Economy – making a living

Niger is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Over 61% live on US$1 a day. Its economy is based on subsistence farming, livestock and some of the world's largest uranium deposits. Droughts, desertification, high population growth rates, and the drop in world demand for uranium affect the struggling economy.

Currency

Trading livestock at local market
Trading livestock at local market

The currency of Niger is the CFA franc. CFA stands for Communautè Finaciére Africaine, “African Financial Community”. Seven countries form the West African Monetary Union and share this currency: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

To convert your money to CFA francs use this currency converter.

Employment

In a country of nearly 13.5 million people, only about 70,000 Nigeriens have jobs that pay wages or salaries. About 90% of Nigeriens are subsistence farmers. They live on the crops and livestock they raise. They sell or barter goods for items they can't produce. The primary crops are millet, sorghum and cassava.

About 43,000 Nigeriens (4%) have government jobs such as teachers, police, military, hospital, national radio, television or newspaper workers. Government employees receive low pay. Sometimes they go for weeks, even months, without pay. Unpaid wages and the labour strikes to protest them are a chronic problem in Niger.

Mining and manufacturing make up the remainder of paid jobs. Mining uranium earns over half of the country's export dollars. Other mined products include, salt, coal, iron ore and tin. Important manufactured goods include traditional handicrafts such as wool blankets and animal hides, soaps and other chemical products, processed peanuts, millet and cotton.

Aid and debt

Donkey ride
Donkey ride

Nearly half of the Niger government's budget comes from aid – assistance from other countries. In December 2000, Niger qualified for enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). Niger's debt payments as a percentage of government spending were slashed from nearly 44 per cent in 1999 to 10.9 per cent in 2003. This has freed money to spend on programmes to reduce poverty such as, basic health care, primary education, HIV and AIDS prevention and rural infrastructure.

Transport

Niger has no railroads or ports. It relies on roads and airports for transportation. Niger has less than 800 kilometres of sealed road. The remaining roads are mainly tracks left in the dirt or sand by other drivers. These roads often wash out during the rainy season. Riding camels and donkeys, and walking are the most common ways to get around. Few Nigeriens can afford to buy cars. Niger has one international airport in Niamey and 27 other airports.