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Quick Facts
CapitalNiamey
Governmentrepublic
CurrencyCommunaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States
Areatotal: 1.267 million sq km
water: 300 sq km
land: 1,266,700 sq km
Population10,639,744 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageFrench (official), Hausa , Djerma
ReligionMuslim 80%, remainder indigenous beliefs and Christian

Niger is a landlocked West African country with a population of 11,000,000. It is bordered by Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Chad and Libya. Niger is a former French colony which was granted independence in 1960. The land is mostly desert plains and dunes.

Cities

  • Niamey (pop 666,000) - capital and commercial center
  • Agadez - stop on the traditional cross-Sahara route to Algeria

Other destinations

  • W National Park

Understand

History

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.

Economy

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.

Get in

By plane

Two international airports: in Niamey and Niamey has regularly scheduled flights from Europe and West Africa.

  • Air France is the only carrier with direct flights from outside of Africa.
  • Charter flights from Paris and Marseille to Niamey and Casablanca.
  • Niamey to French, though very few people speak it outside Niamey, and even there do not expect a high level conversation with the traders at the markets. The local languages include Djerma (spoken mainly in Niamey), Hausa, Fulah and Tamashek (spoken by tuaregs up in north). English is of no use outside American cultural center and few big hotels of Niamey.

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    Stay safe

    Niger is one of the safest countries in West Africa. The only annoyances you are likely to meet are young boys shouting "America" (even if you weren't American) and "Osama bin Laden".

    In Niamey, walking across the only bridge over Niger river is considered risky even by the locals, and therefore should be avoided. Elsewhere you should feel safe, even after dark, no matter what US Department of State says. In markets there is small risk of pickpockets.

    Carrying a back pack and camera, looking like a tourist and especially being a white will definitely draw some unwanted attention. Most of the attention is by people who try to get your money legally, either by selling you tooth brush or by begging, but there is always few less honest people. Don't let this scare you, as there's dishonest people even in your home town.

    In Sahara, North of Agadez, there has been several incidents of car-jackings and robberies in the past years, caused by travelling bandits. The problem has mostly disappeared as the tuareg rebellion is becoming history.

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