Niger is made up of myriad ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Hausa. Other majority groups include the Zrma-Songhai and the Kanuri. There are also a number of nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples including the Fulani and Tuareg tribes. The latter group, the Tuareg, are not limited to Niger with tribesmen living in southern Algeria, eastern Mali and western Niger.
French is the official language of the Nigerien government, but the multitude of ethnic groups that make up the country’s population speak a variety of local dialects. The main local languages spoken by Nigeriens include Hausa, Songhai and Kanuri (spoken by the respective eponymous groups); Fula or Fulbe (by the Fulani); and Tamasheq or Tamajaq (by the Tuareg).
The majority of the Nigerien population is Muslim, with over 90% identifying as Sunni Muslim. Therefore national religious festivals such as Eid al Fitr and Eid-al-Adha are widely observed. Also present are minority populations of Christians and people who hold traditional animist beliefs, who still observe traditional spiritual practices.
The large proportion of Saharan desert that covers Niger means that weather in these areas is predominantly dry with very little annual rainfall; the Bilma desert region sees as little as 20mm of rain annually. The past 50 years have seen an increase in droughts as a result of lower rainfall.
The southwest of the country is slightly wetter with a May to September rainy season delivering as much as 600mm of rain. However, this rainfall is by no means reliable, making the production of food problematic – a feature of the country’s climate that often results in drought and food shortages.
A valid visa is required to enter Niger, unless you are a national of one of the countries on this exemption list. It can be a single, double or multiple-entry visa and, depending on the nature of the stay, it can be a tourism, business, visit/regular or official visa. Only the latter is free of charge.
All the visa types require the applicant to have a passport with at least six months of validity, application form and an international vaccination certificate (yellow fever and cholera). For tourist and business visas, a proof of return should be submitted, as well.