Niger is an independent, democratically governed republic that lies to the north of Nigeria. Much of the country lies within the Sahara Desert belt, and forms part of the landlocked West African Region. The capital city is Niamey.
The official language is French but a number of African languages are more widely spoken. The local currency is the CFA-franc. (US$ / CFA Franc – current exchange rate).
The international time zone for Niger is GMT and the international dialling code is +227. International airports at Niamey and Agades serve Air Afrique and Air France while regional airports are at Arlit, Diffa, Tahoua and Zinder. All visitors to Niger require visas except nationals of the European Union, Scandinavian countries, and most West and North African countries.
Medical services may require advance payment and can be expensive. Vaccinations may also be required prior to arrival in Niger and medical insurance should be arranged. The state of health, current immunisation status, location and the local disease situation create the risk of possible contraction of cholera, hepatitis A, malaria, meningitis, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, typhoid and yellow fever.
Niger’s economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture, herding and informal economic activities. Its dependence on agriculture makes the economy extremely vulnerable to external happenings and climate changes. In 2002, climatic conditions were favourable and the country recorded a bumper harvest for the second year in a row.
The country’s mining industry is dwindling, although still earns most of the foreign currency. Activities in this sector focus on uranium. The country does not have extensive natural resources and its GDP remains volatile and generally low. In 2002 GDP was US$2.2 billion, comprising 39.9% agriculture, 16.9% industry and 43.2% services. The national budget relies on supplementary income provided by debt relief and economic aid.
Authorities have implemented measures designed to widen the tax base and thereby strengthen public finances. Prudent economic policies have contributed to a more stable economy and the government continues to pursue a wide-ranging privatisation programme. In 2001 the country attracted US$13 million in foreign direct investment.