Mali Population, Main Cities and Geography

By | January 27, 2023

Mali: population and cities



According to Countryaah website, Mali has about 20.2 million residents, of which about 2.5 million live in the capital Bamako. The country’s illiteracy rate is very high. Although around 47% of children have attended school, 74% of all around 15-year-olds in Mali are illiterate. Average life expectancy is very low at around 48.1 years. The reasons for the short life expectancy are the often lack of access to clean drinking water, the consequences of malnutrition and inadequate hygiene.

Ethnic composition

In Mali around 30 different ethnic groups live peacefully together, with the Bambara making up the majority of the population with around 30%. Other ethnic groups are Malinké, Fulani (Fulbe and Peulh), Sarakolé (Maraka), Songhai, Minianka, Bozo, Khassonké, Bobo, Senufo, Dogon, Tuareg, Moors (especially Kunta) and Dioula. These ethnic groups differ in their own language and other traditions.

Religious affiliation

About 95% of Mali’s residents belong to Islam, with Muslims living in the north of the country in particular. They live mainly in the south of Mali. The remaining 5% are Christians (Catholics and Protestants). Regardless of the official religion, many practice natural religions (animism).

National languages

Although the official language in Mali is French, it is spoken by only 10% of the country’s population, and even then only as a second language. The most widely spoken language, however, is Bambara, which 40% of Mali’s people consider their mother tongue. In addition, Dogon languages are spoken in Mali, i.e. Fulfulde, Arabic, Soninke as well as Songhai and Senufo languages.

Capital, other cities


Around 2.5 million people live in Bamako, the capital and most important business location of Mali. The city on the Niger River with its government district Koulouba offers not only the Musée National du Mali and the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale du Mali, but also cultural events such as the photography exhibition Rencontres africaines de la photographie and the music festival Trophées de la musique au Mali. According to Abbreviation Finder, MLI stands for Mali in English. Click to see other meanings of this 3-letter acronym.


The city of Gao, located in northeast Mali, spreads out on the left bank of the Niger and is inhabited by around 90,000 people. As a junction of important trade routes, the city was of great importance for the Trans-Saharan trade in the past. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the tomb of Askia Muhammad and the red dune of Koyma are located in or near the former capital of the Songhay Empire.


Almost 100,000 people live in Koutiala, a steadily growing city, which is also known as the white gold capital because of its significant cotton production. In addition, Koutiala is Mali’s second most industrialized city.


The center of the city of Mopti, inhabited by around 115,000 people, spreads over three islands, which explains the nickname Venice of Mali. Probably the most important port city in the country lures with a picturesque old town full of mosques and markets.

Nioro du Sahel

In western Mali is Nioro du Sahel, a town of 35,000 people that was founded in the 16th or 17th centuries by a slave named Diawandé. The conqueror Al-Hajj Omar had an imposing mosque built in the city.

Ségou or Segu

After all, 135,000 people live in the city on the Niger, which is an important place for the fishing industry. The city, dominated by a dominant water tower, attracts travelers in particular with Segou-Koro, the old part of the city, which extends about ten kilometers from today’s city center.


In the south of Mali is Sikasso, the country’s second largest city with 230,000 residents. The tourist highlights of the city include the remains of the historic fortress wall and the prehistoric Missikoro caves.


In Timbuktu, the legendary oasis city on the southern edge of the Sahara, an estimated 60,000 people live today. The old city is struggling with desertification, which manifests itself in the fact that the hot Sahara sand is getting closer and closer to the city and is already crowding the streets everywhere.

When you hear the name Timbuktu, everyone first thinks of the center of Trans-Saharan trade, which once a year thousands of caravans came to trade here, but also to move on to other regions. The city, which is currently still quite difficult to reach, also impresses with its grandiose beauty and such wonderful buildings as the three Islamic houses of worship Djinger-ber mosque, Sankóre mosque and Sidi Yahia mosque, which together with the 16 cemeteries and mausoleums are on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mali: geography and map

Area and land use

Mali covers a total area of 1,240,140 km². Check topmbadirectory for politics, flags, famous people, animals and plants of Mali. Thereof:

  • ForestAround 5% of the country is forested.
  • Meadow and pasture landAround 25% of the land is used as meadow or pasture land.
  • Fields and fieldsAround 2% of the land is used as arable land or fields, especially for growing peanuts, cotton, rice, cassava, millet and corn.
  • DesertAbout 50% of the country consists of desert.

Mali shares a border with the following seven countries.

Algeria with a length of 1,376 km,

Burkina Faso with a length of 1,000 km,

Guinea with a length of 858 km,

Ivory Coast with a length of 532 km,

Mauritania with a length of 2,237 km,

Niger with a length of 821 km and

Senegal with a length of 419 km.

Longitude and latitude

Mali extends over the following geographical latitude (abbr.

Δφ = from 10 ° to 25 ° 51` north latitude Δλ = from 012 ° 10 ‘west to 004 ° 18` east

You can find detailed information on this subject under Longitude and Latitude.


For Mali, the following value applies to Central European Time (CET), i.e. the time (without summer time) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A minus sign means that it is earlier there, a plus sign that it is later than CET:

Δt (MEZ) = – 1 h (= GMT)

Further and detailed explanations of the time can be found under Time zones, time.

The highest point of the sun in Bamako

Bamako, the capital of the country, lies at a northern latitude of around φ = 12.5 °. If the declination δ of the sun has a value of around 12.5 ° north, and thus the image point of the sun is above the city, the sun is perpendicular there. This happens exactly twice a year, roughly 49 days after March 21st and 48 days before September 21st (for details see position of the sun).


If the image point of the sun and thus the declination δ is north of the latitude of Bamako, the sun is not in the south at noon, as in our latitudes, but in the north. In this case, the sun moves from east to north to west, where, like us, it sets.


The highest mountain in the country is the Hombori Tondo with a height of 1,155 m.


The longest river in the country is the Niger with a total length of 4,181 km. Other rivers in the country are Senegal with a length of 1,120 km and the Bani.


The country includes numerous smaller lakes. The largest lake is Lac Débo. Other lakes are Lac Faguibine, Lac Niangay and Lac de Manantali.

Mali Population