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A landlocked Sahelian country with a per capita income of $250 and a population of 10.5 million, Mali has an agriculturally based economy in which cotton, livestock and cereals predominate. Mali's high level of poverty makes it one of the most compelling cases for development assistance. Mali's development challenges include:
- An adult population with 54% illiteracy (over the age of 14)
- Rapidly growing population with 72.8% below the poverty line
- Infant mortality is 106 per 1,000
- 48% of Mali's population is under 15 years old
- The fourth highest rate of infant mortality in the world
- A low level of agricultural production with limited infrastructure and __a high vulnerability to unreliable rainfall

Mali ranks 153rd out of 162 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. Notwithstanding its economic problems, Mali has made remarkable progress in liberalizing its economy and has laid the foundation for a vibrant system of decentralized democratic governance. Mali has set an example within West Africa for political and economic liberalization, which is essential for increased U.S. trade and investment. Mali is a force for stability in the region and has been forthright in its support of the United States.

During his May 2001 visit to Mali, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Mali is an example to the world on how to peacefully transition from a dictatorship to a free and democratic government. Mali has been commended by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for economic reform, currently illustrated by the government's participatory development of the Poverty Reduction Strategic Plan. Decentralized decision-making and effective civic action are progressing steadily, with community-level governing councils operating nationwide.

Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east. The capital city is Niamey. Niger is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with over 80% of its territory covered from the Sahara desert. The economy is concentrated around subsistence agriculture and export of uranium ore, and remains handicapped by the country's landlocked position, shortage of skilled professionals, corruption and internal instability

Niger’s social indicators are among the lowest in the world, with a life expectancy of only 47 years, one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates (134.5 per 1,000 live births, which increases to 142 per 1,000 live births in rural areas), and the world’s highest child

mortality rate (248 per 1,000) where one child out of four is expected to die before reaching age five. Of the remaining children, over 50% suffer from diseases and physical conditions related to malnourishment.
Despite this, Niger has one of the highest population growth rates in the world — 3.3% a year — and the highest fertility rate in the world (7.2 births per woman). 49% of Niger’s total population is under 15 years of age. In Niger, only 16 percent of the population is literate. Between 1996 and 2003, primary school attendance was approximately 30%, and lower in rural areas.

Only 36% of the male population and only 25% of the female population attend school. Research has shown that girls' education has a direct impact on infant mortality rates.

Photo Credits: Linda Shen, Marge Robinson & Keely McGeehan
Music by Tidawt of Niger
Site Implementation by Bob Kasai
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