted in recent years have resulted in the destruction of the public network of drug distribution. Despite the high level of health care investment, lack of organization and misappropriation of money has impaired the effectiveness of the health care system.

The principal diseases are malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, enteritis and other intestinal diseases, cholera, pneumonia, and infectious and parasite-related diseases such as schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and trypanosomiasis. Anemia, malnutrition, and tetanus are also widespread. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.90 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 140,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 12,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Malaria is widespread, as is guinea worm. In 2000, 65% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 69% had adequate sanitation. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were: tuberculosis, 76%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 52%; polio, 52%; and measles, 56%. Diarrheal diseases still claim the lives of children under the age of five.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 48.37 and 18.32 per 1,000 people. About 7% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception as of 2000. The infant mortality rate was 109 per 1,000 live births in 2005, one of the highest in the world. The maternal mortality rate in 1998 was high at 580 per 100,000 live births. The average life expectancy was 48.64 years in 2005, up from 42 years in 2000. An estimated 80% of women underwent female genital mutilation.


Providing housing in the wake of rapid urbanization has been an ongoing challenge for the government of Mali. In 2002, it was estimated that about 45% of all residents in Bamako were living in substandard settlement housing, often in neighborhoods defined as slum or squatter settlements. Less than 2% of the district population had connections to sewage facilities. Only about 17% had in-home water connections. The government has tried to set new programs in place to stop the spread of the informal slum and squatter settlements and to upgrade such housing to higher standards.

Though formal housing structures in Bamako are like those of a European city. Elsewhere, housing ranges from similar urban structures to the tents of Tuareg nomads, the circular mud huts with thatched roofs characteristic of the indigenous African villages, and traditional Sudanese architecture. The latter employs a common building material called banco, a mixture of wet mud and straw that dries into a hard, almost cement-like consistency. This is applied over wooden frames and can be used for buildings of several stories. The buildings resemble those in North Africa and the Middle East.

Government activity is largely concentrated on improvement of urban housing and sanitation. The Real Estate Trust, a public corporation established in 1949, provides housing loans to persons wishing to build on their own land.


The Malian school system begins with an initial primary cycle of six years, followed by a six-year cycle of secondary schooling (divided into two three-year stages). At the upper secondary level, students may opt to attend technical schools (two to three years) or vocational schools (four years). The academic year runs from October to June.

In 2001, less than 2% of children between the ages of four and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 44% of eligible students; 50% for boys and 39% for girls. In 1998, there were 188,109 pupils enrolled in secondary schools. It is estimated that about 40% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 63:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 29:1.

The University of Mali has four faculties: medicine, pharmacy and dentistry; technical sciences; juridical and economic sciences; and languages, arts, and humanities. The university also has schools for business administration, engineering, and teacher training. In Koulikoro is the Rural Polytechnic Institute of Katibougou. In 2003, about 2% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 19%, with 26.7% for men and 11.9% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3% of GDP.


In Bamako are located the National Library and Archives (20,000 volumes), a municipal library, and the library of the Islamic Center, opened in 1987. In addition, the French Cultural Center, with 27,000 volumes, serves as a public library, and there is a US Information Service library as well as several other privately run libraries. The Public Reading Franco-Malian Operation, founded in 1977, sponsors about 52 public-reading libraries in the district of Bamako. Tombouctou has a center of historic research with libraries and museums containing valuable Arabic manuscripts. The National Museum, which also has a library, is in Bamako, as is the Sudanese Museum, detailing the country's history as the former French Sudan. Regional museums are located in Gao and Sikasso, and there is a historical museum in Tombouctou.


In 2003, there were an estimated five mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 23 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In 2004, the state-owned broadcaster, Office de Radiodiffusion Television du Mali (ORTM) operated the nation's only television station and one radio station. There were over 125 other privately operated radio stations that year. A few stations broadcast in French and English. In 2003, there were an estimated 180 radios and 33 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 1.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and two of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

In recent years, several newspapers were forced to shut down for lack of adequate funding. Those papers still in business are often published sporadically. On average, there may be 10 or 12 papers available for purchase on any given day. L'Essor, which is controlled by the government, had a circulation of 3,500 in 2002. Les Echos, affiliated with the ruling party, has a circulation of about 25,000. The Bulletin Quotidien is a daily paper published by the Chamber of Commerce and the Journal Officiel de la Republique du Mali serves as the official publication of the president and the secretary general. Several government and privately published periodicals are also available

The constitution also provides for free speech and a free press, and the government is said to respect theses rights in practice.


There is a Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bamako and a Chamber of Commerce in Kayes. There are youth and women's affiliates of the UDPM. The government is hoping to increase food production through the formation of village cooperatives. The Committee for the Coordination of NGOs. In Mali works with organizations involved with emergency relief, environmental improvement and preservation, and community development.

A Junior Chamber program is available for youth. There are a number of sports associations throughout the country and volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present. A few health organizations are active. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, and Amnesty International.


A government tourist organization was created in April 1974 to develop hunting, fishing, and sightseeing in Mali, particularly in the areas around Mopti, Tombouctou, and Gao. There are modern motels in Bamako and in Tombouctou, the ancient capital of Muslim learning and culture, previously forbidden to foreigners. Other attractions are Mali's national park and game reserves. Football (soccer) is a popular sport.

A visa must be obtained for entry into Mali. A vaccination certificate for yellow fever is also needed if traveling from an infected area. Typhoid, tetanus, meningitis, and hepatitis immunizations are recommended. There were 69,691 tourists who arrived in Mali in 2003. Hotel rooms numbered 3,907 with 5,066 beds. Tourist expenditure receipts totaled $105 million in 2002.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Bamako at $182, and other areas of Mali at $122.


Early figures associated with the area of present-day Mali include Mansa Musa (r.131237), ruler of the Mali Empire, and Sonni 'Ali Ber (r.146492) and Askia Muhammad I (r.14921528), rulers of the Songhai Empire. Later figures include al-Hajj 'Umar (17971864), who plunged the entire area into a bloody holy war before he was killed while trying to put down a rebellion, and Samory Touré, (18351900), who fought the French at the head of a Malinké (Mandingo) army for 16 years (188298). Modibo Keita (191577) was, until November 1968, a leading figure in the political life of the country. He became the first president of the Republic of Mali in 1960. Moussa Traoré (b.1936) was president of Mali from 1969 to 1991. Alpha Oumar Konaré (b.1946) was elected president in 1992; he served until 2002. Brigadier Gen. Amadou Toumani Touré (b.1948) is considered the founder of Mali's democratic movement; he won the presidential elections in 2002.


Mali has no territories or colonies.


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Soares, Benjamin F. Islam and the Prayer Economy: History and Authority in a Malian Town. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Republic of Mali
République du Mali



Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa covering an area of 1.24 million square kilometers (478,764 square miles), of which 1.22 million square kilometers (471,042 square miles) is occupied by land and 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) is occupied by water. Its border is 7,243 kilometers (4,500 miles) long. Of this, 1,376 kilometers (855 miles) in the northeast is shared with Algeria; 2,237 kilometers (1,390 miles) with Mauritania in the northwest; 419 kilometers (260 miles) with Senegal in the west; 858 kilometers (533 miles) with Guinea in the southwest; 532 kilometers (330 miles) with Côte d'Ivoire in the south, 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) in the south by Burkina Faso; and 821 kilometers (510 miles) in the southeast by Niger. The lowest point is at the Senegal river which lies 23 meters (75 feet) above sea level, while the highest point is at Hombori Tondo standing at 1,155 meters (3,789 feet) above sea level.

The northern half of Mali consists of desert, while the southern half is rain-fed land where most agriculture is undertaken without irrigation. Between these 2 areas lies the Sahel zone, where cultivation depends largely on the flooding of the river Niger which flows through the heart of the country, providing a vital waterway and source of fish. As the seasonal floods retreat, they leave behind pasture, on which thousands of livestock depend, desperate for food and water after a dry season lasting 8 months, as well as land for cultivation in an otherwise arid environment.


July 2000 estimates reported the population at 10.69 million, up from the April 1998 census figure of 9.79 million. The current rate of population growth is estimated at 3 percent per year, and this is particularly high, implying a fertility rate of 6.9 children per woman. Mali has a young population with only 3 percent estimated in 2000 to have been over 65 years while the 47 percent and 50 percent were under 15 years and between 15 and 65 years, respectively. Only 26 percent of the population lived in towns in 1998.

The main ethnic group is the Bambara, while minority groups include Songhai, Mandinka, Senoufo, Dogon, and Fula. The north is populated mainly by the nomadic Tuareg. By composition, the Mande (who include Bambara, Malinke, and Soninke) comprises 50 percent of the population, Peul 17 percent, Voltaic 12 percent, Songhai 6 percent, Tuareg and Moor 10 percent and others 5 percent. About 90 percent of the population are Muslim, 1 percent Christian and 9 percent follow traditional beliefs. French is the official language, although Bambara is spoken by 80 percent of the population.


Mali is among the 10 or so poorest countries in the world. The economy is a heavily dependent on agriculture, but the country's land is more than half desert or semi-arid. Most of the agriculture is restricted to the area irrigated by the floodwaters of the river Niger. About 80 percent of the labor force is engaged in farming and fishing and about 10 percent of the population is nomadic. The industrial activity in Mali is concentrated on agricultural processing and gold mining.

Economic planning since independence from France in 1960 has generally been incoherent and unsuccessful. Problems have been compounded by the fact that export prices fell relative to import prices between 1985 and 1994. But even though Mali remained heavily dependent on foreign aid (mostly from France), the economy was starting to show signs of improvement by 1997 from liberalization efforts suggested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mali is already sub-Saharan Africa's leading cotton producer, and cotton is the country's main export, which makes its economy particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices for cotton. To reduce the economy's heavy dependence on cotton, the government has implemented an IMF-recommended structural adjustment program which aims to liberalize the economy and to make it more dependent on markets than on planning and state-owned enterprises.

The success of Mali's economic reforms and the 50 percent devaluation of the CFA franc in January 1994 led to an economic recovery in the late 1990s. Several multinational corporations increased gold mining operations between 1996 and 1998, and the government anticipates that Mali will become a major African gold exporter in the near future. At the beginning of the 21st century, economic growth in Mali is expected to be faster than population growth, leading to steady improvements in living standards.


In 1895, the territory called the Sudan (now known as Mali) became part of the French colony of French West Africa, and the local population began producing cash crops , mainly groundnuts, cotton, and gum arabic. The colony merged with Senegal in April 1959 to form the Federation of Mali, which became independent from France on June 20, 1960. When Senegal withdrew after only a few months, the Sudanese Republic was renamed Mali on 22 September 1960. President Modibo Keita declared the country a 1-party state, under the Union Soudanaise-Ressemblement Democratique Africain (US-RDA).

Keita's Marxist regime severed links with France and developed close relations with the Eastern bloc countries, especially the USSR. A coup in 1968 led to a military regime under Lieutenant (later General) Moussa Traoré. Traoré's dictatorship ended in 1991. By 1992, Mali's first democratic elections were held, and Alpha Oumar Konare, the leader of the Alliance pour la Démocratie au Mali (Alliance for Democracy in Mali, ADEMA), was elected president. Despite political difficulties, including several new prime ministers over the next few years and the disruption of several strikes, Konare won re-election in 1997. President Konare continued to push through political and economic reforms and to fight corruption but indicated in 1999 that he would not run for a third term.

There are 8 administrative regions: Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Mopti, Segou, Sikasso, Tombouctou. The constitution was adopted on 12 January 1992, providing for 3 branches of government: executive, legislative, and judiciary. The executive is headed by the president elected by popular vote for a 5-year term. The legislature is a unicameral National Assembly of 147 seats to which members are elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms. The legal system is based on the French civil law system and customary law, with judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Court (which was formally established on 9 March 1994).

Mali's level of government expenditure was 25 percent of the GDP in 1998, and revenues were 22 percent. This financial flow resulted in a budget deficit of just under 3 percent of the GDP, within the IMF guidelines, and in normal circumstances (that is, in the absence of a drought), the inflation rate should remain below 5 percent a year. Since the creation of a democratic government in 1992, the military has withdrawn from politics. In 1996, military expenditures were only 2 percent of the GDP.

Corporate profit tax rates are moderate at 35 percent, while smaller enterprises such as partnerships pay only 15 percent. Agricultural enterprises pay 10 percent, but small-scale family farms are not taxed. In cases of low profits or losses, a corporation tax of 0.75 percent of turnover is levied. There is an employment tax of 7.5 percent of the wage bill. A withholding tax of 18 percent is levied on interest and dividends paid abroad.


Mali's large geographical area and low income status makes maintenance of its infrastructure a major challenge. For an area of 1.24 million square kilometers (480,000 square miles), the country has a total 15,100 kilometers (9,383 miles) of roads of which only 1,827 kilometers (1,135 miles) are paved. About 729 kilometers (453 miles) of meter-gauge railway link Bamako to Senegal's railway through Kayes. Nearly 1,815 kilometers (1,127 miles) of waterways are navigable. In 1998, there were 28 airports, 6 of which had paved runways. The 1 major port is at Koulikoro on the river Niger.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Mali 1 54 12 0.0 0 N/A 0.7 0.01 10
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Mauritania 0 151 91 N/A 0 1.7 5.5 0.00 13
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

In 1998, approximately 62 percent of the country's electricity was obtained from hydro-sources while the remaining 38 percent was from fossil fuel with total production of about 310 million kilowatts hours (kWh). All the power generated was for domestic consumption, and none was imported.

The domestic telephone system is poor but improving. The domestic network consists of microwave radio relays, land-lines, and radio telephone communications stations. Expansion of the microwave radio relay is in progress. There are 2 Intelsat satellite earth stations for international communication. In 1995, there was no mobile cellular phone system in the country, while there were only 17,000 land lines. In 1998, there were 7 shortwave, 14 FM and 1 AM radio broadcast stations. There was also 1 television broadcast station with 2 repeater stations in the country. There was only 1 Internet service provider in 1999.


Mali's economy, although potentially rich in natural resources, is still underdeveloped with poor infrastructure and almost 80 percent of its workforce engaged in the rural sector. In 1998, agriculture was the most important sector, providing 46 percent of GDP, with industry 21 percent, and services 33 percent. The sectors rely on narrow bases: agriculture on cotton and livestock; industry on gold; and services on the financial sector. The country has suffered frequent shortages of grain, and the droughts of 1969-74 and 1981-83 devastated the cattle herds in the north. Most of the agricultural production takes place in the south, with cotton production dominating, accounting for 39 percent of total export revenues in 1997. Industry is dominated by gold mining, which, together with diamonds, accounts for 31 percent of exports. Gold mining has expanded rapidly under a liberal investment code and industry's share of the GDP is expected to rise significantly in the immediate future.


Agriculture and livestock husbandry have long been the backbone of the economy, accounting for about 45 percent of the GDP in 1998 and providing the bulk of export revenue. Arable land comprises of only 2 percent of which permanent pastures comprise 25 percent, forests and woodland 6 percent, and the rest other uses. Only 780 square kilometers (301 square miles) was irrigated in 1993. There are no permanent crops. The most disruptive natural hazard is drought. But despite drought, Mali has produced agricultural surpluses for many years. Other significant environmental issues include deforestation, soil erosion, desertification , inadequate supplies of drinkable water, and poaching.

Cotton is Mali's most significant crop; Mali is one of the largest producers of cotton in Africa, after Egypt and Sudan. Cotton production is almost all based on small-scale family farms, with village cooperatives in the south-east being coordinated by the highly influential parastatal Compagnie Malienne pour le Developpement des Textiles (CMDT), in which the French Compagnie Francaise pour le Developpement des Textiles (CFDT) owns a 40 percent share. While the World Bank has pressed for liberalization of the sector with a view to increasing farmers' returns, the CMDT has countered by arguing that under the current system production has more than doubled since 1993.

Most Malian households depend on wood and charcoal for fuel, making the forestry sector of economic and ecological significance. With increasing population, the issue of deforestation will take on an increasing importance. Tree crop products, produced mostly by small-scale gatherers, include fruits (mainly mangoes), a wide range of traditional medicines, and shea-nut butter (karite). Export potential is considerable but is hampered by lack of investment in processing and packaging.

Fishing is mostly artisanal (small-scale) and is vulnerable to drought as well as changes brought about by dam construction and urban pollution run-off into rivers. It is mostly undertaken on the river Niger. The annual catch has amounted to roughly 100,000 metric tons in recent years, of which about 20 percent is exported mostly to urban centers in the Côte d'Ivoire, where a number of Malian fishermen and fish distributors have settled over the years.

Towards the end of the century, Mali has benefitted from a much more stable food supply than during the crisis years of the 1970s and 1980s, when Mali experienced 2 severe droughts. Since the late 1980s the government's role has been reduced to a regulatory one, but crises and slowdowns in supply remain a potential threat in a country as vulnerable to sudden climatic reverses as Mali.

Large-scale animal husbandry takes place mostly in the north and around the Niger inland delta, whereas most food and cash crops are produced in the southern regions. Livestock production is principally by small-holders and is thought to account for about 20 percent of the GDP in an average year. Livestock and meat product exports have suffered since the mid-1980s, mostly from unrestrained dumping by European Union countries of highly subsidized beef on West African coastal markets. Harassment from customs officials and a lack of refrigeration and bulk transport infrastructure have also constrained the sector.


Industry is becoming a significant sector of the economy consisting of mostly minor consumer goods production for local use and food processing, construction, and phosphate and gold mining. Natural resources also include kaolin, salt, limestone, uranium, and hydropower. There are known, but not exploited, deposits of bauxite, iron ore, manganese, tin, and copper. Industry contributed about 21 percent of the GDP in 1998. Artisanal mining and panning for gold and diamonds has been practiced in the south-west of the country for hundreds of years.

Before 1992, infrastructural weaknesses and corruption discouraged foreign investment in the sector. With the demise of the military Traore administration in 1991, a new mining code was adopted to encourage investment. Under the current tax regime, government reserves the right to take a stake of up to 20 percent in enterprises, tax profits at 35 percent, and levy royalties at 6 percent. Nevertheless, Mali's gold production has increased at one of the world's fastest rates, with output increasing almost 4-fold between 1994 and 1998.

Manufacturing remains comparatively unimportant, having declined throughout the 1980s and accounting for an average 3 percent of the GDP towards the end of the century. From the 1960s, inefficient parastatals produced basic consumer goods, and the private sector preferred to invest in trade. The sector was further handicapped by intensified competition from Côte d'Ivoire and by a flood of cheap smuggled consumer goods from Guinea and Nigeria in the years preceding the 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc.

Since the devaluation, efforts to attract manufacturing investment have had little success, although there have been signs of a move towards manufacturing among the leading local commercial families. The textiles sector has shown signs of revival, but it still faces stiff competition from industries in neighboring countries. A significant drawback to investment in the manufacturing sector is the higher production costs in Mali than in neighboring countries, owing to antiquated equipment and underdeveloped infrastructure.


While services have on average accounted for 43 percent of the GDP in the last decade, the service sector remains comparatively less diversified than Mali's other economic sectors. The service sector is dominated by financial services and tourism. The Dakar-based Banque Centrale des l'Afrique de l'Ouest (Central Bank of West Africa, BCEAO) acts as the central bank for Mali and 7 other West African Franc zone countries. The commercial banks include Banque Malienne de Credit et de Depots and the highly successful Bank of Africa-Mali. In this sector Mali faces the challenge of diversifying credit instruments in favor of small- and medium-sized enterprises which have historically relied on informal sources for loans.

Tourism has contributed little to the services sector, despite Mali's undisputed potential attraction for culture, adventure, and eco-tourism . Its attractions include Djenne, a UNESCO site of world heritage; Timbuktu, which although dilapidated still retains international allure; and the Bandiagara escarpement which is home to the Dogon. The Dogon are said to be one of the most ethnologically exotic and visually spectacular of all African traditional cultures.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Mali
Exports Imports
1975 .053 .176
1980 .205 .438
1985 .123 .299
1990 .358 .601
1995 .441 .770
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.


Mali's trade balance has been in chronic deficit, although there has been an overall improvement since the early 1970s when exports typically represented only half of the value of imports. By 1985 the trade deficit was equivalent to over 85 percent of merchandise exports compared with an estimated 5 percent in 1999. In 1997, Mali for the first time achieved a slight trade surplus, although the trade balance slipped back into deficit in 1998. The problem seems to be low export-oriented investment outside the extractive (the withdrawal of natural resources by extraction with no provision for replenishing) sector. Furthermore, Mali remains heavily dependent on imports for machinery and capital goods . In 1997, the major export partners included Thailand (20 percent), Italy (20 percent), China (9 percent), Brazil (5 percent), while the main import sources included Côte d'Ivoire (19 percent), and France (17 percent).


The unit of currency is the Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFA) which is equivalent to 100 centimes. It exchanged at CFAF647.25 for US$1 in January 2000 a depreciation from CFAF499.15 in 1995. Since 1 January 1999, the CFA franc has been effectively pegged

Exchange rates: Mali
Communauté Financiére Africaine francs per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 511.55
Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Mali 268 301 271 249 267
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Mauritania 549 557 511 438 478
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

to the euro at a rate of CFAF655.957 per euro. Mali left the CFA franc zone in 1962 and established its own currency, the Malian franc (Mfr), at par with CFA franc and its own central bank. However, smuggling and speculation rapidly undermined the new Malian franc forcing it to rejoin the CFA franc zone in 1967. It did not, however, rejoin the sub-regional monetary organization, the Union Monetaire Ouest-Africaine (West African Monetary Union, UMOA) until 1984.


Mali's GNP per head, converted to U.S. dollars by using exchange rates , was US$250 in 1998. The purchasing power parity (PPP) method of conversion to U.S. dollars (which makes allowance for the low price of many basic commodities and services in Mali), put the level of the GNP per head at US$720. The CIA World Factbook estimated the GDP per capita at PPP at US$820 in 1999. All these measures place Mali among the poorest countries in the world.

In the period 1989-98, it was estimated that 73 percent of the population were below the US$1 per day poverty linethis is the second most severe incidence of poverty among the 174 countries for which data have been collected by the United Nations (UN). The Human

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Mali
Lowest 10% 1.8
Lowest 20% 4.6
Second 20% 8.0
Third 20% 11.9
Fourth 20% 19.3
Highest 20% 56.2
Highest 10% 40.4
Survey year: 1994
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Mali 53 15 7 4 5 2 15
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
Mauritania N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Development Index developed by the UN, combines income per head (using the PPP method), education, and health (as indicated by life expectancy). Mali ranks 165 out of 174 countries, firmly in the low human development category.

For most people in the rural areas, who herd family cattle or work small family farms, living conditions are barely subsistence level. Houses are made of wood frames with mud walls and hard earth floors. Their diet consists primarily of cooked cereals and milk, and is essentially meatless. They wear secondhand clothes which originate in Europe and are shipped to local markets. Water comes from wells; cooking is done over wood fires; lighting is from small kerosene wick lamps; and sanitation is provided by pit latrines. Children are unlikely to go to school, and there are no local health centers.

In the towns, for those with employment, conditions tend to be better. Lower middle-class individuals live in cement block, tin-roofed houses with concrete floors. There is electricity and water some of the time, and schools and dispensaries are nearby. The poor live in slums where their shelter is made of throw-away bits of cloth, cardboard, or plastic. They use pit latrines and communal water taps. In the city the poor may have better access to medical care and schools for their children, but these services are in high demand and may cost too much for poor people to use.


Agriculture and fishing occupy 82 percent of the labor force. Most of the labor force is engaged in production for small family farms or fishing enterprises which generate low incomes. Most working in this sector are below the dollar-a-day poverty line. Those in the industry and services sector are comparatively well off, having incomes more than 3 times the national average.

There is no minimum wage or working hours legislation that is applicable to agriculture and fishing, and the legislation for the rest of the economy has either been rendered irrelevant by inflation or is not enforced.


300. Mali becomes part of the great Ghana empire of West Africa.

1076. Muslim Almoravids from Mauritania invade the Ghana empire and set up a capital at Kumbi 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of present-day Bamako.

1350. Sundiata Keita, leader of the Mandinka people, founds the Mali empire and converts to Islam as a gesture to his northern neighbors and trading partners.

1464. The Songhai, an Islamic empire originating in western Sudan, makes raids, eclipses the empire of Mali, and embarks on a systematic conquest of the Sahel.

1591. The Songhai empire collapses after an invasion from Morocco and an ensuing revolt by its subject peoples.

1880. French begin to subjugate the interior of Mali, then called Sudan.

1893. French appoint a governor to Sudan.

1959. Former French colony of Sudan merges with Senegal to form the Federation of Mali.

1960. Federation of Mali attains independence from France. Two months later, Senegal secedes. The Republic of Mali is proclaimed on 22 September led by President Modibo Keita with a single political party, Union Soudanaise-Ressemblement Democratique Africain (US-RDA). Keita's Marxist regime severs links with France.

1962. Mali withdraws from CFA franc zone.

1967. Agreement is reached with France for Mali's return to the CFA franc zone.

1968. Keita dissolves National Assembly. Young officers stage successful coup d'etat in November, suspending the constitution and banning all political activity. Lieutenant Moussa Traoré assumes the presidency.

1974. New constitution is approved by referendum providing for the establishment, after 5-year transition period, of a 1-party state.

1976. Union Democratiqe du Peuple Malien (UDPM) is announced as the new ruling party and the only legal party.

1977. Keita dies in detention. Hostile demonstrations from supporters of the old regime and proponents of multiparty democracy occurs.

1979. Presidential and legislative elections are held in June, with Traoré as sole candidate for presidency, winning 99 percent of the vote cast while a single list of UPDM candidates are elected to the legislature.

1981. Constitutional amendment increases the president's term from 5 to 6 years and decreases that of national assembly from 4 to 3 years. The Traoré government undertakes a program of economic liberalization in cooperation with the World Bank and western donors.

