Niger is eager to attract foreign investment and has taken slow but deliberate steps to improve its business climate, including making reforms to liberalize the economy, encourage privatizations, appeal to foreign investors, increase imports and exports, and create new export processing zones.
In April 2021, newly elected President Bazoum Mohamed was inaugurated in Niger’s historic first democratic transfer of executive power. Bazoum intends to build upon the advancement of his predecessors to continue to develop the nation’s mineral and petroleum wealth, while seeking to develop agricultural businesses that can take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Pre-COVID economic growth averaged roughly six percent per year and the government managed positive 1.5 percent growth through the 2020 pandemic year. The Government of Niger (GoN) continues to seek foreign investment – U.S. or otherwise.
President Bazoum frequenty reiterates the need for FDI during official visits. In 2017, the GoN created the High Council for Investment, which is an organization tasked with supporting and promoting foreign direct investments in Niger, and is furthering appeals for foreign investment with the development of the GUCE, Guichet Unique du Commerce Exterieur, an information and facilitation system for foreign trade, electronic and dematerialized, intended to simplify and modernize procedures to facilitate the passage of goods entering and leaving the national territory.
U.S. investment in the country is very small; there is currently only one U.S. firm operating in Niger outside of U.S. Government-related projects. Many U.S. firms see risk due to the country’s limited internet, transport, and energy infrastructure, terrorist threats, the perception of political instability, lack of educated and skilled/experienced workers, and a climate that is dry and very hot. Foreign investment dominates key sectors: France in the the uranium sector, Morocco is making inroads with telecommunications, bank and real estate development, while Chinese and Turkish investment is paramount and expanding in the oil, mining,construction, and hospitality sectors. Much of the country’s retail stores, particularly those related to food, dry goods and clothing are operated by Lebanese and Moroccan entrepreneurs. GoN focus areas for investment include the mining and petroleum sector, infrastructure and construction, transportation, and agribusiness. The GoN also hopes to draw investment into petroleum exploration into proven reserves with the 2023 target completion of a crude oil export pipeline.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The GoN is committed to attracting FDI and has repeatedly pledged to take whatever steps necessary to encourage the development of 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. A Public-Private Partnership law was adopted in 2018, transparency has improved, and customs and taxation procedures have been simplified and computirized. There are no laws that specifically discriminate against foreign and/or U.S. investors. The GoN has demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with prospective foreign investors on matters of taxation and customs, despite some difficulties recently observed on the introduction of an electronic system for VAT.
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 processing. The code allows free transfer of profits and free convertibility of currencies.
The Public-Private Partnership law adopted in 2018 and implemented since then gives projects of the public private partnership type for their operations in the design and /or implementation phase, total exemption from duties and taxes collected by the State, including VAT, on the provision of services, works and services directly contributing to the realization of the project. However, parts and spare parts, and raw materials intended for projects benefit from a duty exemption and customs taxes only when not available in Niger. In the design and /or production phase, private public partnership type benefit from free registration agreements and all acts entered into by the contracting authority and the contracting partner within the framework of the project. There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors including U.S. investors.
The High Council for Investment of Niger (HCIN) reports directly to the President of the Republic. HCIN is the platform of public-private dialogue with a view to increasing Foreign Direct Investments, improving Niger’s business environment, and defining private sector priorities to possible investors. In 2018, the GoN added by Presidential Decree a Nigerien Agency for the Promotion of Private Investment and Strategic Projects (ANPIPS). This new agency reports to the HCIN and implements the lead agencies policy initiatives.
The government put in place 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, focused on improving business climate indicators. Its goal is to create a 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 also 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 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.
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), created in 2001, and is responsible for the management of the state’s hydraulic infrastructure in urban and semi-urban areas, of its 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.
An investment screening mechanism does not exist under the Investment Code. The Office of the President, however, will review investment proposals for administration approval prior to further negotiation.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
In the past five 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.
Niger’s one-stop shop, the Maison de l’Entreprise (Enterprise House) 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 $190) to 17,500 CFA (about $33), including reducing the time to get construction permits and the cost of getting access to the water and electricity networks. Further reforms have included the creation of 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. The website lists government agencies, with which a business must register. The business registration process is about 3 days.
Company registration can be done at the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE), at the Maison de l’Entreprise. 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 CNSS at the same location.
Professional activity carried out in Niger is governed by the General Tax Code. Commercial activities are subject to income tax and the general VAT regime unless specific investment clauses have been codified. Granted exemptions normally only concern activities in line with the object of the institution and a specific investment clause (humanitarian activities, health, education, etc.). Companies with a turnover excluding tax of more than 50 million CFA per calendar year($80,000) are subject to Value Added Tax. Companies with a lower turnover are not subject to VAT. As such, they cannot charge VAT, nor deduct that which has been paid upstream (suppliers). From January 1, 2021, any taxable person who delivers goods or provides services for the needs of another taxable person or an ordinary consumer is required to issue them an electronic invoice.
