NIGER: Mohamed Bazoum and Josep Borrell inaugurate the Gorou Banda solar power plant

There is also uranium, a strategic mineral for the nuclear industry. It has been mined for 50 years by Orano (formerly Areva), but also by the Chinese National Nuclear Company (CNNC), which has been working in partnership with the Nigerien government to mine uranium in the Azelik region since 2010. But for Alain Antil, Director of Ifri’s Sub-Saharan Africa Centre, Niger “is no longer the strategic partner of Paris that it may have been in the 1960s and 70s”, contrary to what is widely reported on social networks about the dependence of the French nuclear industry on Niger. In his view, Niger is France’s third-largest supplier of uranium, behind Kazakhstan and Canada.

Lack of a development strategy

In recent years, the country has also embarked on oil production, with concessions granted to the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), notably at Agadem in north-eastern Niger. The Sahelian country currently has an installed electrical capacity of 272 MW, of which 266 MW will be fossil-fired by 2019, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). For some observers, this situation is due to the absence of an overall development strategy, coupled with the insecurity that is becoming widespread in the Sahel despite the presence of foreign troops for several years.

But there is still hope, as a few weeks ago Niger installed its largest photovoltaic solar power plant. With a capacity of 30 MWp, the Gorou Banda solar park is located 12 km from the capital Niamey. To help develop the country’s installed capacity, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) launched its “Scaling Solar” programme in Niger in June 2021, with the aim of producing 50 MW under a public-private partnership (PPP). Since then, the project has seen no major progress, despite a call for tenders launched in September 2021. Meanwhile, 81% of Niger’s population still has no access to electricity, according to the World Bank’s 2020 report.