Niger, or Republic of Niger, a country in north-central Africa. It is a landlocked nation bordered by Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali. Niger's area is about 489,200 square miles (1,267,000 km 2)—more than three times that of California.

Facts in brief about Niger
Capital: Niamey.
Official language: French.
Area: 489,191 mi2 (1,267,000 km2). Greatest distances east-west, 1,100 mi (1,770 km); north-south, 825 mi (1,328 km).
Elevation:Highest Mt. Greboun, 6,378 ft (1,944 m) above sea level.
Population:Current estimate 15,367,000; density, 31 per mi2 (12 per km2); distribution, 79 percent rural, 21 percent urban. 2001 census 10,790,352.
Chief products:Agriculture beans, cassava, cotton, hides and skins, livestock, millet, peanuts, peas, rice, sorghum. Mining uranium, natron, phosphate, salt, tin, tungsten.
Flag: Niger's flag has three horizontal stripes orange, white, and green (top to bottom). An orange circle appears on the white stripe.
Money:Basic unit CFA franc. CFA stands for Communauté Financière Africaine (African Financial Community).
Physical Geography
NigerNiger is an inland country in west Africa.

Northern and central Niger lie in the Sahara, the vast desert spanning most of northern Africa. Southern Niger is part of the Sahel, a semiarid fringe of the Sahara; most of the people live in this area. Land-forms consist mainly of plains and highlands. The chief highland areas are in the north and include the Ar massif, which rises as much as 6,234 feet (1,900 m) above sea level, and the Djado Plateau. Between them stretches the great expanse of sand known as the Tnr.

The only river is the Niger, which crosses the southwest; the only lake is Lake Chad, in the southeast, which is shared with Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria.

Throughout most of northern and central Niger vegetation is scant or nonexistent. Steppes and open savannas with scattered acacia, palm, and baobab trees prevail in the south.

The climate is tropical and hot, with temperatures often exceeding 100 F. (38 C.). Rainfall is irregular and comes mainly during the summer. Annual amounts decrease from roughly 20 inches (510 mm) in the south to virtually none in the far north. Devastating drought has occurred in the Sahel since the late 1960's, producing widespread famines.

Roads connect the cities and larger towns of the Sahel; several roads extend northward into the Sahara, to Agadez and uranium mines. Most roads are rough and unpaved, made primarily of dirt and gravel. There are no railways. Internal transportation depends largely on air service. Niamey has the main international airport.

People

Niamey is the largest city. Most of the country's people are of black African ancestry. The Hausa, who make up half the population, are the largest black African group. Other large groups are the Songhai, Fulani, and Kanuri. In the north are nomadic Tuaregs (a Berber people). Islam is the religion of more than 85 per cent of the population.

French is the official language in government and education, but most persons in Niger speak indigenous tongues. Primary school begins at age seven and last six years. Secondary school lasts seven years. A university in Niamey was founded in 1971. Niger's literacy rate is about 30 per cent.

Economy

Niger's economy is based almost entirely on the raising of crops and livestock and on mining. Although only about 3 per cent of the land is farmed, agriculture supports roughly 85 per cent of the people. Nearly all the farmland is in the south, where subsistence agriculture prevails. Major crops include millet, sorghum, cassava, cowpeas, beans, and rice, for home and local consumption, and peanuts. Nomadic herding is the economic mainstay in central and northern Niger. Goats, sheep, and cattle are the most numerous animals; camels and donkeys are also raised. Many cattle and hides are exported to Nigeria.

Niger has large deposits of uranium, and uranium mining and exporting are important to the economy. In most years uranium exports provide the bulk of the nation's foreign exchange. Arlit, near the Ar massif, is the chief center of uranium mining.

Manufacturing is small-scale and is concentrated mainly in or near Niamey, the capital. Among the principal activities are the processing of peanut oil, flour, and sugar and the making of cotton textiles, soap, beer, and cement. Most manufactured goods are imported. France and Nigeria are Niger's chief trading partners.

Niger's basic currency unit is the CFA franc.

Government

Under the constitution of 1992, Niger is a republic. The president serves two-year terms and is elected by the people. A prime minister is appointed by the president. Members of the National Assembly create Niger's laws and are elected to five-year terms.