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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Niger is eager to attract foreign investment and has taken steps to improve its business climate, including making reforms to liberalize the economy, encourage privatization, and increase imports and exports.

In March 2016, President Issoufou was elected for a second five-year term. During his inauguration speech, he laid out his Renaissance II vision for Niger’s development, highlighting plans to further develop the nation’s mining, petroleum, and industrial sectors, while scaling up the country’s transport infrastructure. He further promised a sustained 7 percent annual GDP growth rate throughout his term in office, with it actually hovering around 5 percent.  Going into 2020,  Issoufou’s vision incorporates the need for external investment and the Government of Niger (GoN) continues to seek foreign investment – with recent investments coming primarily from China and Turkey.  Although the GoN seeks investment from everyone, there is prioritization for those that can invest quickly.  During official visits to New York, Paris, Beijing and elsewhere since 2016, President Issoufou regularly reiterates the need for FDI. In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, which supports all investors, the GoN created the High Council for Investment (HCIN) in 2017.  The HCIN is tasked with supporting and promoting foreign direct investments in Niger.  The Permanent Secretary of the High Council reports directly to the President. GoN focus areas for investment include the mining sector, infrastructure and construction (which included a new airport and luxury hotel completed in 2019, transportation, and agribusiness).

U.S. investment in the country is very small; many U.S. firms perceive risks due to the country’s limited transport and energy infrastructure, the perception of political instability and terrorist threats, low levels of education, including low levels of French and English capacity, and a climate that is dry and very hot.  Foreign investment dominates key sectors: the mining, transportation and telecommunications sectors are dominated by French firms, while Chinese investment is paramount and expanding in the oil and large-scale construction sectors.  Niger is African Growth and Opportunity Act eligible, but it has a negligible impact in Niger.  One major project that had its groundbreaking in March 2019 is the 130MV Kandadji Dam, which will rely on international assistance to fund construction.  Much of the country’s retail stores, particularly those related to food, dry goods and clothing are operated by Lebanese and Moroccan entrepreneurs. There are currently no major U.S. firms permanently operating in Niger.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 120 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 132 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 127 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 N/A https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 USD 390.00 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Niger is committed to attracting FDI and has repeatedly pledged to take whatever steps necessary to encourage the development of its private sector and increase trade.  The country offers numerous investment opportunities, particularly in agriculture, livestock, energy, telecommunication, industry, infrastructure, hydrocarbons, services, and mining.  In the past several years, new investor codes have been implemented (the most recent being in 2014), the Public-Private Partnership law was adopted in 2018 and subsequently implemented.  Transparency has improved, and customs and taxation procedures have been simplified.  There are no laws that specifically discriminate against foreign and/or U.S. investors.  The government of Niger has demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with prospective foreign investors on matters of taxation and customs.

The Investment Code adopted in 2014 guarantees the reception and protection of foreign direct investment, as well as tax advantages available for investment projects.  The Investment Code allows tax exemptions for a certain period and according to the location and amount of the projects to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the Ministry of Commerce.  The code guarantees fair treatment of investors regardless of their origin.  The code also offers tax incentives for sectors that the government deems to be priorities and strategic, including energy production, agriculture, fishing, social housing, health, education, crafts, hotels, transportation, and the agro-food industry.  The code allows free transfer of profits and free convertibility of currencies.

The Public-Private Partnership law adopted in 2018 gives such projects total exemption from duties and taxes, including Value Added Tax (VAT), on the provision of services , works and services directly contributing to the realization of the project in the design and/or implementation phase.  Parts, spare parts, and raw materials intended for projects do not benefit from a duty exemption and customs taxes unless they are not available at Niger.  In the design and/or production phase, private public partnerships benefit from free registration of agreements and all acts entered by the contracting authority and the contracting partner within the framework of the project.

Despite having regulations in place to invite FDI, Niger’s enforcement of its tax code is not always even.  In 2018 and 2019, at least two notable foreign investors complained of unfair tax enforcement or policies.

There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors including U.S. investors.

The High Council for Investment of Niger (HCIN), created in 2017, reports directly to the President of the Republic.  HCIN is the GoN’s platform for public-private dialogue and has a goal of increasing Foreign Direct Investments, improving Niger’s business environment, and defining private sector priorities to possible investors.

In 2018, Niger’s government reviewed the HCIN’s mission as related to international best practices on attracting FDI.  Subsequently the GoN added, by Presidential Decree, a Nigerien Agency for the Promotion of Private Investment and Strategic Projects (ANPIPS).  It reports to the HCIN and is the implementing agency of HCIN’s policy initiatives.  To date the two agencies have successfully completed a number of investment agreements, notably with Chinese and Turkish firms.  In 2018, it assisted representatives from an American firm in gaining access to Niger and arranging meetings with appropriate government officials.

To improve business climate indicators, the GoN created an Institutional Framework for Improving Business Climate Indicators Office (Dispositif Institutionnel d’Amélioration et de Suivi du Climat des Affaires), within the Ministry of Commerce.  Its stated goal is to create a regulatory framework that permits the implementation of sustainable reforms.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises.  Energy, mineral resources, and national security related sectors restrict foreign ownership and control; otherwise, there are no limitations on ownership or control.  In the extractive industries, any company to which the GoN grants a mining permit must give the GoN a minimum 10 percent share of the company.  This law applies to both foreign and domestic operations.

The GoN reserves the right to require companies exploiting mineral resources to give the GoN up to a 33 percent stake in their Nigerien operations.  Although Ministry of Planning authorization is required, foreign ownership of land is permitted.  In 2015, under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce, the GoN validated a new Competition and Consumer Protection Law, replacing a 1992 law that was never operational.  Niger also adheres to the Community Competition Law of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and directives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as those offered to investors by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) all of which provide benefits and guarantees to private companies.

The Government of Niger is an active proponent of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which President Issoufou stated will encourage international investments and ease trade for international investors.

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises.  A legal Investment Code governs most activities except accounting, which the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) governs.  The Mining Code governs the mining sector and the Petroleum Code governs the petroleum sector, with regulations enforced through their respective ministries.  The investment code guarantees equal treatment of investors regardless of nationality.  Companies are protected against nationalization, expropriation or requisitioning throughout the national territory, except for reasons of public utility.

The state remains the owner of water resources through the Niger Water Infrastructure Corporation (SPEN), which was created in 2001 and is responsible for the management of the state’s hydraulic infrastructure in urban and semi-urban areas, including development, and project management.  Concessions for the use of water and for the exploitation of works and hydraulic installations may be granted to legal persons governed by private law, generally by presidential decree.  However, the day to day work is through the French investor Veolia through the Niger Water Exploitation Company (SEEN).

An investment screening mechanism does not exist under the Investment Code.  The HCIN is a de facto advisory council to the government on any large scale investment.  The HCIN would support investor engagement with appropriate government offices and facilitate meeting any regulatory requirements.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the government has not undergone any third-party investment policy reviews through a multi-lateral organization.  Neither the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), nor the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has carried out a policy review for Niger.

The World Bank, however, cohosted a roundtable discussion in 2019 with government, civil society, and business representatives to review Niger’s business climate including its investment policies.

https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/ExportFile.aspx?Id=243443&filename=q/WT/TPR/S362R1-07.pdf 

http://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/Investment percent20Policy percent20Reviews/Investment-Policy-Reviews.aspx 

Business Facilitation

Niger’s one-stop shop, the Maison de l’Entreprise, is mandated to enhance business facilitation by mainstreaming and simplifying the procedures required to start a business within a single window registration process.

From 2016 to 2019, the cost and time needed to register businesses dropped from 100,000 CFA (about USD190) to 17,500 CFA (about USD33).  Furthermore, the time to obtain construction permits dropped, as well as the cost of access to water and electricity networks.  The GoN also created an e-regulations website (https://niger.eregulations.org/procedure/2/1?l=fr ), which allows for a clear and complete registration process.  Foreign companies may use this website, which lists government agencies with which businesses must register.  The business registration process was down to about 3 days by 2019, from over 14 days in 2016.

The Government maintains a policy of working with international organizations in finding ways to improve its business registration process, which is reflected in its year-over-year improvements in Niger’s Ease of Doing Business Score as measured by the World Bank.  In the 2020 doing business, Niger score 56.8 and ranked at 132 out of 190 economies.

Company registration can be done at the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE), at the Maison de l’Entreprise, which is designed as a one-stop-shop for registration.  Applicants must file the documents with the Commercial Registry (Registre du Commerce et du Crédit Mobilier – RCCM), which has a representative at the one-stop shop.

At the same location, a company can register for taxes, obtain a tax identification number (Numéro d’Identification Fiscale – NIF), register with social security (Caisse nationale de Sécurité Sociale – CNSS), and with the employment agency (Agence Nationale pour la Promotion de l’Emploi – ANPE).  Employees can be registered with social security at the same location.

When a company registers, the applicant may also request the publication of a notice of company incorporation, a mandatory step, on the Maison de l’Entreprise website: http://mde.ne/spip.php?rubrique10 .  The notice of incorporation can alternatively be published in an official newspaper (journal d’annonces légales).

Outward Investment

The government does not promote outward investment.  The government’s policy objectives, as specified in the second Nigerien Renaissance Program (section 1.2), is the development of international markets, especially that of ECOWAS, for Nigerien exports rather than investment.

The GoN does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  To the contrary, Niger currently has active Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with Germany and Switzerland.  BITs were signed with Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, but are not in force.  Niger is eligible to export virtually all marketable goods duty-free in to the U.S. market via the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) system of trade preferences.

Niger does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States.  The United States, however, signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with WAEMU in 2014.  It includes Niger.  There is no ongoing systemic tax dispute between the government and foreign investors.

2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties

Niger currently has active Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with Germany and Switzerland. BITs were signed with Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, but are not in force. Niger is eligible to export virtually all marketable goods duty-free in to the U.S. market via the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) system of trade preferences.

https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/152/niger 

Niger does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States. However, the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with WAEMU signed in 2014, which includes Niger.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The GoN possesses transparent policies and requisite laws to foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis, but does not enforce them equally, in large part due to corruption and weak governmental systems.  Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms.  The Legal Regime – related to the Investment Code, Labor Code and Commercial Acts – applies the provisions of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).  It also offers free access to public procurement and with moderate transparency in the procedures for awarding contract.

Niger does not have any regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.  A company in Niger must be entered in the Register of Companies, must obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN), be registered with the National Social Security Fund (CNSS), and with the National Employment Promotion Agency (ANPE).

There, however, is a large informal sector that does not submit to any of the legal provisions and is not formally regulated.

In general, the National Assembly drafts regulatory guidance which is approved by the executive branch.  For day-to-day operations each ministry or economic sector has separate regulatory agencies.  For example, rule-making and regulatory authorities exist in telecommunication, public procurement and energy, all of which are relevant for foreign businesses, and are exercised at the national level. The law No 2015-58 established the Energy Sector Regulatory Agency, an independent administrative authority, to regulate the energy sector at the national level, but is effective only in major cities. The December 2012 law No 2012-70 created the Telecommunications and Post Office Regulatory Authority (ARTP).  ARTP regulates all aspects of telecommunications operators.  Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. The Legal Regime – related to the Investment Code, Mining Code, Petroleum Code, Labor Code and Commercial Acts – applies the provisions of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa OHADA. It also offers free access to public procurement and transparency in the procedures for awarding contracts.

GoN officials have confirmed their intent to comply with international norms in its legal, regulatory, and accounting systems, but frequently fall short.  Clear procedures are frequently not available.

Draft bills are not always available for public comment, although some organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, are invited to offer suggestions during the drafting process.

Niger does not have a centralized online location where key regulatory actions are published but does have a Directorate of National Archives where key regulatory actions are kept in print.  The Directorate is under the Ministry Secretary of Government.

Foreign and national investors, however, can find detailed information on administrative procedures applicable to investment at the following site: http://niger.eregulations.org/ .  The site includes information on income generating operations including the number of steps, name and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures, required documents and conditions, costs, processing time, and legal basis justifying the procedures.

A General Inspectorate of Administrative Governance and the Regional Directorates of Archives are in place to oversee administrative processes.  Their efforts are reinforced by incentives for state employees, unannounced inspections in public administrations, and an introduction of a sign-in system and exchange meetings. No major regulatory system and/or enforcement reforms were announced in 2019.

Regulations are developed via a system of ministerial collaborations and discussions, consultation with the State Council, drafting of the text and passed by the Council of Ministers.  This is followed by discussions in Parliament, approval by the Constitutional Council and finally approved by the President for publication and distribution to interested stakeholders.

Based on the Constitution of 2011, regulatory power belongs to the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister who can issue regulations for the whole of the national territory.  Other administrative authorities also have regulatory power, such as ministers, governors, or prefects and mayors, who have the power of enforcement at the local level.

Ministries or regulatory agencies do not conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations.  However, ministries or regulatory agencies solicit comments on proposed regulations from the general public through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups.  Public comments are generally not published.

Public finances and debt obligations are not transparent enough; however, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union are funding projects to improve finances and debt transparency in which there is annual review and Niger was assessed to be making progress.

International Regulatory Considerations

Niger is a part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-member West African trade block.  National policy generally adheres to ECOWAS guidelines concerning business regulations.

Niger is part of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which came into affect in July 2019.  Negotiations on Made in Africa and other aspects of the agreement were ongoing at the end of 2019.

Niger is a member of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development’s international network of transparent investment procedures: http://niger.eregulations.org/  (French language only).

Niger is a member of the WTO, but as a lower income member, is exempt from Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) obligations.  The GoN does not notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).  Niger ratified a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in August 2015.  The GoN has reported some progress on implementing the TFA requirements.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Niger’s legal system is a legacy of the French colonial system.  The legal infrastructure is insufficient, making it difficult to use the courts to enforce ownership of property or contracts. While Niger’s laws protect property and commercial rights, the administration of justice can be slow and unequal.

Niger has a written commercial law that is heavily based on the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).  Niger has been a member of OHADA since 1995.  OHADA aims to harmonize business laws in 16 African countries by adopting common rules adapted to their economies, setting up appropriate judicial procedures, and encouraging arbitration for the settlement of contractual disputes.  OHADA regulations on business and commercial law include definition and classification of legal persons engaged in trade, procedures for credit and recovery of debts, means of enforcement, bankruptcy, receivership, and arbitration.  Niger established Commercial Court in Niamey in 2015.  No statistics are available on the activities of the Commercial Court.

Article 116 of the constitution clearly states that the judicial system is independent of the executive and legislative branches.  However, the personnel management process for assignments and promotions is through politically appointed personnel in the Ministry of Justice, seriously weakening the independence of the judiciary and raising questions about the fairness and reliability of the judicial process.

Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and adjudicated in the court system.  However, it is extremely rare for individuals or corporations to challenge government regulations or enforcement actions in court due to costs and administrative obstacles.

For example, in 2018, the government initiated tax cases against the telecommunication companies of Orange, Airtel, Moov and Nigertelecom (the state-owned entreprise). Moov, Nigertelecom and Airtel negotiated a settlement.  Orange, a French owned multi-national corporation that provided cell phone and Internet service in Niger challenged the government order through the commerce tribunal and later in the constitutional court.  To begin the process, Orange had to submit 75 percent of the claimed tax discrepancy.  Orange claimed that the charge made it prohibitive for the company to access the courts.  The Constitutional Court determined that if an appeal is successful the government must repay the funds, thus the 75 percent charge is not an obstacle.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Niger offers guarantees to foreign direct investors pertaining to security of capital and investment, compensation for expropriation, and equality of treatment.  Foreign investors may be permitted to transfer income derived from invested capital and from liquidated investments, provided the original investment is made in convertible currencies.

Other than the decisions against Orange, previously described, there were no major laws/regulations or decisions in 2019.  Judicial decisions that have come out in the past years can be found on the Commerce Tribunal of Niamey website: http://www.tribunalcommerceniamey.org/index.php .

Niger does not have a dedicated one-stop shop website for investment, but the Chamber of Commerce and Industry houses a specialized institution, known as the Investment Promotion Center (CPI) which supports domestic and foreign investors in terms of business “creation, extension, and rehabilitation.”  The HCIN and ANPIPS (Agence Nigerienne pour la Promotion des Investissements et Projets Strategiques), which are within the Prime Minister Office, are fully authorized by the GoN to support possible foreign investors.  These two structures may assist investors in using or adhering to Niger’s codes and regulations such as the investment code, the Public-Private-Partnership agreement, the electricity code, and the petroleum code.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

There were no new developments in 2019 related to competition concerns.  Under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade, the GoN in 2015 validated a new Competition and Consumer Protection Law, replacing a 1992 law that was never fully operational.  Niger also adheres to the Community Competition Law of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

Expropriation and Compensation

The Investment Code guarantees that no business will be subject to nationalization or expropriation except when deemed “in the public interest” as prescribed by the law.  The code requires that the government compensate any expropriated business with just and equitable payment.  There have been a number of expropriations of commercial and personal property, most of which were not conducted in a manner consistent with Nigerien law requiring “just and prior compensation.”  It is in fact rare for property owners to be compensated by the government after expropriations of property.

There is no record of expropriations of property of international investors.

With the planned construction of the Kandaji Dam beginning in 2019, and in adherence to requirements for donor funding, the government offered to resettle 38,000 individuals and their livestock to new sites.  The government created an agency to conduct all resettlement related activities upstream and downstream of the dam construction.  The agency conducted a census to determine who would be impacted and held public consultations to meet the populations and collect complaints at each step of the process. The process is ongoing, with some individuals expressing concern about the value of compensation and the ability to farm in their new location.

In cases of expropriation carried out by the GoN, claimants and community leaders have alleged a lack of due process.  These complaints are currently limited to community forums and press coverage.  Many of the families impacted, usually those whose land is expropriated for construction projects, lack the knowledge and ability to exercise their rights under the law.  High rates of illiteracy, complexity of the legal system, and lack of resources to retain competent legal counsel present insurmountable barriers to legal remedies for most Nigerien business owners who have had their property expropriated, legal challenges to expropriation are not lodged.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Niger is a contracting state of both the ICSID Convention and the New York Convention of 1958.  There is no domestic legislation providing for enforcement of awards under the 1958 New York Convention and/or under the ICSID Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Investment Code offers the possibility for foreign nationals to seek remedy through the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.  Niger does not have a BIT or FTA with the United States that would provide dispute settlement processes.  Over the past 10 years, there were no investment disputes that involved a U.S. person.  Local courts are generally reluctant to recognize foreign arbitral awards issued against the GoN.  Niger does not have a record of extrajudicial actions against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Niger has an operational center for mediation and arbitration of business disputes. The center’s stated aim is to maintain investor confidence by eliminating long and expensive procedures traditionally involved in the resolution of business disputes.

The Investment Code provides for settlement of disputes by arbitration or by recourse to the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Disputes on Investment. However, investment dispute mechanisms in contracts are not always respected.

There was no publicly available information in 2019 on foreign arbitral award enforcement in Niger.  Procedures are in place but are often not adhered to because of a lack of resources and corruption in the judicial system.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Niger has laws related to insolvency and/or bankruptcy. Creditors have the right to object to decisions accepting or rejecting a creditor’s claims and may vote on debtors’ bankruptcy reorganization plans.  However, the creditors’ rights are limited: creditors do not have the right to receive from a reorganized firm as much as they may have received from one that had been liquidated.  Likewise, the law does not require that creditors be consulted on matters pertaining to an insolvency framework following the declaration of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is not criminalized.

According to data collected by the World Bank’s Doing Business survey, resolving insolvency takes five years on average and costs 18 percent of the debtor’s total assets.  Globally, Niger stands at 114 in the 2020 ranking of 190 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.  Niger strength of insolvency framework index (0–16) is 9.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Niger offers incentives that are dependent on the size of the investment and number of jobs that will be created. The Investment Code offers VAT-inclusive tax exemptions depending on the size of the business.  Potential tax exemptions include start-up costs, property, industrial and commercial profits, services and materials required for production, and energy use.  Exemption periods range from ten to fifteen years and include waivers of duties and license fees.  There are no restrictions on foreign companies opening a local office in Niger, though they must obtain a business certificate from the Ministry of Trade.

The Investment Code has established three different tiers of incentives for investors, based on minimum investment amounts, listed below:

  • Tier 1: Promotional tier, for investments of 25 million CFA francs (about USD40,000) or above.
  • Tier 2: Priority tier, for investments of 50 million CFA francs (about USD81,000) or above.
  • Tier 3: Conventional tier, for large businesses with investments of at least 2 billion CFA (about USD3.25 million)

In practice, tier three investors can negotiate possible additional concessions directly with the government if warranted.

During the investment phase, the approved investments are exempt from import duties and taxes on material and equipment needed for the project that are not available locally.  The advantages provided during the operational phase include exemption from profit tax (35 percent).  Apart from these regimes, two additional incentive schemes are part of the investment code.  These apply to companies operating in remote regions, energy, agro-industry, and low-cost housing sectors.

