After a decade (1990 – 2000) of political and macroeconomic instability, since 2000, Niger has experienced a favorable environment for reforms. Niger however continues to face difficult development challenges, including a population growth rate of 3.3 percent, recurrent drought, political instability and weak human capital basis. The International Development Association (IDA) has supported the country’s efforts to improve core basic service delivery in energy, water, basic education, and health. Several budget support operations were also implemented to improve public sector management.
Due to a combination of geography, weak policies and lack of resources, one-third of the population faces chronic food insecurity. Despite being a sparsely populated country, Niger’s population growth rate is one of the fastest in the world (3.3 percent). This has placed increased pressure on arable land, water resources and government services, particularly along the fertile southern border areas where the majority of the population lives. The government is aware that economic growth and demographic issues must be addressed in order to raise the country’s development prospects and reduce poverty.
A new Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) covering FY2008–2011 was approved on May 29, 2008. The current IDA portfolio of about US$349 million supports investments in water infrastructure; rural development, promotion of agricultural exports and irrigation; HIV/AIDS; a nationwide community development program; improved access and quality of basic education; reform and restructuring of the financial sector; health sector and institutional strengthening; natural disaster management; and emergency food security support to mitigate the impact of food price hikes.
The first phase of the Community Action Program (PAC) successfully addressed food security and non-farm income-generating activities in rural areas through a community-driven approach, which is being expanded under the second phase of PAC. The Second Private Irrigation Promotion Project (PIP2) helped expand small-scale irrigation systems and demonstrated that such investments can be profitable and can measurably improve farmers’ welfare.
The Bank also provided support under the Food Price Crisis Response Trust Fund, which helped procure 4,000 metric tons of fertilizers that were distributed at subsidized prices to rice producer cooperatives. Over 9,000 hectares were treated, more than doubling yields per hectare to 5.4 tons on average, from 2.5 tons per hectare.
Public financial management has improved following the implementation of measures as part of the public expenditure management and financial accountability review (PEMFAR), conducted by the Bank in close collaboration with the government and other development partners. Since 2000, IDA has supported reforms through a series of development policy operations and economic sector work. A second PEMFAR under preparation will assess the fiscal space potentially created by the uranium and oil sector’s revenues and identify actions needed to enhance transparency of revenue.
IDA’s support to Niger’s transport sector program is helping address some critical needs in the road sector, including the development of a sustainable road management and financing mechanism and periodic maintenance and rehabilitation of unpaved roads.
With the support of IDA, an ambitious urban water sector reform was launched in 2001 through the Water Sector Project. After seven years of implementation, the reform has significantly improved the overall management as well as the quality of service delivery, efficiency of operations, and cost recovery.
The Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) co-chair the Development Assistance Group (DAG), the main forum for donor coordination. Much of the collective effort is focused on increasing harmonization through initiatives that promote dialogue or support programs in critical sectors of Niger’s development agenda. Key donors supported the preparation of sector strategies in education, health, rural development and transport, and co-financed the multi-year investment programs in health and education.
Toward the Future
The year 2010 has been particularly difficult in Niger - with 3.5 million facing extreme malnutrition. The government and development agencies (including the World Bank) are coordinating a response to the crisis, but longer-term solutions are also needed. Although Niger stands among the world’s poorest countries, there are recent indications of improved access to basic education and better health outcomes, showing government efforts, supported by development partners, are beginning to have results. But, more efforts are needed to meet the international development goals.