On August 3, 2010, Niger had been independent for 50 years. There has been a period marked by poverty and political instability, with several bargains and exchanges between civil and military rule. The economic outlook shows a certain belief in growth in the future, but Niger still faces major challenges due to its position as a land without access to the sea, with large desert areas, low educated population, poorly developed infrastructure and poor health services.
In February 2010, Col Salou chaired Djibo and the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy a coup against President Mamadou Tandja, who had served as president since 1999. They promised a swift transition to civilian governance, but have not been willing to state when to do so. They have deployed a civilian prime minister, Mahamadou Danda. The coup can be seen as a result of a number of political actions by Tandja. He has over time tightened up on the freedom of speech of the civilian population and the media, giving less and less leeway to organizations, the judiciary and the political opposition in the country. This peaked between May and July 2009, when Tandja dissolved the National Assembly and conducted a referendum that allowed him to sit for president beyond the statutory two-term term. After that, the collaboration with the opposition collapsed,
Tandja’s unwillingness to relinquish the position of the country’s president aroused strong reactions in the region. Niger was suspended from the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) in October 2009, a sanction also approved by the African Union (AU). The AU has also condemned the coup that took place in February 2010. The political future in Niger will largely depend on how other countries and international organizations such as AU and ECOWAS relate to the country’s leaders and what pressures they are willing to use to Niger will return to a democratic system of government.
Economy and hope for the future
Described by Abbreviation Finder, Niger joined the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in 1963, and has been closely associated with the two organizations ever since. Despite the critical economic situation the country is in, the authorities are being recognized for trying to follow up on the financial agreements concluded with the IMF and the World Bank.
The IMF expects Nigerian economic growth to be around 1 percent for 2009, but that the country will come back stronger in 2010 with growth of 5.2 percent. The expected major economic growth in the future will come from foreign investments in mines, oil refineries and infrastructure, as well as increased exports of uranium, oil and gold. The Chinese company China National Petroleum Corp plans to expand the oil sector in Niger and will invest $ 5 billion in oil projects in the country by 2012.
Like many other mineral-rich countries, Niger also struggles to regulate the operations of large international companies with interests in the country’s resources. From 2003, a certain spotlight has been directed at the French company AREVA, which is a major player in uranium mining in Niger. The radiation values in some areas of the villages near the uranium mines are 500 times higher than the recommended level. AREVA has not cleared this up, despite assurances from the company in 2009 that this was done.
Poverty, agriculture and climate
Agriculture continues to employ the majority of the population of Niger. After a catastrophic drought in 2004 and 2005, Niger in 2008 managed to increase agricultural yields by as much as 25 percent. This record will not be repeated in neither 2009 nor 2010. The expected rainy season in early 2010 has largely disappeared, and the crops appear to be 40 percent less than previously projected. This will result in the lowest per capita grain production in Niger in over 20 years.
Climate change thus appears to affect Niger through increasingly extreme weather, especially in the form of drought. People in Niger have several strategies for coping with what they call “the hungry season,” but the extreme droughts challenge their ability to survive to a minimum.
Water supply development projects are underway. In 2013, the Kandadji dam will be completed. It will provide water to 222,000 hectares of land. This development of infrastructure is very important for Niger, which relies on international organizations to provide enough food for the population even in good years. And several such projects appear to be possible in the future if international investment continues, and the country again becomes politically stable.
The danger of new bargains and unrest is imminent in a country where political power is one of the very few paths to economic prosperity. Those with political power have a great deal of access to the profits from the mineral wealth in the country, while the rest of the population gets very little.
Niger’s problems in securing school, medical care, food and water for the country’s population affect children and women to the greatest extent. There is little gender equality in Niger, and girls are strongly under-represented in schools.
Conflict and slavery
Conflicts have also long been aggravating the conditions of the poor peasants in Niger. The most serious conflicts have been between the Tuareg people and the state. Tuaregene sees itself as marginalized and wants greater benefits from the mining activities in the country. These conflicts were somewhat mitigated in early 2009 following talks between the Tuareg states and the state. The agreements concluded were disputed in parts of the army, and peace may be uncertain now that the country is given a new political leadership.
Slavery and human trafficking are another challenge for Niger. In 2003, slavery was banned in the country, but aid organizations and human rights activists claim that thousands of people still live under slave-like conditions.
Ranked as the least developed country in the world by the UN, Niger is also easily victimized by various aid organizations that serve on unprofitable representations of the country. And while the situation has been, and is, precarious for the people of Niger, it is important for the country’s economic growth that other than aid organizations are attracted to the country, and new investments in infrastructure and industry continue.
Area: 1.27 million km2 (6th largest)
Population: 14.7 million
Population density: 12 per km2
Urban population: 16 percent
Largest city: Niamey – approx. 915 000
GDP per capita: $ 354
Economic growth: 5.9 percent
HDI Position: 182