Located in West Africa, Mali is a landlocked country approximately twice the size of Texas. It is bordered by Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, and Mauritania.

Formerly known as the Sudanese Republic, the country was renamed Mali in 1960 following independence from France and a brief union with Senegal. After decades of dictatorship, a military coup in 1991 ushered in almost 20 years of democracy. Unfortunately, long-standing ethnic tensions in northern Mali came to a head in January 2012 when Tuareg ethnic militias started a rebellion that led to two years of civil conflict and resulted in a military coup, the displacement of thousands of northern Malians, and ultimately an international military intervention. Although democratic elections too place in 2013, Mali remains fragile.

The 2012 political crisis, coupled with the global recession, hurt Mali’s previous economic gains. Prior to 2011, the economy grew at an annual rate of 5% for over a decade. The poverty rate fell by approximately 13% over the same period. Despite this, the economy remains vulnerable due to its dependence on commodity prices; cotton and gold exports account for 80% of Mali’s export earnings. The country’s high birth rate and unemployment rate also poses a barrier to poverty reduction and stability.

Food insecurity is also a problem in Mali  Almost two-thirds of Mali is desert or semi-desert. Although only about 5% of Mali’s land is suitable for agriculture, 80% of the labor force is involved in subsistence farming and fishing. Agriculture, and the environment in general, are vulnerable not only to drought, but also to deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, and water insecurity, all of which have been problems in recent years. Agriculture production decreased in recent years due to political conflict and population displacement.

Lack of infrastructure, especially for water and sanitation, has also inhibited economic and social development. Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) 2014 reports that, 46% of the rural population, and 33% of the total population  is still without access to an improved source of drinking water. An even higher percentage, 85% and 78%, respectively, remain without access to sanitation facilities. In addition, many pre-existing water sources repair. Lack of access to water and sanitation also affects other areas of development like gender parity. In Mali, the number of boys enrolled in school surpasses that of girls, with particularly high drop out rates for girls in rural regions. Girls often leave school to collect water from distant sources for their families. Although Mali desperately needs social programs to reduce poverty, they do not have the financial capacity. According to the World Bank, Mali relies on external sources for half of its funding.

Despite the setbacks from the political crisis, the economy began to rally in 2013, and the World Bank estimates that real GDP will be 5%, as a result of growth in the service and construction sectors. The negative economic aspects of the political crisis have been mitigated by favorable trade terms and a notable agricultural harvest. Foreign aid and tourism are poised to resume as security concerns decrease. Political stability and continued security will hopefully pave the way for economic progress and social development.

Projects in Mali