Niger is a landlocked country in western Africa bordered by Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Malo. The country became a republic under the constitution signed in 2010. But this past July, a military-staged coup overthrew Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum. Niger’s economy is now struggling due to rising prices and closing borders. Here is some information about Niger’s coup.
Niger’s Coup and Food Insecurity
Military coup leaders took President Bazoum hostage in Niger’s capital, Niamey. Threats of his execution are preventing foreign intervention, but several surrounding states imposed sanctions prohibiting transactions with Niger.
As one of the world’s most impoverished nations, Niger was already struggling financially before the coup. The country suffers from intense drought, and more than 4.3 million people rely on food aid to survive. That becomes an issue as some of Niger’s biggest donors, like Germany and France, are cutting aid. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also closed key borders for Niger’s imports and exports to Benin and Nigeria.
Since the revolt, the price of common goods has increased throughout Niger. Rice, for instance, rose from 11,000 West African francs a bag to 13,000 francs in just a few days. As a landlocked nation, Niger relies on imports from neighboring countries for staple foods like rice. But sanctions preventing transactions are driving those prices up, making it difficult for many people to afford daily necessities.
The Impact on Fuel Costs
Another key resource seeing price increases is fuel. Drivers who transport passengers for a living suffer from profit cuts as they are forced to direct funds toward higher fuel costs. Many families have also suffered from power loss since Nigeria, which supplies 70% of Niger’s electricity, cut fuel to Niger. Even before the coup, less than one out of five people had access to electricity. Now, that number is even lower.
Niger’s Hydroelectric Potential
Prior to the takeover, Niger’s hopes for economic improvement rested on using its hydroelectric potential. The Chinese company Gezhouba Group was building a hydropower plant on the Niger River to help improve Niger’s energy production. However, the company suspended construction activities due to other ECOWAS sanctions. Now, the dam’s completion will likely be delayed, further hurting progress on Niger’s electricity development.
Niger coup leaders also stopped UN agencies and NGOs from working in military operation zones. Consequently, organizations that work to help refugees, like the UN’s International Organization for Migration, are unable to provide aid. Coup violence displaced more than 20,000 in Niger, and more than 700,000 already experienced displacement in the country. Since humanitarian services cannot access Niger to provide displaced people refuge, those who are displaced are often at a loss.
What the United Nations Has Been Doing
The United Nations has been seeking contact with coup leaders since its humanitarian services have been halted. “We are reaching out to the de facto authorities in Niger to better understand what this means and the implications for the humanitarian work,” said UN spokesperson Alessandra Velluci.
The United States is also one of Niger’s main suppliers of military and security assistance. However, following the coup, the U.S. suspended certain aid programs including military education and training that help Niger fight terrorism. The United States Congress mandates that the country must halt all aid to any government subjected to a military coup, and while U.S. officials have avoided the use of that particular word, many of the aid programs have been halted.
How the US Has Helped
Many foreign policy advisors argue that the Biden administration should formally declare the events a coup, as the military leaders are still refusing to negotiate. However, that would result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in American funding. The U.S., as an ally to Niger, sent about $218 million in security assistance and $664 million in health and development assistance to Niger between 2017 and 2022. Similar aid remains at stake in the coming years if coup leaders remain unwilling to restore democracy.
The coup leaders argued that the country under Bazoum was subject to poor economic management and security, yet recent growth statistics suggest otherwise. Niger’s economy rebounded in 2022 after the pandemic’s crash with a growth of 11.5%. Growth was expected to reach 12.4% in 2024 if targets for oil production and international financial support were met, but those prospects are now unlikely.
Niger’s political and economic futures are highly uncertain. But while borders remain closed and aid programs stay halted, Nigeriens suffer from resource access. Sanctions that cause Niger’s public to suffer are harming the nation’s stability.
– Lindsey Osit