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Niger‘s economy is based largely on subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world’s largest uranium deposits.  

Niger in perspective 

Drought cycles, desertification, a 3.4 per cent population growth rate, and the drop in world demand for uranium have undercut an already marginal economy.

Traditional subsistence farming, herding, small trading, and informal markets dominate an economy that generates few formal sector jobs. A least developed and low-income economy”, for that matter. 

Four basic questions 

There are four (4) basic questions demanding answers from the ECOWAS Leaders on the decision to severe electricity to Niger: 

Is this the kind of country you opted to deny electricity access because of the recent coup? Where is the intercept of your action with the Sustainable Development Goals? What is the expected gain at the end of your action to Niger and ECOWAS? What is the real justification for your decision to cut the power supply to this nation?

Political turmoil and consequences 

The recent coup in Niger has not only ignited political turmoil but has also cast its shadow on vital sectors like energy with the abrupt severing of electricity supply. As electricity constitutes a lifeline for essential services and socio-economic activities, the disruption has far-reaching consequences that demand urgent attention.

Niger
Niger’s coup leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani.

Crucial role of electricity

Electricity access in Sustainable Development Goals is a necessity of life and not a privilege towards eradication of poverty.

Electricity is the heartbeat of modern societies, powering healthcare facilities, communication networks, water supply systems, and economic activities.

The abrupt cessation of electricity delivery in Niger due to the coup ripples through every facet of daily life, exacerbating existing challenges and creating new ones.

Medical Facilities:  

Hospitals and clinics heavily rely on uninterrupted electricity supply for medical equipment, life-saving procedures, and refrigeration of medicines. The sudden disruption threatens patient care, potentially leading to critical situations.

Vaccine Storage:  

In the midst of a pandemic, the lack of electricity imperils the storage of vaccines, endangering ongoing vaccination efforts and public health initiatives.

Socio-Economic Disruption 

Industries, businesses, and commercial establishments are paralysed without electricity. The halt in economic activities contributes to reduced incomes, unemployment, and economic instability.

Education: 

Schools and universities heavily depend on electricity for online learning, digital resources, and administrative tasks. The outage disrupts education, impacting future human capital development.

Public Safety and Communication 

Electricity is crucial for surveillance cameras, communication systems, and emergency response mechanisms. A power vacuum weakens public safety infrastructure.

Communication Networks: 

Electricity outage affects telecommunications, impeding information dissemination and contact with loved ones during times of crisis.

Food Security and Water Supply 

Without electricity, agricultural operations are hindered, affecting food production, processing, and distribution. This can exacerbate food insecurity. 

Water Supply: 

Electricity powers water pumping and treatment systems. The lack of water compromises hygiene, sanitation, and access to safe drinking water. 

Humanitarian Concerns 

The most vulnerable – children, elderly, and marginalized communities – suffer disproportionately during such disruptions, as they lack resources to cope. 

Humanitarian Assistance: 

The ability to deliver aid, medical supplies, and relief efforts is compromised, aggravating the impact of the coup on affected populations.

The urgent need for remediation 

The negative impact of severing electricity supply to Niger in the aftermath of the coup cannot be underestimated.

As the nation grapples with political transitions, mitigating the collateral damage to essential services, healthcare, education, and socio-economic stability is paramount. International organisations, neighbouring countries, and diplomatic efforts must collaborate to restore electricity supply swiftly, ensuring that the crisis does not morph into a humanitarian catastrophe.

By prioritising the restoration of electricity, Niger can begin the journey towards stability and recovery. Given the commissioning of the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) and the Regional Electricity Market (REM), there should not be political issues to become a barrier to the regional electricity trade. 

The Writer is a Power Systems Economist and CEO of the Independent Power Generators, Ghana. 

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