Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa, a region geologically identified with the West African Craton. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometres. The population of Mali is 18 million. Its capital is Bamako. Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert, while the country's southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country's economy centers on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali's prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. A majority of the population are Muslims.
Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire, and the Songhai Empire. During its golden age, there was a flourishing of mathematics, astronomy, literature, and art. At its peak in 1300, the Mali Empire covered an area about twice the size of modern-day France and stretched to the west coast of Africa.