By Bate Felix and Anait Miridzhanian
DAKAR (Reuters) – Niger’s regional and Western allies have announced a series of sanctions against the country following the July 26 coup. Niger is the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium, the radioactive metal widely used for nuclear energy and treating cancer. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries, receiving close to $2 billion a year in development assistance.
According to 2023 budget projections, of Niger’s total budget of 3,245 billion CFA francs ($5.53 billion) for the fiscal year, around 342.44 billion francs was expected to come from external budget support and loans.
Another 978.47 billion francs was supposed to come from project grants and loans from external partners. In total, more than $2.2 billion, or around 40% of its budget, was expected to came from external partners.
These sanctions have been imposed on Niger since the coup:
WEST AFRICA REGIONAL BLOC
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Monetary and Economic Union have imposed some of the most stringent sanctions on Niger so far since the coup.
With immediate effect, the bloc has suspended all commercial transactions with Niger, frozen its state assets in the regional central bank, frozen assets of the state and state enterprises in commercial banks, and suspended all financial assistance with regional development banks.
The financial sanctions could lead to a default on Niger’s debt repayments.
A planned 30 billion CFA francs ($51 million) bond issuance by Niger in the West African regional debt market was cancelled by the regional central bank following the imposition of sanctions. Niger had planned to raise 490 billion CFA francs ($834 million) from the regional debt market in 2023.
The ECOWAS sanctions also meant Nigeria cut power supply to the country on the 80 megawatt Birnin-Kebbi line, while Ivory Coast suspended imports and exports of Nigerien goods.
West Africa’s regional central bank, the BCEAO, shut down its branches in Niger, citing risks to operations.
The European Union, one of Niger’s biggest contributors, has suspended its financial support and cooperation on security with Niger with immediate effect.
The EU allocated 503 million euros ($554 million) from its budget to improve governance, education and sustainable growth in Niger over 2021-2024, according to its website.
France, another major partner of its former colony, suspended development aid and budget support with immediate effect, demanding a prompt return to constitutional order. French development aid for Niger was at around 120 million euros ($130 million) in 2022, and expected to be slightly higher this year.
France also has around 1,500 troops in Niger. It relied on Niger after it withdrew its counter insurgency troops from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
The Dutch government, which was supporting development and security programmes in Niger, temporarily suspended its direct cooperation with the government following the coup.
The United States, a major provider of humanitarian and security aid, paused assistance programmes to Niger valued at more than $100 million over the military takeover, pressing the junta to reinstate the elected government.
The U.S. has previously warned that the coup could lead to the suspension of all cooperation.
So far in fiscal 2023, it has provided nearly $138 million in humanitarian assistance. There are about 1,100 U.S. troops in Niger, where the U.S. military operates from two bases.
Canada suspended direct development assistance and expressed support for ECOWAS’ mediation efforts for Niger to return to constitutional order.
The World Bank suspended disbursements until further notice, except for private-sector partnerships which it said will continue with caution.
Niger has one of the largest World Bank portfolios in Africa, amounting to $4.5 billion, and it has also received $600 million in direct budget support from the bank between 2022 and 2023.
(Reporting by Bate Felix and Anait Miridzhanian; Additonal reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels and Juliette Jabkhiro in Paris; Editing by Nick Macfie and Angus MacSwan)