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avril 69

THE NIGER SCENE

Fight for better trader terms BY BRIDGET BLOOM

IT IS NOT because the Republic of Niger un important customer British expert that its President Mr. Hamani Diori. arrived a London last Sunday for is first official visit to Britain in 1968.
British old was worth even less, and as far as is known only two british firms are established in the country.
One reason why President the invitation . But the visit does not need to be . In the past few years Hamani Diori’s role in Africa has then but to playing a successful ediatory role in the Nigerian. Perhaps more significant over two years he has been the okesman in Europe and the world for the 18 African States sociated with the European Community. He was specially re-elected airman of the 14-State Afro-alagasy Common Organisation (OCAM) at the end of last year so at this spokesman role could connue through the renegotiation of Association agreement, which is to end on May 31.

Negotiations

In September. President Diori sited all six European capitals, sucelessly putting the Associates se before Governments, chambers of commerce and other presre groups. He seems likely to on from London to Brussels, here negosiations for the reneval the Yaoundé Association agreenment are taking place.
A better example of the difficultes of the Associatd States than that of President Diori’s own country could hardly be found.
tagger than France. It has just 3m poeple a fifth of whom nomads. It is landlocked has extremely poor communications and only 10 per cent of its school-aged children actually are at school. Its exports consist of relatively small quantities of groundnuts and cattle.Its total trade is worth only some S70m. a year. and has always been in deficit, while its budget deficits have, until recently, been made good by Franch subsidies of one sort or another.
The Franch subsidies—directly for the budget and indirectly for export crops—were phased out under the Yaoundé Association agreement and cased altogether in 1967. Combined with poor wearther for groundnuts and the effects of the Nigerian crisis on the cattle trade. Which used to flow almost unheeded across the long Niger- Nigerian border, their loss has had a serious effect on the country’s already weak economy . A Niamey Chamber of Commerce report last year estimated that in 1967-68 there had been a 25-30 per cent. decline in the business activity ; a 70-80 per cent drop in construction— and that purchasing power had fallen by some L6m.

Real impact

Aid from the European Community—it is estimated that Niger received a total of S31m. under the frist Assocation agreement, and has been allotted S22m. so far from the second—has failed it seems to have any real impact on the economy. This is partly because procedures insisted upon in Brussels often mean a delay of two to three years between EEC agreements ti finance and the beginning of actuel construction in Niger.
For example S9.7m. was agreed under the First Developpement fund for a key road project linking the capital in the West with the other major town. Zinder in the East : but by September last year nearly five years after the First Developement fund had officially ended, only some S6m. had been spent, But the major problem is that aid totals seen against the background of Niger’s deteriorating terms of trade are simply inadequate.

President Diori speaking to the Cologne Chamber of Commercelast September put it graphically Niger’s earnings from one ton of groundnuts in 1958 allowed it to buy 6.98 tons of cement and 1.1 tons of reinforcing bars. « In 1965, the sme quantity of ggroundnuts only permitted the prchase of 5.63 tons of cement and 0.98 ton of reinforcing bars » in 1960 he went on one ton of cocoa had allowed Cameroon to buy 2.700 metres of unbleached cloth but the same quantity of exported cocoa in 1965 bought only 800 metres of cloth.
president Diori’s — and the other 17 associates— demands of the EEC not all of whom it shoud be said are in as parlous a state as Niger ) are not simply for increased aid : they are also for fairer trade treatment—he contrasts for example the high internal taxes placed on African exports by the EEC with the non-diserimination which the associates are expected to show to European goods entering Africa. He points out too that whereas the EEC’s imports from Africa tell by 1 per cent in 1967. Afrian’simporrts from Europe rose by 10 per cent and that while Europe’s total trade with Africa has increased in the last 10 years, the growth rate has been half that between for example the EEC and Latin America.

Whether President Diori’s advovacy of the case of the Eighteen actually results in an increase in aid , and better trade terms remains to be seen— though it must with the current almosphere in Europe, seem doublful. Meanwhile, Niger has to do what it can on its own.

French help

President Diori’s own political position now looks relatively stable. He defeated withit is allegred the help of the French his major rival for power. Mr. Djibo Bakary just before the country’s independence in 1960 and sent him into exile. but though Mr. Bakary, supported by Nkrumah in Ghana, appeared to offer a major threat too the regime in 1964 when he sent in « Sawaba » freedom fighters to Niger little has been heard of him since. President Diori has established cordial relations with the new Ghana regime and makes a point of maintaining good relations with his much more powerful neighhour, Nigeria. His stand in the Nigerian crisis is firmly pro-Federai---though he is himself a Djerma the largest group in Niger are Hausa, hardly distinguishable from the Hausa of Northern Niger. There arre undoubtely a number of people including intellmats who are dissalisned President Diori’s close relations with Ivory Coast President Houphounet Boigny (relations which have not it seem been soured by Ivory Coast’s recognition of Biaffra) as well as be his contunued close association with the French. But it is doublful it they offer a real threat to his Gouvernment carefully chose from among all Niger’s varied people.

Bright spot

On the economic front there is possibly one Bright spot. French-sponsored research discovered uranium and last year Niger signed and agreement with the French Atomie Energy Commission the Compagnie Francaisee des Mines d’Uranium and the Compagnie Minière de Mokia for its exploitation . The biggest deposits are at Arlit and possibly over 40.000 tons. A pilot production exercice at 200 tons of concentrate a year, is planned for 1970 and is scheduled to rise to 1.000 tons a year by 1973. This it is hoped would bring the Niger Gouvernment from proceds og its small sharcholding and taxes, roughly S4m. annually. Clearly Niger is worried a the virtually complete French control of the operation for in Germany last year the President diseussed the intallation of an atomie energy plant in Niger itself. But the country has in thes mallers little bargaining power and its main hope must be to metease its revenue.

Portfolio

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