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Republic of Niger
République du Niger
FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of orange, white, and green horizontal stripes, with an orange circle at the center of the white stripe.
ANTHEM: La Nigérienne.
MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. The CFA france comes in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00189 (or $1 = CFA Fr528.28) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Anniversary of 1974 military takeover, 15 April; Labor Day, 1 May; Independence Day, 3 August; Proclamation of the Republic, 18 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.
TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.
A landlocked country, the Republic of the Niger is the largest state in West Africa, with an area of 1,267,000 sq km (489,191 sq mi), extending 1,845 km (1,146 mi) ene-wsw and 1,025 km (637 mi) nnw-sse. Comparatively, the area occupied by Niger is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. Bordered on the n by Libya, on the e by Chad, on the s by Nigeria, on the sw by Benin and Burkina Faso, on the w by Mali, and on the nw by Algeria, Niger has a total boundary length of 5,697 km (3,540 mi). Niger's capital city, Niamey, is located in the southwestern part of the country.
Niger is four-fifths desert, and most of the northeast is uninhabitable. The southern fifth of the country is savanna, suitable mainly for livestock raising and limited agriculture. In the north-central region is the volcanic Aïr Massif, reaching a height of 1,944 m (6,376 ft) on Mt. Gréboun, the nation's highest point. Massifs along the Libyan border average about 800 m (2,600 ft). The southern plateau is at an elevation of 300–500 m (1,000–1,650 ft). The Niger River flows for about 563 km (350 mi) through southwestern Niger. To the north of the Niger are many ancient stream channels that flow periodically during wet weather. A portion of Lake Chad is situated in the southeastern corner of the country.
Niger, one of the hottest countries in the world, has three basic climatic zones: the Saharan desert in the north, the Sahel to the south of the desert, and the Sudan in the southwest corner. The intense heat of the Saharan zone often causes the scant rainfall to evaporate before it hits the ground; at Bilma, in the east, annual rainfall is only 2 cm (0.79 in). On the average, rainfall in the Aïr Massif is limited to a maximum of 25 cm (10 in) annually, and most of it comes during a single two-month period. At Agadez, in the northern Sahel, annual rainfall averages 16.5 cm (6.5 in), but yearly totals often vary greatly. In the south, rainfall is higher. It averages 56 cm (22 in) at Niamey, in the southern Sahel, and 87 cm (34 in) at Gaya, in the Sudanese zone. The rainy season is from May through October, with most rain in July and August. At Niamey, the average maximum daily temperature fluctuates from 31°c (88°f) in August to 41°c (106°f) in April. Nights are cool (below 20°c/68°f) from November to February.
The northern desert has vegetation only after rare rainfalls. The savanna includes a vast variety of herbaceous vegetation, with such trees as bastard mahogany, kapok, baobab, and the shea tree (karité). There are antelope, lion, waterbuck, leopard, hyena, monkey, wart hog, and countless varieties of bird and insect life. In the Niger River are crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and sometimes manatee. Turtles, lizards, pythons, horned vipers, and other varieties of snakes abound. As of 2002, there were at least 131 species of mammals, 125 species of birds, and over 1,450 species of plants throughout the country.
In Niger, serious depletion of vegetation has been caused by the burning of brush and grass to prepare for the planting of crops, often on marginal land; by overgrazing of range lands; and by tree cutting for fuel and construction. Soil erosion and increasing desertification have also occurred. The nation has 4 cu km of renewable water resources. About 82% of the annual withdrawal is used in farming activity and 2% for industrial activity. Improved water sources are available to 80% of urban dwellers and 36% of the rural population.
With Benin and Burkina Faso, Niger administers "W" National Park, of which 334,375 hectares (826,254 acres) are in Niger. There are also several game reserves, but resources for safeguarding protected fauna are insufficient. The nation's wildlife is endangered by unlawful hunting and poaching. In 2003, about 7.7% of the total land area was protected, including 2 natural UNESCO World Heritage sites, and 12 Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 10 types of mammals, 2 species of birds, 1 species of invertebrate, and 2 species of plants. Threatened species include the addax, cheetah, and dama gazelle. The Sahara oryx has become extinct in the wild.
The population of Niger in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 13,957,000, which placed it at number 63 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 2% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 48% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 105 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–2010 was expected to be 3.4%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Adolescent fertility rates are especially high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 26,376,000. The overall population density was 11 per sq km (29 per sq mi); however, most of the population is concentrated in the fertile southern regions. Much of the land is uninhabited except for some nomadic herders.
The UN estimated that 21% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 6.01%. The capital city, Niamey, had a population of 890,000 in that year. Other major cities and their estimated populations are Zinder, 170,574; Maradi, 148,017; Tahoua, 99,900; and Agadez, 78,289.
Most of the northern area of Niger is inhabited by migratory peoples who follow their flocks and herds through the mountainous countryside. During the 1968–75 Sahelian drought, however, these people were forced to leave the north. Many nomads migrated to urban areas in order to keep from starving, but some have since returned. As many as 500,000 people may have moved to Nigeria since the drought. About 100,000 returned in early 1983, when many foreigners were expelled from Nigeria. Thousands more Nigeriens were expelled from Nigeria in 1985, and in 1986; Algeria expelled about 2,000 of the 50,000 Nigerien nomads in southern Algeria. The migration from rural to urban areas has continued.
A five-year civil war (1990–95) between rival factions of Tuareg rebels drove many Tuaregs into big towns or neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Algeria. With the signing of a peace agreement in April 1995 came the implementation of a repatriation program. Repatriation of Nigerien refugees from Algeria and Mali was completed by 1998.
In 1999, some 3,589 Malian refugees were repatriated; however, some Malians remained on refugee sites, refusing to return to their homeland. By 2004 there were 344 refugees and 41 asylum seekers. In 2005 the net migration rate was an estimated 0.65 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.
The Hausa are the largest ethnic group, forming 56% of the total population. The Djerma-Songhai, the second-largest group, constitute 22% of the population. They, like the Hausa, are sedentary farmers living on the arable southern tier. The Djerma-Songhai are concentrated in the southwest; the Hausa, in south-central and southeast Niger. Many of Niger's inhabitants are nomadic or seminomadic livestock-raising peoples, including the Fulani, or Peul (8.5%), the Tuareg (8%), and the Beri Beri or Kanouri (4.3%). Arab, Toubou, and Gourmantche peoples make up the remaining 1.2% of the populace, along with some 1,200 French expatriates.
French is the national and official language, but it is spoken by only a small minority of the people. The various ethnic groups use their own local languages. Hausa is spoken all over the country as the language of trade. Djerma is also used extensively.
More than 90% of the population is Muslim, with the Tijaniyya, Senussi, and Hamalist sects being the most influential. The cities of Say, Kiota, Agadez, and Madarounfa are considered holy by local Islamic communities, and so the practice of other religions in those cities is not as well tolerated as in other areas. Christians, including both Catholics and Protestants, constitute less than 5% of the population; they tend to be concentrated in Maradi, Niamey, and other urban centers with expatriate populations. The Baha'is are very active and do account for a small percentage of the overall populace; they too are located primarily in Niamey and in communities on the west side of the Niger River, bordering Burkina Faso. Traditional indigenous religions are also practiced by a small percentage of the population.
Though relations between religious communities is generally amicable, there have been reports of tension between certain fundamental Muslims and various Christian organizations. The constitution provides for freedom of religion and no particular religion is designated as a state religion. However, the Islamic Association serves in an official advisory capacity on religious matters for the government. The constitution prohibits the formation of political parties based on religious doctrines. Religious organizations are registered with the Interior Ministry. Certain Christian and Muslim holidays are officially observed.
Landlocked Niger relies heavily on road and air transportation. As of 2002 there were 10,100 km (6,276 mi) of roads, of which 798 km (496 mi) were paved. The principal road runs from west to east, beginning at Ayorou, going through Niamey, Dosso, Maradi, and Zinder, and ending at Nguigmi. A 902-km (560-mi) all-weather stretch between Niamey and Zinder was opened in 1980. Extending from the main route are roads from Niamey to Burkina Faso (not paved), from Zinder to Algeria through Agadez (with tough desert driving on dirt tracks), from Dosso to Benin, and from Birni Nkonni and Maradi to Nigeria. A 602-km (385-mi) highway between Tahoua and the uranium mines at Arlit was completed in 1981. SNTN, a government joint venture with a private French company, is the most important road hauler and has a monopoly over certain routes. In 2003, there were 21,000 passenger cars and 18,650 commercial vehicles.
Niger's most important international transport route is by road to the rail terminus at Parakou, Benin. From there, OCBN, a joint Benin-Niger railway, operates service to the Benin port of Cotonou. As of 2004, the Niger River is navigable for 300 km (186 mi) from Niamey to Gaya on the Benin frontier from September through March.
There were an estimated 27 airports and airfields in 2004, 9 of which (as of 2005) had permanent-surface runways. The international airport is at Niamey. There are domestic airports at Agadez, Maradi, Zinder, Arlit, and Tahoua. Niger is a participant in the transnational Air Afrique, which provides international service, along with several other airlines. In 2003, about 46,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.
Through extensive archaeological research, much evidence has been uncovered indicating that man has been present in northern Niger for over 600,000 years. By at least 4000 bc, a mixed population of Libyan, Berber, and Negroid peoples had evolved an agricultural and cattle-herding economy in the Sahara. Written history begins only with Arab chronicles of the 10th century ad. By the 14th century, the Hausa had founded several city-states along the southern border of what is today the Republic of the Niger. About 1515, an army of the Songhai Empire of Gao (now in Mali), led by Askia Muhammad I, subjugated the Hausa states and captured the Berber city of Agadez, whose sultanate had existed for many generations. The city had been important largely because of its position on the caravan trade routes from Tripoli and Egypt into the Lake Chad area. The fall of the Songhai Empire to Moroccan invaders in 1591 led to expansion of the Bornu Empire, which was centered in northeast Nigeria, into the eastern and central sections of the region. The Hausa states and the Tuareg also remained important. It was probably during the 17th century that the Djerma settled in the southwest. Between 1804 and 1810, a devout Fulani Muslim named 'Uthman dan Fodio waged a holy war against the Hausa states, which he subjugated along with a part of the Bornu Empire, west of Lake Chad. About that time, European explorers began to enter the area, starting with a Scot, Mungo Park, in 1805–06.
Bornu, Hausa, and Fulani entities vied for power during the 19th century, a period during which political control was fragmented. The first French military expeditions into the Niger area, at the close of the 19th century, were stiffly resisted. Despite this opposition, French forces pushed steadily eastward and by 1900 had succeeded in encircling Lake Chad with military outposts. In 1901, the military district of Niger was created as part of a larger unit known as Haut-Sénégal et Niger. Rebellions plagued the French forces on a minor scale until World War I, when a major uprising took place. Some 1,000 Tuareg warriors attacked Zinder in a move promoted by pro-German elements intent on creating unrest in French and British African holdings. British troops were dispatched from Nigeria to assist the French in putting down the disturbance. Although this combined operation broke the Tuareg resistance, not until 1922 was peace fully restored. In that year, the French made Niger a colony.
Niger's colonial history is similar to that of other former French West African territories. It had a governor but was administered from Paris through the governor-general in Dakar, Senegal. From 1932 to 1947, Niger was administered jointly with Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) for budgetary reasons. World War II barely touched Niger, since the country was too isolated and undeveloped to offer anything of use to the Free French forces.
In 1946, the French constitution conferred French citizenship on the inhabitants of all the French territories and provided for a gradual decentralization of power and limited participation in indigenous political life. On 28 September 1958, voters in Niger approved the constitution of the Fifth French Republic, and on 19 December 1958, Niger's Territorial Assembly voted to become an autonomous state, the Republic of the Niger, within the French Community. A ministerial government was formed by Hamani Diori, a deputy to the French National Assembly and secretary-general to the Niger branch of the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique Africain—RDA). On 11 July 1960, agreements on national sovereignty were signed by Niger and France, and on 3 August 1960, the Republic of the Niger proclaimed its independence. Diori, who had been able to consolidate his political dominance with the help of the French colonial administration, became Niger's first president. His principal opponent was Djibo Bakary, whose party, known as the Sawaba, had been banned in 1959 for advocating a "no" vote in the 1958 French constitutional referendum. The Sawaba was allegedly responsible for a number of unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Diori after 1959.
Diori was able to stay in power throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. His amicable relations with the French enabled him to obtain considerable technical, military, and financial aid from the French government. In 1968, following a dispute between the ruling Niger Progressive Party (Parti Progressiste Nigérien—PPN) and the civil service over alleged corruption of civil service personnel, the PPN was given a larger role in the national administration. Over the years, Diori developed a reputation as an African statesman and was able to settle several disputes between other African nations. However, unrest developed at home as Niger, together with its Sahel neighbors, suffered widespread devastation from the drought of the early 1970s.
On 15 April 1974, the Diori government was overthrown by a military coup led by Lt. Col. Seyni Kountché, the former chief of staff who subsequently assumed the presidency. Madame Diori was killed in the rebellion, as were approximately 100 others, and the former president was detained (1974–80) under house arrest. Soon after the coup, French troops stationed in Niger left at Kountché's request.
The economy grew markedly in the late 1970s, chiefly because of a uranium boom that ended in 1980. The Kountché regime, which was generally pro-Western, broke diplomatic relations with Libya in January 1981 in alarm and anger over Libya's military intervention in Chad. Relations with Libya slowly improved, and diplomatic ties resumed in 1982. Nevertheless, Niger continued to fear Libyan efforts at subversion, particularly among the Tuareg of northern Niger. In October 1983, an attempted coup in Niamey was suppressed by forces loyal to President Kountché. Kountché died of a brain tumor in November 1987, and (then) Col. 'Ali Seybou, the army chief of staff, was appointed president.
In 1989, Seybou created what he intended to be a national single party, Le Mouvement National pour la Société de Développement/The National Movement for a Developmental Society (MNSD). However, the winds of democratic change ushered in multiparty competition. At the forefront for political reform was the labor confederation, which organized a widely observed two-day-long general strike. Following the example of Benin, a National Conference was held from July to October 1991 to prepare a new constitution. The conferees appointed an interim government, led by Amadou Cheiffou to work alongside the Seybou government to organize multiparty elections. Widespread fighting in the north and military mutinies in February 1992 and July 1993 postponed the elections, but a new constitution was adopted in a December 1992 referendum.
Niger's first multiparty elections took place on 27 February 1993. Mamadou Tandja, who succeeded Seybou as MNSD leader came in first with 34%. However, with Mohamadou Issoufou's support, Mahamane Ousmane defeated him in the March runoff with 54% of the vote. In the legislative elections, the MNSD won the largest number of the seats (29), but a coalition of nine opposition parties, the Alliance of Forces of Change (AFC) dominated the National Assembly with 50 of the 83 seats. Prime Minister Issoufou led the AFC.
The new government found itself threatened by an insurgency in the north. In March, it reached a three-month truce with the major Tuareg group, the Liberation Front of Air and Azaouak (FLAA), and was able to extend it for three more months. By September, however, the Tuaregs had split into three factions and only one, the Front for the Liberation of Tamoust (FLT), agreed to renew the truce for three more months. Some Tuaregs, chiefly under the Armée Revolutionnaire de la Libération du Nord Niger (ARLNN) continued the rebellion, prompting more government reprisals.
The Tuareg raids created tension with Libya, suspected of inciting the insurgencies, and divided Nigerians over issues of favoritism. The government appeared biased in favor of members of the Djerma-Songhai (or Zarma-Songhai), one of Niger's five major ethnolinguistic groups. In April 1995, a tentative peace was reached via the joint mediation of Algeria, Burkina Faso, and France. However, ethnic disturbances continued in the south of the country.
In late 1994, disagreements between the president and the leadership of the National Assembly resulted in a political stalemate lasting throughout 1995. In the legislative elections of 12 January 1995, the AFC succumbed to factionalism allowing the MNSD to win a slight majority (29 seats). The MNSD formed a ruling coalition with its allies in the Democratic and Social Convention (24 seats). However, the two sides fought over the appointment of a prime minister, and then-prime minister, Hama Amadou, and President Ousmane fought over IMF austerity measures. In January 1996, Colonel Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara (known as Baré) toppled Ousmane and dissolved the Assembly. The military regime suspended political parties and civil liberties, and placed the president, prime minister, and president of the Assembly under house arrest. Despite Baré's pledge to restore democracy, donors cut assistance to Niger.
In May 1996, voters approved a new constitution that strengthened the powers of the executive. However, only 40% of the electorate voted. Baré lifted the ban on political parties, and in the July elections, despite evidence of massive fraud, declared himself the winner with 52% of the vote. Ousmane received 19% Tandja Mamadou 16%, Mahamadou Issoufou 8%, and Moumouni Amadou Djermakoye 5%. Baré's UNIRD took 52 of 83 Assembly seats in the November 1996 legislative elections.
On 9 April 1999, while boarding his helicopter, President Baré died in a hail of assassin's bullets. Political gridlock gripped the country, eroded public confidence in government, and allowed the military to intervene. The day prior to the assassination, opposition leaders had called on Baré to step down. Major Daouda Mallam Wanké said the presidential guard had opened fire in self-defense, and his junta later described the murder as an unfortunate accident. Few people believed it was, and the coup was roundly condemned by the international community. Baré's widow, Clemen Aicha Baré, filed claims against Wanké, as the prime perpetrator, and against the former prime minister Ibrahim Assane Mayaki for his alleged role in the assassination.
In October 1999, Wanké made good on his promise to return the country to civilian rule. Despite allegations of vote rigging, seven candidates contested the presidential elections. In the first round, Mamadou Tandja (MNSD) took 32.3% of the vote to Mahamadou Issoufou's (PNDS) 22.8%. In the 24 November runoff, Tandja was elected with 59.9% to Issoufou's 40.1%. Observers declared the second round free and fair. In the 24 November Assembly elections, five of seven parties won seats. The MNSD took 38 of 83 seats, the CDS 17, the PNDS 16, the RDP 8, and the ANDP 4.
The new National Assembly passed an amnesty for perpetrators of the January 1996 and April 1999 coups to avoid "the spirit of revenge or any form of resentment." Eight members of Maïnassara Baré's party dissented. Tandja said his top priority would be to work for political, social, and institutional stability, essential for national recovery.
In May 2002, Niger and Benin submitted a boundary dispute between them to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. At issue were sectors of the Niger and Mékrou Rivers and islands in them, in particular Lété Island. This dispute was resolved in Niger's favor by the Court in 2005.
On 30 July 2002, soldiers from three garrisons in the southeastern Diffa region mutinied, protesting low and overdue salaries and improper working conditions. The mutiny threatened Niamey, but troops loyal to the government put down the 10-day rebellion on 9 August. In December, at least 80 of the mutineers who were arrested in August escaped from prison.
Since then, with some exceptions, political stability prevailed. In early 2004 the government established an all-party dialogue and conflict resolution forum, the Conseil national de dialogue politique (CNDP). In May 2004 rumors of a new Tuareg rebellion surfaced following the desertion of former Tuareg rebels from the army, which coincided with armed attacks and banditry in the north. However, in July and December 2004 the country held successful local, presidential and parliamentary elections. Tandja was reelected in the presidential poll, a first for a Nigerien president.
Islamic guerrilla groups continued to operate in Niger. In early 2004, the police arrested members of the Muhajirun group, which apparently inspired by the Taliban, conducted a number of attacks in Borno state. In February and March, the Algerian Groupe salafist pour la predication et le combat (GSPC) allegedly clashed with authorities. This group had been responsible for the kidnapping of 32 tourists in early 2003 in Algeria and Mali. Livestock raiding across borders continued to be a problem as well.
