In Niger, the military in power are waiting for oil money

France accused of all evils and promises of a better future despite the vicissitudes of the moment

In Niger, the military in power are waiting for oil money

France accused of all evils and promises of a better future despite the vicissitudes of the moment. In an interview given to national radio and television on Sunday, December 10, Abdourahamane Tiani, the head of the military regime in Niger, took up the favorite themes of his Malian and Burkinabe neighbors and peers. Strapped in his officer's uniform, the putschist general, whose power is ostensibly turned towards Moscow, thus considered that "it is easy to see the degree of dispossession to which we have been victims through the agreements that we have gradually denounced » or more directly announced: “We will no longer give a franc to France. »

The economic hopes of the Nigerien government, under regional economic sanctions, are based on the imminence of the first oil exports from the Agadem deposit. From January 2024, “we can hope for the first releases of barrels of Nigerien crude,” said General Tiani while the national budget has been cut by 40% since the July 26 putsch. 90,000 barrels per day should be transported to the port of Sèmè, in Benin, thanks to the 2,000 km oil pipeline built by the China National Petroleum Corp, inaugurated in November but whose finalization is delayed due to the closure of the borders , reveals the Africa Intelligence letter.

Niamey estimates that the marketing of its oil, from which it will derive more than a quarter of its revenues, could represent half its tax revenues and a quarter of its GDP, or more than $13.6 billion, according to data from the World Bank. And grow from year to year thanks to the construction of a second refinery, indicates the putsch leader in the interview. While the population of Niger has hardly benefited from decades of exports of the country's uranium reserves, it can hope to benefit more from the exploitation of black gold. Benin is also impatiently awaiting the benefits of transit rights for Nigerien oil.

A suffocated economy

But the horizon promised by General Tiani is far from the reality described by his compatriots. “We have managed to ensure regular supplies through a secure corridor, thanks to the great mobilization of the defense forces,” he announced when the population denounced the shortage of basic necessities. The economic blockade imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), associated with the closure of borders since the coup State, have hindered imports creating high inflation on products.

“The liter of oil which was 800 CFA francs [1.2 euros] is 1,400. The bag of rice worth 11,000 CFA francs is 20,000. All prices have skyrocketed,” says a mother who , like all those interviewed, prefers to remain anonymous in “the French media”. Added to this is the lack of liquidity. “There are endless queues in the banks, not all customers are served,” explains this employee of a private company. As the online payment system is poorly developed, it is really difficult to manage obligatory expenses such as rent and food supplies. »

The freezing of government and public enterprise accounts by the BCEAO is further suffocating the economy as the public sector is the main employer in Niger. Thus, many households have found themselves without income since July and can no longer meet their needs.

Since August, NGOs have been increasing calls to let dozens of humanitarian aid trucks stuck at the Beninese border pass. “According to certain estimates carried out with other humanitarian organizations in the country, the stocks [of goods necessary for the humanitarian response] available at the time of the border closure were sufficient to cover between two and three months,” declared on the air from RFI, Paolo Cernuschi, director of the International Rescue Committee in Niger.

A growth rate revised downwards

“There is a real psychosis. We are afraid that the situation will deteriorate,” adds an employee in the banking sector in Diffa, in the southeast of the country, via WhatsApp. City residents also report recurring power cuts due to the cessation of electricity exports from Nigeria.

The Nigerien economy today seems to be in an impasse: “Financial sanctions will reduce government consumption and investment. (…) Private investment will be slowed by political uncertainty and reduced liquidity in the banking sector,” comments the World Bank. Even agriculture, which represents 40% of GDP and could be a source of economic resilience, is showing its limits this year. “There are signs that the harvest could be below average,” estimates the Washington institution.

Niger's growth rate, projected at 6.9% based on average agricultural performance and oil production coming on stream before the end of the year, could be revised downwards. “If sanctions and the pause in international development financing continue until the end of 2023, growth may fall to 2.3%,” explains the international bank.

Faced with the crisis, hundreds of Nigeriens took to the streets of the capital on Saturday December 9, the day before the ECOWAS summit, to protest against the sanctions against Niger. The community has opened the way for a reduction in embargoes, provided that the junta promises a “short transition”, before a return of civilians to power. An imprecise deadline on which Abourahame Tiani did not comment during his last interview. However, he indicated in August that it would not last more than three years. The possible reduction of sanctions would considerably change the direction of the curves since growth could then rebound to 12.8% in 2024.