Region: Western Africa
Population: 12,324,029 (July 2008 est.)
Surface area: 1.24 million sq km
Currency: CFA franc (XOF)
GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity US $1,000 (2007 est.)
Mali is the seventh largest country in Africa. Its size is 1,240,000 km² and it has an estimated population of about 14.5 million people (2009). The current Malian territory hosted the three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, Mali Empire and the Songhai Empire.
In the late nineteenth century, Mali fell under the control of France, becoming part of French Sudan. It has gained its independence in 1959 with Senegal, becoming the Mali Federation, which would be disintegrated a year later. After a time being ruled by a dictatorship, a military coup in 1991 led to the establishment of a democratic system. President Alpha Konare won Mali's first two democratic presidential elections in 1992 and 1997. In keeping with Mali's two-term constitutional limit, he stepped down in 2002 and was succeeded by Amadou Toure, who was elected to a second term in 2007 elections that were widely judged to be free and fair. Malian returnees from Libya in 2011 exacerbated tensions in northern Mali and Tuareg ethnic militias started a rebellion in January 2012. Low-mid level soldiers, frustrated with the poor handling of the rebellion, overthrew Toure on 22 March. The post-coup chaos led to rebels expelling the Malian military from the three northern regions of the country, which remain under the control of a Tuareg militia. Hundreds of thousands of northern Malians fled the violence to southern Mali and neighboring countries, exacerbating regional food insecurity in host communities. Actually, the interim government is working with ECOWAS to organize negotiations with Tuareg rebels and with the international community to plan a military intervention to retake the three northern regions.
Mali is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; women and girls are forced into domestic servitude, agricultural labor, and support roles in gold mines, as well as subjected to sex trafficking. Malian boys are found in conditions of forced labor in agricultural settings, gold mines, and the informal commercial sector.
Malians and other Africans who travel through Mali to Mauritania, Algeria, or Libya, in hopes of reaching Europe are particularly at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Some members of Mali's black Tamachek community are subjected to traditional slavery-related practices, and this involuntary servitude reportedly has extended to their children.
The United Nations Human Rights Organization has condemned the ongoing human rights violations in northern Mali, including cruel punishments such as amputations, the stoning to death of an unmarried couple, summary execution, recruitment of child soldiers, as well as violation of women´ rights, children’s rights, freedom of expression, the right to food, health, education, to freedom of religion and belief, and cultural rights.
The war between Government forces and Tuareg rebels has made grew the instability and insecurity, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region. Over 250,000 Malians has fled to neighboring countries, and there´s an estimation of 174,000 Malians internally displaced.
Among the 25 poorest countries in the world, Mali is a landlocked country highly dependent on gold mining and agricultural exports for revenue. The country's fiscal status fluctuates with gold and agricultural commodity prices and the harvest. Economic activity is largely confined to the river area irrigated by the Niger River, and about 65% of its land area is desert or semi-desert. About 10% of the population is nomadic and about 80% of the labor force is engaged in farming and fishing. Industrial activity is concentrated on processing farm commodities.
The government in 2011 completed an IMF extended credit facility program that has helped the economy to grow, diversify, and attract foreign investment. Mali is developing its cotton and iron ore extraction industries to diversify foreign exchange revenue away from gold. Mali has invested in tourism but security issues are hurting it. The country experienced economic growth of about 5% per year in the period of 1996-2010, but the global recession and the military coup caused a decline in 2012. Mali still remains dependent on foreign aid and about half of the population lives below the international poverty line, set at $1.25 per day.