Foreign policy and defense
Niger is a nation in Western Africa. Its capital city is Niamey. Niger has, since independence in 1960, basically had good relations with the former colonial power of France, which is the country’s largest donor and trading partner. Relations with other EU countries as well as the US are generally good.
Relations with the West temporarily deteriorated in 2009 when then-President Tandja tried to bypass the Constitution to remain in power. The EU and the US froze parts of their assistance to Niger, which resumed after Tandja was deposed in a coup in 2010. In the context of the political crisis, Niger was suspended from the regional cooperation organizations Ecowas and the African Union (AU). When the situation was normalized, the shutdowns were lifted.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Niger for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
For the United States, Niger has become more important since militant Islamists began operating in the region. Since the northern part of neighboring Mali was occupied by radical Islamists with links to the terrorist network al-Qaeda, the Nigerian government in 2013 agreed to allow the United States to station driverless aircraft, so-called drones, in Niger to monitor the activities of Islamist groups. Hundreds of American soldiers were also stationed in the country to analyze the information gathered by the drones and to share it with the French and African forces fighting Islamist militia in Mali.
France has also built a base for surveillance, located in the north near the border with Libya. French companies have strong interests in the country’s mining industry and France is therefore particularly interested in the country remaining stable.
China has gained greater influence in Niger in recent years. The countries have signed agreements on economic and technical cooperation, trade has grown and China has made major investments in uranium mining in the country. China has also been given the right to drill for oil and build a refinery.
Economic cooperation with Nigeria is important. A large part of official agricultural exports goes to neighboring countries, while large quantities of goods are smuggled across the border in both directions. Niger’s largest ethnic group, Hausa, has close ties to the Hausa population in Nigeria.
Niger’s relations with neighboring Benin in the south have been strained at times due to a dispute over 25 islands in the Niger River. The dispute was settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2005: 16 islands went to Niger and 9 to Benin. A border dispute with Burkina Faso has also been settled.
Niger’s ties to Libya have been strong, for example large Libyan investments have been made in Niger. The countries have also worked together to maintain security at the common border. The fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya in 2011 was seen in Niger as a threat to the country’s stability, partly because a couple of hundreds of Nigerian guest workers returned at risk of social unrest, and partly because hundreds of Tuareg warriors who had been sold at Gaddafi also returned and were feared to start a new uprising.
Niger has initiated several collaborations with neighboring countries to prevent terrorism, smuggling and organized crime in the region. In the spring of 2010, Niger, together with Mauritania, Mali and Algeria, formed a joint liaison center to counter the growing network of al-Qaeda’s terrorist network. The idea was, among other things, to try to prevent terrorists from seeking protection by moving across borders.
Together with Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali and Chad, Niger in 2014 formed an organization named G5 Sahel. Its purpose is to strengthen cooperation on development and security in the Sahel region. The headquarters were located in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott.
Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria are also cooperating more specifically with the support of France and the United States to curb the brutal Islamist movement Boko Haram, which has Nigeria as its base but is also carrying out attacks in neighboring countries. Niger has among other things sent a troop force to Nigeria.
Niger is a member of several regional partnerships. In addition to Ecowas and AU, Niger belongs to the cooperation body Conseil de l’entente (young: Council of Consensus), which the country formed in 1959 together with Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Togo. The Conseil de l’entente is fighting illegal arms trafficking, trafficking in children and banditry against travelers. Similar agreements have been signed with Mali. Niger is also a member of the French-speaking countries’ Organization (Organization Internationale de la Francophonie) and in the West African Economic Cooperation Uemoa (Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine).
The military’s role has remained great even after democratization in the early 1990s, and on three occasions the military has seen itself take power (see Modern History). Minor protest actions and myths have also occurred due to dissatisfaction with missing wages and poor living conditions.
The army that lacks sufficient equipment receives assistance and support from France, China and the United States. Niger has contributed troops to the UN peacekeeping forces including Mali, Congo-Kinshasa and the Central African Republic. Nine Nigerian soldiers lost their lives in an attack in northern Mali in 2014.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 5,200 men (2017)
The air Force: 100 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.7 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 8.8 percent (2017)