16,899,327 (July 2013 est.)
Arid to semiarid
514.1 XOF = 1 USD (2012 est.)
Maradi, Zinder, Agadez
Muslim 80%, African religion 15%, Christian 5%
Hausa, Zarma, Kanuri, Fulde, Tamacheq
French, Hausa, Djerma
Head Of State
Issoufou Mahamadou Issoufou (since 2011)
Type of Government
Date of Independence
August 3, 1960
Uranium, Livestock Products, Cowpeas, Onions
Once less arid than it is today, the Sahara region of northern Niger was inhabited by humans about 600,000 years ago. The area became a crossroads for north African trade caravans and Muslim missionaries. Various empires and ethnic groups claimed territories and founded states, particularly the Hausa peoples, who are the largest ethnic group in West Africa today. The Fulani of Sokoto established a Muslim empire and encroached upon Hausa territory in the late 18th century, taking control of the region. European explorers, namely Mungo Park of Scotland and Heinrich Barth of Germany, began arriving in the early 1800s, seeking the source of the Niger River. French military explorers reached Niger in the 1890s. France gradually began conquering the area and suppressing revolts by indigenous groups, although the nomadic Tuareg peoples staged a fierce resistance. Niger became a colony in French West Africa in 1922 and was granted the status of an overseas territory in 1946.
France agreed to Niger’s full independence in 1960. Hamani Diori became the first president of the new republic under a single party, the Parti Progressiste Nigérien (PPN). Accusations of corruption culminated in a 1974 military coup in which Diori was arrested and Lieutenant Colonel Seyni Kountché came to power. He served as military head of state until his death in 1987, and was succeeded by Brigadier General Ali Saibou. Saibou acquiesced to demands for a democratic system with multiple political parties in 1990. Mahamane Ousamane of the Convention Démocratique et Sociale (CDS) was elected Niger’s first Hausa president in 1993. After a series of coups d’état, Mamadou Tandja of the Mouvement National de la Societé de Développement (MNSD) became president in a democratic election in 1999. Tandja attempted to extend his authority beyond his two-term limit, and was deposed by rebel soldiers in 2010. After one year of military rule, elections were held and Tandja’s rival, socialist Mahamadou Issoufou of the Parti Nigerien pour la Democratie et le Socialisme-Tarayya (PNDS), became president of Niger in 2011.
African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, “Niger Page” (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Country_Specific/Niger.html).
Pierre Englebert and Katherine Murison, “Niger: Recent History,” Africa South of the Sahara (London: Routledge, 2007).