It's been a while since we've seen Mali in Sid Meier's Civilization series but they make a welcome return in the latest Gathering Storm expansion. Mali takes a more traditional approach to their survival in that they let their gold do the talking which should make it possible to easily pursue any of the available victory conditions in the game.
Leader: Mansa Musa
Mansa Musa is the obvious choice to lead Mali to victory as he's regarded, quite possibly, as the wealthiest person whom ever lived. Unlike the dictators of today, Mansa Musa used his extreme wealth to build his empire and better the lives of his people.
Leader Ability: Sahel Merchants
Mansa Musa's unique ability focuses on trading. International trade routes provide additional gold for every desert tile in the origin city and trade capacity is increased every time Mali enters a Golden Age.
Unique Unit: Mandekalu Cavalry
The Mandekalu Cavalry is a medieval era Knight replacement which provides you with gold for every successful battle equal to 100% the unit's base combat strength. These units also serve as bodyguards for your frail trader units by not allowing them to be plundered if there is a Mandekalu Cavalry within 4 tiles.
Unique District: Suguba
Mali's unique district is the Suguba which replaces the Commercial Hub. These districts receive substantial gold bonuses for adjacent holy sites, river tiles, and other districts. Even more impressive is the fact that cities with a Suguba offer gold and faith purchases at a massive 20% discount.
Unique Ability: Songs of the Jeli
Mali's unique ability provides City Centers with 1 extra faith and food for every adjacent desert and desert hill tile. Also, mines provide slightly less production, but a whopping 4 additional gold.
When playing with Mali, you will be able to purchase all Commercial Hub buildings using faith which is a good thing because to balance things out they receive a massive 30% production penalty when constructing buildings and training units.
Mali is one of the few civilizations who will be able to thrive in the dry deserts. This can definitely work in your favor because most civilizations will avoid these tiles, leaving Mali mostly uncontested when settling there.
They may be penalized heavily in terms of production but their intense focus on gathering wealth should more than make up for this and should make it possible for players of all types to utilize Mali's unique skills regardless of the victory condition they're after.
Mali will definitely be a great addition to Civilization VI and will make for some exciting games. Along with the recently announced Maori, this is one of the civilizations I'm most eager to try out in Gathering Storm.