Western Africa

Capital City:

total: 1,240,192 sq km
land: 1,220,190 sq km
water: 20,002 sq km

Land boundaries:
Total: 7,908 km

border countries (7):
Algeria 1,359 km,
Burkina Faso 1,325 km,
Cote d’Ivoire 599 km,
Guinea 1,062 km,
Mauritania 2,236 km,
Niger 838 km,
Senegal 489 km
Coastline: 0 km
Total: 7,908 km




subtropical to arid;
hot and dry (February to June);
rainy, humid, and mild (June to November);
cool and dry (November to February)

mostly flat to rolling northern plains covered by sand;
savanna in south, rugged hills in northeast

mean elevation: 343 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Senegal River 23 m
highest point: Hombori Tondo 1,155 m

Natural resources:
gold, phosphates, kaolin, salt, limestone, uranium, gypsum, granite, hydropower

Land use:
agricultural land: 34.1%
arable land 5.6%; permanent crops 0.1%; permanent pasture 28.4%
forest: 10.2%
other: 55.7% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:
3,780 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
the overwhelming majority of the population lives in the southern half of the country, with greater density along the border with Burkina Faso.

Natural hazards:
hot, dust-laden harmattan haze common during dry seasons;
recurring droughts; occasional Niger River flooding


People and Society

In 2016, Mali’s population was an estimated 18 million. The population is predominantly rural, and 5–10 percent of Malians are nomadic. More than 90 percent of the population lives in the southern part of the country, especially in Bamako, which has over 1 million residents. Mali’s total population is expected to double by 2035; its capital Bamako is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa. A young age structure, a declining mortality rate, and a sustained high total fertility rate of 6 children per woman – the third highest in the world – ensure continued rapid population growth for the foreseeable future. Significant outmigration only marginally tempers this growth. Slowing Mali’s population growth by lowering its birth rate will be essential for poverty reduction, improving food security, and developing human capital and the economy.

Mali has a long history of seasonal migration and emigration driven by poverty, conflict, demographic pressure, unemployment, food insecurity, and droughts. Many Malians from rural areas migrate during the dry period to nearby villages and towns to do odd jobs or to adjoining countries to work in agriculture or mining. Pastoralists and nomads move seasonally to southern Mali or nearby coastal states. Others migrate long term to Mali’s urban areas, Cote d’Ivoire, other neighboring countries, and in smaller numbers to France, Mali’s former colonial ruler. Since the early 1990s, Mali’s role has grown as a transit country for regional migration flows and illegal migration to Europe. Human smugglers and traffickers exploit the same regional routes used for moving contraband drugs, arms, and cigarettes.

Between early 2012 and 2013, renewed fighting in northern Mali between government forces and Tuareg secessionists and their Islamist allies, a French-led international military intervention, as well as chronic food shortages, caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Malians. Most of those displaced domestically sought shelter in urban areas of southern Mali, except for pastoralist and nomadic groups, who abandoned their traditional routes, gave away or sold their livestock, and dispersed into the deserts of northern Mali or crossed into neighboring countries. Almost all Malians who took refuge abroad (mostly Tuareg and Maure pastoralists) stayed in the region, largely in Mauritania, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

17,885,245 (July 2017 est.)


Ethnic groups:
Bambara 34.1%, Fulani (Peul) 14.7%, Sarakole 10.8%, Senufo 10.5%, Dogon 8.9%, Malinke 8.7%, Bobo 2.9%, Songhai 1.6%, Tuareg 0.9%, other Malian 6.1%, from member of Economic Community of West African States 0.3%, other 0.4% (2012-13 est.)

French (official), Bambara 46.3%, Peul/Foulfoulbe 9.4%, Dogon 7.2%, Maraka/Soninke 6.4%, Malinke 5.6%, Sonrhai/Djerma 5.6%, Minianka 4.3%, Tamacheq 3.5%, Senoufo 2.6%, Bobo 2.1%, unspecified 0.7%, other 6.3%

Muslim 94.8%, Christian 2.4%, Animist 2%, none 0.5%, unspecified 0.3% (2009 est.)

