General background: The Sudanese Republic and Senegal
became independent of France in 1960 as the Mali Federation.
When Senegal withdrew after only a few months, the
Sudanese Republic was renamed Mali. Rule by dictatorship
was brought to a close in 1991 with a transitional
government, and in 1992 when Mali's first democratic
presidential election was held. Since his reelection
in 1997, President KONARE continued to push through
political and economic reforms and to fight corruption.
In 1999 he indicated he would not run for a third
term, in keeping with the Malian constitution's two-term
Area comparative: Slightly less than twice
the size of Texas.
Climate: Subtropical to arid; hot and dry February
to June; rainy, humid, and mild June to November;
cool and dry November to February.
Terrain: Mostly flat to rolling northern plains
covered by sand; savanna in south, rugged hills in
Population: 11,340,480 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Mande 50% (Bambara, Malinke,
Soninke), Peul 17%, Voltaic 12%, Songhai 6%, Tuareg
and Moor 10%, other 5%
Religions: Muslim 90%, indigenous beliefs
9%, Christian 1%
Language: French (official), Bambara 80%,
numerous African languages
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on French civil law system
and customary law; judicial review of legislative
acts in Constitutional Court (which was formally established
on 9 March 1994); has not accepted compulsory ICJ
Economic overview: Mali is among the poorest
countries in the world, with 65% of its land area
desert or semi-desert. Economic activity is largely
confined to the riverine area irrigated by the Niger.
About 10% of the population is nomadic and some 70%
of the labour force is engaged in farming and fishing.
Industrial activity is concentrated on processing
farm commodities. Mali is heavily dependent on foreign
aid and vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices
for cotton, its main export. In 1997, the government
continued its successful implementation of an IMF-recommended
structural adjustment program that is helping the
economy grow, diversify, and attract foreign investment.
Mali's adherence to economic reform and the 50% devaluation
of the African franc in January 1994 have pushed up
economic growth to a sturdy 5% average in 1996-2000.
In 2001, GDP decreased by 1.2% mainly due to a 50%
drop in cotton production in 2000-01.
Communication/Telephone system: Domestic system
unreliable but improving; provides only minimal service.
Places of interest: Beautiful artwork, weird
castellated mosques made entirely of mud, pink sandstone
villages carved into cliff faces, and undulating desert
Travel tips: Travelers are advised to avoid
the Mauritanian border regions and the remote north
and east of the country, as they are the domain of