The Government of Niger has a practice of jointly financing foreign direct investment projects through the Public-Private Partnership law. This enacted law n° 2018-40 of 05 June 2018 regulating contracts public-private partnership stated for example in the Article 59:  in the design and/or development phase implementation, public-private partnership type projects benefit for their operations of a total exemption from duties and taxes collected by the State with the exception of VAT on the services.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In 2016, the GON approved a new Customs Code to replace the one which had been in place for 55 years. The new code is supposed to reflect the aspirations of actors within the international supply chain and is in conformity with the requirements of Community Customs Codes of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

In 2017, the GON modernized the customs procedures with the electronic payment tax which is efficient in Niamey and was still expanding to other regions of Niger through 2019.  In 2016, internal customs procedures migrated to SYDONIAWORLD, a system designed to improve efficiency and permit centralized oversight and control. In 2015, Niger was the first Least Developed Country (LDC) to ratify the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The country seeks to implement the trade policy of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and has joined the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) of the European Union.

Niger is landlocked and relies on the ports of Cotonou in Benin and Lomé in Togo as its primary seaports.  Importers also use the ports of Tema, in Ghana and sometimes Lagos, Nigeria.  Delivery can take months due to delays at borders and internal control points along the route.  The relatively low number of commercial flights to Niger means that transport costs are high.  The country’s main trade partners are Nigeria, the European Union, the United States, China, Cote d’Ivoire, and Algeria.  In July 2019, Niger created a free industrial export zone.  Although work in the zone had not commenced, the GoN anticipates that future infrastructure will permit Niger to have a demarcated space in which the State confers tax advantages on companies operating there. The creation of this free zone is dedicated to export focused companies.  In July 2019, the government also created in a second industrial zone of Niamey located on the Bougoum plateau.  This project’s stated aim is to reduce difficulties linked to the quality of infrastructure and production factors, which promoters of industrial projects cite as investment impediments.  The complaints include the high cost of construction, lack of urbanized areas, roads and various networks and the lack of space in the current industrial area of Niamey.

In July 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Area (ZLECAF) draft flagship of AU Agenda 2063 entered into force and its implementation was scheduled to start in July 2020.  Niger is active proponent and member of the treaty.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

While Niger requires that companies attempt to hire a Nigerien before applying for a work visa for a foreign national, in practice the rule is not enforced.  In addition, it allows for a company to appeal to the Ministry of Labor, if a foreigner is refused a work visa.

There are no localization requirements for senior management or boards of directors.  There are no excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees.  In principal, there are no government/authority imposed conditions restricting investments beyond limited sectors for national security as cited in the section on “Limits on Foreign Control.”

There are no forced localization policies requiring investors to use domestic goods in content.  Performance requirements are not imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding foreign direct investments.  There are no performance requirements or investment incentives for investors.

Niger does not require foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance.  There are no measures that prevent companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside of Niger.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Interests in property are enforced when the landholder is known, but property disputes are common, particularly involving community-owned land or land in rural areas where customary land titles are still common.  Even in urban centers, such as Niamey, offices responsible  for overseeing construction permits are unable to identify ownership for large swaths of land.  Mortgages are relatively new instruments; Bank Atlantique introduced the first mortgages in 2014.  The bank retains the title to the property until the loan is repaid.

Foreign ownership of land is permitted but requires authorization from the Ministry of Planning.  The 2018 Finance Law changed tax policies on foreign ownership, but was not yet in force at year’s end.  It is unknown how much land does not have clear title and the government does not have a defined effort to register lands at the national level.

Traditional use rights are at the core of land disputes between Nigerien farmers and traditional nomadic herders.  According to data collected by the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business survey conducted in 2019, registering property in Niger requires four procedures, takes 13 days and costs 7.4 percent of the property value.  Globally, Niger stands at 115 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of registering property.  In 2014, Niger made transferring property easier by reducing registration fees.

Intellectual Property Rights

As a signatory to the 1983 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, Niger provides national protection under Nigerien patent and trademark laws to foreign businesses. Niger is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention.

No new  intellectual property rights, laws or regulations have been enacted in the past year.  Niger does not regularly track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods. There is no specific information about working conditions in the production or sale of counterfeit goods. While there have been some  seizures, government statistics are not available.

Niger is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Niger’s government welcomes foreign portfolio investment.

Niger’s capital markets are extremely underdeveloped, and the country does not have its own stock market. However, the country shares a regional stock market The Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM) with the eight (8) Member States in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. This is the only stock market in the world shared by several countries, run totally in digital format and integrated in a perfect manner.

Although an effective regulatory system exists, and policies encourage portfolio investment, there is little market liquidity and hence little opportunity for such investment. The agency UMOA-Titres (AUT), a regional agency to support public securities issuance and management in the WAEMU (bonds market), is dedicated to helping member states use capital markets to raise the resources they need to fund their economic development policies at reasonable cost.

There are no limits on the free flow of financial resources.

The government works closely with the IMF to ensure that payments and transfers overseas occur without undue restrictions. Credit is allocated on market terms and foreigners do not face discrimination.

Credit is allocated on market terms through large corporations. Although foreign investors are generally able to get credit on the local market, limited domestic availability tends to drive investors to international markets. To access a variety of credit instruments, the private sector often looks to multinational institutions in Niger or international sources for credit. Private actors in the agriculture, livestock, forestry, and fisheries sectors (which account for more than 40 percent of GDP) receive less than one percent of total bank credit.

