The eighth-largest country in Africa, Mali has a population of 18 million, with 67 percent estimated to be under the age of 25.
It has eight regions and its northern border reaches deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert. With an economy centered on agriculture and mining, its prominent natural resources include gold and salt, making it the third-largest producer of gold in Africa.
Mali, in the past, was part of three famed West African empires which controlled trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, slaves and other precious commodities.
The country has also been blessed with personalities who have distinguished themselves in various fields.
To celebrate their independence, here are 5 people who continue to place Mali on the global map: