Background Note: Mali
Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public
Description: Historical, Political and Economic Overviews of the
Countries of the World
Date: Apr, 15 19934/15/93
Category: Country Data
Region: Subsaharan Africa
Subject: Travel, History, International Organizations,
Trade/Economics, Military Affairs, Cultural Exchange,
Official Name: Republic of Mali
Area: 1,240,278 sq. km. (474,764 sq. mi); about the size of
Texas and California.
880,000). Other cities--Segou (85,000), Mopti (75,000), Kayes
(50,000), Gao (40,000).
Terrain: Savannah and desert.
Climate: Semitropical in the south; arid in the north.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Malian(s).
Population (1991 est.):8.3 million.
Annual growth rate: 2. 9%.
Ethnic groups: Mande (Bambara or Bamana, Malinke,
Sarakole) 50%, Peul 17%, Voltaic 12%, Songhai 6%, Tuareg and Moor
Religions: Islam 90%, indigenous 9%, Christian 1%.
Languages: French (official) and Bambara (spoken by about
80% of the population).
Education: Attendance--21% (primary); 9% (secondary).
Health: Infant mortality rate--173/1,000. Life
Work force (3.5 million): Agriculture--75%. Services--
13%. Industry and commerce--12%.
Independence: Sept. 22, 1960.
Constitution: Approved by referendum January 12, 1991.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and
commander-in-chief of the armed forces), prime minister (head
of government). Legislative--unicameral National Assembly.
Judicial--Supreme Court with both judicial and administrative
Political parties: Mali is a multi-party democracy; 11
political parties are represented in the National Assembly;
others are active in local government.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 8 regions and capital
Central government budget (1992): Revenues--$825
million. Expenditures--$869 million; $44 million deficit.
Flag: Three vertical bands--green, yellow, and red.
GDP (1991): $2.8 billion.
Annual growth rate (1988-91): 3%.
Per capita income (1991): $300.
Annual skilled worker's salary:$1,680.
Average inflation rate (1991): 1.7%.
Natural resources: Gold, phosphate, kaolin, salt, and
limestone currently mined; deposits of bauxite, iron ore,
manganese, lithium, and uranium are known or suspected.
Agriculture (40% of GDP): Products--millet, sorghum,
corn, rice, livestock, sugar, cotton, groundnuts (peanuts),
Industry (19% of GDP): Types--food processing, textiles,
cigarettes, fish processing, metalworking, light
manufacturing, plastics, and beverage bottling.
Trade (1991): Exports--$430 million: cotton and cotton
products, animals, fish, tannery products, groundnuts,
diamonds, and gold. Major markets--France, Germany, and
other European countries. Imports--$610 million: food,
machinery and spare parts, vehicles, petroleum products,
chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles. Major suppliers--
France, Cote d'Ivoire, Belgium, Luxembourg, the US ($26
million), Germany, and Japan.
Official exchange rate (1991): Communaute Financiere
Africaine 282 = US $1.
Mali's population consists of diverse sub-Saharan ethnic
groups, sharing similar historic, cultural, and religious
traditions. Exceptions are the Tuaregs and Maurs, desert
nomads, related to the North African Berbers. The Tuaregs
traditionally have opposed the central government. Starting
in June 1990, armed attacks in the North by Tuaregs seeking
greater autonomy and by bandit groups led to clashes with the
military. In April 1992, the government and most opposing
factions signed a pact to end the fighting and restore
stability in the north. Its major aims are to allow greater
autonomy to the north and increase government resource
allocation to what has been a traditionally impoverished region.
Historically, good inter-ethnic relations throughout the rest
of the country were facilitated by easy mobility on the
country's vast savannahs. Each ethnic group was
traditionally tied to a specific occupation, all working
within close proximity. The Bambara, Malinke, Sarakole, and
Voltaic were farmers; the Peulh, Moor, and Tuareg, herders;
and the Bozo, fishers. In recent years, this linkage has
shifted as ethnic groups seek diverse, non-traditional
sources of income. Along the Niger River between Timbuktu
and Gao, the Songhai farm and fish. Until droughts in the
mid-1970s, the Tuaregs were the principal herders in this region.
Although each ethnic group speaks a separate language, nearly
80% of Malians communicate in Bambara, the common language of
the marketplace. Malians enjoy a relative harmony rare in
Malians express great pride in their ancestry. Mali is the
cultural heir to the succession of ancient African empires--
Ghana, Malinke, and Songhai--that occupied the West African
savannah. These empires controlled Saharan trade and were in
touch with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern centers of civilization.
