Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa, sharing its borders with seven other countries. The Niger River and the Senegal River run respectively for 1700 km and 800 km through the South and East of the country, while the North forms part of the Sahara Desert.

The Niger River has played an important role throughout West African history. This area was a base for the camel caravan routes crossing the Sahara to the Mediterranean, while a black nation is reputed to have existed here from around the 3rd or 4th centuries A.C.

The Mali Empire flourished in the 13th century, with the city of Timbuktu on the banks of the Niger River as an intellectual, artistic and religious centre. The Songhai Empire reigned in the 15th century, followed notably by the Bambara Kingdom in the 17th and 18th centuries. From the latter half of the 16th century, Mali experienced a period under Moroccan control.

In the 19th century, the French army advanced into the region, making Mali a part of French West Africa from 1898 to 1960. Mali became an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958, formed the Mali Federation with Senegal in April 1959, and gained independence in its own right on September 22, 1960.