Mali’s population encompasses a number of sub-Saharan ethnic groups, most of which have historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious commonalities. The Bambara are by far the largest single ethnic group. Collectively, the Bambara (36.5 percent in the mid-1990s), Soninké (8.8 percent) and Malinké (6.6 percent), all part of the Mande language group, constitute more than 50 percent of Mali’s population. Other significant groups are the Fulani, or Peul (13.9 percent), Sénoufo (9 percent), Dogon (8 percent), Songhai (7.2 percent), Diola (2.9 percent), and Bobo and Oulé (2.4 percent). In addition, Mali has significant numbers of Tuareg (1.7 percent) and Moors, or Maur (1.2 percent), desert nomads related to the North African Berbers. Mali historically has enjoyed reasonably good inter-ethnic relations, based on a long tradition of coexistence. Nevertheless, some hereditary servitude or bondage relationships persist, according to the U.S. Department of State’s annual human rights report for 2003, as do ethnic tensions between the settled Songhai and the nomadic Tuareg in the north.

In the far north, there is a division between Berber-descendent Tuareg nomad populations and the darker-skinned Bella or Tamasheq people, due to the historical spread of slavery in the region. An estimated 800,000 people in Mali are descended from slaves. Slavery in Mali has persisted for centuries.The Arabic population kept slaves well into the 20th century, until slavery was suppressed by French authorities around the mid-20th century. There still persist certain hereditary servitude relationships, and according to some estimates, even today approximately 200,000 Malians are still enslaved

Mali’s official language is French, but numerous (40 or more) African languages also are widely used by the various ethnic groups. About 80 percent of Mali’s population can communicate in Bambara, which is the country’s principal lingua franca and marketplace language. Islam was introduced to West Africa in the 11th century and remains the predominant religion in much of the region. An estimated 90 percent of Malians are Muslim (mostly Sunni, approximately 5 percent are Christian (about two-thirds Roman Catholic and one-third Protestant) and the remaining 5 percent adhere to indigenous or traditional animist beliefs. Atheism and agnosticism are believed to be rare among Malians, most of whom practice their religion on a daily basis

ML_popgraph 2016


Mali has one of the highest adult illiteracy rate in the world with 52% of the male and 66.8% of the female being illiterate. Education is free and compulsory for all children between 7 and 16 years old. Only 71% of the boys and 51% enrolled high school as families were unable to afford uniform, books or school supplies. The lack of school in rural areas and qualified teachers is a major problem of Mali’s educational system. In 2003 only 36% of the students completed primary school, most of them dropping out around 12 years old. The quality of education is poor offering few incentive for parents to send their kids to school. In 2010, the government estimates that 35% of the children graduating from primary school will not meet the secondary school requirements. Public school are free but private secondary school and vocationally schooling can go up to 500$ a year, which the average year salary in Mali. It is the basis for increasing inequalities between rich and poor.

What needs to be done in Mali is reform the educational system to develop a relevant publicly supported curriculum. It is imperative to increase the quality of education by forming more teachers and revising the programs. Decentralizing education seems to be the best approach to reach the diverse communities and tackle regional inequalities. To address the financial management and the monitoring of the teaching, a community based approach has proven to be very efficient as in Madagascar. The involvement of the civil society tend to bring a higher enrollment of children and limit corruption. Ultimately school should become compulsory for all children to give equal chances to all in life.

Education is provided free of charge and legislated as compulsory between ages 7 and 16, of which the first 6 years are primary schooling. Despite improved facilities many poorer children still do not attend because of high ancillary education costs. Students wishing to continue with their schooling must first pass the diplôme d’étude fondamentale on finishing primary school. Of those who succeeded in 2008, almost 21% were unable to obtain admission to middle school. Those who did, followed a standard academic curriculum for the next 3 years.

Upper secondary schools are clustered in urban areas, and the best of these are privately administered. This sad reality of life ensures that the path to progress is largely obscured for those young people whose fathers are not either wealthy, or otherwise influential. The Mali government is addressing the secondary education bottleneck by expanding vocational training and introducing a national apprenticeship system. Practical skills like literacy and basic agricultural knowledge are also being provided. The country remains one of the poorest in the world, and of necessity, progress is slower than it might have otherwise been.

