There are two countries found in the African continent. In the earlier times, Ghana and Mali were known to be big empires in West Africa that is why historians want to know the differences between them. Between the 4th and 16th century these were big trading empires which ruled the world. For this very reason Africa was known to be the cradle of civilization. You keep hearing about the Europeans but African civilization had flourished way before Europeans set foot here. Europeans negatively publicized Africa for being backward, uncivilized and targeted by tribal wars. Soon the truth came out that these two were huge empires which ruled most of the trade in Africa. There are some differences between Ghana and Mali.
Ghana is on the border of the Gulf of Guinea. The great empire in the medieval times covered a huge area which comprised of Ghana, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal. The empire flourished and gained massive attention because of the gold that was believed to exist there. Other basic commodities were imported from other parts of the world like salt, brocades, copper and clothes. As there was a lot of desert area, the camel was the best animal for movement as it could travel for many days without water and food. Also, salt was given immense importance sometimes just like gold. In the 11th century the decline of this big empire started because of internal issues. There were tribal wars and factionalism. Later, it was also attacked by Almoravids from the North.
When Ghana was invaded in the 11th century by Almoravids, Mali empire came into existence, it was built from the ruins of Ghana. It had two capitals, the first being Djeriba, which was later changed to Niani. Much later, Mali became the capital and then there was a lot of development because it was close to the river Niger. It became very famous for livestock and agriculture. There was a lot of trade activity. Gold was traded for different commodities like salt, tools, leather and sometimes also slaves. In just around 2 centuries, it became so successful and powerful that it surpassed the earlier Empire of Ghana. Portuguese invaders lead to its decline.