Mali, in long form the Republic of Mali, is a country in West Africa, bordering Mauritania to the west, Algeria to the north-northeast, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire to the south-southwest, Guinea to the southwest and Senegal to the west-southwest. Former French colony of French Sudan, Mali became independent on September 22, 1960, after the breakup of the federation of Mali grouping Senegal and the Sudanese Republic. Its motto is “a people, a goal, a faith” and its flag is made up of three vertical bands green, yellow and red. The Republic of Mali has retained the borders inherited from colonization, those of French Sudan. Previously, several kingdoms and empires have succeeded each other, encompassing a more or less important part of present-day Mali and the neighboring countries.

With 19 million residents, the Malian population is made up of different ethnic groups, the main ones being the Bambaras, the Bobos, the Bozos, the Dogons, the Khassonkés, the Malinkés, the Miniankas, the Peuls, the Sénoufos, the Soninkés (or Sarakolés), Sonrhaïs, Touaregs, Toucouleurs. French is the official language, but the population mainly speaks the national languages, Bambara being the most used and serving, alongside French, as a lingua franca. With an essentially rural economy, Mali, a landlocked country, is one of the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) in terms of socio-economic development. The country is part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union. Since 2012, Mali has been the target of jihadist attacks and has faced community conflicts. Its capital is Bamako, whose urban area has 2.529 million inhabitants in 2019.

Mali’s history

Pre-colonial history

In 1339, Angelino Dulcert, cartographer of the very famous Mallorcan school of cartography, signals Mali on one of the very first portolans known. Five important empires or kingdoms succeeded each other: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire, the Bambara Kingdom of Ségou and the Fulani Empire of Macina. Its economy was based on agriculture, animal husbandry and trans-Saharan trade with the peoples of North Africa interested in gold, salt and slaves but also culture. At its peak, the Empire stretched from the Atlantic to Nigeria and from the north of Côte d’Ivoire to the Sahara.

From the 1880s to the 1960s, a French colony

The colonial conquest from the colony of Senegal was carried out slowly and the gradually annexed entities were grouped under the name Haut-Fleuve, territory placed under military command with Kayes as its chief town and directed by a superior commander. By decree of August 18, 1888, the Haut-Fleuve became an autonomous administrative entity of the colony of Senegal under the name of French Sudan. Its first holder, the battalion chief Louis Archinard, who succeeded Galliéni on May 10, 1888, truly became its first superior commander. By decree of October 22, 1890, the superior commander supervised the administrative services. By decree of August 27, 1892, French Sudan became an autonomous colony and Archinard, promoted to lieutenant-colonel in May 1890, became its first governor and rose to the rank of colonel in September 1892. With the conquest by France from the beginning of the 1880s, Mali became a French colony on August 27, 1892 under the name of French Sudan, a name taken from the decree of August 18, 1890 which gave this name to the Haut-Haut region. River in the colony of Senegal. During the Second World War, the attempt to set up a peanut oil factory came up against obstacles put in place by the Vichy regime to favor oil mills in Senegal.

During the referendum of September 28, 1958, the voters of French Sudan voted overwhelmingly (97%) in favor of the creation of the Sudanese Republic within the French Community. On April 4, 1959, Senegal and the Sudanese Republic regrouped to form the Federation of Mali, which gained independence on June 20, 1960. Two months later, Senegal withdrew from the federation and proclaimed its independence. On September 22, 1960, the Sudanese Republic in turn proclaimed its independence under the leadership of Modibo Keïta, while retaining the name of Mali.

From 1960 to today, after independence

In 1968, Modibo Keïta was overthrown by a coup led by a group of officers led by Lieutenant Moussa Traoré, who established a dictatorship. On March 26, 1991, he was in turn overthrown by Lieutenant-Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré. After a period of transition, the latter established democracy with the election of Alpha Oumar Konaré in 1992, who was re-elected in 1997. In 2002, General Amadou Toumani Touré, who had retired from the army to run, was elected president of the Republic of Mali, and re-elected in 2007. On March 22, 2012 Amadou Toumani Touré was overthrown by a putsch, carried out by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo. After a transition, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was elected President of the Republic in September 2013 after a presidential election.

