Niger Economic Outlook
Economic performance and outlook
Economic growth, estimated at 5.2% in 2017, was driven largely by the secondary sector, particularly oil, which increased activity when the Zinder (SORAZ) Corporation’s refining facilities reached full operating capacity. This corporation is jointly owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation (which holds a 60% stake) and the Nigerian government (which holds a 40% stake). Growth is projected to be 5.4% in 2018 and 5.2% in 2019, due to the performance of the oil and agricultural sectors. Agricultural performance is expected to rise as a result of good rainfall, as well of the 3N initiative, Nigeriens Feed Nigeriens, which promotes irrigation and livestock farming.
Security spending to combat Boko Haram and jihadists widened the budget deficit in 2017. Security spending accounted for 7.4% of GDP in 2017, up from 5.9% in 2016, but is likely to decline in 2018 and 2019. Niger’s debt risk remains moderate. However, debt has increased sharply in recent years; the public debt–to-GDP ratio rose from 33.7% in 2014 to 51.1% in 2017, due to the pace of capital expenditures and narrow budget margins. Although the primary aim of the monetary policy of the Central Bank of West African States to ensure price stability has been achieved, the policy has been rigid. Despite the low inflation between 2014 (–0.9%) and September 2017 (1.8%), the Central Bank left interest rates essentially unchanged.
The political situation is stable, despite lingering security issues. Democracy is on a firm footing following failed attempts to seize power, and elections are held regularly. Rising oil prices and higher production are expected to offset the country’s declining external position. The oil and gas potential remains high, with two large sedimentary basins covering 90% of the country. In addition to uranium and gold, Niger could use coal reserves to relieve a steep energy deficit. The Salkadamna site alone, under development, could produce roughly 600 MW of electrical power. Another tailwind for growth is the ongoing 3N initiative.
The primary macroeconomic headwinds in 2018 and 2019 include security threats, effects of climate change, and volatility in uranium and oil prices. Armed conflict with terrorist groups has created waves of refugees throughout the country, as well as internally displaced persons; Niger suffers directly from the consequences of the Libyan and Malian crises. As in other G5 Sahel countries, security challenges will continue to weigh heavily on Niger’s socioeconomic outlook, particularly public finances. Another headwind relates to demographics: population growth is 3.9%, and the female fertility rate is 7.1, both of which are among the highest in the world. These indicators present a challenge to food security, education, health care, and employment, as demand for social services far exceeds what the country is able to provide.