Mali as a country started its fight against independence in the 1930s. Political opposition did not initially emanate from political parties rather they came from individual that had organized themselves into a number of voluntary organizations (Velton 13). These voluntary organizations compromised of cultural and sporting associations where most educated individual would meet under the French approval. Political parties were formed in the 1940s where the struggle for independence from the French continued. In June 20, 1960, Mali gained its independence from France.
Mali covers an area of 478, 640 square miles. It has a population of about 11, 626,219 as of 2005 (McColl, 579). According to the Country Intelligence Report (4), the population as of 2012 had risen to 14.83 million and this figure is expected to continue to increase over the next several years. The capital city of Mali is Bamako and is the largest city in Mali. The highest point is 1,155m while the lowest point is 23m above sea level. Mali is a landlocked country and is one of the largest countries in West Africa, Algeria borders Mali to the Northeast, Senegal and Guinea borders Mai to the west, Mauritania to the northwest, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso to the south and Niger to the South east (McColl 579). Apart from Bamako, other important urban centers include Timbuktu, Gao, Segou, Sikasso, Kayes and Mopti.
Figure 1: Mali and its Neighboring Countries
Mali is a relatively flat land. According to Dipiazza (8), Mali consists of three regions. These include the Sahara, which is located in the Northern half of the country, the Sahel, which is the semidesert zone that forms a band accords the center of the country and the fertile savanna or grassland that is located in southern Mali. The Sahara consists of flat rocky plains. Additionally, sand dunes are also present. In northeastern Mali, there exists a mountainous region known as Adrar des Iforas. Rainfall is inadequate in the Sahara, and most of the people in this region are nomads who move their animals in such for pastures and oasis.
The Sahel starts at the southern edge of the Sahara. Most of the herders raise their livestock in the Sahel region. In the south of the Sahara, a large inland delta has fertile food land exists (Dipiazza 10). This region has some of the richest farmlands in Africa. Farmers engage in crop and animal farming, in the grassland area. Rivers branch extensively and form lakes and swamps. Fishermen normally fish from the lakes and rivers. Some of the rivers dry up during the dry season. However, Lake Debo and Lake Faguibine are normally wet all year round. Physical features present in the south include the Bandiagara Ridge, which are normally a series of cliffs that extend for about 241 kilometers. The cliffs form part of the Dogon Plateau. Dogon people normally build their houses on the plateaus. Additionally, there exists the Hombori Mountains, which are made up of sandstone. The highest mountain is Mount Hombori Tondu, which reaches a height of 1,155 meters above sea level. Furthermore, the Manding Mountains extend from the western border to the capital city and rise to about 457 meters above sea level.
The Niger River is the most important natural resource in Mali (Dipiazza 16). This is because it supplies water to the land with little rain and no coastline since it is landlocked. From the rivers, farmers are able to fish and navigation or transportation by river is possible. Mineral resources in Mali include gold and salt that most miners exploit. Additionally, miners also produce limestone and phosphate, which are key fertilizer ingredients. The Saharan landscapes, ancient empires and the Niger boat trips form a major tourist attraction (Dipiazza 16).
Temperatures in Mali are relatively high all year round. Climate varies from region to region. The wettest months occur between June and September. In the Sahara, there exist extremely dry hot winds referred to as the harmattans. These winds normally carry clouds of dust that reduce visibility and cover the surfaces with grit. Winds from the Gulf of Guinea normally carry moisture and lower the temperatures in the south of Mali.
In the Sahara, rainfall does not exceed 250 millimeters annually. Temperatures in the Sahara can reach highs of 49 degrees Celsius during the day and lows of 4 degrees Celsius during the night. In the south, rainfall reaches about 152 cm annually with temperatures ranging from 24 degrees Celsius to 35 degree Celsius.
Vegetation and Wildlife
Vegetation in the Sahara is comprised of hardy thorny plants. In the Sahel region, there is the presence of sparse vegetation that consists of tough plants. For instance, cram-cram grasses, which have tiny, spiky burrs spread across the region. Additionally, thorny acacia trees are present and grow in the dry soil. Wildlife consists of a limited number of lions and giraffes. Desert elephants exist in Mali and normally reside in the Sahel region. Fish present in the rivers include catfish, Nile perch and catch carp. Additionally the Niger River has hippopotamuses, manatees and turtles.
PRODUCTS AND TRADE
Mali depends largely on agriculture. According to Velton (27), the main export crops include rice, cotton, groundnuts, sugar cane, tobacco and tea. Cotton accounts for most of the exports. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission (33), in 2003, cotton exports from Mali accounted for approximately 80% of the total exports from Mali. The figures were about $213.6 million. For the remaining 20%, majority was mainly accounted or attributed to gold. The cotton is mainly exported to Asian countries, which include India, Thailand, Pakistan and China. The Country Intelligence Report (13) indicates that China’s interest, in Mali, has increased, and this can be seen in China increasing its involvement in infrastructuredevelopment, in Mali. China is also competing for mining concessions in the country. Additionally, Mali also exports to the United Kingdom. Mali is also involved in the export of livestock products such as skin and hides to neighboring countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana. Additionally, mangoes are normally exported to countries such as France, Netherlands, Senegal and Guinea. Most of the imports come from France. However, imports from the Asia and the United Sates are also increasing (International Business Publications 83).
