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Niger, officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked sub-Saharan 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 covers a land area of almost 1,266,700 sq. km, over 80 percent of which is covered by the Sahara desert. The country's predominantly Islamic population of just above 15 million is mostly clustered in the far south and west of the nation. The capital city is Niamey.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last on the United Nations Human Development Index of human development. Much of the non-desert portions of the country are threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence and some export agriculture clustered in the more fertile south, and the export of raw materials -- expecially uranium ore. Niger remains handicapped by its landlocked position, desert terrain, poor education and proverty of its people, lack of infrastructure, poor health care and environmental degradation.
Nigerien society reflects a great diversity drawn from the long independent histories of its several ethnic groups and regions and their relatively short period living in a single state. Historically, what is now Niger has been on the fringes of several large states. Since indepdenednce, Nigeriens have lived under five constitutions and three periods of military rule. A majority live in rural areas, and have little access to advanced education.
In 1960 Niger gain its independence from France. It 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 Western African Monetary Union. The country's official language is French.
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