Niger is a developing country. Much of the non-desert portions of the country are threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence and some export agriculture clustered in the more fertile south, and the export of raw materials—especially uranium ore. Niger remains handicapped by its landlocked position, poor education, infrastructure, health care, deserts, poverty and environmental degradation.
Nigerien society reflects a great 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, but have maintained elected multiparty rule since 1999. The vast majority of the population practice Islam. A majority also live in rural areas, and have little access to advanced education.
The Tuareg (also Twareg or Touareg, Amazigh: Imuhagh/Itargiyen, besides regional ethnyms) are a Berbernomadicpastoralist people. They are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa. They call themselves variously Kel Tamasheq or Kel Tamajaq ("Speakers of Tamasheq"), Imuhagh, Imazaghan or Imashaghen ("the Free people"), or Kel Tagelmust, i.e., "People of the Veil". The name Tuareg was applied to them by early explorers and historians (since Leo Africanus).
The origin and meaning of the name Twareg has long been debated with various etymologies advanced, although it would appear that Twārəg is derived from the "broken plural" of Tārgi, a name whose former meaning was "inhabitant of Targa" (the Tuareg name of the Libyan region commonly known as Fezzan. Targa in Berber means "(drainage) channel", see Alojali et al. 2003: 656, s.v. "Targa").
The Tuareg today are found mostly in North Africa and West Africa. Some historians claim they progressively moved south over the last 2000 years. They were once nomads throughout the Sahara. They have a little-used but ancient script known as the Tifinagh.
President Tandja is of mixed Fula and Kanuri ancestry. He was the first President of Niger to not be ethnically Hausa or Djerma. Following a constitutional crisis in 2009, which was caused by Tandja's efforts to remain in office beyond the originally scheduled end of his term, he was ousted by the military in a coup d'etat in February 2010.