Sanctions halt work on vital Niger dam

The Niger River in Niamey (NigerTZai/CC BY-SA 4.0)
Chinese contractor Gezhouba Group has halted work on the $800m Kandadji hydroelectric project in Niger after international sanctions prompted by the 26 July coup froze funding, Reuters reports.

The 130MW dam, located on the river Niger 180km northwest of the capital Niamey, was begun in March 2019 and had an expected completion date of 2026. The project owner is the High Commission for Niger Valley, a public body under the Nigerien prime minister’s office.

The dam will also be used to ensure year-round irrigation (Jun-Ichi Sakagam/CC BY 3.0)

A letter sent by Gezhouba to an inspection body on Monday said the company found itself “forced to halt all our construction activities” as a result of the force majeure event. 

The company added that workers would be laid off, with the promise of re-employment when construction resumed.

One of the world’s poorest countries, Niger was to have relied on foreign donors for around 40% of this year’s total government spending.

Niger’s regional neighbours in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and the West African Monetary and Economic Union have imposed sanctions.

The EU, France, the Netherlands, and the US have also suspended aid.

The dam, which had been under discussion since the 1970s, will increase the country’s generating capacity by just under 50%. Only some 4.3 million of Niger’s 23 million people have access to grid power, and more than 90% use wood as their main source of cooking energy. 

It will also control the flow of the Niger, making downstream irrigation possible during the country’s dry season.

When the dam was under discussion at the end of the 2000s, then prime minister Seyni Oumarou commented that “no other development project will have sparked so much long term interest or such high expectations” in Niger.

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