Money and Banking System

Less than three percent of Nigeriens have a bank account and the debt rate of the financial sector, measured by the ratio money supply, is at 24.1 percent in 2012 (the average for the sub-region is 32 percent).

The banking sector is generally healthy and well capitalized.

Not applicable, as the banking sector is generally healthy.

As of December 31, 2017, the resources mobilized by the banking system amounted to 1096.5 billion CFA (1.9 billion USD), an increase of 63.1 billion cfaf (112.5 million USD) or 6.1 percent compared to the same period of 2016. This evolution mainly explained by the increase in net capital of banks by 34.9 billion cfaf (62.3 million USD) or 27.3 percent and the increase of borrowing deposits by 16.3 billion CFA (29 million USD) or 2.0 percent. Demand deposits represent more than half of the total resources of the sector throughout the period under review. Foreign banks control about 80 percent of the sector’s assets, with SONIBANK, BIA Niger, Ecobank and Bank of Africa (BOA) being the largest banks operating in the country.

The Central Bank of West African States governs Niger’s banking institutions and sets minimum reserve requirements through its national Central Bank representation.

Foreign banks are permitted to establish operations in Niger and regulations are in place.  Niger has not lost any correspondent banking in the last three years.

There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account, and foreign banks and their subsidiaries operate within the economy without undue restrictions. Niger is a part of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), which utilizes the CFA, pegged to the Euro at 655.61 CFA per euro.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment, including remittances.  Funds are freely convertible into any world currency. However, the government must approve currency conversions above 2 million CFA (approximately 3,413 USD).  The exchange rate is determined via the euro’s fluctuations on the international currency market. The CFA is pegged to the euro.

Remittance Policies

Niger’s Investment Code offers the possibility to transfer income of any kind, including capital investment and the proceeds of investment liquidation, regardless of the destination.  There are no limitations or waiting periods on remittances, though the Ministry of Finance must approve currency conversions above 2 million CFA (approximately 3,250 USD).

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Niger does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), and does not subscribe to the Santiago Principles. The government has plans for a build-up of reserves at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) using oil revenues.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in Niger are defined as companies in which the GoN is the majority stakeholder. They play a major role in Niger’s economy and dominate or heavily influence a number of key sectors, including energy (NIGELEC), telecommunications (Niger Telecom), and water resources (SEEN and SPEN), construction and retail markets (SOCOGEM); petroleum products distribution (SONIDEP); mining (SOPAMIN, SOMAIR, COMINAK, SONICHAR); oil refinery (SORAZ), textile (SOTEX) and hotels (SPEG).

SOEs do not receive non-market based advantages from the host government. According to the 2016 Public Expenditures and Financial Accountability (PEFA) draft document, there are eight wholly-owned SOEs, and six SOEs majority-owned by the state. State-Owned enterprises are answerable to their supervisory ministry and send certified accounting records to the supervisory ministries and to the Public Enterprises and State Portfolio Directorate (DEP/ PE). SOE record-keeping is expected to comply with SYSCOHADA accounting system standards.

There are no laws or rules that offer preferential treatment to SOEs. They are subject to the same tax rules and burdens (although many remain in tax arrears) as the private sector, and are subject to budget constraints. Niger is not a member of the OECD and does not adhere to its guidelines.

Privatization Program

Most sectors of the economy, except for specified SOEs, have been privatized.  The state-owned oil-distribution company (SONIDEP) no longer has a monopoly over oil exportation; exportation authority is now equally shared between SONIDEP and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).  Likewise, although the national electricity company (NIGELEC) continues to hold a virtual monopoly on electricity distribution, steps were taken in 2016 to allow third party access to the country’s electricity grid.  Competition in the mobile telecommunication sector forced the GoN to combine state-owned fixed line telecommunications provider SONITEL with the state-owned mobile provider Sahelcom to form a new parastatal, known as Niger Telecom. Although the state continues to hold a monopoly on fixed-line telephony, mobile communications is open to competition.

Foreign investors are welcome to participate in the country’s privatization program. Privatization operations are conducted under the technical direction of the ministry that currently controls the company.  After a detailed analysis of business operations conducted by an internationally known independent audit firm, the government issues a call for bids.

When privatization occurs, there is a process for public bidding. Depending on the ministry responsible, there may be no electronic bidding. Rather tenders may be announced only in local media.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is a general awareness of expectations regarding RBC, as well as business’ obligations to proactively conduct due diligence and do no harm.

Ordinance No. 97-001 of 10 January 1997 on the Institutionalization of Environmental Impact Assessments, Article 4 of which states: “Activities, projects or programs of development which, by the importance of their size or their impact on the natural and human environments, may affect the latter are subject to prior authorization from the Minister of the Environment. This authorization is granted on the basis of an assessment of the consequences of the project activities or the program updated by an environmental impact study prepared by the promoter.”

In the extractive industries sector, the GoN has focused on ensuring existing obligations are met and that communities benefit from investments. Nigerien law states that 15 percent of revenues derived from extractive industries must be returned to the municipality affected by the project. However, such payments are difficult to track and the GoN is not active or engaged in follow-up.

Niger rejoined the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in March 2020 and has funded a domestic EITI office to guide domestic efforts to meet all requirements.

