The government in Niger has signed an agreement for China to help improve the country’s power supplies. China will transfer several electrical power units to Niger under the agreement, officials said. […] Chinese companies have recently become more active in Niger, exploring for uranium and oil in the north and east of the country.
Government officials said the power units were being dismantled in China prior to their transfer, the BBC’s Idy Baraou reports from Niger:
Niger is historically a gateway between Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa and is rated as one of the world’s poorest country by the UN. More than two-thirds of its people live below the poverty line and 82% rely on agriculture. In recent years, Niger has frequently suffered famines and internal unrest from an insurgency by Tuareg rebels in the North and their campaign for greater autonomy. In 2007, rebels briefly kidnapped an executive from a Chinese uranium company working in the northern Diffa area, who was later freed.
Apart from a few small infrastructure projects and other investments, China has thus far not been very active in Niger compared to its presence in other African countries. But only recently, China announced that it will invest $5bn over the next three years to develop oil production in Niger’s eastern Diffa region, where the country’s oil reserves are located (for comparison, Niger’s GDP at purchasing power parity is about $9bn). China’s state-owned National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) is expected to produce the country’s first barrel of crude oil in 2009. The total estimated investment of $5 billion is China’s biggest in the Sahel state to date.