Historical building in Zinder, Niger

Niger An agricultural nation in the Sahel zone

Rich in mineral resources, development-oriented, and relatively stable politically following the democratic new beginning in 2011 – but at present still desperately poor: that would be one way to sum up the situation in the Niger.

The West African country gained independence from France in 1960. The decades that followed were dominated by a series of different military governments and several coups. Between 1999 and 2009, the Niger was governed by democratically elected President Mamadou Tandja, under whom the country achieved a certain degree of stability. Hopes that the Niger would undergo a process of democratisation and economic development went unfulfilled, however, as Tandja’s rule became increasingly autocratic.

Having refused to step down in 2009 after two terms in office as prescribed under the country’s constitution, President Tandja was ousted in a military coup in 2010. A new constitution affording more civil rights was devised, which was approved by the people of the Niger in a referendum. In early 2011, elections were held at the municipal, regional and national levels. Mahamadou Issoufou, a long-time opposition leader, won the presidential elections in 2011; in 2016 he was re-elected for a further term in office. Despite an attempt by the opposition to boycott them, the elections were legally correct and peaceful. The political climate within the country has improved since President Issoufou began his second five-year term in office.

The Niger government has set itself ambitious development goals. They include reducing poverty and food insecurity, strengthening and consolidating democracy, improving the country’s governance and its economic development, and stabilising the security situation.

Development cooperation

As a consequence of the political crisis in 2009 and 2010, the implementation of agreed development programmes was temporarily suspended. The only activities that continued to be funded were humanitarian measures aimed at addressing acute food shortages.

Following the country’s return to democratic structures, Germany resumed its cooperation with the Niger in 2011. The priority areas of cooperation are decentralisation and good governance, and productive agriculture and food security. Germany also supports the Niger in the areas of basic education and health care (family planning).

Shepherds with their goats near Niamey, Niger

The hopes of the Niger people rest on the President Internal link

Since 2011, the hopes of the Niger people have been resting on President Mahamadou Issoufou and his government. Issoufou is expected to bring the West African country back to the path of democracy, introduce political and economic reforms, and find effective solutions for the main social problems.

Men in Niamey, Niger, reading newspapers

Democracy is not yet sufficiently developed Internal link

Despite the progress that has been made, democracy and the rule of law are still not sufficiently developed in the Niger. Day-to-day political life is characterised by the pursuit of individual interests based on ethnic and regional origin.

Women with goats and camels in Makanga

Women are socially and economically disadvantaged Internal link

The Niger has ratified all the important international human rights conventions. Elementary civil rights are also laid down in the country’s constitution. However, there are many areas where national legislation has yet to catch up with these commitments.

A man in a boat on the Niger River

Great poverty Internal link

The Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. The current United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) puts it last out of the 189 countries listed.

Woman in front of a community garden in Maradi, Niger

Agriculture is the dominant industry Internal link

Despite unfavourable conditions for farming, the Niger’s economy is largely based on agriculture. According to the World Bank, in 2018 the agricultural sector accounted for 39 per cent of gross domestic product.

Girls who fled Nigeria to Niger during a math lesson in Bosso, Niger

Host and transit country for displaced people Internal link

The crises taking place in Mali, Nigeria and Libya are also taking their toll on the Niger’s development. The country is being forced to deal with multiple challenges that threaten its stability and domestic security.

German development cooperation with the Niger

After the Niger returned to democracy, the development cooperation activities that had been temporarily suspended were resumed in 2011. The most recent goverement negotiations between Germany and Niger took place in June 2021. Germany made commitments totalling 120 million euros for two years. Germany is the third biggest bilateral donor after France and the US.

Cooperation between Germany and the Niger focuses on two priority areas:

  • Decentralisation and good governance
  • Productive agriculture and food security

Furthermore, the Federal Republic of Germany is also supporting the Republic of the Niger in the areas of basic education and health.

German efforts to support refugees and migrants Measures worth 66 million euros agreed

Reception centre of the the International Organisation for Migration in Agadez, Niger

Reception centre of the the International Organisation for Migration in Agadez, Niger

Reception centre of the the International Organisation for Migration in Agadez, Niger

In order to support the Niger in its efforts to deal with the refugee and migrant situation, measures worth 66 million euros were agreed at the German-Niger government negotiations in 2017. The Niger is to receive support in meeting migration challenges. In the region around Agadez in particular, local communities are to be helped so they can better meet the needs both of local people and of migrants, displaced persons and returnees.

The focus of the agreed measures is on tackling the factors that drive displacement and migration. For example, schools are being built and equipped; support in the form of labour-intensive programmes is being provided for the development of basic infrastructure (health posts, markets), in order to create jobs for the local population.

Other projects include vocational training, qualifications and promoting employment (including rural workers, mechanics, tailors), help with business start-ups through seed capital, literacy campaigns, and campaigns for sex education and family planning. An advisory project is supporting the Niger’s efforts to develop and implement a comprehensive, coordinated policy for dealing with the challenges of migration.

Spice trade on the market in Niamey, Niger

Strengthening municipal structures Internal link

The Niger has been pursuing a policy of decentralisation since 2004 aimed at strengthening the country’s municipal structures. One of the challenges the Niger is facing in this context is how to ensure that in addition to being given authority for certain aspects of local government, municipalities are also provided with the funds they need to carry out these tasks.

A boy carries live chickens through the market in Niamey.

Protecting natural resources Internal link

Deforestation, overgrazing and overcultivation in the Niger mean that more and more land is being depleted of vital nutrients and becoming infertile. The country is already regularly suffering droughts because of changes in normal rainfall patterns, a situation which is likely to be further exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

Participants in a pilot project to improve educational opportunities for girls in the Torodi region of Niger

Improving the quality of education, setting up health centres Internal link

Germany is supporting the implementation of the Niger government’s programme for the education sector. The focus in the field of reproductive health is on developing and equipping rural health centres, and on introducing a results-oriented refund scheme for health care services.