Country Profile


Crossroads' Work in Mali

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 178 out of 182 countries in the 2009 UNDP Human Development Index. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, most of them women and children in rural areas.

In Mali, Crossroads works with local partners to create economic opportunities for youth and women through skills development, business planning, microcredit and the development of social enterprises and cooperatives.

It is encouraging to know Crossroads is playing a role on the frontlines. An inhuman globalization can only be opposed by a globalization of solidarity.

- Moctar Sékou Traoré (Kilabo)


Full Name: The Republic of Mali

Population: 15. 9 million (UN, 2013)

Capital: Bamako

Area: 1.25 million sq km (482,077 sq miles)

Major languages: French, Bambara, Berber, Arabic

Major religions: Islam, indigenous beliefs

Life Expectancy: 54.55 years (UN)

Monetary Unit: 1 CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc = 100 centimes

Main Exports: Cotton, gold, livestock

GNI per capita: US $649 (World Bank, 2012)


Mali, which gained independence from France in 1960, has among the best records of democracy in Africa. The 1992 constitution provides for a multi-party democracy, with the only restriction being a prohibition against parties based on ethnic, religious, regional, or gender lines. In 1991, an uprising overthrew the country's long-standing military dictator and brought in an elected government.

Fifteen political parties are represented in the National Assembly. President Amadou Toumani Touré was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2007 for another five-year term.

Since 1999, Mali's government has worked to decentralize power so it can better address the needs of rural areas. Decentralization provides new opportunities for women to become involved in the political system.

In 2009, President Toumani Touré proposed some changes to the Family Code with respect to mariage, parentage, kinship inheritance and donation among others. The reforms have created social tension between religious authorities and political representatives.

In January 2010, inspired by the celebration of the 50th anniversary of national independence, President Amadou Toumani Touré announced a series of legislative reforms and contruction projects. Among them were a revsion of the constitution to foster the country's democratic system and the construction of a major hydraulic dam in the Gao region.  


Mali is one of Africa’s major cotton exporters and third largest African exporter of gold.

Local economic development initiatives are vital to the economy, which is largely based on the production of agricultural commodities, livestock, and fish.

Agricultural activities occupy 70 per cent of Mali's labor force. Cotton, gold, and livestock make up 80 to 90 per cent of total export earnings. Within the agricultural sector, small-scale traditional farming dominates with subsistence farming on about 90 per cent of land under cultivation.

The effect of the global food and fuel crisis in 2009, along with a difficult crop season, increased levels of poverry throughout Mali, a country which already stants among the poorest in Africa.


Mali is one of the world's poorest nations, ranking 178 out of 1782 countries on the 2009 UN Human Development Index. According to the World Bank, Mali’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is US $580.

The proportion of the country’s poor people decreased from 68.3 per cent in 2001 to 59.2 per cent in 2005. But Mali is still among the world's 10 poorest nations. The UNDP estimates that 72 per cent of the population lives on less than US$2 a day with 36 per cent living on less than US$1 a day.

Mali has participated in International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank programs such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative (beginning in 1998) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). However, a high percentage of new financing has gone to debt servicing (up to 60 per cent by one estimate), leaving the country with fewer resources to combat poverty than the raw numbers suggest.

IMF and World Bank conditions for debt cancellation generally focus on deregulation and privatization and, as critics have noted, often deny public sector solutions. Privatization initiatives in Mali have targeted the agriculture, banking and telecommunications sectors.

The partnership with CCI has enabled members of the [COPROKAZAN] board to travel overseas, which has really developed their leadership qualities.

- Oumar Coulibaly (Association Malienne pour les jeunes)

Women’s Rights

Women in Mali continue to suffer from widespread discrimination and domestic violence. The 2010 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index ranks Mali 127 out of 134 countries. This considerable downward slip of 18 places in one year is attributed, according to the WEF, to the deterioration of economic participation of women and widening wage gaps.

In Mali, girls are legally allowed to wed at 15 as long as they have the consent of the girl’s parents. A survey carried out in 2001 showed that 65 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married by the age of 18, one of the highest rates in the world. Nationwide, 25 per cent of girls were married by the age of 15, and one in 10 married girls aged 15-19 gave birth before age 15.

Most women in Mali are subjected to traditional roles that have changed little over the last century, especially in rural areas. Violence against women, including wife beating, is tolerated and common. Approximately 94 per cent of women undergo of Female Genital Mutilation.


Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: