Niger, also called the Niger (// ( listen), or //; French: ) officially the Republic of the Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa named after the Niger River. Niger is bordered by Libya to the northeast, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, and Algeria to the northwest. Niger covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km2 (490,000 sq mi), making it the largest country in West Africa. Over 80% of its land area lies in the Sahara Desert. The country's predominantly Islamic population of about 21 million mostly clusters in the far south and west of the country. The capital city is Niamey, located in Niger’s southwest corner.
Niger is a developing country, consistently ranks near the bottom in the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI); it was ranked 187th of 188 countries for 2015. Much of the non-desert portions of the country are threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence, with some export agriculture in the more fertile south, and export of raw materials, especially uranium ore. Niger faces serious challenges to development due to its landlocked position, desert terrain, inefficient agriculture, high fertility rates without birth control, and the resulting overpopulation, the poor educational level and the poverty of its people, the lack of infrastructure, the poor health care, and the environmental degradation.
Nigerien society reflects a 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. After the military coup in 2010, Niger became a democratic, multi-party state. A majority of the population lives in rural areas, and have little access to advanced education. As of 2015, 71.3% of Niger’s population cannot read, one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.
Early human settlement in Niger is evidenced by numerous archaeological remains. In prehistoric times, the climate of the Sahara (Tenere desert in Niger) was wet and provided favorable conditions for agriculture and livestock herding in a fertile grassland environment five thousand years ago.
In 2005–06, a graveyard in the Tenere desert was discovered by Paul Sereno, a paleontologist from the University of Chicago. His team discovered 5,000-year-old remains of a woman and two children in the Tenere Desert. The evidence along with remains of animals that do not typically live in desert are among the strongest evidence of the 'green' Sahara in Niger. It is believed that progressive desertification around 5000 BCE pushed sedentary populations to the south and south-east (Lake Chad).