Mali country profile

Map of Mali

Once home to several pre-colonial empires, the landlocked, arid West African country of Mali is one of the largest on the continent. For centuries, its northern city of Timbuktu was a key regional trading post and centre of Islamic culture.

But this prominence has long since faded.

After independence from France in 1960, Mali suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup and 23 years of military dictatorship until democratic elections in 1992.

In 2013, France intervened militarily upon the government's request following the capture of the town of Konna and its troops overran Islamist strongholds.

Authorities agreed a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire with Tuareg separatists in 2015, but parts of the country remain tense, with Tuareg rebels sporadically active.

Meanwhile, a jihadist insurgency in Mali's north and central regions continues, with al-Qaeda-linked militants carrying out attacks.

Mali is renowned worldwide for having produced some of the stars of African music, most notably Salif Keita.


Republic of Mali

Capital: Bamako

  • Population 18.5 million

  • Area 1.25 million sq km (482,077 sq miles)

  • Major languages French, Bambara, Berber, Arabic

  • Religions Islam, indigenous beliefs

  • Life expectancy 57 years (men), 84 years (women)

  • Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc

Getty Images


President: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Image copyright Getty Images

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took office in September 2013, promising to help unify the country after a rebellion, a coup and an Islamic insurgency.

He won the first election held since mutinous soldiers overthrew long-time President Amadou Toumani Toure early in 2012.

The son of a civil servant, Keita was born in 1945 in the southern industrial city of Koutiala, the declining heartland of cotton production in the country.

He served as prime minister from 1994 to 2000 and as Speaker of the National Assembly from 2002 to 2007.

He was re-elected president of Mali for a second term in August 2018.


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The great mosque of Djenne is one of the continent's most notable landmarks

The media environment in Bamako and the south is relatively open, but the presence of armed militant groups in the north poses dangers for media workers, says Freedom House.

Radio is the leading medium. There are hundreds of stations, run by the state as well as by private operators.


Some key dates in Mali's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Niger River serves as the country's main transport and trade artery

11th century - Empire of Mali becomes dominant force in the upper Niger basin.

14th-15th centuries - Decline of the Empire of Mali, which loses dominance of the gold trade to the Songhai Empire.

Late 16th century - Moroccans defeat the Songhai, make Timbuktu their capital and rule until their decline in the 18th century.

1898 - France completes conquest of Mali, then called French Sudan.

1960 - Mali becomes independent with Modibo Keita as president. It becomes a one-party, socialist state.

2012 - Coup after which Islamist fighters capture several towns. France intervenes militarily and recaptures key towns from the rebels.

2015 - November - Islamist gunmen attack the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital Bamako.

2018 - Ibrahim Boubacar Keita re-elected for a second term as president.

2019 - Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga and his government resign following an upsurge of ethnic violence in the country.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption French troops intervened after Islamists seized parts of Mali in 2012

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