1982. Legislative election occurs in June with a single list of UDPM candidates.

1983. Severe drought occurs.

1985. Traoré is re-elected president as sole candidate with 98 percent of the vote cast.

1992. In January the Alliance pour la Démocratie au Mali (ADEMA) wins the country's first multiparty elections. In April Alpha Oumar Konare, ADEMA's leader, is elected president, and a cross-party government is formed.

1994. In January the CFA franc is devalued by 50 percent, raising prices of imports in local currency and reducing import quantities, while at the same time increasing the local revenue from sale of exports and increasing export quantities.

1997. First round of the legislative elections are won by ADEMA but annulled by the constitutional court because of badly organised ballotting, with ballot papers not available, polling stations not open at the designated times, and voters unsure of where they should vote. In the face of a widespread opposition boycott, Konare is re-elected in May. ADEMA wins the re-run of the legislative elections in August. The radical opposition comes together under the umbrella of the Collectif des Partis Politiques de l'Opposition (Collective of Political Opposition Parties, COPPO).

1999. Konare convenes a national forum which is boycotted by the opposition. ADEMA wins the majority of the country's seats in the second round of municipal elections, which are also boycotted by the opposition.

2000. Mali is granted debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries program.

2001. Railway from Bamako to the coast at Dakar in Senegal reopens. Dam at Tallo in central Mali to improve irrigation for rice cultivation is opposed by local and environmental groups.


Much of Mali remains unsurveyed in any detail. Besides gold, the country is known to contain deposits of bauxite, manganese, zinc, copper, and lithium. Uranium in the north is not thought to be commercially viable, and the same might be true of iron-ore deposits near the Senegalese border. Surveys for viable diamond sources are underway in western Mali. Mali Diamond Exploration, owned by Ashton Mining of Australia and Mink Mineral Resources of Canada, is under license to explore for, and extract, diamonds in 36,000 square kilometers (13,900 square miles) of territory. With the right investment code and inflows, the mining sector is likely to be a significant driving force of the country's economic growth in the medium and long term.

Sound economic policies and cautious monetary policy look likely to ensure Mali will make progress. However, it is difficult to see how an expansion of the mining sector can trickle down to make a marked improvement in the prospects for the 80 percent of the population engaged in agriculture and fishing.


Mali has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Mali. London: EIU, 2000.

"Mali." Africa South of the Sahara. London: Europa Publications, 2000.

Hodd, M. "Mali." The Economies of Africa. Aldershot:Dartmouth, 1991.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000: Mali. <>. Accessed September 2001.

World Bank. World Bank Africa Database 2000. Washington DC: World Bank, 2000.

Allan C. K. Mukungu




Communauté Financiére Africaine Franc (CFA Fr). CFA Fr1 equals 100 centimes. Notes include denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,500, and 10,000. Coins include 1, 5, 10, 25, 100, 250, and 500 denominations.


Cotton, livestock, gold, hides and leather, shea-nuts, fish.


Heavy machinery, transport equipment, construction materials, petroleum, foodstuffs, textiles, chemical products, consumer manufactured goods.


US$8.5 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$640 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$650 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Mali
Region: Africa
Population: 10,685,948
Language(s): French, Bambara
Literacy Rate: 31%
Number of Primary Schools: 2,511
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 2.2%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 862,875
  Secondary: 188,109
  Higher: 13,847
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 49%
  Secondary: 13%
  Higher: 1%
Teachers: Primary: 10,853
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 71:1
  Secondary: 27:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 40%
  Secondary: 8%
  Higher: 0.6%

History & Background

Mali became independent from France in 1960. Ruled by dictatorship after that, Mali's first democratic presidential election was held in 1992. In July 2000, the population was estimated at 10,685,948 people. Mali is among the poorest countries in the world; in 1999 GDP per capita was estimated at $820. About 10 percent of the population is nomadic and 80 percent of the labor force works in farming and fishing. Adult illiteracy has been reduced from 86.4 percent (males: 80.4 percent; females: 91.5 percent) in 1980 to 59.7 percent (males: 52.1 percent; females: 66.8 percent) in the year 2000. Illiteracy rates for those aged 15 to 24 were at 74.4 percent (males: 66.2 percent; females: 82.5 percent) in 1980 and 35.7 percent (males: 29.3 percent; females: 42.1 percent) in 2000.

At independence in 1960, the new leaders of the country believed strongly in the importance of education to promote economic development and health, as well as to foster national unity in a country with many ethnic groups.

The French colonial education system that existed prior to independence had not served the needs of the new country well. At independence, 90 percent of the people were illiterate, and 88 percent of the children did not attend school. In all of Mali, there were only 3 veterinarians, 12 professors, 10 doctors, 3 pharmacists, 12 lawyers, and 7 engineers. As in all its colonies, the goal of the education France had provided was to assimilate the people, to transform them into "French" women and, more frequently, men; only belatedly were women admitted to the schools. This elite would then spread French civilization and defend France's interests in the colony. The language of instruction was French, which played an important role in the assimilation process. The curriculum placed a heavy emphasis on France, its history, geography, and values; indigenous history, geography, and values played no role in the curriculum.

In 1877, the "School of Hostages," the first public schools in Mali, formerly known as the French Sudan, opened. In these schools the sons of the chiefs were kept hostage so their fathers would not rebel against the French authorities, hence the term "School of Hostages." Later, in 1899, the schools were renamed Les Ecoles des Fils des Chefs (The Schools for Sons of Chiefs) because France needed indigenous allies in spreading French civilization and defending French interests in the colony. Other colonial schools followed, among them four-year primary schools and six-year regional schools in larger cities. The Ecole Primaire Superieure (High Primary School) was founded in 1931. There were only a few secondary schools in all of West Africa; among them were the Higher Technical School and the School for Veterinarians in Bamako, French Sudan. Before independence, Mali had no institutions of higher education; secondary school graduates went to Dakar, Senegal, or to France. Ironically, in France, students from colonial Africa founded Le Mouvement des Etudiants de l'Afrique Noire (The Movement of Black African Students), which contributed to the eventual decolonization of Africa in the 1960s.

There existed, prior to independence, two other forms of education: traditional and Islamic. The goal of traditional education was to prepare young people for adult life. The young learned values from the adults by participating with them in various ceremonies and rituals; they also learned local history, legends, geography, poetry, music, and local medical knowledge.

Mali is 80 percent Muslim, and Islam has had a strong impact on education in the country. Islamic education dates from the fourteenth century when cities like Timbuktu were important centers of learning. In the twenty-first century, the Koran, the traditions of Muhammad, and Islamic canon law still are taught in Mali.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

At independence, universal primary education became a goal of the government, and the right to education was written into the Constitution. Every child was guaranteed a free education regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or origin. The law also required that the government build schools and provide teachers and teaching materials.

In 1968, a coup d'etat brought a new government to power. This Second Republic, which lasted until 1991, shifted emphasis from universal primary education to secondary and higher education and to improving the quality of the schools. Because the budget for basic education was substantially reduced, enrollment declines followed.

Another coup d'etat in 1991 led to a national debate on education and to the implementation in 1998 of PRODEC, the Programme Décennal de Développement de l'Education (The Ten-Year Program for Educational Development). The program focuses on achieving universal primary education with a target of a 75 percent enrollment rate by the year 2008 and on improving the quality of education generally. The main strategy of the program is to provide bilingual education, using the mother tongue in the early grades and introducing French along with the mother tongue in grade two and continuing through grade six. This bilingual education, called pédagogie convergente, also includes basic life skills in addition to the three R's. It is now being used in 6 of the 12 indigenous languages spoken in Mali. It has proven more effective than the traditional French only education: grade repetition and dropout rates are lower, and students generally, but especially girls and disadvantaged students, score higher in all subjects, even in mastery of French. These reforms of the 1990s are a return to the reforms of 1962.

Educational SystemOverview

Education is now compulsory for 9 years, from the ages of 7 to 16. The school year lasts from October to June. There are four types of primary schools in Mali. Some public schools offer a traditional French language curriculum while others use the pédagogie convergente described above. There are also community and international nongovernmental agency supported schools, some of which use a traditional French language curriculum while others teach in the mother tongue without using the pédagogie convergente. Finally a few private schools use the traditional French language curriculum; others provide bilingual Arab/French instruction.

In 1997-1998, only 49 percent of the children aged 7 to 12 attended school; this is among the lowest levels of school attendance in the world. In rural areas, the attendance rate was lower still: only 30 percent of the children attended (and only 25 percent of the girls).

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary education begins at age three. In 1997, only 2 percent of the children aged three to six were enrolled in preprimary education. Primary or fundamental education lasts nine years and is divided into two cycles. Cycle one lasts six years and consists of grades one through six; the second cycle lasts three years and corresponds to grades seven, eight, and nine. There are difficult exams at the end of the sixth and ninth grades. Students who pass the exams at the end of grade six receive the CFEPCF, the Certificat de Fin d'Etudes du Premier Cycle Fondamental (Certificate of Completion of Cycle One of Fundamental Education). Those who pass the exams at the end of grade nine receive the DEF, the Diplôme des Etudes Fondamentales (The Diploma of Fundamental Studies). The current plan is to restructure fundamental education by doing away with the present two cycles and creating a single bloc lasting eight years.

Secondary Education

Secondary general education is completed in the lycées, and it lasts three years. In the second year, students take the first part of the baccalauréat (BAC) exam; they take the second part in the third year. The BAC is required for admission to the university. Failure rates on both parts of the exam are high. There are also secondary schools for commerce, industry, and administration (which are terminal), and a technical lycée. Lycée students receive scholarships, which seriously deplete the education budget at the expense of basic education, so these scholarships are to be discontinued.

The reforms of 1962 included revising the curriculum at all levels to emphasize the history and geography of Mali and of Africa at large. The curriculum also emphasized the traditional values of Mali: equality; respect for others, especially for the elderly; and cooperation. French continued to be the language of instruction, but national languages were to be introduced in the schools.

In the 1960s and again in the 1990s, the low enrollment and high dropout rates of girls was of concern because it was felt that literate women would promote education in their families and communities. An old saying was oft repeated: "Educate a boy, you educate one single person, but when you educate a girl, you educate the whole nation."

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was also a so-called ruralization program. Because a significant majority of the population is engaged in agriculture, rural education was included in the elementary and secondary school curricula. The goal was to teach students agricultural techniques and forms of work performed in the communities of Mali, essentially to provide an education to prepare students for life as it is lived in Mali. The programs, however, were generally a failure because teachers who were not trained in agriculture were of little help to the students, and there was widespread opposition from parents who wanted their children to receive a traditional school education that they hoped would lead to better jobs. They were going to school to leave agriculture, not to be trained for it.

Higher Education

Founded in 1993, the Université du Mali in Bamako has faculties of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry; sciences and technology; law and economics; and letters, languages, arts and humanities. It also has institutes of management, agricultural training and applied research, and training and applied research. Finally, it has schools of engineering, teacher training, and administration. The academic year runs from October to July. The baccalauréat (secondary school certificate) is required for admission. The language of instruction is French. In 1997-1998, there were 13,847 students enrolled, 20 percent of whom were females, with an academic staff of 509. This enrollment represents 1.0 percent of those aged 19 to 23.

Higher education is free, and students also receive a generous living allowance. These student scholarships, however, represent 60 percent of the higher education budget. Consequently, almost no funds are available for instructional materials and scientific equipment. As a result, science and technology students have no hands-on experience. Finally, because students have no textbooks, teachers dictate their material to students who have no other access to information.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of Education controls education, but efforts are underway to decentralize the system and provide more local control and parental involvement in the schools.

The school system is notoriously under-financed. In 1995, only 2 percent of GDP was used for education. The government, however, is planning to increase the part of the budget allocated to education to 27 percent by 2008. In addition, although more than 80 percent of the students are enrolled in grades one through six, only about 45 percent of the education budget is spent there. On the other hand, higher education, which enrolls slightly more than 1 percent of the students, received a whopping 17.7 percent of the education budget.

Mali's schools are widely known to be inefficient. Research has shown that bilingual education is more efficient and effective, especially in teaching girls. The introduction of the pédagogie convergente was based on these findings.

Nonformal Education

Adult literacy programs were an important part of the 1962 reforms because the goal was to create an egalitarian society. These literacy programs teach African languages. Many of them are called integrated literacy programs because they teach literacy along with work-related skills. In some communities at least, becoming literate is prestigious, and local citizens believe it will contribute to the development of the community. In one community, students had been meeting for many years; most participants had attended classes for six years before attaining functional literacy. Most of those who achieved literacy continued to attend the class to maintain their skills. Literacy skills are used mostly for business purposes.

Teaching Profession

The baccalauréat is now required for admission to teacher training institutions. Teachers for grades one through six study general education for one year and take education courses and do student teaching in the second year. If not enough candidates apply to train for teaching in grades one through six, DEF graduates will be admitted for three years of training. Teachers for grades seven, eight, and nine specialize in their first year and learn about teaching in the second year. Lycée and other secondary school teaching candidates specialize in their first three years and take classes in education, student teach, and write a thesis in their fourth year.