The Ghana Empire, dominated by the Soninke people and
centered in the area along the Malian-Mauritanian frontier,
was a powerful trading state from about A.D. 700 to 1075.
The Malinke Kingdom of Mali had its origins on the upper
Niger River in the 11th century. Expanding rapidly in the
13th century under the leadership of Soundiata Keita, it
reached its height about 1325, when it conquered Timbuktu and
Gao. Thereafter, the kingdom began to decline, and by the 15th
century, it controlled only a small fraction of its former domain.
The Songhai Empire expanded its power from its center in Gao
during the period 1465-1530. At its peak under Askia
Mohammad I, it encompassed the Hausa states as far as Kano
(in present-day Nigeria) and much of the territory that had
belonged to the Mali Empire in the west. It was destroyed by
a Moroccan invasion in 1591.
French military penetration of the Soudan (the French name
for the area) began around 1880. Ten years later, the French
made a concerted effort to occupy the interior. The timing
and method of their advances were determined by resident
military governors. A French civilian governor of Soudan was
appointed in 1893, but resistance to French control did not
end until 1898, when the Malinke warrior Samory Toure was
defeated after 7 years of war. The French attempted to rule
indirectly, but in many areas they disregarded traditional
authorities and governed through appointed chiefs. As part
of the colony of Soudan, Mali was administered with other
French colonial territories as the Federation of French West Africa.
In early 1957, as a result of France's Basic Law (Loi Cadre),
the Territorial Assembly obtained extensive powers over
internal affairs and was permitted to form a cabinet with
executive authority over matters within the assembly's
competence. After the 1958 French constitutional referendum,
Soudan became a member of the French Community and enjoyed
complete internal autonomy.
In January 1959, Soudan joined Senegal to form the Mali
Federation, which became fully independent within the French
Community on June 20, 1960. The federation collapsed on
August 20, 1960, when Senegal seceded. On September 22,
Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew
from the French Community.
President Modibo Keita, whose party, the Union Soudanaise,
had dominated preindependence politics, moved quickly to
declare a single-party state and to pursue a socialist policy
based on extensive nationalization. A continuously
deteriorating economy led to a decision to rejoin the Franc
Zone in 1967 and modify some of the economic excesses.
On November 19, 1968, a group of young officers staged a
bloodless coup and set up a 14-member Military Committee for
National Liberation (CMLN), with Lt. Moussa Traore as
president. The military leaders renounced socialism and
attempted to pursue economic reforms, but for several years
faced debilitating internal political struggles and the
disastrous Sahelian drought.
A new constitution, approved in 1974, created a one-party
state and was designed to move Mali toward civilian rule.
However, the military leaders remained in power. In
September 1976, a new political party was established, the
Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM), based on the
concept of non-ideological democratic centralism. Single-
party presidential and legislative elections were held in
June 1979, and Gen. Moussa Traore received 99% of the votes.
His efforts at consolidating the single-party government were
challenged in 1980 by student-led anti-government demonstrations,
which were brutally put down, and by three coup attempts.
The political situation stabilized during 1981 and 1982, and
remained generally calm throughout the 1980s. The UDPM began
attracting additional members as it demonstrated that it
could counter an effective voice against the excesses of
local administrative authorities. Shifting its attention to
Mali's economic difficulties, the government approved plans
for cereal marketing liberalization, reform in the state
enterprise system, new incentives to private enterprise, and
an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, by 1990, there was growing dissatisfaction with the
demands for austerity imposed by the IMF's economic reform
programs and the perception that the president and his close
associates were not themselves adhering to those demands.
As in other African countries, demands for multi-party
democracy increased. The Traore Government allowed some
opening of the system, including the establishment of an
independent press and independent political associations,
but insisted that Mali was not ready for democracy. In early
1991, student-led anti-government rioting broke out again,
but this time it was supported also by government workers and
others. On March 26, 1991, after 4 days of intense anti-
government rioting, a group of 17 military officers arrested
President Traore and suspended the constitution. Within
days, these officers joined with the Coordinating Committee
of Democratic Associations to form a predominantly civilian,
25-member ruling body, the Transitional Committee for the
Salvation of the People (CTSP). The CTSP then appointed a
civilian-led government. A national conference held in
August 1991 produced a draft constitution (approved in a
referendum January 12, 1992), a political parties charter,
and an electoral code. Political parties were allowed to
form freely. Between January and April 1992, a president,
National Assembly, and municipal councils were elected. On
June 8, 1992, Alpha Oumar Konare, the candidate of the
Association for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), was inaugurated as
the President of Mali's Third Republic.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Under Mali's new constitution, the president is chief of
state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Presidents
are elected to 5-year terms, with a limit of two terms. The
president appoints the prime minister as head of government.
The president chairs the Council of Ministers (the prime
minister and 19 other minister, which adopts proposals for
laws submitted to the National Assembly for approval.
The National Assembly is the sole legislative arm of the
government. It currently consists of 116 members, but an
additional 13 seats have been allocated to Malians abroad,
and 4 to Malian Tuaregs displaced by the rebellion.
Representation is apportioned according to the population of
administrative districts. Election is direct and by party
list. The term of office is 5 years. The Assembly meets for
two regular sessions a year. It debates and votes on
legislation proposed either by one of its members or by the
government and has the right to question government ministers
about government actions and policies. Eleven political
parties, aggregated into four parliamentary groups, are
represented in the Assembly. ADEMA (the president's party)
currently holds the majority; minority parties are
represented in all committees and in the Assembly directorate.
Mali's new constitution provides for a multi-party democracy,
with the only restriction being a prohibition against parties
based on ethnic, religious, regional, or gender lines. In
addition to those political parties represented in the
National Assembly, others are active in municipal councils.
Administratively, Mali is divided into eight regions and the
capital district of Bamako, each under the authority of an
appointed governor. Each region consists of five to nine
districts, or cercles, administered by commandants. Cercles
are divided into arrondissements, which, in turn, are divided
into villages. Plans for decentralization have begun with
the establishment of a number of elected municipal councils,
headed by elected mayors. Further plans envision election of
local officials and the reduction of administrative control
by the central government.
Mali's legal system is based on codes inherited at
independence from France. New laws have been enacted to make
the system conform to Malian life, but French colonial laws
not abrogated still have the force of law. The new
constitution provides for the independence of the judiciary.
However, the Ministry of Justice appoints judges and
supervises both law enforcement and judicial functions. The
Supreme Court has both judicial and administrative powers.
Under the constitution, there is a separate constitutional
court and a high court of justice with the power to try
senior government officials in cases of treason.
Principal Government Officials
President--Alpha Oumar Konare
Prime Minister--Younoussi Toure Minister of External
Relations--Mohamed Alhousseyni Toure
Ambassador to the US--Siragatou Ibrahim Cisse
Ambassador to the United Nations--Nouhoum Samassekou
Mali maintains an embassy in the United States at 2130 R
Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-2249), and a
permanent mission to the United Nations at 111 E. 69th
Street, New York, NY 10020.
Mali's per capita GDP of $300 places it among the world's 10
poorest nations. Its potential wealth lies in mining and the
production of agricultural commodities, livestock, and fish.
Agricultural activities occupy 75% of Mali's labor force and
provide 40% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Cotton and
livestock make up 80-85% of Mali's annual exports. Small-
scale traditional farming dominates the agricultural sector,
with subsistence farming (of cereals, primarily sorghum,
millet, and maize) on about 90% of the 1.4 million hectares
(3.4 million acres) under cultivation.
The most productive agricultural area lies along the banks of
the Niger River between Bamako and Mopti and extends south to
the borders of Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Average
rainfall varies in this region from 50 centimeters per year
(20 in.) around Mopti to 140 centimeters (55 in.) in the south near
Bougouni. This area is most important for the production of cotton,
millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops.
Rice is grown extensively along the banks of the Niger
between Segou and Mopti, with the most important rice-
producing area at the Office du Niger, located north of Segou
toward the Mauritanian border. Using water diverted from the
Niger, the Office du Niger irrigates about 40,000 hectares of
land for rice and sugarcane production. About one-third of
Mali's paddy rice is produced at the Office du Niger.
The Niger River also is an important source of fish,
providing food for riverine communities; the surplus--smoked,
salted, and dried--is exported. Due to drought and diversion
of river water for agriculture, fish production has steadily
declined since the early 1980s.
Sorghum is planted extensively in the drier parts of the
country and along the banks of the Niger in eastern Mali, as
well as in the lake beds in the Niger delta region. During
the dry season, farmers near the town of Dire have cultivated
wheat on irrigated fields for hundreds of years. Peanuts are
grown throughout the country but are concentrated in the area
around Kita, west of Bamako.
