Niger is a former French colony which was granted independence in 1960. The land is mostly desert plains and dunes, with rolling savanna in the southeast. Niger is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with over 80% of its territory covered by the Sahara desert, and much of the rest threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The largest desert in the world, extending between 800 and 1,200 miles and at least 3,000 miles from east to west, covers one-fourth the area of Africa including the lands of Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Niger, Tunisia and Egypt.
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