Europäische Institut für Menschenrechte - Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -
      Europäische Institut für Menschenrechte - Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -

France's Post-Colonial Role in Niger

France's Post-Colonial Role in Niger

Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu


     1. Introduction

In the global geopolitical arena, the dynamics of international relations are constantly changing, and the impacts of these changes are strongly felt in various regions. In this context, the African continent, particularly due to its strategic position and natural resource wealth, draws significant attention. Niger, in this regard, stands out as a country with its geostrategic importance and presence of natural resources. However, the national dynamics of Niger, combined with international influences, have distinctly shaped the country's internal and external relations.


In this article, we examine how the strengthening of the military regime in Niger has affected regional and international balances, and how it has reshaped the country's internal and external relations. France's historical influence on Niger and its post-colonial era relations provide a crucial perspective to understand the country's current situation. Similarly, Niger's options for domestic and foreign policy following the military coup are shaped under the impact of international reactions and economic sanctions.


The role of economic dependency and natural resources within international trade dynamics is among the factors influencing Niger's future and international relations. The relations between rising powers like China and Niger present an alternative option to traditional Western actors, thereby adding a new dimension to the global power balance. In this context, France's influence on Niger and its post-colonial era relations not only prompt us to consider Niger's history but also contemplate the history and future of the entire African continent.


This article contributes to a better understanding of the effects of post-colonialism, power dynamics in international relations, and the complexity of economic dependency through an examination of France's influence on Niger and its post-colonial era relations. The choices that Niger makes in its governance and foreign relations will continue to play a decisive role in shaping regional and global balances in the future.


2. France's Historical Role and Relations with Niger

France's historical influence in Niger dates back to the colonial era. Starting from the late 19th century, the French colonial empire began to expand, and Niger, like other regions on the continent, was affected by this expansion. Under French rule, Niger became a part of the colonial economic model, where local resources and labor were exploited for French interests.


During the colonial period, local governance in Niger was controlled by the French colonial administration, and local culture and structures underwent transformation under French influence. Sectors like agriculture and mining were organized to serve France's economic interests during this period. This situation persisted until the country gained independence in the 1960s.


Even in the post-independence era, France's influence on Niger continued, and economic and political relations were often shaped in ways favorable to French interests. While Niger attempted to develop with French aid and investments, these relations were frequently criticized, and the perception that the country had not fully achieved independence gained traction.


In recent years, the military coup in Niger and changes in international dynamics have further complicated France's influence in the country. France's historical role in Niger continues to shape the country's domestic and foreign policy options, and the impact of post-colonial relations in this process has been a topic of frequent discussion.


3. Effects of the Post-Colonial Era

With Niger's attainment of independence, the effects of the post-colonial era have played a pivotal role in shaping the country's domestic and foreign relations. While independence marked the beginning of a new era, the lingering effects of the French colonial period have still been deeply felt.


During the post-colonial era, economic independence and development were sought, but international relations and trade dynamics limited the country's true autonomy. France's economic aid and trade relationships impacted Niger's post-independence economy, constraining its financial independence.


Simultaneously, the political structure and governance in Niger have been shaped under the influence of the French colonial period. The political framework and governance model inherited from the colonial era have been observed to contribute to instability and governance challenges within the country. This has been a fundamental factor influencing the nation's internal politics during the post-colonial period.


One of the most significant effects of the post-colonial era has been cultural transformation. French cultural influences and language presence have left a lasting impact on Niger's local culture and identity. This influence has shaped the country's cultural processes and identity formation.


In conclusion, the effects experienced during the post-colonial era have deeply influenced Niger's domestic and foreign relations, economy, political structure, and cultural identity. These effects stand as fundamental factors shaping the country's future, and the traces of the French colonial era are still palpable in the present day.


4. Military Regime and International Impacts

The rise of the military regime in Niger has led to significant changes in the country's domestic and foreign relations. The military coup that took place in the year 20XX resulted in the removal of the President from office and the seizure of power by military authorities. This development shook the political stability of Niger and raised concerns in the international community.


The ascent of the military regime has affected regional and international balances. Due to Niger's strategic position in the Sahel region, the rise of the military regime has deeply impacted security dynamics in the region. Threats such as terrorism and extremism have escalated during this period, exacerbating regional instability. This situation has not only been a cause for serious concern for Niger but also for neighboring countries and regional actors.


On the international stage, sanctions imposed on Niger following the military coup and international reactions have shaped the country's foreign relations. Western nations and international organizations have condemned the military regime and called for a return to democratic norms. Consequently, Niger's international relations have strained, and the country has faced the threat of isolation.


The impacts on international trade and economy are also significant. Due to its natural resources and mineral potential, Niger is engaged in international economic relations. The rise of the military regime and international reactions could lead to a halt or reduction in trade and investments. This situation could negatively affect the country's economic stability and development efforts.


In conclusion, the rise of the military regime has had important effects on Niger's domestic and foreign relations. Spanning a wide spectrum from regional security dynamics to the international economy, the impacts of this situation have made the country's efforts to determine its future more complex.


5. Economic Dependency and Dynamics of Natural Resource Processing


Niger's economy is largely reliant on natural resources, and this situation impacts the country's international relations and dependency dynamics. Particularly minerals like uranium and gold constitute a significant portion of Niger's export revenues. However, the processing and trading of these natural resources possess a complex structure due to international dynamics and dependency relationships.


One of the fundamental reasons for Niger's economic dependency is the historical role of France. Economic relations that began during the colonial period persisted after the country gained independence. Despite Niger's efforts to develop with French aid and investments, these relations have often been criticized, and the perception that the country has not truly achieved economic independence has become widespread.


The processing and trading of natural resources are also complex due to international dynamics. Uranium, in particular, is one of Niger's most crucial export products. However, the extraction and processing of uranium are often controlled by foreign companies, and the country does not receive a substantial share of the economic income. This situation further increases Niger's dependency on international firms for the exploitation of its resources.


International trade relations are another factor that deepens Niger's economic dependency. While the export of natural resources constitutes a significant portion of the country's foreign trade revenues, the economy is heavily reliant on various factors beyond its control. Fluctuations in global market prices can affect Niger's economic stability and render its income uncertain.


In conclusion, Niger's economic dependency and dynamics of natural resource processing significantly impact the country's international relations and development efforts. The historical effects of France, international trade of natural resources, and dependency relationships are all key factors determining Niger's economic future. In this context, efforts by Niger to reduce economic dependency and process its natural resources more sustainably are crucial steps towards achieving its development goals


6. China's Rising Role and Alternative Relationships

In recent years, China's rising role as a significant player in the political and economic dynamics of Niger has drawn attention. Like in the rest of Africa, China's growing economic influence is also becoming pronounced in Niger. This situation encourages the country to establish new alternative relationships outside of its traditional Western partners.


China's growing economic role presents both new opportunities and challenges for Niger. Particularly in areas like infrastructure investments, energy projects, and trade collaborations, relations between China and Niger have strengthened. These relationships hold the potential to diversify Niger's economy and support its developmental efforts.


China's rising role offers Niger an alternative foreign policy option. Historically, Niger's relationships have primarily focused on France and other Western countries. Through its closer ties with China, Niger has the chance to forge new strategic relationships. This grants Niger greater options and diversity on the international stage, allowing it to better advocate for its independence and interests.


However, China-Niger relations have also brought along certain challenges. Especially China's investments and trade policies in Africa can impact local economies and environmental conditions. Simultaneously, China's self-interested approach might raise concerns among local communities and civil society.


Developing alternative relationships holds the potential for Niger to achieve balance and diversity in its international relations. By collaborating with both traditional Western actors and emerging powers like China, Niger has the opportunity to represent its interests more effectively. This, in turn, could enable Niger to play a more active role on the international stage and accomplish its goals of independence and development.


In conclusion, China's rising role opens doors for new opportunities and alternative relationships for Niger. The efforts to engage with emerging powers like China, alongside traditional Western actors, can help diversify Niger's international relations and allow it to better advocate for its interests. In this context, Niger should adopt a balanced and cautious approach while collaborating with China and other alternative actors


7. Turkey's Rising Role in the Region and Alternative Relationships


Turkey's increasing influence on the international stage and its role in the Sahel region present new perspectives for countries like Niger. Turkey's interest in and cooperation efforts with the Sahel region offer potential for Niger to establish alternative relationships.


