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A map of MaliA map of Mali Mali is one of the emptiest countries in Africa. Most of the country is flat, except for a mountain range, the Adrar des Iforas (Ifoghas), that runs along the Algerian border and the Hombori Mountains in the east. The northern part of Mali is taken up by the Sahara Desert and its vast sand “seas”, called ergs. Bordering the Sahara to the south is the scrubland of the Sahel. Southern Mali, a land of savanna grasslands, is much greener. Here, the great River Niger winds across the landscape. It divides into a number of smaller rivers, creating an inland delta, a swampy region of lakes and floodplains. The south has a hot, tropical climate. Most of the rain falls between July and November.

A map of MaliA map of Mali
Welcome to Mali
Malian family working in cotton fieldsMalian family working in cotton fields


Most of the country’s people make their living from farming. The fertile banks of the River Niger have Mali’s best farmland: here, farmers grow cotton, a major cash crop, as well as rice, millet and vegetables for their families. Because its economy depends so heavily on farming—especially on cotton—Mali’s farmers suffer badly when there is a drought, or when world cotton prices fall. It is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Another important industry is goldmining: Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer.

In the Mali Empire, which existed between the 12th–16th centuries, people used gold dust as currency.

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