The Niger River (/ˈnaɪdʒər/; French: (le) fleuve Niger, pronounced [(lə) flœv niʒɛʁ]) is the principal river of West Africa, extending about 4,180 km (2,600 mi). Its drainage basin is 2,117,700 km2 (817,600 sq mi) in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea. It runs in a crescent through Mali, Niger, on the border with Benin and then through Nigeria, discharging through a massive delta, known as the Niger Delta or the Oil Rivers, into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile and the Congo River (also known as the Zaïre River). Its main tributary is the Benue River.
|Etymology||Unknown. Likely from Berber for River gher|
|Country||Guinea, Mali, Niger, Benin, Nigeria|
|Cities||Tembakounda, Bamako, Timbuktu, Niamey, Lokoja, Onitsha|
|Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria|
|Length||4,180 km (2,600 mi)|
|Basin size||2,117,700 km2 (817,600 sq mi)|
|- location||Niger Delta|
|- average||5,589 m3/s (197,400 cu ft/s)|
|- minimum||500 m3/s (18,000 cu ft/s)|
|- maximum||27,600 m3/s (970,000 cu ft/s)|
|- left||Sokoto River, Kaduna River, Benue River, Anambra River|
|- right||Bani River|
The Niger has different names in the different languages of the region:
The earliest use of the name "Niger" for the river is by Leo Africanus in his Della descrittione dell’Africa et delle cose notabili che iui sono published in Italian in 1550. The name may come from Berber phrase ger-n-ger meaning "river of rivers". As Timbuktu was the southern end of the principal Trans-Saharan trade route to the western Mediterranean, it was the source of most European knowledge of the region.
Medieval European maps applied the name Niger to the middle reaches of the river, in modern Mali, but Quorra (Kworra) to the lower reaches in modern Nigeria, as these were not recognized at the time as being the same river. When European colonial powers began to send ships along the west coast of Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Senegal River was often postulated to be the seaward end of the Niger. The Niger Delta, pouring into the Atlantic through mangrove swamps and thousands of distributaries along more than 160 kilometres (100 miles), was thought to be no more than coastal wetlands. It was only with the 18th-century visits of Mungo Park, who travelled down the Niger River and visited the great Sahelian empires of his day, that Europeans correctly identified the course of the Niger and extended the name to its entire course.
The modern nations of Nigeria and Niger take their names from the river, marking contesting national claims by colonial powers of the "Upper", "Lower" and "Middle" Niger river basin during the Scramble for Africa at the end of the 19th century.
The Niger River is a relatively "clear" river, carrying only a tenth as much sediment as the Nile because the Niger's headwaters lie in ancient rocks that provide little silt. Like the Nile, the Niger floods yearly; this begins in September, peaks in November, and finishes by May.
An unusual feature of the river is the Inner Niger Delta, which forms where its gradient suddenly decreases. The result is a region of braided streams, marshes, and lakes the size of Belgium; the seasonal floods make the Delta extremely productive for both fishing and agriculture.
The river loses nearly two-thirds of its potential flow in the Inner Delta between Ségou and Timbuktu to seepage and evaporation. All the water from the Bani River, which flows into the Delta at Mopti, does not compensate for the 'losses'. The average 'loss' is estimated at 31 km3/year, but varies considerably between years. The river is then joined by various tributaries, but also loses more water to evaporation. The quantity of water entering Nigeria measured in Yola was estimated at 25 km3/year before the 1980s and at 13.5 km3/year during the 1980s. The most important tributary of the Niger in Nigeria is the Benue River which merges with the river at Lokoja in Nigeria. The total volume of tributaries in Nigeria is six times higher than the inflow into Nigeria, with a flow near the mouth of the river standing at 177.0 km3/year before the 1980s and 147.3 km3/year during the 1980s.
The Niger takes one of the most unusual routes of any major river, a boomerang shape that baffled geographers for two centuries. Its source is just 240 km (150 mi) inland from the Atlantic Ocean, but the river runs directly away from the sea into the Sahara Desert, then takes a sharp right turn near the ancient city of Timbuktu (Tombouctou) and heads southeast to the Gulf of Guinea.
