President: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (2013)
Prime Minister: Moussa Mara (2014)
Land area: 471,042 sq mi (1,219,999 sq km); total area: 478,767 sq mi (1,240,000 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 16,455,903 growth rate: 3%; birth rate: 45.53/1000; infant mortality rate: 104.34/1000; life expectancy: 54.95
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Bamako, 2.037 million
Monetary unit: CFA Franc
Most of Mali, in West Africa, lies in the Sahara. A landlocked country four-fifths the size of Alaska, it is bordered by Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Côte d'Ivoire. The only fertile area is in the south, where the Niger and Senegal rivers provide water for irrigation.
Caravan routes have passed through Mali since A.D. 300. The Malinke empire ruled regions of Mali from the 12th to the 16th century, and the Songhai empire reigned over the Timbuktu-Gao region in the 15th century. Morocco conquered Timbuktu in 1591 and ruled over it for two centuries. Subjugated by France by the end of the 19th century, the land became a colony in 1904 (named French Sudan in 1920) and in 1946 became part of the French Union. On June 20, 1960, it became independent and, under the name of Sudanese Republic, was joined with the Republic of Senegal in the Mali federation. However, Senegal seceded from the federation on Aug. 20, 1960, and the Sudanese Republic then changed its name to the Republic of Mali on Sept. 22.