Niger is a nation on the western part of the African continent, and it spans an area of about 490,000 square miles, making it West Africa’s largest country. The Sahara Desert covers more than 80% of the country, and the country’s population stands at 21 million people. Despite the country's vast natural resources, it is considered a developing nation. In 2018, its GDP was ranked as the 136th highest in the world at $9.869 billion. Niger's GDP per capita, on the other hand, was ranked as the 179th highest at $510. Some of Niger's most important natural resources include arable land, oil, and forests among others.
In 2016, the government of Niger estimated that arable land accounted for about 13.26% of the country's total area. The data also indicated that the size of arable land in Niger had remained relatively constant from 2013 to 2015. Some of the most agriculturally productive areas in Niger are located in the country’s southern region, and it receives more rainfall than the rest of the country. In Niger's northern end, agriculture is mainly practiced around oases. Agriculture is vital to the Nigerien economy, and it contributed 44.3% of the country's GDP in 2017. The Nigerien labor department estimated that in 2016 agriculture employed about 87% of the country's labor force. Some of the most important crops grown in Niger include millet, sorghum, and rice. Most of Niger's crops are grown for local consumption; however, some of the crops such as onions and cowpeas are grown for export. Niger's agricultural sector faces several challenges such as drought and soil degradation. The government of Niger has invested heavily in improving the country's agricultural sector. Nigerien farmers have been asked to practice drip irrigation to conserve water. The Nigerien government has also partnered with foreign organizations such as the FAO to improve the country's agriculture and achieve food security.
Animal husbandry is one of the major economic activities in Niger. Some of the most common animals kept in the country include camels, sheep, and goats. The Niger government estimated that the livestock sector generated about 14% of its GDP each year. The livestock sector is believed to support 29% of Niger's total population. Animals and animal products are some of Niger's most important exports, and they are exported to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. Niger's livestock sector faces significant challenges such as droughts, pests, and diseases. One of the most severe droughts in Niger's history began during the 1960s and lasted until the late 1980s. During this period, livestock farmers in Niger lost significant numbers of their animals.
According to the government of Niger, forests covered roughly 4,410 square miles which represented about 0.9% of the total land area. Approx 18.3% of the country's forests are categorized as primary forests. During the 1980s, the government of Niger put in place several measures to increase the forest cover in the country. One of the major approaches the government adopted was the establishment of forestry cooperatives. The measures were relatively unsuccessful, and from 1990 to 2010 the country lost 38.1% of its forest cover. The government initiated another project which was initially tested in Tchida village. The Nigerien government planned to increase the Gum Arabic trees to cover an area of about 0.46 square miles wide.
Niger has significant oil reserves within its borders. The first oil field to be discovered within Niger's territory was the Tintouma field which was identified in 1975. The discovery of oil in Niger attracted several companies to prospect for oil in the country. Another major oil field in Niger is the Agadem field which began producing oil in 2011. In 2013, it was estimated that the field could contain at least 1 billion barrels of oil. Most of the oil extracted in Niger is processed at the Soraz refinery.
Niger has a wide variety of minerals which play an important role in the country’s economy, and they include uranium, coal, and gold among others. Niger's minerals are mainly sold to other nations with the government estimating that they made up about 40% of the country's exports. The Nigerien government estimated that the mineral sector contributed 3% of the country's GDP. Several major organizations have invested heavily in Niger's mineral sector. Niger's mineral sector faces several challenges such as the employment of children in the mines and fluctuating prices of minerals in the international market. A report by the US government estimated that more than 40% of children younger than 14 were working in mines. About 5% of the children were involved in hazardous activities. The government of Niger has made several efforts to eliminate child labor from the country's mines. The efforts have been relatively unsuccessful, and in 2014 the US government reported that children were still working in Nigerien mines.
A French company first discovered Niger's uranium reserves in Azelik during the late 1950s. At the time, the company was searching for copper. After the Azelik reserves were discovered, more uranium was discovered at Madaouela, Imouraren, and Tassa. The Nigerien government believed that the Imouraren, which is the largest mine contained more than 100 million tons of the mineral. The Nigerien government is a bigger shareholder in some of the companies that mine for uranium in Niger. Niger’s uranium production in 2012 was approximately 4,821 tons.
During the late 1960s, vast coal reserves were discovered in Niger, and they are among the most important natural resources. Niger has several coal mines with one of the largest being found in Anou Araren. When Niger’s coal reserves were discovered, the government planned to use them as a source of fuel to provide electricity to the country’s uranium mines. In 1981, a power plant was set up to utilize the country’s coal. The government believed that in 2011, the plant consumed about 86% of all the coal produced in the country.
Challenges Facing The Economy
Several financial organizations have identified the challenges that face the Nigerien economy such as unemployment and high poverty rates. The Nigerien government believed that in 2014 more than 40% of the population in the country was living below the poverty level. The Nigerien government has implemented several measures to restructure the Nigerien economy. The Nigerien government has attempted to improve the Nigerien education system in the country to reduce the rate of corruption in the country.