Europe

Niger Economy and History

(République du Niger). State of north-central Africa (1,267,000 km²). Capital: Niamey. Administrative division: departments (8). Population: 14,296,816 (2008 estimate). Language: French (official), djerma, hausa, local languages, kanuri, poular, tamachek. Religion: Sunni Muslims 88.7%, animists / traditional beliefs 11%, others 0.3%. Monetary unit: CFA franc (100 cents). Human Development Index: 0.370 (174th place). Borders: Algeria and Libya (N), Chad (E), Benin and Nigeria (S), Burkina Faso (SW), Mali (W). Member of: CEDEAO, OCI, UN, AU and WTO, EU associate.

ECONOMY: TRADE AND COMMUNICATIONS

According to itypeusa, internal trade still takes place largely in a traditional way, between nomads or semi-nomads and sedentaries; however, it is very limited. As for foreign trade, Niger exports mainly uranium and for the rest animals, livestock products (meat, leather and skins), peanuts and its derivatives, while it mainly imports machinery, vehicles, petroleum products, fabrics; the trade balance generally has fairly small liabilities. The exchange still takes place with the United States, France and Nigeria. § The communication routes are inadequate: there are no railways and the roads developed for 18,400 km in 2005. The two major road arteries plow the country from N to S, connecting it with almost all the surrounding states. The Niger River is navigable for approx. 300 km; the city of Gaya, located on the Niger near the border with Benin and Nigeria, is the largest river port in the country; in 1973 the Gaya- Port Harcourt waterway was opened, an active port of Nigeria on the Gulf of Guinea, thus giving Niger direct access to the sea. The main airport is the international airport of the capital.

HISTORY: FROM THE ORIGINS TO THE FRENCH COLONIZATION

The geographical area corresponding to present-day Niger has revealed numerous vestiges of human settlement from the Neolithic period, while few are those from the Paleolithic era. Already at the time of Carthage and Rome, the territory was connected to North Africa by caravan routes. In the sec. XIII and XIV the western regions of Niger fell under the influence of the empire of Mali and, subsequently, of that Songhai, whose emperor Askiya the Great (Muḥammad I) took possession of Agadèz in 1515. After the Moroccan conquest of Songhai (1591), various autonomous Songhai kingdoms of little significance were formed in the area between Niamey and Agadèz. Also in the western area other kingdoms emerged which had interesting developments, such as those of Dendi and Djerma (16th-18th centuries); they had considerable weight then, starting from the sec. XVIII and XIX, Fulbe emigration and Tuaregh pressure. The western part of present-day Niger was instead deeply influenced by the kingdom of Kanem first (XIII-XIV century) and then of Bornu. At the beginning of 1800, a new dynasty was established in these regions by the marabout Cheirh Lamine, later overwhelmed by the attack of the adventurer Rabah that tyrannized the country until the decisive clash with the French forces that defeated and killed it in 1900. The territory of Niger, already described by Arab travelers such as Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, Ibn Khaldūn and Leone the African (XIV-XVI century), it began to be explored by Europeans only at the end of the century. XVIII with Mungo Park. They followed in the century. XIX the explorations of Denham, Clapperton, Barth, Nachtigal, Monteil, etc. France and England – that after the Berlin Conference (1885) disputed the control of sub-Saharan Africa – they defined the respective zones of influence in Niger between 1890 and 1899, while the borders with Libya were delimited with Italy in 1935. Initially organized in three territories or military zones (1899-1900), Niger was gradually pacified and then administratively reorganized in 1911 to become a colony in the context of the French West African Federation in 1922. Transformed in 1946 into the Overseas Territory of the French Union, it was able to take advantage of the reforms introduced by the Loi-cadre (1956) and then opt, with the referendum of 1958, to enter the French Community as an autonomous Republic.

HISTORY: A DIFFICULT INDEPENDENCE

Under the leadership of Hamani Diori, who eliminated the opposition Sawaba party, Niger gained full independence in 1960 and gave itself a new constitution, becoming a presidential republic, in which H. Diori was both head of state, chief of the government and head of the single party (Parti Progressiste Nigérien). In 1974 a coup d’état, carried out by Colonel Seyni Kountché, overthrew Diori, suspended the Constitution and suppressed the party. The government of the country was entrusted to a military council, chaired by Kountché who assumed the positions of head of state and government. Under his leadership, Niger embarked on a path of greater dynamism and autonomy both internally and internationally, establishing relations with the People’s Republic of China and, on the other hand, taking a certain distance from Paris. Only in 1986, with the approval by popular referendum of a draft national charter, did the regime begin the democratization of the country’s political life. When Kountché died in November 1987, he was succeeded at the head of the state by Colonel Alì Saibou who in 1988 initiated a reform of the institutions, reiterating however the intention of the armed forces not to want to give up the total management of power and by setting up a single party for this purpose, the National Movement for a Development Society (MNSD). In September 1989 a new constitution was adopted and Saibou was confirmed as president of the republic. In 1990, following the pressure of the trade unions and the growing popular protest, the introduction of multi-partyism was announced and the army showed itself willing to give up its political and institutional functions. The necessary transition period, aimed at ensuring the transition to the new phase, was opened by the convocation of a National Assembly (November 1991) which confirmed the old head of state, General Saibou, in his office, albeit reduced to a purely honorary, while André Salifou assumed the presidency of a High Council of the Republic with legislative tasks. Amadou Cheiffou was called to lead the government.

Niger Economy and History