Mali gained its independence from France in 1960. Half the population are of Mande ethnicity; approximately 10 per cent are Tuareg and Moor, who live predominantly nomadic lives in Mali's northern regions. French is the official language, but almost half the population speaks Bambara. Malian returnees from Libya in 2011 exacerbated existing tensions in northern Mali, and Tuareg ethnic militias initiated a rebellion in January 2012. Low- and mid-level soldiers overthrew the President in March 2012 but civilian administration was restored in April. Nevertheless, rebels were able to expel the Malian military from the three northern regions and enable Islamic militants to establish strongholds.
In April 2013, the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) deployed to Mali to re-establish Mali's territorial integrity. In July, the United Nations (UN) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) took over from AFISMA. After significant progress in 2013, the security situation in Mali has deteriorated significantly, culminating in the mid-May 2014 violence in Kidal, northern Mali. On 23 May 2014, a ceasefire was signed between representatives of the armed groups and the Government under the auspices of the African Union and MINUSMA, accepting to start negotiations.
Mali is among the poorest countries in the world; dependent on gold mining and agricultural exports for revenue: about 80 per cent of the labour force is agrarian. But agriculture revenues are volatile. Mali therefore remains dependent on foreign aid. Mali is developing its iron ore industry to diversify its exports away from gold. Insecurity, weak infrastructure and an under-skilled workforce remain the main barriers to attracting foreign investment and achieving economic growth.
Mali is a member of La Francophonie, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States. Australia's diplomatic representation to Mali is from the High Commission in Accra, Ghana.
Economic and trade information
- Travel advice for Mali
- Before you travel:
- Assistance to Australian travellers: Consular Services Charter