Despite its convincing victory in the December 2004 polls, the ruling MNSD party faced serious social and economic challenges heading into 2006. A major food crisis in the second half of 2005 was portrayed as a famine in the international media and by UN agencies, and was strongly criticized by donor governments as the result of poor governance. Following the introduction of taxes on basic foodstuffs, the government became the target of major social protests, and ultimately had to withdraw the measures. Ultimately, an estimated 3 million of Niger's 12 million people were facing hunger, and some 32,000 children were thought to be severely malnourished. While President Tandja blamed food shortages on climatic factors and locust invasions, the main opposition party, the PNDS accused the government of diverting aid, and criticized it for its slow reaction and mismanagement of the crisis.
The constitution of 8 November 1960 established the president of the republic, elected for a five-year term by direct universal suffrage, as chief of state and head of the executive branch. Legislative power was invested in a 50-member unicameral National Assembly. This constitution was suspended following the military coup of 15 April 1974, when the National Assembly was also dissolved. All executive and legislative power was taken over by the Supreme Military Council, composed of army officers. The president of the Supreme Military Council was president of the council of ministers (cabinet) and head of state. Seyni Kountché held this office from 1974 to 1987. Most cabinet officers were civilians in 1987.
In 1987, a national development council was established to serve as a constituent assembly on a nonparty basis. It drafted the constitution of the Second Republic that came into force on 24 September 1989.
A national conference from July to October 1991 drafted a multiparty democratic constitution that was approved by national referendum on 26 December 1992. It established the Third Republic with a National Assembly of 83 deputies chosen by popular and competitive elections, a president likewise elected, and a prime minister elected by the Assembly. The new government with Mahamane Ousmane as its head was sworn in on 23 April 1993.
Political gridlock led to a (relatively) bloodless coup led by (then) Colonel Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara in January 1996. Within six months, the regime had drafted and submitted for national referendum a new constitution with a significantly strengthened executive. The document was approved on 12 May 1996 ushering in the short-lived Fourth Republic. In flawed elections, Baré Maïnassara declared himself winner over four other candidates on the first round, and his UNIRD party won a majority of seats in the Assembly.
Baré Maïnassara was assassinated on 9 April 1999 by his presidential guard. Major Daouda Wanké reappointed Ibrahim Assane Maiyaki as prime minister for the transition government. He then appointed a transitional cabinet consisting of 20 members, most of whom were civilian. Wanké also replaced 7 of Niger's regional military leaders. He announced that he would not run for the presidency and disqualified all military and security personnel, as well as all members of the transitional government from standing for election. Wanké named a 60-member independent national election commission to oversee the establishment of the election roles and the polling. The CRN renounced any form of remuneration during the transition period and moved to reduce by half the salaries of future members of government.
The constitution of the Fifth Republic, adopted 18 July 1999, provides for a semi-presidential government. The president, who may stand for two five-year terms, is head of state, and appoints the prime minister (head of government) from a list of three candidates proposed by the parliamentary majority. The president names all 23 cabinet ministers and other high-ranking civilian and military officials. Presidential actions must be countersigned by the prime minister. The National Assembly can unseat the prime minister through a no-confidence vote. The president can dissolve the 113-member (expanded from 83) National Assembly, assume emergency powers, and convene the Council of the Republic in the event of a constitutional crisis. The National Assembly has the power to to pass a motion of no confidence in the government.
This Fifth Republic constitution created four new bodies: the Constitutional Court, the Superior National Defense Council, the Council of the Republic (a conflict resolution body), and the Economic, Social, and Cultural Council. The Council of the Republic was created to end the political impasse that brought down the Third Republic through the military coup in 1996. Amnesties for those involved in both the 1996 and 1999 coups were part of the constitutional draft.
Parties emerged only after World War II. In 1946, the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique Africain—RDA) became dominant with the help of several labor unions. By 1948, its popularity waned, and the Niger Progressive Party (Parti Progressiste Nigérien or PPN), the local branch of the RDA, was unable to reelect its candidate to the French National Assembly. Meanwhile, other parties, based on regional interests, gained strength.
In 1957, Djibo Bakary, the leader of a dissident RDA group, helped form a socialist party that became known as the Party of the African Regrouping (Parti du regroupement africain or PRA). Branches were quickly established in most of the other French-African territories.
Shortly before the voting on the French constitution in September 1958, the PPN joined with chiefs and dissident PRA members to form a coalition, the Union for the Franco-African Community (Union pour la Communauté Franco-Africaine), led by Hamani Diori, leader of the PPN. On 14 December 1958, the PRA group (known as the Sawaba), led by Djibo Bakary, was defeated by the new coalition, which won 54 of the 60 seats in the Assembly. Following full independence, Diori became president of the republic. Diori consolidated the position of the PPN by allying himself with Niger's powerful Muslim traditional chiefs, exiling Bakary, and banning the Sawaba in 1959. In 1964 and 1965, Bakary organized attacks from abroad on Diori's life.
The PPN became the only legal party under the Diori regime. In the October 1970 elections, Diori won 99.98% of the votes cast, and the PPN won 97.09% of the votes cast for the National Assembly. After the coup of 15 April 1974, the military government suppressed all political organizations in the country. Both Diori and Bakary (who returned from exile) were imprisoned until 1980.
In 1989, Seybou created the National Movement for a Developmental Society (MNSD). The MNSD was intended to be the sole legal party, but the constitutional referendum of December 1992 authorized a multiple party system. In the legislative elections on 12 January 1995 some 774 candidates ran for 83 Assembly seats. The MNSD won a slight majority (29 seats) and formed a coalition with the Democratic and Social Convention or CDS (24 seats). The coalition was factious, and in January 1996, leaders of a military coup dissolved the Assembly, overthrew the president, and banned political parties. Following the approval of a new constitution in May, political parties once again were allowed to exist.
In flawed presidential elections in July 1996, Baré Maïnassara took 52.22%, Mahamane Ousmane 19.75%, Mamadou Tandja 15.65%, and two other candidates took the remaining 12% of the vote. Legislative elections were held again in November 1996 for the reinstated 83-seat National Assembly. The pro-Maïnassara National Independents Union for Democratic Renewal (Union Nationale des Independents pour la renoveau democratique or UNIRD) won 52 seats, the Nigerian Alliance for Democracy and Progress-Zaman (ANDPS-Zaman Lahiya) 8, Union of Patriots, Democrats, and Progressives (Union des Patriotes Démocratiques et progressistes or UPDP-Shamuwa) 4, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social or UDPS-Amana) 3, coalition of independents 3, with the remaining 6 seats divided among three other parties.
In the October–November 1999 presidential elections, Mamadou Tandja won convincingly with 32.3% on the first round and 59.9% on the second. Mahamadou Issoufou (Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism—PNDS) came in second with 22.8% and 40.1%. The others were Mahamane Ousmane (CDS) with 22.5%, Hamid Algabid (Rally for Democracy and Progress or Rassemblement pour la Démocratie et le Progrès—RDP) with 10.9%, Mumouni Djermakoye Amadou (ANDP) with 7.7%, Andre Salifou (UDPD) with 2.1% and Amadou Ali Djibo (Union des Nigériens Indépendants or Union of Independent Nigerians—UNI) with 1.7% of the vote.
A new political landscape emerged after the elections. The CDS of former president, Ousmane, rallied behind the MNSD to catapult Tandja and the MNSD to victory in the 24 November second round. Formerly, the CDS was pitted against the MNSD as part of the Alliance du Changement (AC) in the multiparty elections of 1991. Ousmane and Tandja were sworn enemies until General Baré's coup ousted Ousmane in 1996. The coup threw the CDS and the MNSD into the opposition, and made them both members of the umbrella alliance, the Front pour la Restauration et Défense de la Démocratie (FRDD) to compete in the elections in November 1996. The FRDD had comprised eight parties including the MNSD the CDS, and Issoufou's party, the PNDS.
In the National Assembly elected on 24 November 1999, 5 of 19 contending parties won seats. The MNSD took 38 of 83 seats, the CDS 17, the PNDS 16, the RDP 8, and the ANDP 4. Thus, the MNSD-CDS coalition had 55 of 83 seats. With its 16 seats, Issoufou's PNDS took leadership of the opposition coalition. The main allies of the opposition were the RDP and the ANDP bringing the coalition to 30 seats.
The November–December 2004 general elections saw the reelection of Mamadou Tandja and reinforced the dominance of the ruling coalition, the Alliance des forces démocratiques (AFD), comprising five parties led by the MNSD. Tandja won with 65.5% of the vote to 34.5% for Mahamadou Issoufou. In the legislative contest, the MNSD took 47 seats followed by the CDS, 22; the PNDS (the main opposition party) 17; the Social and Democratic Rally, 7; the RDP, 6; the ANDP, 5; and the Party for Socialism and Democracy in Niger, 1; other, 8. In all, the ruling coalition secured 88 of 113 seats. The next elections were scheduled for December 2009.
Niger consists of 8 regions (departments), subdivided into 36 districts (arrondissements) and a capital district. Democratization and demands for better governance has led to decentralization and popular participation in local government. However, devolving authority from the national level required adequate electoral safeguards. In 1999, the Supreme Court ordered a rerun elections in five regions. Opponents objected on the grounds that their candidates had held a clear lead over those of the president's party. The ensuing deadlock contributed to the crisis of government and to the 9 April coup.
The legal system, which is seriously under-resourced and subject to executive pressures and corruption, mirrors French civil law with important customary-law modifications. The High Court of Justice, which is appointed by the National Assembly from among its own membership, is empowered to try the president and members of the government for crimes or offenses committed in performance of their official duties. Defendants and prosecutors may appeal verdicts from lower courts, first to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court, which sits as the highest court of appeal. The seven-member Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over electoral and constitutional matters, including ruling on the constitutionality of laws and ordinances, as well as compliance with international treaties and agreements. A Court of State Security tries crimes against the state.
Notably, the Constitutional Court has overruled several presidential decrees, rejected more than one-third of the candidates in the local elections in April 2004, and forced the government to change the electoral code and reschedule the local elections.
Traditional and customary courts hear cases involving divorce or inheritance. There are no religious courts. Customary courts, located in larger towns and cities, are presided over by a legal practitioner with basic legal training who is advised about local tradition by a local assessor. The actions of chiefs in traditional courts and of the presiding practitioner in customary courts are not regulated by the code provisions. Appeals can be taken from both customary and traditional courts to the formal court system.
Niger's armed forced totaled 5,300 active personnel in 2005, with 5,200 serving in the Army and the remaining 100 personnel in the Air Force. Paramilitary forces numbered 5,400 including the gendarmerie (1,400), the Republican Guard (2,500), and the National Police (1,500). Niger participated in four UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $30.6 million.
Niger was admitted to the United Nations on 20 September 1960, and is a member of ECA and several other nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, ILO, the World Bank, IAEA, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. Niger is also a member of the WTO, the African Development Bank, the West African Development Bank, the ACP Group, ECOWAS, G-77, the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the Niger River and Lake Chad Basin Commissions, and the African Union. It has joined with Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Togo in the Council of the Entente, a customs union with a common solidarity fund. The nation is part of the Franc Zone.
Niger is a member of the Nonaligned Movement. The government has offered support to UN missions and operations in Liberia (est. 2003), Burundi (est. 2004), Côte d'Ivoire (est. 2004), and the DROC (est.1999). In environmental cooperation, Niger is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.
Niger is an arid, landlocked country with much of its territory forming a portion of the Sahara. Most of its people live in a marginally productive and highly drought-prone band of arable land along Niger's southern border with Nigeria. Although at one time uranium mining was a mainstay of the Niger economy, revenues from uranium dropped by almost 50% in the late 1980s due to a decline in world demand for uranium. Export earnings declined from 22% of GDP in 1987 to 16% of GDP in 1998. In 2001 GDP grew by 7% but declined to 3.8% growth in 2005. Subsistence agriculture prevails in the less than 3% of the country that is under cultivation. Agriculture and livestock production employed an estimated 95% of the labor force in 2005.
In January 1994 France devalued the CFA franc, causing its value to drop in half overnight. The devaluation of the CFA franc improved Niger's trade relationship with Nigeria, and boosted revenue from the export of such products as livestock, peas, onions, and the cotton industry. As of 2003, Niger had yet to recover from the devaluation, in 1993 the current account to GDP ratio was close to zero, afterwards reaching an average negative 10%. Exports could not keep pace with the rising price of imports.
The Niger economy relies on bilateral and multilateral aid, and the government has been encouraged to restructure the economy by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. With a history of military rule, and a bad debt repayment record, foreign aid has been slow coming. However, Niger became eligible for debt relief under the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in 2000, in the amount of $115 million. The fact that population growth has outpaced GDP has been a cause of Niger's increasing poverty.
The restoration of democratic rule in 2000 saw an increase in foreign aid. The government's privatization of state-owned enterprises, particularly in the telecommunications and electricity sectors, was to promote investment in 2003, as was exploration for gold deposits and oil. An increase in tourism to Niger's scenic northern desert has been diversifying the economy.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Niger's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $10.2 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.8%. The average inflation rate in 2004 was 0.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 39% of GDP, industry 17%, and services 44%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $8 million or about $1 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $453 million or about $39 per capita and accounted for approximately 16.7% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Niger totaled $2.29 billion or about $194 per capita based on a GDP of $2.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.8%. It was estimated that in 1993 about 63% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
In 2002 (the latest year for which data was available), an estimated 70,000 individuals out of a workforce estimated in 1998 (the latest year for which data was available) at 5 million, received a regular wage or salary. About 90% of the country's workforce was engaged in agriculture, with industry and commerce accounting for 6% and government 4%. There is no data avialable as to the country's unemployment rate.
The Union of Workers' Syndicates of Niger (Union des Syndicats des Travailleurs du Niger—USTN) is the only trade union federation. It was founded in Niamey in 1960 and is affiliated with the African Trade Union Confederation. USTN has 38 member unions. Its head is appointed by the government. Unions represent a very small segment of the population, most members are government workers. Except for police and security forces, employees are permitted to engage in strikes.
The minimum wage varies for each class and category of salaried employees. The lowest minimum wage was approximately $33 per month in 2001, which does not provide a family with a decent standard of living. The legal workweek is 40 hours for most occupations, with some legal workweeks extending to 72 hours. The minimum age for employment is 14 years old. This is observed in the formal sector of the economy, but child labor persists in the informal economy and in agriculture.
Although only 2.8% of Niger's area is cultivated, farmers increased their production following the 1968–75 drought, and in 1980, the country became self-sufficient in food crops. The most plentiful rains in 30 years fell during the 1992–1993 season, pushing agricultural production up by 64%. Irrigation and off-season farming projects are of keen interest to the government and foreign donors. During 1990–2000, agricultural production grew by an annual average of 3.2%. Almost 90% of the active population is engaged in crop cultivation or animal husbandry. Agricultural techniques are still rudimentary; there are a few tractors in use (only 128 in 2003), and most farmers do not keep draft animals. Very little fertilizer is used. Irrigated land in 2003 totaled about 73,000 hectares (180,000 acres). Only 12% of Niger's total land area, located along the southern border, is potentially useful for rainfed cultivation. Over 95% of agriculture is on farms of less than five hectares (12 acres), with the average about three hectares (7.5 acres). Production of millet, the staple food of most of the people, depends heavily on rainfall. In 2004, millet production was 2,500,000 tons, sorghum was 580,000 tons, and rice was 76,500 tons. Other crops (with their estimated output) include cassava (100,000 tons), sugarcane (220,000 tons), lettuce (140,000 tons), and sweet potatoes (30,000 tons). Cowpeas are an important crop, but are only competitive as an export in neighboring Nigeria's market due to transportation costs. The government of Niger is encouraging crop diversification and the raising of export crops like onions, garlic, peppers, and potatoes, in addition to cowpeas.
Peanuts, formerly the main source of agricultural export revenue, are planted mainly in the Zinder area. Production increased from 8,980 tons in 1945 to a high of 298,000 tons in 1967. Because of a lack of producer incentives, production declined to only 87,000 tons in 1982, and only a fraction of that total was delivered to the government marketing agency, SOMARA, which had a monopoly on pricing and marketing peanut products until 1986. Production was reported at 110,000 tons for 2004.
Cotton, introduced in 1956 to reduce Niger's dependence on peanuts, has also suffered from lack of grower incentives. Production of seed cotton rose from 218 tons in 1956 to 6,682 tons in 1967 but was only around 10,000 tons in 2004.
Almost half the land area of Niger is classified as pasture, but, like agriculture, animal husbandry has suffered greatly from insufficient rainfall. In 2005 there were an estimated 2.2 million head of cattle, 6.9 million goats, 4.5 million sheep, and 420,000 camels. About 12% of Niger's GDP comes from livestock production, which engages 29% of the population. Official statistics of Niger seriously under represent total exports—most animals are herded across borders without documentation.
Meat production, which had dropped to 38,000 tons in 1973, was an estimated 133,000 tons in 2005. Production of milk from goats and cows came to 105,000 and 184,000 tons, respectively. Cattle hides came to about 5,600 tons; sheepskins, 1,900 tons; and goatskins, 4,200 tons. There is a tannery at Maradi. Sandals, briefcases, and fine ladies handbags of high quality are produced in small numbers but seldom exported.
Meat exports are inspected and controlled by the customs service before leaving the country. Only inspected, tuberculin-tested cattle are used in export meat production. The Niger River valley south of Say is infested by the tsetse fly, and trypanosomiasis is, therefore, a major cattle disease.
There is no commercial fishing on a wide scale, but fishing is an appreciable source of revenue for the Sorko on the Niger River and the Boudouma on Lake Chad. The fishermen on Lake Chad consume most of their catch. Most of the total annual catch of 55,900 tons in 2003 was from the Niger River and its tributaries; a small amount is from the Lake Chad region.
The forest domain is only about 1% of Niger's surface. Roundwood production was estimated at 9,006,000 cu m (318 million cu ft) in 2004, 95% for fuel. Small amounts of gum arabic are extracted from acacia trees. Some tree planting has been undertaken, mainly with acacia species, but deforestation remains a serious problem. About 1,328 hectares (3,281 acres) were reforested annually during 1990–2000 and hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted, but these are highly vulnerable to drought.
Uranium dominated Niger's mining sector, ranking it fifth in the world in terms of production. Uranium mining was the country's leading industry in 2003, as well as its leading export commodity, accounting for around 32% of exports in 2003. In 2003, Niger produced 3,143 metric tons of uranium. A uranium boom occurred in the late 1970s, but with the reduction in world demand in the 1980s, prices fell, although the government was partly protected by contracts negotiated earlier. Cement, brick, and chemical production were other leading industries, and Niger also produced clays, bituminous coal, gold, gypsum, limestone, molybdenum (in connection with uranium ore), phosphate rock, salt, sand and gravel, stone, cassiterite tin, and tungsten (and, at times, columbite, in connection with cassiterite).
Although uranium was the only mineral to be significantly developed, Niger was rich in a number of other minerals. The country's first gold mine, the Samira Hill open pit, was opened in 2000 by Niger's prime minister, and intended to produce 10,000 tons per day of ore. The combined reserves of Samira Hill and the nearby Libiri deposit were 10.1 million tons (2.2 grams per ton of gold). Gold output in 2003 was officially estimated at 28 kilograms. However, it is estimated that actual gold production is around 1,000 kg annually, if unreported output is included. In addition, there were some natron and sodium sulfate deposits, an estimated 650 million tons of iron ore deposits at Say, near Niamey, and 400 million tons of phosphate deposits in "W" National Park, in the Niger River Valley. There were also unexploited deposits of manganese, lithium, copper, zinc, lead, silver, cobalt, kaolin, feldspar, gypsum, limestone, marble, and clay.
Even though it has proven crude oil reserves, the country has no refining capacity and imports all the refined oil it consumes.
As of 1 January 2003, Niger had proven crude oil reserves of 300 million barrels. However, the lack of any refining capacity and the untapped reserves means that the country is totally reliant upon imports of refined petroleum. In 2002, imports and demand for refined petroleum products each averaged 5,300 barrels per day.
Niger produced only a small amount of coal in 2002. Output and demand for coal in that year each came to 194,000 short tons. There were no recorded imports, production, or consumption of natural gas in 2002 by Niger.
