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Mali: Transportation and Telecommunications
Country Study > Transportation and Telecommunications


Overview: Mali’s transportation and communications infrastructure is regarded as poor, even by regional standards, and deficiencies have limited economic growth and development. Nevertheless, improvements have been noted in the early 2000s. A number of road and airport projects were initiated prior to Mali’s hosting of the African Nations Cup football tournament in 2002.

Roads: Mali had a road network totaling about 18,563 kilometers in 2000, including about 4,450 kilometers of paved roads. Mali’s main economic link to the coast is a paved road between Bamako and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. The European Development Fund is financing construction of a road linking Bamako and Dakar, Senegal. The African Development Bank is funding the construction of a road linking Bamako and Kankan in Guinea. There are also plans for a trans-Saharan road linking Mali with Algeria. In general, road conditions outside of urban areas are hazardous, especially at night. Because of isolation, poor road conditions, and the prevalence of banditry, overland travel to the north of Mali is regarded as especially dangerous; flying or traveling by boat is reported to be preferable where possible. Many of Mali’s major thoroughfares in the north are little more than desert tracks with long isolated stretches.

Railroads: Mali has only one railroad, including 729 kilometers in Mali, which runs from the port of Koulikoro via Bamako to the border with Senegal and continues on to Dakar. The Bamako-Dakar line, which has been described as dilapidated, is owned by a joint company established by Mali and Senegal in 1995, with the eventual goal of privatization. In 2003 the two countries sold a 25-year concession to run the rail line to a Canadian company, which has pledged to upgrade equipment and infrastructure. The Malian portion of the railroad carried an estimated 536,000 tons of freight and 778,000 passengers in 1999, but the track is in poor condition and the line is closed frequently during the rainy season. The line is potentially significant because it links landlocked Mali to the port of Dakar, increasingly of interest for Malian exports in the face of the disruption of access to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, as a result of civil conflict in that country beginning in late 2002. In the early 2000s, there also were plans to construct a new rail line between Bamako and Kouroussa and Kankan in Guinea.

Ports: Mali has no seaports because it is landlocked, but Koulikoro on the Niger River near Bamako, serves as a principal river port. Traditionally, Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire has been Mali’s main seaport, handling as much as 70 percent of Mali’s trade (except for gold exports). Mali’s export trade suffered when turbulence in Côte d’Ivoire in the early 2000s interrupted that trade route.

Inland Waterways: Mali has 1,815 kilometers of inland waterways, principally the Niger River, some portions of which are navigable for medium and large shipping during the rainy season (June/July–November/December) in years of normal rainfall. Parts of the Senegal River also are navigable, providing year-round access to the Atlantic from Kayes to St. Louis in Senegal.

Civil Aviation and Airports: In 2003 Mali reportedly had 27 airports, 8 of which had paved runways. The main airport is at Bamako, which offers flights to neighboring countries and to Europe. As part of infrastructure improvements in 2002, the runway at Bamako was extended, and new airstrips were built in previously isolated areas of the west—Kayes, Mopti, and Sikasso. Air Mali was liquidated in April 2003, but intercontinental services from Bamako are provided by Air France and a Belgian airline, among others.

Pipelines: None.

Telecommunications: Mali’s telecommunications system is characterized by high costs and poor coverage, but the government is seeking to make improvements. With the help of the International Monetary Fund, attempts are being made to liberalize the sector and to open it to private investors. In 2002 Mali was estimated to have 56,600 main telephone lines in use and 52,600 mobile cellular phones, up from 49,900 and 45,300, respectively, in 2001. Phone service is characterized as minimal and unreliable but improving. The government’s goal is to increase the number of main telephone lines to a rate of one per 100 people (up from the 0.5 lines/100 noted in 2001). In 2001 there were one AM, 28 FM, and one shortwave radio broadcast stations as well as one television broadcast station. An estimated 570,000 radios were in use in 1997 and 160,000 televisions in 2000, representing about 1.4 televisions per 100 people. According to estimates in the early 2000s, Mali had about 14,000 PCs, five Internet service providers, and 30,000 Internet users. Internet usage was increasing, and Internet cafés were becoming more common in urban areas. Nevertheless, given the cost of hardware and the poor infrastructure, it appeared likely that most of the population would lack access to the Internet for some time to come and that Internet use would remain relatively low.

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

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