This strange geography apparently came about because the Niger River is two ancient rivers joined together. The upper Niger, from the source west of Timbuktu to the bend in the current river near Timbuktu, once emptied into a now dry lake to the east northeast of Timbuktu, while the lower Niger started to the south of Timbuktu and flowed south into the Gulf of Guinea. Over time upstream erosion by the lower Niger resulted in stream capture of the upper Niger by the lower Niger.
The northern part of the river, known as the Niger bend, is an important area because it is the major river and source of water in that part of the Sahara desert. This made it the focal point of trade across the western Sahara, and the centre of the Sahelian kingdoms of Mali and Gao.
The surrounding Niger River Basin is one of the distinct physiographic sections of the Sudan province, which in turn is part of the larger African massive physiographic division.
The origin of the river's name remains unclear. What is clear is that "Niger" was an appellation applied in the Mediterranean world from at least the Classical era, when knowledge of the area by Europeans was slightly better than fable. A careful study of Classical writings on the interior of the Sahara begins with Ptolemy, who mentions two rivers in the desert: the "Gir" (Γειρ) and farther south, the "Nigir" (Νιγειρ). The first has been since identified as the Wadi Ghir on the north western edge of the Tuat, along the borders of modern Morocco and Algeria. This would likely have been as far as Ptolemy would have had consistent records. The Ni-Ger was likely speculation, although the name stuck as that of a river south of the Mediterranean's "known world". Suetonius reports Romans traveling to the "Ger", although in reporting any river's name derived from a Berber language, in which "gher" means "watercourse", confusion could easily arise. Pliny connected these two rivers as one long watercourse which flowed (via lakes and underground sections) into the Nile, a notion which persisted in the Arab and European worlds – and further added the Senegal River as the "Ger" – until the 19th century. The connection to the Nile River was made not simply because this was then known as the great river of "Aethiopia" (by which all lands south of the desert were called by Classical writers), but because the Nile flooded every summer. In Europe and Western Asia, floods are expected in the Spring, following snow melt. Classical authors explained the summer flood by calculating the time it took for flood waters to move down a river, and calculating how long the Nile must have been for the waters to travel from a mountain range in the spring. However the cycle of the Nile is influenced by tropical rain patterns instead of by melting snow, a characteristic unknown to the Classical Mediterranean world. Through the descriptions of Leo Africanus and even Ibn Battuta – despite his visit to the river – the myth connecting the Niger to the Nile persisted.
While the true course of the Niger was presumably known to locals, it was a mystery to the outside world until the late 18th century. Ancient Romans such as Pliny (N.H. 5.10) thought that the river near Timbuktu was part of the Nile River, a belief also held by Ibn Battuta, while early European explorers thought that it flowed west and joined the Senegal River.
Many European expeditions to plot the river were unsuccessful. In 1788 the African Association was formed in England to promote the exploration of Africa in the hopes of locating the Niger, and in June 1796 the Scottish explorer Mungo Park was the first European to lay eyes on the middle portion of the river since antiquity (and perhaps ever). The true course was established in his book Travels in the Interior of Africa, which appeared in 1799. The African Association failed in assaults from the north (Tripoli), the east (Cairo), and the west (Gambia). The membership now proposed that an effort be made from the south. The site chosen in 1804 from which to strike inland was a British trading post in the Gulf of Guinea. Unbeknownst to him, the river mouth that emptied into the Gulf, whence Henry Nicholls was to set out in search of the Niger, was precisely the end of the Niger itself—only the Europeans did not know it yet. The starting point of the expedition was in fact its destination.
On October 24, 1946 three Frenchmen, Jean Sauvy, Pierre Ponty and movie maker Jean Rouch, former civil servants in the African French colonies, set out to travel the entire length of the river, as no one else seemed to have done previously. They travelled from the very beginning of the river near Kissidougou in Guinea, walking at first till a raft could be used, then changing to various local crafts as the river broadened and changed. Two of them reached the ocean on March 25, 1947, with Pierre Ponty having had to leave the expedition at Niamey, somewhat past the halfway mark. They carried a 16mm movie camera, the resulting footage giving Jean Rouch his first two ethnographic documentaries: "Au pays des mages noirs", and "La chasse à l’hippopotame". A camera was used to illustrate Jean Rouch's subsequent book "Le Niger En Pirogue" (Fernand Nathan, 1954), as well as Jean Sauvy's “Descente du Niger” (L'Harmattan 2001). A typewriter was brought as well, on which Pierre Ponty produced newspaper articles he mailed out whenever possible.
More recently, Norwegian adventurer Helge Hjelland made another journey through the entire length of the Niger River starting in Guinea-Bissau in 2005. The trip was filmed by the adventurer himself and made into a documentary titled "The Cruellest Journey".
The water in the Niger River basin is partially regulated through dams. In Mali the Sélingué Dam on the Sankarani River is mainly used for hydropower, but also permits irrigation. Two diversion dams, one at Sotuba just downstream of Bamako, and one at Markala, just downstream of Ségou, are used to irrigate about 54,000 hectares. In Nigeria the Kainji Dam and the Jebba dam are used to generate hydropower.
The water resources of the Niger River are under pressure due to increased water abstraction for irrigation and due to the impact of climate change. The construction of dams for hydropower generation is underway or envisaged in order to alleviate chronic power shortages in the countries of the Niger basin.
The FAO estimates the irrigation potential of all countries in the Niger river basin at 2.8 million hectares. Only 0.93m hectares (ha) were under irrigation in the late 1980s. The irrigation potential was estimated at 1.68m ha in Nigeria 0.56m ha in Mali, and the actual irrigated area was 0.67m ha and 0.19m ha.
In order to further coordinate their efforts, in April 2008 the riparian countries which form the Niger Basin Authority adopted a Niger Basin Water Charta, a basin-wide 30-year investment plan and a 5-year priority investment plan. The Charta promotes Integrated Water Resources Management, defines procedures for the examination and approval of new projects, provides a framework for the allocation of water resources between sectors, commits to maintain the integrity of aquatic ecosystems and defines mechanisms for the settlement of disputes between countries and for user participation. Investments include the expansion of irrigated agriculture to improve food security, the construction of the Taoussa (or Tossaye) dam in Mali and the Kandadji Dam in Niger (the latter has been under construction since August 2008), as well as the rehabilitation of the Kainji dam and Jebba dam in Nigeria.[a]
Most of the investments are funded or are expected to be funded through aid. For example, the Kandadji Dam is financed by the Islamic Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the OPEC Development Fund. The World Bank approved a US$500 million soft loan in July 2007 to finance projects in the basin over a 12-year period. Funding will be awarded in two phases. The initial $185 million credit will go to Nigeria, Guinea, Benin, Mali and Niger. The second, $315 million investment, is slated for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad and Ivory Coast. Besides financing the rehabilitation of dams in Nigeria, the loan will also fund the "sustainable management of selected degraded ecosystems and rehabilitation of small water infrastructure" and capacity building.
In September 2009, the Nigerian government commenced a 36 billion naira dredging of the Niger River from Baro to Warri, a move which will see silt removed from several hundred kilometres. The dredging is intended to make it easier for goods to be transported to isolated settlements located deep within from the Atlantic Ocean. Estimated to be completed within six to eight months, it had first been proposed and then postponed for 43 years previously by the then government. Speaking in Lokoja, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua stated that the project would lead to "all-year-round navigability" on the River Niger and that he hoped that, by 2020, Nigeria would have become one of the twenty most industrialised nations in the world. Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, the Nigerian Minister of Transport, said his ministry would work to make certain the project would be completed within its designated timeframe. Some activists have, however, opposed the project in the past, claiming it may have negative effects on waterside villagers.
In late March 2010 the dredging project was 50% complete.
Ansongo Cercle is an administrative subdivision of the Gao Region of Mali. The administrative center (chef-lieu) is the town of Ansongo. The Niger River passes through the cercle and plays an important role in transportation and the economy in the region.
