Thinking Citizen Blog — Niger — What should every thinking citizen know?

Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’ s Topic: Niger — what should every thinking citizen know?

Niger, a landlocked West African whose land is 80% desert, is one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2018 and 2019 it was ranked 189th out of 189 using the UN Human Development Index. With a fertility rate of 7.1 child per woman, the population has expanded from 3.4 million in 1960 to 22 MM today. The infant mortality rate is the highest in the world and the literacy rate among the lowest at 28.7% (42.9% for men, 15.1% for women). A multi-party democracy since 2010, Niger has had five constitutions and three periods of military rule since independence from France in 1960. Under President Obama, the US deployed troops to the region to assist the Nigerien government (and the French troops already there) to fight ISIL and Boko Haram terrorists. Trump’s recent decision to withdraw troops has been controversial. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. The largest country in West Africa, Niger borders on 9 nations: Nigeria, Chad, Libya. Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Benin.

2. The population of 22 MM in concentrated in the south and west. The largest four ethnic groups are the Hausa (55%), the Zarma-Songhai (21%), and Tuareg (9.3%) and Fula (8.5%). Religion: 99% Muslim (though legally a secular state).

3. Economy: subsistence agriculture, animal husbandry, uranium ore (72% of exports). Nominal GDP per capita: $510 versus $4229 (Algeria). $2465 (Nigeria), $891 (Mali), $890 (Chad), Burkina Faso ($792).

HISTORY — Trans-Saharan Trade, French Colonial Rule, Independence

1. For a thousand years before French colonial rule, the land that is now Niger was on the fringes of several empires that thrived on trans-Saharan trade — the Songhai Empire (1000–1591), the Mali Empire (1200s-1400s), the Sultanate of Air (1400s-1906), among others.

2. French colonial rule lasted from the end of the 19th century until 1960. The first President of Niger was Hamani Diori who was head of a one-party state until he was deposed in a military coup in 1974.

3. Since independence, Niger has had five constitutions and three periods of military rule (1974–1991; 1996–1999; 2009–2010).


1. Mahamadou Isoufou (1951 -) has been president since 2011. Previously Prime Minister (1993–4), President of the National Assembly (1995–6), head of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), and opposition leader (1999–2010).

2. In 2012, the Nigerien government formally requested French military assistance to combat terrorism.

3. Under the Obama Administration, special forces were deployed to assist the counter-terrorism effort. Recently, Trump announced a reduction in US counter-terrorism forces in Africa. Is this capitulation to the terrorists? Or recognition that the war the French are fighting is, like Vietnam, “unwinnable.” (see last three links)


Economy of Niger

Operation Juniper Shield — Niger

Operation Serval

Cutting U.S. Military Support for France in West Africa Would Be a Mistake

Plan to Cut U.S. Troops in West Africa Draws Criticism From Europe

Crisis in the Sahel Becoming France’s Forever War


Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy. This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget.

Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to the depth of thought. The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, and art.