2012-2020, cross conflicts

From January to April 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), allied with the Ansar Dine, Mujao and Aqmi groups, carried out attacks on the Malian military camps and the towns located in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu and de Kidal, calling into question the territorial unity of Mali whose army was put in difficulty. On March 22, 2012, the government was overthrown by a coup led by young soldiers denouncing its inability to manage the conflict in the north of the country. The political unity of the country was thus more than ever threatened. These mutineer soldiers led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo took control of the presidency, then announced the dissolution of the institutions and the suspension of the Constitution; and this, one month before the presidential election. This coup led to the departure of Amadou Toumani Touré and the establishment of a temporary curfew. The violence that followed the overthrow of power resulted in the death of one person and some 40 wounded. On April 1, 2012, the Tuareg rebellion, made up of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and several Salafist movements including Ansar Dine, Mujao and Aqmi, gained control over the three regions located in northern Mali. The MNLA demanded the independence of Azawad while Ansar Dine wished to impose sharia law. The two movements claimed control of the main cities. On April 4, the MNLA unilaterally decided to end military operations from April 5 at midnight. Two days later, on the 6th, the MNLA proclaimed the independence of Azawad.

The proclamation of the independence of Azawad by the Tuaregs of the MNLA was condemned categorically by the various Malian parties as well as by the African Union and the international community; these parties claimed that Mali’s territorial integrity was not negotiable and wanted the MNLA to come to its senses, willingly or by force. On June 27, the Mujao drove the MNLA from Gao during the first Gao fight. In November, the MNLA launched a counter-offensive which was however repulsed near Ansongo by the forces of Aqmi and Mujao. After a first failure, in the fight of Tagarangabotte, the Islamists took the advantage during the battle of Idelimane. On November 19, Menaka was conquered. On November 15, 2012, François Hollande, French President, received the President of Niger at the Élysée Palace to discuss a French intervention and the protection of French exploitations of uranium mines, in Niger, on the border with Mali.

On January 11, 2013, in front of the progression of jihadist groups beyond the cease-fire line and the capture of the locality of Konna, strategic lock in the march on Bamako, the state of emergency was declared in the country. Following the request of the interim president of Mali Dioncounda Traoré, Chad came to the aid of Mali with a large number of soldiers. Then France sought the agreement of the UN to trigger a military intervention (Operation Serval) to liberate the country. At first, the jihadists retreat. Following this reconquest, it was decided to replace Operation Barkhane with Operation Serval, to secure the Sahelo-Saharan strip, with the mission of preventing the reconstitution of terrorist sanctuaries. The new device was officially launched on August 1, 2014. But the situation remained very precarious, with numerous jihadist attacks. Community conflicts persisted, causing hundreds of deaths, particularly in the Mopti region. In 2018, the French army continued its operations, particularly in Liptako Gourma, an area between central Mali, south-western Niger and Burkina Faso. During the second half of the 2010s, the jihadists adapted to an asymmetrical war: they went into hiding, proceeding by surprise attacks and by attacks, while using local resentments and inter-community conflicts. A trap gradually closed over French troops, who were increasingly criticized locally: continuing the fight with the risk of getting bogged down and compromised. Or withdraw what would be worse.

Mali’s politics

Mali is a republic with a unicameral parliament. Executive power is represented by the President and his government. Legislative power by the National Assembly. The highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court. Democracy was established in 1991, after Amadou Toumani Touré’s coup against the authoritarian regime of Moussa Traoré, following popular revolts. Despite significant difficulties, notably during the presidential and legislative elections of 1997, Mali has maintained democracy, setting an example for Africa. However, the low electoral turnout and the non-understanding by a large part of the population of electoral issues weaken this democracy. Since Mali’s independence, six heads of state have succeeded each other: Modibo Keïta, between 1960 and 1968, overthrown by a coup; Moussa Traoré, from 1968 to 1991, overthrown by a coup; Amadou Toumani Touré, president of the Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People (CTSP) 1991-1992; Alpha Oumar Konaré, elected in 1992 re-elected for a second term in 1997; Amadou Toumani Touré, elected in 2002 and re-elected during the presidential election of April 29, 2007 with 70.88% of the vote (1,622,579 votes cast) against seven other candidates including former President of the National Assembly Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (19.08%); Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was elected president on August 11, 2013 with 77.6% of the vote against 22.4% for Soumaïla Cissé.

Mali’s economy

Mali is a developing country, with 65% of its territory in the desert or semi-desert region. Economic activity is especially limited around the fluvial region irrigated by the Niger river. About 10% of the population is nomadic and about 80% works in agriculture or fishing. Industrial activity is concentrated around agricultural activities. Export constitutes a very important manna of incomes. Mali depends on foreign aid and is very vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices for cotton, its main export. In 1997, the government implemented a structural adjustment program called for by the IMF which helped growth, diversification and foreign investment. These economic reforms and the devaluation of the CFA franc in January 1994 supported an average growth of 4%. The cotton sector, as with other African producers has gained strength, even if on the world market, the price of the pound of fiber in 2015 was around 0.70 dollar, relatively low compared to the peak of 2 dollars the pound it had reached in 2011. The country was in second place among the top seven African cotton producers in the mid-2010s. The basement of Mali is known for its wealth of precious stones and various fossils. Among all the known mineral resources of the country, only gold is currently experiencing intense exploitation.

Multinational companies developed gold prospecting operations in 1996-1998, and the government predicts that Mali will become a major exporter of gold in the sub-Saharan region. It is also currently the third African exporter, behind South Africa and Ghana. Gold is the country’s primary source of export, followed by cotton and livestock. Gold production doubled between 2000 and 2002 to represent 12% of Mali’s GDP. It is the third largest gold producer in Africa. Since the late 1990s, Canadian “junior companies” have multiplied contracts with African countries. In Mali, their names are Nevsun Resources, Robex, Resources, Great Quest Metals, Axmin, Delta Exploration, Etruscan Resources, Glencar Mining pic, North Atlantic Resources and IAMGold. As for the main trading partners, Mali’s main importing country is Senegal with 13.1% in 2008 and the main exporting country is China with 26.7% in 2008. Outside these countries, Mali has also, as commercial partners, France, Ivory Coast, Belgium, Luxembourg, Great Britain and Germany. Gross domestic product per capita was estimated at $ 380 in 2005 (according to the World Development Indicators (WDI) database).

Mali is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). Mali has risen to the level of Africa’s leading cotton producer south of the Sahara. He owns the first herd of cattle in the sub-region, ensures sustainable food self-sufficiency in a year of normal rainfall and provides for all of his dry cereal needs. Thanks to the successes already noted and in view of the potentials already existing, especially in irrigated crops and livestock which remains to be developed, Mali has therefore demonstrated that it can become the great agricultural power of the sub-region. Following the fall in the market price of cotton in 2005, Malian farmers are now producing at a loss. Farmers are getting narrower margins and are forced to take on debt. The CMDT (Malian Company for the Development of Textiles) buys the kilogram of cotton 160 CFA francs while the production of this same kilogram costs 190 CFA francs. Mali is considering alternatives, but it is not easy to get out of monoculture. The Malian economy is experiencing weaknesses in several sectors: agriculture is fragile in the face of droughts, which have been repetitive since the 1970s. the fall in commodity prices also has a very negative impact. the rise in production costs and the underdeveloped industrial sector, led to a large import of consumer goods. Mali is also facing the debt problem. Indeed, world organizations have pushed Mali to adopt structural adjustment policies with the privatization of certain sectors of the economy.