Niger's electric power generating sector is completely reliant upon fossil fuels. Of the nation's 0.105 million kW of generating capacity all was fossil fuel dedicated. In 2002, electric power output totaled 0.228 billion kWh, of which consumption that year totaled 0.292 billion kWh. Imports of electric power in that year totaled 0.080 billion kWh.
Niger's manufacturing sector is small and consists mainly of the processing of domestic agricultural commodities. Agricultural products are processed at a groundnut oil plant, rice mills, flour mills, cotton gins, and tanneries. A textile mill and a cement plant operate, and light industries produce beer and soft drinks, processed meats, noodle products, baked goods, soaps and detergents, perfume, plastic and metal goods, farm equipment, canned vegetables, pasta, and construction materials. The 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc made light manufacturing more competitive by decreasing the cost of local inputs by 50%, but also raised the price of imports dramatically. There is potential for development of fertilizer, seed, and equipment production in the agribusiness sector. There is a small cotton industry. Oil exploration has taken place, but as of 2005, no proven reserves had been discovered.
Niger relies heavily on foreign sources for technical expertise, and French agencies are especially active; the Bureau of Geological and Mineral Research, the French Company for the Development of Textile Fibers, the Institute of Fruit and Citrus Fruit Research, and the French Institute of Scientific Research for Development and Cooperation all have offices in Niamey.
The National Institute of Agronomical Research of Niger, in Niamey, maintains two soil-science stations, at Tarka and Kolo. There is also a national office of solar energy and a veterinary laboratory in Niamey. The Livestock Service of Niger has a Sahelian experimental station at Filingué for breeding zebu cattle and a center for goat breeding and poultry raising at Maradi. The University of Niamey, founded in 1971, includes faculties of science, agronomy, and health services, and institutes of radioisotopes and of research on the teaching of mathematics. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 32% of college and university enrollments. The National Museum of Niger, founded in 1959 in Niamey, has a zoo, a geological and mineral exhibition, and paleontology and prehistory museums.
The main domestic commercial center in Niger is in the capital city of Niamay. Merchants and peddlers in the small villages sell such items as beverages, cigarettes, soap, cloth, perfume, and batteries. About 90% of the work force is employed in subsistence farming and only 6% are involved in industry and commerce. Large foreign concerns (usually French-owned) import products to be sold in stores in Niamey and in the secondary cities. In 1997 and 2000, the government made revisions to its investment code in an effort to encourage much needed foreign investment.
The work day is typically from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm, and 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm in government offices, Monday through Friday. Private businesses generally are open during those hours as well.
Trade figures show that uranium accounts for about 54% of exports by value. The demand for uranium has steadily decreased since the 1980s. Exports of live animals and hides (primarily to Nigeria) represent 23% of exports. Vegetables (cowpeas, onions) are also exported, accounting for 23% of exports in 2005. In 2003, Niger's exports went primarily to France (42.3%), Nigeria (28.7%), Japan (17.2%), and Spain (4.6%). Imports are led by consumer goods, primary materials, machinery, vehicles and parts, petroleum, and cereals. Imports in 2003 came mostly from France (16.4%), Côte d'Ivoire (13.9%), China (10.6%), and Nigeria (7.7%).
Niger's balance of payments deficit is usually offset by large amounts of bilateral and multilateral aid. A reduction of imports, combined with small increases in the value of uranium and other
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exports, is expected to improve the trade imbalance in the early 2000s.
The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Niger's exports was $438 million while imports totaled $625 million resulting in a trade deficit of $187 million.
The Central Bank of the West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest-BCEAO) is the bank of issue for Niger and other West African states. Niger has a monetary committee that reports to the BCEAO and works under BCEAO general rules but possesses autonomy in internal credit matters.
Two development banks remained following the collapse of the Banque de développement de la républica du Niger (BDRN) in 1990: Crédit du Niger (CN), and the Caisse nationale du crédit agricole (CNCA). Three commercial banks collapsed in Niger between 1988 and early 1992: the Banque internationale pour le commerce et l'industrie-Niger (BICI-N); the Banque de crédit et de commerce (BCC), which the African Development Bank's Nigeria Trust Fund agreed to take over following the collapse of the parent bank; and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Banque Meridien-BIAO du Niger was taken over in September 1995 in a combined purchased by Banque Belgolaise of Belgium, which took 35%, and Cofipa, a European investment group (15%), the remaining 50% of the equity being sold to private Nigerian interests. The bank changed its name to BIA-Niger. The Banque arabe libyenne et nigérienne pour le commerce extérieur (Balinex) was rescued in March 1992 by Libya.
Smaller commercial banks operating in 2001 included the Bank of Africa; Ecobank; Banque Islamique du Niger; Sonibank (Societe Nigerienne de Banque); BCN (Banque Commerciale du Niger); and Credit du Niger.
The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $141.9 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $186.5 million. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.95%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.
As of 1986, third-party automobile liability was compulsory, and no life insurance was being written. In 1987, automobile insurance accounted for 45% of all premium revenues. In 1997, there were at least five major insurance companies operating in Niger, among them LEYMA-La Société Nigérienne d'Assurances et de Réassurances. Transport, accident, fire, retirement, and all-risk insurance products were being offered.
Budgets are nominally balanced but only through the infusion of foreign loan funds and grants. Expenditures have been severely constrained because of the fall in receipts from the sale of uranium ore due to decline in world demand. The end of the uranium boom in the late 1980s left the public sector poorly equipped to adapt, as public expenditures had focused on infrastructure and construction projects at the expense of agricultural development. Uranium exports earnings more than halved from 1987 to 1998. Niger never completely recovered from the CFA franc devaluation. Consequently, heavy foreign debts were incurred. However, the country is eligible under the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative for enhanced debt relief, and reached decision point in January 2001 and is expected to reach completion point by September 2003. Privatization is underway in Niger, but more for budgetary and financial rather than structural purposes. As of April 2003, the Nigerien government had sold five formerly state-owned companies, including water and telephone utilities, and expected to privatize another seven companies in that year.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2002 Niger's central government took in revenues of approximately $320 million and had expenditures of $320 million. Total external debt was $2.1 billion.
Although both a proportional and a general income tax of 60% are levied, few citizens of Niger are more than marginally taxed, since their incomes are too low. The most important sources of revenue are the taxes on industrial and commercial profits and the turnover tax on domestic goods and imports. Niger has value-added tax (VAT) with a standard rate set at 17% in 2003. Other significant sources of revenue from taxes are social security contributions, the registration tax, and excises on petroleum products, alcohol, and cigarettes. The corporate tax rate is 45%.
In general, two main taxes make up the tariff system. A fiscal import duty of 5–66% is applied to almost all incoming goods, regardless of origin, and serves as a source of revenue. A common external tariff (CET) of maximum 22% is levied on all goods from non-WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union) countries. There are also a value-added tax (VAT) of 15–20%, a statistical tax of 1%, and a community solidarity tax of 1%. Goods imported from countries that have trade agreements with Niger pay a minimum customs duty, while those from other countries are subject to a higher general tariff. Goods from EU countries other than France are dutiable at less than the minimum.
Except for uranium mining, foreign private capital has not been easy to attract to Niger. Prospective investors are discouraged by Niger's periods of military rule, small markets, inadequate infrastructure, bureaucratic delays, shortage of local capital, lack of skilled labor, and exorbitant transportation costs.
Niger's investment codes are liberal, with tax relief and tariff protection depending on the level of investment. Further advantages accrue to those investing in small-scale enterprise. The government seeks foreign investment in most sectors, and privatesector investment in parastatal enterprise is welcome.
In the period 1998 to 2000, Niger's share of world foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows was only one-tenth of its share of world production of goods and services. In 1997, FDI inflow peaked at $25.5 million, and then fell to $9 million in 1998. In 1999, the year President Baré was assassinated, FDI inflow dwindled to $300,000. In 2000, FDI inflow recovered to $19.3 million, but fell to $2 million in 2002 and then recovered to 11 million in 2003. It was estimated at $20 million in 2004.
Government development programs have had three basic aims: first, to diversify production of foodstuffs; second, to develop underground water resources; and third, to develop and improve the country's infrastructure. France is the leading bilateral aid donor.
In 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a three-year $76 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement for Niger, to support the government's economic reform and poverty reduction program. The World Bank, Paris Club creditors, and the African Development Bank have provided assistance to the country under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Niger has enacted revisions to the investment, petroleum, and mining codes, with attractive terms for investors. The country depends upon foreign direct investment for economic development. As of 2002, five of twelve state-owned enterprises scheduled for privatization had been sold to private hands.
In August of 2005 an IMF mission visited Niamey the capital of Niger to evaluate Niger's performance under its poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF). It was determined that as a result of the food crisis, budget implementation was weaker than targeted, but more importantly the first review of the PRGF has not yet been concluded. Niger is ranked bottom of the UN's Human Development Index for 2005. According to the World Investment Report published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Niger was among the weakest countries in sub-Saharan Africa at attracting foreign direct investment in 2004.
The National Social Security Fund provides pensions, family allowances, maternity benefits, and workers' compensation for employed persons, technical students and apprentices. These programs are financed by a 1.6% contribution from employees, and 2.4% contribution of payroll from employers. There is a special system for civil servants. Retirement is set at ages 58–60. These programs apply only to the minority of citizens who are formally employed, and subsistence farmers are excluded.
In 2004, a separate Ministry of Women's Promotion and Child Protection was established to promote and protect women and children. Women face both legal and social discrimination, particularly in rural areas. Men are recognized as the legal head of household, and in cases of divorce, the husband receives custody of all children under eight years of age. According to Islamic family code, men have preferential inheritance and property rights. Domestic abuse is common and women do not seek redress due to ignorance of the legal system and social stigmatization. Marriages at an early age are common, and young girls may be sent to live with her husband's family from the age of ten. Female genital mutilation, a practice that is both painful and potentially life threatening, is practiced by some ethnic groups.
Prison conditions are poor and facilities are overcrowded. International human rights organizations are permitted to visit facilities. Human rights in Niger are improving.
In 2004, there were approximately three physicians per 100,000 people. In addition, there were only 23 nurses, four midwives and fewer than one dentist or pharmacist per 100,000 population. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 2.6% of GDP. Approximately 59% of the population had access to safe drinking water and only 20% had adequate sanitation.
Immunization rates for children up to one year old included: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 28%, and measles, 42%. About 40% of children under five years old are considered malnourished. The goiter rate was 35.8 per 100 school-age children.
As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 50 and 4.8 per 1,000 people. Only 8% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception and the fertility rate was 7.2 children per woman during her childbearing years. In 2005 the average life expectancy was 43.50 years and the infant mortality rate was 119.69 per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality was 590 per 100,000 live births. Common diseases reported in Niger were measles, guinea worm, leprosy, and deaths from diarrheal diseases. As of 2004, there were approximately 70,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.20 per 100 adults in 2003. There were an estimated 4,800 deaths from AIDS in 2003. In Niger, 20% of women suffer from female genital mutilation. No government laws prohibit this procedure.
According to the latest available information, for 1980–88 Niger's housing stock totaled 1,400,000 with 4.6 people per dwelling. The government has been working on projects to increase housing, particularly for low-income families, through the Federal Housing Authority, created in 1976. The Crédit du Niger offers housing loans.
Most government buildings and many houses in the metropolitan centers are essentially French in style. The Tuareg nomads live in covered tents, while the Fulani live in small collapsible huts made of straw mats. The villagers in the east live in round straw huts. In the center of the country, villagers construct houses of "banco," a mixture of mud and straw that has, when dried, a hard, cement-like consistency.
The educational system is patterned on that of France, but changes are gradually being introduced to adapt the curriculum to local needs and traditions. Schooling is compulsory for six years for children ages 6 to 12. While primary schooling lasts for six years, secondary lasts for seven years (in two cycles of four and three years). The academic year runs from October to June. In 2001, less than 2% of children between the ages of four and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 38% of age-eligible students; 45% for boys and 31% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 6% of age-eligible students; 7% for boys and 5% for girls. It is estimated that about 25.6% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 42:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 30:1.
In 1963, the National School of Administration was founded in Niamey. The Université Abdou Moumouni, Niamey is the primary institution of higher learning. The Islamic University of West Africa at Say, mostly financed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, was inaugurated in 1987. In 2001, about 1% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 14.4%, with 19.6% for men and 9.4% for women.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.3% of GDP.
There are state-run libraries in the large municipalities, as well as libraries maintained by religious orders, the military, and professional and other groups. The Regional Center of Research and Documentation for the Oral Tradition, in Niamey, was founded in cooperation with UNESCO in 1968; it preserves the oral history of West Africa and has a library of 5,000 volumes. Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey holds 25,000 volumes. The French Cultural Center in Niamey also holds 25,000 volumes.
The National Museum of Niger, which has ethnographic and paleontological exhibits, is also in Niamey, as are a zoo, botanical gardens, craft workshops, and youth training centers. There are regional museums throughout the country, including the National Museum of Colonial History in Aba, the Archeology Museum in Nsukka, and the National War Museum of Umauhia, and a regional museum in Zinder.
In 2003, there were an estimated two mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately two mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
The Voice of the Sahel and Télé-Sahel, the government's radio and television broadcasting units, respectively, broadcast in French, Djerma, Hausa, Tamachek, Kanuri, Fulfuldé, Toubou, Gourmantché, and Arabic. There are several private stations. As of 2001, there were 5 AM and 6 FM radio stations. In 2002 there were three television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 122 radios and 10 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there was less than one personal computer for every 1,000 people and one of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.
Major publications include the daily, Le Sahel, with a 2002 circulation of about 5,000, and the weekly Le Sahel Dimanche (3,000); a monthly, the Journal Officiel de la République du Niger, is also published. All are government publications. There are about 12 private publications, usually published weekly or monthly. These include Le Republicain (3,000) and La Tribune du Peuple (3,000).
The 1996 constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, though the current government is said to limit press freedom and stifle political discussion through intimidation, harassment, and detention.
The Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, and Handicrafts of Niger has headquarters at Niamey. There are also chambers of commerce in Agadez, Maradi, Tahoua, and Zinder. National youth organizations include the National Samariya Youth Movement, the Nigerien Student Union of the University on Niamey, Junior Chamber, and the Scout Association of Niger. There are several active sports associations within the country. There are several women's organizations promoting equal rights and government participation for women. The World Conservation Union has an office in Niamey. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society and Caritas.
The government has promoted both domestic and international tourism since 1984. The "W" National Park along the Niger River offers views of a variety of fauna, including lions, baboons, elephants, 300 species of birds, and 450 plant species. Other tourist attractions include Agadez's 16th-century mosque, one of the oldest in West Africa; villages built on piles in Lake Chad; the annual six-week gathering of nomads near Ingal; the Great Market and Great Mosque in Niamey, and the Sahara desert. Nigeriens engage in game hunting, fishing, swimming, and a variety of team sports. Visas are required for most travelers, as is a vaccination certificate for yellow fever and possibly cholera.
There were 39,000 foreign visitors who arrived in Niger in 2002. Hotel rooms numbered 1,472 with 2,843 beds and a 44% occupancy rate in 2003. That same year the average stay was seven nights. Tourist expenditure receipts totaled $34 million.
In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Niamey at $177 per day.
Hamani Diori (1916–89), a former schoolteacher, became leader of the local section of the PPN in 1946, became president of the General Council of the Republic of Niger in 1958, and was president of the Republic of the Niger until April 1974, when he was deposed by a military coup. Seyni Kountché (1931–87) became head of state after the coup of 1974 and ruled the country until his death. Col. Ibrahim Bare Maïnassara (1950–99), who led a coup in January 1996 that ousted the democratically elected government, was assassinated in May 1999. He was succeeded by Daouda Malam Wanké, head of the presidential guard, who held the post until December 1999.
Niger has no territories or colonies.
Alidou, Ousseina. Engaging Modernity: Muslim Women and the Politics of Agency in Postcolonial Niger. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.
Connah, Graham. Forgotten Africa: An Introduction to Its Archaeology. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Niger. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996.
——. Historical Dictionary of Niger [computer file]. Boulder, Colo.: netLibrary, Inc., 2000.
Miles, William F. S. Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Niger, Background Paper. Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 1996.
Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.
"Niger." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700116.html
"Niger." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. 2007. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2586700116.html
Republic of Niger
République du Niger
LOCATION AND SIZE.
Niger is a landlocked West African country. It is bordered by Algeria and Libya to the north, Nigeria and Benin to the south, Mali and Burkina Faso to the west, and Chad to the east. Niger is about 600 kilometers (373 miles) from east to west at its widest point and about 400 kilometers (248 miles) north to south, and it extends into the Saharan desert. Niger's land area is 1,267,000 square kilometers (48,919 square miles), almost twice the size of Texas. Naimey, the capital city, is in the southwest, and both it and Agadez have international airports.
The population is estimated at 10,355,156 in July 2001. Of Niger's 10 main ethnic groups, the Hausa accounted for 56 percent of the population in 1998. They were followed by the Djerma-Songhai (22 percent), the Fula (8.5 percent), the Tuaregs (8 percent), the Kanouri (4 percent), with Toubous, Arabs and Gourmatche making up 1 percent of the population. About 80 percent of Nigeriens are Muslim. The official language is French, but Djerma and Hausa are also spoken.
The vast majority of the population lives in rural areas (81 percent), but urban populations are growing at a rate of 5.7 percent per year. The population is estimated to be growing at 3.2 percent per year, and the United Nations estimates the population in 2025 will be 22.4 million. This figure is mainly due to the high fertility rate of 7 children born per woman (2000 estimate), although this rate is falling.
OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY
Niger has a predominantly rural and poorly diversified economy, which is very vulnerable to outside factors (including swarms of locusts, drought, the exhaustion of natural resources, and world prices). Some improved prosperity was experienced in the 1970s due mainly to revenue from uranium. The decline in world uranium prices, the lack of rainfall, poor governance, and economic turmoil in a major trading partner, Nigeria, led to an economic decline in the 1980s. In the 1990s there was a modest improvement, with the gross national product (GNP) per head rising at 0.8 percent a year.
Niger is one of the 20 or so poorest countries in the world. The GNP per head measured by the exchange rate conversion is US$190 (in the United States, by way of comparison, it is US$29,340 per head). The purchasing power parity conversion (which makes allowance for the low price of many basic commodities in Niger) estimates the GNP per head at US$830. Similarly, the gross domestic product (GDP) per head was estimated at US$1,000 in 2000.
The economy depends heavily on agriculture, which accounted for 40 percent of the GDP in 1998. More than 90 percent of the population depends on subsistence agriculture (even urban dwellers maintain strong links to the countryside) and on the export of uranium. The main food crops are groundnuts, millet, sorghum, cassava, rice and cowpeas, and cotton is grown for industrial use. Livestock reared includes cattle, sheep goats, and poultry. Industry, which provides 18 percent of the GDP, is small and consists mainly of uranium mining, the manufacturing of construction materials, textiles, the processing of agricultural products and brewing and soft drinks. In 1998 retail and wholesale trade, hotels and restaurants generated 17 percent of the GDP, transport and communications 5 percent, and with the rest of the services sector 20 percent.
Such low income means that 84 percent of total expenditure in Niger goes to consumption. Saving is very low at 3 percent, and, even with international aid, this in turn limits investment to 10 percent of the GDP—barely enough to maintain the capital stock at its current level. This means that worn-out machinery can be replaced and buildings, roads, ports, and airports kept in repair, but no increase in these can be made available. As more machinery and infrastructure are necessary for economic growth, production stagnates.
The major challenges are to restore flows of foreign aid (which have been cut as a result of the period of military rule from 1998 to 1999) and to implement the liberalizing reform program demanded by the international donors. The major demands on the public purse are to pay 40,000 civil servants and service the country's external debt . The government has pleaded for the early resumption of aid, and although some bilateral aid has been forthcoming, institutional and multilateral aid has been far more problematic. The prime minister has sought to reassure donors that poverty is the government's main concern, and the revival of the $580 million poverty eradication policy has won support from some key donors.