The Investment Code offers VAT-inclusive tax exemptions depending on the size of the business.
At the moment of company registration, the applicant may also request for the publication of a notice of company incorporation on the Maison de l’Entreprise website: http://mde.ne/spip.php?rubrique10 . The notice of company incorporation can alternatively be published in an official newspaper (journal d’annonces légales).
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.
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 a 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.
Rule-making regulatory, and anti-corruption authorities exist in telecommunication, public procurement, and energy, all of which are relevant for foreign businesses, and are exercised at the national level. Law No 2015-58 established the Energy Sector Regulatory Agency, an independent administrative authority, to regulate the energy sector at the national level, but effectively 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 Tax Code, Customs Code, 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.
The GoN encourages but does not require companies to disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies.
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; this direction 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.
The 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 2021.
Regulations are developed via a system of ministerial collaborations and discussions, consultation with the State Council and the Council of Ministers. This is followed by discussions in the National Assembly, approval by the Constitutional Council and finally approved by the President for publication and distribution to interested stakeholders. Based on the Constitution of 2011, the regulatory power belongs to the President and the Prime Minister to issue regulations for 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 sufficiently transparent. The International Monetary Fund and the European Union, however, are currently funding projects to improve financial oversight and debt transparency. The 2021 assessment indicated some progress for public information on debt obligations and the release of a bi-annual national debt report.
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 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 country 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.
In 2015, Niger set up a Commercial Court in Niamey. In 2020, 453 cases, including 24 inherited from 2019, were in summary proceedings, of which 351 were the subject of a judgment and whose minutes are available, 38 conciliation, 68 cases canceled and two remaining and postponed to 2021. The average processing time is 37 days.
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, the GoN may require companies to submit up to 75 percent of a claimed tax discrepancy prior to legal appeal.
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.
Law 2015-08 from 2015 established a specialized Commercial Court in Niamey. This is a mixed court with professional magistrates, who are lawyers by training, who work in tandem with lay-judges, and who generally come from the commercial sector. The concept was to have commercial disputes resolved by a panel of judges with legal training, combined with judges who have experience in the commercial sector. The Commercial Court has 26 judges, who make up five chambers. Unlike U.S. trial courts, where cases are handled by a single judge, in Niger, cases are adjudicated by a panel of judges. Judicial decisions that have come out in the past years can be found on the Commerce Tribunal of Niamey’s website: http://www.tribunalcommerceniamey.org/index.php .
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 GoN also established the The Single Window for Foreign Trade (Guichet Unique du Commerce Exterieur), an information and facilitation system for foreign trade, electronic and dematerialized, intended to simplify and modernize procedures to facilitate the passage of goods entering and leaving the national territory of Niger. Its main missions are to: facilitate foreign trade operations by improving procedures and information flows among stakeholders; facilitate, simplify and rationalize the procedures relating to the application, issue and collection of authorizations prior to import, export and transit operations; facilitate, simplify and rationalize, for all the modes of transport concerned, the procedures relating to the processing, entry and exit of goods from the territory of the Republic of Niger; and facilitate and simplify the completion of administrative and logistical formalities while respecting the prerogatives of all stakeholders.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
In 2015, the Ministry of Trade 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.
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 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 people whose property has been expropriated. Even in situations where educated and wealthy business owners have had their property expropriated, legal challenges to expropriation are not lodged.
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 and exercising due diligence is extremely important. There was no publicly available information in 2021on 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. The Investment Code offers the possibility for foreign nationals to seek remedy through the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.
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
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 $40,000) or above.
Tier 2: Priority tier, for investments of 50 million CFA francs (about $81,000) or above.
Tier 3: Conventional tier, for investments of at least 2 billion CFA (about $3.25 million).
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 no. 2018-40 (June 2018) regulating contracts public-private partnership stated for example in 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 of services.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
In 2016, the GON updated its antiquated Customs Code to conform 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 in pace in in Niamey and is being implemented through Niger’s seven other regions. 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, permitting a logistics zone allowing certain tax advantages for the companies with established transportation operations. The government also created in July 2019 the second industrial zone of Niamey, which aimed to reduce the difficulties linked to the quality of infrastructure and production factors, including 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 which no longer meets national and international environmental and safety standards. The construction of an oil pipeline in the country will also attenuate the pressure on roads as the flux of oil trucks will be reduced considerably.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (ZLECAF) entered into force on January 1, 2021. Niger is active member of the treaty.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
While Niger does require 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 also no localization requirements for senior management or boards of directors.
