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Country, western Africa. Area: 482,077 sq mi (1,248,574 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 13,443,000. Capital: Bamako. The Bambara constitute about one-third of the total population. Other ethnic groups include the Fulani and the Imazighen (Berbers). Languages: French (official), Dogon, Bambara, Songhai, Soninke, Senufo, Arabic. Religions: Islam; also traditional beliefs, Christianity. Currency: CFA franc. Mali's terrain is largely flat, and in the north its plains stretch into the Sahara. The upper Niger River basin is in the south; about two-fifths of the total length of the Niger River flows through Mali. Only a tiny fraction of Mali's total land area is considered arable. Mali's most important exploited mineral is gold; other mineral reserves, which are largely unexploited, include iron ore, bauxite, and copper. Agriculture constitutes the major economic activity. Staple crops include millet, sorghum, corn, and rice; cash crops include cotton and peanuts. Mali is a multiparty republic with one legislative house; its head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the region was on a trans-Saharan caravan route. The Malinke empire of Mali was founded in the 13th century on the upper and middle Niger. In the 15th century the Songhai empire in the Timbuktu-Gao region gained control. Morocco invaded the area in 1591, and Timbuktu gradually declined in importance. In the mid- to late-19th century the French conquered the area, which became part of French West Africa. In 1946 the area, known as the French Sudan, became an overseas territory of the French Union. In 1958 it was proclaimed the Sudanese Republic, and it joined with Senegal (1959–60) to form the Mali Federation. Senegal seceded, and in 1960 the independent Republic of Mali was formed. The government was overthrown by military coups in 1968 and 1991. A civilian government was restored in 1992, and democratic multiparty elections have since been held every five years. The country has experienced continuing economic problems.
Variants of MALI
Mali officially Republic of Mali
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Mali, visit Britannica.com.