There have been no high-profile instances of private sector impact on human rights in the recent past.  The GoN attempts to enforce domestic laws related to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protections. However, a lack of resources makes such enforcement difficult and only somewhat effective.

The government has not put in place corporate governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards.  There is limited NGO focus on responsible business practices. Those looking at transparency in contracts and business practices are generally able to work freely regarding engagement with businesses.

Niger is not a member of the OECD and does not adhere to OECD guidelines, including those related to supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. There are no Nigerien-owned companies that deal exclusively with minerals, including those that may originate from conflict-affected areas.

The GoN was a member of EITI since 2007, but the country withdrew following the Board’s decision in October 2017 to suspend Niger on the basis of inadequate progress. In 2018, the government began a process to rejoin EITI and reformulated its EITI offices to meet the organization’s standards.  Niger rejoined in March 2020.  The constitution mandates full disclosure of all payments from foreign government stemming from mining operations, as well as publication of all new exploration and exploitation contracts in the mining sector.  However, in practice, payments from foreign countries to GoN officials have at times been controversial due to non-reporting of such payments.

9. Corruption

The constitution, adopted in 2010, contains provisions for greater transparency in government reporting of revenues from the extractive industries, as well as the declaration of personal assets by government officials, including the President  Since his re-election in February 2016, President Issoufou has made combatting corruption within the GON one of the stated focus points of his presidency.

The High Authority for the Fight against Corruption and Related Offenses (HALCIA) has the authority to investigate corruption charges within all government agencies.  HALCIA is limited by a lack of resources and a regulatory process that is still developing.  Despite the limitations, HALCIA was able to conduct a number of successful investigations during 2019.

Laws related to anti-corruption measures are in place and apply to government officials, their family members, and all political parties.  Legislation on Prevention and Repression of Corruption was passed into law in January 2018; a strategy for implementation was still pending at year’s end.

Niger has laws in place designed to counter conflict of interest in awarding contracts and/or government procurements. Bribery of public officials by private companies is officially illegal, but occurs regularly despite GON denunciations of such conduct.

Law number 2017-10 of March 31, 2017, prohibits bribery of public officials, international administrators, and foreign agents, bribes within the private sector, illicit enrichment and abuse of function by public authorities. The High Authority Against Corruption and Relating Crimes (HALCIA) is further tasked with working with private companies on internal anti-corruption efforts.

Bribery of public officials occurs on a regular basis. Though most companies officially discourage such behavior, internal controls are rare except among the largest (mostly foreign) enterprises.

The government/authority encourages or requires private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials. Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.

The government does not provide any additional protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

The government/authority encourages or requires private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials. Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.

Niger has joined several international and regional anti-corruption initiatives including the UN Convention against Corruption in 2008, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption in 2005, and the Protocol on Combating Corruption of the economic community of the states of West Africa (ECOWAS) in 2006. Niger is also member state of the GIABA, which is an institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) responsible for facilitating the adoption and implementation of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT) in West Africa.

As of April 2019, there are no U.S. firms invested in Niger, for reasons which include – but are not limited to – the perception of corruption. Cases of suspected corruption occasionally appear in media reports concerning GON procurement, the award of licenses and concessions and customs.

Resources to Report Corruption

Gousmane Abdourahamane
President
High Authority to Combat Corruption and Related Infractions (HALCIA)
BP 550 Niamey – Niger
(+227) 20 35 20 96
issoufbour@gmail.com

Wada Maman
President
Transparency International Niger (TI-N)
BP 10423, Niamey – Niger
(+227) 20 32 00 96 / 96 28 79 69
anlcti@yahoo.fr

10. Political and Security Environment

Niger has been politically stable since 2010, when the most recent of Niger’s coup d’états (there have been four since 1990) concluded within less than a year returning the country to  democratic governance. The most recent general elections were held in in February 2016, with a presidential run-off in March 2016.  President Issoufou Mahamadou was re-elected for a second mandate by a considerable majority.  Tensions over the preparation of the elections and election logistics widened divisions between opposition activists and supporters of the incumbent president and his ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and coalition.  However, the election proceeded without violence.

Although Niger’s politics are often contentious and antagonistic, political violence is rare.  Most parties agree that national security and peaceful cohabitation among Niger’s ethnicities are the government’s principal priority.  However, protests and strikes about non-payment of salaries for public employees, lack of funding for education, and general dissatisfaction with social conditions remain a concern.

Public protest over issues like poverty, corruption, and unemployment can also sometimes turn violent.  In October 2017, police arrested several protesters engaged in burning tires and vandalizing property in protest of a proposed finance law.  After the passage of the law, protests continued on a bi-weekly and then weekly basis through at least April 2018.  In March and April 2018, police began to intervene, and several people were arrested, including important civil society leaders.  By the end of 2018, the number of protests dropped significantly and remained peaceful throughout the remaining of the reporting period.

Nigerien students regularly participate in peaceful protests, and on occasion, these become violent.  In April 2017, one student in Niamey was killed at a protest, hit in the head by a teargas canister.

Nigeriens are generally welcoming to foreigners and foreign investment is welcomed by all elements of society. One rare exception to acceptance of foreigners occurred in January 2015 after President Issoufou was perceived to be too forgiving of anti-Muslim satire that had been published on the cover of the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. In three days of riots throughout the country, at least ten people killed and dozens of Christian churches, market stalls, French-owned businesses, some political-party linked buildings, two private homes, and a Christian school were attacked.