The educational system in Mali has a number of serious problems that the country is trying to address with help from the World Bank and other national and international organizations, including:

  • As late as 1997-1998, less than 50 percent of the children of primary school age attended school. To alleviate this problem, more schools need to be built, especially in rural communities.
  • The system is highly inefficient because of high grade repetition and dropout rates.
  • The quality of education is often poor because of the lack of textbooks and other instructional materials, and because of poor initial training and continuing education of teachers.
  • Insufficient resources are allocated to education.
  • Schools are managed centrally by the government. School administration needs to be decentralized, and parents need to be better informed and more involved in the schools.


Bane, Mamadou Chérif. "An Analysis of Educational Reforms in Mali, 1962-1992." Ph.D. diss., University of Kansas, 1994. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI, 1994.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Europa. The Europa World Yearbook 2000, Vol. 1. London: Europa Publications, 1999.

Hough, J.R. "Inefficiency in Education: The Case of Mali." Comparative Education 25, 1989.

International Association of Universities. International Handbook of Universities, Fifteenth Ed. New York:
Grove's Dictionaries Inc, 1998.

Ouane, A. "Mali: System of Education." In The International Encyclopedia of Education, vol. 6. Tarrytown, NY: Elsevier Science Inc, 1994.

Site de l'Antenne ANAIS-BAMAKO, 15 December 2000. Available from

Turritin, Jane. "Integrated Literacy in Mali." Comparative Education Review 33, 1989.

UNESCO. Statistical Yearbook/Annuaire Statistique 1999. Lanham, MD: Bernan Press, 2000.

World Bank. Mali: Improving Learning in Primary Schools. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2000. Available from

Gilles Labrie

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Mali (mä´lē), officially Republic of Mali, independent republic (2005 est. pop. 12,292,000), 478,764 sq mi (1,240,000 sq km), the largest country in W Africa. Mali is bordered on the north by Algeria, on the east and southeast by Niger, on the south by Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, and on the west by Guinea, Senegal, and Mauritania. Bamako is the capital and by far the largest city.

Land and People

In the south, traversed by the Niger and Senegal rivers, are fertile areas where cotton, rice, and peanuts are grown. Elsewhere the country is arid desert or semidesert and barely supports grazing (mainly cattle, sheep, and goats). The Niger serves as an important transportation artery and a source of fish. The main ethnic groups are the Mande (Bambara, Malinke, and Soninke), who are chiefly farmers and fishermen, and the Fulani and Tuareg, who are pastoralists. About 90% of the population is Muslim; most of the remainder follow traditional religions. While French is the official language, Bambara is spoken by 80% of the population and there are many other African tongues.


The vast majority of Malians are employed in farming, herding, or fishing. Cotton and peanuts are the country's only significant cash crops, with millet, rice, corn, sorghum, and vegetables being the major food crops. Agriculture and herding have been increasingly hurt by the encroaching desert. Mali's industries are mainly limited to the processing of farm commodities, construction, and the manufacture of basic consumer goods. Gold, phosphate, kaolin, salt, limestone, and uranium are mined, and the country has extensive unexploited mineral resources, including bauxite, iron ore, manganese, tin, and copper. Remittances from Malians working abroad are also an important source of income. The Manantali Dam on the Bafing River (a Senegal tributary) produces hydroelectric power.

Gold and cotton account for the bulk of Mali's export revenues; livestock and fish are also exported. The main imports are petroleum, machinery and equipment, construction materials, food, and textiles. Mali's chief trading partners are China, France, Senegal, and Thailand.


Mali is governed under the constitution of 1992. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is the head of state and is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president. The unicameral National Assembly has 147 members who are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into eight regions.


Early History to the End of Colonialism

The Mali region has been the seat of extensive empires and kingdoms, notably those of Ghana (4th–11th cent.), Mali, and Gao. The medieval empire of Mali was a powerful state and one of the world's chief gold suppliers; it attained its peak in the early 14th cent. under Mansa (Emperor) Musa (reigned c.1312–1337), who made a famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 laden with gold and slaves to proclaim Mali's prosperity and power. During his rule Muslim scholarship reached new heights in Mali, and such cities as Timbuktu and Djenné (Jenne) became important centers of trade, learning, and culture.

The Mali empire was followed by the Songhai empire of Gao, which rose to great power in the late 15th cent. In 1590 the empire, already weakened by internal divisions, was shattered by a Moroccan army. The Moroccans, however, could not effectively dominate the vast region, which broke up into petty states. By the late 18th cent., the area was in a semianarchic condition and was subject to incursions by the Tuareg and Fulani.

The 19th cent. witnessed a great resurgence of Islam. The Tukolor empire of al-Hajj Umar (1794–1864) and the empire of Samori Touré (1870–98) emerged as Muslim states opposing French invasion of the region. By 1898 the French conquest was virtually complete; Mali, called French Sudan, became part of the Federation of French West Africa. A nationalist movement, spearheaded by trade unions and student groups, blossomed during the period between the two world wars. The Sudanese Union, a militantly anticolonial party, became the leading political force. Its leader, Modibo Keita, was a descendant of the Mali emperors.

Independence and Beyond

In the French constitutional referendum of 1958, French Sudan voted to join the French Community as the autonomous Sudanese Republic. In 1959 the republic joined Senegal to form the Mali Federation, but political differences shattered the union in 1960. That same year, the Sudanese Republic, renamed the Republic of Mali, obtained full independence from France and severed ties with the French Community. Seeking to promote African unity, Mali joined in a largely symbolic union with Guinea and Ghana, and in 1963 it joined the newborn Organization of African Unity.

Under Keita's presidency Mali became a one-party state committed to socialist policies. In 1962 the country withdrew from the Franc Zone and adopted a nonconvertible national currency. The resulting economic and financial difficulties forced an accommodation with France in 1967; Mali devalued its currency, returned to the Franc Zone, and permitted French administrators to assume a supervisory role in the economy. Militant elements in the Sudanese Union opposed this rapprochement, however, and Keita formed a people's militia to destroy opposition. The arrest of several dissenting army officers by the militia in 1968 provoked a bloodless military coup that overthrew the Keita regime and installed Lt. Moussa Traoré as president. The country continued to pursue a course of nonalignment in international affairs.

In the early 1970s, a prolonged drought desiccated the Sahel region of Africa, further reducing Mali's already meager water supplies. The drought shattered the country's agriculture economy by killing thousands of head of livestock and hindering crop production. The resulting famine, disease, and poverty contributed to the deaths of untold thousands and forced the southward migration of many peoples.

Keita died in prison in 1977, touching off a series of protests. A new constitution (1979) contained provisions for elections to be held, and democratic measures were implemented in spite of an unstable political climate. Traoré was reelected president in 1979; he effectively repressed coup attempts in the late 1970s and early 1980s and was again elected in 1985. Also in 1985, a border dispute with Burkina Faso erupted into armed conflict. Neighboring nations sent troops to end the fighting, but relations between the two countries remain strained.

In 1991, Traoré was overthrown in a coup and replaced with a transitional committee headed by Amadou Toumani Touré. Mali had been a one-party state controlled by the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDMP) from 1974 until 1992. In that year a new constitution was approved providing for a multiparty democracy, and Alpha Oumar Konaré of the Alliance for Democracy (ADEMA) became Mali's first democratically elected president. In the early 1990s the Malian army was engaged in conflicts with the Tuareg ethnic group in the north, who rebelled against alleged government usurpation of its land and the suppression of its culture and language; following an upsurge in violence in 1994, a peace settlement was implemented in 1995 and thousands of refugees returned to Mali.

In 1997, Konaré was reelected virtually unopposed and ADEMA won decisively in the legislative elections, which were boycotted by much of the opposition. In 1999 the ousted dictator Traoré, his wife, and an associate were sentenced to death for embezzlement; their sentences were commuted to life in prison by President Konaré. Presidential elections in April and May, 2002, resulted in a victory for Amadou Touré, the former interim military ruler. Touré ran as an independent candidate, and after the subsequent National Assembly elections (July), he formed a broad-based government that included the two largest groupings in the National Assembly.

In May, 2006, there were attacks in N Mali by Tuaregs the government said were army deserters, but in July a peace agreement was signed with the rebels. Additional fighting, however, occurred in 2007. Touré, running as the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP) coalition (which included ADEMA), was reelected in Apr., 2007, and in July National Assembly elections the ADP won a sizable majority of the seats. A new truce was signed with the Tuareg rebels in Sept., 2007, but they attacked government forces in 2008 (despite signing a cease-fire in Apr., 2008). A new cease-fire agreed to in July did not hold, but government forces won significant victories against the rebels in early 2009. Militant Islamists based in N and W Mali and originally opposed to the Algeria government have also mounted attacks and abductions in Mali. In mid-2009 government forces conducted operations against the Islamist's bases; other operations against their Mali bases were later mounted by Mauritania, at times in conjunction with France or Mali.

The fall of Qaddafi in Libya (2011) reinvigorated the Tuareg rebellion when Tuaregs who had served in his army returned to Mali. In 2012 Tuareg and Islamist forces made significant advances in N Mali, and government losses sparked an army coup led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo in March. Territorial losses accelerated after the coup. By April the rebels controlled N Mali (roughly two thirds of the country but with a tenth of the population) and Tuareg forces declared the region independent. West African nations meanwhile pressured Sanogo to restore civilian government, and in April President Touré officially resigned as part of a deal to establish an interim government and hold new elections. The speaker of the parliament, Dioncounda Traoré, became interim president.

There was an alleged, unsuccessful countercoup in May, and Sanogo supporters subsequently called for him to serve as president and attacked the interim president; the situation in S Mali continued to be politically muddled, with no clear central authority and a lack of civilian control of the security forces. In December the military arrested the prime minister and forced him to resign.

Meanwhile, Islamist forces gained ascendancy in the north by June, and destroyed the shrines of Sufi saints there and imposed harsh Islamic law; several hundred thousand people fled the region. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sought an agreement on providing more than 3,000 troops in support of the government's retaking the north. The details of plan to do so and agreement with the Malians and the African Union and United Nations on the force were finalized gradually, and the Dec., 2012, ouster of the prime minister endangered the plan. The UN Security Council approved the deployment of foreign troops in Mali later in December, and after Islamists began advancing further toward the capital in Jan., 2013, France launched air strikes against the rebels, and France, ECOWAS nations, and Chad moved quickly to send troops to Mali.

French-led forces rapidly ousted the Islamists from the main population centers, but Gao, in E Mali, suffered a series of Islamist attacks after it was retaken. The Islamists largely retreated to nearby mountains and deserts, and mounted sporadic attacks in the main urban centers of N Mali from there. Tuareg rebels remained in control of Kidal, in NE Mali, and in June Tuareg rebels and the government signed a cease-fire accord. In April the United Nations approved a 12,600-member peacekeeping force for Mali (Minusma) that would incorporate some of the West African troops already in the country. Subsequently, combined French, UN, and Malian forces mounted occasional offenses against the Islamists, who also continued to mount their own attacks in the months that followed. Slowly progressing negotiations with the Tuareg rebels led to clashes in late 2013; progress was hindered in part by divisions among the rebels.

In July–Aug., 2013, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who had served as prime minister in the mid and late 1990s, was elected president with more than three quarters of the vote in the August runoff. Keita subsequently moved to reduce the influence that the participants in the coup had over the army. In legislative elections held in November and December, Keita's Rally for Mali won a plurality of the seats, and with its allied parties it secured a majority. In May, 2014, there were clashes between government and Tuareg rebel forces, but a cease-fire was reestablished; there was also fighting between progovernment forces and rebels in Apr., 2015. A peace accord proposed by Algeria was rejected by the main rebel alliance in Mar., 2015. Subsequently, some armed groups signed a peace agreement in May, and the main Tuareg rebel coalition signed in June, after additional government concessions.


See A. Bebler, ed., Military Rule in Africa: Dahomey, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Mali (1973); N. Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali (1973); P. J. Imperato, Historical Dictionary of Mali (2d ed. 1986) and Mali (1989).

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Official name: Republic of Mali

Area: 1,240,000 square kilometers (478,767 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Hombori Tondo (1,155 meters/3,789 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sénégal River (23 meters/75 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,852 kilometers (1,151 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 1,258 kilometers (782 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast

Land boundaries: 7,243 kilometers (4,661 miles) total boundary length; Algeria 1,376 kilometers (855 miles); Burkina Faso 1,000 kilometers (621 miles); Côte d'Ivoire 532 kilometers (331miles); Guinea 858 kilometers (533 miles); Mauritania 2,237 kilometers (1,390 miles); Niger 821 kilometers (510 miles); Senegal 419 kilometers (260 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Mali, a landlocked nation, is located in western Africa and is crossed by the Niger River. The country's terrain is mostly flat, arid, and sandy. With an area of 1,240,000 square kilometers (478,767 square miles), Mali is almost twice as large as the state of Texas. Mali is divided into eight administrative regions.


Mali has no territories or dependencies.


Temperatures range by season and region. In Bamako in the southwest, temperatures in June through September average 20°C (68°F). In the hot, dry season from February to May, temperatures average 35°C (95°F). In the Sahelian region, the average annual temperature is 30°C (86°F). The rainy season is from June to September, although this really only applies to the south: the northern regions rarely receive any rainfall. Average annual rainfall in the south is approximately 140 centimeters (55 inches); in the north, rainfall averages only 20 centimeters (8 inches). Precipitation varies considerably from year to year, however. It is not uncommon for less than 8 centimeters (3 inches) of rain to fall annually in the far northern Sahara Desert area.


Mali can be roughly divided into three geographic regions: the southern region, where rainfall is the heaviest; the Sahel, the semi-desert region in the center of the country; and the Sahara Desert region of the far north.

The Sénégal River flows through the western section of the county. The Niger, one of Africa's major rivers, forms a semicircle in the south-central region, separating the semi-arid Sahel from the highlands. Oases dot the desert region of the north; these wateringholes were stopovers for caravans that traveled the Sahara Desert in ancient times. Most of the population lives in the southern region, in the cities and towns along the Niger, Baoulé, and Bani Rivers.


Mali is a landlocked nation.


The only two perennial lakes of any real size are located in the center of the country on either side of the Niger River. To the east of the river sits Lake Niangay, and northwest of this lake is the larger Lake Faguibine. Lake Faguibine is the largest lake in Mali, with a rainy-season surface area of 590 square kilometers (228 square miles). After the September-through-December rainy season, the delta region of the Nigerabout 30,000 square kilometers (19,000 square miles) in total areais flooded. Grasslands become green, and the seasonal lakesDebo, Fati, Teli, Korientze, Tanda, Niangay, Do, Garou, Aougoundou, and othersare filled with water.


Two main rivers cut through Mali: the Niger and the Sénégal. The Niger River traverses Mali for 1,700 kilometers (1,060 miles), nearly one-third of its total length of 4,185 kilometers (2,600 miles). Beyond the town of Ségou, the Niger forms a vast inland delta and then joins with its main tributary, the Bani, at Mopti. Beyond Mopti the Niger breaks up into two channels, the Bara Issa and the Issa Ber, that spread out in a broad flood plain covering 103,600 square kilometers (40,000 square miles) before rejoining just above Diré, between Lakes Niangay and Fagubine.

In western Mali, the Sénégal River is formed at the small town of Bafoulabé through the confluence of the Bafing and Bakoye Rivers. The Falémé River lies along the border with Senegal. It joins other tributaries to become the Sénégal. The Gorgol River, which originates in Mauritania, joins it about 200 kilometers (125 miles) downstream.


The Niger River Valley forms the southernmost extent of the Sahara Desert. Northern Mali lies completely within the Sahara Desert. The Erg Chech, which straddles Mali and Algeria in the extreme north, is characterized by ergsdeep, shifting parallel dunes in the sand. This region also contains two vast plains known as the Tanezrouft, whose reddish sandstone formations lead to the Ahaggar Mountains of Algeria, and Taoudenni, where salt has been mined for centuries. In the oases (low-lying places where water allows some vegetation to grow) of the Sahara, small stands of trees may be found.


The central part of Mali, lying between Mauritania and Niger, is the semi-arid Sahel, the name for the region between the Sahara Desert and the forests closer to the Atlantic coast. Historically, the Sahel was dedicated to grazing, but years of drought have caused much of the central area to begin the transition to desert. In the upper southern region, the Niger and Bani Rivers join to form a rich inland delta with green grasses during the wet season.


In the south, the Futa Djallon Highlands and the Manding Mountains provide a barrier that separates Mali from Guinea. These mountains are relatively low, with deep valleys formed by the rivers and their tributaries. The eastern region contains two spectacular mountain ranges: the Bandiagara Plateau and the Hombori Mountains, the highest points of which are the holy mountain called the Hand of Fatima, and Mount Hombori Tondo. Mount Hombori Tondo is the highest point in Mali, with an elevation of 1,155 meters (3,789 feet).


In the south-central area, dramatic sandstone cliffs (600 meters/2,000 feet high) in the area of Bandiagara run from southwest to northeast. The Dogon people have built villages into the sheer faces of escarpments in the steep sandstone cliffs of southern Mali. These pyramidal or rectangular structures are built of mud, with wood supports protruding at regular intervals. The Dogon sleep on the flat roofs of their dwellings and bury their dead in caves dug into the escarpment.


Other than the Bandiagara Plateau there are two plateau regions in Mali. The Adrar des Iforas is an eroded massif (sandstone plateau) that rises to 800 meters (2,640 feet) in northeastern Mali near the Niger and Algeria borders. It is part of the Hoggar Mountain System that extends into Algeria. In the opposite corner of the country, the Mandingue Plateau runs along the border with Senegal, turning south and extending into Guinea.


A canal connecting the Niger River with Lake Faguibine, which had become blocked with silt from droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, was dredged and reopened in the mid-1990s. With help from the International Red Cross, 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of the surrounding landdouble the previous areawas reclaimed from river flooding. The canal now provides the irrigation water that is vital to support agriculture in central Mali.


Tomboucou (Timbuktu) has been a center of Islamic learning since the seventeenth century. The city's Sankore Mosque, of golden clay with its protruding wooden support structure, is a well-known landmark and center for Islamic study in Africa.



Bingen, R. James, David Robinson, and John Meters Staatz, eds. Democracy and Development in Mali. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000.

Celati, Gianni. Adventures in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Durou, Jean-Marc. Sahara. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.

Keenan, Jeremy. Sahara Man: Travelling with the Tuareg. London: J. Murray, 2001.

Scott, Chris. Sahara Overland: A Route and Planning Guide. Surrey, UK: Trailblazer Publications, 2000.

Web Sites

Embassy of Mali in Washington, DC. (accessed April 24, 2003).

"The Sahara." PBS Online. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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1,240,190sq km (478,837sq mi)



capital (population):

Bamako (1,016,167)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Bambara 32%, Fulani (or Peul) 14%, Senufo 12%, Soninke 9%, Tuareg 7%, Songhai 7%, Malinke (Mandingo or Mandinke) 7%


French (official)


Islam 90%, traditional beliefs 9%, Christianity 1%


CFA franc = 100 centimes

Landlocked republic in w Africa. Mali, the largest country in w Africa, is generally flat. Northern Mali forms part of the Sahara, which rises to the border with Algeria. This region contains many wadis (dry river valleys). The old trading city of Timbuktu lies on the edge of the desert. The main rivers, the Sénégal and the Niger, are both in s Mali. The capital, Bamako, lies on the banks of the Niger.

Climate and Vegetation

Northern Mali has a hot, arid climate. The s has enough rain for cultivation. Dry and dusty harmattan winds blow from the Sahara. More than 70% of Mali is desert or semi-desert with sparse vegetation. Central and se Mali is a dry grassland region known as the Sahel. In prolonged droughts, the n Sahel dries up and becomes part of the Sahara. Fertile farmland and tropical savanna covers southern Mali, the most densely populated region.

History and Politics

Mali lay at the heart of many of Africa's historic empires. From the 4th to the 11th centuries, the region formed part of the ancient Ghana Empire. The medieval Empire of Mali was one of the world's most powerful and prosperous powers; its gold riches were legendary. The 14th-century reign of Emperor Mansa Musa saw the introduction of Islam, and the development of Timbuktu as a great centre of learning and the trans-Saharan trade. The Songhai Empire dominated the region in the 15th century. In the 19th century, France gradually gained control.

In 1893, the region became known as French Sudan, and was incorporated into the Federation of West Africa in 1898. Nationalist movements grew more vocal in their opposition to colonialism. In 1958, French Sudan voted to join the French Community as an autonomous republic. In 1959, it joined with Senegal to form the Federation of Mali.

Shortly after gaining independence, Senegal seceded and, in 1960, Mali became a one-party republic. Its first president, Modibo Keita, committed Mali to nationalization and Pan-Africanism. In 1962, Mali adopted its own currency. In 1963, it joined the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Economic crisis forced Keita to revert to the franc zone, and permit France greater economic influence. Opposition led to Keita's overthrow in a military coup in 1968.

The military formed a National Liberation Committee and appointed Moussa Traoré as prime minister. During the 1970s, the Sahel suffered a series of droughts that contributed to a devastating famine in which thousands of people died. In 1979, Mali adopted a new constitution, and Traoré was elected president. In 1991, a military coup overthrew Traoré, and a new constitution (1992) saw the establishment of a multiparty democracy. Alpha Oumar Konaré, leader of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), won the ensuing presidential election. A political settlement provided a special administration for Tuaregs in n Mali. Konaré was re-elected in 1997. In 1999, he commuted Traoré's death sentence for corruption to life imprisonment. General Amadou Toumani Toure succeeded Konaré as president in 2002 elections.


Mali is one of the world's poorest countries (2000 GDP per capita, US$850). Agriculture, including nomadic pastoralism, employs 85% of the workforce. Water shortages hamper farming, and only 2% of the land is cultivated. Another 25% is used for grazing animals. Food crops include millet, rice, and sorghum. The chief cash crops are cotton, groundnuts, and sugar cane. Fishing is an important economic activity. Mali has vital mineral deposits of gold and salt. In 1984, Mali rejoined the franc zone. In 1998, the IMF provided Mali with debt relief of US$250 million.

Political map

Physical map


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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Mali
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 10,685,948
Language(s): French, Bambara
Literacy rate: 31%

In 1991, student riots led to an end of one-party rule in Mali. The establishment of mainstream constitutional politics was followed by laws establishing freedom of the press. Mali has about 10 daily newspapers, more than 15 weekly or twice-weekly newspapers, and about six monthly or twice-monthly publications.

There is a government-owned newspaper, L'Essor, a daily founded in 1949 that has a circulation of about 3,500. Another daily, Les Echoes, founded in 1989, is allied with the ruling party and has a circulation of about 30,000. The lone news agency, Agence Malienne de Presse et Publicite (AMAPP), is controlled by the Ministry of Culture. Independent daily newspapers include Le Ma-lien, Nouvel Horizon and La Republicain, founded in 1992. Weeklies include 26 Mars, founded in 1998, and Concord.

An important factor in the growth of independent newspapers in Mali was the creation by Malian journalists of independent associations such as The Network of Economic Journalists of Mali, and an association of press editors as well as the establishment of a national commission for issuing press cards. Moreover, the Union Nationale des Journalistes du Mali (National Journalists Union of Mali) is an active sentinel and advocate for Malian journalists that constantly speaks out on behalf of harassed colleagues.

Most newspapers are published in French, Mali's official language, though some publish in Arabic and Bamburathe language spoken by more than 80 percent of the population. Literacy is low, about 31 percent for Mali's more than 10.5 million citizens.

Libel laws remain on the books in Mali, although the government has abolished prison terms for "ordinary libel." However so-called "offences" against the head of state, ministers and public institutions are punishable by a three-to 12-month prison sentence.

Despite this, and because of a flourishing and diverse independent press, Mali remains one of Africa's vanguard states for press freedom.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Mali." The World Factbook 2001, 2002. Available from

The Europa World Yearbook 2001. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

International Journalists' Federation, "Mali Press: Overview," 2001. Available from

Nyamnjoh, Francis B., "West Africa: Unprofessional and unethical journalism," Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2000. Available from

Reporters Sans Frontiéres. "Mali: Annual Report 2002." Available from

World Press Freedom Review. "Mali." International Press Institute, 2001. Available from

Denis Fitzgerald

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Culture Name



Identification. Malian national culture can be best defined as a project that was developed with different emphasis and credibility by the governments that led Mali (formerly French Sudan) in the postindependence period (1960 to the present). It is undoubtedly a colonial legacy. As in most post-colonial nations, the territorial and administrative boundaries established by the colonial power, in this case France, remained essentially unchanged long after independence. Westernized Malian politicians and intellectuals reappropriated modern colonial institutions and adapted them to their reinterpretation of local aims and aspirations. For instance, the choice of Mali as the name for this countryharking back to one of the great medieval empires that blossomed in this areais representative of a wider attempt by Malian politicians to validate a new political order, the postcolonial state, by claiming its derivation from African political formations already in existence prior to colonization. This reappropriation did not occur in a sociocultural vacuum. Indeed, it was affected by transnational economic and political forces as well as by local popular responses to the policies implemented by local governments.

Since independence, the Malian political leadership has pursued the syncretic integration at the national level of various elements deriving from ethnic and regional cultures. Yet this process of cultural syncretism has not been homogeneous. If most regional or ethnic cultures have been implicated, not all have contributed in the same measure. Indeed, a number of scholars of Mali have noted an imbalance in favor of the numerically dominant Mande (a branch of the Niger-Congo language family) people and their traditions in the formation of a national culture. For the most part, the process of national construction has been a relatively peaceful one, given the long traditions of coexistence, cultural exchange, and mutual tolerance between the populations living in this area.

