Niger is a country that is facing difficulties and challenges from multiple sides. Despite the conscientious effort it is appearing to make with regards to national security, development of infrastructure and increases in productivity, these are being hindered by violence, financial restraints, and natural disasters.
There have been problems with insurgency and rebellion in Mali in the last year, partly as a consequence of events in Libya and Syria, that have led to a serious degree of instability in the West African region. A direct result of this for Niger have been spillover insurgency attacks. The most destructive of these was a twin attack on 23 May this year in which a military base was struck, as was a French-run uranium mine, resulting in multiple casualties. Similarly to Mali, problems with insurgency have arisen mostly amongst the Tuareg community in the north of Niger, who periodically carry out rebellions demanding increased autonomy, social and political inclusion, and the development of their homeland. Jihadist movements are a cause of further threats to the country’s security with Sahel jihadists and The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), both of whom were ousted from Mali by French forces, active in the country. What is more, there are the threats from Boko Haram insurgents from Nigeria in the South and militias in the North coming out of Libya
Niger is working with Western powers in an attempt to bring a more structured security strategy to the country. This includes a five-year US$2.5 billion plan to develop and secure its northern region, which includes the Tuareg population so as to end the cycles of insurgency. as well as new anti-terrorism legislation, a special legal team to work against terrorism, an upgrade to military hardware, and closer collaboration with France and the US on security issues. However, as a predominantly Islam country, this cooperation risks angering and provoking a reaction from jihadist forces.
These spillover effects from the instability of the West African region have been compounded by the preexisting politico-social conditions and by geographical, natural elements. Despite the plans and slow improvements to the health, education and agriculture sectors, levels of poverty in Niger remain high. Around 85% of Nigeriens live on less than US$2 a day, 2.9 million people currently face food shortages and, with the country bottom of the UN Human Development index, the majority of its citizens live in extreme poverty. Moreover, there are natural disasters and constant food shortages which makes changing these circumstances very difficult, a recent example being floods which killed around 25 people and left 75,000 homeless. The natural composition of Niger does mean it is rich in oil and uranium but the inefficiency of their extraction seriously diminishes the benefits that should be enjoyed from them.
Niger is working hard to improve its situation. All of the problems it faces are complex and difficult to resolve on their own. The fact that it faces a variety of different issues, on various fronts and all at the same time, especially starting from such an unstable base, is a serious barrier to Niger lifting itself out of its current position.