General Information on Niger

1.267.000 Sq Km = 490.000 sq m; (Texas + California + Michigan). As crossroads country between North Africa and Black Africa, Niger is bordered by Algeria, Libya, Malit Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria and Tchad.

7.251.626 Inhabitants

Capital City:
Niamey (400.000 inhahitants).

Principal towns:
Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua, Dosso,Agadez, Diffa, Arlit.

Young population=(70% are less than 40 years old)
School enrollment = 22%, Adult literary rate = 12%
Ethnic groups = Hausa, Djerma-Songhai, Fulani, Tamajaq, Kanuri

French; Hausa spoken by 70% of the population

2,370 Billion US $
GDP growth rate = 3,8%
GDP per capita = 310 US$ (1992)

85% of the population is engaged in agriculture livestock.
Modern sector labor force = 47,730 (1988). (total persons in the social security system).

(In 1992, fourth productor in the World after Uranium Canada Australia and USA)
Phosphate - two main deposits with one in Tapoa.
Goal, Gold, Stannite (Tin),Manganese Oil research by Elf, Exxon, and Hunroil.

Breeding is the most important activity of the nomadic population (Tuaregs, Peulhs).
Animal husbandry (livestock, meat, hides and skins, handicrafts) is second only to Uranium in export figures).

Bovine (2 million), ovine (8 million), horses (500.000) camel (350.000). Caprine (5 million).

Millet, sorghum, rice, corn,cassava.

Peanut, Cotton, onions, black-eye beans.

Leather, tapestry, silver and gold jewelry. This diversified and dynamic subsector provides art and daily life products.

Food products, machines, general merchandise, earthmoving equipment, used wearing apparel

One of the best and macadamized road networks in subsaharian Africa.

Crossroads of airlines going to the North, South and West Africa.

Automatic telephone network, liaison by satellite with the rest of the world (T.V., telephone, telex and telefax).


* NIGER is a member of many lnternational and regional organizations with agreements such as GATT, EEC-ACP, ECOWAS

* An OPIC investment guarantee treaty has been in effect with NIGER since 1962.

*US companies currently in NIGER: EXXON, TEXACO, MOBIL OIL HUNT OIL CITIBANK (branch of NIB), CII HONEY WELL, BURROUGHS and many other branches of US companies.


To the east of the Air extends the TENERE, a vast arid plain of which the live sand dunes cover the whole of eastern Niger, from the sand stone hamada (plateau) of Mangeni, dominated by the DJADO Massif, to CHAD basin. The TENERE covers some 400 000 sq. km and includes three rather different regions: The TAFASSASSET TENERE, between Air and DJADO; the TENERE itself, with endless expanses of sand and here not even a hint of vegetation mitigates the harsh landscape. This is the kingdom of air, sand and light. Chains of dunes mat run continuously for 20 km and rise several meters in height. They form massive barriers, making it practically impossible for vehicles to cross the area; lastly, there is the erg known as the "Great Bilma Erg" or "KAOUAR". This is a transitional zone between the SAHARA proper and the SAHEL.


Until recently, this part of NIGER was considered ,o be the "useful" part of the country. This is to distinguish it from the austere and inhospitable desert areas. It consists of an almost horizontal strip, 1.300 km long, bounded on the south by the frontiers of the country. The are presents a less contrasted landscape than the north of the country. More abundant rainfall has maintained lake-like features of the clay basins. But the landscape presents a picture of alternating low sandstone plateaus, sometimes covered with sand, and no less sandy depressions, indicating the existence of ancient basins of dallols (valleys)

At its western end, the low-lying plateau is crossed by the River Niger alluvial plain, then by the BOSSO and Maouri dallols. In the center lies the vast ferrous sandstone plateau of Adar- Doutchi, which in certain places rises to over 700 m in height. Deep valleys and basins, sometimes enclosing lakes, cut into this plateau, which precedes the Goulbi zone (Maradi- Tessaoua), a region of broad valleys of rich soil, watered by fast-flowing seasonal rivers during the monsoon.

To the east lies monotonous succession of sandy wastes, only broken by the granite outcrops of Damagaram (above 500m), the clay depressions of Damergou and the MASSIF of MINAN (450m) and KOUTOUS (600). The manga zone, which marks the end of this strip and which itself peters out in LAKE CHAD, is mainly sandy, with scattered flat-bottomed basins which are usually fertile.


Apart from a few more or less permanent pools and a few more or less seasonal water courses, Niger's main hydrographic network consists of one major river, the NIGER, whose eccentric position prevents it from sewing the country as a whole, and a smaller river, the komadougou Yobe, likewise eccentric.


The NIGER crosses the country over a distance of 550km. It is strengthened by several small affluents flowing into it on the right bank, all of them with a marked sahelian character; they almost entirely dry up between December and June or July but flow very strongly in the rainy season (June September). Moving downstream we mention the Goroual, the Dargol, the Sirba, the Diamangou, the Tapoa, and the Mekrou.

Inside the country the River flows for 200 k in a bed of crystalline rocks, which causes it to scatter a multitude of small islands in its wake (between Ayerou and Gotheye). Then, in Boubon region, its banks become steep and rocky, to level out as the river flows towards Niamey, the Capital City.

Downstream from Niamey, there are few alluvial basins, overlooked by quarternary terraces between Kollo and Say. Thenceforth, the river's path becomes a difficult one,forcing it to twist and meander through a hair - pin course The best-known loop or the river is the "W" National PARK, an extensive zone, rich in vegetation and wildlife.


This thousand kilometer long river marks the boundary between NIGER and NIGERIA over a distance of 150 km. It rises from Nigeria and flows into NIGER through the Maine-Soroa region, and then eastwards into Lake CHAD. The river has a strong but erratic flow. Its banks are low-lying and rich in alluvium.


The NIGER part of LAKE CHAD covers some 3,000 sq km. the lake itself is the vestige of an ancient quaternary sea, at an altitude of 280 m and today at no point more than 4 meters deep. Islands proliferate in the lake and the rate of evaporation is extremely high. 98% of its water supply come from the Chari River and from rainfall. Highwater levels occur in December - January, lowest levels in June - July.


NIGER is situated in one of the sunniest regions of the world and has a mainly dry climate with considerable temperature ranges. Potential evaporation is from 2 to 3 meters per annum, while rainfall in no place exceeds 100 mm and even falls to below 100 mm over almost half the country. The- rainfall pattern may be described as follows:

-Saharan in the North, with some 160 km falling in less than one month of the year,except in the desert where it practically never rains.

-Sahelian in the South, where some 600 mm of rain falls during 3 to 4 months (June to September), with dry and rainy seasons alternating. A thin covering of grasses makes it possible to raise livestock on a nomadic basis, and maintain a low level of agricultural

-Cold from November to February where temperatures drop considerably, particularly with nightfall.

-Hot from March to June, period or the HARMATTAN. Temperatures can exceed 40 oC in the shade. During this period come the first rains usually announced by heavy clouds moving across the sky.

-The rainy season sets in in June and continues until September. This is the season or the monsoon. Temperatures remain relatively high and humidity levels around 80% (in Niamey during August) make the climate particularly difficult to bear for the population who is more used to dry heat. Rainfall varies from a region to another and its distribution is very erratic and levels fall sharply as one moves northwards. For example :

850mm  of rain fall in Gaya  in  80 days
600 - 650mm  of rain fall in	Niamey in 65 days
55O - 600mm "	"		Zinder "  50  "
250 - 300mm "	"		N'Guigmi " 30  "
150 - 200mm "	"		Agadez  " 30  "
20 -  25mm 	"	"		Bilma   "  3  "


The vegetation of Niger is Sahelo-Saharan, varying with the nature of the soil and is determined by the climate

The Saharan zone, covering some 60% of the country, has very little vegetation and plant life is completely absent from the Tenere.

In the AIR KORIS and in the Oasis, date palms, doums and a few cereal grow. In Bilma, where springs abound, there are few other species of trees, such as eucalyptus, flamboyants and some fruit trees. The high summits of the northern fringe of the AIR still display a few surviving examples of an ancient Mediterranean flora, such as Laperrine olive and cypresses.

The Sahelina band is mainly covered with thorns, momiseae, acacia, graminaceae, doum and scattered pastures of grass, rich providing grazing for both nomad and settled herders. Vegetation becomes denser towards Niamey and further south, in the country's small Sudanian zone. Here are to be found many beautiful trees: gao, baobab, silk cotton, tamarind, mahogany and Karite.


Niger, standing at the crossroads between Arabo-Berber Africa and SudanoSahelian Africa is a crucible where people of very different origins have lit-ed together for thousands of years. But although each of these people maintains its own individuality, particularly noticeable in their life-styles, their physical feature, their customs, dress, language and mentality, today they are welded into a few quite distinct major groups.each with an internal homogeneity. A first major distinction nay be drawn between the black populations who are the main settled farmers and the white populations who are principally nomadic.

The settled populations are divided into several groups: in the west the Songhai and Zarma, Hausa in the center and Kanuri in the east.

Nomad populations live mainly in the northern part of the country and comprise :
-The Tuareg (8%), to be found within a long strip of land running from the Mali frontier in the West to Goure in the East.
-The Fulani (8.5%),who, together with their herds, are concentrated in the Dosso-Agadez- Maine-Soroa triangle. Some have also settled in the West, around Tera, Say and Niamey. They predominate in certain parts of Maradi, Tessaoua, Mirriah and Magaria Districts. Sometimes they live alongside Tuaregs and Toubous.


The Tuaregs, in spite of their remarkable cultural and linguistic unity (they have a writing called TIFINAR and their language, TAMAJAQ is related to Berber), are in fact split into several tribes in Niger, the main ones being the Kel-Air, living mostly in the Air; the Kel-Gress, today concentrated in the Madaoua and Konni region; the Iwilli-Minden, who live in the AZAWAK region; and the Immouzourak with Tanout as their stronghold.

In historical times, the Tuaregs were fearsome warriors, living mainly from raiding. Their social organization is based on classes: the bords, the marabouts (muslim priest) and the artisans. Matriarchy is the rule. Women are usually literate, play musical instruments; they value corpulence, and jewelry is an important feature of their attire. Women play an important role in social life, being held in much esteem and are consulted in many important issues. Marriages are monogamous, but divorce exists. The traditional shelter is the tent. Clothes are flowing and a veil or cloth is usually worn over the face by adults. The main diet is composed of milk, dates and millet.

The Tuaregs, The usually live side by side with Bouzous and Bella, usually raise camels and goats in the Saharan zone and sheep and cattle in the Sahel. Traditionally,they cover considerable distances with their herds but unfortunately the drought of recent years and the consequent reduction of grazing Land, coupled with the development of mining in the Agadez region is slowly but surely inducing the Tuaregs to lead a settled life. Many or them engage in market gardening in theoasis and seek temporary employment in the mining areas.


They form the second largest nomadic group in Niger. Like the Tuaregs, they also have long-standing custom- and traditions which they keep very much alive. But in spite of their great. concern to maintain their specific social structure, they have often come under the influence of neighboring populations so much that the Fulani in one area may differ slighty from those of another, depending on where and with whom they live. Ethnic unity, however, is never destroyed.

Within this major category, there are the Bororodjis, more usually referred to as Bororo fulani living in Dakoro-Tanout region, who are all nomadic herders spending the entire year seeking good grazing. They practice the cult of beauty and pay great attention to bodily care, expending a considerable effort on enhancing the attractiveness of the r faces,adding sparkle to eyes and teeth.

They have an amazing taste for decoration, though it is mainly the men who spend most of their time in such pursuits. Clothing, on the contrary, is relatively scanty , though here again the taste for decoration is apparent in the amount of jewelry worn earrings, intricate hairstyle interwoven with coins, bead necklaces and multicolored charms.


Faithful to their ancestral paganism, the BOROROS, whose deep attachment to their herds seem to have links with ancient eastern cults, have been only very superficially marked by Islam and usually only accept conversion once they have passed the age of 40. They therefore have their only particular conception of certain social institutions, such as marriage. The young Bororo must first of all seduce his "fiancee" and then arrange to kidnap her from her family. The couple then embarks on a journey which takes them all over the region and sometimes beyond the country's frontiers. They will decide o settle once the "wife" has become a mother and -hen she feels that she has traveled enough and is tired of this bohemian existence.

