Country Profiles:
Niger

Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa named after the Niger River.  The name Niger derives in turn from the phrase (gher n-gheren), meaning “river among rivers,” in the Tamashek language. Niger is bordered by Libya to the northeast, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, and Algeria to the northwest. Niger covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km2, making it the largest country in West Africa. Over 80% of its land area lies in the Sahara Desert. Namey is the capital of Niger.

Niger’s history begins with the expansion of the Songhai Empire in the 15th century. Following their decline the Mali, Dendi, Gao, Kanem-Bornu, and Hausa empires claimed key areas of Niger until contact with Europeans began during the 19th century. Niger became a French colony in 1922.

The country gained independence from France in 1960 and experienced single-party and military rule under Niger's first president, Hamani Diori.

Although Diori was highly respected internationally for being a spokesman on African affairs, within Niger his administration was completely corrupt. Widespread disorder plagued Niger until a military coup led by Seyni Kountche ended Diori’s rule in 1974. Following his arrest the country fell into disarray until 1991, when Ali Saibou (Niger’s third president) was forced by public pressure to allow multiparty elections that ultimately resulted in a democratic government in 1993. Political infighting brought the government to a standstill and in 1996, led to a coup by Col. Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara. In 1999, Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara was killed in a coup by military officers who promptly restored democratic rule and held elections that brought Mamadou Tandja to power in December of that year. Tandja was reelected in 2004. In February, 2010 a military junta was established, following a coup d’état which deposed Tandja. The country is led now by the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD). The current president is Mahamadou Issoufou and the Prime Minister is Brigi Rafini.

Niger is an underdeveloped country however; the country is slowly gaining momentum to grow its economy. Although, Niger’s economy relies on agriculture as it accounts for 40% of the GDP and provides an occupation for nearly 80% of the population. Majority of the government’s budget comes in the form of foreign aid. Niger is known to have reserves of uranium that is ranked among the most important in the world. In 2010, Niger was the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world and it accounted for about 7.8% of the world’s total production. However, the constantly fluctuating uranium price causes instability to Niger’s economy. The mining sector was also involved in the production of other mineral commodities such as coal, gold, silver, limestone, cement, gypsum, salt, and tin, phosphates, petroleum, molybdenum and salt.

Niger has a wide variety of ethnic groups.

The ethnic makeup of Niger is as follows: Hausa (53.0%), Zarma-Sonrai (21.2%), Tuareg (10.4%), Fula (French: Peuls; Fula: Fulɓe) (9.9%), Kanuri Manga (4.4%), Tubu (0.4%), Arab (0.3%), Gourmantche (0.3%), other (0.2%). Niger has ten official national languages, namely French, Arabic, Buduma, Fulfulde, Gourmanchéma, Hausa, Kanuri, Zarma & Songhai, Tamasheq, Tassawaq, Tebu. Each is spoken as a first language primarily by the ethnic group with which it is associated. Hausa and Zarma-Sonrai, the two most spoken languages, are widely spoken throughout the country as first or second languages.

Landmarks and major tourist sights includes: W National Park, Abaaba National Park, Agadez Attraction, Sultan’s Palace (Zinder), Dabous Giraffe Rock Art, Niamey, Ferme Youyou (Niamey), Grande Mosque de Zinder (Zinder), Ayorou Attractions, Zinder Attractions, Birni Quarter (Zinder).

Cuisine in Niger is a mix of traditional dishes and common dishes shared throughout West Africa. Meals usually start with colorful salads made from seasonal vegetables. Popular dishes include:

  • Dodo (fried plantains)
  • Efo (greens stew)
  • Jollof rice
  • Palm Nut soup
  • Stews and soups

The music of Niger has developed from the musical traditions of a mix of ethnic groups; Hausa, the Zarma Songhai people, Tuareg, Fula Kanuri, Toubou, Diffa Arabs and Gurma.The Hausa, who make up over half of the country’s population, use the duma for percussion and the molo (a lute) in their Griot traditions, along with the Ganga, alghaïta (shawm) and kakaki (trumpet) for martial, state, and ceremonial occasions. These uses are typified by the ceremonial usage of large trumpets to mark the authority of the Sultanate of Damagaram in the southeast Zinder area (see Hausa music).

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