Mali Education One of the world’s most ancient education institutions is Sankore Masjid which still operates in Timbuktu as a seat of Islamic learning. Its modern counterpart, the University of Bamako illustrated here, was founded in 1996 and is named after the capital city where it stands. Its 5 faculties include science & technology, medical, humanities arts & science, law & public service, and economy & management. It also hosts an institute of management, and an institute of training and applied research. The medium of education is French.

Higher education needs to be thought to ensure integration of the student into the economical context of Mali. Vocational training offer different tracks to address the diversity of students. Exchange and partnership with other university in Africa and worldwide can increase the quality of education and bring new approach to development. It is the occasion to design innovative solution using local resources with a better understanding of the country problems and culture.



Despite deteriorating security, economic performance is strong, with robust growth. Robust performance in the agriculture and services sectors led to a projected growth rate of 5.8% in 2016 (down from 6.0% in 2015) despite volatile security conditions. Primary sector growth fell from 7.6% to 4.8% between 2016 and 2017, due to decreased rainfall, while tertiary sector growth has been robust (around 6% since 2014) following renewed dynamism in the ICT sector. On the demand side, investment has grown sharply by 8%, partly as a result of the increase in private investments for the first time since 2012, and partly as a result of the Government’s efforts to reduce infrastructure gaps.

Inflation jumped from -1.8%, in 2016 to 1.6% in 2017, due to higher food prices and increased international oil prices. Notwithstanding a slight deterioration in the terms of trade, (due to increased oil prices and lower gold prices) the current external deficit (grants included) fell to 6.2% of GDP in 2017 compared to 7.2% in 2016, in line with fiscal consolidation.

Despite pressure on public expenditure, the authorities have managed to contain the budget deficit, which narrowed from 3.9% of GDP in 2016 to 2.9% in 2017, due to the rationalization of current expenditure and significant improvement in domestic revenue. Mali is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Monetary policy is managed by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), which keeps a peg between the CFA Franc and the Euro, a policy supported by the French Treasury.

Growth is projected to stay robust at about 5% over the medium term. Agricultural growth is underpinned by favorable weather and positive effects from input subsidy reform. Services growth will continue in telecoms, transport, and trade.

On the demand side, investments may increase through the entry into force of the PPP law and the Sustainable Development Fund for regional development projects, especially in Mali’s north. Sustained efforts on fiscal consolidation—through the rationalization of current expenditure and improved tax revenue—would lower the fiscal balance from 3.3% of GDP in 2018 to 3.0% in 2019. However, debt sustainability is vulnerable to a tightening of financial conditions, such as lower remittances, lower foreign direct investment, or lower commodity prices.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$40.98 billion (2017 est.)
$38.91 billion (2016 est.)
$36.78 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars

Real GDP:
$15 billion (2017 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:
5.3% (2017 est.)
5.8% (2016 est.)
6% (2015 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$2,700 (2017 est.)
$2,600 (2016 est.)
$2,500 (2015 est.)

Gross national saving:
13% of GDP (2017 est.)
10.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
12.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 40.9%
industry: 18.9%
services: 40.2% (2017 est.)

Agriculture – products:
cotton, millet, rice, corn, vegetables, peanuts; cattle, sheep, goats

food processing; construction; phosphate and gold mining
Population below poverty line:
36.1% (2005 est.)

revenues: $3.068 billion
expenditures: $3.584 billion (2017 est.)



With 80 percent of its population engaged in agricultural activities, the sector is the cornerstone of Mali’s economy and holds great potential for driving economic growth. At the same time, over 29 percent of the population is malnourished. Low productivity, post-harvest crop losses, under-developed markets, and vulnerability to climate change are some of the major challenges which need to be addressed for Mali to become food secure and benefit from more broad-based economic growth. While only seven percent of 43.7 million arable hectares of land is currently cultivated and 14 percent of 2.2 million potential irrigable hectares are currently irrigated, the potential for agriculture growth and expansion in Mali is high.

Agricultural activities represent around 33% of GDP and employ nearly 80% of Malians. Mali has important and underexploited agricultural potentialities, especially in the south and center of the country. A state owned enterprise, l’Office du Niger, manages around 127,000 ha of organized agricultural lands primarily through governing land transactions and water management. The state encourages foreign and national private investors to undertake agricultural activities in the Office du Niger’s lands. In addition to subsidies allocated to producers of cotton, the Malian government dedicates 15% of its budget to the agricultural sector. Despite investment opportunities, Malian agriculture depends strongly on erratic rainfalls and is vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices. Climate change is adding greater stress on natural resource management and has caused decreased production yields.

