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Country Profile

Area: 1.2 million sq km
Population: 15.37 million (2010)
Capital city: Bamako
People and languages: The principal ethnic groups are Mande (including Bambara, Malinke, Soninke), Peul, Voltaic, Songhai, Tuareg and Moor. French is the official language. Numerous African languages are spoken, of which Bambara is most common.
Religion(s): the vast majority of Malians are Muslim. Christianity and indigenous beliefs are also practised.
Currency: CFA Franc
Major political parties: There are over 70 political parties in Mali, many of which have little geographical reach or organisation. The important ones include ADEMA (which led the pro-democracy movement in the early 1990s), the MRP (Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau), CNID (Congres National d'Initiative Democratique), the Union pour la Republique et la Democratie (URD, a breakaway from ADEMA) and PARENA (Parti pour la renaissance nationale).
Head of State: President Amadou Toumani Toure (elected in 2002 and 2007)
Prime Minister: Modibo Sidibe
Membership of major international groupings/organisations: African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).

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Basic economic facts

GDP (per capita): $701 (2010)
GDP growth: 5.8% (2010 est.)
Inflation: 1.3% (2010)
Main sectors: food processing; construction; phosphate, gold mining cotton, corn, vegetables, livestock.
Main exports: cotton, gold, livestock.
Main trading partners: China, Pakistan, France, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire.
Exchange rate: £1 = 749 CFA Francs.
The majority of Malians survive on animal husbandry or the production of subsistence crops or cereals. The country's main exports are gold, which provides 60% of exports by value and cotton, which provides 24% of export value. Gold production is set to rise with the opening of new mines. The cotton sector is adversely affected by falling international prices, but the government is attempting to expand the cotton processing and textile sectors, to ensure the maximum benefits of cotton production for the country. Mali imports some of its food requirements and its economy is adversely affected by the rising price of oil. Mali has a record on economic reform and compliance with IMF programmes. The government is engaged in a privatisation programme, covering the cotton sector and telecommunications.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (

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Although in its current form Mali is a creation of the French Empire (called French Soudan under colonial rule), Malians continue to draw a sense of national pride from the heritage of the Songay and Malian Empires. The country became an independent republic in 1960 after having briefly joined with Senegal in 1959 in the Federation of Mali. The first head of State, President Modibo Keita, immediately declared a single party state and pursued Marxist Socialist policies supported by alliances with the Soviet Bloc. Keita's regime was overthrown by a military coup in 1968. The coup leader Moussa Traore promised a return to civilian rule, but in the event continued the oppressive single party rule of his predecessor until his overthrow in early 1991.

On 26 March 1991, Lt Col Amadou Toumani Toure (popularly known as ATT), led a coup which overthrew Traore. Toure kept his promise of overseeing a return to civilian rule. In 1992 the main opposition party to have emerged, ADEMA, won legislative elections, and the Presidential elections were won by its leader Alpha Oumar Konare. He was re-elected for a second term in May 1997. Legislative elections in the same year were beset with technical problems, and opposition parties boycotted the re-run elections of August. As a result, ADEMA and their allies took almost all the seats in the national assembly.

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Mali has strong regional ties. President Toure has played a mediating role in Cote d'Ivoire and Togo. Mali was the chair of the sub-regional body ECOWAS in 2000 and 2001, and is a member of the West African Franc Zone organisation UEMOA. The country has also fostered strong ties with countries in North Africa (Morocco, Libya) and neighbours such as Senegal. There is considerable concern in the country at the slow resolution of the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire, as many thousands of Malians or people of Malian origin live and work there.

Mali enjoys strong relations with France (where there is a large Malian community) and with other EU countries. The Africa-France summit was held in the capital Bamako in December 2005. Mali has recently signed an agreement with South Africa on cooperation in the defence sector. Former President Konare was appointed in 2003 to the 4-year Chair of the African Union Commission. The position was extended for 1 year in July 2007. Mali is one of the countries to benefit from anti-terrorist training under the US-sponsored Trans-saharan Counter-Terrorism initiative.

African Union (
Franc Zone (

Mali's relations with the UK

The UK's relations with Mali are good. There is a small but active community in the UK dedicated to the development of Mali (for example the Friends of Mali organisation). The British Ambassador in Dakar is also accredited to Mali, where he is assisted by a small British Embassy Liaison Office (BELO), co-located with the Canadian Embassy in Bamako.

Friends of Mali - UK (

Diplomatic representation

There is no Malian Embassy in London. The Malian Embassy in Brussels is accredited to the UK.

