Mali is a large, landlocked country in West Africa with more than 1.24 million square kilometers (480,000 square miles) of land. In 2012, an armed conflict broke out and Tuareg rebels took control, declaring secession of a new state, Azawad. While it was recaptured, negotiations are expected to take place.
The people of Mali are comprised of several sub-Saharan ethnic groups. The largest is the Bambara, accounting for 37% of the population. While the official language of Mali is French, 80% of people speak Bambara and there are at least 40 African languages in use. The Bambara, Sonike, Khassonke and Malinke are part of the larger Mande group, which accounts for half of the country's population. Other large ethnic groups include the Fula (17%), Voltaic (12%), Songhai (6%) and the Tuareg and Moor (10%).
Mali Religion, Economy and Politics
Mali is considered an Islamic society, with over 90% of the population practicing Islam. Most Muslim people in Mali are Sunni, but there are also Ahmadiyya and Shia communities present. The small non-muslim population is split pretty evenly between Christians, and those practicing indigenous beliefs.
The economy in Mali is largely based in rural agriculture, which occupies 70% of their workforce, and their economy is doing very poorly. Mali is both one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, as well as on a list of 37 very poor, and also very indebted countries, and they rely heavily on foreign aid.
Mali Population History
Mali was considered an empire until around the 14th century when the Songhai Empire took control of the gold trade in the important trading city of Timbuktu. Moroccans took the land from the Songhai in the late 16th century. The French advanced on Mali in the 19th century, beginning religious wars in the area. The French gained total control in 1898, and the country was called French Sudan. Mali became a free, socialist state in 1960, and later became a democracy in the 1990s.