Proportion of literate adults: 19.1% (2016, estimated)
Most important religions: Islam (95%), Christianity, traditional religions
Urban population: 19.3% (2017, estimated)
Life expectancy (female / male): 62.8 / 60.9 in years (2018, estimated)
Gender Inequality Index: Rank 154 of 162 (2018, HDR)
Number of births: 7.1 / woman (2019, estimated; 1985: 7.9)
Infant mortality: 81.1 / 1000 live births (2016, estimated)
Corona pandemic and pilgrimage to Mecca
Due to the current situation, this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca, to which around 15,000 Nigerians go to Saudi Arabia every year, has been canceled.
Islam is the main religion in Niger, officially 95% of the population belong to it. The majority are Sunnis who are close to the Tidjaniya Sufi Brotherhood, about 7% Shiites, 6% Ahmadists, and also followers of the Hammaliya and Sannusiya. For about thirty years, missionary Arab Wahabites have been coming to Niger from Saudi Arabia.
According to politicsezine, the Islam in Niger is considered moderate to call and tolerance towards other religions is very large. The Republic of Niger is secular and Islam is legally separate from the state. Some Islam-oriented projects are funded by the state; the establishment of the Islamic University in Say was financially supported.
As in many (West) African countries, Islam in Niger is syncretistic and shows some elements of traditional religions and popular belief. The most important festivals are: Ramadan, Tabaski and Mohamed’s birthday.
A marabout (marbut / marbit arab. – Koran scholar, teacher and often head of a Koran school) often not only holds this position in West Africa, but often also has access to traditional medicine; the transition is diffuse and knowledge of the Koran is very different. Accordingly, not every marabout has the same reputation, others are known far beyond local and regional borders and are visited by people from far away. As in many other religions, one believes in supernatural powers. Often people go to a marabout to be relieved from illnesses and problems; this happens, for example, in the form of amulets, making sacrifices and drinking verses from the Koran.
Islamist developments in Niger
Islamist tendencies were the exception in Niger for a long time After a wave of Islamist movements in the 1990’s, extremist Islamist currents have developed under the influence of AQMI (Al Qaida Maghrib Islamique) and Boko Haram. After AQMI got into the press through its hostage-taking, Boko Haram has been making headlines every day for two to three years with its atrocities in the entire border area of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, but in some cases the military attacks of the country armies have also been successful.
Fully veiled women are rather a rare sight, but younger girls also wear the hijab. These developments can be observed more closely along the border with Nigeria, particularly in Maradi. What began as a fashionable trend many years ago and was considered a souvenir from the Hajj has now shaped the everyday appearance.
Islamic countries in the Middle East are expanding their influence in Africa and building pompous mosques in their brother / sister states, for example in Niger. Often, however, this religious-social engagement is more of a showdown and serves to expand the sphere of influence of states such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Iran. As a result, Salafist movements receive support and influx, especially from young men. Radicalizations are increasing in these groups.
The traditional religions rarely appear in the statistics on religious affiliation. For example, some animistic phenomena appear in people’s everyday life and holiday. Animists are people who believe in nature with a soul (anima lat. – soul); all form-like phenomena of nature have their own and personal soul.
Some Songhai groups live their traditional beliefs, as do the Kanuri Manga group, the Hausa-Azna and many Gurmantche. Some Muslim groups still practice the traditional obsession cult Bori or Follay.
In Niger there are various Christian churches and religious communities such as Catholics, Adventists, Evangelicals or Jehovah’s Witnesses, so that foreigners with a strong Christian background can also gain access here. Many churches have been working in Niger for decades and are involved in social projects, for example Serving in Mission (SIM) has been running a hospital and health center in Galmi for over 60 years.