Administratively, Niger is subdivided into 8 regions, 63 departments and 266 communes and covers an area of 1,267,000 km2 with four ecological zones from south to north: the Sudanian tree-covered savannah zone, the Sahelian zone, the SaheloSaharan zone and the desert zone (two thirds of the country). It is bordered to the north by Algeria and Libya, to the east by Chad, to the south by Nigeria and Benin, to the west by Burkina Faso and to the north-west by Mali. Niger is thus landlocked and has no outlet to the sea. The closest port to its capital city is almost 1,000 km away.
With regard to its environment, Niger has a tropical Sudanese-type climate and has a very long dry season that generally lasts eight (8) months, from October to May, and a short rainy season that lasts four (4) to five (5) months, from May (or June) to September. The country therefore depends heavily on agriculture, as well as on livestock, fishing, and crafts. Rainfall has been declining over the last 30 years, which has worsened the increasing desertification of the country. Due to problems of desertification and very erratic rainfall, the country is not immune to food security issues.
With regard to the contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP, the Nigerien economy is sensitive to climatic variations. Irregular rainfall with long periods of drought have upset the balance between the country’s population and its food needs. For example, 80% of Niger’s poor live in rural areas. In these areas, the cultivable area per active person, pastureland, as well as water resources mobilised and the fallowing period per household have decreased (RN, 2017).
In terms of population, enormous demographic, security, and development challenges are common to the Sahel countries. In Niger, the Government is currently making major efforts, which are being absorbed by rapid population growth. The average population growth rate is 3.8% per year, which leads to a doubling every 18 years. The consequences of such a situation are multifaceted.
In social matters, Niger has made significant progress in recent years, particularly in education and poverty reduction, the incidence of which has decreased from 48.2% in 2011 to 45.4% in 2014. The phenomenon of food insecurity affects more than one million people every year. According to the results of the 2016 survey on vulnerability to food insecurity, two (2) million people, or nearly 12% of the population are affected by food and nutrition crises.
The Human Development Index (HDI) is still relatively low; it was 0.354 in 2017. It reflects the exceptional growth in enrolments for primary, secondary, and higher education and the difficulties that public authorities face in meeting social demand for education.
Economically, it has to be recognised that economic growth has resumed in Niger since 2010 and even resulted in an average increase in GDP of 6.2% per year between 2010 and 2017 (6.8% in 2018); indeed, GDP increased remarkably by 50% during this period. However, with population growth of 3.8% per year, the country’s GDP per capita has risen by an average of only 2.2% per year since 2010.
Population growth has thus absorbed two-thirds of the wealth created by the country’s renewed economic growth.
With respect to security, the issue of terrorism is rampant, and includes actions by non-State armed groups and terrorists, and in particular the operations of groups such as Boko Haram in the south-east in the border areas with Nigeria and Chad; and also and especially in the west and north-west, where jihadist groups operate in the border areas with Mali and Burkina Faso. These destabilising incursions tarnish the country’s international image and repeated abuses by terrorist groups aggravate the security situation in the country, resulting in the displacement of several thousand people (particularly women and children).
The increasing influx of refugees and population displacements disrupt cross-border trade, and this is having an incredibly negative impact on the population’s living conditions and State financial resources. The security situation also puts significant pressure on the country’s budget, as the State has to cover increasing security and humanitarian costs. This led to the creation, in August 2011, of the High Authority for Peacebuilding (HACP). With the support of development partners, the State has set up several projects and programmes to take care of victims and consolidate peace by strengthening conflict prevention and management.
To provide more solutions to this unfavourable context, the Nigerien Government is making the capture of the demographic dividend a means of resilience. This objective is now at the heart of its development framework document, the Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth Strategy (SDDCINiger 2035).
The Economic and Social Development Plan (PDES) 2017-2021 is the first five-year plan to implement the SDDCI Niger 2035, which the Government adopted on 9 May 2017. The implementation of the PDES has been supported by the SWEDD project and the adoption of a new National Population Policy (NPP) in August 2019. Capturing the demographic dividend is at the centre of this strategy with a view to helping young people to become real development actors.