Economy & Industry
Uranium is mined in an area which lies around 900km north-east of the capital Niamey, to the west of the Aïr Mountains and north of Agadez – see Map. Uranium ore is taken south by truck and shipped out of neighbouring Benin.
Niger has some of the world’s largest deposits of uranium, which is used by the nuclear industry.
Niger is in the top five producers of uranium worldwide and exports make up over two-thirds of its foreign revenue.
There are also deposits of gold, iron, tin and other minerals. The first commercial gold mine was opened in 2004 in the southwest region, between the River Niger and the border with Burkina Faso.
Niger has long been famous for its salt caravans. Today, nomadic peoples such as the Tuareg still collect salt from the desert pans and transport it across the dry desert regions, exchanging it for food supplies and household goods further south.
Niger is still one of the poorest countries in the world; it depends heavily on financial support from foreign donors.The country benefitted from receiving 100% debt relief in 2005 from the International Monetary Fund, which wiped out over 80 million dollars in debts.
A growing oil industry
The most promising area of economic growth lies in the reserves of oil which have been discovered in Niger.
With investment from China, an oil refinery and pipeline have been built near Zinder. Oil production is expected to grow significantly over the next few years.
Niger also has coal deposits for generating electricity, mostly used to power the mining areas.
The agricultural economy
An agricultural economy
Agricultural goods provide around two-fifths of the country’s gross domestic product.
The domestic economy of Niger revolves around agriculture, mainly the raising of livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats.
The production of millet, cow peas and sorghum is also an important agricultural activity.
However, the agricultural sector is threatened by regular droughts and overgrazing. This can hasten desertification, where desert sands take over land once used by farmers – see Climate & Agriculture.
The growth of the population in Niger has created high demand for locally-grown food. The country struggles to meet this demand, particularly in years when there are poor rains.