Population and settlement patterns
The population of Niger has already grown to over 23 million people in 2019; the prognoses for the coming decades continue to predict strong population growth in the age pyramid. The enormous population growth of around 4% per year must be seen in relation to the usable land area of Niger. With 1.267 million km² Niger is a state that is about three and a half the size of Germany. A large part of the population lives in the agricultural zone in the southern parts of the country with the large cities Niamey (approx. 1.2 million residents), Maradi (approx. 280,000 residents) and Zinder(approx. 340 thousand residents). These regions are the fertile strip along the border with Nigeria or in the southwest along the Niger River. In the adjacent agropastoral zone there are urban centers such as Tera, Tillaberi (in the west of the country), Tahoua (in the north-west), Tanout and Diffa (in the east of the country). On the edge of the Sahara lies Agadez, which has gained new prominence through the influx of refugees; in the desert itself the two great oasis “cities” Fachi and Bilma. The WHO maps show how agricultural areas and population density relate to one another.
The limit of the higher population density is also characterized by the so-called agronomic dry limit (200 mm precipitation limit, to the north of which agriculture is only possible with considerable risk). More than 4/5 of the country is covered by deserts and desert-like landscapes. The population density lies in the regions of the Sahara less than 1 person / sqkm; in the Sahel zone it is less than 20 people / sq km and in the fertile Sudan zone, for example, in the department of Madarounfa it is over 160 people / sq km. The land area that is used for arable or field cultivation is relatively small and cannot be expanded due to the climatic conditions. The area available in absolute terms per resident is continuously decreasing due to the immense population growth (irrigation areas are often reserved for the cultivation of cash crops). A good 10% of the land area is available for extensive – primarily mobile animal husbandry – which uses the open grasslands of the semi-arid areas beyond the agronomic dry line. The population that does not go to the cities is drawn from the agricultural zone, due to the high demographic pressure and the decreasing fertility of the soil, increasingly into the agropastoral zone and the pastoral zone. There the cultivation areas are increasing, only in favorable years can a yield be generated on these fields.
According to cheeroutdoor, Niger is a “young” country: the average age is 15 years (age pyramid). 67% of the population of Niger are under 25 years of age: this presents Niger with considerable employment problems; various projects and programs try to alleviate this. Even if the youth is seen as the true “engine of development” (UNESCO), diverse initiatives are required to provide this “engine” with adequate training and work; The youth themselves are not lacking in ideas and many try to secure their daily life through activities in the informal sector, often to help the family.Activities, however, also “fizzle out” some energy and some organizations start with energy, vigor and resources and have little stamina.
The main arteries of the Niger run in a west-east direction in the south of the state of Niamey via Maradi and Zinder towards Diffa and Lake Chad. When the road is just a sandy track, as here on the way to Diffa, the buses sometimes get stuck and there are compulsory breaks that cannot be foreseen. In a north-easterly direction the important road leads via Tahoua and Abalak to Agadez and into the Air Mountains or to Arlit to the uranium city. Most of these roads are paved, but quickly fall into disrepair. A considerable volume of trucks, frequent overloading of vehicles and poor maintenance of the roads, but also poor material, leave the roads in a bad condition with many potholes again soon after the repair, so that the drivers, especially from Abalak towards Agadez, always find new ways next to the Create road. These roads are very busy, not only by trucks, but also by many small buses operated by private companies, which bring their customers to the various regions of the country at cheaper rates but at increased risk. Other connecting roads lead to Mali via Ayourou along the Niger. To the west towards Tera and Burkina Faso (Dori) you have to take the ferry across the Niger before Gotheye.
The boat traffic on the Niger is used by the locals to transfer from one bank to the other and is a leisurely way of traveling for tourists who have the time.
Niger is vigorously striving its transport infrastructure, ie primarily road construction and condition to improve that road safety with almost daily serious traffic accidents, often with multiple deaths and injuries is improved. Niger has been waiting for the railroad for 80 years, as President Issoufou put it. In April 2014, the construction of the railway through the La Blueline project began and on January 29, 2016 the first railway section between Niamey and Dosso was officially opened; further development is slow. So the presidents of Benin and Niger turned to China to discuss further funding.
The bus companies have boomed in recent years since 2001 when the laws on the commissioning of transport companies by private companies were relaxed. 15 bus companies (SNTV – originally emerged from the state transport company, is still state-owned – Rimbo, Azawad, Air, EHGM etc.) exist in the country.
In addition to Niger’s most important airport, named after the first President Diori Hamani, there are other airports, of which only Agadez, Arlit, Tahoua, Zinder and Maradi can be reached by larger aircraft. The Mano Dayak Airport in Agadez serves as the starting point for tourist trips to the north of the country.