Sat 23 Sep 2023 2:02 pm - Jerusalem Time
Sanctions imposed on Niger in response to the coup further deprive Niger's population
Severe deprivation is no stranger to Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world. But the sanctions imposed by West African countries in response to the July 26 coup worsened the conditions of citizens.
Everyone is complaining about inflation resulting from the harsh economic and financial measures imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on July 30, four days after a military coup ousted elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
In this vast desert country, which lacks a seafront and relies heavily on its neighbors, the price of a bag of imported rice (25 kg) is 14,500 CFA francs (22 euros), compared to 11,500 francs (about 18 euros) before the sanctions.
"So far there is no shortage. The stock of goods will allow the country to last until December," said Shaibou Chiombiano, Secretary General of the Union of Traders Exporters and Importers in Niger.
But he warned that China and Thailand's reduction in their rice exports might cause a "scarcity" of this much-needed food in Niger.
Since the sanctions, residents have turned to locally produced rice. But factory activity slowed due to neighboring Nigeria suspending the supply of electricity to Niger and closing the common border, according to the Nigerian Ministry of Commerce.
Nigeria, the economic giant whose president, Bola Tinubu, currently holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, supplies Niger with about 70% of its electricity needs.
While the markets are still full of foodstuffs, the effects of the blockade are especially evident in medicine stocks, the majority of their shipments enter through the port of Cotonou in neighboring Benin, which has also closed its borders, noting that 80 percent of Nigerian shipping goods pass through these borders.
The Secretary-General of the Pharmacists Syndicate in Niger, Amadou Seini Maiga, explained to Agence France-Presse that “the percentage of medicine shortages has ranged between 30 and 55 percent since September 19 (while) the permissible ceiling is 7 percent.” To prevent a “disaster,” he called for “lifting” the blockade imposed on medicines.
On the border with Benin, hundreds of trucks loaded with goods are prevented from entering Niger, as the only bridge over the Niger River is blocked by trucks and large containers.
In contrast, boats shuttle illegally between the two banks of the river to transport passengers, goods and livestock.
In Niger, smuggling networks controlled by influential parties are trying to ensure that many regions in the west and south of the country are supplied with what they need, including the Zinder and Maradi regions on the border with Nigeria.
“Smugglers, using motorcycles and small vehicles, bring in large quantities of basic products,” a Maradi resident said.
As for the northern regions of Niger, they have so far avoided the repercussions of the siege.
"Thanks to the Algerian and Libyan corridors, we are receiving very good supplies, with trucks regularly arriving loaded with pasta, oil, flour, household appliances and building materials," Agadez Mayor Abderrahmane Tourawa told AFP.
The Nigerian military regime is now relying on internal financial resources, after freezing the assets of the central bank in a country that produces uranium, oil and gold.
In this context, the military-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Muhammad al-Amin Zein, praised his ability to pay the salaries of employees and members of the security forces for the months of July and August from internal revenues alone.
Trade Minister Sidhu Aseman confirmed to national television that the government was "exploring all possible sources" to continue.
After the majority of Western countries stopped their development aid, the military regime began searching for other allies, especially in the region.
Burkina Faso, which is also led by military personnel, showed its solidarity with Niger by keeping its borders open.
Many voices have been raised outside Niger against the sanctions policy, including the "Doctors Without Borders" organization, which called at the beginning of September to "stop adopting any logic based on collective punishment."