Mali lies in the western bulge of Africa. The country is landlocked (surrounded by Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal and Mauritania) and much of its northern area is Sahara desert or the semi-arid Sahel region.

Gao

Gao is one of Mali’s ancient towns. Founded in the 7th century, it became the capital of the Songhai Empire in the 15th/16th centuries. A 17 meter-high mud pyramid built for one of the Songhai Emperors is a World Heritage building.

River Niger

The River Niger crosses the southern half of Mali and brings the country to life. Its name stems from the Berber ‘gber-n-igheren’, which means ‘river of rivers’

Dogon region

This region in the south of Mopti has unusual cliffs and escarpments and unique villages built from traditional mud architecture, where old tribal traditions have been kept alive. Buildings and communities along the Bandiagara Escarpment are a World Heritage site.

Climate

Africa is a massive continent, with a range of climates. Some regions are hot and dry, like the Sahara, Kalahari and Namib deserts. Other parts are wet or covered in tropical rainforest. Conditions also vary by altitude, from the dry salt pans of the Danakil Depression (one of the lowest points on earth) to the snowcaps (at certain times) of the highest mountains. Weather-wise, Africa has it all!

Algeria map

Explore Algeria

Find out more about some of the key towns and cities of Algeria, as well as areas of natural and geographic interest to the south.

Children

Around one in six children born in sub-Saharan Africa don't live to see their fifth birthday and life can be tough for those who do.

What are the common challenges facing African children and how do their lives compare with those of children in the UK?

Games & Sport

Africa is home to arguably the oldest-recorded games and sports. While some are only known through archaeology, modern-day games and sports such as Mancala/Mankala and Nubian wrestling are very much alive today.

Of course, new sports have come along to claim the attention of Africans. You may have heard of one - it's called football.

Health

Africa has a high number of communicable diseases, which place a huge burden on healthcare systems. The vast majority of malaria cases and HIV/AIDS-related deaths occur in Africa; these two diseases currently represent the greatest threats.

With low investment in healthcare and a severe shortage of medical staff, many countries struggle to meet the health needs of their people.

History

The first humans are thought to have lived in Africa and powerful African empires formed from the medieval age onwards.

However, today's African nations were shaped by the European powers who colonised this vast continent. Having gained their independence, many African countries are still coming to terms with the legacy left by their colonisers.

Djenné

Inhabited since 250 BC, Djenné became a thriving market centre and link in the trans-Saharan gold trade. In the 15th/16th centuries, it was an important Islamic centre. Traditional houses (nearly 2,000) are built on hillocks (toguere) and visitors come to see its world-famous mud mosque.

Development

‘People are the real wealth of a nation.’ This is the belief of the United Nations, whose Millenium Development Goals provide a framework for improving the lives of millions.

It helps when nations are peaceful, stable and growing economically. But where even the poorest countries focus on health, education and creating fairer societies, more Africans have the chance of a better life.

Geography & Wildlife

With its varied geography and diverse habits, the African continent is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Though famous for its 'big game' animals, Africa has huge numbers of fish, mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and insect species, as well as many tree, plant and flower species.

Poverty

Across the rest of the world, absolute poverty has halved over recent decades, but in Africa it has barely fallen.

About two-fifths of the population of sub-Saharan Africa survive week by week on what someone in the UK earns from just one hour's work on the minimum wage.

Niger map

Explore Niger

Click on the map points in Niger to find out more about some of its key cities and geographical features.

Burkina Faso map

Explore Burkina Faso

Find out about some of the best places to visit in Burkina Faso.

Ghana map

Explore Ghana

Ghana has some interesting places to explore. Find out more about some of Ghana’s cities, such as Accra and Kumasi.

Bamako

Over 1.6 million people live in Mali’s bustling capital of Bamako. And the city keeps on expanding as more rural Malians migrate from the countryside to find work.

Ivory Coast Map

Explore Ivory Coast

Explore some of Ivory Coast's most interesting places and find out more about the country's main cities, national parks and nature reserves.

Agriculture & Famine

A quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished and famines can impact whole regions.

Land is available to grow more food locally, but investment is needed in  technologies such as irrigation for land to be used effectively. Farmers must also adapt to climate change if they are to feed the continent's rising population.

Timbuktu/Tombouctou

This oasis in the desert became an important seat of Islamic learning in the 15th/16th centuries. Though Timbuktu declined over the following centuries, it was fabled as the most mysterious and inaccessible place on earth. Alexander Gordon Laing was the first European to reach it in 1826, but was killed shortly after leaving.

Senegal Map

Explore Senegal

Senegal is one of the most popular destinations in West Africa. Find out more about some of the country's interesting places to visit.

Foods

Africa has some of the most distinctive cuisines and flavours in the world. Food varies widely, but there are commonalities across regions. Depending on what's grown locally, dishes are also influenced by the traders, immigrants and rulers who settled across the continent. Arab, Asian and European elements blend in with traditional African cooking.

Women

A woman’s status varies by country and region across Africa. In many parts, women struggle against inequality in laws, education, pay and domestic responsibilities.

Women’s health is also at risk from traditional practices such as early marriage. But with better education, girls can make more informed choices, leading to the greater development of African nations.

Essakane

The Festival in the Desert at Essakane (60km from Timbuktu) is based on a traditional gathering of the nomadic Tuareg people. It was initially created for the world to understand more about Tuareg culture; local handicrafts are on sale and camel races take place in the evening. But the music now embraces groups and singers from all over Mali and Africa.

Kayes

Kayes is sometimes referred to as ‘the hottest town in Africa’, with temperatures reaching 50C in April and May. Nevertheless, it is one of Mali’s largest commercial centres.

Mali map Kayes Bamako Djenné Essakane Timbuktu/Tombouctou Gao Dogon region River Niger Senegal Map Ghana map Ivory Coast Map Burkina Faso map Algeria map Niger map