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Country Reports

Niger Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to the large West African country of Niger (population 19 million) should be aware that the country faces a very real threat of terrorist activity, including bombings and kidnappings.

AREAS TO AVOID

Some Western governments formally advise their citizens against traveling in the north of the country and various border regions in the west and south. Nonessential travel to the rest of the country is not recommended, with the exception of the capital Niamey.  

TERRORISM

Niger faces a high threat of terrorism (attacks and abductions). Islamist militant cells from various Malian terrorist groups (particularly AQIM, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa [MUJAO], Al-Mourabitoun, and since March 2017, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims [JNIM] (the result of the merger between Ansar Dine, Al-Mourabitoun, and the Macina Liberation Front) are all active in the country. Militants from the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group are also present in Niger and carry out attacks.

Since late 2016, terrorist attacks and insecurity have been on the rise along the border with Mali. The regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua have become very unstable due to numerous attacks, often targeting positions of the Niger army and refugee camps. These attacks are attributed to Malian jihadist groups linked in particular to the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao). On June 1, 2017, six soldiers were killed in an attack on a military post in Abala, located in the western Tillabéri region. On July 5, 2017, the JNIM group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Nigerian army patrol unit in the Midal Valley, which killed five soldiers. On March 3, 2017, the government declared a state of emergency in several departments of Tillabéri and Tahoua, located near the border with Mali in western Niger. The state of emergency - which was extended for an additional three months on December 18 - is in effect in the departments of Ouallam, Ayorou, Bankilaré, Abala, and Banibangou in the Tillabéri region as well as in the departments of Tassara and Tilia in the Tahoua region.

Since 2010, various security incidents (attacks, kidnappings, bombings) attributed to Boko Haram have been conducted in Agadez, Arlit, Diffa, Bosso, and Gouré, as well as the Lake Chad islands. On December 28, the Nigerien government announced plans to grant an amnesty for Nigerien Boko Haram fighters, and help them reintegrate into civilian life. In theory, ex-combatants would avoid being prosecuted by the authorities.

The threat is particularly significant due to Niger's status as one of France's strategic partners. The French military have established a base in Niamey, used as a "bridge platform" for the Barkhane operation, which targets terrorist groups throughout the Sahelian band. In addition, the Nigerien army has been part of a Combined Joint Task Force (Force Multinationale Mixte- FMM) - a military force formed with Nigerian, Nigerien, Chadian, Cameroonian and Beninese troops - since the end of September 2015, in an effort to halt Boko Haram's advances. Although the FMM has led various victorious offensives against Boko Haram, the state of emergency declared by Nigerien authorities in Diffa on February 2015 has been extended for another three months on December 18, 2017.

Given the French intervention in northeastern Mali since January 2013, as well as its participation in the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS), French citizens are advised to be very cautious in Niger.

SOCIOPOLITICAL RISKS

The domestic political situation must also be monitored. Relations between the political opposition and President Mahamadou Issoufou were tense from spring 2014 until March 2016, when presidential elections were held. In December 2015, numerous officers suspected of high treason, including ex-Health Minister Soumana Sanda, were arrested in Niamey. The cabinet reshuffle and the formation of a new national unity government in October was widely criticized. In March 2016, President Mahamadou Issoufou was reelected. Local and regional elections scheduled in January were postponed due to an alleged lack of funding and the necessity to develop a new biometric national database. In April 2017, Issoufou announced that he would not amend the constitution to run for a third term.

Demonstrations often take place in major cities across the country, and have the potential to turn violent. In early 2017, protests were organized to denounce grievances such as bad governance, the high cost of living, and Western military presence in the region. Strikes and demonstrations organized by students and professors to protest against poor working conditions had a significant impact on the education sector in the first quarter of 2017.

SOCIOECONOMIC RISK and HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

Incessant power cuts, water shortages, and non-payment of civil servant salaries (especially teachers), may cause unrest that can quickly escalate. 

Despite Niger's recent economic progress (+4.6 percent growth in 2016), the country is weighed down by its high population growth (one of the highest in the world: 3.9 percent per year). In 2016, Niger was in placed second-to-last on human development index (HDI) measured by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Moreover, the attacks led by terrorist groups and measures taken by the government (state of emergency, evacuation of the population in some border areas, markets closure) in the effort to stop the insurgents have heavily impacted the national economy. More than 1.3 million people are food insecure and 300,000 people are currently displaced.

CRIME

A significant portion of the Nigerien population lives in abject poverty, and the crime rate in the country (especially Niamey). Thefts and burglaries are frequent. Due to the increase in robberies around the Gaweye hotel, national museum, and Niamey little market, walking alone is not advisable; likewise crossing the Kennedy Bridge is not recommended.

Carjackings are frequent, and drivers are advised to drive with their doors locked and windows rolled up as well as to avoid traveling at night.

French authorities advise against frequenting locations such as hotels, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs located outside the city center, or places where security is not consistently and vigorously enforced.

Banditry, smuggling, and other criminal activities are common along the country's borders. Bandits are known to operate along the Nigerien border, particularly south of Zinder.

Foreign nationals are often victims of scams that take different forms: romance, friendship, commercial entrepreneurship, employment, due to their perceived wealth. Such scams pose a significant financial threat for the victims. 

NATURAL RISKS

The country, including Niamey, is regularly hit by significant rainfall in the summer, often causing floods. In June 2017, torrential rains caused severe infrastructural damage in Niamey and resulted in several deaths.

HEALTH

Prior to departure, foreign nationals should purchase a health insurance plan covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

A certificate of immunization against yellow fever is mandatory to enter Niger; without it, entry to the country may be refused. Malaria is endemic in Niger; it is recommended to take precautionary measures against mosquito-bites and seek suitable treatment if bitten.

Tap water is not potable. Diarrheal diseases are frequent in the country. It is recommended to only drink filtered bottled water, to make sure food is properly cooked, and to wash hands several times a day.

To avoid any risk of parasitic infection, it is advised to avoid contact with bodies of stagnant freshwater (e.g. ponds, lakes). Walking barefoot outdoors is not recommended.

Moreover, it is necessary to take precautions against HIV/AIDS, which is highly prevalent throughout the country.

Meanwhile, vaccines against measles and meningitis are recommended as numerous cases of both diseases have been reported in the past few years. The risk of meningitis is particularly high in Niger as the country is located in the "meningitis belt". Cases are often reported during hot season (March to May). In July 2017, a meningitis epidemic affected the country for several months, particularly the capital Niamey; more than 3000 cases of which nearly 200 were fatal, were reported.

Finally, the public health infrastructure is weak; in case of an emergency, private health facilities should be used in the absence of repatriation.  

TRANSPORTATION

Road infrastructure is reliable in Niger. Major cities are connected by paved roads.

However, long-distance road travel can be extremely dangerous. The danger of road accidents is heightened by drivers often ignoring the rules of the road, the non-maintenance of vehicles, and the lack of medical care facilities. Due to the lack of public lighting all night travel should be avoided.

Outside major cities, all travel should be conducted during the day, with a sports utility vehicle (4x4), adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. It is also advised to ensure that the vehicle contains spare mechanical parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and an effective means of telecommunication.

According to the British diplomatic authorities, the Niamey-Ouagadougou road is mined on the Burkinabe section. Further information should be sought before using this route.

Local authorities may be particularly suspicious of foreigners traveling in the east and north. Passengers are frequently arrested and deported due to security fears. It may be necessary to hire an armed escort (contact the Nigerien authorities) when traveling outside Niamey.

It is advised to stop at all road blocks erected by security forces.

LEGAL

The population of Niger is mainly Muslim, and it is advised to respect all local customs. On July 29, 2015, regional authorities announced the outlawing of the full veil, fearing a suicide attack could be perpetrated using bombs concealed under this type of clothing.

It is forbidden to take photos of military or governmental buildings.

Moreover, the country has a significant archeological and natural heritage; it is illegal to collect and export archeological objects.

Climate

Niger's rainy season lasts from June until September. It is characterized by very high temperatures and humidity levels as well as weak to non-existent winds. The rest of the year temperatures average around 30°C from October to February and around 40°C from March to May. Sandstorms sometimes occur in the months of April and May.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +227

There are no emergency services in Niger.

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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