Mali is the seventh-largest country in Africa, bordering Algeria in the north, Niger in the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d’Ivoire in the south, Guinea to the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania to the west. The country’s economic structure centres on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali’s natural resources include gold, uranium, and salt.

Population: 14,5 million

Capital City:Bamako

Climate:Mali has a subtropical climate in the south, and an arid climate in the north. There are frequent droughts here, with negligible rain. From February to June, it is hot and dry, from June to November, it is rainy, humid and mild, and from November to February, the weather is cool and dry.

Visas: South African passport holders are required to obtain a visa to enterMali. Visas cost R510 for a 30-day visa, allowing for double entry.

Business Hotels:Mali has several business hotels that are suited to conferencing and meetings. The Radisson Blu Hotel Bamako, Laico El Farouk, Laico l’AmitieBamako, and the Hotel Salam are five-star hotels offering excellent accommodation and services, as well as high speed Internet in all their rooms. The Laico l’Amitie also boasts the largest hotel conference centre inMali.

Business Restaurants: In terms of hygiene and diversity, the hotels are the most likely places to enjoy a business lunch or dinner. La Kora restaurant, at the Radisson Blu, offers a tempting fusion menu combining French and African influences. At the Laico El Farouk, Le Bélvèdere is open from breakfast to dinner, offering an international cuisine in a smart atmosphere, or one can enjoy refined French cuisine with the latest in fusion dishes from around the world at the Laico l’Amitie.

Leisure Activities: Mali boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the country, the most well known of these being Timbuktu, located in the northern area of the country.  Another WHS, the Old Towns of Djenné, includes five ancient towns in the region which have been inhabited since 250 B.C. Djenné became a market centre and an important link in the trans-Saharan gold trade, and in the 15th and 16th centuries it was one of the centres for the propagation of Islam. Its traditional houses, of which nearly 2,000 have survived, are built on hillocks (toguere), as protection from the seasonal floods. The third WHS is the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons). The geological, archaeological and ethnological interest, together with the landscape, make the Bandiagara plateau one of West Africa’s most impressive sites, and an outstanding landscape of cliffs and sandy plateaux with some beautiful architecture.

Airlines:Mali’s national airline is AirMali. Other airlines that fly into the country are AirFrance, Ethiopian Airways, Interair and Kenya Airways.

Airports:Mali has five major airports around the country, two of which are international. These areSenouInternationalAirport, inBamako, andGaoInternationalAirport in Gao. The remaining three areKayesAirport,MoptiAirport and TimbuktuAirport.

Getting Around: Getting around Mali is usually a matter of taking a passenger boat down the Niger (or a smaller pirogue or pinasse on shorter trips), or buses and bush taxis. Buses tend to be more popular than bush taxis for long hauls, as they are cheaper and more reliable, although bush taxis may be the only choice available on shorter trips. The only train journey withinMali is betweenBamako and Kayes, but there are a number of flights out ofBamako to various destinations. Hiring a car to get around is not entirely impossible, but you can get bogged down in a few difficulties. There are some areas ofMali which are unsafe for tourists and should be avoided. These include the Mali-Niger and the Mali-Algeria borders. The regions of Kidal and Gao and most of the area north ofTimbuktu are also considered to be unsafe. However,Southern Mali, including most tourist attractions, is safe. 

Language: The official language ofMali is French, with the Bambara dialect used widely around the country.

Tribes:Mali has a number of ethnic groups, with the Manele tribe being the majority. The Manele consists of the Bambara, Malinke and Soninke groups. Other smaller tribes include the Peul, Voltaic, Sanghai, Taureg andMoores.

Connectivity: International roaming is available with Vodacom and Cell C through Malitel andOrange (formerly Ikatel). Internet access is available at selected hotels.

Health: It is advised to only drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes. Make sure that any meat or fish is well cooked and served hot. Vegetables should be cooked, and fruits should be peeled. It is recommended that you do not swim or paddle in any fresh water, but rather in a chlorinated pool. There is a high risk of malaria, cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, and tuberculosis. Vaccinations for meningitis, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B are required, as well as a Yellow Fever certificate. There are limited medical facilities inMali. However, the hospital inBamako is of a good standard and offers 24-hour emergency services. Health insurance is important, and be sure to have ready cash as you may be asked by the hospital to pay upfront.

Contacts: Embassy ofMali,876 Pretorius Street,Arcadia,Pretoria,South Africa. +27 (0)12 342 7464/0676

 Kirsti Brocklehurst