Mali’s agricultural production is largely dominated by cotton and cereals (rice, millet, sorghum, and wheat). Many agricultural sub-sectors, such as shea butter, mangos, peanuts, cashews, and biofuels remain largely underexploited and provide a unique opportunity for investors. Significant opportunities also exist in modernizing Mali’s poultry and livestock production and transformation sectors.

There are opportunities in the agricultural machinery supply areas, fertilizers, agribusiness, farming, irrigation tools, livestock, poultry, import/export, and animal feed. The Malian government decided to increase the state support toagricultural sector by allocating at least 15% of the state’s budget each year. The government’s aim to modernize and equip the agricultural sector may provide business opportunities.

Electricity access:

population without electricity: 11,400,000
electrification – total population: 26%
electrification – urban areas: 53%
electrification – rural areas: 9% (2013)

Electricity – production:
2.175 billion kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – consumption:
2.023 billion kWh (2015 est.)

Electricity – exports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – imports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)

Electricity – installed generating capacity:
590,000 kW (2015 est.)

Electricity – from fossil fuels:
67.8% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 200,812
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (July 2016 est.)

Telephones – mobile cellular:
total subscriptions: 200,812
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (July 2016 est.)

Internet country code:

Internet users:
total: 1,940,978
percent of population: 11.1% (July 2016 est.)


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.

Gold production dominates Mali’s natural resource sector, with Mali being the third largest gold exporter in Africa. Gold is by far Mali’s most important export, comprising nearly 70% of total exports in 2016. The price of gold fluctuates with the world market price. The sector has experienced some difficulties as unproductive mines have been closed, and others face imminent closure. However, three new mines are expected to open this year with a capacity of 20 tons a year. Two smaller mines opened in 2015. Gold panning contributes approximately 10% of gold exports. Over two million people, representing more than 10% of the population, depend on the mining sector for income.

Loulo Plant - RIR_2897

Banking and Finance

In 1959, the Central Bank of the West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest-BCEAO) 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 included the Bank of Africa, Banque Commerciale de Sahel, Banque Malienne de Crédit et du Depots, and the Financial Bank Mali.

Hit by a drought in 2011 that contributed to a sharp decline in agriculture production, terrorist attacks, and a military coup, Mali’s economy is traversing a very difficult period. The economy is in recession and real GDP growth projections are negative. The economy has potential to grow as agricultural production increases and project support resumes but political and security risks weigh on the recovery. Mali’s financial sector is shallow, with low levels of intermediation and limited access to finance. Banks dominate the financial sector: by the end of 2012, there were 13 banks, of which eleven were foreign owed, holding over 80 percent of the sector’s assets.

The banking sector is relatively concentrated, with five banks accounting for two-thirds of assets and over 70 percent of deposits. While the public sector’s share in banks’ capital has declined since 2008, the government continues to play a significant role in the sector. Of the 5 domestic banks, the government has minority holdings in four, and is a major shareholder in the housing bank BHM and the development bank BMS. As of January 2011, the government and public entities held about 30 percent of total deposits of the banking sector, and accounted for 10 percent of total loans granted by banks. Malian banks comply with WAEMU directives on increasing the minimum capital requirement for banks and other financial institutions, which stood at XOF 10 billion on December 2012.


Tourism in Mali is not well developed. Due to issues with infrastructure, tourism had been slow to grow but had seen improvements prior to the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations. However, due to the Northern Mali conflict and threats from terrorism, all major tour operators have withdrawn services which saw a decrease in tourists from 200,000 in 2011 to 10,000 the following year. The nation has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Timbuktu.

Development of the tourist industry was hindered by the country’s inadequate transport infrastructure and a shortage of hotels for visitors. Mali hosted the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament in 2002. In preparation for this event, the government implemented a social development programme called “Mali 2002”. The tourist industry benefited from this programme. However, since then, ongoing conflicts have caused tourism to dwindle due to the ongoing risks of attacks against foreign nationals.

In the early 2000s, around 90,000 tourists visited Mali each year. This had increased to 200,000 by 2011, but following attacks against tourists and the withdrawal by tour operators, this decreased to 10,000 in the following year.

Mali has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the well known city of Timbuktu. This has been on the UNESCO danger list since 2012, which the organisation describes as “an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries, its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, recall Timbuktu’s golden age. Although continuously restored, these monuments are today under threat from desertification.”

The Bandiagara Escarpment is an escarpment in the Dogon country of Mali. The sandstone cliff rises about 500 meters above the lower sandy flats to the south. It has a length of approximately 150 kilometers. The area of the escarpment is inhabited today by the Dogon people. Before the Dogon, the escarpment was inhabited by the Tellem and Toloy peoples. Many structures remain from the Tellem. The Bandiagara Escarpment was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1989.

Djenné (also Djénné, Jenné and Jenne) is a town and an urban commune in the Inland Niger Delta region of central Mali. The town is the administrative centre of the Djenné Cercle, one of the eight subdivisions of the Mopti Region. The commune includes ten of the surrounding villages and in 2009 had a population of 32,944.
The Tomb of Askia, in Gao, Mali, is believed to be the burial place of Askia Mohammad I, one of the Songhai Empire’s most prolific emperors. It was built at the end of the fifteenth century and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some Report shows some of site has been destroied by a terorist group called Dash.


  • Pre-history

    The history of West Africa began with the first human settlements around 4,000 BCE. It has been commonly divided into its prehistory, the Iron Age in Africa, the major polities flourishing, the colonial period, and finally the post-independence era, in which the current nations were formed. West Africa is west of an imagined north-south axis lying close to 10° east longitude, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Sahara Desert. Colonial boundaries are reflected in the modern boundaries between contemporary West African states, cutting across ethnic and cultural lines, often dividing single ethnic groups between two or more states.

    Early human settlers arrived in West Africa around 12,000 BCE. In the fifth millennium, as the ancestors of modern West Africans began entering the area, the development of sedentary farming began to take place in West Africa. The Iron industry, in both smelting and forging for tools and weapons, appeared in Sub-Saharan Africa by 1200 BCE, and by 400 BCE, contact had been made with the Mediterranean civilisations, and a regular trade included exporting gold, cotton, metal, and leather in exchange for copper, horses, salt, textiles, and beads. Culture developed further with the Nok culture (1000 BCE to 200 or 300 BCE), Serer people’s ancient history, and construction of the Senegambian stone circles (between the third century B.C. and the sixteenth century C.E.).

    This civilization was located in the Niger River Valley in the country of Mali and is considered to be among the oldest urbanized centers and the best known archaeology site in sub-Saharan Africa. This archaeological site is located about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away from the modern town, and is believed to have been involved in long distance trade and possibly the domestication of African rice. The site is believed to exceed 33 hectares (82 acres); however this is yet to be confirmed with extensive survey work.

    With the help of archaeological excavations mainly by Susan and Roderick McIntosh, the site is known to have been occupied from 250 B.C. to 900 A.D. The city is believed to have been abandoned and moved where the current city is located due to the spread of Islam and the building of the Great Mosque of Djenné. Previously, it was assumed that advanced trade networks and complex societies did not exist in the region until the arrival of traders from Southwest Asia. However, sites such as Djenné-Djenno disprove this, as these traditions in West Africa flourished long before.

    The Sahelian kingdoms were a series of kingdoms or empires that were built on the sahel, the area of grasslands south of the Sahara. They controlled the trade routes across the desert, and were also quite decentralized, with member cities having a great deal of autonomy. The Ghana Empire may have been established as early as the 7th century CE. It was succeeded by the Sosso in 1230, the Mali Empire in the 13th century CE, and later by the Songhai and Sokoto Caliphate. There were also a number of forest empires and states in this time period.

  • The Ghana Empire

    The Ghana Empire (c. 700 until c. 1240), properly known as Awkar (Ghana or Ga’na being the title of its ruler), was located in the area of present-day southeastern Mauritania and western Mali. Complex societies based on trans-Saharan trade with salt and gold had existed in the region since ancient times, but the introduction of the camel to the western Sahara in the 3rd century A.D. opened the way to great changes in the area that became the Ghana Empire. By the time of the Muslim conquest of North Africa in the 7th century the camel had changed the ancient, more irregular trade routes into a trade network running from Morocco to the Niger river. The Ghana Empire grew rich from this increased trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt, allowing for larger urban centres to develop. The traffic furthermore encouraged territorial expansion to gain control over the different trade-routes.

    The Ghana Empire grew wealthy by taxing the trans-Saharan trade that linked Tiaret and Sijilmasa to Aoudaghost. Ghana controlled access to the goldfields of Bambouk, southeast of Koumbi Saleh. A percentage of salt and gold going through its territory was taken. The empire was not involved in production. In the 10th century, however, Islam was steadily growing in the region, and due to various influences, including internal dynastic struggles coupled with competing foreign interests (namely Almoravid intervention). By the 11th century, Ghana was in decline. It was once thought that the sacking of Koumbi Saleh by Berbers under the Almoravid dynasty in 1076 might have been the cause. One important reason is the transfer of the gold trade east to the Niger River and the Taghaza Trail, and Ghana’s consequent economic decline. Another reason cited is political instability through rivalry among the different hereditary polities. The empire came to an end in 1230, when Takrur in northern Senegal took over the capital

    As the empire declined it finally became a vassal of the rising Mali Empire at some point in the 13th century. When the Gold Coast in 1957 became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to regain its independence from colonial rule, it renamed itself in honor of the long-gone empire. Ghana was first mentioned by Arab geographer Al-Farazi in the late 8th century. After 800, the empire expanded rapidly, coming to dominate the entire western Sudan; at its height, the empire could field an army of 200,000 soldiers.

    Ghana was inhabited by urban dwellers and rural farmers. The urban dwellers were the administrators of the empire, who were Muslims, and the Ghana (king), who practised traditional religion. Two towns existed, one where the Muslim administrators and Berber-Arabs lived, which was connected by a stone-paved road to the king’s residence. The rural dwellers lived in villages, which joined together into broader polities that pledged loyalty to the Ghana. The Ghana was viewed as divine, and his physical well-being reflected on the whole society. Ghana converted to Islam around 1050, after conquering Aoudaghost.

  • The Songhai Empire

    The Songhai Empire (also transliterated as Songhay) was a state that dominated the western Sahel in the 15th and 16th century. At its peak, it was one of the largest states in African history. The state is known by its historiographical name, derived from its leading ethnic group and ruling elite, the Songhai. Sonni Ali established Gao as the capital of the empire, although a Songhai state had existed in and around Gao since the 11th century. Other important cities in the empire were Timbuktu and Djenné, conquered in 1468 and 1475 respectively, where urban-centered trade flourished. Initially, the empire was ruled by the Sonni dynasty (c. 1464–1493), but it was later replaced by the Askiya dynasty (1493–1591).

    During the second half of the 13th century, Gao and the surrounding region had grown into an important trading center and attracted the interest of the expanding Mali Empire. Mali conquered Gao towards the end of the 13th century. Gao would remain under Malian hegemony until the late 14th century. As the Mali Empire started to disintegrate, the Songhai reasserted control of Gao. Songhai rulers subsequently took advantage of the weakened Mali Empire to expand Songhai rule.
    Under the rule of Sonni Ali, the Songhai surpassed the Malian Empire in area, wealth, and power, absorbing vast areas of the Mali Empire and reached its greatest extent. His son and successor, Sonni Bāru (1492–1493), was a less successful ruler of the empire, and as such was overthrown by Muhammad Ture (1493–1528; called Askia), one of his father’s generals, who instituted political and economic reforms throughout the empire.

    A series of plots and coups by Askia’s successors forced the empire into a period of decline and instability. Askia’s relatives attempted to govern the empire, but political chaos and several civil wars within the empire ensured the empire’s continued decline, particularly during the brutal rule of Askia Ishaq I (1539–1549). The empire experienced a period of stability and a string of military successes during the reign of Askia Daoud (1549–1582/1583). Ahmad al-Mansur, the Moroccan sultan at the time, demanded tax revenues from the empire’s salt mines.

