Niankoro Yeah Samake was born into poverty in a small village in Ouélessébougou, Mali. Determined to break the cycle of poverty, and despite an enormous economic sacrifice of sending his children to school, Yeah’s father sent each of his 18 children to school. Yeah went on to complete a bachelors degree in teaching English as a second language in Bamako, Mali and a masters degree in public policy at Brigham Young University. In 2004, Yeah became director of the Mali Rising Foundation which has built 12 middle schools, to date, throughout his home country.
In 2009, Yeah decided to return home to run for mayor of Ouélessébougou, and was elected with 86% of the vote. At that time, the municipality was ranked 699 out of 703 in terms of economic development, transparency, and management, with a tax collection rate below 10%. Within one year, Ouélessébougou jumped to the top ten cities in Mali with a tax collection rate about 68%. Yeah accomplished this by increasing citizen participation through a tribal council system, and by challenging the culture of corruption. His successes earned him the respect of his peers and he was appointed to the post of vice president of the League of Mayors.
Yeah’s supporters founded the Party for Civic and Patriotic Action (PACP) and recruited him to run for president in 2011. Support for his campaign has been explosive, with people spontaneously setting up offices and campaigning for him around the country.
Yeah hopes to transform Mali from a non-democratic country into a model of real democracy and decentralization of power. He hopes to improve the education system, revamp the health system, and reduce the damning effects of corruption.
- Total Population: 15 million
- Religion: 90% Muslim
- Language: French
- Average age: 16
- Literacy rate: 31.1%
- Unemployment: 30-35%
- Leading exports: Cotton, gold, livestock
Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. A 1991 coup led to the establishment of Mali as a democratic state. Since 2002, Mali has become increasingly pro-Western.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Mali is highly dependent on foreign aid. While the average skilled worker's annual salary is approximately $1,500, half of the Malian population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25/day. Mali’s economy is centered on agriculture with 80% of Malians employed in farming. Cotton is the country's largest crop export, followed by an increasing interest in mining gold.
Mali faces numerous health challenges related to poverty, malnutrition, and inadequate hygiene and sanitation. Mali has one of the world's highest rates of infant mortality with 111 deaths per 1,000 births and a life expectancy of only 52 years. Medical facilities, medications and doctors are in short supply. One doctor usually serves about 20,000 people.
Education in Mali continues to struggle with a 31.1% literacy rate. Public education enrollment is compulsory and free for ages 7 to 16. Despite free enrollment, education is still a financial burden for families who cannot afford supplies, uniforms and books. Only 61% attend primary education (71% male and 51% female) and only 36% of students graduate from primary school (6-12 years old). Due to a lack of schools, at 12 years of age, the majority of those that complete primary education then drop out.