January 30 2014 Gaïcha SADDY

Back from Niamey, Niger: Time to leave the last place….

Ranked among the last countries in terms of development despite its position of the fourth largest uranium’s producer worldwide, Niger has been for a longtime characterized by a clearly poor economy and population image. September 2001 was my first real contact with the country, as a real habitant. From this date to 2012, nothing changed, except a new bridge in the capital in 2011. The 2001’s picture was the same as the 2012’s one, with no hope on a better future for economy and population. The country still at the bottom of the HDI ranking, no major measures are taken to change the situation.

December 2013, I went back to Niger and my first impression was: what happened to this country? In a year, I have seen more changes than in 10 years! With a big smile on my face, I started rediscover the capital and I was positively surprised to see all the infrastructure projects taking place.

Private and foreign investors are finally realizing that being the last country in the world is not necessarily a handicap. With a pretty stable political environment, Niger is like a newborn country where everything needs to be done. What’s an opportunity for investors! The country needs roads, highways, bridges, supermarkets, movie theaters, hotels, hospitals, everything!

If big infrastructure projects are the responsibility of Niger government, there is still a place for young investors (why not national investors?) on the retail market. With only three supermarkets in the capital, not often responding to customers’ demands in terms of quality and needs, a lot of profitable investment can be done on this segment.

At a first look, infrastructure and retail are the two markets you think of for investing in Niger. But the country also needs sanitary investments, private or public, to respond to the lack of performing measures to save lives. Niger has very qualified doctors but they don’t have adequate equipment to practice. The country is also exposed to a serious problem of electricity, which can easily be resolved by large investment in solar energy as the country is extremely exposed to sun during the twelve months of the year. The government started in this way, with using solar energy for public lightning, but there is still a large place for new investments, especially private investments.

China was the first country to realize the bunch of opportunities in Niger, and now they are collaborating in order to develop the country in a win-win partnership: infrastructure, oil, retail, etc.

With the beginning of oil production, and soon its exportation via the pipeline Niger-Chad-Cameroon, the renegotiation of uranium’s contract with Areva, the country will be subject to consequent money’s entry, far more that what it usually gets. Thinking about the strategic development plan made by authorities and approved and supported by international financial institutions, all the fifty and plus conventions signed between the government and foreign investors, Niger is expecting to rise in the West African landscape as a solid economic system in the 10 coming years.

The country is a real construction site, which gives hope for young population in a better future, changing its face from the poorest country in the world to a growing economy.

Gaïcha SADDY, Analyst, Infomineo

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