There are no excessively onerous visa, residence, worik permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees. In principle, 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. Niger does not require foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance. Niger has no regulations regarding data storage.
5. Protection of Property Rights
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. 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. Tax policies for foreign ownership of residential and commercial land was established by the 2018 national budget law. There is no understood proportion of land that has a clear title. Property records are unreliable and often under dispute. There is currently no effort by the government to register land titles independent of active transactions.
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 IP 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 cases of seizure, government statistics are not available. Enforcement of IP is weak due to limited capacity.
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 where possible. Niger’s capital markets are extremely underdeveloped, and the country do 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). This is the only stock market in the world shared by several countries, run totally in digital format.
Although an effective regulatory system exists, and policies in fact 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
The banking sector in Niger is generally healthy and well capitalized, but suffers from low financial inclusion. The gross domestic savings rate increased by 1.4 percentage points, standing at 17.4% in 2017 (including the decentralized financial system). According to the Central Bank statistics, only 8 % of th active adult population have bank accounts (2020). In the WAEMU States, the average is 45%. The proportion of women excluded from financial services is 89% and that of people living in rural areas is 85% in 2020.
As of December 31, 2020, the resources mobilized by the banking system amounted to 1250.67 billion CFA (2.23 billion USD), an increase of 164.73 billion cfaf (294.1 million USD) or 15.2 percent compared to the same period of 2019. 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.
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
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.
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 (SOEs)
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 (SPEN), construction and retail markets (SOCOGEM); petroleum products distribution (SONIDEP); mining (SOPAMIN, SOMAIR, SONICHAR); oil refinery (SORAZ).
SOEs do not receive non-market based advantages from the host government. According to the 2020 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.
Most sectors of the economy, with the exception of 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, with several foreign competitors in the market.
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.”
For example, 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.
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.
Niger was officially readmitted to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative in February 2020 after a three-year absence. 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.
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
The GoN does have a strategy to meet National Determined Contributions (NDC) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) contributions by 23 percent by 2030. This strategy relies principly on foreign donors to assist Niger in creating cleaner energy generation and agricultural efficiency. Niger is one of the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change in the world, and forsees reductions in water and arable land resources in coming years. Conversely, Niger has one of the lowest GHG per capita levels in the world. The GoN encourages private investors to practice environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, but does not require GHG limits or environmental restrictions that exceed national or ECOWAS limits.
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. On April 6th, 2021 President Bazoum Mohamed submitted a written sworn statement of his assest to the National Court of Auditors and made the fight against corruption central to his five-year term program.
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 2020-2021. 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 in 2022. 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, however, 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 alsoa 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 2022, there is only one large U.S. telecommunications firm invested in Niger, although it gained its assets through acquisition of a U.K. company. This low number is due to reasons that 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
Maï Moussa Elhadji Basshir, President
High Authority to Combat Corruption and Related Infractions (HALCIA)
BP 550 Niamey – Niger
(227) 20 35 20 94/ 95/ 96/ 97
Transparency International Niger (TI-N)
BP 10423, Niamey – Niger
(227) 20 32 00 96 / 96 28 79 69
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 in a return to democratic governance. The most recent general elections were held in in December 2020, with a presidential run-off in February 2021. President Bazoum Mohamed was elected in the first democratic transfer of executive power in Niger’s history. 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 2020, police arrested several protesters engaged in burning tires and vandalizing property in protest of embezzlement at the Ministry of National Defense. Protests also followed the government’s announcement of social lockdown procedures in March 2020 to respond to COVID-19.
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 the 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. 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 border to attack civilian and security sites in the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions. Niger has a history of western residents and aid workers being kidnapped by terrorist groups or kidnapping for ransom gangs, as recently as October 2020. So far, more than 40 out of the 266 communes in Niger are in a state of emergency. The State Department’s Travel Advisory for Niger from April 2022 advises travels to be aware that violent crimes including robbery are common and terrorism is a threat.
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, the World Bank estimates from 2021 stated that between 70 and 80 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.
The informal economy in Niger is vast and employs a majority of the nation’s population not involved in subsistence farming. In cities, most workers in the non-government sector are employed in an informal manner, including domestic services, markets and vending, and construction and maintenance. U.S. companies are encouraged to avoid informal employment arrangements as it presents a liability to Ministry of Labor inspectors.
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 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 No. 2017-682/PRN/MET/PS of August 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 No. 2017-682/PRN/MET/PS of August 2017 with the 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 or Development Finance Programs
Interest for DFC programs exists 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 coverage and has had a bilateral agreement with the United States on investment guaranties since 1962, but to date, DFC is involved in one investment(with Orabank for micro-lending program to female farmers.