Mali’s service sector provides about 39% of the GDP. According to the Country Intelligence Report (3), the nominal GDP in Mali was at US$ 10.6 in 2011 and the nominal per capita GDP was at US$ 737. Tourism also is a major foreign income earner with revenue increasing from US$ 154 to US$ 254 million over a six-year period between 2001 and 2007. Agriculture alone contributes to about 41.4 % of the GDP. Numerous job opportunities are in the agriculture sector with more than 80% of the population employed in this sector (U.S. International Trade Commission 31). Cotton accounts for 14% of the country GDP and approximately 99 % of the agriculture export revenue.
According to the African Development Bank (150) Mali has one of the highest annual growth rates. With a GNI per capita of $580, Mali is a low-income country. Using the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures Life expectancy, education and income, Mali has risen from 0.165 in 1980 to 0.309 in 2010, which is a figure that is below the average in the Sub-Saharan region (African Development Bank 15). Mali’s GDP has been low compared to its neighboring countries. According to the African Development Bank (15), Mali’s GDP has been low when compared to other countries in the western region. Between 2008 and 2009, Mali’s GDP has fallen, and this has made it hard for the country to provide decent jobs to its citizens.
Majority of the labor force in Mali is not salaried. In the rural areas, most of the individual are self-employed in the Agricultural sector of which accounts for 95% of the workers. Men account for 53% of this figure. Women are overrepresented in the low-income levels and underrepresented in the higher income levels (African Development Bank 26). The industry sector is the smallest sector especially in Bamako, which is ironically the capital city of Mali. As of 2012, Mali external debt was at US$ 2.79 billion. This was globally ranked at 140.
Between 2006 and 2008, Mali’s ratio in primary education increased from 0.801 to 0.828. in secondary education, this ratio increased from 0.608 to 0.639. The gender inequality is measured using the percentage of seats held by women in parliament. Between, 2006 and 2008, the percentage of seats held by women was at 10% (African Development Bank 16).
Infant mortality rate in Mali is quite high. According to Imperato and Imperato (147), most of the infant deaths below the age of five can be attributed to measles, dysentery and chronic malaria. The rate has been at 220 deaths per 1000 infants, which is very high compared to 17 per 1000 in the United States (Imperato and Imperato 147). There are high numbers of malnourished children, which contributes the reduction in their ability to have a capable immune system. The life expectancy at birth for women is at 50.1 %. For males, the life expectancy during birth is lower at 49.1%. Mortality rates for female adults are at 304.6 per 1000 females and 368.8 per 1000 male adults.
According to Dettwyler (189), the adult literacy rate in Mali is at 31%. Primary school enrollment is at 66%. According to the International Monetary Fund (16), enrollment of girls in school is 20 percent lower compared to enrollment of boys. However, school completion rates are increasing. As of 2009, the school completion rate was at 13.4%. Contrary, school dropout rates continue to be a challenge to the education sector with dropouts being at 23%. Population growth rate is at a rate of 3% every year (International Monetary Fund 53).
Current Political Situation
In 2012, conflict in the North resulted to a military coup. Islamic fighters had threatened to advance to the south. However, as of 2013, civilian rule was re-established despite the situation with Tuareg separatists in the north being uncertain. In the 1960’s, Modibo Keita had sought to increase the country’s development by conducting a massive state intervention. Soon after, the same situation continued under the dictatorship rule of Moussa Traore. Under Traore’s rule, the country received massive aids from France and Russia (Country Intelligence Report 14). After the 1990s, democracy in Mali fostered economic growth. With the just concluded presidential elections, Mali’s economy is expected to grow steadily at 5.5% and will peak in 2016 (Country Intelligence Report 11). However, the domestic security in the North remains uncertain. Improving on agriculture is expected to contribute to Mali’s economic growth.
Religion forms a very important element in Mali’s culture. Islam is the largest in the country and is mostly located in the North (Schulz 23). This is particularly important since the Mali domestic crises of 2012 was attributed to religion that led to Islamist separatists launching attacks and causing a military coup in the country to occur. Artifacts and art in Mali are normally attributed to have a ritual and religious importance (Schulz 63).
The IMF has been involved in trying to reduce poverty in Mali by setting up quantitative targets within a Poverty Reduction Growth Facility. This has been in existence since 1999 (IMF 39). The World Bank coordinates structural measures within the program. World continues to be a leader in policy dialogue concerning structural, social and institution reforms in various sectors.
One of the efforts that needed to improve the economic outlook of Mali relates to infrastructural development. Enhancing and promoting infrastructure development may open up more regions in the country. This may be significant especially in reducing isolation of the Northern areas. Improving security in the Northern region can help stimulate and improve tourism in this area.
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