Largest Ethnic Groups in Niger

People in Niamey, Niger. Editorial credit: buraktumler /
People in Niamey, Niger. Editorial credit: buraktumler /

The country of Niger is located in Western Africa. It is a landlocked nation where more than 80% of the land is covered by the vast Sahara Desert. The country is named after the Niger River, which runs through the capital of Niamey in the southwest. Part of Lake Chad is also located in the southeastern area of the country by the border with Chad and Nigeria. This country has a wide variety of ethnic groups and this article will delve into their histories, cultures and current status in the country.

The Largest Ethnic Groups In Niger


The Gurma ethnic group is the eighth largest in Niger, accounting for 0.3% of the population. Most of the population of this group live in the country of Burkina Faso around the city of Fada N'Gourma, with the rest of the Gurma population living in southwestern Niger and northern parts of Benin and Togo. The major language of the Gurma people is Gourmanchéma, which is part of the Gur languages of the Niger-Congo group. The religion that most of the Gurma people follow is Islam. The area that the Gurma people live in is a wooded savanna area that is flat land with rare, isolated hills. Most of the Gurma are farmers that live in round houses made of mud bricks inside compounds that are made up of woven-straw fences.


The Arab ethnic group is the seventh largest in Niger, accounting for 0.3% of the population. In Niger, the Arab nomadic tribes are located in the eastern part of the country, mostly in the Diffa region. The Arabs in Niger are known as Diffa Arabs because of this. The Arabs of Niger practice Islam. They speak Arabic and came into Niger from Sudan and Chad at some point during the 19th century. In recent years the Arabs have come into conflict with other ethnic groups in the country, particularly the Hausa, Tuareg, and Kanuri.


The Tubu ethnic group is the sixth largest in Niger, accounting for 0.4% of the population. More than half of the Tubu population lives in Chad, while a significant population is in Niger. The major languages of the Tubu people are Dazaga and Tedaga, which are part of the Tebu languages of the Saharan language family. These languages divide the Tubu into two groups, the Daza and Teda, with the Daza being found in the Sahel region that mostly covers the north-central area of Chad and the Teda in the Sahara region of northwest Chad, northeast Niger, and southeast Libya. The major religion of the Tubu people is Sunni Islam. Most of the Tubu are herders, nomads or oases farmers, although in some place they live as slat or natron miners. The Tubu people have a clan-based society, and most are nomadic, although some have settled in mud, palm-thatched houses.


The Kanuri ethnic group is the fifth largest in Niger, accounting for 4.6% of the population. The majority of the Kanuri ethnic groups is found in Nigeria, with the rest being found in Chad, Niger and a small number in Cameroon. The major language of the Kanuri people is the Kanuri language, which is part of the Nilo-Saharan language family. The major religion of the Tubu people is Sunni Islam. The Kanuri people in Niger are found in the southeastern area of the country, where they make up the majority of the area's sedentary population.


The Fulani ethnic group is the fourth largest in Niger, accounting for 9.2% of the population. The Fulani people are found in 21 different countries ranging from Gambia all the way east to Ethiopia. Nigeria has the most Fulani with about 7 million, while Niger in comparison has the fourth most with 1.5 million. The major languages that the Fulani people speak are Fula, which is part of the Niger-Congo language group, as well as Arabic, English, and French. The major religion of the Fulani is Islam, and they follow the pulaaku code of behavior. The Fulani are a mostly nomadic trading people that herd various animals like cattle and sheep across the dry hinterlands that they occupy and are the largest nomadic ethnic group on Earth. In recent years, across most of the area they roam, they have come into heightened conflict with the settled farmers over land use and crops.


The Tuareg ethnic group is the third largest in Niger, accounting for 9.9% of the population. The Tuareg people are found in 7 different countries, with about two-thirds of the Tuareg population living in Niger. The Tuareg people speak five different languages in the Tuareg group that make up the Afro-Asiatic group. The major religion of the Tuareg people is Islam, and they have been one of the major groups that helped to spread Islam across Northern Africa. The Tuareg people mostly live in the Sahara desert as nomadic herders and control several trade routes through the Saharan region, as well as managing conflicts in the area. They are most known for their indigo-dye colored clothes that they wear and how this dye stains their skin.


The Zarma ethnic group is the second largest in Niger, accounting for 21.2% of the population. The vast majority, around 95% of the Zarma people, are found in Niger, with the rest live in small numbers in Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso. The Zarma people speak the Zarma language, which is part of the Songhay language group. The major religion of the Zarma people is Sunni Islam. The Zarma people mostly live around the Niger River Valley in the arid Sahel lands. The Zarma people are decently well-off and own a wide variety of farm animals that they rent out to other people. They have a very similar culture, language, and society as the Songhai people in West Africa.


The Hausa ethnic group is the largest in Niger, and the majority of the population (54.1%) belong to this group. The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in all of Africa and are scattered across West Africa, with most making up the majority of the population in Nigeria, as well as Niger. The Hausa people in Niger speak the Hausa language as part of the greater Afro-Asiatic family and also speak French, English, and Arabic. Most Hausa people live in small towns and mostly raise livestock, work as farmers and conduct trade. The horse is a major symbol of the Hausa people, as it is closely associated with the aristocracy and their equestrian based culture.

The Benefits And Challenges Of Having Multiple Ethnic Groups

There are many ethnic groups in Niger, just like in many other countries around the world, particularly other African countries. Having different ethnic groups can lead to a diverse array of unique cultures, history, and heritage property of a country. Having many different ethnic groups can also lead to conflicts among them over land or a clash of cultures since different groups have different practices and beliefs.

Largest Ethnic Groups in Niger

Rank Ethnic Group Share of Population of Niger
1 Hausa 54.1%
2 Zarma 21.1%
3 Tuareg 9.9%
4 Fulani 9.2%
5 Kanuri 4.6%
6 Tubu 0.4%
7 Arab 0.4%
8 Gurma 0.3%

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