Map of the Week

Despite the oversimplified maps of the original areas occupied by the different groups, Mali is a remarkable ethno-linguistic mosaic where some sixty ethnic groups and twenty languages co-exist. The population is comprised of 90% Sub-Saharans and 10% Arab-Berbers, half of whom are Touareg (5% of the total population). The ethnic and linguistic landscape of the north is similarly diverse. The majority of the population in the regions of Timbuktu (675 000 inhabitants in 2009 according to the last census) and Gao (542 000 inhabitants) are Sub-Saharan (Songhay, Fila, Dagon, Bozo, Someone, etc.). The Kidal area (68 000 inhabitants), created later in 1991 following the 1990/1991 rebellion, was custom-carved around the Adrar des Ifoghas Mountains. The majority of its population is Touareg. The population of this vast area comprising three regions (800 000 km²) is, in reality, concentrated in a narrow strip of land along the river valley, amounting to less than 1% of the total area. From Niafounké to Ansongo, via Timbuktu, Bourem and Gao, 80 to 90% of the population of northern Mali live in this area; most are sedentary farmers.

Map published within the Atlas of the Sahara-Sahel: Geography, Economics and Security (2014).


Despite their common heritage, the Maghreb and the Sahel remain insufficiently connected. The dissemination of cultural, religious and linguistic trends, the movement of people, and their trade relations serve as ancient bridges between the two regions. Renewed trans-Saharan relations are in the very early stages. Strengthened relations between countries and populations on both sides of the Sahara require infrastructure, increased trade, and a new definition of the border concept. They also require a change in the approach to the territory: one that envisions the Sahara not as an interruption, but as a continuous space, a hyphen between two regions.

Map published within the Atlas of the Sahara-Sahel: Geography, Economics and Security (2014).


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Security conditions in the Sahara-Sahel have deteriorated for a variety of reasons, the most recent being the presence of armed Islamist groups in northern Mali since the mid-2000s and Boko Haram especially in Northern Nigeria. The conflict in Mali illustrates the complexities of a situation that encompasses independence movements, religious extremism and trans-national trafficking. 

Map published within the Atlas of the Sahara-Sahel: Geography, Economics and Security (2014).

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Maps & Facts

 


Map published within the Atlas of the Sahara-Sahel: Geography, Economics and Security (2014).

Rural density, 2000: 59% of the West African population was rural.

Facts & Figures

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