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.
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).
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. Government negotiations between Germany and the Niger take place every three years. In 2014, commitments of 62 million euros were made for the period from 2014 to 2017. In 2015 and 2016, an additional 30 million euros was pledged. 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
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.