Niger’s coup raises concerns in the region

The recent coup in Niger has caused diplomatic and security turmoil in the West African region, surpassing previous coups in its impact. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken an unexpected step by considering the use of force to remove the junta from power in Niamey, adding a new dimension to the crisis. However, despite negotiations, the junta remains determined to stay in control, further complicating the situation. Additionally, neighbouring juntas in Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso have pledged their support to the Nigerien junta, making the situation potentially explosive.

The junta-controlled states possess valuable resources, giving them a stronger bargaining position and drawing major powers’ interests to secure access to these materials for economic and strategic purposes.

The coup in Niger has brought attention to the country’s rich resource capacity, particularly its significant role in fulfilling Europe’s energy needs, especially for France. Niger is the seventh-largest producer of uranium globally, which France has heavily relied upon for decades. However, France has gradually reduced its dependence on Niger’s uranium due to Niger’s diversification strategy in trade partnerships and France’s focus on more stable countries.

The junta-controlled states in the region, including Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso, also possess valuable strategic resources. Guinea is the world’s second-largest producer of bauxite, which is crucial for alumina production in industrialised economies. Mali and Burkina Faso are major gold producers, attracting foreign interests and armed groups seeking to exploit these resource-rich regions.

While there are claims of external meddling, the coup in Niger appears to have internal origins without direct external backing. The possession of significant strategic resources gives the juntas a sense of security, allowing them to trade these resources for survival and maintain their grip on power.

The response from ECOWAS and Western partners is crucial in this situation, as it may involve implementing sanctions and impacting trade agreements. One significant venture at risk of being affected by sanctions is the Niger-Benin pipeline, owned and contracted by China National Petroleum Corp. The pipeline is a promising development for Niger’s economy, projected to boost GDP and increase exports significantly.

It remains to be seen how the international community will address the challenges posed by the coup and the strategic resources possessed by the junta-controlled states in the region.

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