Niger is a country in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa with an economic strategy that attracts more investors than its neighbours, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mali.
On the occasion of my commercial visit to the country in the middle of this month, I had a chance to examine the capital of the country, Niamey, with its commercial, economic and socio-cultural infrastructure.
If we divide Niger into two different parts as pre-2020 and post-2020, we can see the value added to the country by the significant foreign capital investments that have started operating in the country in the last two to three years. If we take a general view of Niger’s economy, we can see that the country’s economy is getting better every year.
Agricultural production is the most important source of income in Niger where there is the Sahara Desert in the north, pastures for animal husbandry is in the middle, and cultivated agricultural lands in the south. The fact that the rate of urbanisation is below 20 percent and the fertility rate among the highest in the world, this creates potential for development of the country’s agricultural and industrial sectors.
According to 2019 data, 4 percent of the world’s uranium reserves are in Niger from which extracted uranium varies between 3 000 and 4 000 tons. In addition, around 900 000 tons of oil and 200 000 tons of steam coal are extracted annually in the country. While the share of mining in national income is 7 percent, the share of industry is 21.3 percent. Textiles, chemicals, agricultural equipment and metal furniture stand out in the manufacturing industry.
As far as I could observe during my visit, industrialisation of Niger has begun in ernest. When the country’s fertile lands are fully combined with industry, more economic development for the country should be the result. Niger will become a serious powerhouse of the African continent in the next 25 years, especially if the growing young population and investments from foreign countries are combined.
According to the reports shared by the International Monetary Fund, serious growth is expected in the economy of Niger in the post-COVID period compared to previous years. You can find the growth rates by year below:
2016 : 5.7 percent
2017 : 5 percent
2018 : 7.2 percent
2019 : 5.9 percent
2020 : 3.6 percent *
2021 : 5.4 percent
2022 : 6.6 percent
2023 : 10.4 percent **
* Although most economies, including EU countries, went into recession in 2020, the economy of Niger showed a positive increase.
** Estimated figure for 2023.
If we look at the foreign trade figures of Niger, we can see that the country is in very close contact with France, China and India while trade with European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey is increasing. Another point that I realised during my commercial meetings in Niamey is that there are almost no Lebanese and Indians operating as traders in the country. In other West and East African countries, trade and industrial activities are dominated by Lebanese and Indian traders. I think this is an important indicator that the country’s investment climate is ready and open to development.
Another indication that supports all these positive economic indicators is Niger’s steadily rising GDP.
- Niger’s GDP for 2021 was $14.92B, a 8.52 percent increase from 2020.
- Niger’s GDP for 2020 was $13.74B, a 6.41 percent increase from 2019.
- Niger’s GDP for 2019 was $12.92B, a 0.84 percent increase from 2018.
- Niger GDP for 2018 was $12.81B, a 14.52 percent increase from 2017.
While walking on the streets of Niamey and attending commercial business meetings, there is only one thing you feel – and that is the very serious investment potential that this country has. Niger, which has steered a much more stable and healthy political course compared to neighbours such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, is an ideal field for new investment. Making a medium-sized investment in production of fast-moving daily goods and cosmetics and their distribution can provide the investor with great financial returns in the medium term in Niger.
Assuming that the general trade in the country is managed by five or six local traders, we can safely conclude that opportunities for investment and growth are plentiful in Niger. In addition, the construction sector is a business that has just started in the country but it can also bring great value to investors, especially in the vibrant Turkish construction companies.
Main imports into Niger are machinery, motor vehicles, electronics and electrical equipment, aircraft, pharmaceutical products, cereals, iron or steel, flour, milk and pastry products, optics, photography, measuring instruments, medical equioment, coffee, tea, yeast, condiments and food.
My personal observation is that bureaucratic impediments to foreign investors are not a serious issue in Niger. Since the country has already pushed the button for economic development and foreign investment, policies and the workforce to facilitate achievemnt of these goals are in place. Offering equal legal protection to foreign and local investors, Niger presents great advantages to investors with its young population. Except for a few sectors where considerations of national security may not permit, it is possible for foreign investors to invest in any sector in Niger.
From the moment you get off the plane in Niamey, the modern airport that welcomes you, the well-built roads, luxury hotels and the agreeable climate create conditions for a safe business environment. As many have said, world trade of the future is already going through Africa. Based on my personal impression and experience, I can wholeheartedly say that Niger is a candidate for the next shining star of the African continent.
Personally, if I had an investment project in mind today and wanted to choose a country to bring it to life in Africa, I would immediately choose Niger due to its potential and very vibrant market in which the cash flow is healthy. This is because cash flow is vital for trading and Niger has already protected its currency and economy through its economic proximity to France.