Turkey's rising role in the Sahel region adds new dimensions to Niger's foreign policy options. Strengthening bilateral relations and expanding cooperation areas can support Niger's needs in regional security, economic development, and humanitarian aid.


Turkey's humanitarian and development projects in the Sahel region help diversify Niger's alternative foreign policy options. These projects, directly impacting the daily lives of Niger's people, can positively influence the country's image on the international stage.


Turkey's growing economic role triggers Niger's search for alternative partners in trade and investment. Collaboration projects and trade agreements in the Sahel region can support Niger's efforts to diversify its economy. However, deepening Turkey-Niger relations might also bring along challenges. While strengthening bilateral ties, cultural differences, language barriers, and distinct political priorities should be taken into consideration.


Turkey's rising role in the Sahel region not only offers economic and trade opportunities for Niger but also holds the potential to establish balance in regional and international dynamics. Deepening relations with Turkey can make Niger's international relationships more diverse and balanced.


In conclusion, Turkey's rising role and increasing influence in the Sahel region provide an alternative foreign policy option for Niger. Strengthening bilateral relations, collaborating in trade and humanitarian aid, can help Niger play a more effective and diverse role on the international stage. In this context, the collaboration between Turkey and Niger should be managed carefully to serve the interests of both countries.


8. Niger's Military Regime Position

The position of the military regime in Niger is growing stronger by the day, and President Muhammad Bazoum's chances of regaining control of the country are diminishing. The opponents of the coup are stalling due to their perceived lack of power. While France and Europe have condemned the situation, they are unable to intervene as the loss of their political and economic leverage is becoming evident. The reasons for this loss are rooted in the post-colonial relationship model that maintains the country's dependency and underdevelopment due to the privileged treatment of European trade investments. However, alternatives to this model are now emerging.


On July 31, the ECOWAS regional community announced sanctions against Niger, particularly the closure of borders. Media headlines started to emerge, citing Mehr News, about Niger's uranium and gold exports to Europe being halted. While there is no official statement from Niamey regarding the suspension of supply, it can be assumed that exporting uranium concentrate under closed-border conditions with Benin could be difficult. European countries (especially France) have temporarily lost up to 25% of their imported uranium ore.


Uranium remains Niger's primary export product, constituting around 35% ($157 million) of its exports in value. However, Niger's share in the income generated from uranium mining is limited; two-thirds of production are controlled by the French company Orano. In 2020, the mining sector accounted for only 1.2% of budget revenues.


The suspension of supplies would not only harm Niger's economic development but also provide a reason to revise existing agreements with Orano in a way that would support the local budget. Ten years ago, predecessor Mahamadou Issoufou tried to review these agreements, but the current situation in the African republic seems more secure.


The new regime is also in the midst of a full-scale financial blockade imposed by France, the US, the EU, and ECOWAS. Niger's 2023 budget ($2.2 billion) was expected to be re-financed by withdrawing up to 40% of foreign capital.

The West African Economic and Monetary Union refused Niger's plan to issue a new series of government bonds on July 31. The Regional Central Bank also suspended all transactions and froze state assets and assets of Nigerian businesses.


In 2022, France, the US, and the EU provided humanitarian aid and grants of $120 million, $202 million, and $138 million to Niger, respectively, for the development of public administration, education, and healthcare sectors. A similar cut, expected to account for 10% of the state budget, was anticipated in 2023.


However, a controlled economic support might provide a way out. China is likely to benefit from Niger's crisis by participating in the development of the oil fields in the Agadem Basin, as it did in 2011. Moreover, a small refinery was established in the city of Zinder, 60% owned by PetroChina.


For a long time, the significance of Niger's oil industry remained at a local level, supplying petroleum products to the domestic market and the northern states of Nigeria. However, in the fall of 2023, the tests of the oil pipeline between Agadem and Benin's Cotonou port are planned. The Benin Ministry of Energy recently stated that the developments in Niger would not hinder the implementation of the China-Nigeria mega project. This is a significant example of the stability of China's projects in the face of political risks caused by the West.


Despite the support of Mali and Burkina Faso for Niger, Guinea, Algeria, Libya, and Chad opposed military intervention. The Nigerian Senate denied President Bole Tinub permission to send troops. While France prefers not to deploy its own military unit, the US is seeking a diplomatic solution. The withdrawal of Western powers and the potential resistance contribute to the importance of dialogue over ultimatum rhetoric.


Paradoxically, economic sanctions and weakened relations with the West might present an opportunity for Niger to break free from financial aid dependency and process mineral resources under more favorable conditions.


At current price levels (subject to change over time), annual oil exports exceeding $2 billion could drastically change Niger's trade balance. This means that exports would greatly increase, and China would become a leading trading partner. Under these conditions, Niger's economy might not be greatly affected by the loss of financial aid and loans from the West, either by rejecting them or by utilizing those that are already granted.


Therefore, France's options are quite limited. Harsh measures could lead to a complete rupture of any relationship, Niger could continue to stand without Europe, and uranium might eventually turn to China via Algeria or Libya (uranium mines can easily be nationalized).


This model of Niger's relationship with its former metropolis is a typical example of post-colonialism. When low royalty fees, low production costs, and permanent licenses are combined, the country can only receive a symbolic share of the revenue from the export of raw materials that are of strategic importance to Europe.


At the same time, some of this money returns to Niger as aid and credit, sustaining underdevelopment and dependency, and thus preserving the exploitative model of mineral resources that is highly profitable for private foreign companies. However, China's petroleum sector offers an alternative to the outdated toxic relationship with the former homeland, creating an attractive hope for the country to earn profits and not become dependent on Paris. Furthermore, the uranium sector could be reformed with the participation of new players and under new conditions.


9. Conclusion and Future Perspectives

This article has addressed crucial issues such as Niger's military regime, international relations, and economic dependence. France's historical influence and post-colonial era relationships have provided an indispensable perspective for understanding the country's current situation. Moreover, Niger's international relations and economic dependence have gained a new dimension with the rise of emerging powers, particularly China.


The regional and international ramifications of Niger's military regime significantly impact both its domestic and foreign policies. The reactions and sanctions imposed by international actors such as France, the United States, the European Union, and ECOWAS play a vital role in shaping Niger's future direction. In this context, international support and an approach centered on finding solutions are crucial to ensuring Niger's stability and sustaining its development efforts.

The dynamics of economic dependence and the processing of natural resources are fundamental factors shaping Niger's development endeavors. In this regard, sustainable processing and promotion of natural resources' trade are vital for the country's economic future. Developing relations with alternative trade partners and investors can be part of the steps taken to reduce Niger's economic dependence.


China's growing role presents both opportunities and challenges for Niger. Strengthening relations with China can enhance Niger's economic development and trade diversity. However, managing these relations requires careful consideration to preserve local economies and environmental sustainability.


Turkey's emerging role also offers alternative relationship options for Niger. Cooperation projects in the Sahel region and humanitarian aid efforts can increase Niger's foreign policy diversity. However, deepening these relationships requires considering cultural differences and strategic priorities.


In conclusion, Niger's future is complex and multifaceted. The consequences of its military regime, international relations, and economic dynamics will collectively shape the stability and development efforts of the country. International community support, the development of alternative relationships, and sustainable processing of natural resources can offer positive perspectives for Niger's future. In this context, maintaining a balance in international relations and effectively defending its interests are of utmost importance for Niger.


The strengthening of Niger's military regime has deeply influenced regional and international balances, reshaping both its internal and external relations. France's historical influence and post-colonial era effects offer an essential perspective to understand the country's present state. These influences are evident in a wide range of aspects, from the dependency-generating impact of financial aid to the international dynamics of resource processing.


Niger's post-coup internal and external policy options are shaped by the reactions of the international community and economic sanctions. This situation has complicated the country's efforts to determine its future. Additionally, relations with emerging powers like China provide an alternative option to traditional Western actors.


Studying France's influence on Niger and its post-colonial era relationships not only sheds light on Niger but also prompts us to think about Africa's past and future in general. This example contributes to a better understanding of the effects of post-colonialism, power dynamics in international relations, and the complexities of economic dependence. In the future, the choices Niger makes in its governance and foreign relations will remain a critical factor affecting regional and global balances.

August 12, 2023, Luxembourg


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