oa Africa Insight - Country profiles - Mali

Volume 15, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



The Republic of Mali is one of Africa's large land-locked countries. With only some 8 million people living on 1.24 million km2, It seems sparsely populated. But as most of the population is concentrated in the far south, there is actually a shortage of arable land. The northern third of the country is Sahara Desert and the rest Sahel semi-desert except in the south where crop-farming is possible in extensive areas. Although poorly endowed with exploitable mineral resources. Mali is normally self-sufficient in food production and has the largest cattle and sheep herds in western Africa. However since 1968 the country, like others in the Sahel belt, has been devastated by recurring droughts which took their toll of livestock and necessitated large-scale food aid. Like the Nile in Egypt, the Niger, flowing across the country, is a vital waterway and source for irrigation along its banks. In the centre of the country the river forms an inland delta which is the remnant of an ancient lake and where cotton is cultivated under irrigation. The country's capital, Bamako, is situated on the upper (southern) section of the Niger, which links it with the desert towns of Timbuktu and Gao.

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