Every year the B0ROROS organize a traditional and colorful festival known as the "Guerewol". This is the occasion for many celebrations, engagements kidnappings of wives and baptisms.


Leaving the North of the country to the nomads, the settled populations occupy the southern strip between the frontier with Nigeria and the 300mm isohyet, in the zone where agriculture is possible.

The Songhal and the Zarma (22%) are usually considered to form one single people, but their history has not 2l was followed the same path. They live in the West of the country.

The Songhal are the main fishermen and canoers, living along the banks of the river. They have a prestigious past. Their illustrious emperors, such as Soni Ali- Ber, Askia Mohamed Toure and Askia Daoud made a glorious and unforgettable contribution to the pages of Africa's history.

The Zarma are said to have originated in Macina and Egypt and are now mainly concentrated in Zarmaganda. They adopted the language of the Songhal and then moved southwards in the search of Fertile land. Today they form the majority of the population of Niamey and its surroundings, and of Boboye and Dosso. They are also very numerous in the Districts of Filingue, Tillabery Say and Gaya.

Great warriors in the precolonial era, the Songhai and the Zarma are today mainly farmers practice agriculture and raise animals on small scale. One feature of their civilization is the tolerant nature of their islamic conversion; certain animist practices going back to a very ancient ancestor worship are still maintained. Traditional housing is the round house, often made entirely with straw.


The Hausa (56%) live in central Niger, between Dongondoutchi and Zinder. The) are probably the descendants of Saharan populations who were driven southwards by the Tuaregs. Today they are the major ethnic group, forming over half the population of Niger. One cannot speak of a truly homogeneous ethnic group. The only common bond is the language: Hausa, often written in arabic characters.

Hausas enjoy a considerable reputation as farmers (growing millet and groundnuts) and as leather and textile craftsmen. Many of them are traders. In Niger, the HAUSAS are divided into a number of groups:the Kourfeyaoua or Soudje, who live in the Filingue District. They are said to have originated in the Maine-Soroa region and lived for a period in the Adar Tahoua. They not only speak Hausa but nearly all of them also speak Zarma.

-The Maouri, who live in the Arewa region, between Filingue, Dosso, Adar Tahoua and Konni. This is a very fertile area, and the Maouri are well-known for their hard, working spirit.

- The Adaraoua, as their name indicates, live in the Adar.

In addition there are the Gobiraoua (from Gobir) the Katinaoua (Maradi, Tessaoua) the Damagaraoua (from Damagaram or Zinder) and several other groups, almost all of whom have taken the name of the region they inhabit.


The KANOURI (4.3%) live in the eastern part of Niger (between Zinder and Lake Chad). The Hausa, alongside with whom they frequently live, often call them the "Beriberi". The origins of the KANOURI are quite mixed, the group being forged from an amalgam of several other groups. Among them are to be found the Manga, Mobeurs, Kanembous, Boudouma, Dagara and their respective sub-groups. The Kanouri are expert salt processors, and some of them are highly successful fisherman and herders.

In historical times, Niger shared the destiny of several great African Empires and kingdoms which, in the past, extended far beyond the country's present frontiers.

First there was the Songhai Empire, born in the Niger River region and expanding outwards towards the present Niger-Malian frontier. The town Gao, which has been mentioned in Arab chronicles since the 8th century as a center of trade between the kingdom of Ghana and Egypt, was the famous capital of this Empire. It reached the highest point of its glory between the 15th and 16th centuries, under Sonni Ali Ber, who extended the frontiers as far as Oualata, and then under Askia Mohamed who perfected its remarkable military and administrative organization.


THE KANEM-BORNOU Empire,one of the largest in Africa at the end of the 16th century, thanks to the leadership of Idriss Alaoma, included Kanem, extended as far as Kaouar and the Air and eastwards as far as Ouaddai (in Chad). After resisting Songhai's ambitions in the 14th century and later in the 19th century,repulsing the attacks of the Fulani settled in the north present-day Nigeria, it finally fell in 183, after a ten century existence, under the onslaught of Rabah who dreamed of carving himself a Kingdom between Sudan (West Africa) and Chad.

There were also a number of smaller Haousa Kingdoms between the Songhai and the Bornou, each independent of the others, and each forming a prosperous center of trade and learning. From the 13th century onwards, they were receptive to Islam and adopted Arabic writing. In spite of internal quarrels, they all were able to resist attacks by the Songhai and Bornou, despite the latter's better military organization. They were finally unified and islamised in the 19th century by the Fulani, led by Ousmane Dan Fodio.

These Empires have now disappeared because of the colonization of African continent prepared as far as Niger is concerned by the exploration of West Africa.

Principal explorers were:

Mungo Park, British from 1805 to 1819 Heinrich Barth, German from 1850 to 1855 Nachtigal, German in 1870 Lt. Col. Monteil, French from 1891 to 1892

The conquest of Niger was done by soldiers rather than by civilians, which resulted in French presence in large tracts of commercially useless land, whereas Britain, whose military expeditions in West Africa were largely dedicated by trade considerations, obtained much smaller but commercially more valuable areas.

There was resistance from ethnic groups to this conquest, specially in the north where the revolt of the Tuaregs took place in the Air from 1916 until 1919. All the resistance movements were defeated by the arms superiority of the invaders. In 1900, Niger was turned into a military territory and then became a French colony in 1922. Its first capitol was Zinder (Capital of the Damagaroun region). But in 1927, the Colonial Administration decided to transfer its headquarters to Niamey.

Niger colonial history and development paralleled that of other French West African territories. French West Africa was administrated from Paris through a Governor General in Dakar (Senegal) and Governors in the individual territories of which Niger was one. The French Constitution of 1946, in addition to conferring citizenship on the inhabitants of the territories, provided for a certain decentralization of pcwer and limited participation in political life to local advisory assemblies.

A further revision in the organization of overseas territories began with the passage of the Overseas Reform Act (loi cadre) of July 23rd 1956, which was followed by reorganisational measures voted by the French parliament early in 1957.

In addition to removing remaining voting equalities, these laws provided for the creation of governmental organs assuring a large number of selfgovernment to individual territories.

On December 4th, 1958, after the establishment of the 5th French Republic, Niger became an autonomous Republic within the French community (similar to British Commonwealth). Niger because an independent Republic in August 3rd 1960. According to a Constitution adopted on November 8th, 1960 the Republic had a President and National Assembly elected for five years.

That Constitution was suspended by the Military Government headed by Lt. Col. Seyni Kountche who took power on April 15th, 1974 in a coup against Diori Hamani, President since 1960.

President Seyni Koutche died on November 10th, 1987 at la PitieSalpetriere Hospital in Paris, where he had been admitted for brain tumor treatment.

Colonel Ali Saibou who was previously Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces was elected to run the country.

After a National Conference (July 1991 - October 1 991 ) a new Constitution was drafted which led to a multiparty elections and the election of a New President, H.E. Mahamane Ousmane.


Breaking away from the colonial division of the territory into circles and subdivisions, Niger is today divided into 7 Departments, each administrated by a Prefect. Each Deparent is subdivided into districts, headed by a sub-Prefect, and each district has one or more Administrative Posts. It was also decided to set up 150 communes. Niamey, Maradi, Tahoua, Zinder now enjoy the status of cities and each has a Major appointed by a decree issued by the Head of State. The Mayors of the cities cane under the aegis of the Prefects, while Mayors of Canes are under the authority of the Sub-Prefects. Municipal elections in the coming months.


A particular harsh climate and inhospitable GEOGRAPHICAL features, a completely land-locked situation, such are, broadly speaking, the underlying economic realities of the Republic of Niger. The country's economy is still largely at the mercy of the vagaries of the climate, being based principally on agriculture and livestock raisins. In the past few years, however, a considerable effort of industrialization has been made, initiated and maintained by he development of mining.


The main purpose of agricultural policy in Niger is to achieve food self-sufficiency independently of climate hazards and through the following conditions:

-Dry-cropping in rural areas must be encouraged through various projects;

-Hydro-Agricultural projects, the use of depressions and Water-points must be speeded up to bring more irrigable land under cultivation;

- The "land Capital" must be more nationally exploited.

-Soils must be improved by the introduction of phosphates, nitrogen based fertilizers and manure.

- Traditional farming techniques must be replaced.

The following means are being employed to achieve these aims:

1) Rural productivity projects to grow rain-fed crops on dune lands. These projects aim to increase the production of cereals (millet sorghum), as well as cash crops such as ,groundnuts and cotton, through a better use of regional potential. Each Department has its productivity project: Niamey (cereals, rice); Zinder (groundnuts, millet); Dosso (cereals, black-eye-beans, groundnuts and cotton); Maradi (cereals, groundnuts).

2) Hydro-Agricultural projects ( in the River Valley, depressions, basins, etc.).

3) Agriculture extension services and use of fertilizers.

4) The training and sending out into the field of an adequate number of competent agricultural technicians.

The main food crops are:
Sugar cane


This continues to be one of the principal activities of the country,in spite of enormous losses sustained as a result of the drought. Stock is raised on an extensive scale, the herds being constantly on the move in the Saharan and north Sahelian zones. But in the agricultural Sahelian zone, stockraising is a sedentarized activity.

The main livestock are:


The mining sector is currently the major source of growth in income. NIGER'S uranium resources are the base for this growth. A processing plant at the Arlit uranium mine began production in 1971, with 410 tons of metal; output is now 3,000 t/year.

The mining Company, Societe des Mines de l'Air (SOMAIR), is under French control. The majority interest is with the French Government's Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique and French private bodies with the Niger Government holding a 33% share.

Production at the country's second uranium mine, at Akouta, was began in late 1978 by a consortium, the " Compagnie Miniere d'Akouta" (OOMINAK), of the Government, the "Compagnie Generale des Matieres nucleaires"(COGEMA) in France, the Japanese Overseas Uranium Resources Development and the Spanish Empresa Nacional del Uranio (ENUSA).

The fall in uranium prices in 180 and 1981, owing to the world recession and cuts in nuclear power programs, resulted in fall in production.

Other mineral resources include:
-Cassiterie (tin)
-Nickel, Cobalt and Chrome
-Titanium and Vanadium


Tourism is not yet a highly developed industry in Niger, but this is in no way due to a lack of interesting sites or the desire of the authorities to promote this sector. Niger at the crossroads between the Maghred and Black Africa, is also a melting pot of races and ethnic groups. Its landscapes provide the traveler with constant visual surprises; magnificent wooded plains, beautiful fertile valleys, contrasting dramatically with the Sahelian steppeland and the endless vistas of the Sahara with its amazing chains of towering sand dunes. The grandiose Air Massif and its many escarpments overlooking the desert, offers yet another striking landscape.

One of the most impressing features of the country is the quality of the light and the hospitality of its friendly inhabitants. In Niger every guest is a King.

There is a number of tourist circuits to choose from, depending on the tastes and amount of time available to the tourist,all of them equally interesting and attractive. But the visitor is well advised to tour by road if he really wants to appreciate the changing beauties of the country

NIAMEY, the capital, offers a highly colorful market selling everything from cabbages to camel harness, an extremely original and famed national museum and Zoo visited not only by Tourists but by citizens of Niamey and people who have come in from countryside.

There are several pavilions displaying craftwork and items of historical interest from different parts of the country, examples of typical housing and artisans workshops, where skilled craftsmen make jewelry , leathergoods, wood carvings and very beautiful pottery.

A trip by motorised or traditional dug-out canoe up the Niger River from Niamey will give always the opportunity to see the hippopotami, while in the approaches of Tillabery, graceful giraffes may provide prize shots for photography enthusiasts. Further on again is Ayerou, with its islands and their Woggo Villages, its colorful market, its veiled and turbanned nomads.

The "W' National Park is the paradise of local fauna such as crocodiles, hippopotami, antelopes, even lions, elephants and countless birds.

Agadez, the ancient caravan center, is the meeting point of all the TUAREGS tubes. this city has preserved the prestige and originality coffered on it by its illustrious history. Its famous 16th century mosque, is one of the centers of islamic pilgrimage. Close by it is the market where Tuaregs and Hausa merchants offer engraved silver jewelry, camel-hair blankets, leather bags, blocks of salt, and completely authentic Agadez and Iferouane crosses. A few kilometers outside the town is the well-known Tafadek thermal spring, where people suffering from various complaints come from other parts of Africa to seek the benefits of its warm waters.