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Niger , officially the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east. Its size is almost 1,270,000 km, making it the largest nation in West Africa, with a population of just under 13,300,000, mostly clustered in the far south and west of the nation. The capital city is Niamey. Niger is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with over 80% of its territory covered by the Sahara desert, and much of the rest threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence and some export agriculture clustered in the more fertile south, and the export of raw materialsespecially uranium ore. Niger remains handicapped by its landlocked position, poor education, infrastructure, health care, and environmental degradation. Nigerien society reflects a great diversity drawn from the long independent histories of its several ethnic groups and regions and their relatively short period living in a single state. Historically, what is now Niger has been on the fringes of several large states. Since independence, Nigeriens have lived under five constitutions and three periods of military rule, but have maintained elected multiparty rule since 1999. The vast majority of the population practice Islam. A majority also live in rural areas, and have little access to advanced education.
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