Posted on December 18, 2013
Today is Republic Day in Niger and the Official National Day in Qatar.
Both of these nations are largely desert and mostly Islamic, but otherwise they're pretty different. One of these nations is in the Middle East, and people speak Arabic. The other is in Western Africa, and people speak French and a variety of African languages. One nation is very poor. The other is the richest nation in the world—with the highest GDP per capita, one of the lowest tax rates, and almost 15% of the population being millionaires (in the worth of local money expressed
as U.S. dollars)! One has one of the world's largest uranium deposits, and the other has oil and one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. One is an absolute monarchy, and the other is a democratic, multi-party nation.
Do you know which is which?
Niger is the West African nation, named for the Niger River that also inspired the name of one of its neighbors, Nigeria. It is landlocked and mostly covered by the Sahara Desert. It has a lot of uranium, but the world market for uranium has fallen as people have turned away from nuclear power plants. Landlocked, arid, falling market for its product—these are some of the reasons that Niger is so poor. Niger was colonized by the French; after independence the nation was ruled by a few different military governments, but it has now taken steps to becoming a democratic republic.
Qatar is a nation on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf—it has only a small border with Saudi Arabia. Although most of the land is a barren, sand-covered plain, there are so much oil and natural gas resources that the nation has become #1 wealthiest in the world, if wealth is considered per person (that's what per capita means). Qatar was colonized by Britain, but since independence the nation has been ruled by a king (called the Emir) with complete (absolute) power. Since 1995 that king has been liberalizing his nation. He launched a TV station that wasn't just his own propaganda, and he endorsed women's right to vote in city elections, and he encouraged the writing of the nation's first constitution. The Emir said that there would be an elected legislature to make laws starting this year...but I cannot see that it has happened yet. Hurry, Qatar! There's not much more of 2013 to go!
Celebrate Niger by checking out this short video about Niger's Dinosaur Graveyard!
Celebrate Qatar by enjoying a video about its growth and development. I admire the fact that the nation is trying really hard to invest some of its wealth in knowledge and infrastructure and diversification.
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