By Kanishka Singh and Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The World Bank on Wednesday said it was “alarmed” by efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government in Niger, and had suspended disbursements in the African country until further notice, except for private-sector partnerships.
Niger has one of the largest World Bank portfolios in Africa, amounting to $4.5 billion covering the country’s priority sectors, and it has also received $600 million in direct budget support from the bank between 2022 and 2023.
“The World Bank believes that peace, stability, and rule of law are fundamental for creating a world free of poverty on a livable planet. We are alarmed by efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government in Niger,” it said in a statement.
“As a result, the World Bank has paused disbursements for all operations until further notice other than private sector partnerships which will continue with caution.”The World Bank said it would continue monitoring the situation.
“We are driven by the ambition to improve the quality of life and opportunities for the people of Niger,” it added.
Niger’s regional and international partners are scrambling to respond to a military coup that political analysts say could have grave consequences for democratic progress and the fight against an insurgency by jihadist militants in West Africa.
A military junta overthrew Niger’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum and his government on July 26 in the seventh military takeover in less than three years in West and Central Africa.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS sent a delegation to Niger on Wednesday to negotiate with the military officers who seized power, hoping to find a diplomatic solution before they have to decide whether to intervene.
The Bank’s private sector arm, IFC, has mobilized close to $50 million of investments in Niger in the last three years with projects worth $75 million under consideration for this year.
The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, the World Bank’s political risk arm, has supported one project in Niger’s financial technology sector valued at $2.25 million, and has been developing a pipeline of projects in the renewable energy and telecom sectors.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese, Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis)