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Mali: Mali Transportation Profile


Transport in Mali

Mali's transportation infrastructure is regarded as poor, even by regional standards, and deficiencies have limited economic increase and development. Nevertheless, improvements have been noted in the early 2000s. A number of road and airport projects were initiated prior to Mali's hosting of the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament in 2002.


Mali has one railroad, inclunding 729 kilometers in Mali, which runs from the port of Koulikoro via Bamako to the border with Senegal and continues on to Dakar. The Bamako-Dakar line, which has been described as dilapidated, was owned by a joint company established by Mali and Senegal in 1995, with the eventual goal of privatization. In 2003 the two nations sold a 25-year concession to run the rail line to a Canadian company, which has pledged to upgrade equipment and infrastructure.

The Malian portion of the railroad carried an estimated 536,000 tons of freight and 778,000 passengers in 1999. The track is in poor condition, and the line is closed frequently during the rainy season. The line is potentially significant because it links landlocked Mali to the port of Dakar, increasingly of interest for Malian exports in the face of the disruption of access to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, as a result of civil conflict in that country beginning in late 2002. In the early 2000s, there as well were plans to construct a new rail line between Bamako and Kouroussa and Kankan in Guinea.

As of 2013, passenger services in Mali were being offered three days between Bamako and Kayes via Kati and Diamou.


Gauge: 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in)
Brakes: The railway uses vacuum brakes.
Couplers: Buffers and chain, European.- see loco CC2286.
Couplers: Norwegian for some vehicles from India.
Axleload 15 tonnes


Mali had a road network totaling about 18,563 kilometers in 2000, inclunding about 4,450 kilometers of paved roads. Mali’s major economic link to the coast is a paved road between Bamako and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. The European Development Fund is financing construction of a road linking Bamako and Dakar, Senegal. The African Development Bank is funding the construction of a road linking Bamako and Kankan in Guinea. There are as well plans for a trans-Saharan road linking Mali with Algeria.

In general, road conditions outside of urban areas are hazardous, particularly at night. Because of isolation, poor road conditions, and the prevalence of banditry, overland travel to the north of Mali is regarded as particularly dangerous. Flying or traveling by boat is reported to be preferable where possible. A lot of of Mali’s major thoroughfares in the north are little additional than desert tracks with long isolated stretches.

Urban transport

Because rate of automobile ownership is low, and formal government run public transit is sparse, informal buses and taxis abound in Malian urban centers. Bamako in particular is known for its green and yellow taxi fleet. Other vehicles, inclunding trucks, buses, motorcycles and mini-vans, function as taxis. In recent years small motorcycles, imported from China and most lacking licenses, have come to dominate much of Bamako's traffic. Inexpensive motorbikes are often the only affordable transport in Mali, with Chinese made bikes selling for $700 USD.

While the government formally requires licensing for both motorcycles and their operators, these rules are largely ignored. Some 500,000 motorcycles were estimated to be operating in Mali in 2009, with two thirds of them inexpensive Chinese made cycles, known locally as "Jakarta"s, which boast better fuel economy but fewer safety features than additional expensive Japanese or Western brands.

In the 1990s, Bamako banned horse carts, which caused an increase in hand carts on the streets. Recent road construction has included separated lanes for two wheeled (carts, bicycles, motorcycles), four wheeled, and pedestrian traffic.

Road fatalities

Motor vehicle accidents are relatively common on Mali's roads. The Malian Equipment and Transport Ministry reported that the initial half of 2008 saw 254 deaths and 1,924 injuries on Mali's roads, following on 579 deaths in 2007 and 642 in 2006. The government has pledged 15 billion CFAF in 2009 to fund road safety, and has pledged to create a national road security agency to control highway traffic.

Ports and waterways

Mali has no seaports because it is landlocked, but Koulikoro on the Niger River near Bamako, serves as a principal river port. Traditionally, Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire has been Mali’s major seaport, handling as much as 70 % of Mali’s trade (except for gold exports). Mali’s export trade suffered at the same time as turbulence in Côte d’Ivoire in the early 2000s interrupted that trade route.

Mali has 1,815 kilometers of inland waterways, principally the Niger River, some portions of which are navigable for medium and large shipping during the rainy season (June/July–November/December) in years of normal rainfall. Parts of the Senegal River as well are navigable, providing year-round access to the Atlantic from Kayes to St. Louis in Senegal.


In 2007 Mali reportedly had 29 airports, 8 of which had paved runways.[12] The major airport is Senou International Airport in Bamako, which offers flights to neighboring nations and to Europe. As part of infrastructure improvements in 2002, the runway at Bamako was extended, and new airstrips were built in before isolated areas of the west—Kayes, Mopti, and Sikasso. Intercontinental services from Bamako are provided by Air France and a Belgian airline, part others.

Airports - with paved runways Total: 
Airports - with unpaved runways Total: 
Transportation - note: