Niger defaults on debt payments again as post-coup woes pile

The West African state’s total debt default since last July’s coup is now $519m.

Niger coup officials in military garb deliver speech
Members of a military council that staged a coup in Niger attend a rally at a stadium in Niamey, Niger, August 6, 2023 [Mahamadou Hamidou/Reuters]

Niger missed a debt payment of 13.4 billion CFA francs ($22m) last week, the West African debt management agency said on Monday, bringing the total default to some $519m since a July coup and its suspension from regional financial markets.

The West African monetary union debt management agency UMOA-Titres said in a statement that Niger had failed to make a repayment of principal which was due on February 16. It previously missed payments in August, November, January and February.

UMOA-Titres noted that this occurred in the context of Niger being subject to sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union, also known by its French acronym UEMOA.

“This situation is carefully monitored by UMOA-Titres in collaboration with the institutions concerned,” the agency said in a statement on Monday.

The sanctions were imposed after the July 30 coup by members of the Nigerien presidential guard, that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum.

Other countries, including the United States, that had provided aid for health, security and infrastructure needs, also suspended their support.

Until the coup, aid accounted for almost half of Niger’s annual budget. Niger’s neighbours also closed their borders to the country, and more than 70 percent of its electricity, supplied by Nigeria, was cut off. Financial transactions with West African countries were suspended. Niger’s assets in external banks were frozen, and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid were withheld.

In July, a planned 30 billion CFA franc ($51m) bond issuance by Niger was cancelled by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).

The sanctions were the most stringent yet imposed by the regional bloc to stem the tide of coups in the Sahel. But they have had little or no effect on the ambition of the government, which has consolidated its hold on power while millions in Niger face growing hardship.

Last month, the country announced, along with neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso, that it was leaving ECOWAS with immediate effect. The three states formed the Association of Sahel States (ASS) in September and are reportedly considering discontinuing the use of the CFA, the currency of the UEMOA.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies