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The Mali Empire

Did you know Mali is home to one of the oldest universities in the world?

Previously known as French Sudan under the French colony, Mali was one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. The country also has a history of great emperors who amassed wealth through the region’s position in the Cross-Saharan trade routes between the north and West Africa.

Part of the areas colonized by France was categorized under French West Africa, formed in 1895. French West Africa is comprised of Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea (French Guinea), Mali (French Sudan), Senegal, Benin (Dahomey), Burkina Faso (Upper Volta), Mauritania, and Niger. These were all under the French Federation, which ended in 1958.

Mali’s capital, Timbuktu is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Sankore University, and one of the oldest mosques, Djinguereber Mosque. Both were established in the early 1300s during the great Mali empire.

Sankore University and Mosque

Source: 54 History

Timbuktu showed great educational advancement and proved Africans were more advanced than they were given credit for before colonization.

Timbuktu is also home to the 15th century Sidi Yahya mosque whose southern door has never been opened. It is often said that opening the door will signal the end of the world.

Interesting Facts about Mali

Three West African empires controlled the Trans-Saharan trade of gold, salt, and slaves, and Mali was one of them.

Mali Empire was established on the upper Niger River and reached its peak of power during the 14th century, when it grew to be twice the size of France and spread over the coast of West Africa.

A historical figure worthy of note is the ruler of 13th century Mali, Emperor Mansa Musa, regarded as one of the richest men in the world. He was so rich that the extent of his wealth was unquantifiable.

Emperor Mansa Musa


Emperor Mansa Musa’s fame spread during his Pilgrimage to Mecca for hajj. It was said that he traveled with an entourage of 10,000+ and multiple camels, with each carrying about 300 pounds of gold.

While passing through Cairo, he met with the Sultan of Egypt, and he and his entourage spent so much gold that the value of gold in Egypt was affected for the next 12 years.

After this, the Kingdom of Mali and West Africa were put on the world’s map, and the story of Mansa Musa’s wealth spread even to Europe.

To celebrate Black History Month, here are some interesting facts about Mali.

1. The World’s Largest Manmade Clay Structure

One of the most famous landmarks in Africa, the Great Mosque of Djenne is located on the flood plains of the Bani River in the ancient city of Djenne. It became a world heritage site in 1988.

The building, constructed using only clay mortar and sun-baked clay bricks, was made from earth and organic materials, usually referred to as Adobe/banco structure. It is considered by architects to be the most prominent structural accomplishment of ancient Sudano-Sahelian architecture.

The structure previously built on this site was constructed during the thirteenth century. The current building, however, dates back to 1907.

The building is magnificent and has been standing for centuries. It is the epicenter of the culture and religion of Mali and the Djenné community.

Great Mosque of Djenne

2. Home of Salt Mines

Mali is home to numerous salt mines, including Taoudenni, the oldest salt mine in Mali.

The Taoudenni salt is mined from an ancient Salt Lake and split into slabs. It is then transported by camel or truck to the capital city Timbuktu.

The camel caravans, known as Azalai from Taoudenni, are some of the last that still actively operate in the Sahara Desert.

In the ancient days, the salt from the North was usually transported to the southern part of Mali and then traded for gold. But in recent times, the salt has been processed and sold commercially.

Salt slabs

Career Paths in Mali

Mali has seen relatively good times and has come a long way from being one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. Despite the tremendous economic decline, Mali has begun to rebuild its economy, albeit slowly, but as they say, slow and steady wins the race.

Mali's economy depends majorly on the exportation of gold and cotton. There has been a surge in gold exports in recent times, with industrial gold production reaching approximately 65 tons in 2019 and 2020.

The people of Mali also practice Agriculture as the country’s natural resources have not been fully explored.

And there are opportunities in several sectors in the agricultural industry, like agricultural machinery technicians, fertilizers, agribusiness, farming, irrigation tools, livestock, poultry, and animal feed.

This has and continues to provide more business opportunities for the people of Mali.

Need help navigating your career options? Book a career coaching appointment with Black On The Job today.

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