Mali, officially the Republic of Mali (French: République du Mali, French pronunciation: [maˈli]), is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is bordered by Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso to the south, Guinea to the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania to the west. It is the eighth largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi). The population of Mali is 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako.
Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country's southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country's economic structure centers on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali's prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. About half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. A majority of the population (55%) are non-denominational Muslims.
At 1,242,248 square kilometres (479,635 sq mi), including the disputed region of Azawad, Mali is the world's 24th-largest country and is comparable in size to South Africa or Angola. Most of the country lies in the southern Sahara, which produces a hot, dust-laden Sudanian savanna zone. Mali is mostly flat, rising to rolling northern plains covered by sand. The Adrar des Ifoghas massif lies in the northeast.
Mali's key industry is agriculture. Cotton is the country's largest crop export and is exported west throughout Senegal and Ivory Coast. During 2002, 620,000 tons of cotton were produced in Mali but cotton prices declined significantly in 2003. In addition to cotton, Mali produces rice, millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops. Gold, livestock and agriculture amount to 80% of Mali's exports.Eighty percent of Malian workers are employed in agriculture while 15% work in the service sector. However, seasonal variations lead to regular temporary unemployment of agricultural workers.
Rice and millet are the staples of Malian cuisine, which is heavily based on cereal grains. Grains are generally prepared with sauces made from edible leaves, such as spinach or baobab, with tomato peanut sauce, and may be accompanied by pieces of grilled meat (typically chicken, mutton, beef, or goat). Malian cuisine varies regionally. Other popular dishes include fufu, jollof rice, and maafe.