Reopened Nigeria-Niger border guarantees commerce progress – DW – 04/05/2024 | EUROtoday

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Trade between Nigeria and neighboring Niger has bounced again because the West African bloc ECOWAS lifted sanctions on Niger.

The Economic Community of West African States imposed the measures following the July 26, 2023, army coup that ousted Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s democratically elected chief.

The sanctions, whcih included closing borders, slicing off the electrical energy provide and threatening the army junta with the usage of “force,” had been launched in an effort to have Bazoum reinstated and restore constitutional order to Niger.

The measures failed to realize their goals, and the border closure devastated native communities on either side of the frontier with tons of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} value of commerce misplaced.

Lorries parked at the Jibiya-Maradi border crossing
Trucks needed to park off on the border between Niger and Nigeria in August 2023, as formal between the 2 nations ceasedImage: Mohammed Babangida/AP/image alliance

Business upturn in border areas

“The relationship has spanned centuries, so immediately after the imposition of the sanctions, there were cries everywhere. Local farmers suffered greatly,” stated Tukur Abdulkadir, professor of worldwide relations at northern Nigeria’s Kaduna State University.

But in current weeks, a semblance of normality has returned to the Jibiya-Maradi border space. Businesspeople can transfer freely between the neighboring nations.

“I thank God for this development and feel delighted to have this border reopened,” businesswoman Rafi’a Hussain instructed DW. “We are moving freely, peacefully and without any harassment from the officers on duty or anybody. I thought we would find it difficult to cross, but it’s not that way.”

Trade between Niger and Niger

Before ECOWAS withdrew the sanctions, folks dwelling in border communities had been lower off from all conventional buying and selling and socio-economic actions. Five of Niger’s eight areas — Zinder, Tahoua, Maradi, Dosso and Diffa — all border Nigeria, a significant buying and selling companion for Niamey.

The border is round 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) lengthy, and Nigeria had lengthy provided Niger with electrical energy, tobacco and constructing supplies like cement. Agricultural merchandise like dates and cattle flowed in the other way.

“Our hardships are over whenever we continue to have peace cordial understanding between Nigeria and Niger,” added Hussain.

In 2022, knowledge from the International Trade Centre (ITC) confirmed that cross-border commerce between Nigeria and Niger was value roughly $226 million ($209 million).

Locals really feel the pinch of ECOWAS sanctions

The ECOWAS sanctions, carried out in August 2023, successfully stopped this commerce in a single day.

While the measures had been aimed toward Niger’s junta leaders, civilians in Nigeria and Niger handled very actual results like hovering meals costs and unemployment.

In August 2023, the United Nations reported that 4.3 million Nigeriens relied on humanitarian help. By October 2023, the World Food Programme reported that the value of a 25-kilogram bag of rice had jumped over 50% over a two-month interval.

For Abdulkadir, Nigeria’s closing of the border was a strategic mistake.

“ECOWAS leaders should have been better students of history. Countries like Cuba, Iran, Iraq and others had suffered from the effects of sanctions, but the leaders survived,” he stated.

“There are some strategic relations that exist between Nigeria and Nigeria, for instance, the utilization of the water of River Niger,” he added. “The Nigeriens had to be pacified long ago not to dam the river, otherwise they would have been enjoying the their own power, without relying on Nigeria.”

Bags of maize are piled at a warehouse in Jibiya, Nigeria
Food costs exploded on the Nigerian facet of the border, as commerce stoppedImage: KOLA SULAIMON/AFP/Getty Images

Another businesswoman, Bintou Adamou, stated that earlier than the reopening, unlawful border crossings had been the one choice out there to merchants.

“I had no break for my business despite the border closure, but I seriously suffered and was not happy with the ECOWAS’s action. People trading between Nigeria and Niger are still battling with hardship and cost of living,” she instructed DW.

The sanctions have had a wider social impact on Nigeria-Niger relations, Abdulkadir identified.

“Blindly adopting those suffocating measures went a long way in actually affecting our relationship to the extent that people that used to consider themselves half-Nigerians or half-Nigeriens began to see themselves, as full Nigeriens,” stated Abdulkadir.

Chinese-funded railway

The opening of the border roughly coincided with the long-awaited announcement that Nigeria has secured $1.3 billion in funding to finish a railway undertaking connecting Kano, Nigeria’s largest northern metropolis, to Maradi in Niger.

With the borders now open, the long run railway line guarantees to construct on current financial and social ties and enhance commerce and cultural cooperation between Nigeria and Niger.

The funding will come from a consortium led by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), which can contribute 85%. The Nigerian authorities will contribute the remaining 15%.

Abuja-based China-Africa relations analyst Ovigwe Eguegu stated this marks one other milestone for Chinese-funded infrastructure tasks in Niger and Nigeria. This consists of the main Niger-Benin Oil Pipeline, which is Chinese-operated, and its completion has allowed Niger to turn out to be an exporter of crude oil.

A Nigerien military patrol near the border with Nigeria on the lookout for armed bandits
A Nigerien army patrol close to the border with Nigeria looking out for armed banditsImage: AFP

“Lots of exports from Nigeria go to Niger, but through trucks, on roads that are not paved and very inefficient,” he instructed DW.

But the Kano-Maradi railway is a part of a a lot bigger Chinese-funded improvement plan.

“This section is part of a very long corridor that aims to connect Niger to the hubs of Nigeria like Lagos. Because Niger is landlocked, it needs access to the sea,” he stated, including that the not too long ago opened Lekki Deep Sea Port in Nigeria has an over $500 million Chinese funding.

“That port would thrive more if you can connect it to more markets. And this could end up saving Niger and make the port more profitable,” Eguegu stated.

Security and stability points stay in northern Nigeria

While regional instability, such because the border closures and insecurity resulting from armed insurgents, nonetheless plague Niger and Nigeria, Chinese infrastructure loans have gone forward.

Eguegu stated the “Chinese are 100% more concerned about security,” and are pressuring native governments to offer security for Chinese expatriates engaged on tasks.

“But the security challenge is not China’s problem. It is Nigeria’s problem,” he added. “If Nigeria defaults on the loan or cannot secure the infrastructure, and therefore loses revenue, that’s not China’s problem.”

In reality, in keeping with Eguegu, the potential challenges of insecurity on the Kaduna-Maradi railway would supply Chinese firms one other alternative to “deepen security cooperation in the form of Chinese private military contractors, as we have seen in East Africa.”

This article has been tailored by Cai Nebe from a radio report that was broadcast on DW’s each day podcast AfricaHyperlink

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