The ongoing project of Malian national construction can also be viewed as a site of contestation insofar as it is viewed and experienced differently by different strata of the Malian population. In other words, the dominant or hegemonic construct of the Malian nation is based on the reflections of the Westernized Malian elite and does not necessarily coincide with the view of peasants or disenfranchised urban populations. A number of studies of rural communities have highlighted both peasants' hope of receiving benefits from the policies implemented by the Malian governments and their periodic disaffection from and resistance to those policies. Even the democratic government's effort in the late twentieth century to decentralize state institutions, that is to give more power and greater economic means to local communities, met with some skepticism and occasional resistance at the level of some local bodies. Nevertheless, this policy of decentralization, however negotiated at the local level, has begun to dramatically transform local geographies of power.


Location and Geography. Mali is 478,764 square miles (1,241,278 square kilometers). It is a land-locked country approximately twice the size of Texas. According to late twentieth century estimates, less than 2 percent of the land is arable; 24.6 percent consists of permanent pasture; 5.7 percent of forests and woodlands; and 68 percent of mostly desert land. Ninety percent of Mali's population is concentrated in the southern regionsKayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso, Ségou, and Mopti. The climate is hot and dry, with some semitropical zones in the far south. The north is semi-desert or desert. Most citiesmany of which already existed well before colonizationare located along Mali's rivers: the Niger, the Bani (a tributary of the Niger), and the Senegal. Bamako, the capital, is a colonial city. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, prior to the coming of the French, Bamako was only a village at the center of a semi-independent polity on the periphery of the Ségou state. By 1920, Bamako had become the capital and commercial center of the French Sudan (today's Mali). After independence, Bamako's population grew exponentially, from 100,000 in 1960 to approximately 1,000,000 in 1998 (59 percent of Mali's total urban population). This was partly the outcome of the fall in 1960 of the short-lived Mali Federation (uniting Mali and Senegal) and the subsequent forced return of many Malian citizens living in Senegal. Most of all, Malians were drawn to the city because of its greater job opportunitiesindeed, most administrative headquarters and more than half of all Malian factories and enterprises are concentrated in Bamako.

Demography. Mali's population is approximately 10 million (1998 census). Most Malians live in rural areas, with only 18 percent residing in urban centers. Major ethnic groups in Mali are the Mande (e.g., Bamana, Jula, Malinke), who comprise 50 percent of the population; Peul or Fulbe, 17 percent; Voltaic, 12 percent (e.g. Bobo, Senufo, Minyanka); Tuareg and Moor, 10 percent; Songhai, 6 percent; and other, 5 percent. It should be mentioned that the rigidity of such ethnic categories dates back to colonization. In other words, the classification of local populations into neatly defined ethnic groups is the product of the interaction and misunderstandings between locals and colonial administrators as well as some ethnographers. Indeed, the boundaries between these groups are highly permeable and context-related, and their meanings are subject to renegotiation.

Linguistic Affiliation. Most Malians speak several languages and live in a truly multilingual context. The official language of Mali is French. An educated elite speaks French, and it is the dominant language of the administration, formal education, and the media. Bamana has progressively become the lingua franca of Mali and is spoken by 80 percent of the Malian people, although it is the mother tongue of only 38 percent of the population. Various factors have contributed to the spread of the Bamana language in Mali. Under colonization Bamana became the vernacular of the French colonial army, but it was also used in other institutional contexts such as schooling by the White Sisters, a Catholic women's missionary organization. The development of a written literature in Bamana (e.g., Bamana-French dictionaries, collections of proverbs and stories) and, after independence, the creation of newspapers and television and radio programs in Bamana further contributed to the hegemony of Bamana. The national organization in charge of promoting applied linguistic research, literacy, and education in national languages is the Direction nationale de l'alphabetisation fonctionnelle et de la linguistique appliquée (DNAFLA); created in 1975, it also enforced Bamana as a national language. Other national languages promoted by the DNAFLA include Fulfuldé, Songhai, Senufo, Dogon, Soninké, and Tamasheq.

Symbolism. A number of symbols reinforce and elaborate such central aspects of Malian national culture as the struggle against colonization, the celebration of Mali's rich history, and its long multicultural tradition. The text of Mali's national anthem was composed by an influential politician and novelist, Seydou Badian Kouyaté, at the request of Mali's first president, Modibo Keita. It celebrates the Malian struggle for independence and its newly achieved unity as well as urges Malians to channel their efforts into the process of nation building. Mali's flag uses the color symbolism of the pan-African unity movementgreen (hope), gold (a reference to one of Mali's natural resources), and red (the blood sacrificed in the struggle against colonization).

In the late twentieth century the Malian government launched a series of public works, including a remarkable number of monuments (approximately twenty) and a women's museum (Musée Muso Kunda) with an attached research center focusing on women's development. Of these monumentsmostly concentrated in the capitalmany have a historical theme and celebrate local and/or regional heroes in the struggle for independence as well as the Malians fallen in the 1991 struggle for democracy. Other monuments celebrate Mali's long multicultural tradition (e.g., the Obelisk) and the tentative peace with the Tuareg population (e.g., the Peace Monument). The Bamana term for "nation" is faso, which literally means "the father's house" and by extension refers to one's nation of origin. This reflects the patrilineal skewing of the local kinship system and its impact on the national imagination.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Although this geographic area has been occupied by large empires and states throughout its history (the empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai; the Ségou state; and the Omarian state, among others), Mali's current geographic boundaries and, to a large extent, its politico-administrative organization are the result of French colonization (c.18801960). The conquest of this area was not without resistance on the part of local populations, such as the fierce resistance to the French by Samory Touré and his troops, and the Tuareg.

After World War II, Africans' growing political demands, the spreading anticolonialist stance at the international level, and the recognition of Africans' participation and sacrifice in the two world wars were all factors that led French colonial subjects to finally gain important political rights. They could create their own political parties and, via their elected representatives, increasingly participate in the political institutions of French West Africa. In 1946 the Rassemblement démocratique africain (RDA)an inter-territorial party coordinating the pro-independence efforts of most French West African political activistswas created in Bamako. After some uncertain beginnings, the political representatives of the Sudanese branch of the RDA, the US-RDA, were able to win over all opponents and successfully lead Mali to independence. After the dramatic fall of the short-lived Mali Federation (which included Senegal), the French Sudan, under the name of Mali, achieved independence from France on 22 September 1960.

From 1960 to 1991 Malian politics was primarily organized on the basis of a one-party system. The charismatic Modibo Keita, leader of the single-party, the US-RDA, became Mali's first president. In the aftermath of independence, the Keita government launched an extensive program of national development based on socialist ideas. This included the formation of African cadres, the implementation of a five-year plan of economic development, the politicization of the masses, and the reevaluation of the historical and cultural heritage of the country in light of its socialist option. In particular, the reinterpretation of local traditions was a key step in the effort to legitimize the Malian leadership and justify its political platform. For instance, a number of local griots (a semi-endogamous group of professional bards) composed celebratory songs in honor of Modibo Keita, in which the political leader was depicted as the direct descendent of Sunjata Keita, the founder of the Mali empire. The government's political and economic measures had significant repercussions on the social structure of the Malian society. In particular they favored the transformation of the civil servants into an economic class. The Keita government lost progressively its popularity among various strata of the population. An alliance between the dissatisfied segments of the Malian populationthe peasants, the merchants, and the army (threatened by the growing influence of the party militia)led to the success of the military coup d'état of 1968.

The first ten years after the coup were characterized by the despotic rule of the Comité militaire de libération nationale (CMLN) under the leadership of Lieutenant Moussa Traoré. The most unpopular of Keita's political measures, such as the obligation of peasants to cultivate collective fields, were removed, and some freedom of trade was established. In the late 1970s Moussa Traoré, after having eliminated all possible rivals, founded Mali's second single partythe Union démocratique du peuple malien (UDPM)and a number of horizontal organizations (for youth, women, and workers) that granted him and his clique control of the country until 1991. The Traoré period was characterized by a slow liberalization of the economy, progressive political disenchantment, galloping corruption at the administrative level, and a lack of political expression outside the party boundaries.

In 1991, after a series of popular uprisings demanding democratic elections, a military coup led by Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré (popularly known as ATT) brought the Traoré era to an end. An insurgence of grassroots organizations, the opening of new radio stations, and the founding of a large number of newspapers accompanied the advent of democracy. An intermediary government composed of army officials and civilians under the leadership of ATT followed the coup. ATT kept his initial commitment and led the country to its first multiparty elections in 1992. The presidential elections were won by Alpha Oumar Konaré, a distinguished archaeologist and leader of the party ADEMA (Alliance pour la démocratie au Mali).

National Identity. Malian national culture is first and foremost the product of the Malian educated elite and their interpretation of the needs of the general population, which is non-literate to a large extent. Indeed, many postindependence political and economic efforts were geared toward the strengthening of the elite position via the solidification of their economic basis and the broadening of their ranks. People's involvement in state institutions was further expanded by the creation of state-owned enterprises and the recruitment of an increasing number of wage workers, as well as by the predation and redistribution of state resources from the bureaucracy to its clients.

Malian elite have not acted in a vacuum, however, and oftentimes have had to modify their strategies and objectives in accordance with people's responses. This was the case for educated women, who very early on had to postpone the realization of many of their objectivesfor instance, the abolition of polygynybecause of a lack of support from their constituencies. In addition, Malian elites have been able to build on established local traditions to foster a sense of a shared nation. Indeed, perhaps one of the secrets of Malian pluralism is the so-called sinankuya, or cousinage, a pact establishing a joking relationship between certain families, neighboring groups, and ethnic groups. It allows for the free venting of tensions and peaceful overcoming of conflicts.

More generally, the celebration of local cultures and local histories, and their appropriation in national contexts, has been one of the most successful avenues for the construction of the idea of a nation. Consider the organization of the Biennale artistique et culturelle des jeunes du Mali (19621988), when artistic troupes that won competitions at the regional level were invited to Bamako to compete at a national level. National holidays and politicians' visits have also been occasion for performances by local troupes. Most of all, theater plays (such as by the Groupe dramatique du Mali), musical events (in particular, griots' performances); radio programs (including the much listened-to stories of Jeli Baba Sissoko), and, in more recent times, television programs, cultural festivals, and the construction of an impressive number of monuments and cultural centers, have constituted important vehicles for the development of a Malian national culture.

Ethnic Relations. Building upon Mali's cultural and linguistic diversity, Malian governments have been able to foster, for the most part, a truly pluralistic society. Complicating this picture somewhat is the history of the difficult relationships between the Tuareg (or Kel Tamasheq), a Berber population living in the north, and the Malian government. Different cultural traditions, issues of race (and in particular Tuareg xenophobia toward the surrounding black populations), the Malian army's cruel retaliations against Tuareg attacks, and the marginality of the Tuareg within state institutions are some of the reasons behind the periodic conflict in the north. In 1994, and after the failure of the Pacte National of April 1992, the Malian government signed a new peace accord with the Tuareg, one that commits the government to the development of all northern populations. The situation in the north continues to be characterized by some instability, but external observers have expressed some confidence in the capacity of the government and the local people to overcome this crisis.

Urbanism Architecture, and the Use of Space

Typical of this area is the so-called West Sudanese architecture, characterized by the use of sun-baked clay bricks of various shapes. Majestic artistic expressions of this architecture are the beautiful mosques of the northern cities of Djenné and Mopti. The Sudanese style also decorates the facades of many traditional compounds in cities and historic villages. Many rural and urban Malians live in compounds, an enclosed space encompassing a number of two-room houses occupied by an extended family and/or, mostly in the cities, by renters. The first room is typically used for sleeping and receiving guests, while the back room is a more private space and is used for storage and/or sleeping. The use of Western materials, such as tin roofs and cement, is associated with higher social status, and in the cities such materials tend to replace traditional materials. Western materials require less maintenance, but they are more expensive and make for a much hotter space than traditional clay architecture.

The structure of the family is often reflected in the organization of living space. For instance, in the practice of polygyny, each wife is typically allotted her own house, most often within the same compound as the other wives but sometimes elsewhere. The husband either sleeps in his wives' houses on a rotating basis or, if means permit, may build his own individual house, where he receives his wives.

There are significant variations in architecture not only between regions but also within a single region according to people's main source of livelihood. For instance, pastoral groups such as the Fulbe may live not in compounds but in more temporary constructions. From the Mopti region northward, houses are most often two stories, with beautiful terra-cotta pipes for water drainage. In the northern regions people often entertain visitors on their roofs, where they spread colored blankets to take advantage of the occasional breeze. French colonial architecture was inspired by the much-admired local Sudanese style, with French housing and public buildings in Bamako and Ségou showing an interesting mixture of Western, Moroccan, and Sudanese styles. In recent years both local and foreign architects as well as intellectuals, recognizing the aesthetic and functional qualities of baked clay, have been experimenting by mixing it with cement to enhance its durability.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Malian families invest more than half of their household income in food expenditures. In the cities, rice is the preferred dish (40 percent of the daily food intake), followed by cereals (sorghum and millet, 35 percent), peanuts, sugar, and oil (20 percent). In the rural areas where rice is produced, farmers tend to consider rice a luxury item and they sell it. Their basic staples are millet, sorghum, and fonio (a West African cereal) that are consumed in a variety of ways: served with sauces with fish or meat and various vegetables, or in the form of porridge (mixed with water, sugar, and fresh or powdered milk).

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Malian cuisine varies from region to region, but some dishes and drinks have acquired a national dimension, such as nsaamè or riz au gras (a rice dish with meat and vegetables), jinjinbere (a drink made of water, sugar, lemon, and ginger), and dabileni (a drink made of water, sugar, and sorrel).These dishes are often prepared for the celebration of life-cycle rituals (e.g., naming ceremonies, weddings) and other ceremonial events.

Basic Economy. The Malian economy is principally based on the cultivation of cotton (Mali is the second largest producer of cotton in Africa), food crops (rice, millet, sorghum, fonio, peanuts, and corn), and livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats). The primary sector accounts for approximately 46 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and is mostly run by small-scale family-run enterprises. Industry, including manufacturing, contributes 20 percent to the GDP, and services approximately 33 percent. According to official statistics, Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Solidarity links among family members, neighbors, and coworkers; entrepreneurial skills; and redistributive practices, however, go a long way to ease difficult economic conditions.

Land Tenure and Property. Prior to colonization, land was not a commodity. Among the Bamana agriculturists, access to the land (that is, the right to cultivate a piece of land, not individual ownership) was often mediated by the so-called "land chief" who was often a respected elder from the first family to settle in the area. The land chief was in charge of distributing the land among the various lineages of the village. He was also responsible for the celebration of various sacrifices, in particular to the shrine of the spirits in charge of protecting the village, the so-called dasiri (a cluster of trees and shrubs). Lineage members would collectively cultivate the land and the lineage chief would be in charge of the redistribution of resources among individual households according to their perceived needs. However, conflicts among households of the same lineage would periodically erupt and often lead to further fissions within the lineage. Besides collective farming, individuals of both genders could cultivate smaller fields on the side and independently manage their revenues. The colonial conquest has greatly complicated the issue of property. At the present, local systems for the allocation of property, Islamic law, and colonially derived property rules (mostly affecting parcels in urban areas) coexist, but not without conflict, side by side.

Major Industries. The Malian economy is scarcely industrialized despite massive efforts in this direction by the Keita government after independence. Locally operated industries mostly concentrate on processing farm commodities (such as food and fish), construction (e.g. the production of cement), and the production of minor consumer goods such as cigarettes, matches, and batteries. The strict programs of structural adjustment imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since the late 1980s have forced the Malian government to reduce dramatically the number of state employees, progressively privatize state-owned enterprises, and devalue the local currency (the franc de la Communauté Financière d'Afrique, the CFA) by 50 percent. The consequences of these programs have been mixed. Even though official economic indexes show some economic growth, there has also been a neocolonial return of foreign capital. This has been the case for COMATEX, the largest textile factory in Mali, built with Chinese cooperation in the late 1960s. In October 1993 an accord between China and Mali paved the way for the privatization of COMATEX by a Chinese group (the COVEX), despite efforts by a group of Malian entrepreneurs to purchase the enterprise (the Malian state retains 20 percent of the capital).

Similarly, new gold mines have opened, but they remain mostly foreign operated. Given the advanced technology and large amount of capital resources gold mines require, the business is for the most part in the hands of companies such as the South African Randgold Resources and the Canadian IAMGOLD. As a result the revenues of the Malian state have been estimated, at best, to equal 10 percent of the total value of the gold extracted.

Trade. Mali's major exports are cotton (50 percent of foreign exchange earnings), gold (17 percent), and livestock products. In 1998, main destinations for exports were Thailand, Italy, Brazil, and Portugal. In the same year, Mail purchased most of its imports (in particular, machinery and petroleum products) from Cte d'Ivoire, France, Belgium and Luxembourg, and Senegal. In general, the Malian economy is extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in prices on international markets. It is also heavily dependent on foreign aid, and in this context benefits from its positive international image as a model African democracy progressing steadily toward the privatization and diversification of its national economy.

Division of Labor. Although the available statistical data are often not reliable, they do give a general picture of labor distribution in Mali. Employment in the formal economy, at best, approximates 6 percent of the total economically active population (the latter estimated at 44.7 percent of the total population). The large majority of the population is involved in the so-called informal sectors of the economy or are unemployed. Unemployment is much higher among the educated elites because of the lack of employment opportunities in the modern sector, and amounts to 13.2 percent of those employed in this sector. Agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, and fishing employ the large majority (83 percent) of the total active population. Other occupational sectors include the craft industry (5.4 percent) and trade (4.7 percent). In order for Malians to provide for their families, they are often forced to take on several jobs at the same time, a situation rarely expressed by official statistics.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. In the late 1960s French anthropologist Claude Meillassoux remarked on the complexity of the relations between new and old social milieus in Mali, and his observations still capture an important component of social stratification. Border crossing and mélanges of cultural elements still characterize Malian social distinctions. Some scholars have observed how for many years the Malian bureaucracy did not properly constitute a class; indeed, it established a series of practices modeled after the traditional code of behavior of the Malian aristocracy. For instance, the Malian bureaucracy did not reinvest monetary capital into productive enterprises, but engaged in the predation and redistribution of state resources. Other scholars have highlighted the huge gap between the elites and the mass of the population and have essentially presented Malian post-colonial history as the history of alliances and conflicts between Malian elites, that is, the bureaucracy and the merchants.

Prior to colonization, Mali was a highly stratified and complex society. Most ethnic groups distinguished among horonw (free people or nobles), nyamankalaw (semiendogamous professional groups such as leather workers, griots, and smiths), and jonw/wolosow (first-generation slaves or slaves born in the family). Recent studies have shown a certain flexibility among these social groups, one that allowed for movements and permutations across the different groups. Along the same lines, local people have renegotiated the boundaries of traditional professions. In fact, especially in the cities, the exercise of a given profession is no longer limited to people with the appropriate family background. The Institut national des arts in Bamako has played a major role in this direction, opening nyamakala professions (such as sculpture and music) to the rest of the Malian population.

In addition to this fuzziness between group boundaries, individuals are redefining their traditional professions in new directions. This is the case with very entrepreneurial jelimusow (women jeliw, or griots) who, from a position of relative marginality vis-à-vis male singers, have come to dominate the cassette market and musical radio programs in today's Mali. Their success is partly linked to people's searches for social recognition in the context of the dislocation brought about by transformations of the political economy since colonization.

At the level of practices, the aristocratic code of behavior translates into the display of modest and controlled manners. On the other hand, nyamakalaw and jonw have traditionally enjoyed a broader freedom of expression. In particular jeliw or griots can afford to voice their opinions openly; that is, according to the occasion they can praise, criticize, or fire up their patrons.

Political Life

Government. Mali is a democratic republic. The democratization of state institutions started under the transition period (19911993) with the organization of a national assembly during which a new constitution was drafted and was formally adopted via popular referendum in 1992, and the organization of free and democratic elections (1993). The constitution follows the French model and sanctions the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial powers.

Leadership and Political Officials. Alpha Oumar Konaré, of the party ADEMA, was the first democratically elected president in the history of post-independence Mali. Konaré was re-elected in 1997, in much discussed elections, and will end his second and last term in 2002. The ruling government coalition includes ADEMA and a few other, minor parties such as the Parti de la renaissance national (Parena). The main opposition alliance is represented by the Collectif des partis politiques de l'opposition (COPPO), which is extremely critical of the Konaré government, accusing it of political monopoly, corruption, and insufficiently integrating dissenting voices into the democratic process. Since 1997, however, COPPO leaders have refused to participate in all elections, thus further marginalizing themselves politically.

Social Problems and Control. Information is scarce on crime in Mali. However, crime is considered to be low compared to other countries in the region. The crime situation in Mali's northern regions is more complex. Due to this area's intermittent political instability, some tourists have occasionally experienced banditry and carjackings. The Gendarmerie and local police forces are in charge of internal security. The Malian judiciary system (made independent by the 1992 Constitution) is complicated by the coexistence of traditional, Islamic, judiciary traditions that are often syncretically used by the Malian population.

Military Activity. Military expenditures total approximately 5.5 percent of the national budget. Beside a dispute over the boundaries with Burkina Faso, which led to five days' fighting (25-29 December 1985) and was quickly resolved by dividing up the disputed land between the two countries (in December 1986), Mali has not been involved in any foreign conflicts.

The army has been a major player in domestic politics, for instance via the organization of coups d'état (many of which were unsuccessful) and/or via the participation of military officials in various governments. Military forces have been extensively deployed in the North to control the Tuareg rebellion. According to Amnesty International, the Malian Army has infringed fundamental humanitarian norms. To Tuareg attacks, the Army has responded with reprisal killings of civiliansa situation that generated a spiral of violence from both sides in the mid 1990s, but since then seems relatively under control. Noteworthy is Mali's more recent peacekeeping efforts, of which president Konaré is a major proponent, in the Western African region. In particular, Mali is involved in trying to reestablish peace along the borders between Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Mali, at least on paper, provides an extensive welfare system. Workers are entitled to retirement benefits, health care, sick leave, maternity leave, and other forms of compensation. The actual realization of the welfare program is often significantly hampered by the state's limited resources. Furthermore, many aspects of the social welfare system, even if it were fully operational, would affect only wage workers, who constitute a minority of the overall Malian worker population. However social welfare remains at the center of the government agenda. The Malian government, with the backing of the World Bank and the IMF, is planning to increase spending in health and education. Most Malians work in the so-called informal sector and rely on alternative welfare strategies, such as the development of reliable social networks among kin, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are the expression of a development approach that takes into account the needs and aspirations of the local people and ideally involves them at all stages in the development project. The blossoming of foreign and local NGOs in recent years is in part the result of the implementation of structural adjustment programs and the privatization of the Malian economy. The state was the largest employer in Mali until the mid-1980s, but many people have since lost their jobs or future employment opportunities. NGOs, coordinated by the Comité de coordination des ONG du Mali, have thus become a major provider of employment for the many educated yet unemployed Malians. Funding is provided by the state and foreign partners. NGO projects include literacy programs, health training programs, initiatives to alleviate rural women's work burdens, reforestation programs, and initiatives to support the decentralization of state institutions.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In many Malian farming communities both women and men are actively involved in agricultural activities. Among the Bamana, women, in addition to taking care of many household chores, work most of their lives in the collective fields of their husband's extended family. Once women reach menopause they retire from work in the collective fields and often redirect their efforts in the cultivation of their own fields. Women are also very active in trade activities. Post-menopausal women, as in many other parts in Africa, are freer to engage more extensively in trade activities than are women of child-bearing age. However, women sell mainly food items, both raw and processed, and a few manufactured goods (e.g. cloth), while men engage more often in the sale of manufactured goods. In other words, women's access to market participation tends to be limited to a series of economic activities which are scarcely lucrative, or at least less so if compared to the business in which men engage.

In the cities women continue to take care of most of the household chores as well as to be actively involved in petty trade. Rural girls prior to their marriage are often employed as maids in the cities in order to accumulate goods for the constitution of their own dowry (konyon minén ). Women are underemployed in the formal economy, although some studies have recently shown that women are well represented in certain professions such as law.

From a political standpoint, under the single-party system, women's associations have experienced some of the same limitations that affected other groups (such as youth associations and workers' associations) and have often had to promote the party's interest over women's own agenda. After the coup of 1991, an impressive number of women's associations were created. They are coordinated by the Ministère pour la Promotion des Femmes, des Enfants, et de la Famille. In a political reshuffling that took place on 21 February 2000, women's representation achieved a historical highout of twenty-one newly appointed ministers, seven were women.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. In general, women are less represented than men in the more lucrative sectors of the economy; that is state employment, private enterprises, and long-distance trade. However, there are significant differences among women. For instance, women's living conditions in the rural areas often differ from those of urban women. In general, rural women have a much heavier workload and reduced access to health care than city women. Furthermore, there are significant class differences, especially in the cities. There certainly are some common issues that most women are confronted with, such as women's circumcision (practiced by most ethnic groups, with the exception of the Tuareg), a strong emphasis on women's role in the socialization and education of children, and discriminatory inheritance practices (in the absence of state legislation on this issue), to mention only a few. The ways in which a woman is affected by these issues vary significantly, however, depending upon her location, her education, her class, and her relationship with her husband. Studies of urban women show women's entrepreneurial efforts in establishing broad networks of family, friends, and neighbors upon whom they can rely for companionship and mutual help. In addition, some local and foreign aid agencies have increasingly been involved in helping individual women as well as women's groups in setting up small enterprises (e.g. small enterprises of food processing) but much is still to be done in this direction.

Marriage, family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is the most important ritual of the life cycle and entails numerous celebrations that are spread throughout a period of variable length, up to ten years. It involves major expenses on the part of the bride's and groom's extended families and friends, although the practice of bride-wealth (the transfer of gifts or money from the groom's family to the bride's family) puts more financial pressure on the groom and his family. Three different forms of marriage can be distinguished in Mali today: traditional (which varies greatly from region to region and across ethnic groups), civil, and religious (mostly Muslim). In the cities, many couples see the ideal marriage as one that has been legitimized traditionally, civilly, and religiously. Civil marriage is especially popular among wage workers, for without official sanction by the state, wives and children will not be entitled to social welfare benefits such as pensions. In the rural areas and to some extent in the urban areas, marriages are arranged. This practice reflects the importance of establishing alliances between families over individual preferences.

