Over half the population of Niger belong to the Hausa, who also constitute the major ethnic group in northern Nigeria, and the Zarma–Songhai, who also are found in parts of Mali. Both groups, along with the Gourmantche, are sedentary farmers who live in the arable, southern tier of the country.

The remainder of Nigeriens are nomadic or semi-nomadic livestock-raising peoples—Fulani, Tuareg, Kanuri, Arabs, and Toubou—who make up about 20% of Niger's population. With rapidly growing populations and the consequent competition for meager natural resources, lifestyles of agriculturalists and livestock herders have come increasingly into conflict in Niger in recent years.

A Nigerien study has found that more than 800,000 people are enslaved, almost 8% of the population.


Islam, spread from North Africa beginning in the 10th century, has greatly shaped the mores of the people of Niger. Between 80 and more than 98 percent of the population is Muslim, with small Animist and Christian communities, the latter a consequence of missionaries established during the French colonial years, as well as urban expatriate communities from Europe and West Africa. Niger appears as number 50 on the World Watch List which ranks countries by the severity of persecution that Christians face for actively pursuing their faith.


Nigerien culture is marked by variation, evidence of the cultural crossroads which French colonialism formed into a unified state from the beginning of the 20th century. What is now Niger was created from four distinct cultural areas in the pre-colonial era: the Zarma dominated Niger River valley in the southwest; the northern periphery of Hausaland, made mostly of those states which had resisted the Sokoto Caliphate, and ranged along the long southern border with Nigeria; the Lake Chad basin and Kaouar in the far east, populated by Kanuri farmers and Toubou pastoralists who had once been part of the Kanem-Bornu Empire; and the Tuareg nomads of the Aïr Mountains and Saharan desert in the vast north.

Each of these communities, along with smaller ethnic groups like the pastoral Wodaabe Fula, brought their own cultural traditions to the new state of Niger. While successive post-independence governments have tried to forge a shared national culture, this has been slow forming, in part because the major Nigerien communities have their own cultural histories, and in part because Nigerien ethnic groups such as the Hausa, Tuareg and Kanuri are but part of larger ethnic communities which cross borders introduced under colonialism.

Until the 1990s, government and politics was inordinately dominated by Niamey and the Zarma people of the surrounding region. At the same time the plurality of the population, in the Hausa borderlands between Birni-N'Konni and Maine-Soroa, have often looked culturally more to Hausaland in Nigeria than Niamey. Between 1996 and 2003, primary school attendance was around 30%, including 36% of males and only 25% of females. Additional education occurs through madrassas.

(This information provided by Wikipedia)