    Askia Daoud responded by sending a large quantity of gold as gift in an attempt to appease the sultan. Askia Ishaq II (1588–1591) ascended to power in a long dynastic struggle following the death of Askia Daoud. He would be the last ruler of the empire. In 1590, al-Mansur took advantage of the recent civil strife in the empire and sent an army under the command of Judar Pasha to conquer the Songhai and to gain control of the Trans-Saharan trade routes. After the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Tondibi (1591), the Songhai Empire collapsed. The Dendi Kingdom succeeded the empire as the continuation of Songhai culture and society

  • The Mali Empire

    The Mali Empire (Manding: Nyeni or Niani; also historically referred to as the Manden Kurufaba, sometimes shortened to Manden) was an empire in West Africa from c. 1230 to 1670. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Musa Keita. The Manding languages were spoken in the empire. It was the largest empire in West Africa and profoundly influenced the culture of West Africa through the spread of its language, laws and customs. Much of the recorded information about the Mali Empire comes from 14th century North African Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, 14th century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta and 16th century Moroccan traveller Leo Africanus. The other major source of information is Mandinka oral tradition, through storytellers known as griots.

    The empire began as a small Mandinka kingdom at the upper reaches of the Niger River, centred around the town of Niani (the empire’s namesake in Manding). During the 11th and 12th centuries, it began to develop as an empire following the decline of the Ghana Empire to the north. During this period, trade routes shifted southward to the savanna, stimulating the growth of states. The early history of the Mali Empire (before the 13th century) is unclear, as there are conflicting and imprecise accounts by both Arab chroniclers and oral traditionalists. Sundiata Keita (c. 1214–c. 1255) is the first ruler about whom there is accurate written information (from Ibn Khaldun). Sundiata Keita was a warrior-prince of the Keita dynasty who was called upon to free the Mali people from the rule of the king of the Sosso Empire, Soumaoro Kanté. The conquest of Sosso in c. 1235 gave the Mali Empire access to the trans-Saharan trade routes. Following the death of Sundiata Keita in c. 1255, the kings of Mali were referred to by the title mansa.

    Sundiata’s nephew Mansa Musa made a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca during the reign of the Mamluk Sultan Baibars (r. 1260–1277). Following a series of usurpations of the throne of Mali, in c. 1285 Sakoura, a former royal court slave, became emperor and was one of its most powerful rulers, greatly expanding the territories of Mali. Following this period, a period of weak emperors, conflicts and disunity began in Mali. Ibn Khaldun died in 1406, and following his death there was no continuous record of events in the Mali Empire.

    It is known from the Tarikh al-Sudan that Mali was still a sizeable state in the 15th century. In 1542, the Songhay invaded the capital city of Niani but were unsuccessful in conquering the empire. During the 17th century, the Mali empire faced incursions from the Bamana Empire. After unsuccessful attempts by Mansa Mama Maghan to conquer Bamana, in 1670 Bamana sacked and burned Niani, and the Mali Empire rapidly disintegrated and ceased to exist, being replaced by independent chiefdoms. The Keitas retreated to the town of Kangaba, where they became provincial chiefs.

  • Colonial France 

    Most of the 19th century was characterized by French colonial expansion from Senegal in the west and by Islamic jihads (religious wars) that led to the establishment of theocratic states. Shehu Ahmadu Lobbo (Cheikou Amadou), a Fulani Muslim cleric, successfully overturned the ruling Fulani dynasty in Macina in 1810 and established a theocratic state with its capital at Hamdallahi. In the west, political events were dominated by al-Ḥājj ʿUmar Tal, a Tukulor Muslim cleric who led a series of jihads. ʿUmar conquered the Bambara kingdom of Ségou in 1861 and the Fulani empire of Macina in 1864. After ʿUmar was killed in a skirmish with the Fulani in 1864, his vast domains were divided among his sons and commanders. His eldest son, Amadou Tal, who had been installed at Ségou, unsuccessfully attempted to exert control over the whole Tukulor empire in a series of civil wars. He became head of the Ségou Tukulor empire, whose predominantly Bambara inhabitants mounted constant revolts against his rule.

    The French, who established a fort at Médine in western Mali in 1855, viewed the Ségou Tukulor empire as the principal obstacle to their acquisition of the Niger River valley. Fearful of British designs on the same region, they engaged in a series of diplomatic overtures and military operations to push the limits of their control eastward. Between 1880 and 1881 the French succeeded in expanding their control from Médine 200 miles (320 km) east to Kita, primarily through the diplomatic efforts of Capt.

