Mali is a landlocked nation in West Africa with 475,000 square miles in land area (roughly the size of Texas and California combined), half of which is desert. Mali shares borders with seven countries. The country has a population of some 9.7 million and a population growth rate of 2.7 percent. The per capita GDP in 1997 was approximately $370. The capital city, Bamako, has about 900,000 inhabitants. The country is divided into eight administrative regions.
The climate is characterized by nine months of hot or dry weather (October – June) and three months of frequent rain (July – September). The coolest temperatures occur during December-February. 85 percent of the population is Moslem, but Mali is a secular country. Christianity and animism are also practiced. French is the official language.
Mali’s main imports include petroleum, chemicals, fertilizers, vehicles, machinery, processed food, clothing, cosmetics, electronics, telecommunications equipment, mining equipment, irrigation equipment, and most other manufactured items.
Although French goods dominate imports in several areas, North American, Asian, and other products are steadily gaining market share as Malian entrepreneurs expand their supply sources. Exports of U.S. goods to Mali were $26.0 millions in 1997.
Eighty percent of the population is engaged in farming, raising livestock, or fishing. Production of cotton, still Mali’s largest export, has expanded in recent years; in 1996 and 1997 Mali was the second-largest producer in Africa, following Egypt, and the largest exporter.
Locally manufactured goods include clothing, textiles, leather, paint, plastic products, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverages. Known mineral deposits comprise gold, bauxite, uranium, iron, copper, manganese, and phosphates; only gold, Mali’s third most important foreign exchange earner, has been exploited significantly.
The unit of currency in Mali, as in many West African French-speaking countries, is the CFA Franc, which is fully convertible at the fixed rate of 100 CFA franc to 1 French Franc. As of June 1998, the average exchange rate is 600 CFA to 1 US dollar.