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Mali is the second largest country in West African, covering 1,241,238 km². Landlocked and semi-desert, it shares borders with seven countries: Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d’ivoire, Guinea, and Senegal. It is crossed by two major rivers; Niger and Senegal. Its economy is essentially based on agriculture and mining sectors.. Mali is divided into three natural zones: the cultivated Sudanese zone in the south; the semi-arid Sahelian zone in the center; and the arid Saharan zone in the north. The desert covers 30% of the country, and 59% of the country is classified as having annual rainfall of less than 400 mm. The Sahelian and Sudano-Sahelian zones together account for nearly a quarter of the country, with the remaining covered by the savannah forests of the Sudanian zone in the south [1].

Mali lies within the intertropical zone and has a hot, dry climate, with the sun near its zenith throughout most of the year. In general, there are two distinct seasons, dry and wet. The dry season, which lasts from November to June, is marked by low humidity and high temperatures and is influenced by the alize and harmattan winds. The alize blows from the northeast from November to January and causes a relatively cool spell, with temperatures averaging 77 °F (25 °C). From March to June the harmattan, a dry, hot wind that blows from the east out of the Sahara, sweeps the soil into dusty whirlwinds and is accompanied by daytime temperatures of about 104 to 113 °F (40 to 45 °C) [2].

As a Sahelian country, its environmental concerns are marked by drought, desertification, and overexploitation of natural resources that are under the pressure of a rapidly growing population [1].

Important National Context

Mali's population quadrupled between 1960 and 2020, passing from less than 5 million to more than 20 million and reaching 21.5 million in 2022 [3]. With its rapid population growth (growth rate of 3.01%) Mali’s population could reach 43.5 million by 2050.  Mali’s high fertility rate of 5.92 births per woman is one of the highest in the world. This fertility rate keeps the population very young, with a median age of 16.3 years, and is the main cause of the rapid population increase [3].

About 44.0% of the population is urban (8,906,636 people in 2020) [4], with projections showing that Mali should cross the 48% mark by 2030. This urbanization, often anarchic, generates several consequences: reduction of green spaces, occupation of the banks and lowlands with problems of insalubrity and the risk of flooding, a significant increase in the volume of waste, much of which is not treated, resulting in a proliferation of illegal dumps, and in an aggravation of sanitation problems. Atmospheric pollution is also increasing, particularly in the capital Bamako, due to the consumption of wood for cooking and fossil fuels for industry and motor vehicles [5][6].

Mali has a low-income economy, characterized by not very economically diversified and exposed to fluctuations in availability of raw materials. Its high population growth (fertility rate of 5.88 children per woman in 2018) and the increasing effects of climate change threaten agriculture and food security [1]. The country’s economy is also heavily dependent on the outside world, it has confirmed its resilience over the recent years, despite the multiple challenges facing the country.  The Malian economy slipped into a recession in 2020, with real GDP estimated at -1.6%, reflecting the adverse effects of the pandemic and the sociopolitical crisis, as well as weak agricultural output. However, a number of key economic sectors linked to services and agriculture began to recover in early 2021 [1]

As an importer of oil and an exporter of gold, the country experienced an improvement in terms of exchange in 2020 thanks to the drop in crude prices and the appreciation of the price of gold. This, combined with the decline in demand for imports, made it possible to reduce the current account deficit, despite the decline in migrant remittances and other external financial flows.

The response plan to contain the socio-economic crisis of COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in budgetary expenditure in 2020, pushing the public deficit to 5.4% of GDP. The recovery observed in early 2021 should translate into higher tax revenues, but pressure on wage spending will help stabilize the public deficit in 2021. In the short term, the authorities will need to accelerate reforms in the tax administration to improve collection performance and optimize public spending.

In 2012, political instability hampered the implementation of the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy. Since August 2016, Mali has adopted a new policy, which includes many promising provisions, such as the operationalization of the first fund to guarantee sustainable funding for national research. Moreover, like the other West African countries, Mali adopted the ECOWAS Vision 2020 document in 2011, which emphasizes improving governance, accelerating economic and monetary integration, and promoting public-private partnerships in science, technology and innovation (STI) [7].