Although the first years of marriage are frequently quite difficult for women, a woman's position within the household tends to improve over time. Age and children tend to increase a woman's status. Old women are better off, and take up managerial responsibilities in directing other women's work. Noteworthy is the fact that husbands and wives manage their revenues independently. It follows that the management of a household is the outcome of a negotiation between husband and wives as to who is going to assume which responsibilities. However some underlining patterns can be detectedfor instance, women tend to take care of the sauce that flavors the meal and men tend to provide the cereals that are the staple for the daily meals, at least in the cities.

Domestic Unit. Most Malian ethnic groups are patrilineal, and residence tends to be patrilocal. In rural areas and to a large extent in the cities, domestic units are rarely limited to the nuclear family. Indeed, most often they consist of an extended patrilineal family (that is, they consist of a father, his wife(ves), his sons, their wives and children, and unmarried daughters). Polygyny is legal, and couples have the option of choosing between monogamy and polygyny when they enter into a civil marriage (although this is not necessarily binding). Among the Mande, relationships between mothers and their children are very intense and affectionate, and children of the same mother tend to rely on each other for help over the years. Traditionally, relationships between half-siblings with different mothers are more tense and competitive. Another area of potential conflict is the relationship between co-wives, which varies considerably from compound to compound. Yet it is not rare to find cowives who get along with each other and establish relationships of mutual supporta situation often feared by the husband, who is clearly put in a minority position in the household. In the cities it is not rare to find couples who live independently from their extended familiesthis typically reflects a higher social standing and Western education. Even in these cases household members are not limited to the nuclear family and may include children from previous marriages, nephews, nieces, or other family members, and clients.

Kin Groups. Many Malian ethnic groups are further divided in several lineages and clans, which are represented at the village level by clusters of households sharing a common section of a village under the leadership of a respected family elder. Traditionally certain clans entertain joking relationships with one another (e.g. the Diarra and the Traoré). Despite the fact that residence is predominantly patrilocal, recent studies show that women maintain close bonds with their family of origin. Women continue to be involved in the lives of their natal family members via periodic visits, and via the exchange of gifts and services throughout their lives. Kinship bonds continue to be important despite geographical dislocation. Malian migrants, both to the city and to foreign destinations, maintain strong links with their extended families and contribute substantially to the local economies by sending home a constant flux of money and gifts. Despite the poverty of the majority of the population, real or fictitious kinship links provide support and comfort for many Malians in times of need.


Infant Care. Babies are kept in close contact with their mothers and accompany them in most of their activities, usually carried on the mother's back and secured by a tightly wrapped cloth. In the cities, the complex male and female initiation practices found in the rural areas are often reduced to simple circumcision (the removal of the foreskin for boys) and clitoridectomy (the removal of the clitoris for girls)usually performed on the eighth day of the baby's birth. Traditionally male and female initiation marked the passage from childhood to adulthood (it was a requirement for women to marry, and in some areas it was incorporated within the marriage process) and entailed the passing of traditional and religious knowledge from the old to the new generations. On the other hand urban circumcision tends to be incorporated into another set of rituals, those performed on the occasion of the naming of a child.

Child Rearing and Education. Children's informal education is to a great extent a collective endeavor, with people other than the children's parents participating in their rearing. Small children, up to two or three years, receive much affectionate attention from both family and nonfamily members and are rarely disciplined.

Education is free and compulsory for the first nine years, although private schools, which draw their students from the better-off strata of the population, are expanding. In general, the attitude toward western-style schooling is ambivalentboth because it is viewed as a colonial legacy and also because it is often disconnected from the rural populations' complex realities. In addition, scarce opportunities for employment in the formal sector of the economy, especially in rural areas, may demotivate families and pupils from investing resources and time in formal schooling.

Traditionally, children learned about their future economic responsibilities by observing and helping older same-sex kin, but in the cities boys increasingly have fewer responsibilities, while girls are still expected to help at home.

Higher Education. Since independence the government has devoted more resources to secondary education than to mass primary schooling. Secondary schools are concentrated in urban areas, Bamako in particular. Until very recently the most important objective for the Malian school was the production of administrative cadres, and until 1983 the state guaranteed employment for students with a secondary-school or university diploma. At that time, however, the state had to confront the fact that it could no longer assume this responsibility, and since then, enrollment in state schools has dropped. The numerous student strikes that have occurred in the late twentieth century were an expression of students' anxiety about their uncertain professional future as well as dissatisfaction with the form and quality of education. Statistics from the 1990s suggest a literacy rate of about 38 percent. Students' success rate is also extremely low. In the 1980s only 50 percent of the students who began primary education were likely to complete six years of schooling and go on to secondary education. Female students are underrepresented at all levels of education, and their presence decreases from one educational level to the next; for instance, in 1998 there were 2,737 female students out of a total of 13,824 at the university level.


Malians are very proud of their traditions of hospitality toward local and international visitors, and indeed, hospitality has been raised to the level of a national value. Greetings and salutations for special occasions (births, marriages, deaths, etc.) are the subject of much social regulation. They symbolize an individual's education and his or her concern and respect for others, with younger people typically expected to initiate the greeting as a sign of respect for their elders. Foreign travelers who learn at least a few greetings in Bamana or other local languages have their efforts warmly acknowledged by the local people. The majority of the Malian population is Muslim, and foreign travelers, both men and women, are encouraged to be sensitive to the local dress code (e.g. the wearing of shorts is discouraged for both women and men). Gift-giving and sharing of resources are some of the axioms upon which Malian society is based. Consequently, one's integration in the Malian society requires the learning of the complex grammar of gift-giving. A different set of rules govern people's behavior in market places, where initial prices are typically inflated and bartering is an expected ritual.


Religious Beliefs. An estimated 80 percent of the Malian population is Muslim, with the others practicing Christianity (1 percent) or following traditional religious practices (19 percent). Islam has been present in this area since the eighth century, but until the coming of the French its practice was mostly restricted to merchants, clerics, and the rulers and the elites of the great West African empires that blossomed in this area. Under French colonization Islam's influence greatly expanded in the region. For instance, during the first phases of French colonization, colonial administrators relied upon Islamic representatives to extend their control over the local populations. The French also aided in the establishment of new Islamic tribunals in the region. Finally, transformations of the local economy and people's increased mobility contributed to the spreading of Islam.

Today Mali is a secular state, but religion and in particular national Islamic religious organizations play an important role in the life of the country. Moussa Traoré, Mali's second president, increasingly relied on the display of Islamic devotion and intervened in Islamic affairs to further legitimize his power. President Alpha Oumar Konaré has alternated public displays of faith and expressions of Islamic piety with cautions about religious extremism.

Rituals and Holy Places. There are a number of celebrations that are performed on the occasion of major Islamic events, such as the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed and of his baptism. Ramadan (in Bamana, sunkalo, literally "the fasting month") is concluded by a religious feast called in Bamana selijinin, or "small feast." Forty days after this feast is the time of seliba (tabaski), or "big feast," in commemoration of Abraham's sacrifice. This is a time when most families sacrifice a sheep, people wear their best outfits, and everyone busily exchanges gifts of meat and prepared foods as a sign of solidarity. All these Islamic holidays as well as Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas are officially recognized.

Medicine and Health Care

Western health care is limited, with one doctor per 18,376 persons. Medical facilities are insufficient, under equipped, and mostly concentrated in urban areas, especially Bamako. In most cases patients need to provide nearly all supplies necessary for their treatment, including medicines, disposable medical equipment, and food. Given both the under funding of the health sector and some corruption among underpaid and under trained health-care personnel, patients must rely on their social network for financial help and to ensure that they receive proper care. This process obviously delays medical treatment and discriminates against the poor. Statistics show that one out of five children in rural areas will die before the age of five; the child mortality rate decreases significantly in urban areas and in Bamako in particular. Average life expectancy increased slightly in the late twentieth century, reaching forty-nine years (however, the increasing spread of AIDS in this region will have a dramatic impact on this figure). Most people utilize both Western and traditional systems of medicine.

An emerging sector of research is the so-called ethnopharmacopeia, which involves the production on a larger scale of traditional medicines of proven efficacy. These medicines are less expensive and stem from medical knowledge already in the hands of the majority of Malians. This sector would offer the possibility of local industrial expansion if training and funding were provided to cooperatives of traditional healers and local researchers.

Secular Celebrations

A major public holiday in Mali, and the occasion of parades, political speeches, and other celebrations, is 22 September, Independence Day. Other public holidays include the commemoration of the overthrow of Moussa Traoré (25 March), Armed Forces Day (20 January), Labor Day (1 May), and Africa Day (25 May).

In addition to the celebrations of the public calendar there are a number of well-known regional festivities, such as the sogobo of the Ségou region, the reroofing of the sacred hut in Kangaba, and the sigui, a Dogon festival celebrated every sixty years. These celebrations, which attract tourists, often become the occasion of visits by politicians and are thus often reappropriated into a nationalistic rhetoric.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. Malian oral literature is extremely rich, varied (proverbs, stories, epic poetry), and well researched. The Malian epic tradition (the story of Sunjata) is the most relevant to a discussion of national culture. Since independence, the jeliw (griots), masters of words and the holders of the epic tradition, have been essential in the process of nation building, becoming heavily involved in the process of rewriting Mali's history and of conveying political messages to the general population. Some Malian scholars are extremely critical of these recent developments and see the griots' art as having lost its critical wit as it moved into the service of politics and the powerful. But the issue is open to debate, as other studies show the resilience of some of the jeliw's prerogatives of social critique.

In very schematic terms, two underlying trends can be distinguished in Mali's literary tradition. The first is represented by a traditionalist literature oriented toward the reconstruction of the precolonial past and the retrieval of precolonial cultural traditions; the second is involved in the critical analysis of Mali's contemporary social problems, including the long-term consequences of colonization. Representative of the first current are the writings of Amadou Hampaté Bâ and some of the writings of Massa Makan Diabaté. The second perspective is represented by writers such as Yambo Ouologuem (winner of the Renaudot Prize in 1969), Pascal Baba F. Couloubaly, Seydou Badian Kouyaté, Moussa Konaté, Ibrahima Ly, and Ismaila Samba Traoré, just to mention a few. Few well-known Malian writers are women; noteworthy is the political autobiography of Aoua Kéita, Femme d'Afrique: la Vie d'Aoua Kéita Racontée par elle-même, an influential political representative. There is also an emerging literature in national languages, predominantly in Bamana.

Graphic Arts. Malian pottery, sculpture, and textile traditionsin particular bogolanfini, hand-woven cotton bands decorated with dyes and mud and sewn together to make clothsare extremely diverse and have been the subject of numerous studies. A visit to the Musée national du Mali, in Bamako, provides visitors with an appreciation of the richness of Malian artistic traditions.

Performance Arts. In terms of the quality and success of Malian music, it suffices to mention stars of international reputation such as Salif Keita, Ali Farka Touré, Oumou Sangare, and Ami Koita. Extremely activeand with significant implication for developmentis the (predominantly comic) theater tradition in Mali known as koteba. Finally, Malians artists have also distinguished themselves as film directors, including Souleymane Cissé, Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Adama Drabo, and Kadiatou Konaté.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The institution in charge of coordinating research in Mali is the Centre national de la recherche scientifique et technologique. It is not directly involved in research activities but coordinates other existing research institutes (such as the Institut des sciences humaines and the Institut national de recherche en santé publique), distributes resources, and sees to the publication of research results. Most research projects in Mali are development-oriented and are concentrated in the areas of agriculture and health. In addition, in the absence of sufficient state funding, Malian researchers are heavily dependent on external aid for training, research, and publication. Assuming it is properly funded, the creation of the Université du Mali, constituted in 1993, has the potential to open up important opportunities for the development of local research.


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The people of Mali are called Malians. The main ethnic groups are the Bambara (about 3035 percent), mostly farmers occupying central Mali; and the Fulani (just over 10 percent) who are of mixed origin. To learn more about the Fulani see the chapter on Guinea in Volume 4.

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MaliAli, alley, Allie, Ally, bally, dally, dilly-dally, farfalle, galley, Halley, mallee, Mexicali, pally, Raleigh, rally, reveille, sally, tally, valley •Chablis • brambly •badly, Bradley, Hadlee, madly, sadly •scraggly •dangly, gangly •crackly • Shankly • Bramley •Manley, manly, Osmanli, Stanley •slatternly •Langley, tangly •amply • Ashley •Attlee, fatly, patly •aptly • shilly-shally •Bali, barley, Cali, Carly, Charlie, Dali, Diwali, finale, gnarly, Gurkhali, Kali, Kigali, Mali, Marley, marly, Pali, parley, snarly, Somali, Svengali, tamale •Barclay, Berkeley, clerkly, sparkly •Darnley • ghastly • Hartley • Barnsley •blackguardly

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