Mali was formerly a member of three powerful West African empires that dominated trans-Saharan commerce in gold, salt, slaves, and other valuables. There were no fixed geographical borders or ethnic identities in these Sahelian kingdoms. The Ghana Empire, which ruled West Africa from the eighth century until 1078, was the first of these empires.
Later, in the upper Niger, the Mali Empire arose, reaching its pinnacle of strength in the fourteenth century. The ancient towns of Djenné and Timbuktu were centers of commerce and Islamic study under the Mali Empire. Because to the Malian Empire’s gold and salt output, Mansa Musa, who reigned in the early 14th century, is considered the richest person in history (estimated at $400 billion adjusted for inflation!). He utilized his riches to construct some of the country’s most magnificent mosques, which may still be found today. The empire eventually fell out of favor, and the Songhai Empire took its place. The Songhai people are from present-day Nigeria’s northwestern region. The Songhai eventually achieved independence from the Mali Empire in the late 14th century and flourished until its ultimate fall in 1591, mainly owing to a Moroccan invasion. With the collapse of the Songhai Empire, the region’s function as a trade crossroads came to an end. The importance of trans-Saharan trade routes faded as European nations established maritime connections.
Beginning in the late 19th century, the French took control of Mali during the colonial period. The majority of the region was under strong French authority as part of French Sudan by 1905. Mali (formerly the Sudanese Republic) and Senegal merged in early 1959 to become the Mali Federation, which declared independence from France on June 20, 1960. Senegal left the union in August 1960, allowing the Sudanese Republic to establish Mali as an independent country on September 22, 1960.