Mali, like the other countries of the Sahel, is exposed to the impacts of climate change, with its corollary of catastrophes, including desertification, drought, locust invasions, floods, etc. Faced with these phenomena, the state, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), technical and financial partners (PTF), communities and collectives are pooling their efforts to prepare, organize, fight, and strengthen their response capacities and resilience in the face of disasters.

The country, long considered a stable country, was confronted in 2012 with a political and security crisis. An armed conflict in the north that severely affected its economic growth, social cohesion and political stability. The extreme poverty rate of 47.2% between 2011 and 2015 was due to it. The poverty rate decreased to 42.3% in 2019 thanks to the exceptional agricultural production noted since 2014. However, the health, security, social, and political crises of 2020 resulted in a 5% increase in the poverty rate [1][5].


Environmental Governance

With its article 15, Mali’s Constitution of 1992 guarantees to everyone the right to a healthy environment. Moreover, the protection, defense and promotion of the environment shall be obligations for all and for the State [8].

The policy of the environmental and social management in Mali is marked by several strategic documents.  The early efforts of Mali to face environment issues include the elaboration of a National Plan to Combat Desertification (PNLCD-1985) and National Environmental Action Plan (PNAE-1998). The latter plan combined a set of actions in an integrated approach including: natural resource management, control of water resources, improvement of the living environment, and management of environmental information [9].

Moreover, the National Environmental Protection Policy (1998) “ensures a healthy environment and sustainable development by taking into account environmental issues in any decision affecting the design, planning and implementation of policies, programs and activities for development involving all relevant stakeholders”. Its implementation should make a significant contribution to the fundamental development questions, such as the fight against desertification, food security, the prevention and the fight against pollution, and poverty reduction. Its specific objectives are to: (i) develop and support the implementation of decentralized and participatory renewable natural resources management; (ii) to promote environmentally sustainable agricultural production systems; (iii) develop and support the implementation of participatory natural resource management programs to reduce the effects of degradation, desertification and/or drought; (iv) strengthen the fight against any form of nuisance and pollution; and (v) strengthen the capacities of the involved actors [10].

The National Health and Environment Policy aims to promote and maintain an environment conducive to health for sustainable development through (i) drinking water; by 2020 (ii) the management of solid and liquid wastes; (iii) the control of the quality of the water; (iv) the control of exposure to contaminants in the environment. It is part of the spirit of certain agreements and international conventions which: (a) the international decade for drinking water and sanitation; (b) the Convention on the rights of the child and water - Hygiene sanitation component; (c) the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. In addition, there is the existence of technical services devolved in the field of water, hygiene and sanitation, and the existence of training modules [10].

Public institutions responsible for environmental governance include the The Ministry of Environment and Sanitation and the Agency for Environment and Sustainable Development (AEDD). The latter has been established in July 2010, as a public administrative institution under the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation. Its mission is to “achieve sustainable development through effective environmental management that focuses on the preservation of biodiversity, the fight against desertification and climate change” [11].

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

The European Green Deal is a key priority for EU cooperation between partner countries. The green transition and access to energy is one of the five axes of the roadmap of the European Union's new policy with Africa.

The EU-Africa Forum on Green Investment in Africa, organized by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB), on April 23, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal, was the highlight of a month of dialogue between African and European countries on green transition and green investment. The forum included more than twenty virtual conferences, and Green Talks, first of which took place in Dakar on March 24.

The objective of the forum was to bring out solutions and best practices from both private and public sectors to stimulate sustainable development and green investment in Africa. During this day, the EIB, which committed a record amount of €5 billion in Africa in 2020, announced new investments for an amount of €340 million in favor of green energy in Guinea, Mali, Chad and Comoros and clean water in Malawi. A large part of the envelope, €300 million, will finance the Guinea-Mali power interconnection with a 225 kV power transmission line between Linsan and Fomi [12].

This EU commitment for Mali within the framework of the Green Pact, reinforces the local policy for the protection of the environment. In fact, in June 2013, Mali drew up an environmental pact materializing the will of political decision-makers to make environmental management, the fight against climate change and issues of sustainable development, key priorities of government action of the country [12].