The government has instituted a series of economic reforms, mainly in the area of public finances, by streamlining the civil service, accelerating privatization , and increasing revenue collection. The government has also introduced many redundancies (duplication designed to prevent failure of the entire economic system because of the failure of one component). A weakness is the narrowness of the tax base, which extends to no more than a third of the country's economic activities. Most trade is dominated by a dozen families, who are widely suspected of avoiding taxes. Despite more than a decade tax reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), little has improved, with fiscal revenue less than 10 percent of the GDP. But with the threat of civil unrest, the government finds it difficult to increase taxes while decreasing public wages. Thus deficits have been covered by creating arrears , putting a strain on donor relations.
Only 3 out of 12 major public companies have been sold in the period from 1996 to 1999, but to appease the IMF the government has declared that it is determined to continue to privatize. Sonitextil (textiles) has been sold to a Chinese corporation; Olani (milk production) has been sold to a private Nigerian company; Société Nationale de Ciment (SNC) (cement) has been sold to a Norwegian company. However, the disposal of further services (including the post service, petrol, and electricity) looks to be held up by a lack of external funding to prepare these sectors for privatization.
Niger has never suffered the same high rates of inflation as some of its neighbors, due to its membership of the Franc Zone (the use of a fully convertible currency , the CFA franc, pegged to the French franc) and the tight monetary and fiscal rules imposed by the Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO). However, the devaluation in 1994 of the CFA franc was a major inflationary problem for Niger, which imports most of its manufactured consumer goods . The government struggled to bring remuneration in the public sector under control, which delayed a new agreement being signed with the IMF. However, the government's efforts to curb inflation were successful in bringing inflation down to 36 percent, rather than seeing it reach the feared 100 percent. Inflation began to slow in 1995 and became negative in 1999 due to an excellent harvest.
POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION
France took little interest in developing Niger during its colonial rule from the start of the 20th century until 1959, when uranium deposits were discovered. Independence was gained a year later and Hamani Diori became the first president. Widespread political corruption and drought in 1968 and 1969 brought civil disorder, at which point the army intervened. Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountche then ruled through the Conseil Militaire Supreme (CMS). Shortly before his death in 1987, he tried to create a legitimate face for the CMS by introducing a National Charter. His successor, Aly Saibou, proposed a single-party constitution, that was passed in a 1989 referendum. The only legal party was then the National Movement for Developing Society (MNSD).
Internal social and political pressure built up in 1990-91 with demands for a multi-party state. Aid donors also began exerting force to move Niger towards democracy. Saibou eventually heeded the calls, and in 1991 a national conference was called, leading to a multi-party constitution. Legislative elections were held in 1993, and the MNSD gained 29 of the 83 seats, while the opposition Alliance de Forces de Changement (AFC) won 50 seats and formed the new government. Mahamane Ousmane, the AFC's candidate, was elected president the following month. However, the government soon ran into problems. Unrest, following the 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc led to the prime minister's resignation, fresh elections in 1995, and a period of limited cooperation between the MNSD leader, the prime minister and the president. Although achieving little in this period, the government did manage to sign a peace agreement with the Tuareg (a nomadic trading people, operating across Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Mali, with whom there had been armed conflict) to prevent further insurgencies.
In 1996 the army chief of staff, Colonel Ibrahim Mainassara, seized power. A new multi-party constitution was introduced, followed by an election, which Mainassara won amid malpractice protests. The opposition boycotted the legislative election and formed the Front pour la Restauration et la Defense de Democratie (FRDD) to denounce Mainassara's manipulation of the electoral process and to demand new elections. In 1997 and 1998 there were union and student demonstrations, which resulted in violent clashes with the government. Unrest in the armed forces and Tuareg insurgency created further problems for the new government.
It was hoped that the participation of FRDD in the 1999 local elections would usher in a new era of reconciliation. However, administrative muddle and indecisive results marred the election. President Mainassara was shot and killed 2 months later by members of the presidential guard. A new military council was formed by the chief of the presidential guard, Major Daouda Wanke, who became president. This military coup cost Niger much international goodwill, and many donors froze payments. Wanke was forced to announce elections and a new constitution in 1999 and stepped down with constitutional immunity from the law.
Presidential and legislative elections were held in late 1999. The new president, Mamadou Tandja, a retired colonel, won 60 percent of the vote in the second round of elections, and his MNSD, together with the Convention Democratique et Sociale (CDS), holds a majority of seats in parliament. Elections were deemed to be satisfactorily free and fair, leading to the resumption of donor aid, although political stability is still very fragile. General army discontent over wages and conditions could well lead to a mutiny or coup. In addition, social unrest, spurred by union protests over the non-payment of salaries, has continued. The European Union, whose aid is frozen, is backing demands for an inquiry into assassinations which implicate Major Wanke.
A referendum on the present constitution (the fifth in recent years) received 90 percent of the vote on a 30 percent turnout in 1999. The constitution seeks to share power between the president and the prime minister, and the president is elected for a period of 5 years. The parliament is also elected for 5 years. The president may dissolve the assembly once in a year and picks the prime minister from a choice of 3 selected by a parliamentary majority. The constitution allows for a 7-member constitutional court, which interprets the constitution and validates electoral results; an electoral commission to supervise and organize elections; an economic, social and cultural council (which is in charge of examining relevant bills) and a media watchdog, the Communication Council. In May 2000 a high council of national defence was created to run the armed forces.
The discontent of the Tuareg and other communities has died down, following the deal that was brokered in 1995. The rebellion cost hundreds of lives, affected infrastructure, and stopped promising tourism in the desert town of Agadez. By mid-1999, most Tuaregs had turned in their weapons, in return for jobs in the armed forces or other sectors. Following these developments tourism has picked up in Tuareg areas. However, the government now faces problems from the Toubou community in the east.
Most of the 11 privately-owned papers suffered harassment, closures, and arrests under the Mainassara regime. The only private FM radio station also reported harassment. The state controls most radio and television broadcasts. But a more moderate press law was enacted in 1998.
Niger raises less than 10 percent of the GNP in tax revenue and received a further 2 percent in surpluses from state-owned enterprises, mainly monopolies . About 25 percent of government spending goes on social services (which includes health and education), about 15 percent on military equipment and the armed forces, with the remainder absorbed by general public sector administration.
INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS
Despite much donor funded improvement, the transport system remains inadequate, with only 8 percent of the 6,800 kilometers (4,225 miles) of roads being paved, although international road transport has improved with the completion of the Zinder-Agadis Road (part of the Trans Sahara highway). Although there remains no railway network in Niger, there is an emphasis on increasing access to the sea via waterways through neighboring states to the south.
There are international airports at Naimey and Agadez, and 25 other towns have airports or landing strips. Naimey is the busiest airport and is served by several regional and international carriers.
There are about 14,000 telephones in Niger, and most main towns have public telephones. The international telephone service links Naimey to Nigerian and French installations. There are an estimated 38,000 televisions and 500,000 radios in use in Niger.
In the energy sector there have been substantial rises in fuel prices, by more than 20 percent, in 2000. This rise has increased prices throughout the economy by making transport and electricity more expensive, although output is these sectors has remained more-or-less unchanged. Domestic electricity is mainly thermally generated, with some rural solar energy. Electricity consumption rose to
|Country||Newspapers||Radios||TV Sets a||Cable subscribers a||Mobile Phones a||Fax Machines a||Personal Computers a||Internet Hosts b||Internet Users b|
|aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.|
|bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
268 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in 1998, but production, due to poor maintenance of installations was a mere 28 million kilowatt hours. The rest is bought from Nigeria, but the country has suffered frequent power cuts due to rationing of the supply from Nigerian. A new hydroelectric dam has been proposed 180 kilometers from Naimey. The government petrol company, Sonidep, and the state electricity company, Nigelec, have been slated for privatization.
Sonichar (a parastatal ) began opencast coal mining in Anou Arraren in 1981 to provide fuel for the local power plant and provide energy for the uranium mines and industry near Arlit, as well as the towns of Agadez and Tchirozine. Reserves stand at 6 million metric tons, and production has been 150,000 metric tons per year since 1983.
Niger depends most on agriculture, for both output and employment, and this fact reflects Niger's low level of development. Agriculture (including hunting, forestry, and fishing) employed 90 percent of the population in 1998 and provided 40 percent of the GDP. This is a much higher reliance on agriculture for production than is general in Africa, where, on average, 17 percent of the GDP comes from farming. The involvement of the labor force in agriculture, too, is well above the African norm, where on average 68 percent of the work-force are engaged in farming.
Industry (including mining, manufacturing, construction and power) employed 4 percent of the population (in Africa generally, it is 9 percent) and produced 18 percent of the GDP (the all-Africa figure is 34 percent). Services generated 42 percent of the GDP in 1988 (compared with Africa generally at 50 percent) and employed 6 percent of the working population (whereas the all-Africa figure was 23 percent).
Niger's food supply problems have eased due to excellent harvests from 1998 to 2000. Food crop production (mainly millet, sorghum, paddy rice, and pulses) has benefitted from regular rains and has helped keep consumer price inflation low. However, production is very vulnerable to rainfall, disease, and pests. Famines are a constant fear and are exacerbated by poor food storage, despite measures taken since the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s.
Cereal imports vary between 10 percent and 40 percent of yearly requirements, although in millet and sorghum Niger is self-sufficient. About 44,000 metric tons of rice and 39,000 metric tons of wheat are imported to meet needs every year. with rice coming from Asia and other cereals coming from the West African region.
Most cultivating farms are family smallholdings . Livestock rearing is undertaken in arid areas and provides 10-15 percent of the GDP. After uranium, live cattle is the largest export, mainly to Nigeria. Niger's other export crops (cotton, ground nuts, and cowpeas) are also mainly exported to Nigeria but have suffered with the collapse of world oil prices and the consequent downturn of the Nigerian economy (Nigeria's exports are more than 95 percent oil) since 1985.
Modern manufacturing accounts for less than 1 percent of the GDP, and mainly consists of soaps and detergents, bottled drinks, and the processing of agricultural products. Two Chinese companies purchased an 80 percent stake in the textiles company, Sonitex, in 1997, and output of Sonitex fabrics totalled 5.6 million meters in 1998. Niger also has a 35,000 metric ton capacity cement plant, and several smaller factories supply local markets with metal goods and construction materials.
Uranium mining began in 1971 in the open desert near Arlit. In 1998 output was 3,561 metric tons per year, making Niger the third largest producer in the world. Mines are operated by Cominak and Somair (two private companies), though the government maintains an interest through the national mining office, Oranem. Technical support is provided by the French company, Cogema, which has a contract until 2003. New agreements from 1995 allow Somair to exploit new reserves at Takriza and Toumou, which total 15,000 metric tons. Cominak and Somair produce roughly 2,000 and 1,000 metric tons per year respectively, but both have suffered from reduced revenue due to the fall in the world price of uranium. As a result Somair has more than halved its workforce to 400, and Cominak is also expected to introduce retrenchments
After positive exploration surveys, gold production is expected to stimulate the mining sector. Revision of the mining code in 1993 to offer a 5-year income tax break for larger companies and no import duty on mining equipment makes a very appealing package for foreign investors, and several companies have moved into the Liptako area. Recent seismic surveys for copper, lithium and molybdenum also produced promising results. Cassiterite is also currently mined at a few small sites.
Between 1988 and 1992 4 banks collapsed: the development bank, Banque de Developpement de la Republique du Niger (BDRN), and commercial banks. Remaining are 2 development banks along with 10 other banks and financial sector institutions. The development banks borrow on international capital markets and lend to large scale business enterprises and public sector projects. The commercial banks and savings banks take deposits from the public and lend to individuals and smaller business enterprises. The commercial banks are also engaged in foreign exchange dealing.
The transport sector is very underdeveloped. There is no railway, and the Niger River is only navigable for 3 months of the year when rain increases the water level. Almost all freight travels by road along the borders with Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali. The most northerly point reached is Agadez, 300 kilometers (186 miles) from the Nigerian border, with minimal transport in the northern half of the country. There are 27 airports, of which 9 have paved runways.
Retail and wholesale distribution is undertaken by small traders predominantly in open-air markets where a wide range of foodstuffs, second-hand clothing imported from Europe, and household utensils fabricated from scrap metal, are on sale.
Niger has considerable tourism potential which was starting to expand in the 1980s. Then Tuareg rebellion closed the main attractions, such as Agadez, the capital of the desert zone. Since the peace agreement with the Tuareg in 1995, the number of tourists has begun to increase, mainly to the Tenere Desert, the Air Mountains and the Niger River, reaching 55,000 in 1999. The tourist experience focuses on the attractions of desert life and the exotic nomadic groups, such as the Tuareg, who inhabit the arid regions.
Niger runs a continuous deficit in merchandise trade, with exports in 1997 at US$300 million and imports at US$441 million. This deficit is met by international aid, mostly from France.
Niger's exports in 1995 were mainly uranium (49 percent), livestock and meat products (17 percent), and cowpeas (7 percent). Most of Niger's exports, mainly the uranium, went to France (74 percent), Côte d'Ivoire (8 percent), and Nigeria (3 percent).
Imports in 1995 were dominated by consumer manufactures (62 percent), machinery and vehicles (20 percent), cereals (10 percent), and fuels (8 percent). France provided most of Niger's imports with 19 percent of the total, and other sources of imports were Cote d'Ivoire (12 percent), Germany (2 percent), and Japan (2 percent).
In 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc enhanced the profitability of exports and discouraged imports. Consequently
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Niger|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
|Exchange rates: Niger|
|Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (CFA Fr) per US$1|
|Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.|
|SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
the trade deficit fell to half its 1980 level, and in 1997 it stood at US$141 million. Trade with Nigeria, which is Niger's biggest regional trading partner, has improved greatly since the 1994 devaluation. However, much of this trade, as in the case of other neighbors, is smuggled across unsecured land borders and goes unrecorded.
Niger is part of the 8-member UEMOA, and the currency is the CFA franc. Niger's Central Bank (BCEAO) holds the monetary reserves of all member states and is obliged to hold 65 percent of foreign reserves at the French treasury. France in turn guarantees convertibility of the CFA franc within UEMOA. The BCEAO issues currency notes and regulates credit expansion throughout the region. The CFA franc was pegged to the French franc at 50: 1 from 1948 but because it was over-valued in the late 1980s it was devalued to CFA franc 100:1 French franc. With France having joined the European Monetary Union, the CFA franc is now tied to the euro at 655.959:1.
POVERTY AND WEALTH
Rural people eke out a slim, almost life-threatening existence tending their herds or their small farm plots.
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Niger|
|Survey year: 1995|
|Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
Their houses are made of wood with dirt. They eat mostly cooked cereal and milk, but they rarely eat meat. Their clothes are secondhand, sent from Europe to be sold in local markets. Water comes from wells, cooking is done over wood fires, and lighting is from small kerosene wick lamps. Sanitation is provided by pit latrines. Children are unlikely to go to school, and there are seldom operating health facilities close-by.
In the towns, for those with employment, conditions tend to be better. The lower middle class lives in housing made of cement blocks with tin rooftops and concrete floors. There is electricity and water some of the time. Moreover, schools and dispensaries are close. The poor live in slums where they construct their shelters from scraps of material, plastic, and rusty metal sheets. They use pit latrines and communal water taps. Urban poor have better access to medical care and schools for their children, but there are shortages of these facilities, and often the charges are too high for a poverty-stricken family to afford.
Niger is a low income country, and 61 percent of the population were below the US$1 per day poverty line in 1992, with the incidence of poverty greatest in the rural areas. Niger is ranked 173 out of 174 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index.
Average life expectancy is estimated at 47 years, and this age is a significant improvement on the 1970 figure of 38 years. Infant mortality is estimated at 125 deaths per 1,000 births (in the United States the rate is 7 per 1,000) and 320 children out of every 1,000 will die before the age of 5. There are 3 doctors and 70 nurses per 100,000 people.
AIDS is a growing problem, and the Ministry of Health estimated that there were 93,008 sufferers in 1998, with 5,378 deaths attributed to the disease. A National Commission to combat AIDS was set up in 1987. However, Islamic groups still oppose the promotion of condoms.
Niger's educational provision outside towns is rudimentary, and class sizes are universally large. There is 1 university at Naimey, as well as several small colleges. However, they are very under-funded, and close frequently due to student or teacher strikes over grants and salaries. Adult literacy was 14 percent in 1997, primary school enrollment was 24 percent, and secondary was 9 percent. There is also a large disparity between men and women in terms of access to education, with almost twice as many males enrolled as females.
The total labor force in 1998 was estimated at 5 million, of which 44 percent were women. Most children aged 10-14 have to work, and 45 percent of children in this age group were in the labor force. Children start helping with farm work from as early as 5 years of age. The public sector employs 39,000 (and is the only significant formal employer), while small shops and industry account for a few thousand jobs, as does mining. The rest of the population makes a living in agriculture, on small family farms, or in herding livestock. Gender disparities are high: while 41 percent of women work, only 8 percent hold administrative or managerial positions, and they account for only 8 percent of professional and technical workers.
The unemployment rate has little meaning in Africa. There are no social security provisions, and those without work or support from families or charities cannot survive. For much of the year in subsistence farming there is relatively little work to do, and this is shared among the family members. During planting and harvesting, there is more work to be done, and everyone is more fully occupied, but even in these periods, there may be more than enough labor to do the tasks, and the work is again shared. Since people share the farm work it appears that all of them have occupations in agriculture, but these workers are not engaged full time for all the year, and hence there is some "disguised unemployment." In the urban area those without formal sector jobs and any family or charitable support survive by casual hawking , portering, and scavenging.
The number of people earning regular wages or salaries is 70,000. There is a formal minimum wage. The government, under IMF pressure, has been streamlining the civil service, and government employees have lost their jobs, which will undoubtedly bring the government trade union trouble.
Trade unions in Niger are strong, with around 70 percent of public sector workers and more than 50 percent in the private sector unionized. The unions are militant, and strikes, which often lead to civil unrest, are not uncommon and have brought down governments. The present government, much like those of the past, faces much pressure from the public sector unions, which as well as protesting over pay arrears, have also opposed privatization, with support from students.
COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
1900. Niger becomes a French colony.
1958. Niger is allowed internal self-government.
1959. Uranium deposits are discovered.
1960. Niger becomes fully independent with Hamani Diori as the first president.
1969. Drought and civil disorder disrupt the country, and the army takes control under Lt-Col. Seyni Kountche.
1987. Kountche dies, and Col. Aly Saibou assumes the presidency.
1989. Single-party constitution is passed by a referendum.
1991. Multi-party constitution introduced.
1993. Mahamane Ousmane is elected president.
1994. CFA franc is devalued, raising the domestic prices received for exports and increasing export volumes, while at the same time increasing import prices and reducing import volumes, these 2 factors combining to reduce the trade deficit.
1996. Col. Ibrahim Mainassara seizes power.
1999. Mainassara is shot and Major Dauda Wanke becomes president. Later, Wanke steps down, and Mamadou Tandja is elected president.
On the political front, President Tandja faces militant unions who are demanding a year's salary arrears, and the opposition has become increasingly confrontational. A fashion fair has provoked Islamic fundamentalism. Political stability is still under threat as Tandja's government moves towards strong-arm tactics to clamp down on protests and civil disorder in 2001. Civil unrest serves to discourage both domestic and foreign investment, and strikes and demonstrations seriously impair economic progress.
Niger continues to participate in regional developments, such as the free trade initiatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and UEMOA, but they will have limited impact as so little of Niger's trade is with neighboring countries.
The economy depends heavily on the fortunes of the agriculture sector and on the volume of the output of uranium, and the price received for it. With drought a chronic problem and minimal investment, it is to be expected that agriculture will continue to stagnate. There are no immediate prospects that the world will increase its demand for nuclear power, and the prospects are for a continuation of the depressed price for uranium and no significant increase in production from Niger's uranium sector. Niger faces the prospect of continuing economic stagnation and greater reliance on the international community for aid to maintain living standards at even their depressed current levels.
The IMF is hoping to approve new loans, but the government will struggle to meet the required conditions. The World Bank has approved a $35 million loan to help fiscal reforms and to cover the trade deficit. Inflation pressures will grow due to the increases in petroleum prices. Electricity cuts have been less frequent, but lack of rain may lead to food shortages following the 2000-01 season. In terms of international aid, the European Union has started disbursement of $48 million worth of loans, and other European countries have also begun significant disbursement of funds in Niger.
Niger has no territories or colonies.
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"Niger Economy." Newafrica.com. <http://www.newafrica.com/profiles/economy.asp?countryid=37>. Accessed July 2001.
"Niger." World Yearbook. London: Europa Publications, 2000.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook 2000: Niger. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ng.html>. Accessed July 2001.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook 2001: Niger. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ng.html>. Accessed September 2001.
Communauté Financiaire Africaine Franc (CFA Fr). One franc equals 100 centimes. CFA franc notes are in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,500, 5,000, and 10,000 notes, and coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 250 francs.
Uranium, livestock and animal products, cowpeas, and onions.
Consumer goods (cereals, petroleum products), and intermediate and capital goods.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:
US$10 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).
BALANCE OF TRADE:
Exports: US$385 million (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$317 million (f.o.b., 1999).
Hodd, Jack. "Niger." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100046.html
Hodd, Jack. "Niger." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. 2002. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410100046.html
Republic of Niger
Agadez, Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder
This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated January 1995. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.
Bienvenue à Niamey! You'll soon see that Niamey is one of the most exotic capitals in Africa. Camels are spotted daily, carrying a jaunty rider, bundles of firewood, or piles of straw matting. The inhabitants are diverse—coastal West Africans, Tuaregs (the famed blue men of the desert), Arab traders, Hausa, Djerma, Songhai and Peuls—and all can be seen as you drive a short distance. Around town, traffic is light by West African standards. Most newcomers are surprised by how green the city and countryside can become in the rainy season. In the evening, you can pull up a seat on the terrace of the Grand Hotel overlooking the river, sip a cool drink, and watch the sun sink colorfully below the horizon. Getting out of the city is easy too, and there are ample opportunities for day trips: picnicking along the Niger River; looking for giraffes just outside of town; playing on the sand dunes; or camping at the wildlife preserve—home to elephants, lions, buffalo, antelope, and exotic birds—less than three hours away.
Niamey, the capital and principal city of Niger, is in the southwest corner of the country on the banks of the Niger River. Since its selection as capital in 1925, its population has grown from 8,000 to about 587,000. The city's 4,000 Europeans, mostly French, are almost all involved in providing some kind of development assistance. Niamey covers 15.5 square kilometers (six square miles) and forms a triangle that borders the river. An abundance of trees gives the city a greenness that contrasts with the general aridity of the surrounding countryside.
Local markets and grocery stores offer a good variety of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables and imported canned goods and dairy products. Some fresh fruits and vegetables are imported, but most are grown locally, and prices for all imported goods are generally high. Beer, Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Youki (tonic), and Bulvit (soda water) are bottled locally, and availability is consistent.
Local beef, veal, pork, and lamb are plentiful; chickens, although tougher than those sold in the U.S, are tastier. A local white fish called "capitaine", a variety of Nile perch found in the Niger River, is plentiful and delicious. Bakeries sell French-style baguettes, delicious croissants, and some pastries, although the variety is limited and quality varies.
Bring an ample supply of clothing to Niamey, as frequent washing and strong sunlight take a heavy toll. Shoes and sneakers tend to wear out quickly. Clothing selections should be made bearing in mind the informal dress standards of the community, the hot climate, and seasonal variations. Although dry cleaning is available, the quality of service and the high cost limit its use, therefore, washable fabrics are preferable. Cotton is a good choice, as it will keep you cooler than synthetics. Despite fairly high daytime temperatures, during the cool season (November-February) evening temperatures sometimes drop low enough to require sweaters or light-weight jackets. Bring all sports clothes and gear with you, since the local supply is limited and expensive.
Women: A supply of washable summer clothing is recommended as is a good sun hat. Stockings are rarely worn, even during the cool season. Because sand is found virtually everywhere, closed shoes are highly recommended, however, sandals are frequently worn by both women and men. Shorts, jeans, and slacks are worn frequently by American and European women when socializing in the community. More modest attire (e.g., skirts or dresses that cover the knee, loose-fitting slacks, shirts that aren't too bare or form-fitting) is more culturally-appropriate and, therefore, recommended for around town.
Local tailors do satisfactory work on simple dresses, men's shirts, and safari-type suits as well as exceptional decorative embroidery. A variety of imported and local fabric is available, the latter being particularly popular for casual clothing.
Children: A generous supply of summer clothing is suggested. Smaller children may require several changes of clothing each day because of heat and dirt. Young boys tend to wear shorts rather than long pants most of the year, but jeans are popular as well. Plastic sandals are sold at reasonable prices, and small children wear them often.
Supplies and Services
Supplies: A few American-brand cosmetics and hair preparations are available locally but are expensive. Bring a supply of favorite soaps, shampoos, toiletries, sunscreen, vitamins, and dry skin lotions which are highly-recommended.
Most Nigeriens are Muslims, but there is a Roman Catholic church that holds services in French. In addition, there is an International Christian Fellowship, and English Protestant, English/French International Protestant, and French Assemblies of God worships. There are no scheduled Jewish services.
Established in 1982, the American School of Niamey (ASN) is an independent coeducational day school offering a pre-kindergarten through ninth grade program. Correspondence study courses for high-school students have been made available from the U.S. upon request. The school year consists of two semesters that begin in late August and end in early June. The school is governed by a seven-member board of directors, six being elected by the ASN Association for one-year terms, and the seventh appointed by the U.S. Ambassador. Membership in the ASN Association is automatically given to the parents and guardians of students.
The curriculum is similar to those of U.S. public schools. Instruction is in English, but all grades receive significant French language instruction. In addition to language arts, reading, math, science, and social studies, the curriculum includes music, art, physical education, computers, and Nigerien studies. English as a second language is provided to students who are not already proficient. Standardized achievement tests are administered annually. ASN is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and maintains membership in the Association of International Schools in Africa. Most of the teachers are Americans, but there are British, Dutch, German, French, Canadian and Senegalese teachers as well.
The ASN facilities are some of the best in Africa. In September 1985, ASN moved into its new buildings located on U.S. government-owned property. The facility consists of two single-story, air-conditioned buildings with six classrooms, a science lab, and a multi-purpose room. An administration building houses the offices, a library, and a computer lab. Another building houses a music/art room, a storage room, and large rooms for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. The playground area includes softball and soccer fields, basketball and volleyball courts, and a swimming pool.
Parents of children wishing to enroll in the ASN should contact the school in advance. You may call the school at the following numbers: phone (227) 72-39-42, fax (227) 72-34-57.
The French lycée, La Fontaine, is subsidized by the French Ministry of Cooperation and staffed by competent French teachers. Some American students attend but no special provisions are made for non-French speakers. Several French language day care facilities are available for pre-school aged children.
Numerous extra-curricular activities such as, piano, modern ballet, judo, folk dancing, scouting, swimming, and French classes are available for children. Classes in horseback riding and jumping for beginners as well as advanced riders are held at local riding clubs. Private tennis lessons are also available.
Softball is very popular, and weekly games are held every Saturday afternoon. American Embassies throughout West Africa host several tournaments during the year. These tournaments provide great pleasure for players and supporters alike, giving them the opportunity to travel to another country taking advantage of group refires. Pickup basketball games are also scheduled twice a week. Both men and women participate in all sports.
People seriously interested in horseback riding might want to consider purchasing a horse locally; prices are usually reasonable. The riding style is European, and riders must provide their own tack. Other sporting opportunities include the Niamey golf club at Rio Bravo which has an 18-hole course and sand "browns"; the "Hash House Harriers" which is a weekly international running club and; a health and fitness club at the Stadium where regular aerobics classes are held.
Touring and Outdoor Activities
Though no real change of climate and scenery can be found within a day's drive of Niamey, some interesting excursions can be made by car or plane. Docile and magnificent, the last herd of giraffes in West Africa can be found just outside of Niamey, about a 45-minute drive away. Since they roam a vast area, it is recommended that you hire one of the inexpensive registered guides to help you locate them. This trip is one of the most popular ways to spend a weekend morning.
Park "W" is a wildlife preserve located in the extreme southwest part of Niger, flanked by Burkina Faso and Benin. At the edge of the park is a good hotel open all year, or if you prefer to camp, sleeping bags and blankets are available. The best time to visit Park "W" is during the cooler season (from November to March) when elephants, gazelles, baboons, water buck, an occasional lion, and other animals visit the water holes along the river. The preserve can be reached by car in about two hours, but most people stay overnight to be at the water holes by early light. At nearby Arly and Penjari Parks are camps which provide sleeping accommodations and meals if prior arrangements are made in Niamey.
The Niamey Museum is considered one of the best in West Africa. Original and attractive in conception, it combines traditional exhibits with village reproductions of the major Nigerien ethnic groups. There are working artisans on the grounds whose products can be bought in the Museum gift shop. A small zoo, housing animals native to Niger, is also located at the Museum.
Fishing is possible in the Niger River, but the danger of many serious diseases prevents most people from swimming and water skiing. For more than half of the year, the Niger River is high enough for boating and there is enough wind for sailing. Some families rent a "concession" along the river for a weekend getaway and change of scenery. Bird-watching is also a popular activity in Niamey. Hunting is banned in Niger, but is permitted in Burkina Faso.
Air-conditioned and open-air movie theaters show European (mainly French), American, and Indian films. Non-French films are dubbed in French.
The Franco-Nigerien Cultural Center has several activities a week, including films and art exhibits as well as occasional folk music, dancing, and performances by traveling theater troupes. The USIS Cultural Center occasionally sponsors programs of interest to the American community.
Niamey has restaurants serving West African, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese, and Lebanese cuisine as well as some snack bars specializing in brochettes or hamburgers and fries. Pizza is available, although a bit different than the familiar American-style. Niamey has several lively discotheques featuring a variety of danceable music.
Among travelers, social life is informal and relaxed. Although Niger is a Muslim country, there are no special limitations for the foreign community regarding food or drink. As for dress, although not strictly enforced, women are expected to dress modestly. Opportunities in Niamey to meet and associate with diverse people are limited only by the interest and initiative of the individual and, in many cases, by the ability and willingness to speak French.
Apart from those already mentioned, a variety of clubs and activities are also available, including the American Women's Club of Niamey (which welcomes members of all nationalities) and sponsors a variety of events throughout the year and; the Rotary International and Lion's Club which are active in Niamey and open to both men and women of all nationalities (bring a letter of introduction from your home club) and; there is an international chorus and ensemble that rehearses and performs regularly.
AGADEZ (also spelled Agadès) is situated in the central region of Niger, 460 miles northeast of the capital. Agadez is an ancient city, dating to the 15th century. It has a limited tourist trade but offers magnificent sights. It also is a marketplace for livestock, vegetables, and grain. The population is estimated to be 50,200, although it rises during the cool, dry season.
MARADI is a city of approximately 113,000 located in south Niger, near the border with Nigeria. The city was destroyed by floods in 1945, but rebuilt on higher ground. It is on the main road connecting Niamey with Zinder. A major road also connects it with Kano, Nigeria. Maradi is the administrative and commercial center for an agricultural region specializing in peanut growing and goat raising. Peanut and cotton-processing are the primary industries. The city has a technical college and a center for research on poultry and goat breeding.
TAHOUA , a largely traditional town of about 51,600 (2000 est.), is about 225 miles northeast of Niamey. It is a farming community and trade center frequented by tribes of Tuareg and Fulani nomads. The Tuareg number about 300,000, and are unique because men are veiled and women are unveiled. Descent and inheritance are gained through the female line. Gypsum and phosphate are mined near Tahoua, and a teaching training school is located in the city.
ZINDER is located in southwest Niger, near the border of Nigeria. The city is an administrative center and Niger's second largest city. It is situated on the old trans-Saharan caravan route that connected northern Nigeria with the African coast as early as the 11th century. Zinder's history dates back to the 16th century, when the walled town was the capital of the Muslim state ruled by the Bornu, and remained that way until it was conquered by the French in 1899. The town grew rapidly after 1920 when nomads settled in the area, and served as the capital of the French Niger Colony from 1922 to 1926. Parts of the old walled city and the 19th-century palace of the ruler of Zinder still stand. Today, Zinder is a trade center for agriculture; grains and peanuts are grown and cattle and sheep are raised. It also manufactures millet, flour, beverages, and tanned goods. The population is approximately 120,900.
Geography and Climate
The Republic of Niger covers 1,268,550 square kilometers (490,000 square miles) and is larger than Texas and California combined. Landlocked, it is bordered by seven countries—Algeria and Libya to the north, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso to the southwest, and Mali to the west. Niger is in the heart of the Sahel, the transitional zone between the tropical West African coast and the Sahara Desert. Northern Niger is part of the Sahara, with vast expanses of rocky and sandy wilderness broken only by occasional oases. "Sahel" actually means border in Arabic. From north-central Niger to its northeast corner are the Aïr and Djado mountains with peaks rising to 1,850 meters (6,000 feet) while partially arable savannah is found south of the 15th parallel. Niger's capital city, Niamey, sits next to the Niger River, the 12th longest in the world and the third largest river in Africa, which flows through much of West Africa.
Niamey's climate varies with distinct seasons. April and May are the hottest months, with noontime temperatures often rising above 48°C (118°F) in the shade. Direct sunlight is intense during this period, and at night temperatures remain above 20°C (80°F). In June, the first rains come to the usually parched landscape and with them the planting of millet and sorghum, the major food crops. Niamey gets on average 55.8 centimeters (22 inches) of rainfall between May and September, normally in short torrential downpours preceded by high winds and dust or sandstorms. At this time, the surrounding countryside takes on a verdant hue as the crops and the native grasses begin to grow. The rainy season is followed by a short period of hot, humid weather during October during which temperatures range between 15°C (60°F) and 45°C (112°F).
From November to March, the weather is dry and pleasant. During this season, clear days are interspersed with hazy, overcast skies caused by the harmattan —a hot, dry wind carrying dust from the Sahara. Normally, the winds stay at high altitudes, creating slightly overcast skies; the harmattan, however, occasionally causes localized dust storms.
An estimated 10.3 million people live in Niger. The Hausa, whose territory extends into northern Nigeria, predominate in the central portion of the country and are about 56 percent of Niger's population. They are mainly traders and farmers. The Djerma, who are approximately 22 percent of the population, are traditionally farmers. They are an ethnic subgroup of the Songhai people, whose great kingdom in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries embraced what is now eastern Mali and western Niger. Because Niger's capital city is in their homeland, the Djerma influence has been strong in the central government, especially since independence. The Fulanis (called Peuls in French) and Tuaregs, who are typically nomadic or semi-nomadic herdsmen, and the Beri-Beri (also known as Kanouri) who are found in the Lake Chad region, are the next largest population groups.
About 90 percent of Nigeriens live within 161 kilometers (100 miles) of the country's southern border. Most live in rural areas away from good roads and more than 75 percent are subsistence farmers who grow millet and sorghum for food and peanuts, cotton, and cowpeas as cash crops.
Although French is the official and administrative language, Hausa is more widely spoken throughout the country. English is a required language in secondary schools, and some Nigeriens speak English functionally well. However, French is necessary for shopping, social life, and most professional contacts and Djerma, even the most basic of greetings, goes a long way in the Niamey markets.
The majority of Nigeriens are Muslim and religion is a dominant force in their daily lives. A sense of tradition, fatalism, strong family connections, consideration, and tolerance for others characterize the typical Nigerien's approach to the world. Polygamy is widely practiced and families are generally large. Niger's population is growing at about 3 percent a year.
After adoption of a new constitution, which established the Third Republic in December 1992, Niger conducted its first multiparty presidential and legislative elections in 1993. A coalition of eight parties joined to elect Mahamane Ousmane as President. International observers judged both elections to be free and fair. There are two major coalitions, each composed of several parties, which share executive and legislative power.
In January 1996, Colonel Ibrahim Bare Mainassara overthrew the government in a bloodless coup. Within six months, his regime drafted a new constitution that provided for a stronger presidency. It was approved in a national referendum in May 1996.
In 1999, Niger returned to a democratic government. Mamadou Tandja was elected president. His prime minister is Hama Amadou.
The Government maintains and promotes an open economic system and has a free-trade policy. Niger welcomes foreign investment. Several industrial enterprises are parastatals wholly- or partially-owned by the government. The government has made some headway in restructuring but would like to move much further toward privatization.
One of the most important roles of the Government is to attract investment to help stimulate economic growth. While donor organizations have provided most of the capital budget in the past, today, private sector financing is increasingly sought, especially in the mining sector.
There are numerous development projects funded by multilateral and bilateral donors, including the World Bank and The African Development Bank, all the United Nations agencies, such as UNDP and UNICEF, as well as foreign assistance from the U.S., France, the European Economic Community (EEC), Germany, and other countries. This money was suspended, however, following a coup in 1999. A loan for $35 million was approved in 2000 by the World Bank to aid economic reforms.
Commerce and Industry
Niger's industrial sector is a small component of the national economy. An enclave uranium industry generates substantial employment and revenue for the government, but it has few linkages with the rest of the economy. Modern production facilities are concentrated in Niamey and in Arlit, the uranium-producing area. State-owned or recently privatized manufacturing companies produce cloth, dairy products, soaps, perfumes, biscuits, and beer. The largest industrial entity is the electric power supply public utility. Talented artisans produce mats, baskets, pottery goods, furniture, farm tools, leather goods, and are especially known for their silver jewelry. Artisanal production takes place throughout the country.
Trade, especially long-distance trade, is the traditional route to wealth in Niger. Trading opportunities today are in the importation of manufactured goods from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Europe, and Asia and in the exportation of cloth, unprocessed agricultural products, and livestock to neighboring countries. Uranium is purchased by foreign corporations, especially French, participating in the mining operation.
Retail trade in Niamey is concentrated in two public markets, private shops in the central section of town, and shops in the residential areas. Fresh food products are sold at retail at a public, open-air market called the Petit Marché (Little Market). Other consumer goods are sold at an enclosed market, the Grand Marché (Big Market), where private traders rent stalls or shops. A wide variety of products, from television sets to matches, are sold under the shade trees in central Niamey. Markets outside Niamey are generally held weekly and are places where local agricultural products and livestock products are exchanged for food, clothing, household supplies, and cash.
About 90 percent of Niger's population earns its living in agricultural pursuits. Productivity and incomes are low, even by African standards, and most households can afford only basic needs. The market for more expensive consumer goods is limited to the higher-salaried civil servants, a small class of Nigerien entrepreneurs, and the foreign community residents concentrated in Niamey. The high prices of most imported consumer goods, reflecting high transportation costs and import duties, put them out of reach for most Nigerien households.
Private taxis in Niamey are numerous and inexpensive. There is also a long-distance bus system that services main routes which is only used by a few Americans.
International flights are available to capitals of neighboring francophone countries and to Europe. Niamey is a six-hour flight from Paris. Currently, the major foreign flag airlines servicing Niamey are Air Afrique, Air France, Royal Air Maroc, and Ethiopian Airlines. Air travel is expensive in Africa—a ticket from Niamey to Paris costs about 50 percent more than a ticket from Paris to New York. There is currently no scheduled local air service to Niger's major cities.
Niger's road network, totaling approximately 10,000 kilometers, is still rudimentary and the country has about 2,500 kilometers of paved inter-urban roads. A paved road extends west-east from Tillaberi through Niamey to Nguigmi, near Lake Chad. A second major paved road links Niamey through Agadez to the uranium mining region of Arlit. Stretches of washboard surfaces alternate with drifted sand and dirt, and some sections are inaccessible during part of the rainy season. Niamey itself has paved roads linking sections of the city, although, most houses are serviced by dirt roads.