Mali's greatest resource is livestock, consisting of millions
of cattle, sheep, and goats. Approximately 40% of Mali's
herds were lost during the great drought in 1972-74. The
level was gradually restored, but the herds were again
decimated in the 1983-85 drought. The overall size of Mali's
herds is not expected to reach pre-drought levels in the
north of the country, where encroachment of the desert has
forced many nomadic herders to abandon pastoralism and turn
instead to farming. The largest concentrations of cattle are
in the areas north of Bamako and Segou extending into the
Niger delta, but herding activity is gradually shifting
southward, due to the effects of previous droughts. Sheep,
goats, and camels are raised to the exclusion of cattle in
the dry areas north and east of Timbuktu.
Until the late-1960s, Mali was self-sufficient in grains--
millet, sorghum, rice, and corn. Diminished harvests during
bad years, a growing population, changing dietary habits,
and, most importantly, policy constraints on agricultural
production resulted in grain deficits almost every year from
1965 to 1986. Production has rebounded since 1987, however,
thanks to agricultural policy reforms undertaken by the
government and supported by the Western donor nations.
Liberalization of producer prices and an open cereals market
have created incentives to production. These reforms,
combined with adequate rainfall, successful integrated rural
agriculture programs in the south, and improved management of
the Office du Niger, have led to surplus cereal production
over the past 5 years.
Annual rainfall--amount and duration--is critical for Mali's
agriculture. Rainfall has increased since the 1983-85
drought. The 1991-92 cereal harvest reached a record 2.5
Mining is a rapidly growing industry in Mali, with gold
accounting for some 80% of mining activity. There are
considerable proven reserves of other minerals not presently
exploited. Gold has become Mali's third largest export,
after cotton and livestock. The largest private investment
in gold mining in Mali is that of BHP Minerals, a
multinational American-Australian company. An agreement was
signed in 1992 for an expansion of the company's mine at
Syama in southern Mali. With this expansion, the total BHP
investment will reach $140 million.
During the colonial period, private capital investment was
virtually nonexistent, and public investment was devoted
largely to the Office du Niger irrigation scheme and to
administrative expenses. Following independence, Mali built
some light industries with the help of various donors.
Manufacturing, consisting principally of processed
agricultural products, accounted for about 8% of the GDP in
With the encouragement of the major donors and the
international financial institutions, the Government of Mali
initiated a series of adjustment and stabilization programs
in 1982. Measures were introduced to reduce budgetary
deficits, public enterprise operating losses, and public
sector arrears. Substantial progress was made in the first
few years of the adjustment program, but the pace of reform
slowed considerably in 1987 and required the intervention of
donors to avert a financial crisis.
Under the economic reform program signed with the World Bank
and the IMF in 1988, the government has taken a number of
steps to liberalize the regulatory environment and thereby
attract private investment. For example, applications for
the establishment of business enterprises now enjoy "one
window" (guichet unique) processing through a single
ministry, allowing a business to be established in a matter
of days. In addition, price controls on consumer goods have
been eliminated steadily; the last price control, on
petroleum products, was removed on July 1, 1992. Import
quotas were eliminated in 1988, and export taxes were dropped
in 1991. The Commerce Code was revised in 1991 to remove
impediments to commercial activity. Also in 1991, a system
of commercial and administrative courts was established to
handle private trade complaints and claims against the government.
Another major element of reform is the government's
disinvestment from the public enterprises which dominated
commerce immediately after independence. Already 20 of the
50 state-supported enterprises identified for disinvestment
have been sold or liquidated, thus reducing government
expenditure on this element of the public sector.
Mali is a major recipient of foreign aid from many sources,
including multilateral organizations (most significantly the
World Bank), Western nations (led by France and including the
United States), China, and Arab donors. Before 1991, the
former Soviet Union had been a major source of economic and
military aid, including construction of a cement plant and
the Kalana gold mine. Currently, aid from Russia is
restricted mainly to training and provision of spare parts.
Chinese aid and Chinese-Malian joint venture companies have
become more numerous in the last 3 years. The Chinese are
major participants in the textile industry and in large-scale
construction projects, including a bridge across the Niger,
completed in April 1992. Private voluntary organizations
(including several based in the US) are very active in Mali.
In 1991, US assistance to Mali reached $51 million. This
included $34 million in project and budget support through
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
programs. USAID is Mali's fourth largest bilateral donor
after France, Italy, and Japan. Mali also received $5 million in PL
Title III (Food for Peace) commodities and $8 million in Title II
commodities, primarily to meet food needs in the North. Other US
programs funded in FY 1991 include democratization ($1.1 million),
Corps ($2.7 million), and the Ambassador's Special Self-Help fund
($135,000). In addition, $260,000 was allocated to Mali under the
International Military Education Training (IMET) program.
