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Thursday 23rd May
Niger Information - Page 2
During the Middle Ages the trans-Saharan caravan routes carrying gold, salt and slaves ran through Niger. A number of powerful empires including the Songhai Empire thrived in the area which is now Niger.

The monopoly of the trans-Saharan trade was undermined by European trade with West Africa by the sea route.

Niger was occupied by the French at the end of nineteenth century, becoming part of French West Africa. Niger became a Republic in 1960.

In the 1990s the country suffered because of rebellion by the Tuaregs who believed they were unfairly treated by the system.

Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of the presidential guard of Niger, became the head of the transitional government following a military coup in 2023; the fifth coup in the history of the West African nation since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. Droughts have had a negative effect on the economy. However, there has been some investment in the country's roads which has assisted in the distribution of food aid.

Farming is mainly at a subsistence level, especially as the soil is poor. Crops are millet, rice, sorghum, cassava, dates, groundnuts (peanuts), cowpeas and onions. Cotton is also grown. Cattle, camels and goats are reared and there is some fishing in the River Niger and Lake Chad.

Niger is a major producer of uranium and also mines coal, tin, iron ore, gold, gypsum, phosphate and salt.

Manufacturing is confined to small light industries: chemical production, the manufacture of cement bricks, textiles, soap and food processing. Cotton is ginned separating the seeds from the lint. Crafts such as leatherworker (Tuareg saddles) and jewellery are sold locally and some are exported. There is some tourism but this industry is not highly developed.

African art and music are part of everyday life. African art tends to focus on the decoration of a useful object such as masks used in ceremonies. It has a long history, starting with cave paintings, and continuing with a variety of carvings, sculptures and adornments.

Picasso's interest in African sculpture influenced one of his significant works, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

The oral tradition of story telling is used to teach values, duties and beliefs. History was also passed down the generations in this way. Storytellers often accompany their story with a musical instrument.

African musical instruments include bells, drums, flutes, horns, rattles, xylophones and stringed instruments which are plucked rather than bowed. Traditional music often tells a story: its songs are often satirical and humourous.

Popular theatre is based on social satire. Plays reach a wider audience nowadays through radio and television broadcasts.

Popular spectator sports are wrestling, one-arm boxing and horseracing. Camel racing takes place among the Tuareg.

Islamic celebrations take place at the End of Ramadan, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the Birthday of the Prophet, the Muslim New Year and Independence Day.

News from Niger can be found in Newslink.

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