Niger's economic development has long been hampered by
the country's isolated location, its climate, with
desertification and recurring drought disasters, political
conflicts, the lack of skilled labor and the unilateral
dependence on a commodity, uranium. During most of the
1990s, the country has had fairly moderate economic growth.
Niger has a large unofficial sector with extensive
smuggling to Nigeria in particular. The country is highly
dependent on aid, and the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund have imposed structural adjustments on the
country. During the 00s, the large external debt was reduced
on two occasions through amortization.
Traditionally, house-based agriculture and nomadic or
semi-nomadic livestock farming dominate agriculture.
Agriculture is concentrated in the valley of the Niger River
and in the southern parts of the country, where the
precipitation is reasonably reliable. The most important
crops are millet, sorghum, cassava, beans, rice, onions,
legumes and peanuts. In addition to dry years, Niger is
self-sufficient in food, but at the expense of sales
products such as cotton and peanuts, whose production has
fallen sharply. Distribution problems sometimes lead to
local food shortages.
Livestock breeding is mainly done in the central and
northern Sahel areas and is second and foremost the
country's most important source of export revenue. The
recurring drought has resulted in very varied yields.
Comprehensive programs for irrigation, forestry and soil
conservation have been initiated with the help of foreign
Minerals and energy
COUNTRYAAH, Niger is relatively rich in uranium, tin, iron,
phosphate, plaster, salt, coal, gold and oil. So far,
however, only the uranium has been considered worth breaking
on a larger scale. However, since 2004, gold has also been
broken. Long distances and insufficient infrastructure make
the mining sector more difficult. Niger has some of the
world's largest uranium deposits, but they are inaccessible
and only a few of the known reserves are utilized. The
uranium is mainly mined by French companies where the
Nigerian state is part owner. Half of Niger's electricity
needs are covered by domestic coal production, while the
rest is imported. Firewood is still by far the most common
The industry is insignificant and is dominated by the
processing of agricultural products and import substitution.
Industry growth is hampered by a lack of energy and educated
labor, a limited domestic market and high transport costs.
Smuggling of consumer goods from Nigeria also limits Niger's
opportunities for industrial expansion.
Trade statistics are flawed and fluctuations in foreign
trade are considerable, but it has gone with an almost
permanent deficit. Since 1973, uranium has been the most
important export commodity. Gold, animals, hides and
vegetables are also exported. Imports mainly consist of
cereals, industrial goods, oil, machinery and means of
transport. The most important trading partners are France,
Malaysia and Thailand. Declining export income has led to
increased debt burden. Niger is heavily dependent on foreign
(mainly French) aid, but after the 1996 military coup,
France and other donors froze all aid.
Tourism and gastronomy
The tourism industry in Niger has great potential, but
the unrest in the region and the frequent kidnappings of
tourists mean that tourists are discouraged from visiting
the country. In 2011, over 80,000 people visited Niger.
The traveler who travels through central Sahara despite
the unrest in the region is likely to pass through Niger.
The eastern route leads through the mining town of Arlit and
Agadez to Zinder. Agadez is listed on UNESCO's World
Heritage List and known for its Tuareg jewelery and a
five-hundred-year-old mosque with a distinctive minaret.
Also famous is the nearby mountain area. In Zinder there is
the local sultan's palace to view.
However, most visitors arrive by plane to Niamey, a
sprawling city with a lot of greenery, interesting market
and, above all, a large museum area, where you can study
Nigerian - and the entire region's - wildlife and
traditional crafts, practiced in its natural surroundings in
buildings from the country's various ethnic groups. From
Niamey, visitors can make a short excursion north along the
Niger River on Western Sahara Road to Ayorou near the Mali
border, where you can see hippos, giraffes and various bird
species. Another excursion follows the river south towards W
du Niger, a national park that extends into neighboring
countries and named after Niger's three bends at its
northern end. There you can find most large animals (except
rhino and zebra).
As in all African countries, the base food in Niger
consists of a starchy porridge, usually cooked on manioc
flour for eba, or maize flour for ineoka.
This porridge dries out soups or is served for meat or
vegetable stews. Dates, raisins and artichokes are often
included in the food. Jollof, that is risotto with
vegetables or poultry meat, as well as soups with black-eyed
beans spiced with crumbled cheese is another everyday food.
Dried or smoked fish is not uncommon in the pots; however,
to 95 per cent, the diet is vegetable food.