Telephone, Fax, and Telegraph
Niamey has adequate telephone, telegraph, and fax facilities. Direct-dial is possible from Niamey to Europe, the U.S., and other parts of Africa (excluding 800 numbers and collect calls), but is very expensive. A direct-dial call from the U.S. to Niger is less than half the cost of a call the other way around. Individuals coming to Niamey should explore U.S. dial-back telephone services.
Radio and TV
Radio Niger (ORTN) broadcasts in French and in local languages (primarily Hausa and Djerma) from morning to night on medium and shortwave channels. Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reception is also good. There are private stations and Radio France International (RFI) on FM that broadcast in French. Battery-operated radios may be used, but others must be able to operate on 220v current or have a step-down transformer.
The Nigerien Government operates a single-channel national TV network seven evenings a week. Most of the programs are educational and are broadcast in the various languages of the country. Each day's programming normally includes one film or sports event of French origin. U.S.-manufactured TV sets will not receive broadcasts from the Niger TV station. Niger's color TV system is SECAM D/K. (Note: It is not the SECAM L system which is the system used in France).
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals
The government publishes a daily newspaper, Le Sahel, in French, which covers selected local, African, and international news. There are also six additional private newspapers, some published daily and others weekly. Most well-known international periodicals can be bought in Niamey, including Time, Newsweek, Le Monde, Le Point, Jeune Afrique, The Economist, and the International Herald Tribune.
Health and Medicine
A small French clinic, the Gamkalley Clinic, is used for emergency care, hospitalizations, consultation and x-rays. Specialists in Niamey are used occasionally.
Dental care in Niamey is minimal. Basic, uncomplicated care is available from a dentist at the Gamkalley Clinic (who is usually a French citizen performing the service in lieu of military duty and transfers every 15 months) or from a private dental office. Have a thorough dental exam and any necessary work completed prior to arrival.
Infectious diseases pose serious health hazards in Niger, malaria being one of the most threatening. Chloroquine-resistant malaria prevails, and you must always be on the preventive alert. Current recommended chemical prophylaxis calls for weekly doses of Mefloquine, weekly doses of Chloroquine (Aralen) combined with daily doses of Paludrine, or daily doses of Doxycycline. Paludrine, although currently not available in the U.S., is available at post. Meningitis is seasonally reported and vaccination is recommended every three years.
Poor hygiene detrimentally impacts health as intestinal parasites (amoeba and giardia) abound. Meticulous treatment of water and fresh produce is required to avoid intestinal diseases. Respiratory infections, allergies, skin infections, and fatigue are common problems. Niger has a harsh environment and good health requires, at the very minimum, a conscientious effort and commitment on everyone's part.
The following immunizations are required before leaving for Niamey: yellow fever, typhoid, polio, meningitis, and hepatitis A and B. You should also have annual tuberculin skin tests. Malaria suppressants are a necessity and should be started at least two weeks before you arrive, continued for the duration of your tour, during any travel, and for four weeks after final departure. Bring a good first-aid kit as well as over-the-counter drug supplies, sun screen, insect repellant, and an ample supply of prescription drugs. Mosquito netting for beds is recommended.
Niamey has a water treatment plant, but it is ineffective. Water should be filtered first and then boiled for five minutes. Soak unpeelable raw fruits and vegetables in a bleach solution and then rinse with potable water before eating. All local meats should be well-cooked (bien cuit in French).
NOTES FOR TRAVELERS
A visa is required. Travelers should obtain the latest information on customs and entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Niger, 2204 R Street, N.W., Washington D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4224. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Nigerien embassy or consulate.
Travel in the northern and far eastern areas of Niger is dangerous and should only be undertaken by air or protected convoy. Despite the peace agreement between the government of Niger and the Tuareg rebel groups, there is a continuing threat of sporadic armed conflict and violent banditry. U.S. Government personnel and contractors wishing to travel above a line connecting (West to East) the communities of Tera, Tillaberi, Ouallam, Filingue, Tahoua, Keita, Bouza, Dakoro, Tanout, and Nguigmi must receive permission from the U.S. Ambassador through the Embassy's Regional Security Office. Areas in Niger's far east are also prone to sporadic violence.
Tourists are free to take pictures anywhere in Niger, except near military installations, radio and television stations, the Presidency Building, and the airport.
Pets should have a valid rabies certificate (within one year, but before 30 days, of departure for post) and a certificate of good health dated within 15 days of arrival. Be sure to check with the airline you are using since rules may vary.
The local currency is the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc, which is pegged to the euro at the rate of 655.957:1. The same currency is used throughout Francophone West Africa. Banks with local branches in Niamey include the Bank of Africa (BAO) and the International Bank of West Africa (BIAO).
Weights and measures in Niger are based on the metric system. Temperatures are reported in Celsius. Niamey is six standard time zones ahead of E.S.T. (G.M.T. plus one).
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Niamey on Rue Des Ambassades, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Niger. The mailing address is B.P. 11201. The telephone numbers are (227) 72-26-61 through 72-26-64. The fax number is (227) 73-31-67.
Jan. 1 … New Year's Day
Mar/Apr. … Easter*
Mar/Apr. … Easter Monday*
May 1 … Labor Day
Aug. 3 … Independence Day
Dec. 18 … Republic Day
Dec. 25 … Christmas Day
… Id al-Adah*
… Id al-Fitr*
… Mawlid an Nabi*
The following books and films are recommended for anyone wishing to get a taste of Niger.
Africa South of the Sahara 1992. London: Europa Publications Limited, 1991.
Charlick, Robert B. Niger: Personal Rule and Survival in the Sahel. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.
Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Niger. 2nd ed. African Historical Dictionaries, no. 20. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1989.
Discovery Guide to West Africa by Kim Naylor and Michael Haag.
Fuglestad, Finn. A History of Niger, 1850-1960. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
"Niger." Cities of the World. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700044.html
"Niger." Cities of the World. 2002. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700044.html
Niger (country, Africa)
Niger (nī´jər, nēzhâr´), officially Republic of Niger, republic (2005 est. pop. 11,666,000), 489,189 sq mi (1,267,000 sq km), W Africa. It borders on Burkina Faso and Mali in the west, on Algeria and Libya in the north, on Chad in the east, and on Nigeria and Benin in the south. Niamey is the country's capital and its largest city.
Land and People
Niger is extremely arid except along the Niger River in the southwest and near the border with Nigeria in the south, where there are strips of savanna. Most of the rest of the country is either semidesert (part of the Sahel) or part of the Sahara. In N central Niger is the Aïr Massif (average elevation: 3,000 ft/910 m; maximum elevation: c.5,900 ft/1,800 m), which receives slightly more rainfall than the surrounding desert. In addition to Niamey, other cities include Maradi, Tahoua, and Zinder.
The main ethnic groups are the Hausa, the Songhai and Djerma (Zarma), the Fulani, the Tuareg, and the Kanuri. The great majority of the population is rural and lives in the south. There is a significant migration of seasonal labor to Ghana, Nigeria, and Chad. About 80% of the population is Muslim; most of the rest adhere to traditional religious beliefs, except for a small Christian minority in the cities. The country's official language is French; Hausa, Djerma, and other indigenous languages as well as Arabic are also spoken.
The economy of Niger is overwhelmingly agricultural, with about 90% of the workforce engaged in farming (largely of a subsistence type). The Hausa, Kanuri, and Songhai are mainly sedentary farmers, and the Fulani and Tuareg are principally nomadic and seminomadic pastoralists. The leading crops are cowpeas, cotton, peanuts, millet, sorghum, cassava, and rice. Cattle, sheep, goats, camels, donkeys, horses, and poultry are raised. Niger's agricultural production is subject to climatic changes, and there are recurring food shortages due to inadequate harvests resulting from too little rain.
Most of the country's few industries produce basic consumer goods such as processed food and beverages, soap, and textiles. In addition, chemicals, construction materials, peanut oil, and ginned cotton are produced. Niger has some of the world's largest uranium deposits, and the mining of high-grade uranium ore began in the 1970s at Arlit in the Aïr Massif. Small quantities of cassiterite (tin ore), low-grade iron ore, gypsum, phosphates, coal, natron, and salt also are extracted. Gold and petroleum deposits are being explored. There is a fishing industry in the Niger River and Lake Chad.
Niger has a very limited transportation network; there is no railroad, and most of the country's all-weather roads are confined to the south and southwest. A major road also runs N from Zinder, through Agadez (in the Aïr Massif), and into Algeria. Niger is landlocked and has only poor access to the sea.
The annual cost of Niger's imports usually is considerably higher than the value of its exports. The leading imports are foodstuffs, machinery, vehicles and parts, petroleum, and cereals; the chief exports are uranium ore, livestock products, cowpeas, onions, and cotton. The principal trade partners are France, the United States, and Nigeria.
Niger is governed under the constitution of 2010. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is popularly elected for a five-year term and may be reelected to a second term. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The unicameral National Assembly has 113 members who are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into eight regions, including the capital district.
Early History and Colonialism
Numerous Neolithic remains of early pastoralism have been found in the desert areas of Niger. Ptolemy wrote of Roman expeditions to the Aïr Massif. In the 11th cent. AD, Tuareg migrated from the desert to the Aïr region, where they later (c.1300) established a state centered at Agadez. Agadez was situated on a major trans-Saharan caravan route that connected N Africa with present-day N Nigeria. In E Niger, Bilma, a salt-mining center, was on another important trans-Saharan route that linked N Africa with the state of Bornu (located in present-day NE Nigeria).
In the 14th cent. the Hausa (most of whom lived in what is now N Nigeria) founded several city-states in S Niger. In the early 16th cent. much of W and central Niger came under the Songhai empire (centered at Gao on the Niger River in present-day Mali), and after the fall of Songhai at the end of the 16th cent. E and central Niger passed to Bornu. In the 17th cent. the Djerma people settled in SW Niger near the Niger River. In the early 19th cent. Fulani gained control of S Niger as a result of the holy war waged against the Hausa by the Muslim reformer Usuman dan Fodio.
At the Conference of Berlin (1884–85) the territory of Niger was placed within the French sphere of influence. The French established several military posts in S Niger in the late 1890s, but did not occupy Agadez until 1904 because of concerted Tuareg resistance. In 1900, Niger was made a military territory within Upper Senegal–Niger, and in 1922 it was constituted a separate colony within French West Africa. Zinder was the colony's capital until 1926, when it was replaced by Niamey. The French generally governed through existing political structures and did not alter substantially the institutions of the country; they undertook little economic development and provided few new educational opportunities.
Independence and Its Aftermath
National political activity began when Niger received its own assembly under the French constitution of 1946, which established the French Union. The first important political organization was the Niger Progressive party (PPN), a part of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (which had branches in most French West African territories). In the mid-1950s a leftist party (later called Sawaba) headed by Bakary Djibo became predominant in the colony. However, when it unsuccessfully campaigned for complete independence in a 1958 referendum, the PPN (which favored autonomy for Niger within the French Community) regained power.
Niger achieved full independence on Aug. 3, 1960, and Hamani Diori, the leader of the PPN, became its first president; he was reelected in 1965 and 1970. In the early 1960s, sporadic campaigns of rebel warfare were waged by the outlawed Sawaba party (most of whose members lived in exile). Otherwise, Niger enjoyed political stability, despite its weak economy and occasional ethnic conflicts; the PPN maintained firm control of the government. Close ties were retained with France, which gave Niger considerable aid.
The country was severely affected by the Sahelian drought of 1968–75; much of its livestock died and crop production fell drastically. In 1974, Diori was overthrown in a military coup led by Lt. Col. Seyni Kountché, who cultivated ties with members of the European Community, neighboring African nations, and Arab nations. The uranium boom of the early 1980s caused disparities in wealth that led to civil unrest. A coup attempt was quickly put down by the government in 1983, and fear of opposition prompted frequent cabinet changes to ensure that officials were loyal.
Kountché died in 1987 and was succeeded by Gen. Ali Seybou as head of state. Seybou vowed to dismantle the ruling Supreme Military Council and introduce civilian rule. In 1991, a 1,204-member national conference suspended the constitution and dissolved the government. A transitional civilian government ruled until 1993, when Mahamane Ousmane was elected president in free elections. However, an opposition coalition subsequently won control of the legislature, leading to a protracted stalemate. Conflict between the government and the Tuareg in the early 1990s, in part over uranium mining on traditional Tuareg lands, subsided with the signing of a peace accord in 1995. Some Tuaregs, however, continued sporadic attacks into the 21st cent. By 2007 a more serious uprising broke out, but two of the three rebel groups agreed to a cease-fire in 2009.
In Jan., 1996, the government was ousted in a coup led by Col. Ibrahim Baré Mainassara. Presidential elections held in July, 1996, were won by Mainassara, who replaced the independent electoral commission with a handpicked one during the two-day poll. Mainassara was assassinated by members of his presidential guard in Apr., 1999, and Maj. Daouda Malam Wanké became head of state. France, the country's major aid donor, suspended aid following the coup. In Nov., 1999, elections were held for a new president and parliament; a retired colonel, Mamadou Tandja, was elected president. There were tensions in 2000 with neighboring Benin over some long-disputed islands in the Niger River; their ownership was finally settled in 2005 by the International Court of Justice. Tandja, whose first term was marked by relative stability, was reelected in Dec., 2004.
Niger's agriculture was hurt by a major locust outbreak and drought in 2004, leading to famine and a need for international food aid in 2005. In Oct., 2006, the government began expelling Mahamid Arabs who had emigrated from Chad mainly during the 1970s and 80s; although the move, which was soon suspended after neighboring nations requested it be halted, was ostensibly for security reasons, observers believed that political, racial, and economic rivalries lay behind the explusion.
In 2009 the president, who had said he would step down at the end of his second term, sought to hold a referendum on allowing him to run for a third term, but the constitutional court ruled (May) that it was illegal. The vote was also opposed by parliament, but Tandja dismissed parliament and assumed executive powers, and subsequently announced he would hold a referendum. When the court again ruled in June that the referendum was illegal, Tandja dismissed the court, provoking oppositions protests and leading to government crackdown.
In the August vote Tandja claimed an overwhelming victory, but the opposition charged the president with hugely inflating the number of voters. The referendum approved constitutional changes that increased the president's powers, extended his current term by three years, and ended term limits. The opposition subsequently boycotted the October elections for a new parliament, in which two thirds of the seats were won by Tandja's party, and Tandja mounted a crackdown on opposition politicians. In Feb., 2010, the military ousted Tandja, but the coup leaders asserted they would restore civilian rule as soon as possible. Major Salou Djibo was named head of the junta (the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy), and Mahamadou Danda, a civilian and former communications minister, was named prime minister.
In Oct., 2010, a number of junta officers, including the deputy military leader, were dismissed or arrested in association with an alleged coup plot, and a new constitution was approved in a referendum at the end of the month. The following month the Economic Community of West African States court called for Tandja to be released, but he remained in custody until May, 2011. In Mar., 2011, Mahamadou Issoufou, an opposition leader, was elected president after a runoff. By 2013, the spillover from terrorist operations by Islamist groups in neighboring Algeria, Mali, and Nigeria had led as well to significant confrontations in Niger. In 2015 Niger and Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria formed an African Union–authorized regional force to combat the Nigerian-based Boko Haram.
See P. Donaint and F. Lancrenon, Le Niger (1972); S. Baier, An Economic History of Central Niger (1980); F. Fugelstad, A History of Niger, 1850–1960 (1984).
"Niger (country, Africa)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Niger.html
"Niger (country, Africa)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Niger.html
Official name: Republic of Niger
Area: 1,267,000 square kilometers (489,191 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Gréboun (1,944 meters/6,378 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,845 kilometers (1,146 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 1,025 kilometers (637 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast
Land boundaries: 5,697 kilometers (3,540 miles) total boundary length; Algeria 956 kilometers (594 miles); Benin 266 kilometers (165 miles); Burkina Faso 628 kilometers (390 miles); Chad 1,175 kilometers (730 miles); Libya 354 kilometers (220 miles); Mali 821 kilometers (510 miles); Nigeria 1,497 kilometers (930 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Landlocked Niger is the second-largest country in West Africa (surpassed only by Algeria) and the tenth largest on the continent. With a total area of 1,267,000 square kilometers (489,191 square miles), it is nearly twice the size of the state of Texas.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Niger has no territories or dependencies.
Niger's climate is one of the hottest on Earth. Between February and July, high temperatures on the plateaus in the northeast can hit 50°C (122°F). In January, readings can drop to a low of 8°C (46°F) in the desert regions, which experience both the hottest temperatures and the greatest contrast between highs and lows. The harmattan wind blows across the eastern desert for much of the year. Rainfall varies markedly between Niger's Saharan and Sahel regions. Most of Niger receives less than 36 centimeters (14 inches) of rain annually; in fact, almost half the country receives less than 10 centimeters (4 inches). South of the Sahel, however, in the Niger River Valley, the capital city of Niamey receives much more precipitation; yearly rainfall averages about 56 centimeters (22 inches).
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Niger is a dry country. Although four-fifths of its land is covered by desert, its remaining topography is diverse, including plains, plateau regions, and mountains. The country can be divided into three major regions: the arid, inhospitable deserts to the north and northeast, a transitional Sahelian region in the center, and a small fertile area in the south, between the Niger River basin in the southwest and the Lake Chad basin in the southeast.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Niger is landlocked (no access to the sea).
6 INLAND LAKES
About 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) of Lake Chad lies within the southeastern tip of Niger. The size of the lake, which Niger shares with Chad and Nigeria, varies greatly from season to season, shrinking to nearly one-third of its maximum size in the dry season. In October, its surface area can exceed 9,950 square miles (28,457 square kilometers); by May, however, it usually has been reduced to roughly 3,000 square miles (8,580 square kilometers).
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The lifeline of the country is the Niger River, which flows year-round across the southwestern corner of the country for about 563 kilometers (350 miles) from northwest to southeast, while its tributaries flow only during the rainy season. In the southeast, the Kamadougou Yobé River drains into Lake Chad, forming part of Niger's border with Nigeria.
The Ténéré Desert that lies to the east of the mountains and the Talak to the west have vast expanses of shifting sand dunes (called ergs ) where no vegetation grows, as well as other dunes that are anchored by sparse, scrubby vegetation.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The southwest region drained by the Niger River is a savannah with low bushes and trees such as the baobab, kapok, bastard mahogany, and tamarind.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
In the north-central region are the mountains of the volcanic Aïr Massif, which belong to the same system as Algeria's Ahaggar Mountains and extend southward more than 400 kilometers (248 miles) from Niger's border with Algeria. The mountains cover an area of approximately 80,000 square kilometers (30,880 square miles), and their average elevation is between 600 to 900 meters (2,000 and 3,000 feet). Their highest summit is Mount Gréboun in north-central Niger, at 1,944 meters (6,378 feet).
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
Crystalline rocks have been found in large caves in western Niger.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
The Manguéni, Djado, and Tchigaï Plateaus are clustered together in the northeastern corner of the country near the border with Libya. Their average elevation is about 800 meters (2,600 feet). The mountains of the Manguéni Plateau are a continuation of Chad's Tibesti Mountains.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Kennedy Bridge, named after U.S. president John F. Kennedy, is the only bridge that crosses the Niger River at the capital city of Niamey. It is 710 meters (2,330 feet) long and is part of a larger network of roads that connects Niger to Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso.
14 FURTHER READING
Chilson, Peter. Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999.
Miles, William. Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Lonely Planet World Guide: Niger. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/africa/niger/ (accessed April 11, 2003).
Mbendi Information Services: Niger. http://www.mbendi.co.za/land/af/ni/p0005.htm (accessed April 11, 2003).
"Niger." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900213.html
"Niger." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. 2003. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3425900213.html
|Official Country Name:||Republic of the Niger|
|Language(s):||French, Hausa, Djerma|
|Number of Primary Schools:||3,175|
|Compulsory Schooling:||8 years|
|Public Expenditure on Education:||2.3%|
|Educational Enrollment:||Primary: 482,065|
|Educational Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 29%|
|Student-Teacher Ratio:||Primary: 42:1|
|Female Enrollment Rate:||Primary: 23%|
Niger, officially Republic of Niger (Republique du Niger ), is a poor, landlocked Sub-Saharan nation in West Africa. Niger declared its independence in 1960, but it wasn't until 1993 that it held its first free and open election. Ongoing trouble with the Taurag, a nomadic ethnic group, and coups in 1996 and 1999 resulted in a transition to civilian rule and the creation of a National Reconciliation Council.
