Mali is a West African country with an area of 1,240,192 km2. Mali has a sparse population of 18.9 million in 2017; the overwhelming majority of the population lives in the southern half of the country, with higher density along the border with Burkina Faso. Delivery of services to the vast, sparsely populated and landlocked territory poses severe challenges in these conditions and has an adverse impact on geographic equity and social cohesion. With a gross national income (GNI) per capita of US$770 in 2017 (according to the World Bank Atlas method), Mali is in the category of Low Income Countries (LIC) and Least Developed Countries (LDC). From 2011, the country has experienced political and security issues, caused by the deployment of a rebellion that has gripped the Northern regions. In June 2015, the government signed a peace agreement with armed rebel groups, involving more decentralization and the implementation of regional development projects. Mali is included in the World Bank's harmonized list of fragile situations since 2013, due to the presence of UN peace-keeping missions.
Mali's economic activity fluctuates with gold and agricultural commodity prices and rainfall. Merchandise exports are dominated by gold (72%) and cotton fiber (12%). Furthermore, Mali is developing its iron ore extraction industry to diversify foreign exchange earnings away from gold, but prosperity and pace still hinge on favorable global prices.