The cercle is divided into seven communes:
Asaba (Igbo: Àhàbà) is a city strategically located on a hill at the western edge of the Niger River, overlooking its sister city, Onitsha, across the Niger Bridge. It is the capital of Delta State Nigeria. A fast developing urban area, Asaba had a population of 149,603 as at the 2006 census, and a metropolitan population of over half a million people.Baguinéda-Camp
Baguinéda-Camp is a small town and rural commune in the Cercle of Kati in the Koulikoro Region of southern Mali. The commune contains 32 villages and in the 2009 census had a population of 58,661. The town lies to the south of the Niger River.Bamako
Bamako is the capital and largest city of Mali, with a population of 2,009,109. In 2006, it was estimated to be the fastest-growing city in Africa and sixth-fastest in the world. It is located on the Niger River, near the rapids that divide the upper and middle Niger valleys in the southwestern part of the country.
Bamako is the nation's administrative centre. The city proper is a cercle in its own right. Bamako's river port is located in nearby Koulikoro, along with a major regional trade and conference center. Bamako is the seventh-largest West African urban center after Lagos, Abidjan, Kano, Ibadan, Dakar, and Accra. Locally manufactured goods include textiles, processed meat, and metal goods. Commercial fishing occurs on the Niger River.
The name Bamako (Bàmakɔ̌ in Bambara) comes from the Bambara word meaning "crocodile tail".Benue River
The Benue River (French: la Bénoué), previously known as the Chadda River or Tchadda, is the major tributary of the Niger River. The river is approximately 1,400 kilometres (870 mi) long and is almost entirely navigable during the summer months. As a result, it is an important transportation route in the regions through which it flows.Diafarabé
Diafarabé is a village and rural commune of the Cercle of Ténenkou in the Mopti Region of Mali. The commune is at the southern boundary of the cercle. It covers an area of approximately 980 square kilometers and extends on both sides of the Niger River. The commune includes 10 villages and in the 2009 census had a population of 15,748. The main village of Diafarabé, the chef-lieu, is situated on the north bank of the river next to the junction with the Diaka Channel, a distributary that only flows when the Niger is in flood.
A market takes place in the village on Mondays and serves many settlements in the surrounding area.Every year in late November thousands of cattle are shepherded across the Diaka as they return to the grazing areas in the Inner Niger Delta. The Traversée des Animaux is an important festival for village.Kokry
Kokry is a village and rural commune in the Cercle of Macina in the Ségou Region of southern-central Mali. The commune covers an area of approximately 160 square kilometers and includes 17 villages. The farmland is irrigated by the Office du Niger irrigation scheme. The main crop is rice. In the 2009 census the commune had a population of 13,393. The main village, (chef-lieu), is called Kokry Centre to distinguish it from Kokry Bozo which lies 3 km to the east on a strip of land between the Niger River and the Distributeur Kokry, an irrigation canal.Kolongo
Kolongo or Kolongo Tomo is a village and rural commune in the Cercle of Macina in the Ségou Region of southern-central Mali. The commune covers an area of approximately 484 square kilometers and includes 37 villages. In the 2009 census the commune had a population of 37,648. The village lies on the Fala de Boky-Wéré, an ancient branch of the Niger River that now forms part of the irrigation system of the Office du Niger.Koulikoro
Koulikoro is a town and urban commune in Mali. The capital of the Koulikoro Region, Koulikoro is located on banks of the Niger River, 59 kilometres (37 mi) downstream from Mali's capital Bamako.
