Mali Geography and Economy


Mali limits to the north with Algeria and Mauritania, to the south with Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Guinea Conakry, to the east with Niger, and to the west with Mauritania and Senegal.


With a total land area of 1,240,000 km² and a surface area of 1.6% water.


Its relief is formed by a plateau that rises to the southwest, on the Mandinga plateau, with heights exceeding 600 meters. In the northeast, the upper region of Adrar de los Iforas stands out, with heights between 500 and 800 meters.


Two climatic zones are distinguished:

  • In the desert north the temperatures can reach 60º.
  • In the south, with a subtropical climate, it reaches an average temperature of 25º C.

According to bridgat, Mali has three seasons: from November to February, the cool season due to the influence of the Hamattan (Sahara wind), with average temperatures of 25º C; from March to June, with warmer temperatures and from June to October, the rainy season, with an average temperature of 30º C and rainfall of up to 400 mm.

Major rivers

The main rivers are the Niger and the Senegal River, being two vital arteries for the country’s economy.


The country is one of the poorest in the world. Its economy is mainly agrarian and crops depend almost entirely on irrigation or flooding from the Niger River and its tributaries.


Small industries are mostly made up of cotton gins and there are also industries dedicated to food processing. The fish of the Niger River form an important part of the diet of the residents near the river. The fishing industry produces a surplus that is dried and smoked for export.


In 2003 Mali’s annual electricity production was 820 million KWh; 79.27% was generated in hydroelectric plants. The 2006 budget was $ 981 million in revenue and $ 920 million in expenses.

Agricultural productions

The cultivation of agricultural products occupies 86% of the workforce in Mali. The main crops are: millet, rice, sorghum, corn, peanuts and cane sugar. The livestock is of great importance; in 2005 the cattle herd had 7.68 million head of cattle, 8.40 million sheep, 12 million goats and 31 million poultry. In the same year 160,000 t of cotton seed were harvested. A prolonged drought during the 1980s decimated livestock and food production.

Foreign trade

Most of the foreign trade operations are in the hands of the State. The main exports are cotton, cattle, peanuts and fish. The total value of exports in 2001 was $ 519 million. Imports amounted to 1,013 million dollars and were mostly derived from petroleum, automobiles, food products, machinery and chemical products. Mali’s main commercial exchanges are with France, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Belgium, Luxembourg, Great Britain and Germany.

Communication channels

The Niger is Mali’s main communication route, being navigable for most of its course, from July to January. The Senegal River that runs through the extreme west of the country is navigable from Kayes to Saint-Louis, in Senegal. A railway connects Koulikoro, Bamako and Kayes with the port of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Mali has 18,709 km of roads, of which only 18% are paved. Near Bamako there is an international airport. Air Mali, the state airline, offers international and national services.

Telephone, telegraph and radio services

Telephone, telegraph and radio services are publicly owned and administered by the State. In 2000, there were 570,000 radio sets, 160,000 television receivers and 6 telephones in use for every 1,000 residents.


The Malian economy is agriculture. Cotton is the most exported crop in the country, and it is exported to Senegal and the Ivory Coast.37 38 During 2002, 620,000 tons of cotton were produced, but the prices of this crop decreased significantly since 2003.38 37 In addition to cotton, produces rice, millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops. Gold, livestock, and agriculture account for 80% of exports.35 80% of workers are employed in agriculture, while 15% are employed in the service sector. However, seasonal variations leave many agricultural workers without temporary employment.


In 1991, with the help of the International Development Association, Mali relaxed compliance with mining codes, leading to renewed interest and foreign investment in the mining industry. Gold is mined in the southern zone, which has the third highest gold production rate in Africa (after South Africa and Ghana). The emergence of gold as the main export product since 1999 helped mitigate the negative impact of the cotton crisis and the Ivory Coast. Other natural resources are kaolin, salt, phosphate and limestone.


The unit of currency is the CFA franc, divided into 100 cents (522.90 CFA francs were equal to one dollar in 2006). In 1984 the Central Bank of West African States took over the functions of Mali’s central bank.


90% of Malians are, according to estimates, Muslim and most of these are Sunni; approximately 5% of the population is Christian (two thirds of the Catholic Church and another third Protestant); the remaining 5% correspond to traditional or indigenous animist beliefs. The atheism and agnosticism are not very common among Malians, most of whom practice their religion daily.

Mali Economy