A vast, arid state on the edge of the Sahara desert, Niger endured austere military rule for much of its post-independence history and is rated by the UN as one of the world's least-developed nations.
The drought-prone country sometimes struggles to feed its people. Its main export, uranium, is prone to price fluctuations and agriculture is threatened by the encroaching desert. Niger is bargaining on oil exploration and gold mining to boost its fortunes.
• Full name: The Republic of Niger
• Population: 15.3 million (UN, 2009)
• Capital: Niamey
• Area: 1.27 million sq km (489,000 sq miles)
• Major languages: French (official), Arabic, Hausa, Songhai
• Major religions: Islam, indigenous beliefs
• Life expectancy: 50 years (men), 52 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
• Main exports: Uranium, livestock products
• GNI per capita: US $330 (World Bank, 2008)
• Internet domain: .ne
• International dialling code: +227
Source: (The BBC)