The total population of Niger, based on a 2000 estimate, is 10,076,551 people, divided into several ethnic groups including Hausa (56 percent), Djerma (22 percent), Taureg (8 percent), and other smaller groups (14 percent). The country is almost entirely rural and the population is unevenly distributed, putting a great strain on the educational system. Another complicating factor to standardized education is the language; French is the official language, but at least five principal indigenous languages are also spoken and represent the major ethnic groups. One unifying factor is religion, as 80 percent of the population are Muslim.
Schooling is free in Niger, but many areas do not have a school and, as a result, Niger has one of the lowest literacy rates in West Africa. Most of Niger's adults cannot read or write, and the literacy rate is only 13.6 percent. However, facilities are being expanded with aid from France and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with the hope of correcting this problem.
The school system is based on the French model and consists of a primary school (Ecole Primaire ), a secondary system (Lycée ), and higher education system. Each of these is referred to as a cycle.
Primary schooling lasts six years and is attended by children from the ages of 6 to 12. At the completion of this cycle, students sit for an examination and are awarded the Certificat D'Etudes Primaires Elementaires (CEPE).
Schooling is compulsory in principle for ages 7 to 15 for a period of 8 years. However, there is only about a 25 percent school attendance by primary-school-age children, and even fewer 12- to 17-year-olds continue on to the secondary schools. An attempt is being made to reach more children by establishing tent schools or hut schools to serve the nomadic populations in the northern sector of the country. When the nomadic group moves, the school also moves, hoping to avoid the attrition that the frequent mobility causes. In addition, there has been a shift in the language used for primary instruction—from French to one of the four different languages that represent the ethnic group.
The common factor among the diverse ethnic groups is religion. Because of this, Koranic schools are widespread and continue their traditional teaching of Muslim theology, law, and history to preserve their heritage.
Secondary school follows the French model of education and is divided into a lower general secondary cycle that lasts four years, followed by a three-year upper cycle in which the student may specialize. On completion of the upper cycle and examination, students are awarded the de bachelier de l'ensignement du second degre (BEPC). There is also a technical secondary option that the student may take in lieu of the traditional model. This cycle is also three years and students earn their bachelier technicien (technical degree).
Niger's major institution of higher education is the University Abdou Moumouni in Niamey (the capital city) and the Islamic University. The councils or governing bodies of the institutions define all guidelines for teaching, the curricula and study systems, the organization of examinations, and vote on the budget. It is administered by Ministere de l'Enseignement superieur, de la Recherche et de la Technologie (The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Technology).
There are also specialized institutions of higher education, such as the Ecoles Normales, which train teachers for the primary schools. There are two tracks that one may take to earn teaching certification. The short track takes two years but requires that the student hold the Brevet d'Etudes du primier (BEPC); the long cycle takes four years but gives the student a bachelor status and the opportunity to become a teacher in a general college.
Postsecondary vocational and technical studies are separate from the university and are provided by postsecondary institutions or centers that are administered by other relevant ministries.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.
International Association of Universities (IAU). "Educational System — Niger," 1996. Available from http://www.unesco.org/.
—Jean Boris Wynn
Wynn, Jean Boris. "Niger." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700165.html
Wynn, Jean Boris. "Niger." World Education Encyclopedia. 2001. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409700165.html
1,267,000sq km (489,189sq mi)
CFA franc = 100 centimes
Climate and VegetationNiger is one of the world's hottest countries. The warmest months are March to May, when the harmattan wind blows from the Sahara. Niamey has a tropical climate, with a rainy season from June to September. Rainfall decreases from s to n. Northern Niger is practically rainless. The far s consists of tropical savanna. Buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, and lions are found in the W National Park, which Niger shares with Benin and Burkina Faso. Most of s Niger lies in the Sahel region of dry grassland. The Aïr Mountains support grass and scrub. The n deserts are generally barren.
History and PoliticsNeolithic remains have been found in the n desert. Nomadic Tuareg settled in the Aïr Mountains in the 11th century ad, and by the 13th century established a state centred around Agadez and the trans-Saharan trade. In the 14th century, the Hausa settled in s Niger. In the early 16th century, the Songhai Empire controlled much of Niger, but the Moroccans supplanted the Songhai at the turn of the century. In the early 19th century, the Fulani gained control of much of s Niger. The first French expedition arrived in 1891, but Tuareg resistance prevented full occupation until 1914.
In 1922, Niger became a colony within French West Africa. In 1958, Niger voted to remain an autonomous republic within the French Community. It gained full independence in 1960, and Hamani Diori became Niger's first president. He maintained close ties with France. Drought in the Sahel began in 1968, and killed many livestock and destroyed crops. In 1974, a group of army officers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountché, overthrew Hamani Diori and suspended the constitution. Kountché died in 1987, and was succeeded by his cousin General Ali Saibou. In 1991, the Tuareg in n Niger began an armed campaign for greater autonomy. A national conference removed Saibou and established a transitional government. In 1993 multi-party elections, Mahamane Ousmane of the Alliance of Forces for Change (AFC) coalition became president. The collapse of the coalition led to fresh elections in 1995, which were won by the National Movement for a Development Society (MNSD), but a military coup, led by Colonel Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, seized power. In 1995, the government and the Tuaregs signed a peace accord. Elections in 1996 confirmed Mainassara as president. In 1999, bodyguards assassinated Mainassara. Tanja Mamadou became president in the ensuing elections.
EconomyDroughts have caused great hardship and food shortages in Niger. They also have destroyed much of the traditional nomadic lifestyle. Niger's chief resource is uranium, and it is the world's second-largest producer. Uranium accounts for more than 80% of exports, most of which goes to the French Atomic Energy Authority. Some tin and tungsten are also mined. Other mineral resources are largely unexploited. Despite its resources, Niger is one of the world's poorest countries (2000 GDP per capita, US$1000). Farming employs 85% of the workforce, although only 3% of the land is arable and 7% is used for grazing. Food crops include beans, cassava, millet, rice, and sorghum. Cotton and groundnuts are leading cash crops.
"Niger." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Niger.html
"Niger." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-Niger.html
|Official Country Name:||Republic of the Niger|
|Region (Map name):||Africa|
|Language(s):||French, Hausa, Djerma|
The principle of a free press in Niger was established by a 1997 law that states "the press and audio-visual media, as well as broadcasting and printing, are free; access to information is the citizen's inalienable right." In practice the authorities remain a significant obstacle and government officials are often behind attempts to mute Niger's privately owned newspapers, most of which are less than a decade old.
Most private newspapers are weekly publications. Low advertising revenue and small circulations are common factors prohibiting daily publication. There is a state-owned French-language daily, La Sahel, which has a daily circulation of about 5,000.
Among the newspapers that have been publishing since the early 1990s, the weekly Anfani stands out. Its editor, Grémah Boucar, has been imprisoned nine times as of June 2001, yet Anfani, with its circulation of about 3,000, remains committed to impartial and critical reporting. Other weeklies include Le Républicain, which also is distributed in France and the United States, the satirical Canard Dimanche and Le Démocrate. In all there are about 15 privately owned newspapers. Most newspapers are tabloid size and run eight pages. There is a state-owned news agency, Agence Nigérienne de Presse (ANP), founded in 1987.
Niger's private newspaper sector suffers from inadequate resources and its journalists receive poor training. Many newspapers favor analysis over hard news and there is a dearth of investigative journalism. The lack of investigative journalism can be tied to the fear of repercussions from the authorities. With the exception newspapers such as Anfani and Le Républicain, journalists' salaries often are not paid. In many cases, this leads to journalists taking bribes from government officials to write damaging articles about political rivals.
Mounting corruption, widespread poverty, and a low literacy rate—only 23 percent of men over the age of 15 and just 8 percent of women—are the prime reasons for the precarious position of Niger's privately owned newspapers.
Boluvi, Guy-Michel. "Media Report: Niger." Research and Technology Exchange Group, Partners for Media in Africa, (January 2001). Available from http://www.gret.org/mediapartner/uk2/ressource/edm/pdf/niger.pdf.
International Journalists' Federation. "Mali Press: Overview," 2001. Available from http://www.ijnet.org/Profile/Africa/Niger/media.html .
International Press Institute. 2001 World Press Freedom Review. Available from http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/niger.htm.
Neville, Philip. Publishing against the odds. In World Press Review, 42, no. 11 (2000): 16-7.
"Niger." Committee to Protect Journalists, Africa 2001. Available from http://www.cpj.org/attacks01/africa01/niger.html2.
"Niger, The Press." In The Europa World Yearbook 2000, 2, no. 41, 2755. London: Europa Publications, 2001.
Fitzgerald, Denis. "Niger." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900163.html
Fitzgerald, Denis. "Niger." World Press Encyclopedia. 2003. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409900163.html
Identification. From the early twentieth century until independence in 1960, the colony of Niger was part of French West Africa. Since the boundaries of the nation-state were imposed by European colonial powers, ethnic and cultural borders do not coincide with state boundaries. Since independence, there have been governmental efforts to promote a national culture.
Location and Geography. The area of this landlocked country is 490,000 square miles (1,267,000 square kilometers). One of the hottest countries of the world, Niger straddles the Sahara and Sahelian climate zones. Niger is essentially a flat country. Rainfall is rare north and east of the Air Massif but generally adequate in the west. The capital city is Niamey, with a 1998 population of approximately 500,000, located on the Niger River, which has a multiethnic population.
Demography. The population was approximately 9.2 million in 1998. The Hausa are numerically the predominant group, constituting approximately 53 percent of the population, followed by the Zarma-Songhai, 21 percent; the Fulani (Peul), 10 percent; the Tuareg, 10 percent; the Kanuri (Beri-Beri or Manga), 4.4 percent; and Arabs, Tubu, and Gourmantche, approximately 1.6 percent. In the precolonial era, Niger included regions of several "traditional" African kingdoms, empires, and states with varying degrees of stratification and centralization.
Linguistic Affiliation. There are five main ethnolinguistic groups, corresponding to the five national languages, in addition to French, the official language: Haussa, Anna-Songhai, Fulani or Fulbe, Tamajaq, and Kanuri or Beri-Beri. French is used primarily in official written governmental and international correspondence; the local vernacular languages are more often used in daily social interaction, markets, and trading.
Symbolism. The major groups share many Muslim beliefs and practices, including respect for Islamic/Koranic scholarship in Arabic. Much imagery comes from Islam, the major official religion. Most groups have retained elements of pre-Islamic cultural, symbolic, ritual, and political life, such as spirit possession, bilateral descent patterns, and spirit pantheons in local cosmological systems. Elements from nature also figure prominently in national symbolism. Millet stalks, for example, are popular motifs in embroidery on women's traditional blouses and appear on the emblem of a political party. The national flag's colors of green, orange, and yellow represent the different climate zones. In the increasingly important tourist industry, certain symbols and motifs have been adapted from local art forms, such as the Agadez Cross.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. Several precolonial empires had an impact on Niger, including the Songhai to the west and the Bornu Empire to the east as well as the Fulani Empire of Sokoto. In the nineteenth century, the first European explorers came to the area, searching for the mouth of the Niger River. Although French efforts at subjugation began before 1900, dissident ethnic groups, especially the Tuareg, were not conquered until the early twentieth century. The new colony was considered lacking in resources, and no paved roads or railroads were built between 1922 and 1944. No efforts were made to encourage river transportation, and the literacy rate remained among the lowest in Africa. Higher education opportunities were limited. The French constitution of 1946 permitted Niger to elect a representative to the French National Assembly and provided for decentralization of power and limited participation in political life for local advisory assemblies. The law of 23 June 1956 gave Niger's politicians more of a voice in the management of their country by establishing a government council presided over by the governor. In addition to removing voting inequalities, these laws provided for the creation of governmental organs, giving individual territories a high degree of self-government. After the establishment of the Fifth French Republic in 1958, Niger became an autonomous state. Two years later, a new constitution adopted by referendum permitted the creation of a republic (18 December 1958). Independence was proclaimed on 3 August 1960.
National Identity. The population is affected by cultural elements from North Africa as well as Africa south of the Sahara. In general the ethnic groups tend to be distributed according to region. While the national identity incorporates many elements from all the regional and cultural/ethnic influences, the recent tensions between north and south and east and west have been based on distinctive aspects of ethnic and geographic regional experience. Many of these tensions are rooted in uneven development of the different regions.
Ethnic Relations. Ethnicity is an important factor in disunity and conflict in contemporary Niger. Political tensions exist between sedentary peoples and nomads. However, apart from military antagonism between the Zarma-Songhai and the Tuareg in the nineteenth century, the people have little historical basis for exclusively ethnically rooted hostility and conflict. Contemporary ethnic conflict stems largely from deliberate decisions of the nation's colonial and postcolonial rulers and the different responses by the various groups to colonial economic and educational policies.
After independence, the new regime was dominated by educated Zarma, who were concerned with the demographic and economic imbalance between their group and the more numerous and commercially minded Haussa. In the first fifteen years after independence, the policies of the new regime intensified ethnic consciousness. Although the military government that took power in 1974 attempted to suppress that consciousness, ethnic identity has continued to mold political and economic demands. Subdivisions within each ethnolinguistic and cultural group also exist and occasionally are more salient than differences between ethnic groups. Precolonial societies often distinguished nobles and Islamic scholars from commoners and slaves; merchants from farmers herders, and fishers; and warriors from producers.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
Despite growing migration to the towns and the recent growth of the capital city, Niger remains overwhelmingly rural. Outside the capital city, architecture and the use of space reflect traditional regional and sedentarized-nomadic differences. In both rural and urban areas, architecture also reflects social stratification. Throughout much of the rural south, west, and east, there are adobe mud houses and a few concrete tin-roofed houses of functionaries and teachers. In much of the rural north, there are semi-sedentarized nomadic camps with tents of various materials (grass, animal hides) interspersed with adobe mud houses. Tents have portable walls, which are removed and transported for nomadic migration with herds. The greater degree of sedentarization in a community, the more common the adobe mud houses. In semi-nomadic Tuareg communities, women build and own the tent and men build and own the adobe house. In the tent, there is gender-based symbolism: for example, the left side of the interior of a Tuareg tent is associated with the married woman owner and her belongings and the right side is associated with her husband. As houses become more common as a result of sedentarization, there are corresponding changes in property relations between the sexes. In many communities, mosques are surrounded by the homes of traditionally aristocratic, chiefly, and Islamic scholar families. Homes of families of traditionally lower or ambiguous status are located farther from the mosque and its surrounding neighborhood. Another important feature in the countryside is the widespread opposition between the settled community (village or camp) and the wild. There is the idea of the settled community as a human habitation and center of civilization, as opposed to the unsettled, wild areas surrounding it that are believed to be inhabited by spirits. People are believed to be vulnerable to the influence of the spirits of the wild on certain specified occasions, such as during life transitions or during travel. The spirits of the "wild" spaces must be controlled before people engage in activities that alter their domain. In Niamey, most families' houses also tend to be of the standard adobe mud type, usually rented, although there is variation according to nationality and socioeconomic class. Many Europeans in Niamey inhabit buildings locally called "villas," that are made of concrete and often have running water, electricity, and air-conditioning. In Niamey there have been increasing gaps between the standard of living, income, and comfort of most Nigeriens and that of many foreign residents. Europeans and a few well-to-do Africans tend to reside in neighborhoods high on a hill, called the Plateau, and near the river in European-colonial concrete villas and Western-style apartments. Also on the Plateau are government offices, ministries, the presidential palace, and the presidential guard as well as the offices of many international aid agencies and embassies.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. Millet, sorghum, and beans are the major food crops, and peanuts and cotton are the major cash crops. Rice is grown along the banks of the Niger River. Millet is the basic daily staple for most rural people in all regions, followed in importance by corn, sorghum, rice, macaroni, beans, cowpeas, cassava, and wheat dishes such as couscous. Rice is a "status" food that is served at rites of passage, holidays, and other special occasions. Millet dishes vary in style but usually are prepared as a "paste" or stiff cooked porridge dough and covered with a vegetable sauce that occasionally contains small pieces of meat. However, most meat is served apart from sauces, grilled and eaten on the side on special occasions. In the northern Air region, millet often is also served with goat's or camel's milk. Also popular in the north is cheese made from goat's milk. Food taboos include a nationwide avoidance of pork and specific taboos observed by different groups.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Important ceremonial occasions at which special meals are served include Muslim holidays. Ritual animal sacrifice and slaughter and communal consumption of meat are important at those holidays. Extended families, often residing in a few nearby household clusters in rural areas, normally consume the meat together after it is slaughtered by an Islamic scholar or the male household head. Men, women, and children usually eat apart. Other dishes include "high-status" foods such as rice, macaroni, and couscous with richer sauces. There are also liquid grain beverages resembling beers. Among the Tuareg, a special beverage called eghajira (or eghale ) consists of pounded millet, goat cheese, and crushed dates blended with water and served from elaborately carved decorated wooden ladles.
Basic Economy. Niger is one of the world's poorest nations, with a per capita income of $220 (U.S.) in 1995. The northern zone is devoted primarily to pastoral nomadism involving camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. In the Air Massif there are pockets of oasis gardens that require constant irrigation. The southern Sahelian zone is devoted to agropastoralism, which at the fringe of the Sudanian zone becomes essentially agriculture. Despite efforts by the government to increase agricultural production and the development of uranium mining, the gross national product has declined sharply.
Niger has been plagued by ecological disaster, economic crises, and political uncertainty. After the drought of 1968–1974, the government attempted to make the country self-sufficient in food production. This was achieved in 1980, but another drought in 1984 caused food shortages. Austerity measures imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund further weakened the economy, bringing shortages and unemployment. In more arid regions, livestock production dominates with the raising of cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. There is fishing on the Niger River and Lake Chad, with dried fish sold widely.
Commercial Activities. There are permanent markets in the major towns and market days in rural communities. Much commerce is conducted by truck and traditional camel caravan trade between Niger and Nigeria. Goods in local markets include fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, dried river fish, canned goods from Algeria, household supplies and tools and cloth from as far away as China, spices, perfumes, and traditional medicines from Algeria, Nigeria, and Mecca. Many Haussa and Zarma-Songhai women cook and sell snack foods by the side of the road. Some women manufacture knitted items and engage in leatherwork.
Major Industries. Mining accounts for nearly 20 percent of the gross domestic product. Uranium exports are a major source of national income. Uranium mines opened in 1971, and output reached a peak in 1981. Declining demand and falling world prices then led to a reduction in output. It is estimated that Niger has 10 percent of the world's uranium reserves. Coal is used to generate electricity for the mining towns. Other important minerals include tin-bearing cassiterite, iron, tin, coal, phosphates, gold, and salt. Manufacturing consists mainly of food processing, textile production, and leather tanning. Tourism has become important.
Trade. The traditional caravan trade, while it has diminished in importance, is still conducted by Tuareg men. The men go east to Bilma to trade millet for salt and dates and then go south to Kano and other parts of Nigeria to trade the salt and dates for household tools, luxury goods such as cloth and spices, and more millet.
Division of Labor. In rural communities, many work roles still correspond to traditional patterns of age, gender, and social class. The major cultural and ethnic groups are characterized by a marked degree of specialization in labor that derives from their complex precolonial hierarchical, stratified social organization. Those social orders featured hereditary, endogamous occupational groupings with traditionally performed distinct roles as well as relationships of fictive kinship and mutual dependence. In the past, slavery was important. Age-based roles cut across this system in the form of fictive kinship and apprenticeship. Because of their joking relationships with persons of aristocratic origin, smith-artisans and oral historians (griots ) often are referred to metaphorically as their "cousins" or "little sisters (brothers)." Young children begin training for the specialized tasks of their social background, such as working the forge, in an apprenticeship, usually under the same-sex parent or another older close relative. Social strata with varying tributary and servile origins formerly served aristocratic or "noble" patrons, and even today in many rural areas, families of aristocratic origins are still attached to their inherited smiths and griots. However, prestigious descent no longer always corresponds to socio-economic prosperity, and many families of noble origin now have difficulty supporting their client families. In the towns, many of these "client-patron" relationships are breaking down. Particularly important today are arts and crafts specialists. Among the Haussa, there are metalworkers, leatherworkers, griots, and other specialized hereditary strata. Among the Tuareg, smith-artisans in the countryside manufacture jewelry, weapons, and household, gardening, and herding tools for nobles and serve as ritual specialists, providing music at nobles' name days, weddings, and other festivals as well as acting as go-betweens for marriage arrangements and as political intermediaries for traditional chiefs. In the towns, many Tuareg smith-artisans are active in the market trade, adapting their traditional silver, wood, and leather works for European tourist and African functionary tastes and sometimes working in gold. Griots and smith-artisans exert much informal power through their critical social commentary. Also important among all groups are Koranic or Islamic scholars, often called marabouts, who serve as religious scholars and scribes and, in the countryside, combine legal, medical, and religious professions.
Classes and Castes. New classes are emerging, particularly in the towns. While marriages still tend to be endogamous in the countryside, there is increasing intermarriage in the towns and monetization has disrupted many old client–patron rights and obligations. Functionaries may be of diverse social origins. Within each cultural/ethnic group, there remain salient social stratum differences in rural communities, whereas in the towns, socio-economic status tends to operate more independently of traditional social origins. Some cultural and ethnic groups have not benefitted from economic development, although the government has attempted to narrow these gaps. After the Tuareg separatist rebellion ended, more Tuareg were integrated into the army, given functionary posts in semi-autonomous northern regions, and admitted to the university in Niamey.
Symbols of Social Stratification. Traditionally, aristocratic people were distinguished not by vast differences in wealth or standard of living but by exterior verbal and nonverbal symbols of body, dress, and ornamentation. These symbols included cultural values emphasizing reserved, dignified conduct such as controlled and indirect speech; bodily signs of ease such as soft hands and long fingers set off by ornate rings; a portly well-nourished body; layered, voluminous cloth and, for men, an elaborately wrapped headdress; and heavy and intricately worked silver and gold jewelry for women. Certain material items were forbidden to all but the aristocracy. Griots and smith-artisans in these societies were expected to lack reserve, dress less modestly; and say what nobles could not. Throughout the country, however, there were minimal differences among the social strata: Within each group, all spoke the same language, ate similar foods, and lived in housing that, except for chiefs' residences, was not radically different. The external class and caste symbols, however, necessitated a relatively more comfortable lifestyle conspicuous consumption for high-status person. These distinctions also included greater monopoly over resources such as land, livestock, and trade. Despite these differences, there has always been the possibility of mobility. Today many external symbols no longer correspond to social origins, and wealth does not always coincide with prestigious status.
Government. Niger is a republic, with recent alternations between military and transitional parliamentary governments. In principle, a president is elected for a five-year term through universal suffrage. The eighty-three-member Assemblée Nationale, which was inaugurated in 1993, was suspended in 1996. The next elections were scheduled for the years 2000 (legislative) and 2001 (presidential).
Leadership and Political Officials. The national government is headed by an appointed prime minister and the Council of Ministers. Local governmental organization is based on seven departements, or provinces, headed by prefects (similar to governors), thirty-two arrondissements, and one hundred fifty communes. The first president was overthrown by a military coup because of widespread discontent with the government's failure to distribute drought relief effectively from 1968 to 1974. After the adoption of a new constitution in December 1992, in early 1993 Niger conducted its first multiparty presidential and legislative elections since independence. The constitution provided for a semi-presidential system of government in which executive power is shared by the president of the republic, who is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term and a prime minister named by the president. The unicameral legislature has eighty-three deputies elected for a five-year term under a system of proportional representation.
After a coup in 1999, the head of the presidential guard, Daouda Malam Wanke, was named president and head of the National Council for Reconciliation. This coalition was expected to lead Niger for a nine-month transition period. Following this period, Tandja Mamadou was sworn in as president, returning Niger to civilian rule.
Social Problems and Control. Although the main security forces consist of the army, the gendarmerie (rural paramilitary police), and the national police, there are alternative formal and informal mechanisms for dispute settlement and social control, particularly in rural areas. In the towns, there is a secular court system based on French law. Civil and criminal cases that do not involve security-related acts are tried publicly. Defendants have the right to be present, confront witnesses, examine the evidence against them, present evidence of their own, and choose a lawyer. Minors and defendants charged with crimes carrying a sentence of ten years or more are eligible to be defended at public expense. Defendants and prosecutors may appeal a verdict to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals reviews questions of fact and law, while the Supreme Court reviews only the application of the law. Cases involving divorce or inheritance may be heard by a traditional chief or a customary court. Customary courts in large towns and cities are headed by a legal practitioner who is advised by an assessor who is knowledgeable about the society's traditions. The judicial actions of chiefs and customary courts are not formally regulated. Cases that are not resolved by chiefs or customary courts can be appealed to the formal court system. While there are no official religious courts, in the countryside plaintiffs first take disputes to local councils of Islamic scholars, elders, and chiefs, who arbitrate many local land disputes, marital conflicts, and thefts, sometimes referring to Koranic law. Additional, informal means of social control include gossip, praise songs, and certain "pollution beliefs" involving theft and divine retribution.
Military Activity. The president is commander in chief of the armed forces. There is a two-year period of conscription.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
In the industrial sector, the labor federation, the National Union of Nigerien Workers (USTN), includes 423 unions representing 70 percent of the wage earners. Most of the workforce, however, is employed in subsistence agriculture and herding and artisan work and is not unionized or salaried. Thus, the majority of the USTN membership is made up of civil servants, teachers, and employees of state-owned corporations such as the national electrical utility (NIGELEC). The USTN and the Teachers Union have stated policies of political autonomy, but all unions have informal ties to political parties. There are a hundred or more trade associations. There is also an office approximating Social Security for retiring functionaries.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
The vast majority of people are more affected by customary informal organizations or foreign aid organizations, such as insurance-like pooling and "community chests," and by religious-sponsored charity or tithing.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Although women traditionally do not take part in official political decision making and there is some division of men's and women's worlds, the local cultural ideology defines these conditions as complementary rather than unequal. Men tend to be characterized as the breadwinners and perform labor in the "public" and "official" domain as opposed to the "private and domestic" and "unofficial" domains. Men tend to travel more widely than women to do migrant labor and on caravan expeditions. Women tend to cook, act as the primary caregivers for children and aged persons, and do domestic work such as crushing grain. In rural areas, women perform arduous physical labor such as gathering firewood hand-processing food, fetching water from the well, and building and tending cooking fires. Semi-nomadic women construct the tent, whereas men construct the adobe mud houses. Those Haussa women who are in seclusion can participate in economic activities covertly by sending cooked snacks and crafted items with children for sale at markets. Women can participate in economic activities covertly, from within their compound walls, by sending cooked snacks and crafted items with children for sale at markets. Women may become respected herbal healers.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. In 1993, the government appointed five women to ministerial positions in a twenty-eight-member cabinet. Women's organizations and other human rights groups conduct educational campaigns to increase the participation of women in the official political process. The traditional practice of husbands' casting their wives' proxies was widely used during the National Assembly elections and the first round of presidential elections. Human rights groups have tried to eliminate this practice. Despite variations among the different ethnic groups in the traditional status of women, women do not enjoy official equal legal status with men nationally. While the head of household has certain legal rights, divorced or widowed women, even those with children, are not considered the heads of the households. Women's rights groups have been attempting to strengthen women's rights in inheritance, land tenure, and child custody and to end the practice of repudiation, which permits a husband to obtain an immediate divorce without having further responsibility for his wife and children. There is a small but increasing number of women professionals. In some regions, particularly the towns, domestic violence against women and children is widespread. Families often intervene, however, and divorce can be granted for physical abuse. In some towns, prostitution is the only economic alternative for a woman who wants to leave her husband. Some women own property: for example, some urban women own houses that they rent, and rural Tuareg women inherit, own, and manage livestock and date palms. Recently, there have been isolated incidents of violence against women for religious reasons.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. First marriages are almost always arranged by the parents in both rural and urban communities. Usually, there are no "forced" unions; unwanted suitors may be vetoed by either potential partner, but youths cannot easily marry someone of whom their parents disapprove. Traditional parental preferences for social stratum endogamy and cousin marriage are breaking down in the towns. Men can have up to four wives, according to Islamic law. Not all men have the economic means to practice polygyny, which is slightly more prevalent in towns. It is rarer in more nomadic groups and more commonly practiced in sedentarized communities and among clans of Islamic scholars. Most people marry unless they are severely disabled. Divorce rates vary within ethnic groups. Remarriage varies with the age and local status of a divorced woman.
Domestic Unit. In general, the compound, either walled or fenced in, is the basic domestic unit; in rural areas, it is also the basic unit of production. Among the rural Haussa, compounds are organized around a postmarital residence pattern of a married father and his sons with their wives in a large extended household that is organized around traditional farming labor. Among the Tuareg, rural compounds tend to be somewhat smaller, ideally constituting more nuclear households, but adjacent to or near compounds of the married couple's parents. Initially, there are two to three years of uxorilocal residence, followed by possible virilocal residence after the paying of the bride wealth and groom service and stable marriage if the couple chooses to move. In the major towns, compounds tend to be located farther from kin than they are in the countryside, and many unrelated persons may rent within the same compound.
Inheritance. Many groups practice patrilineal Islamic-influenced inheritance. There are also bilateral inheritance practices and much informal preinherited property in the form of gifts. Some groups have alternative, non-Koranic forms of inheritance.
Infant Care. Infants generally are not placed in separate spaces to sleep and play; they usually are kept in close proximity almost as an extension of the mother's body. The mother usually carries the infant on her back in a cloth or in a goat-hide sling over the shoulder. Most infants are breast-fed. As infants mature, older female siblings usually take over much of the child care. Parents often play with and sing songs to babies who cry. Other games include playing at "riding" camels or horses. Babies and toddlers are allowed to explore and wander widely. Weaning occurs at approximately twoand-a-half years of age in most groups.
Child Rearing and Education. Early childhood is characterized by rather lax discipline. Children are permitted considerable verbal license toward certain persons. Among the Haussa particularly, children act as important go-betweens and intermediaries for adults, often entering spaces where adults cannot go. Cultural values that are inculcated early in childhood include an emphasis on generosity and sharing, respect toward adult authority figures such as Islamic scholars and elders, and careful observation of adult tasks in apprenticeships. There are clearly demarcated rites of passage; name days, popularly called by the French term bapteme, are celebrated among all groups one week after a birth and the conferring of a Koranic name on the child. The child's hair is shaved to sever ties with the spirit world. In rural areas, male circumcision usually is performed by a specialist called a barber when boys are three to seven years old. The next important rite of passage is marriage. General similarities include the practice of secluding the bride, sharp social and ritual spatial segregation of the bride's and groom's families; and the use of henna on the hands and feet. Wedding rituals often include pre-Islamic as well as Islamic ritual phases.
Higher Education. In rural areas, many families discourage girls from pursuing an education beyond primary school. At the one university, the University of Niamey, males predominate. Among some groups, particularly the nomads in the north, many families opposed all secular schools until recently, fearing them as sources of government control and cultural change.
General rules of conduct include the importance of greetings, many of which are elaborate. Among all ethnic and cultural groups, it is considered extremely rude to approach someone with a question or statement without a preliminary greeting. French business formats and salutations are the rule. Indirect expression is the ideal, particularly between high-status persons. It is considered rude to overtly refuse to do something or strongly contradict someone. Dress should be modest and neat among both men and women. Recently, there has been violence against women wearing clothing considered immodest by Islamic reformists. Among many persons, ideally some bodily distance is maintained, although close friends of the same sex frequently walk arm in arm.
Religious Beliefs. Islam is the religion of 98 percent of the population, followed by traditional religions and Christianity. There is a great deal of religious tolerance, and many Islamic beliefs and practices are strongly influenced and modified by the local cultures. Many local cosmologies and rituals have both Islamic and pre-Islamic elements. Haussa and Zarma-Songhai rituals feature particularly elaborate spirit pantheons. Pre-Islamic myths and rituals coexist in local historical consciousness with Koranic traditions.
Religious Practitioners. Islamic scholars combine medical-psychiatric and legal skills, particularly in rural communities. Marabouts also enact important Muslim rituals, such as animal sacrifice, naming, marriage, and funeral condolences. A specialist called an imam leads the call to prayer. In rural Tuareg society, smith-artisans play important ritual roles. Additional religious specialists include zima spirit mediums among the Zarma-Songhai, bori (possession) leaders among the Haussa, and some persons in all groups who are believed to bring rain.
Rituals and Holy Places. Rites of passage are prominent. Spirit possession exorcism and mediumship rituals also are widely practiced. Other ceremonies take place on official Muslim holidays. The Friday prayer takes place at a special prayer ground near the mosque. In parts of the northern Air Mountain region, there are sacred places associated with prominent marabouts and more specialized holy clans claiming descent from Muhammad called icherifan, and places of pilgrimage where marabouts travel for conferences. Throughout the countryside, designated places are demarcated as spaces for smith-artisans and herbalists to conduct ritual preparations and communicate with spirits, such as the ruins of ancestral houses and special natural features (rocks, medicinal trees). Tombs of prominent marabouts usually are set apart from ordinary cemeteries.
Death and the Afterlife. Islam influences beliefs and practices surrounding death. Mortuary ceremonies consist of preparation of the body, burial, and a series of ritual meals with Koranic readings and alms giving called condolences. Burial takes place soon after death. The body is washed and wrapped in a white shroud and then taken by men chanting Koranic liturgical music to the grave site. A marabout reads verses from the Koran and leads the prayer. Upon the internment, two lines are formed so that the angel of death may pass through. Women remain at home during this phase but are very active in mortuary rites. Condolences consist of ritual meals held one week after death and repeated at various intervals. At the initial condolence ceremony, the marabout officiates, transmitting his religious blessing or benediction (called al baraka ) to the guests. Beliefs concerning the afterlife include pre-Islamic elements. It is believed that an angel weighs good and evil deeds at a final judgment and that the deceased subsequently enters paradise or various levels of hell. Alongside these beliefs, however, traditional beliefs regarding ancestors, souls, and spirits persist.
Medicine and Health Care
There are two broad categories of health care. The first includes government-sponsored institutions with workers trained in Western biomedicine: several hospitals in the major towns and in the capital city of Niger, clinics in rural areas, mobile immunization health units, and traditional healing specialists. The second category consists of "traditional" or local healing specialists and practitioners: Koranic/Islamic scholars and a more specialized group who claim descent from the Prophet; non-Koranic healers whose means include divination and herbal medicine; bone setters; and various ritual adepts or cult leaders, such as musicians, in spirit possession and mediumship. Some patients alternate between and combine treatments from the various healers, and there are shortages of medicines such as antibiotics. Some rural people, particularly women, are hesitant to use hospitals and clinics. There have been sporadic efforts to integrate some traditional healers, such as herbal medicine women, into the Western biomedical establishment through training programs and certification. In Niamey, there has been a proliferation of private practices, but private medical insurance is not available to the vast majority of people. Many uncontrolled medical substances are hawked on the streets. The risk-sharing arrangements that exist are primarily employer-based programs in urban areas. In rural communities, traditional practitioners remain important. Islamic scholars heal with verses from the Koran and perform Koranic ritual divination and social and psychiatric counseling. Those healers, sometimes called "sorcerers," often divine with plants, perfumes, cowrie shells, and other means. Herbalists work with tree bark, leaves, and roots and conduct ritual incantations and sometimes serve more specialized functions such as marital counseling. Spirit possession specialists provide music that is believed to enhance communication with the spirits that possess the person in trance. Possession rituals are usually public events, with musicians, audience, and trance adepts all interacting in a form of group therapy.
National holidays include New Year's Day, 1 January; Niger Independence Day, 8 August; and Niger Republic Day, 18 December. Government offices, including foreign embassies, are closed on those days, which feature parades, political speeches, and folkloric performances. There are also several Christian and Muslim holidays.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. There is great appreciation for the arts and literature. Visual art, theater, and musical performances are connected to the traditional but changing roles of artisans and oral historians. The National Museum and several privately and publicly-funded artisan workshop and cooperatives support jewelry, leather work, pottery, and other art production. There are prominent modern literary authors, essayists, poets, and painters. A well-known Tuareg painter, Rissa Ixa, founded the Association for the Promotion and Development of Traditional Arts and Cultures in Niger. A Haussa painter in Maradi produces paintings that comment on local social and political issues, and there are many novelists.
Literature. Literary production includes both traditional oral and verbal art forms and contemporary written forms that appear both in French and in local vernacular languages. Niger has a vast repertoire of oral art, based on traditions of oral historians and smith-artisans, much of which has been transcribed and published by the national press through the support of artists and scholars connected to the University of Niamey. This repertoire includes battle and epic praise poetry, love poetry, current political songs, proverbs, and riddles. Zarma-Songhai and Haussa plays often address current events.
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
Niger has a number of prominent researchers, particularly in history, sociology, ethnology, and literature. The Centre National de Recherches en Sciences Humaines conducts research, mostly in the humanities but also in the sciences and social sciences, and publishes Etudes Nigeriennes. The Musee National is also nominally the responsibility of the Centre. The University of Niamey was created in 1974, and the Centre, now known as IRSH or l'Institut des recherches en sciences humaines (Human Sciences Research Institute) was attached to it. CELTHO (Center for the Study of Oral History) is sponsored by the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity.
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Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Niger, 3rd ed., 1997.
Fuglestad, Finn. A History of Niger 1850–1960, 1983.
Human Rights Watch. Niger: Human Rights Report, 1993.
Masquelier, Adeline. "Narratives of Power, Images of Wealth: The Ritual Economy of Bori in the Market." In Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, eds., Modernity and Its Malcontents, 1993.
Rasmussen, Susan. Spirit Possession and Personhood among the Kel Ewey Tuareg, 1995.
——. The Poetics and Politics of Tuareg Aging: Life Course and Personal Destiny in Niger, 1997.
Schmoll, Pamela. "Black Stomachs, Beautiful Stones: Soul-Eating among Haussa in Niger." In Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, eds., Modernity and Its Malcontents, 1993.
Stoller, Paul. Fusion of the Worlds: An Ethnography of Possession among the Songhay of Niger, 1989.
——. Embodying Cultural Memories: Spirit Possession, Power, and the Hauka in West Africa, 1995.
——, and Cheryl Olkes. In Sorcery's Shadow, 1987.
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Weaver, Marcia, Holly Wong, Amadou Sekou Sako, Robert Simon, and Felix Lee. "Patient Fees in the Niamey Hospital." Social Science and Medicine 38: 563–574, 1994.
—Susan J. Rasmussen
RASMUSSEN, SUSAN J.. "Niger." Countries and Their Cultures. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401700176.html
RASMUSSEN, SUSAN J.. "Niger." Countries and Their Cultures. 2001. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3401700176.html
■ TUAREG … 164
The people of Niger are called Nigeriens. The Hausa are the largest ethnic group living in Niger, forming 53 percent of the total population. To learn more about the Hausa read the chapter on Nigeria in this volume. The Djerma-Songhai, the second-largest group, make up 22 percent of the population. Nomadic livestock-raising peoples include the Fulani, or Peul (10 percent), the Tuareg (10 percent), and the Kanuri (4 percent). For more information on the Fulani, see the chapter on Guinea in Volume 4.
"Niger." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900348.html
"Niger." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3435900348.html
Niger (in the Bible)
Niger (nī´jər), in the Bible: see Simeon3.
"Niger (in the Bible)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-X-Niger-Bib.html
"Niger (in the Bible)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-X-Niger-Bib.html
"Niger." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-Niger.html
"Niger." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O233-Niger.html