As for the devaluation of the CFA franc, supposed to favor exports, it mainly halved the value of national capital and therefore national investment capacity; Malian exports of processed products are above all blocked by administrative barriers, not because of their price. In addition to cotton (12th world producer in 2004) and its derivatives (cotton seed), Mali is a major producer of mangoes (200,000 tonnes) of which only a small part is exported (3,000 tonnes) despite enormous potential . It is a large producer and exporter of livestock in the region: beef cattle 7.8 million head; goat livestock 22 million head. Gold occupies the first place in Mali’s export earnings (70% in 2012 or 15% of its GDP, Mali being the third producer of gold in Africa after South Africa and Ghana, the ninth in the world) followed by cattle, cotton and iron. Other products such as groundnuts (360,000 tonnes produced in 2003) are highly exported. Regarding real estate, Mali is a country under construction. There are many public and private projects in the building and public works sectors. The demand for building materials is growing very rapidly. Also, the following niches offer enormous investment possibilities: brick factory, cement factories, lime and paint manufacturing, plaster production, concrete reinforcing iron and other manufacturing, metal or wood joinery for buildings, manufacturing of electrical appliances (bulbs, circuit breakers, sockets, ducts). Tourism, still limited to a few areas, has been developing for a few years. Let us cite in particular the sites classified as World Heritage of Humanity UNESCO: the Dogon Country, Timbuktu, Djenné, the tomb of Askia in Gao. Some of these sites have been desecrated in Timbuktu and Gao since the occupation by the Islamists in July 2012.

Agriculture is the largest employer in the country, in fact, 80% of the active population works in this sector. The remaining 20% ​​are employed in industry or services. Their production is mainly based on cereals which constitute the main part of their food base. These cereals are mainly: millet, sorghum, rice, corn, fonio and wheat. There are also some tubers such as: yam, potato and cassava. One of the crops that has had a certain rise in production is that of fruit and vegetable production. Bananas, mangoes and oranges are an important export to European and Arab countries. Cotton production dominates industrial agriculture, but despite this it still fell by 5.23%. Today cotton has been produced at a loss since the fall of the market in 2005. Unfortunately, the industry never managed to reach the pre-crisis sales price again. In 2012, a Canadian company conducted exploratory drilling to explore for a uranium mine in the Faléa region. GDP is mainly driven by the primary and tertiary sectors. GDP in 2006 was 3,132 billion CFA francs and increased to 3,344 billion CFA francs in 2007. Inflation in 2009 was 2.2%. Mali hopes to achieve a nominal GDP growth rate of 7.8%. In 2008 and 2009, growth should accelerate slightly to reach an average annual rate of 4.8%. Exports are $ 0.915 billion and imports are $ 0.927 billion. GDP by (main) sectors agriculture 45%, industry 17% and services 38%. Services occupy 13% of the active population and contribute 38% to the country’s GNP. The public sector now occupies only 22% of the country’s workforce. A large percentage of the population lives below the poverty line (36.1% (2005) with a very high unemployment rate of 30%. And then, 30% of this total lives in an urban environment while the majority of the poor live in a rural environment.

Mali’s demography

The very fast growth of the population constitutes a fundamental problem for the improvement of the standard of living of the Malians, especially since two thirds of the surface of Mali are arid or semi-arid. Poverty is significant since the poorest 10% of the population consume only 2.4% of the country’s total consumption and the richest 10% consume 30.2% (2001).

Mali’s education

The Malian education system, whose objectives were defined under the presidency of Modibo Keïta, has undergone a profound evolution in the last fifteen years with the increase in the schooling of children. The gross enrollment rate in 2001/2002 was 64.5% (75% for boys, 54% for girls). Despite a policy appealing to the private sector and a significant involvement of NGOs, the Malian education system still faces many difficulties: delay in the enrollment of girls, lack of means (infrastructure, textbooks, staff) due in particular to the budgetary restrictions imposed by international institutions, overcrowded classes, frequent dropouts. Besides the traditional system, other forms of schooling are developing, such as children’s enclosures for the youngest or madrasahs.

Mali’s languages

French is the official language, but the most used is Bambara which is spoken by more than 50% of the population. The latter, as well as twelve others (bobo, bozo, dogon, peul, soninké, songhaï (or songoy), Sénoufo-minianka, tamasheq, hassanya, khassonké, mandinka and maninkakan) are recognized by the state as national languages. The 1987 census recorded the language spoken by people over the age of six. Bambara comes out on top (38.3%), followed by Fulani (11.7%), Dogon (6.9%), Songhai (6.3%) and Soninke (12.3%). Knowledge of French has also improved considerably. In 1960, 66,000 Malians could read and write in French. In 1985, there were 564,000. In 2009, there were 2.2 million. The Mali regions of Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Koulikoro, Mopti, Segou, Sikasso and Tombouctou are members of the International Association of Francophone Regions. Mali is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie as well as of the International Organization of La Francophonie.