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The Niger Portal


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Niger (/ˈnər/ or /nˈʒɛər/; French pronunciation: ​[niʒɛʁ]), officially named 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 covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km², over 80 percent of which is covered by the Sahara desert. The country's population of just above 15,000,000 is mostly clustered in the far south and west of the nation. The capital city is Niamey.

Niger is a developing country. 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—especially uranium ore. Niger remains handicapped by its landlocked position, poor education, infrastructure, health care, deserts, poverty 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 independence, Nigeriens have lived under five constitutions and three periods of military rule, but have maintained elected multiparty rule since 1999. The vast majority of the population practice Islam. A majority also live in rural areas, and have little access to advanced education.

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Aïr Mountains
Credit: Jacques Taberlet

The Aïr Mountains, Niger.

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Tifinagh (ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ in Neo-Tifinagh, Tifinaɣ in Berber Latin alphabet, Berber pronunciation: [tifinaɣ]) is an alphabetic script used by some Berber peoples, notably the Tuareg, to write their language. The Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. It is not in widespread use as a means of daily communication, but often serves to politically and symbolically assert a Berber identity. A slightly modified version of this Berber script, called Tifinagh Ircam is used in a very limited number of Algerian and Moroccan elementary schools in teaching the Berber language to children.

The word Tifinagh may be etymologically derived from tifi negh (our find/discovery), or from a cognate to the word Punic. Linguists and historians tend to be specific in distinguishing between the millennia-old Berber abjad, which is Tifinagh, and the Neo-Tifinagh alphabet, which is based on the abjad but marks vowels and distinguishes more consonants. The old Tifinagh script is found engraved in stones and tombs in some historical sites in northern Algeria, in Tunisia, and in Tuareg areas in the African Sahara. The Neo-Tifinagh script was developed and computerized in the 20th century mainly by Moroccan and Algerian researchers, some of whom were based in Europe.

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Niamey Mosque.jpg
Credit: diasUndKompott

The Grande Mosquée in Niamey, Niger. The largest mosque in Niamey, it is located along Islam Avenue. It features a minaret with 171 steps from top to bottom.

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Ali Badjo Gamatie, IMF 62ph020928hl.jpg

Ali Badjo Gamatié is a Nigerien politician and civil servant who served as Prime Minister of Niger from October 2009 to February 2010. He was Finance Minister of Niger from 2000 to 2003 and then served as Vice-Governor of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) before being appointed as Prime Minister by President Mamadou Tandja.

In the first government of Prime Minister Hama Amadou, which was named on 5 January 2000, Gamatié was included as Minister of Finance. As Finance Minister, Gamatié was an international advocate for the total cancellation of foreign debts of Niger and other Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). He was involved in IMF negotiations on the debt status of these nations. As Finance Minister he also raised questions about the accountability and representativeness of non-governmental organizations and civil society groups operating in Niger and elsewhere. Gamatié was Prime Minister for only a few months, as Tandja was overthrown in a February 2010 military coup.

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