    Joseph-Simon Gallieni, who signed protectorate treaties with chiefs at Bafoulabé and Kita.
    In 1883 Gustave Borgnis-Desbordes launched a series of military campaigns against the Tukulor and the forces of Samory Touré, a Dyula Muslim leader who had founded a state to the south in the late 1860s. Borgnis-Desbordes captured Bamako during that year, giving the French a presence on the Niger. Between 1890 and 1893, Col. Louis Archinard launched a series of successful military operations that led to the final conquest of Ségou in 1893. Samory was driven into the Côte d’Ivoire colony and captured in 1898, the same year that the small Dyula kingdom of Kenedougou around Sikasso was conquered by French forces under Col. H.M. Audeod. Timbuktu was conquered in 1894 by the French officers Gaston Boiteaux, Eugène Bonnier, and Joseph-Jacques-Césaire Joffre, and the southern Sahara was finally brought under French control by méharistes (camel corps) by 1899.

    By the early years of the twentieth century the French held most of what would come to be their colonial territory in West Africa (including present day Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Niger). A governor-general of French West Africa was appointed to administer the federation and was based in Senegal, the only place where African people had even minimally been assimilated under the original French plan. This dynamic was due most likely to the increasing awareness by the French of the unlikelihood that the African peoples they were colonizing would be ‘suitable` French citizens. When the original federation of the French West African colonies was achieved there was no strong statement of the program for assimilation. The French began to install a very centralized federalist administration in their new territory, a system of direct rule.

  • Independent Mali

    By 1905, most of the area was under firm French control. French Sudan was administered as part of the Federation of French West Africa and supplied labor to France’s colonies on the coast of West Africa. In 1958 the renamed Sudanese Republic obtained complete internal autonomy and joined the French Community. In early 1959, the Sudanese Republic and Senegal formed the Federation of Mali, which gained full independence from France as part of the French Community on June 20, 1960. Following the withdrawal of Senegal from the federation in August 1960, the Sudanese Republic became the independent nation of Mali on September 22, 1960, with Modibo Keïta as president. Keïta quickly established a one-party state, withdrew from the French Community in 1962, adopted an independent African and socialist orientation with close ties to the Eastern bloc, and implemented extensive nationalization of economic resources.

    Following a progressive economic decline, however, Mali was forced to rejoin the Franc Zone in 1967. One-Party Rule: In November 1968, a group of junior army officers led by Lieutenant Moussa Traoré overthrew the Keïta regime in a bloodless coup and established a 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation with Traoré as president. The military-led regime attempted to reform the economy, but its efforts were frustrated by both political turmoil and a devastating drought in the Sahel lasting from 1968 to 1974. Under the provisions of a new constitution approved in 1974, the Second Republic of Mali became a single-party state under the Democratic Union of the Malian People (Union Démocratique du Peuple Malien—UDPM). In subsequent single-party presidential and legislative elections held in June 1979, Traoré (now a general) garnered 99 percent of the votes cast. The Traoré regime faced student unrest beginning in the late 1970s as well as three coup attempts, but it successfully (and harshly) repressed all dissent until the late 1980s.

    In 1990 cohesive opposition movements began to emerge, including the National Democratic Initiative Committee and the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Alliance pour la Démocratie au Mali—Adema).
    A national conference, including representatives of political groups, labor unions, student organizations, and other social groupings, was held in August 1991. It produced a draft constitution (approved in a national 3 Library of Congress – Federal Research Division Country Profile: Mali, January 2005 referendum in January 1992) that created a multiparty democracy, officially the Third Republic. he 2002 election was a milestone, marking Mali’s first successful transition from one democratically elected president to another, despite the persistence of electoral irregularities and low voter turnout. In the 2002 legislative elections, no party gained a majority; Touré then appointed a politically inclusive government and pledged to tackle Mali’s pressing social and economic development problems.

    On 11 January 2013, the French Armed Forces intervened at the request of the interim government. On 30 January, the coordinated advance of the French and Malian troops claimed to have retaken the last remaining Islamist stronghold of Kidal, which was also the last of three northern provincial capitals. On 2 February, the French President, François Hollande, joined Mali’s interim President, Dioncounda Traoré, in a public appearance in recently recaptured Timbuktu.