Niger experiences security threats on three distinct border areas.  Niger is a founding member of the G5 Sahel fighting terrorism in the Sahel while integrating a poverty reduction dimension to mitigate the effects of youth underemployment and violent extremism. The collapse of the Libyan state to the north has resulted in a flow of weapons and extremists throughout the Sahel region. Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa terrorists regularly launch attacks in the Diffa Region in Niger’s southeast, leading to numerous civilian and security forces deaths. Jama’at al Nusrat al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), which is a loose affiliation of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), Ansar Dine, and al-Mourabitoun; along with ISIS-Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), threaten Niger’s northern and northwestern borders. Terrorists regularly crossed the Mali and Burkina Faso border to attack civilian and security sites in the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions. A German aid worker was kidnapped in Tillaberi in April 2018, an American aid worker was kidnapped in Tahoua in October 2016, and an Italian Pastor was kidnapped in Torodi in September 2018.  So far, more than 15 out of the 266 communes in Niger are in a state of emergency. The State Department’s Travel Advisory for Niger from April 2017 advises travels to be aware that violent crimes including robbery are common and terrorism is a threat.

Niger has scheduled national elections, including presidential, in December 2020.  President Issoufou has repeatedly stated he will step down at the end of his second term.  Since independence, however, Niger has not had a successful peaceful transition of power.  Many observers anticipate increased protests as elections near.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Niger has an abundance of available labor, primarily unskilled. One of the most pressing concerns within the Ministry of Labor is the lack of jobs available to recent high school and university graduates, who often face long spells of unemployment or underemployment. There is very high unemployment among young workers, many of whom are uneducated and illiterate. Migration from the rural areas to the cities is a problem, as the majority of recently-arrived workers are unskilled.  Such workers most often turn up in the informal economy.  While informal activities are generally not reported, Ministry of Finance estimates from 2012 stated that between 80 and 90 percent of the non-agricultural workforce is in the informal economy. Niger, as part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must accept laborers from neighboring ECOWAS states. While such laborers do exist within the Nigerien economy, this phenomenon is not common enough to cause friction and/or widespread resentment among local laborers. Fluency in English is negligible.

Given both the need for foreign direct investment and the abundance of available labor within the country, labor laws are mostly modified, rather than waived to accommodate foreign firms. Many large foreign firms, including Orano (previously Areva), Orange and CNPC, are allowed to bring workers into the country provided that Nigerien laborers make up a substantial percentage of the overall workforce.  As a member of ECOWAS, Niger routinely accepts labor, as obligated, from other member states.

According to Article 9 of Niger’s 2010 Labor Code, firms must hire Nigerien nationals via direct recruitment or through public or private hiring agencies.

There are no restrictions on employers regarding hiring or laying off employees to respond to fluctuating market conditions.  However, before making the decision, the employer must consult with the Inspector of Labor.  An employee laid off for economic reasons receives, in addition to severance pay, a non-taxable allowance paid by the employer equal to one month’s gross salary.

Given both the need for foreign direct investment and the abundance of available labor within the country, labor laws are mostly modified, rather than waived to accommodate foreign firms. Currently there are no special economic zones in Niger.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are generally respected and workers routinely exercise them. Unions have exercised the right to bargain collectively for wages above the legal minimum in the formal sectors and to improve working conditions.

Niger’s labor code, adopted in September 2012 and its decree N° 2017-682/PRN/MET/PS of august 10, 2017, regulates employment, vocational training, remuneration, collective bargaining, labor representation, and labor disputes. The code also establishes the Consultative Commission for Labor and Employment, the Labor Court and regulates the Technical Consultative

Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.  The Labor Code lays out clear procedures for dispute resolution mechanisms in its Title VII on labor disputes. Labor hearings are public except at the reconciliation stage.

Although strikes are routine and common, most stem from non-payment of salaries and unsatisfactory working conditions existing within the public sector.  Such strikes do not pose an investment risk.

Although Niger has ratified the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor and the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age for employment, traditional caste-based servitude is still practiced in some parts of the country. In addition, child labor remains a problem particularly in the agricultural sector and the commercial and artisanal mining sectors. Gender discrimination is quite common within all workplaces.

There were no labor related laws or regulation enacted during the last year. The Labor Code adopted in September 2012 and its decree N° 2017-682/PRN/MET/PS of august 10, 2017 with regulatory part of the Labor Code remains the most recent legislation related to labor.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Interest for DFC programs exist in a broad swath of possible investments including, pipeline construction, airport reconstruction, mining sector, agro-food and livestock processing plants, clothing and shoe industries, and production plant for electric cables and batteries.

Niger is eligible for DFC support and signed a bilateral agreement with the United States on investment guaranties, which entered in force on April 26, 1962, but to date, DFC has not been involved in any bilateral investments in Niger.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2018 $9,291 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2018 70.8% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Carl-Heinz Jason Wemhoener-Cuite
Economic Officer
US Embassy, Niamey
+227 20-72-26-61/2/3 extension 4229
+227 99-49-90-40
Wemhoener-CuiteCJ@State.gov

Boubacar Gaoh Mohamed
Economic and Commercial Assistant
BP 11201, Niamey, Niger
+227-20-72-26-61 extension 4443
+227 99-49-90-76
BoubacarGaohM@State.gov

2020 Investment Climate Statements: Niger
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