PARTNER-ATLAS

NIGER

as a partner for regulating global migration flows

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Niger have for Germany with regards to "regulating global migration flows"?

The unstable security situation throughout the Sahel region reveals the weakness of state authorities in the region. Niger’s security forces are also struggling to exercise effective control of the country. Several terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram, regularly attack military bases and also civilians. Niger is also one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest rates of population growth (on an average, women have 7 children) and is wrestling with numerous governance problems, including regular accusations of corruption against government representatives or officials. There were several demonstrations against the rampant corruption and bad governance in the past. However, in the 2020/21 elections, Niger for the first time successfully managed the transfer of power from one elected President to another, Mohamed Bazoum. In the past, the country had suffered numerous military coups.

Niger is an important transit country for migration from Africa to the Mediterranean coast. The so-called “central Mediterranean route” leads – especially via the Nigerien city of Agadez – towards the Algerian and Libyan borders and continues on to the Mediterranean coast. Many Nigeriens are involved in transporting migrants through the Sahara, an activity that is as lucrative for the traffickers as it is dangerous for the migrants. Niger is also a transit country for returnees from Libya or for African migrants expelled from Algeria. Germany and the EU as a whole have a considerable interest in supporting Niger, as one of the hubs of African migration, in overcoming these challenges, and in preventing illegal migration flows at a point that is as close as possible to where they originate.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Niger willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

In recent years, Niger has proven itself to be a reliable partner for Germany and the EU in many policy areas. Already under the Issoufu Presidency, the Nigerien government was committed to the fight against illegal migration flows and was prepared to take action against trafficking networks in its own country. This was demonstrated, for example, by the adoption of an extremely strict law in 2015, which is intended to prevent human trafficking by threatening severe punishments (up to 30 years in prison). Niger consistently enforces this policy and is taking on illegal migration; numerous smugglers’ vehicles have been confiscated.

However, the government’s position is not popular with large sections of the Nigerien population, and there is open criticism of its approach, especially in the Agadez region. Given this situation, a distinction must be made between a government that is largely willing to cooperate and sections of the population (especially in the north), who are losing a lucrative source of income, the transport of migrants, and who are, to some extent, also critical of their own government’s migration policy.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Niger's current cooperation in this area?

Niger is regarded as a reliable partner for Germany. President Mohamed Bazoum paid a visit to Berlin in early July 2021, in order to underline the “excellent“ quality of mutual relations. His predecessor Issoufu had already met then Chancellor Merkel on numerous occasions.  

As a transit country, Niger is supported by a whole range of measures for regulating migration flows. It is important to stress that Niger – as one of the poorest countries in the world and in view of the considerable security policy challenges in the region – is dependent on strong development assistance and security policy cooperation, irrespective of the migration issue. The deterioration of the security situation in the Sahel region since 2013, for example, has contributed to an overall expansion of international engagement, because further destabilisation of the region would also have negative effects on the Sahel’s West African neighbours.

Bilateral cooperation with Germany is part of this overall engagement by the international community. Recently, Germany has considerably enhanced its development policy commitment. A total of more than 115 million euros was pledged to Niger for the period 2018 to 2020, almost twice as much as in the period of 2014 to 2017. An example of this is Germany’s support for projects in the Agadez region that are intended to create employment prospects outside of human trafficking. Niger is also one of the priority countries in the EU migration partnership.  As an important local player with a nationwide footprint, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supports migrants who are willing to return. In cooperation with the Nigerien authorities, the IOM has also managed to save thousands of migrants along dangerous routes.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Niger in this area?

Against the background of its own immense challenges in the areas of security and development, the Nigerien government is interested in expanding cooperation. Unlike neighbours like Mali, the country has come out against cooperating with Russia and puts its faith in the West. Germany also has a strong interest in intensive cooperation, not only with regard to the issue of migration, but also because of the possible consequences that further destabilisation of the Sahel would have for the whole of West Africa (such as threats from terrorism and organised crime). Niger and Germany share an interest in stabilising the countries of the Sahel region.

In view of the precarious security situation, providing stronger support for government structures offers some potential, e.g. by implementing actions under the German Enable & Enhance initiative (Ertüchtigungsinitiative) in the field of security. The Nigerien government’s constructive approach also offers opportunities for cooperation in other contexts, such as in the United Nations.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

Already existing programmes for strengthening the Nigerien security forces (armed forces, police, and gendarmerie) should therefore be expanded as an instrument of German support. In addition, other core functions of the Nigerien state should also be strengthened (e.g. the judiciary, territorial administration). In order to be able to keep making a sustainable contribution to the regulation of migration flows, Niger needs to be assisted in improving the security situation in the country and in making progress in the field of development. Neither will be possible without the government being an effective and efficient actor that is visible throughout the country.

Ulf Laessingheads the KAS Sahel Regional Programme.

Last update: 18 May 2022

NIGER

  • Population: 24,206,644
  • Capital: Niamey
  • Interest: Regulating Global Migration Flows
  • Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

04 — The region

Sub-Saharan Africa

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CÔTE D IVOIRE

Côte d‘Ivoire is an anchor of political and economic stability in West Africa. Whereas there were three military coups in the neighbouring countries of Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso in an eight-month period beginning in May 2021, the situation in Côte d’Ivoire remained calm. The commodity-rich hub on the Gulf of Guinea has recorded consistently strong economic growth since 2012, regularly exceeding 6 percent, well above the population growth rate, which is also high at about 2.5 percent per annum. Its population grew from 16.5 million in 2000, to 26 million 20 years later.

  • Population: 27.712.600
  • Capital: Yamoussoukro
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DR CONGO

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has various resources that play, or will play, a major part in limiting global warming, in addition to helping with the global energy and mobility transition. The world’s second largest area of rainforest – about 100 million hectares – is located in DR Congo. Tropical ecosystems such as the Congolese rainforest are capable of storing CO2, and thus play an important part in global climate protection and in limiting global warming. At a micro level, forest areas can also reduce the occurrence of extreme weather events such as heat or intense rain.

  • Population: 95.403.294
  • Capital: Kinshasa
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MALAWI

Malawi has shown that it can serve as an example of a functioning democracy in Africa and a partner for Germany in defending a democratic, values-based world order. The country made history in 2020 when the May 2019 elections, which had been overshadowed by irregularities, were successfully disputed by the opposition. New, free and fair elections ordered by the court were held under Covid-19 conditions within 150 days. An alliance of opposition parties, the Tonse Alliance, won the elections with an absolute majority. Since then, new President Lazarus Chakwera has pursued the objective of suppressing widespread corruption and putting the country onto a successful economic footing.

  • Population: 20.150.838
  • Capital: Lilongwe
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CÔTE D IVOIRE

As part of its security policy commitment in West Africa, German foreign policy has focused for many years on Mali and its neighbouring countries, also known as the Sahel Region, whose stability is directly relevant to peace and security in this country on account of its close proximity to Europe. Nevertheless, we need to broaden our geographical horizons, since Jihadism, ethnic conflicts and organised crime are becoming more widespread throughout West Africa. This poses a threat to political and economic stability among the southern neighbours of the Sahel countries in particular, such as Côte d’Ivoire. Côte d’Ivoire is an important partner for Germany in the area of trade and development policy cooperation in West Africa. One area where this finds expression is in the Reform Partnership which Germany has maintained with the country since 2017.

  • Population: 27.712.600
  • Capital: Yamoussoukro
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SOUTH AFRICA

The world needs Africa in order to stop climate change, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasised during the EU-Africa summit in early 2022. South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, is pursuing ambitious goals in this field, similar to what is being debated in Germany. Examples include the reduction of CO2 emissions and minimizing the enormous dependence on coal. The role that the various players in South African politics who could veto these efforts will play is hard to assess, however.

 

  • Population: 59,308,690
  • Capital: Bloemfontain, Capetown, Pretoria
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KENYA

Kenya is one of the most stable countries in East Africa and has an internationally oriented economy. With consistently strong economic growth in the twelve years before the Covid crisis and a GDP of more than 100 billion US dollars (2020), Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa and is a growth engine for the region. Thanks to the ports of Mombasa and Lamu as well as the airport in Nairobi, the country is an important regional hub for trade,finance and the transport of humanitarian aid in the region. Many international companies and organisations have chosen Kenya as the seat of their (East) Africa branches.

  • Population: 53,771,296
  • Capital: Nairobi
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GHANA

Despite its relatively small population of approximately 28 million inhabitants, Ghana is growing in relevance for Germany. This is evident not least of all from the fact that Ghana has been included in the Compact with Africa project since 2017 and became one of Germany’s reform partner countries in the same year. Ghana’s willingness to accept reforms in the economic and fiscal policy sector, along with its framework, which is relatively stable and reliable compared to many other Sub-Saharan African countries, made Ghana an interesting partner for the G20, and especially for Germany (as a reform partnership).

  • Population: 31,072,940
  • Capital: Accra
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NIGERIA

With a population of around 216 million, Nigeria is not only the most populous country in Africa, but it has also been the continent’s largest economy for some years now. The country is rich in oil and gas and is one of the largest oil exporters in the world. Nonetheless, Nigeria faces immense security and economic problems, which have worsened as a result of the Covid pandemic and could further destabilise the entire region in the medium to long term, posing major challenges for Europe. This applies both to the European interest in supporting the Sahel states in their fight against terrorism and to stopping irregular migration from Africa.

  • Population: 206,139,589
  • Capital: Abuja
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NIGER

The unstable security situation throughout the Sahel region reveals the weakness of state authorities in the region. Niger’s security forces are also struggling to exercise effective control of the country. Several terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram, regularly attack military bases and also civilians. Niger is also one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest rates of population growth (on an average, women have 7 children) and is wrestling with numerous governance problems, including regular accusations of corruption against government representatives or officials. There were several demonstrations against the rampant corruption and bad governance in the past. However, in the 2020/21 elections, Niger for the first time successfully managed the transfer of power from one elected President to another, Mohamed Bazoum. In the past, the country had suffered numerous military coups.

  • Population: 24,206,644
  • Capital: Niamey
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