Country Profile

Niger

Crossroads' Work in Niger

Niger is rated as the world’s poorest country. The majority of the population, approximately 80 per cent, relies on farming for livelihood. The situation for women is even more difficult. Typically, women have little access to productive resources and bear enormous family responsibilities. Crossroads International’s work with local partners in Niger focuses on increasing food security by increasing women’s access to productive resources and supporting small-scale farmers through access to training and the creation of social enterprises as well as other revenue-generating activities.

There is a great deal of rural migration of young workers towards coastal countries where AIDS is prevalent. We educate workers about how to take care of themselves.

- Boureїma Garba (ONPHDB)

Facts

Full Name: The Republic of Niger

Population: 16.6 million (UN, 2013)

Capital: Niamey

Area: 1.27 million sq km (489,000 sq miles)

Major languages: French (official), Arabic, Hausa, Songhai

Major religions: Islam, indigenous beliefs

Life Expectancy: 55.1 years (UN)

Monetary Unit: 1 CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) franc = 100 centimes

Main Exports: Uranium, livestock products

GNI per capita: US $360 (World Bank, 2013)

Politics

From independence in 1960 through 1999, Niger endured a series of one-party and military governments. A coup in 1999 led to constitutional reform and elections that were viewed by international observers to be generally free and fair.

In the 1999 election, voters overwhelmingly approved the new constitution providing for presidential and legislative multi-party elections.

Niger's new constitution restores the semi-presidential system of government of the December 1992 constitution. The president is elected for a five-year term. The president names a prime minister and they share executive power.

In 2003, Niger officially banned the centuries-old practice of slavery. However, anti-slavery organizations say thousands of people still live in slavery in Niger.

In 2007, after a break of a decade, Niger again experienced an insurgency by Tuareg rebels in the north of the country. Clashes between the Tuareg, whose nomadic roots lie in the Saharan north, and the predominately agricultural cultures of the south have been an ongoing part of Niger’s history. However, the impact of expanded uranium mining and exploration in the north of the country has played a major role in the current conflict.

Two years later president Mamadou Tandja, a former army officer who had been in power since 1999, won a referendum overturning a constitutional provision banning him from standing for a third term. In reaction to Tandja's authoritarian rule, the militray junta organized a coup on February 18th, 2010 to oust Tandja and install an interim governement led by a civilian prime minister, Mahamadou Danda. The junta, which named itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy, promised to return Niger to democracy.

Economics

Niger's largely agrarian economy is often affected by long-term drought. Much of Niger is arid or semi-arid. Two-thirds of the country is covered by the Sahara Desert.

Niger's economy is primarily agricultural including subsistence farming, herding, small trading, and informal markets. Rain-fed agriculture accounted for about 46 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 2006. The agricultural sector includes trade in groundnuts, fisheries, livestock and services.

Mining is Niger's largest foreign currency earner—specifically uranium. Exploration by transnational mining companies, including Canadian-based ones, will likely result in an increasing amount of uranium being removed from the ground. As is the case in other parts of the world, including Canada, the mining of uranium in Niger raises issues of worker and community health, destruction of arable land, environmental contamination, waste management and nuclear proliferation.

Child labour in Niger is widespread. UNICEF estimates that 67 per cent of children between five and 14 are engaged in some form of labour. The International Labour Organization reported that up to 250,000 children worked in small-scale mines and quarries and the French national broadcaster RFI reported that children were being sold in markets in certain parts of the country.

Poverty

Niger is rated as the world's poorest country by the United Nations. On the 2009 UN Human Development Index, Niger ranks 182 out of 182 countries.

Approximately 85 per cent of the population earns less than two dollars (US) per day. It’s estimated that 61 per cent of Niger’s population lives on less than a dollar a day.

Niger has some of the lowest school enrolment rates in West Africa, particularly for girls. According to statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 46 per cent of boys and 32 per cent of girls are in primary school.

The literacy rate for the population as a whole (for people above the age of 15) is 28 percent. About 15 per cent of women over the age of 15 can read and write.

The health situation in Niger is precarious. Life expectancy at birth is 50 years for men and 52 years for women.

According to the UNDP, there are three doctors per 100,000 people in Niger and a trained midwife tends to only 16 per cent of the 600,000 people born every year.

Every two hours in Niger, a woman dies during her pregnancy or while delivering a baby. Health officials and experts say these are symptoms of under-resourced health services, neglected transport and education infrastructure, and a lack of awareness among women of their rights.

Fifty-four per cent of people in Niger lack access to an improved clean water source.

Women’s Rights

Despite the Constitution's provisions for women's rights, the traditional belief in women’s subordinate role to men is deeply rooted.

Girls are often promised into marriage at a young age, particularly in rural areas. By the age of 10, some are already sent to live with their husband’s family.

Domestic violence against women is widespread in Niger. Female Genital Mutilation is practiced by several ethnic groups in the country.

Despite constituting 47 per cent of the work force, women have made only modest inroads in civil service and professional employment and remain underrepresented in these areas.

 

Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: