05 Sep 2013 23:30
An unsteady bike headlight and a kid eager to escape from his mother’s arms can easily turn into a tragedy. Because when night shows up, only the headlights of the cars furtively light up the faces of Niamey’s inhabitants.
In the rural areas of Niger, where more than 83 percent of Nigeriens live and less than 2 percent of the inhabitants have access to electricity, people have to sleep at 8 p.m. because, by then, it is already dark and there is no electricity. With a blistering 48 degrees in summer and barely any electricity to turn on a fan, the people of Niger live in “darkness, warmth and insecurity,” says activist of Right of Energy organisation.
The national rate of access to electricity in Niger does not exceed 10 percent, while France lights up almost one third of its light bulbs from Uranium it extracted from Niger. Niger’s contract with Areva, which France owns 80 percent of, is expected to be renewed by the end of 2013 and currently, negotiations are underway.
The government is looking for Niger's best interest, rather than France's, as the Nigerien Minister of Mines says, “natural resources must serve our country’s interests.” This is particularly important, since the country has been ranked as the least developed country when it came to UNDP’s index of human development.
It was announced that a new mine pit will soon be open and, starting from 2015, 5000 tons of uranium will be extracted from it each year. This mine, however, was attributed to Areva in 2009, and so far, all subcontractors in the project have been foreign. Nevertheless, it has been stated that this mine will contribute to the development of Niger in the fields of health, eduction, transportation, water and access to energy. Civil society activists are skeptic of this project and have been taking measures such as organizing debates and forums and surveying the behavior of new investors, in order to ensure that they receive what they have been promised.