Koulikoro is the terminus of the Dakar-Niger Railway which was completed in 1905. Between August and November, at the end of the rainy season, goods are transported down the Niger River to Ségou, Mopti, Tombouctou and Gao. Navigation is not possible upstream of Koulikoro because of the Sotuba Rapids near Bamako.Macina, Mali
Macina (also Ké Macina and Massina) is a small town and rural commune in the Cercle of Macina in the Ségou Region of southern-central Mali. The commune covers an area of 1,100 square kilometers and contains the main town and 20 villages. In the 2009 census the commune had a population of 36,170.The town of Macina lies on the north (left) bank of the Niger River. The farmland around the town forms part of the irrigated area of the Office du Niger and is used for growing rice. Water is diverted from the Niger River upstream of the Markala dam and fed into a system of canals.Meguetan
Meguetan is a commune in the Cercle of Koulikoro in the Koulikoro Region of south-western Mali. The principal town lies at Gouni on the Niger River. As of 1998 the commune had a population of 15,136.Niagadina
Niagadina is a village and rural commune in the Cercle of Kati in the Koulikoro Region of south-western Mali. The commune has an area of 87 square kilometers and includes five villages. The administrative center is the village of Niagadina which lies on the right bank of the Niger River, 72 km southwest of Bamako, the Malian capital. In the 2009 census the commune had a population of 11,961.Niamey
Niamey (French pronunciation: [njamɛ]) is the capital and largest city of the West African country Niger. Niamey lies on the Niger River, primarily situated on the east bank. It is an administrative, cultural and economic centre. Niamey's population was counted as 978,029 as of the 2012 census; the Niamey Capital District, covering 670 km2, had 1,026,848 people. As of 2017, population projections show the capital district growing at a slower rate than the country as a whole, which has the world's highest fertility rate.The city is located in a pearl millet growing region, while manufacturing industries include bricks, ceramic goods, cement and weaving.Niger Coast Protectorate
The Niger Coast Protectorate was a British protectorate in the Oil Rivers area of present-day Nigeria, originally established as the Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1884 and confirmed at the Berlin Conference the following year. It was renamed on 12 May 1893, and merged with the chartered territories of the Royal Niger Company on 1 January 1900 to form the Southern Nigeria Protectorate.Niger Delta
The Niger Delta is the delta of the Niger River sitting directly on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria. It is typically considered to be located within nine coastal southern Nigerian states, which include: all six states from the South South geopolitical zone, one state (Ondo) from South West geopolitical zone and two states (Abia and Imo) from South East geopolitical zone. Of all the states that the region covers, only Cross River is not an oil-producing state.
The Niger Delta is a very densely populated region sometimes called the Oil Rivers because it was once a major producer of palm oil. The area was the British Oil Rivers Protectorate from 1885 until 1893, when it was expanded and became the Niger Coast Protectorate. The delta is a petroleum-rich region and has been the center of international controversy over pollution.Onitsha
Onitsha (Igbo: Ọ̀nị̀chà Mmílí or just Ọ̀nị̀chà) is a city located on the eastern bank of the Niger River, in Nigeria's Anambra State. A metropolitan city, Onitsha is known for its river port and as an economic hub for commerce, industry, and education. It hosts the Onitsha Main Market, the largest market in Africa in terms of geographical size and volume of goods.
In the 2006 Nigerian census, Onitsha had an estimated city proper population of over quarter a million people, and, as of 2016, had an estimated urban population of 7,425,000. The indigenous people of Onitsha are Igbo and speak the Igbo language. The Onitsha people are referred to as Ndi Onicha.Say, Niger
Say is a town in southwest Niger, situated on the Niger River. It is the capital of the Say Department in the Tillabéri Region. The municipality has 12,000 inhabitants, and its economy is dominated by agriculture, herding and small trade.Ségou
Ségou (also Segou, Segu, Seku) is a town and an urban commune in south-central Mali that lies 235 kilometres (146 mi) northeast of Bamako on the River Niger. The town is the capital of the Ségou Cercle and the Ségou Region. With 130,690 inhabitants in 2009, it is the fifth-largest town in Mali.
The village of Ségou-Koro, 10 km upstream of the present town, was established in the 17th century and became the capital of the Bambara Empire.Tienfala
Tienfala is a small town and commune on the Niger River in the Cercle of Koulikoro in the Koulikoro Region of south-western Mali. As of 1998 the commune had a population of 4128.
It is located 30 kilometres from Bamako.
|Tributaries (list) and |
|Dams and bridges|