A vast, arid state on the edge of the Sahara desert, Niger is rated by the UN as one of the world’s least-developed nations.
Niger fell victim to a series of coups and political instability following its independence from France in 1960.
Today the country struggles in the face of frequent droughts, insurgency and wide-spread poverty. Niger is betting on increased oil exploration and gold mining to help modernize its economy.
But basic rights issues, such as slavery – which was only banned in 2003 and still remains a problem – and a high rate of illiteracy and disease, remain stubborn challenges.
- The Republic of Niger
- Capital: Niamey
- Population 16.6 million
- Area 1.27 million sq km (489,000 sq miles)
- Major languages French (official), Hausa, Songhai, Arabic
- Major religions Islam, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy 55 years (men), 56 years (women)
- Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc