Learn More about the People, Population, and Demography of Mali

Mali is a country in West Africa It is Africa’s second-largest landlocked country after Chad. Mali’s northern side is dominated by the Sahara Desert. The Southen part lies in the transitional belt; the Sahel. This has greatly affected the population with about 90% of the population concentrated in the country’s southern part. About 60% of the country’s population lives in rural areas. Learn More about Mali Urban Population

The People of Mali

The history of Mali has in the end created a multi-ethnic county. The people of Mali mainly belong to sub-Saharan ethnic groups. The largest single ethnic group in the Bambara, it is estimated that the account for about 36% of the population. The Bambara, as well as other Mande people including Soninke, Khassonke and Malinke makes 50% of the country’s people.

Other ethnic groups in Mali are Fulani who accounts for about 17%. The Voltaic ethnic groups made of Sanoufo and Bwa account for 12% of the population. Other significant ethnic groups in the country include the Berber speakers. Berber speakers in Mali are the Tuareg and the Moors. Additionally, there is a significant number of people who speak the Songhai language. Both Tuareg and Songhai speakers account for 10% and 6% of the population, respectively. The Moors speak the Hassaniya Arabic.  The Arma people account for about 1% of the country’s population. The Arma are people of mixed origin including the French, Irish, Italian and Portuguese.

The Languages of Mali

Bambara is the country most spoken local language.  Bambara, together with Soninke, Khassonké and Mandinka also known as Malinke are grouped together and referred to as Mandinka. The Mandinka language is widely spoken in West Africa and in Mali it is spoken by about 50% of the country’s population. Most notable of the Mandinka language spoken in Mali is Bambara.

Another language spoken in this vast landlocked country is West Africa is Fula. Fula is also known as Fulani, or Fulɓe and its speakers constitute 16% of the population. Like the Mandinka it’s a widely spoken language with speakers spread in West Africa, Central and Eritrea in the Eastern Africa.

Additionally, voltaic languages are also spoken in Mali. Notable among them are Bwa and Senufo languages. The Voltaic speakers accounts for about 13% of the population.

Furthermore, Berber languages such as Tuareg and Moor languages are also spoken in the northern part of the country. The speakers of these two Berber languages account for about 10% of the population. It is important to note that Tuareg have been waging a civil war with the Malian government with an aim of secession.

Finally, minor languages spoken in Mali are Songhai and Arabic which accounts for about 6% and about 3% of the population. 

However since it was a colony of France, French is the country’s official language. Since it’s a multi-language the country has thirteen national languages. Five of the country’s national languages are from the Mandé language family.  Apart from the Mandé, the other national languages are either from the Niger–Congo language or the Afro-Asiatic language families. 

Complete list of Mali National Languages

Below is a complete list of all the 13 national languages of Mali.

  1. Bambara is a Mandingo or Mandinka language. It’s part of a Mandé language family.
  2. Soninke is a Mandingo or Mandinka language. It’s part of a Mandé language family.
  3. Bozo is a Mandingo or Mandinka language. It’s part of a Mandé language family.
  4. Maninkakan is also known as Central Malinke is a Mandingo or Mandinka language. It’s part of a Mandé language family.
  5. Xaasongaxango language has many names. These are Xasonga, Kassonke, Kasonke, Kasson, Kasso, Xaasonga, Xasonke, Xaasongaxang and Kao. It is a Mandingo, or Mandinka language, therefore, part of a Mandé language family.
  6. Bomu or Bo language,  a Gur language of the Niger-Congo language
  7. Dogon also known as Kaador, Kaado a Niger-Congo language
  8. Fulfulde also known as Fulani or Fula a Senegambian language from the Niger-Congo language family
  9. Mamara Senufo a Voltaic language and are from the Niger-Congo language family.
  10. Syenara Senufo another Voltaic language and is from the Niger-Congo language family.
  11. Songhay is spoken by the Songhai people. The Songhai people are also known as Ayneha, Songhay or Sonrai. Though controversial, the language is classified as a Nilo-Saharan language family
  12. Tamasheq language is spoken by the Tuareg. It’s a Berber language and as such an Afro-Asiatic language family
  13. Hassānīya Arabic is a Maghrebi Arabic. Its other names are Hassaniyya, Klem El Bithan, Hasanya, Hassani, and Hassaniya. It is widely spoken in Northwestern Mali as well as Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Western Sahara. However, it has several dialects.  It is a Semitic language from the Afro-Asiatic language family.

The Population of Mali

Mali last carried a population census in November of 2018. Preliminary results indicated that it had a population of 19,329,841.  Additionally, based on the same census results the country’s population density is 11.7 persons per square kilometers or (30.3 people per square mile. This makes it the world’s 215th most densely populated. It is Africa’s 49th. Mali population density ranks 15th out the 16 West African countries. West Africa most densely populated is the Gambia, while the least densely populated is Mali’s northwestern neighbor; Mauritania.

According to United Nation’s data, Mali 2020 mid-year population was 20,250,833. This makes it world’s 60th most populous country. Mali is Africa’s 20th and West Africa’s 6th most populous country. The latest estimated of the population indicate that Mali people accounts for 0.26% of the world population. West Africa’s most populous country is Nigeria. Additionally Nigeria is Africa’s most populous. Other more populous countries in west Africa which Ghana, ranking 13th, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) 17th Niger and Burkina Faso, both Mali’s neighbors ranking 18th and 19th in Africa respectively.

Most of the people of Mali to a tune of 90% live in the less arid southern part of the country. The north which is dominated by the Sahara Desert is a home to about 5-10% of the population who practice nomadic lifestyle.

Demography of Mali

With a total area measuring 1,220,190 square kilometers 471,118 square miles), the country’s population density is 17 persons per square kilometer or 43 people per square mile.

Most of Mali people live in rural areas. The latest 2020 estimates put urban population at 8,906,636; this is equal to 44% of the population. Below is a list of 20 Mali’s most populous cities.

The country’s population is very young. Its population median age is 16.3 years.

The country has a very high infant mortality rate of 57.2 for every 1000 births. Additionally, has a high mortality rate of children below 5 years of 91.9 for every 1000 live births. However, it’s important to note this both mortality rates have been declining. For example, 10 years ago (2010), the country’s infant mortality rate was 78.47 while death for children below five years was 125.06 for every 1000 live births in both instances.

As of 2020, Malians life expectancy at birth is 60.5 years for both males and females. Female life expectancy at birth is 61.4, while their male counterparts have a life expectancy of 59.7 years.