Recent visits

The Malian Foreign Minister paid an official visit to the UK in July 2010.

In April 2003, Baroness Amos (then FCO Minister for Africa) visited Mali as part of a G8 meeting of Personal Representatives in Bamako. In December 2003, The Malian Minister for Culture (and famous film maker), M. Cheik Oumar Sissoko, visited the UK to promote Malian films. Paul Boateng, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, visited Mali in February 2005 to promote the work of the Commission for Africa. Lord Triesman visited Mali in November 2005 for the European Union–African Union Ministerial Troika meeting.

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Mali, a Sahel state, is landlocked and is mostly desert or semi-desert. 10% of the population is nomadic and 20% urban. The climate is subtropical to arid. The terrain is mostly flat, including desert plains in the north, savannah in the south and rugged hills in the north-east. Mali suffers from deforestation, soil erosion, desertification and inadequate supplies of drinking water.

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Trade and investment with the UK

Official UK exports in goods to Mali, principally machinery and manufactured goods, were worth £6.3m in 2010, an increase of £2m from 2006, while imports from Mali were worth £634,000.


Mali is one of the world's poorest countries. Life expectancy at birth is 49.2 years and, during the 1990-2003 period 72% of the population lived on less than $1 a day. On the UNDP's Human Development Index for 2010, Mali is ranked 160 out of 169 countries. Environmental and climatic problems such as the locust attacks and droughts of 2004 adversely affect the livelihoods of the rural populations. Pressure on the rural population has increased since the outbreak of civil conflict in Cote d'Ivoire in 2002, as refugees and returnees need to be catered for and remittances from workers in Cote d'Ivoire have dropped.

Mali enjoys good relations with bilateral donors (especially France) and with the European Commission, the IMF and World Bank. In March 2003, Mali reached HIPC completion point, and has since received considerable debt relief. The government remains dependent on donors for around 15% of its revenue. In early 2005, the World Bank agreed a $25 million loan. A three-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan, amounting to $14 million, ended in 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2010
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (,,menuPK:3046081~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:3046012,00.html)

European Union (EU) (

UK development assistance

The UK's modest bilateral aid programme ended in March 1994, although the British Government continues to give support through multilateral aid channels, mainly the EU-administered European Development Fund (EDF), to which the UK contributes £3.3m (approximately 14%) of the total budget.

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Under a new Constitution adopted in 1992, Mali has a presidential system of government. The President serves a maximum of 2 terms of 5 years. After 2 terms in power, Konare stood down in 2002. Amadou Toumani Toure, the coup leader who handed over power in 1991, won the presidential election in that year. The legislative elections which followed marked the end of ADEMA's dominance over the political scene - no one party came out on top, and opposition parties have since been represented in the National Assembly. The 2002 elections were marred by difficulties, and one third of the results were initially annulled by the constitutional court. Ibrahim Boubacar Kieta (the leader of the RPM, popularly known as IBK), a losing presidential candidate and former prime minister, became head of the National Assembly. With no party political base, Toure formed coalition governments by bringing in people from a range of parties and technocrats from international organisations.

Presidential elections were held on April 29th 2007. Toure stood for re-election and won with 70% of the vote. Kieta again came second. The turnout was low, and the opposition contested the result, although observers from the regional organisation ECOWAS considered the poll credible. Legislative elections were held on 22 July 2007. The ruling coalition, the Alliance for Development and Progress (ADP), won 113 of the 147 seats, after the constitutional court had considered petitions from opposition parties contesting the validity of the results. The turn-out was low at around 32%. Following this electoral victory President Toure formed a new government headed by Modibo Sidibe, an experienced former official and minister.

In 1999, a programme of decentralisation was agreed, largely in response to the long-running Tuareg rebellions in the north of the country. 703 Communes, each with an elected mayor, were created with powers of both revenue collection and service delivery, although their ability to function has been hampered by lack of resources and capacity. In the first months of 2006 a small-scale Tuareg rebellion again broke out. This was initially resolved later in the year with the help of Algerian mediation. But a Tuareg faction, calling themselves the Democratic Alliance for Change (ADC) continue an anti-government insurrection in the north. Renewed fighting broke out in August and September 2007, in which a number of Malian troops were killed and around 30 taken hostage. Ten of these soldiers were released at the end of December.

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Mali's record on human rights is generally good. There is a free and active press, and a healthy NGO sector, largely in the capital. Mali's single TV station is state-owned, but there are several independent radio stations, some of them regional. The justice system is slow and inefficient but is generally regarded as independent.

Human Rights Report 2010 ( )

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Last Updated: October 2011

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