Cuban May Day demonstration in Havana. Hundreds of thousands attended to express solidarity with the workers struggle internationally., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Havana. November 28, 2013
Niger, development and cooperation
Claudia Fonseca Sosa
NIGER, located in the Sahel region, shares borders with Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Benin, Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso. Its economy is fundamentally based on livestock, agriculture and the exploitation of minerals such as uranium, carbon, zinc, iron and phosphate.
It is a developing nation which won its independence from France in 1960. The majority Muslim population is in excess of 15 million inhabitants.
Although geographically and culturally distant, Cuban realities are not unknown to the people of Niger.
During the recent UN General Assembly Nigerien Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum affirmed, “The Cuban population has suffered for decades an economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States. Niger calls for the lifting of this blockade. In a recent visit to Cuba, the Foreign Minister spoke with Granma.
Mohamed Bazoum has held different governmental positions at the head of ministries and the National Assembly. Currently, he is also president of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS).
The African leader stated that he was very satisfied with the outcomes of his visit to Cuba, the objective of which was to further promote bilateral relations established in 1976. “In meetings with Cuban authorities I was able to confirm the convergence of political attitudes between our governments,” he commented.
Mohamed Bazoum announced the upcoming opening in Havana of a Nigerien embassy. He also praised the quality of education received in Cuba by Nigerien students training to become professionals in health and other areas.
During the Foreign Minister’s visit, cooperation agreements in the health sector in effect since the 1990’s were reviewed in order to improve the living conditions of Cuban collaborators currently working in Niger.
A new agreement was signed with the National Sports Institute (INDER) for technical assistance to Nigerien trainers, as well as a memorandum of understanding between the two nations’ Ministries of Agriculture.
PRIORITIES FOR NIGER
Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum stated that since the 2011 election of President Mahamadou Issoufu, one of its central goals is to meet the country’s infrastructural needs.
“We are planning to build a railroad which will allow us to transport products to and from the sea more rapidly than can be done at present. Niger is a country without a coastline and the closest port is at a distance of 1,000 kilometers.
“We are also working on energy infrastructure, such as hydroelectric and coal processing plants. These projects will give a significant boost to national industry.”
He recalled that Niger is a country with an arid climate, which confronts long periods of drought followed by flooding. These natural phenomena affect agricultural production, provoking food shortages in a significant sector of the population. “The government must always be prepared to respond to these emergency situations.
“Other aspirations are to mechanize agriculture in order to improve productivity and increase our people’s access to potable water, thus avoiding illnesses.”
SECURITY, ESSENTIAL TO DEVELOPMENT
For the Nigerien Foreign Minister, security currently constitutes a priority for all African governments.
“Niger is located within an area of conflict in the north of Africa, highly prone to inter-ethnic violence and drug trafficking. We have only to recall what took place in neighboring Mali barely a year ago, when Tuareg rebels associated with extremist elements took power in the country by force. This situation led to the displacement of thousands of persons. Shortly after that, there was an attack on a gas plant in In Amenas, Algeria, as a result of which dozens of foreign workers died. Situations like these can occur at any moment and destabilize the internal order, for which reason our principal objective as a government is to guarantee citizens’ security. Stability is essential to development,” he affirmed.
INTEGRATION GENERATES OPPORTUNITIES
“In order to confront all these difficulties, which are common among the countries of the region, we need to join forces, involving institutional and political measures,” Mohamed Bazoum observed.
At the regional level, Niger is a member of the African Monetary Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). “These mechanisms offer us the possibility to have a single monetary area, to trade our economic and cultural products. With ECOWAS, we can also mobilize the international community to resolve the situation in Mali.
“In the heart of the African Union, Niger is also a member of this recently created Pan-African mechanism to confront emergency situations.”
The Foreign Minister also suggested that it would be advantageous to establish a dialogue between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – of which Cuba is the current pro-tempore president – and integration mechanisms in Africa, “because this would be an opportunity to share development experiences and concretize our political positions in the international arena.”