Named after the Niger River, the Republic of Niger is a landlocked country within Western Africa. With 80 percent of its land falling under the Sahara Desert, Niger is predominantly Islamic with a population exceeding 15,000,000. Extensively threatened by periodic drought and desertification, Niger inhabitants are largely clustered in the far south and western regions of the country displaying rolling savannahs. Reflecting a diversity inherited by a long independent history, Niger however, remains landlocked and handicapped with deserts, poverty, inadequate healthcare, and with little access to meaningful education.
A former French colony which gained independence in 1960, Niger held its first free and open elections only in 1993. With an economy centered on subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry, the government by far relies on bilateral and multilateral aid. Served by a couple of international airports with regular scheduled flights from Europe and other West African countries, Niger can also be accessed by overland roads from Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria.