A vast, arid state on the edge of the Sahara desert, Niger is rated by the UN as one of the world's least-developed nations.
Niger fell victim to a series of coups and political instability following its independence from France in 1960.
Today the country struggles in the face of frequent droughts, insurgency and wide-spread poverty. Niger is betting on increased oil exploration and gold mining to help modernize its economy.
But basic rights issues, such as slavery - which was only banned in 2003 and still remains a problem - and a high rate of illiteracy and disease, remain stubborn challenges.
The US has a significant military presence in the country, intended to combat Islamist militants. Niger has become noted as a major transit route for migrants heading to Europe.
Niger leader: Mahamadou Issoufou
Veteran opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou became president in March 2011 polls that ended a year-long military junta.
The election was aimed at returning democracy after former president Mamadou Tandja was ousted by the army in February 2010 following a decade in power.
The military junta that overthrew him vowed to usher in a civilian government, and none of its members ran in the election.
Mr Issoufou gained another term in a run-off election in March 2016 that was boycotted by supporters of his opponent, Hama Amadou, who had been jailed.
Radio is a key news source and local privately-owned stations operate alongside the national state broadcaster.
Many media outlets struggle to survive financially. Journalists face difficulties, including detention or prosecution over critical reporting.
Around 10% of citizens are online.
Some key events in Niger's history:
1890 - French occupy Niger.
1960 - Niger becomes independent but a severe drought devastates the country, which enters a period of political instability and coups.
1990 - A rebellion starts in northern Niger, adding to the country's political unrest.
2003 - Slavery is outlawed and Niger gains international prominence when then-US President George Bush claims Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Niger for its nuclear programme.
2005 - UN warns that millions of people face severe malnutrition because of food shortages caused by drought and locust infestations.
2010 - A new constitution designed to restore civilian rule approved in referendum; Mahamadou Issoufou becomes president in 2011.