Niger officially the Republic of Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east.
Niger became independent from France in 1960 and experienced single-party and military rule until 1991, when Gen. Ali Saibou was forced by public pressure to allow multiparty elections, which resulted in a democratic government in 1993. Political infighting brought the government to a standstill and in 1996 led to a coup by Col. Ibrahim Bare. In 1999, Bare was killed in a counter coup by military officers who restored democratic rule and held elections that brought Mamadou Tandja to power in December of that year. Tandja was reelected in 2004 and in 2009 spearheaded a constitutional amendment that would allow him to extend his term as president. In February 2010, a military coup deposed Tandja, immediately suspended the constitution and dissolved the Cabinet. Issoufou Mahamadou emerged victorious from a crowded field in the election following the coup and was inaugurated in April 2011. Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world with minimal government services and insufficient funds to develop its resource base. The largely agrarian and subsistence-based economy is frequently disrupted by extended droughts common to the Sahel region of Africa. The Nigerien Movement for Justice, a predominately Tuareg ethnic group, emerged in February 2007, and attacked several military targets in Niger's northern region throughout 2007 and 2008. Successful government offensives in 2009 limited the rebels' operational capabilities.
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Niger is a landlocked, Sub-Saharan nation, whose economy centers on subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world's largest uranium deposits. Agriculture contributes about 40% of GDP and provides livelihood for about 80% of the population. Niger also has sizable reserves of oil, and oil production, refining, and exports are expected to grow significantly between 2011 and 2016. Drought, desertification, and strong population growth have undercut the economy. Niger shares a common currency, the CFA franc, and a common central bank, the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), with seven other members of the West African Monetary Union. In December 2000, Niger qualified for enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund program for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and concluded an agreement with the Fund on a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). Debt relief provided under the enhanced HIPC initiative significantly reduces Niger's annual debt service obligations, freeing funds for expenditures on basic health care, primary education, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural infrastructure, and other programs geared at poverty reduction. In December 2005, Niger received 100% multilateral debt relief from the IMF, which translated into the forgiveness of approximately US $86 million in debts to the IMF, excluding the remaining assistance under HIPC. The economy was hurt when the international community cut off non-humanitarian aid in response to Tandja's moves to extend his term as president. Nearly half of the government's budget is derived from foreign donor resources. Future growth may be sustained by exploitation of oil, gold, coal, and other mineral resources. The governmant has announced an expansionary budget for 2012 with anticipated revenue increases from uranium, oil production, and donor aid, and it has made efforts to secure a new three-year extended credit facility with the IMF following the one that completed in 2011. Food security remains a problem in the north of the country, exacerbated by the return of Libyan migrants.
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Published: Monday, September 08, 2008
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