Economic Analysis
Niger

Niger

Population 18.8 million
GDP per capita 438 US$
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

 

  2016 2017 2018 (e) 2019 (f)
GDP growth (%) 4.9 4.9 5.2 5.3
Inflation (yearly average, %) 0.2 2.4 3.9 2.0
Budget balance* (% GDP) -6.2 -5.0 -5.9 -4.5
Current account balance* (% GDP) -15.7 -13.8 -16.7 -17.9
Public debt (% GDP) 45.2 45.3 46.3 48.4

(e): Estimate. (f): Forecast. *Grants included.

STRENGTHS

  • World’s fourth largest producer of uranium
  • Net exporter of petroleum products and gold
  • Drive to invest in agriculture and infrastructure
  • Member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union
  • Financial support from multilateral lenders

WEAKNESSES

  • Economy vulnerable to climate shocks and commodity price fluctuations
  • Economy still largely dependent on subsistence agriculture
  • Inadequate system for collecting tax and customs duties
  • Porous borders, favouring illegal immigration and trafficking
  • Rapid population growth and extreme poverty
  • Deteriorating security situation and terrorist threats

RISK ASSESSMENT

Investment and the extractive sector provide the mainstays of growth

The economy is expected to continue its rapid growth in 2019 thanks to infrastructure investment, the agricultural sector, and high oil and uranium prices.

Substantial international financial support, including SDR 100 million through an IMF Extended Credit Facility, should enable public investment to contribute significantly to growth by financing numerous projects, mainly in the energy sector (Niamey solar power plant, co-financed by the AFD and the EU) and transport (rehabilitation of the Cotonou-Niamey corridor financed by OPEC and the IDB). Private investment should also increase thanks to the growth of bank credit, in compliance with the IMF programme, which is reassuring investors, particularly foreign ones. The construction of a cement plant by Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote (€275 million, delivery in 2020) will reduce the country's imports, given that 80% of cement is currently imported.

Public investment is also targeting agricultural projects, especially irrigation projects in the Agadez, Tahoua, Dosso and Tillabéry regions, with financial support from the International Development Association. This should raise agricultural yields and incomes (the goal of the Nigeriens Feed Nigeriens initiative), and thus contribute to the growth of household consumption. Combined with the gradual recovery of the Nigerian economy, this could also boost exports, which should benefit in particular from high prices for oil and uranium. The production of both of these resources is set to increase further in the coming years, as evidenced by the launch of new prospecting activities by China’s Zijing Hechuang Science and Technology Development Company.

 

Twin deficits financed by international aid

The government deficit is expected to shrink slightly, mainly due to higher revenues. The country had to embark on tax reforms to improve revenue collection, which was a prerequisite for the IMF to grant an ECF. The IMF has expressed its satisfaction with the measures taken, in particular regarding customs duties. The country also stands to benefit from increased revenues from exports of oil and uranium, whose prices and production are forecast to go up. The reinstatement of the tax on international phone calls will also add some more fiscal flexibility. Expenditure, meanwhile, will remain at a high level. The bulk of the spending will be directed towards public investment, but current expenditure could increase during the year if the social and security climate deteriorates. The deficit, along with public debt payments, will be financed by bond issuance (72%), programme loans and project loans.

The current account deficit is expected to continue to widen in 2019. Notwithstanding the lively growth in oil and uranium exports, imports of goods and services – particularly related to the extractive sector – are poised to increase, worsening the overall trade balance. The income balance, which is structurally in deficit, is expected to widen further owing to the development of foreign investment in recent years. Transfers, including expatriate remittances and budget support, will continue, but will be too small to stop the deterioration in the current account deficit. Almost half of this deficit will be financed by project loans and the same proportion by investments, half of which will be FDI.

 

A worsening security and social situation

The Nigerien political situation is characterised by the control wielded by President Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism) over the country’s institutions since his party won the presidential and legislative elections of February-March 2016.

The opposition is very critical of the President's actions, and has decided to withdraw its participation in government efforts to revise the electoral code. Although marginalised, it is likely to catalyse the widespread discontent emerging from opposition to a new finance bill that provides for the creation and increase of new taxes to meet IMF expectations. However, the main threat lies in the precarious security situation, with terrorist groups in the region (Boko Haram, AQIM, Al-Murabitoun) finding that Niger offers fertile ground for recruitment (high poverty rates and few prospects) and porous borders favourable to their activities. International cooperation should continue to be strengthened around the G5 Sahel force, which includes Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, in an effort to contain the unrest in neighbouring countries, notably Nigeria. This uncertain security situation weighs on the business climate (143rd in the Doing Business ranking), with foreign nationals still at a high risk of being kidnapped.

 

Last update: February 2019

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