The effects of this crisis confirm the complexities and interdependence of international relations, reaching far beyond Niger alone. The situation has repercussions across political, economic, security, and humanitarian dimensions.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite being rich in natural resources of crucial importance to Western countries.
Niger holds the world’s second-largest uranium reserves, and provides one-fifth of the European Union’s uranium imports as the bloc’s largest supplier, according to 2021 statistics published by the Supply Agency of the European Atomic Energy Group.
France also depends on Niger for 15 percent of its uranium needs, as a critical energy supplier both to the French electricity grid and those of a number of European countries.
Western countries also fear that Niger’s strategic location could make the country a safe haven for extremist militias and terrorist groups in the region, such as Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaeda. American and French military bases were established in Niger to prevent this and monitor regional terrorism.
Another danger that threatens both Niger and its neighbours is the possibility of civil war along ethnic lines. Niger is populated by five major ethnicities each with its own language, whose conflicts are exacerbated by a poor economy, inadequate health services and a weak education system.
For European countries, the Niger coup represents the terrifying potential for a chaotic security environment that could send hundreds of African migrants to Europe on a daily basis.
This would only compound the stresses on the continent caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war, which has increased the rate of unemployment and inflation, making it less able to receive immigrants and refugees.
Some Europeans could fear that terrorists, violent criminals, and drug dealers might migrate with the refugees, posing a threat to Europe’s security and society.
A number of observers think that what happened in Niger – formerly a steadfast ally of France in the region – is due to the history of French policies towards African countries and peoples.
According to this view, the current generation of Africans believes that the West unfairly exploits their natural resources, living in luxury while they suffer in poverty and underdevelopment.
Therefore, there is a consensus among the putschists in African countries to expel French influence and welcome other partners.
Chief among these is Russia, the primary challenger of Western hegemony, which seeks to establish a multipolar world order.
On the other side, critics of the coup allege that the putschists have no national vision or future development plans, and are therefore steering the country towards failure and further economic deterioration.
The trend of military coups in Africa is likely to continue in light of deteriorating economic conditions, which in turn may lead to insecurity and civil wars, from which many countries on the continent have suffered for years.
Additionally, the succession of coups and permanent military rule hinders the transition to strong democratic governance.
The continent requires institutions that can formulate new ways to tackle the problems of African economies and civil societies and promote stable and sustainable development.