Niger Macrosocial Structure

By | May 25, 2021

Ethnicity and tribalism

Niger is a multi-ethnic state with a population of almost 24 million people (worldometers live ticker), which corresponds to a population growth of over 400% in 50 years (3.3 million residents in 1960). With its drastic population growth (World Bank 2018) of over 3.8%; by contrast with the CIA (3.17 2017). Niger ranks sixth in the ranking of global population growth in this report. That means a population of around 68 million people by 2050, but population growth is expected to decline.

According to neovideogames, Niger differs from other (West) African countries in that fewer ethnic groups live here. Identity for the Nigerien is primarily determined by ethnicity. Ethnicity is what creates identity. A Nigerien feels first and foremost to belong to his / her own people or subgroup, tribe or clan: e.g. Tuareg Kel Ewey, Fulbe Woodaabe Djidjiru. Most of the Nigerien ethnic groups are not restricted to the (artificial) national borders; there are old cross-border connections with Haussa (from Nigeria), Songhai (from Mali), Tuareg and Fulbe, to name only the four most populous ethnic groups.

The national feeling is not very strong in Niger, but rather shows up when Nigerians live in the diaspora abroad. If Nigerians are in neighboring countries for labor migration, togetherness develops on the level of ethnic affiliation or at best regionally specific, in distant foreign countries it looks different: nationality is in the foreground.

Languages of the country

These national ethnic groups speak a common language (with regional differences / dialects); communication is thus possible. Compared to other African countries (in neighboring Nigeria, for example, there are around 500 different ethnic groups with their own language), the linguistic landscape is relatively clear. Language is not only a connecting criterion, but also an identity-creating criterion. In order to understand geographic-regional relationships, it is important to know that the traditional regions of the various ethnic groups often extend over some of today’s nation-states – as a result of the arbitrary demarcation during the colonial era. Often live too different ethnic groups in the same geographical small areas – traditionally oriented towards the different economic forms. The picture of the Songhai-Djerma family of languages shows the great geographical distances over which there can be connected language families.

French is the official language and lingua franca. Hausa has an outstanding position as a lingua franca and trade language. In addition to their mother tongue, around 75% of Nigerians speak Hausa. The vast majority of the population is multilingual, and it is not uncommon for nomads in particular to speak four or five languages. Each of the ethnic groups listed above speak their own language. The nine languages of Niger are very different. The atlas of Nigerien languages provides an overview; the regional distribution of the different languages in Niger, some with subgroups / dialects show separate maps for each language. Many of these languages are spoken far beyond the borders of Niger, Hausa by around 120 million people, Fulfulde by around 25 million, Tamasheq by 1.2 million.

Urban-rural relationship and migration

The proportion of the poor in Niger is very high. 44.5% of Nigerians live below the poverty line; ie they have a maximum of US $ 1.9 per day at their disposal to support themselves. The proportion of the extremely poor population has been falling since the mid-1990’s. However, this is an average measured by the parity purchasing power, which gives no real information about the proportion of really poor people. The majority of the Nigerien population lives from subsistence farming – both animal husbandry and agriculture – or tries to survive with activities in the informal sector and in the craft. The illiteracy rate in rural areas is around 90%.

People from the countryside move to the urban centers of the country with the hope of better living conditions and the prospect of work. The urbanization is increasing rapidly – especially in times of crisis (starvation and violent clashes) – and is now over 19%. However, this is low compared to other West African countries. Many side effects go hand in hand with urbanization: the prices for land in Niamey and its neighborhoods have risen accordingly; the water and sewage supply, the energy supply and much more must be expanded or renewed accordingly

Many Nigerians are drawn to neighboring countries as migrant workers; Nigeria and Libya are preferred. The remittances back to their families are not insignificant. Due to the unrest in Libya and the tense situation in the extremely Sharia-oriented parts of Nigeria, many were forced to return to Niger.

Niger also acts as a transit country for people from West African countries, but also for Asians who want to cross the desert from Niger. Many Africans who had worked in Libya and refugees who came from Mali are “stranded” in Niger.

In the area of migration partnerships, the EU supports Niger in coping with this task, which is (financially) overwhelming for a poor country like Niger.

Niger Macrosocial Structure