Geography of Mali

Mali, or Republic of Mali, a country of western Africa. It is bounded by Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, and Mauritania. The area is nearly 479,000 square miles (1,240,000 km 2). Maximum dimensions are roughly 1,000 miles (1,610 km) north-south and 1,050 miles (1,690 km) east-west.

Facts in brief about Mali
Capital: Bamako.
Official language: French.
Area: 478,841 mi2 (1,240,192 km2). Greatest distances—east-west, 1,150 mi (1,851 km); north-south, 1,000 mi (1,609 km). Coastline—none.
Elevation: Highest—Hombori Tondo, 3,789 ft (1,155 m) above sea level; Lowest—75 ft (23 m) above sea level, at the western border.
Population: Current estimate—14,724,000; density, 31 per mi2 (12 per km2); distribution, 69 percent rural, 31 percent urban. 1998 census—9,790,492.
Chief products: Agriculture—cassava, corn, cotton, livestock, millet, peanuts, rice, sorghum, sugar cane, yams. Fishing—carp, catfish, perch. Manufacturing—food products, leather products, textiles. Mining—salt, gold.
Flag: The flag has three vertical stripes of green, gold, and red (left to right). The stripes symbolize devotion to a republican form of government and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
National anthem: "A Ton Appel Mali" ("At Your Call Mali").
Money: Basic unit—CFA franc. CFA stands for Communaute Financiere Africaine (African Financial Community).
Physical Geography
MaliMali is a country in western Africa.

Northern Mali lies largely in the Sahara, the vast desert that spans northern Africa. The central section occupies part of the Sahel, a steppe area bordering the Sahara. Southern Mali is a more humid region of savannas, where most of the people live. Most of Mali is flat. Notable exceptions include the Hombori Mountains, in east-central Mali, and the Adrar des Iforas, a mountainous region in the northeast. The country's highest elevation is 3,789 feet (1,155 m), in the Hombori Mountains.

Mali's chief rivers are the Niger and the Senegal; both are in the south. The Niger is especially important because of productive agricultural land along its course.

Daily high temperatures during the hot season (March through June) often exceed 100° F. (38° C). Daily high temperatures during the cool season (November through February) rarely exceed 85° F. (28° C.).

Little or no rain falls in the Sahara; as much as 55 inches (1,400 mm) a year occurs in the far south, virtually all of it during June through October.


Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is little developed and is based primarily on farming and the raising of livestock. Farming is mostly of the subsistence kind; major crops include millet, sorghum, rice, sugarcane, corn, peanuts, cassava, and cotton. Herding throughout much of the country is nomadic. Devastating droughts periodically occur.

Fishing is carried on extensively in the Niger River. Minerals produced include gold, salt, phosphates, bauxite, copper, iron ore, manganese, and uraniumm. Manufacturing consists mainly of food processing and the production of textiles.

The Niger and Senegal rivers are the chief arteries of transport. A railway links Mali and Senegal. Roads are mainly in the Niger valley. There is local air service, and Bamako has an international airport.

People and Government

The people in the north, which include desert nomads, are mainly Tuareg (a Berber people) and Moors. The people in the south are mainly of black African ancestry; the largest ethnic groups are the Bambara, Fulani, and Senufo. About 80 per cent of the population is Muslim; 18 per cent, animist; and less than 2 per cent, Christian. French is the official language, but indigenous languages predominate.

Primary education begins at age seven and lasts six years. Secondary school lasts six years. There are several institutions of higher learning, but many of Mali's students receive their university education abroad. About 30 per cent of the people are literate.

Bamako, the capital, is Mali's largest city. Other cities include Ségou, Kayes, Mopti, and Sikasso.

Under the constitution of 1992, Mali is a republic headed by a president, who is elected for a five-year term. The president appoints the premier and cabinet. The 147-member legislature is the National Assembly, whose members are elected for five-year terms.