Official name: Republic of Niger
Area: 1,267,000 square kilometers (489,191 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Gréboun (1,944 meters/6,378 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,845 kilometers (1,146 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 1,025 kilometers (637 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast
Land boundaries: 5,697 kilometers (3,540 miles) total boundary length; Algeria 956 kilometers (594 miles); Benin 266 kilometers (165 miles); Burkina Faso 628 kilometers (390 miles); Chad 1,175 kilometers (730 miles); Libya 354 kilometers (220 miles); Mali 821 kilometers (510 miles); Nigeria 1,497 kilometers (930 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Landlocked Niger is the second-largest country in West Africa (surpassed only by Algeria) and the tenth largest on the continent. With a total area of 1,267,000 square kilometers (489,191 square miles), it is nearly twice the size of the state of Texas.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Niger has no territories or dependencies.
Niger's climate is one of the hottest on Earth. Between February and July, high temperatures on the plateaus in the northeast can hit 50°C (122°F). In January, readings can drop to a low of 8°C (46°F) in the desert regions, which experience both the hottest temperatures and the greatest contrast between highs and lows. The harmattan wind blows across the eastern desert for much of the year. Rainfall varies markedly between Niger's Saharan and Sahel regions. Most of Niger receives less than 36 centimeters (14 inches) of rain annually; in fact, almost half the country receives less than 10 centimeters (4 inches). South of the Sahel, however, in the Niger River Valley, the capital city of Niamey receives much more precipitation; yearly rainfall averages about 56 centimeters (22 inches).
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Niger is a dry country. Although four-fifths of its land is covered by desert, its remaining topography is diverse, including plains, plateau regions, and mountains. The country can be divided into three major regions: the arid, inhospitable deserts to the north and northeast, a transitional Sahelian region in the center, and a small fertile area in the south, between the Niger River basin in the southwest and the Lake Chad basin in the southeast.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Niger is landlocked (no access to the sea).
6 INLAND LAKES
About 2,590 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) of Lake Chad lies within the southeastern tip of Niger. The size of the lake, which Niger shares with Chad and Nigeria, varies greatly from season to season, shrinking to nearly one-third of its maximum size in the dry season. In October, its surface area can exceed 9,950 square miles (28,457 square kilometers); by May, however, it usually has been reduced to roughly 3,000 square miles (8,580 square kilometers).
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
The lifeline of the country is the Niger River, which flows year-round across the southwestern corner of the country for about 563 kilometers (350 miles) from northwest to southeast, while its tributaries flow only during the rainy season. In the southeast, the Kamadougou Yobé River drains into Lake Chad, forming part of Niger's border with Nigeria.
The Ténéré Desert that lies to the east of the mountains and the Talak to the west have vast expanses of shifting sand dunes (called ergs ) where no vegetation grows, as well as other dunes that are anchored by sparse, scrubby vegetation.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
The southwest region drained by the Niger River is a savannah with low bushes and trees such as the baobab, kapok, bastard mahogany, and tamarind.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
In the north-central region are the mountains of the volcanic Aïr Massif, which belong to the same system as Algeria's Ahaggar Mountains and extend southward more than 400 kilometers (248 miles) from Niger's border with Algeria. The mountains cover an area of approximately 80,000 square kilometers (30,880 square miles), and their average elevation is between 600 to 900 meters (2,000 and 3,000 feet). Their highest summit is Mount Gréboun in north-central Niger, at 1,944 meters (6,378 feet).
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
Crystalline rocks have been found in large caves in western Niger.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
The Manguéni, Djado, and Tchigaï Plateaus are clustered together in the northeastern corner of the country near the border with Libya. Their average elevation is about 800 meters (2,600 feet). The mountains of the Manguéni Plateau are a continuation of Chad's Tibesti Mountains.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The Kennedy Bridge, named after U.S. president John F. Kennedy, is the only bridge that crosses the Niger River at the capital city of Niamey. It is 710 meters (2,330 feet) long and is part of a larger network of roads that connects Niger to Togo, Benin, and Burkina Faso.
14 FURTHER READING
Chilson, Peter. Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999.
Hollett, Dave. The Conquest of the Niger by Land and Sea: From the Early Explorers and Pioneer Steamships to Elder Dempster and Company . Abergavenny, Gwent, Wales, UK: P. Heaton, 1995.
Miles, William. Hausaland Divided: Colonialism and Independence in Nigeria and Niger . Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Lonely Planet World Guide: Niger. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/africa/niger/ (accessed April 11, 2003).
Mbendi Information Services: Niger. http://www.mbendi.co.za/land/af/ni/p0005.htm (accessed April 11, 2003).