business as usual

In Niger, uranium trading continues, even after the coup

By Thaïs Brouck, Louise Margolin, and Nelly Fualdes

Premium badge Reserved for subscribers

Posted on July 28, 2023 13:40

Protesters gather in Niamey on July 26, 2023, in support of the Nigerien president, Mohamed Bazoum, who was the target of an attempted military coup. © Photo by AFP
Protesters gather in Niamey on July 26, 2023, in support of the Nigerien president, Mohamed Bazoum, who was the target of an attempted military coup. © Photo by AFP

Following the military coup and the closing of borders, the economic operators in Niger like Global Atomic and Orano are watching and waiting; but still mining.

In Niamey, the morning of 27 July saw shopkeepers opening their doors later than usual. The night before, at around 11:30 PM, the army had announced the establishment of a Conseil National pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrie (National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland), the removal of Mohamed Bazoum (which he hadn’t officially accepted as of Thursday night), the suspension of the constitution, and the closing of borders.

However, it wasn’t the coup that disrupted the traders’ activities, but the torrential rains that had hit the city. As soon as the first sunbeam pierced the clouds, life in the capital seemed to resume its usual course.

“Doughnut sellers are out, people are going about their business,” reported a resident of the capital. The only difference from a regular day is that everyone is following the developments via their radios.

Impact of crisis

“The markets are open, no company has closed, it’s business as usual in Niamey,” says Abdoul Aziz Boubakari, former executive secretary of the national employers’ council, the Conseil National du Patronat du Niger. He said predicting the impact of the crisis on the country’s businesses is still difficult, but “we’re not particularly worried”. Boubakari went on: “Soldiers sometimes care more about the economy than civilians.”

But while activities continue in the mining sector, a historic engine of the country’s economy, caution is the rule. Their activities are located hundreds of kilometres north of the capital. “The event has no impact on the company’s activities,” says Stephen G. Roman, CEO of the Canadian company Global Atomic, which is developing the Dasa project.

The French group Orano, which has been in Niger for several decades for uranium extraction, especially at the Somaïr mine, told The Africa Report that its activities are continuing, but “Orano’s management is closely monitoring the events in Niger, in connection with local management and Nigerien and French authorities. […] Special attention is being paid to ensure the security of all our staff and sites on the ground.”

The coup does not appear to have immediate direct consequences on the country’s activities. However, coups in other Sahel countries have had significant repercussions on their economies. The member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) had, for example, decided to sanction Bamako by implementing an embargo.

Economy hit

Commercial transactions were suspended for many months. These sanctions hit all sectors of the country’s economy, which nearly went into recession in early 2022. Mali was no longer able to borrow on the bond market and saw its sovereign rating downgraded. But while the situation is still unclear in Niamey, it’s too early to foresee a similar scenario for Niger.

The aviation sector was also disrupted within a few hours. Four Notices to Air Missions (Notams) were issued by the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (Asecna).

At 2am on 27 July, the closures of the airports in Niamey, Agadez, and Zinder were announced, and at 6am a no-fly zone began in Nigerien airspace. These measures are in place until 11.59pm on 4 August. Notams are purely technical data; the agency has no say in determining the measures.

Air France, which serves the destination four times a week, had taken the lead on 26 July, in view of the situation, rerouting its Lomé-Niamey-Paris flight directly to Charles-de-Gaulle airport, without the scheduled stopover in Niamey. Contacted by The Africa Report, Air France said it cancelled its flights for 29 July and put in place a mechanism to avoid overflying this zone, which may extend the duration of some flights.

Asky Airlines, for its part, still has one of its Boeing 737-800s, which had landed on 26 July, stuck at Diori-Hamani international airport, with its crew. The plane was supposed to take off at 8.40am on 27 July heading to Cotonou and Lomé.

Tunisair, Royal Air Maroc, Air Côte d’Ivoire, Air Algeria, and Ethiopian Airlines are among the other airlines serving the country, but according to the information we received, all their aircraft had left the country at the time of the coup.

There's more to this story

Get unlimited access to our exclusive journalism and features today. Our award-winning team of correspondents and editors report from over 54 African countries, from Cape Town to Cairo, from Abidjan to Abuja to Addis Ababa. Africa. Unlocked.

Subscribe Now

cancel anytime