Tajani visit to Niger: 95 Percent decrease in migration flows to Libya and Europe thanks to EU partnership and funds - President to visit Niamey with entrepreneurs, researchers and international organisations
''Through financial support and a strong partnership, the European Union has helped Niger to reduce migratory flows to Libya and the EU by over 95%. In 2016, 330,000 people crossed Niger primarily directed to Europe via Libya. In 2017, this number went down to less than 18,000, and in 2018 to around 10,000. We must continue to support Niger in this action by offering all possible help for the economic, entrepreneurial and technological development of the country" said the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, ahead of his mission in Niger on 17 and 18 July.
''Niger is an example of the successes achieved by the European Union, also thanks to the optimal deployment of the Trust Fund for Africa. The resources are running out, and new appropriations are needed to help the country - among the poorest in the world - protect borders, manage migratory flows and guarantee security. My visit aims to strengthen the good partnership with Niger by offering concrete opportunities for economic growth through the network of entrepreneurs, researchers and international organizations that will accompany me." added Tajani.
Following the request of the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, Tajani will lead a mission of economic diplomacy in Niamey with representatives of over 30 European companies, experts in research and innovation, and international organizations, including the FAO. The mission will be based on four pillars: political cooperation; boosting entrepreneurship; research, innovation and technology transfers and international cooperation.
Tajani will be received by the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, the President of the Nigerian National Assembly, Ousseini Tini and the Prime Minister, Brigi Rafini, with whom he will address the issues of security, border control and management of migration flows.
''Niger is doing an excellent job of hosting tens of thousands of migrants evacuated from UNHCR and IOM from Libya. It is in urgent need of new financial assistance to continue these operations. The new 500 million tranche for the Trust Fund for Africa must go largely to support the efforts of this country. A reform of the Dublin regulation is also needed to ensure that refugees identified in transit countries are distributed evenly among all EU countries. It is unacceptable that of the 1,700 vulnerable refugees evacuated in Niger from Libya, only a few dozen have been accepted by a few EU countries," said Tajani.
President Tajani will attend a meeting of the Speakers of the Parliaments of the Sahel 5 countries (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad). The strengthening of cooperation between the countries of the Sahel is at the centre of this meeting, with the aim of an agreement on fostering stability of the region, security, immigration and development. Later Tajani will meet Ibrhaim Sani-Abani, Secretary General of Cen-sad, the Community which brings together 29 Sahel-Saharan countries to discuss in particular the stabilization and democratization of Libya.
The visit also offers the opportunity to promote a mission of economic diplomacy with the participation of more than thirty companies, European business associations and companies already present in Niger. The aim is to raise awareness of investment opportunities, improve the business climate and facilitate contacts and exchanges with production companies and with the country's authorities.
In this regard the President declared '' Niger needs investment in agriculture, renewable energy and the digital sectors. At the request of President Issoufou, we have therefore brought together companies that operate mainly in these sectors and have a total turnover of 80 billion euros. A first concrete development of this initiative is the creation, desired by the President of Niger, of a permanent advisory economic council that will have the task of following up these initial meetings and contacts with European companies ''.
Research, innovation and technology transfers
The transfer of innovative technologies and production techniques is essential for the development of Niger. This is why Tajani will be accompanied by experts and researchers who will make available to the Nigerian authorities and local cooperation actors concrete solutions in the field of low-water agriculture, transformation of agricultural products, and digital innovation. Tajani will also present the opportunities for cooperation in the field of security, border control, aviation and agriculture offered by the EU, EGNOS, Galileo and Copernicus satellite systems.
The President’s visit will also include representatives of international organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the African Development Bank (ADB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The goal is to work together to help achieve the sustainable development goals set by the UN.
Representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Directorates General for Development and Cooperation, for Research and Energy of the European Commission will also take part in the mission.
The European Union is one of the most active financial contributors in Africa thanks to a wide range of tools and programmes:
The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
The European Union Emergency Trust Fund aims to promote stability in Africa by addressing the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration.
For this reason the Trust Fund has so far pledged a €3.3bn commitment of the EU to three key regions of Africa – the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and North Africa aiming to help more than 160,000 migrants in transit and create more than 250.000 jobs in Africa, including a commitment of €230m in Niger, which is the main beneficiary of the Trust Fund, now allowing for 11 different projects to assist with improved governance and conflict prevention, improved migration management and enhanced economic and employment opportunities.
Thanks to EU support from the Trust Fund, the International Migration Organisation has moved 23,000 migrants, since January 2017, from Libya to Niger and then subsequently returning them, pursuant to their own wish, to their country of origin. Over 1.700 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers have been evacuated from Libya to Niger since November 2017.
One of the said 11 projects for instance invests €6.9m from the Africa Trust Fund to improve the transition from training to employment for young girls and boys in the regions of Zinder and Agadez. Furthermore, it is estimated that more than 9,000 young entrepreneurs managed to start their own business activity thanks to Trust Fund projects in Niger.
Following the European Council of 28 and 29 June an additional €500m have now been allocated to the Trust Fund.
Click here to read more in the EU Emergency Trust fund for Africa in Niger
EU humanitarian Aid in Africa and other projects
EU aid is mainly channelled through the European Development Fund, now in its 11th edition allocating a total of €596m to Niger for the period 2014-2020, covering four main sectors including food security, governance and infrastructure. The total humanitarian aid for Niger in 2017 was €42.6m covering support for nutrition and food assistance to actions in response to Boko Haram violence in Diffa as well as supporting Malian refugees in Niger. In addition to EU aid, Niger also benefits from regional programmes for West Africa in certain fields including for instance in police information systems and transport. In 2015 the European Parliament launched also a preparatory action with an investment of €4.6m to improve nomadic health in north Niger and north Mali.
Click here to read more on the EU Humanitarian Aid in Niger
EU investment plan for Africa
The External Investment Plan (EIP) was launched in 2017 with a view to attract significant private investment in the EU Neighbourhood and in Africa. It is expected to leverage €44bn of investment through an initial EU input of €4.1bn.
The Plan will do so by using public money to lower the risk of private investment in key sectors for the development of African economies like sustainable energy or small business lending. The instruments combined the EU's existing so-called 'blending' programmes (€2.6bn budget), which mix loans and grants with guaranteee (€1.5bn budget).
The investment plan has seen for instance a €64m investment into a hybrid energy power plant in Agadez in Niger, allowing the supply of electricity in previously off-the-grid rural areas and the construction of a solar power plant in Gorou Banda to supply the suburbs of Niamey including also the training of young African engineers in photovoltaic technology.
Click here to read more on the EU External investment plan
Niger, although relatively small, is probably the single most important migratory transit country for the central Mediterranean route towards the EU. It is estimated that about 90% of migrants from West Africa en route to Libya and Europe travel through Niger.
Between 2016 and 2017, numbers were significantly reduced. In 2016 the International Organization for Migration (IOM) observed 333.891 individuals outgoing through Niger borders (mainly to Libya). In 2017 the number decreased to 17.634. The decreasing trend seems to be confirmed by 2018 estimates.
Restrictive measures taken by the government of Niger to crack down on irregular migration, the situation prevailing in Libya, and the repatriation of Nigerien nationals residing in Algeria, have led to a shift towards more perilous and fragmented migrant routes. It is estimated that, at a minimum, nearly 500 deaths (a number likely to be far higher) per year in the Sahara desert in Niger and Algeria only. There are also significant risks of kidnapping for ransom and trafficking in persons.
Niger is currently hosting over 300.000 refugees and displaced persons fleeing the crises in neighbouring countries. Refugee camps are concentrated in the south-eastern region of Diffa and the northern and north-western regions of Tahoua and Tillabery, where a major humanitarian crisis is playing out. More specifically, according to UNHCR data there are, as of January 2018, 310.626 persons of concern in Niger. Out of them, 129.520 are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The remaining are non-Nigerien nationals and come principally from Mali and Nigeria.
Click here to read the UNHCR briefing note on immigration in Niger.