Since independence in 1960, Malian governments have shifted
from an ideological commitment to socialism to a pragmatism
that welcomes all aid donors and encourages private
investment. The present government, which assumed office in
June 1992, professes its commitment to economic reform,
structural adjustment, free market policies, and regional
integration. Mali's relations with the United States and
other Western nations are good.
Mali is a member of the UN and many of its specialized
agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and
the World Bank; International Labor Organization;
International Telecommunications Union; Universal Postal
Union; Senegal River Valley Development Organization (OMVS);
Organization of African Unity (OAU); Organization of Islamic
Countries (OIC); Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); Economic
Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS); West African
Monetary Union (WAMU); West African Economic Community
(CEAO); is an associate member of the European Community
(EC); African Development Bank (ADB); and INTELSAT.
Mali is active in the OAU and ECOWAS. It participates in the
Liptako-Gourma Authority, which seeks to develop the
contiguous areas of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso; the Niger
River Commission; and the Permanent Interstate Committee for
Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).
Mali's armed forces number some 7,000 and are under the
control of the Minister of Defense. The gendarmerie
(paramilitary police) and local police forces (under the
Ministry of Territorial Administration) maintain internal
security. Mali's army and air force until recently relied
primarily on the Soviet Union for materiel and training. A few
Maliansreceive military training in the United States, France, and
Germany. Military expenditures total about 2% of GNP.
The United States wishes to see Mali pursue its national
goals in an atmosphere of stability and freedom from outside
interference. The US Agency for International Development
and Peace Corps share the joint goal of promoting sustainable
economic development. US programs are active in the areas of
economic policy reform, agriculture and natural resources
management, health and family planning, and education. Specifically,
the United States works with the Malian Government to:
-- Achieve food security and help break the cyclical
connection between low agricultural production and poor
-- Support private-sector development through policy change
and institutional development; and
-- Improve management and planning.
In addition, the United States helps address recurrent problems of
drought, disease, and insect infestations.
Principal US Officials
Ambassador--Herbert Donald Gelber
Counselor of the Embassy--Peggy Blackford
Political Officer--David Alarid
Economic Officer--Rob Merrigan
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--William G. Crowell
Director, AID Mission--Chuck Johnson
Director, Peace Corps--Howard Anderson
The US embassy is located at Rue Mohamed V and Rue Rochester
NY, Bamako, tel. (223) 22-54-70, Fax: (223) 22-37-12, telex
No. 2448 MJ. The mailing address is BP 34, Bamako. Hours
are 7:30-4:00 Monday through Friday.
Customs: A visa is required for entry and may be obtained
at any Malian embassy abroad. Yellow fever inoculations are
required prior to arrival.
Health: Suppressants for chloroquine-resistant malaria
are strongly recommended. Emergency medical care is available in
Bamako, but medical facilities are limited. Bring an
adequate supply of personal prescription medicines and
health-care products, including insect repellent and sun
screen. Tap water must be boiled and filtered. Bottled
water is available. Meats should be thoroughly cooked.
Inquire at the US Public Health Service prior to departure
from the United States for latest health information and
Climate and clothing: Summer clothing is suitable for
Bamako. Wash-and-wear clothing and sturdy shoes are
recommended. Hats and sunglasses should be worn outdoors to
protect against over-exposure to the sun.
Telecommunications: Long-distance telephone and
telegraphic service is limited. Public-use telephone, telex, and FAX
facilities are available. Mali is on Greenwich Mean Time, 5
hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Money and Banking: Banks are open from 7:30-11:30 A.M.
and from 1:15-3:30 P.M. Monday through Thursday and from 7:30-
12:00 noon on Fridays. Personal checks and credit cards
cannot be used for banking transactions, though the major
hotels in Bamako do accept credit cards for payment of hotel bills.
Transportation: Privately owned automobiles are the
principal means of transportation in Bamako for Americans.
Bus service within Bamako and to the suburbs was started in
1992. Taxis are also readily available, and vehicles (with
drivers) may be chartered for long trips. Roads between
major cities in Mali are paved. Bamako is serviced by international
flights from Paris, Brussels, and from New York via Dakar. One
private airline (Malitas) offers regularly-scheduled internal flights,
and two charter airline companies operate in Mali.
HOW TO ORDER BACKGROUND NOTES IN PAPER
Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau
of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication --
Washington, DC -- April 1993 -- Managing Editor -- Peter A.
Knecht -- Editor: Anita Stockman
Department of State Publication 8056
Background Notes Series -- This material is in the public
domain and may be reprinted without permission; citation of
this source is appreciated.
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. (###)