Niger is a founding member of the African Union (AU) and has close ties to neighboring countries through membership of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) and the UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Community). Niger, for example, took part in tax harmonization in January 2000. Niger is also a member of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the West African Development Bank BOAD, the UEMOA development finance institution and the Comité Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Sécheresse du Sahel (CILSS).
Inland Niger strives to maintain good relations with its neighbors; However, due to its long borders and cross-border relationships between its ethnic groups and people, Niger is often affected by various regional conflicts. There is a connection to the coast via southern countries. Since February 2002 Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have formed a joint security brigade made up of members of the three countries to protect the common borders, which is occasionally also supported by Algeria.
Relations with Libya are close. After Gaddafi’s death in 2011, Libya is unstable and shaped by civil war. The situation of the power vacuum that has arisen there offers Islamists ground for considerable expansion. After Gaddafi’s death, the new relationships have to be re-established. Many Nigerians go to the northern neighboring country as labor migrants. It is feared that the south of Libya will become a refuge for Islamist groups, which would pose major problems for Libya and its neighboring countries. In early March 2014, Gaddafi’s son Saadi was extradited to Libya from Niger, where he fled a month before the 2011 coup in Libya.
According to ethnicityology, an old border dispute (since 1927) between Burkina Faso and Niger (between Tong-Tong and the Botou Ridge) was settled by the International Court of Justice in April 2013. It is a technical solution which, however, regulates the clarity of responsibility for the two states with regard to taxes, the use of law enforcement officers, etc. In 2014, work began on installing the border markings and raising awareness among the population.
Historical connections on both sides of the borders can be traced back to the emirate of Liptako. Since 1970, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali have established the Autorité de développement intégré de la région du Liptako Gourma (ALG) association for the Liptako and the northeastern region of Gourma. All three countries are concerned with protecting resources and fighting desertification.
Niger and Mali have great cultural and socio-political closeness – especially in the northern regions. Events in recent years and decades are similar, but they do not always have the same objectives: Tuareg uprisings; North Mali / North Niger conflict; AQMI etc. The stationing of troops to combat drug and arms trafficking as well as to minimize human smuggling are topical in both countries.
On the natural-ecological level, the states of Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin are connected by the national park “W” (corresponding to the W meander that the Niger River has), which is a World Heritage Site.
Trade with Nigeria is intensive, not least due to the family connections of the Haussa on this side and on the other side of the border. In addition, Nigeria is the energy supplier of Niger with its oil. Ever since the Islamist movement Boko Haram made a name for itself in Nigeria and also acted across borders, there have been repeated movements of refugees from northern Nigeria and border closings.
The mood of dissatisfaction with Algeria is intensifying as Algeria abandons thousands of migrants in the desert on the Nigerien border. On the other hand, Algeria is also sending relief supplies to Niger.
Niger maintains close relations with Germany. At the financial, technical and personal level, Germany contributes to support measures to improve living conditions in Niger.
Currently (spring 2020), among other things, funds are being rededicated and further funds made available to support Niger in coping with the corona crisis. Minister Müller believes a new wave of refugees from Africa is possible. The conditions in the African states would become chaotic and even civil war-like conditions.
The priorities of Germany in bilateral relations with Niger are political dialogue and development cooperation. Merkel’s short visit to Niger in May 2019 brought along some financial support in addition to the recognition of the Nigerien achievements in the area of migration. During Chancellor Merkel’s short visit to Mali and Niger in mid- October 2016, she promised the state support in the military and civilian areas. A marshal plan to meet the expectations of Niger to support the refugee problem with substantial financial resources, Merkel did not agree. However, they will participate in the expansion of Niamey airport and also increase certain projects in the areas of security and development policy, especially in Niger and Mali. In particular, this relates to measures in the refugee area, for example to identify alternatives to smuggling. In May 2016, the then Foreign Minister Steinmeier traveled to Niger to get an idea of the local situation. In order to curb the flow of refugees from West African countries, Germany has been supporting Niger for years. This trip, which he undertook together with the French Foreign Minister Ayrault, served primarily to conduct a migration policy dialogue for the EU. Development Minister Müller wanted with his trip in August 2016 to strengthen future opportunities and expand Stay perspectives. In Niger, he emphasized that Germany and Europe needed Niger’s help.
The ties between the state of Niger and France are still intense, not least because of its colonial history. Economic relationships play an important role in this; Until a few years ago, most of the products in supermarkets were of French origin. France is politically present throughout the region. Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou would like France to support the democratization process. France imports a third of its total uranium requirements from Niger. Niger’s oldest uranium mine in Arlit is owned by the French company AREVA, which has been mining in Niger since 1958.
The European Union is an important partner of the state of Niger; The EUCAP Sahel Niger program aims to support central and local authorities in order to increase security on Nigerien territory. The main objective at the moment is to combat and control irregular migration.
The relationship with the USA is guided by security-related aspects. In the course of the conflict in northern Mali, around 10 drones and military personnel were stationed in Niamey in spring 2013. These are supposed to track down camps in the inhospitable and inaccessible north of Niger and Mali, which is considered a retreat for fighters and bandits. Support in aspects of security is currently the focus of the relationships; The US also imports uranium from Niger and exports rice, vehicles, food processing machines, fats and oils.
The relationship between China and Niger is shaped by China’s interest in Nigerien raw materials. In return, China built the second Niger bridge, a third bridge is in preparation and China also built the oil refinery in Zinder. In February 2014, a major credit agreement was signed with China.