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Mali: Geography
Country Study > Geography

GEOGRAPHY


Location: Mali is a landlocked nation in West Africa, located southwest of Algeria.

Size: At about 1.2 million square kilometers, Mali is almost twice the size of Texas or about equal to that of Texas and California combined.

Land Boundaries: Mali shares a total of 7,243 kilometers of land boundaries with seven bordering states: Algeria (1,376 kilometers) to the north and northeast, Niger (821 kilometers) to the east, Burkina Faso (1,000 kilometers) to the southeast, Côte d’Ivoire (532 kilometers) to the south, Guinea (858 kilometers) to the southwest, and Senegal (419 kilometers) and Mauritania (2,237 kilometers) to the west.

Length of Coastline: None. Mali is landlocked.

Topography: Mali’s territory encompasses three natural zones: the southern cultivated Sudanese zone, central semiarid Sahelian zone, and northern arid Saharan zone. The terrain is primarily savanna in the south and flat to rolling plains or high plateau (200–500 meters in elevation) in the north. There are rugged hills in the northeast, with elevations of up to 1,000 meters. Desert or semi-desert covers about 65 percent of the country’s area. The Niger River creates a large and fertile inland delta as it arcs northeast through Mali from Guinea before turning south and eventually emptying into the Gulf of Guinea.

Principal Rivers: The Niger (with 1,693 kilometers in Mali) and Senegal are Mali’s two largest rivers. The Niger is generally described as Mali’s lifeblood, a source of food, drinking water, irrigation, and transportation.

Climate: The climate ranges from subtropical in the south to arid in the north. The country is mostly dry, with 4–5 months of rainy season. In Bamako, at an elevation of 340 meters above sea level, temperatures generally range from 16° C to 39° C. January is the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 16° C to 33° C, and April is the hottest month, with temperatures averaging 34° C–39° C. Annual precipitation in Bamako averages 1,120 millimeters. The driest months are December and January with zero rainfall. The wettest month is August, which averages 220 millimeters of rainfall. Most of the country receives negligible rainfall, and droughts are a recurring problem. During dry seasons, a hot, dust-laden harmattan haze is also common. Flooding of the Niger River occurs regularly in the rainy season (approximately June/July–November/December).

Natural Resources: Mali is endowed with bauxite, copper, diamonds, gold, gypsum, iron ore, kaolin, limestone, lithium, manganese, phosphates, salt, silver, uranium, and zinc, but not all deposits are being exploited, and some may not be commercially viable. Mali also has ample hydropower.

Land Use: Sixty-five percent of Mali’s land area is desert or semi-desert. According to estimates in 1998, only 3.8 percent of Mali’s area can be classified as arable land, and less than 0.1 percent was planted to permanent crops in that year. Mali was estimated to have 1,380 square kilometers of irrigated land in 1998.

Environmental Factors: Mali faces numerous environmental challenges, including desertification, deforestation, soil erosion, drought, and inadequate supplies of potable water. Deforestation is an especially serious and growing problem. According to the Ministry of the Environment, Mali’s population consumes 6 million tons of wood per year for timber and fuel. To meet this demand, 400,000 hectares of tree cover are lost annually, virtually ensuring destruction of the country’s savanna woodlands.

Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time.




Last Updated: January 2005


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mali was first published in 2005. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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