According to the EU JOINT  EUROPEAN PROGRAMMING 2020-2024 IN MALI, three are the priority objectives identified to be supported during these 5 years: (i) better functioning of the State, (ii) sustainable economic growth, (iii) development of human capital [13]Moreover, a Team Europe Initiative (TEI) in Mal will focus onEnvironment and climate change - towards a green life, economy and agriculture” with the transformational potential of managing the effects of climate change as well as ensuring a decent future for the population. The Proposal of initiative include activities related to the sustainable management of natural resources, soils and water for the agricultural sector and renewable energy [14].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges


Mali is one of the African countries which can benefit from its significant natural agricultural resources, but it is very vulnerable to climatic changes. Over the past three decades, the effects of climate change have become increasingly evident (see figure 1). Precipitation is now concentrated over a much shorter duration and is therefore extremely abundant. Sometimes thunderstorms are so severe that they cause local flooding. Droughts, when they do occur, are also more severe. Overexploitation of land worsens the situation: soils are depleted by conventional farming practices and are unable to hold water. Agricultural producers are therefore tempted each year to move to new agricultural land by cutting the little wooded area that remains, aggravating desertification and food insecurity. As a result the families, and especially the discouraged young, go in search of a better livelihoods elsewhere, because of the situation of extreme poverty. These climatic hazards therefore have a real impact on the agricultural sector, which represented 40% of GDP in 2018, employing nearly 80% of the population. This shows the challenge facing Malian political decision-makers to stem the harmful effects of climate change [15].



In terms of biodiversity, Mali has forest, wildlife and fishery resources and ecosystems which constitute reservoirs for their conservation and development. The forest formations are characterized by different bioclimatic zones:

  • The hyper arid zone, characterized by annual rainfall of less than 200 mm.
  • The arid zone which receives 200 to 600 mm of rainfall annually and covers 320,000 km² representing 26% of the national territory. The interior delta of the Niger River, which is flooded annually, constitutes a special ecosystem.
  • The semi-arid zone with 215,000 km² represents 24% of the national territory. It receives an average of 600 to 1200 mm of rain.
  • The subhumid zone with 75,000 km², represents 6% of the total surface of the country with average annual precipitations exceeding 1,200 mm. The flora is made up of nearly 1,739 spontaneous species and the fauna has around 136 species of mammals of which 70 are large mammals. At least 640 species of birds are known in the region of which 15 are considered rare. In addition, the fauna includes reptiles consisting of turtles, pythons and crocodiles, amphibians, and fishes [9].

However, despite this immense natural wealth, Malian biodiversity plays a small role in the country's economic development. The forestry sector, for example, contributes 2% to GDP, while it contributes intensively to the well-being of the local populations, by offering a panoply of resources necessary for the daily needs, such as construction, medicine, cosmetics, food, decoration or tradition. The forest estate also constitutes a space to be used for the mobility of livestock, a reserve of land for agriculture or a game reserve.


[1] The World Bank (2021). La Banque mondiale au Mali.  

[2] Britannica. Mali – Climate.

[3] World Population Review (2022). Mali Population 2022 (Live).

[4] The World Bank Data - Urban population (% of total population) – Mali.  

[5] Population Pyramid (2020). Population_Mali,

[6] Le magazine de la DDC sur le développement et la coopération (2019). Un Seul Monde.

[7]Wathi (2020). Research and development in Mali.

[8] (2013). Mali’s Constitution of 1992.

[9] Forum Environmental National (2017). Rapport national sur l’état de environnement 2017.

[10] World Bank, Government of Mali (2016). ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK – including  Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and Environmental and Social Management Plan

[11] UNDP, Climate Change Adaptation. Agency for Environment and Sustainable Development (AEDD), Ministry of Environment and Sanitation, Government of Mali. [Online]. Available at:,Agency%20for%20Environment%20and%20Sustainable%20Development%20(AEDD)%2C%20Ministry%20of,Ministry%20of%20Environment%20and%20Sanitation.

[12] Common Africa (2021). Du Green Deal européen au Green Deal africain.


[14] Capacity4dev, EU (2021). Team Europe Initiative and Joint Programming tracker -  Mali - Environment and Climate Change.

[15] (2022). Mali - Faire face au changement climatique.