|Facts & Figures|
President: Mahamadou Issoufou (2011)
Prime Minister: Brigi Rafini (2011)
Land area: 489,072 sq mi (1,266,699 sq km); total area: 489,189 sq mi (1,267,000 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 17,466,172 (growth rate: 3.28%); birth rate: 46.12/1000; infant mortality rate: 86.27/1000; life expectancy: 54.74
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Niamey, 1.297 million
Other large cities: Zinder, 202,300; Maradi, 189,000
Monetary unit: CFA Franc
Niger, in West Africa's Sahara region, is four-fifths the size of Alaska. It is surrounded by Mali, Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso. The Niger River in the southwest flows through the country's only fertile area. Elsewhere the land is semiarid.
Republic, emerging from military rule.
The nomadic Tuaregs were the first inhabitants in the Sahara region. The Hausa (14th century), Zerma (17th century), Gobir (18th century), and Fulani (19th century) also established themselves in the region now called Niger.
Niger was incorporated into French West Africa in 1896. There were frequent rebellions, but when order was restored in 1922, the French made the area a colony. In 1958, the voters approved the French constitution and voted to make the territory an autonomous republic within the French Community. The republic adopted a constitution in 1959 but the next year withdrew from the Community, proclaiming its independence.
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