|General background: Not until 1993, 35 years
after independence from France, did Niger hold its first
free and open elections. A 1995 peace accord ended a
five-year Tuareg insurgency in the north. Coups in 1996
and 1999 were followed by the creation of a National
Reconciliation Council that effected a transition to
civilian rule by December 1999.
Slightly less than twice the size of Texas.
Climate: Desert; mostly hot, dry, dusty; tropical
in extreme south.
desert plains and sand dunes; flat to rolling plains
in south; hills in north
Population: 10,639,744 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Hausa 56%, Djerma 22%, Fula
8.5%, Tuareg 8%, Beri Beri (Kanouri) 4.3%, Arab, Toubou,
and Gourmantche 1.2%, about 1,200 French expatriates
Religions: Muslim 80%, remainder indigenous
beliefs and Christian
Language: French (official), Hausa, Djerma
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on French civil law system
and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ
Economic overview: Niger is a poor, landlocked
Sub-Saharan nation, whose economy centers on subsistence
agriculture, animal husbandry, reexport trade, and
increasingly less on uranium, because of declining
world demand. The 50% devaluation of the West African
franc in January 1994 boosted exports of livestock,
cowpeas, onions, and the products of Niger's small
cotton industry. The government relies on bilateral
and multilateral aid - which was suspended following
the April 1999 coup d'etat - for operating expenses
and public investment. In 2000-01, the World Bank
approved a structural adjustment loan of $105 million
to help support fiscal reforms. However, reforms could
prove difficult given the government's bleak financial
situation. The IMF approved a $73 million poverty
reduction and growth facility for Niger in 2000 and
announced $115 million in debt relief under the Heavily
Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.
Communication/Telephone system: Small system
of wire, radio telephone communications, and microwave
radio relay links concentrated in the southwestern
area of Niger.
Places of interest: There's black volcanic
mountains towering over green oases, cascading waterfalls,
desert cities with wide tree-lined boulevards, and
the beauty of the desert.