Bamako (Bambara: ߓߡߊ߬ߞߐ߬Bàmakɔ̌) is the capital and largest city of Mali, with a 2009 population of 1,810,366. In 2006, it was estimated to be the fastest-growing city in Africa and sixth-fastest in the world. It is located on the Niger River, near the rapids that divide the upper and middle Niger valleys in the southwestern part of the country.
Bamako is the nation’s administrative centre. The city proper is a cercle in its own right. Bamako’s river port is located in nearby Koulikoro, along with a major regional trade and conference center. Bamako is the seventh-largest West African urban center after Lagos, Abidjan, Kano, Ibadan, Dakar, and Accra. Locally manufactured goods include textiles, processed meat, and metal goods as well as mining. Commercial fishing occurs on the Niger River.
The name Bamako (ߓߡߊ߬ߞߐ߬ Bàmakɔ̌ in Bambara) comes from the Bambara word meaning “crocodile tail”
The area of the city has evidence of settlements since the Palaeolithic era. The fertile lands of the Niger River Valley provided the people with an abundant food supply and early kingdoms in the area grew wealthy as they established trade routes linking across west Africa, the Sahara, and leading to northern Africa and Europe. The early inhabitants traded gold, ivory, kola nuts, and salt. By the 11th century, the Empire of Ghana became the first kingdom to dominate the area. Bamako had become a major market town, and a centre for Islamic scholars, with the establishment of two universities and numerous mosques in medieval times.
The Mali Empire grew during the early Middle Ages and replaced Ghana as the dominant kingdom in west Africa, dominating Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, and Mauritania. In the 14th century, the Mali Empire became increasingly wealthy because of the trade of cotton, gold and salt. This was eventually succeeded by the Songhai Empire
Mali gained independence from France in April 1960, and the Republic of Mali was later established. At this time, Bamako had a population of around 160,000. During the 1960s, the country became socialist and Bamako was subject to Soviet investment and influence. However, the economy declined as state enterprises collapsed and unrest was widespread. Eventually, Moussa Traoré led a successful coup and ruled Mali for 23 years. However his rule was characterised by severe droughts and poor government management and problems of food shortages.
In the late 1980s the people of Bamako and Mali campaigned for a free-market economy and multiparty democracy. In 1990, the National Congress for Democratic Initiative (Congrès National d’Initiative démocratique, CNID) was set up by the lawyer Mountaga Tall, and the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Alliance pour la démocratie au Mali, ADEMA) by Abdramane Baba and historian Alpha Oumar Konaré. These with the Association des élèves et étudiants du Mali (AEEM) and the Association Malienne des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH) aimed to oust Moussa Traoré. Under the old constitution, all labor unions had to belong to one confederation, the National Union of Malian Workers (UNTM). When the leadership of the UNTM broke from the government in 1990, the opposition grew. Groups were driven by paycuts and layoffs in the government sector, and the Malian government acceding to pressure from international donors to privatise large swathes of the economy that had remained in public hands even after the overthrow of the socialist government in 1968. Students, even children, played an increasing role in the protest marches in Bamako, and homes and businesses of those associated with the regime were ransacked by crowds.
On 22 March 1991, a large-scale protest march in central Bamako was violently suppressed, with estimates of those killed reaching 300. Four days later, a military coup deposed Traoré. The Comité de Transition pour le Salut du Peuple was set up, headed by General Amadou Toumani Touré. Alpha Oumar Konari officially became president on 26 April 1992.
In addition to being the political hub of Mali, Bamako is the economic and cultural center of Mali as well as its capital. Products from the countryside such as gold, rice, cotton, livestock, and kola nuts are transported to the city and packaged for international trade and domestic consumption. The city also manufactures textiles, ceramics, and pharmaceuticals for local consumption. Bamako is home to many notable institutions such as the University of Bamako, the National Museum of Mali, the Mali National Zoo, the Grand Mosque of Bamako, and the Bamako-Senou International Airport.
The buildings of Bamako have a unique architectural style. Bamako’s largest building is the BCEAO Tower, which houses the Mali branch of the Central Bank of West African States. Combining modern building techniques with local indigenous aesthetics, the tower is classified as Neo-Sudanic in design.
Bamako, like other metropolitan capitals, is challenged with issues of urban blight, massive unemployment, and underdeveloped public services. Mali’s poverty exacerbates the city’s problems.
Wikipedia Contributors. Bamako. Wikipedia. Published April 6, 2021. Accessed April 11, 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamako
Wade E. Bamako, Mali (11th Century- ) •. Blackpast.org. Published February 10, 2015. Accessed April 11, 2021. https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/places-global-african-history/bamako-mali-11th-century/