Niger is a landlocked Sahelian state in West Africa that is surrounded by Algeria and Libya to the north, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the South and Burkina Faso and Mali to the west. Niger's greatest geographic challenge is its landlocked status in the Sahel, the transition zone between the Sahara Desert and the savannahs of West Africa. Niger's lack of immediate coastal access and the global markets beyond increases the cost of imports and exports there. Moreover, it forces the country to rely on costly or lacking infrastructure and to manage relations with neighboring countries carefully to ensure its trade opportunities are not cut off. The Sahel region has often been home to significant instability. Mali, Niger's neighbor to the west, remains the epicenter of regional militancy thanks to its weak government, internal tensions and a host of other issues. Niger, for its part, has also experienced cycles of rebellion but has largely maintained a somewhat stable, if weak and porous, security environment in recent years. Niger's geographic position in the impoverished and unstable Sahel has done it no favors regarding infrastructure or economic development. In the years ahead, rapid population growth and strained resources will become even more pressing, causing Niger to struggle as it grapples with these problems for the foreseeable future.