NIAMEY, February 10, 2012—Fresh out of domestic political turmoil, Niger found itself facing uncertainties related to the debt crisis in the euro zone. These worries were further compounded by fallout from the conflict in neighboring Libya, which continues to be felt in the country. To help allay these concerns, the World Bank Vice President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili, traveled to Niamey in November.
Accompanied by the World Bank Country Director for Niger, Mr. Ousmane Diagana, the Country Manager, Mr. Nestor Coffi, as well as staff from the Country Office in Niamey, Ms. Ezekwesili held a series of meetings with the highest authorities. She also chaired conferences as well as technical meetings, and conducted a field visit to the Tillabéri region.
Upon her arrival in Niamey, Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili held a working session over dinner with the Minister of State for Planning, Land Use and Community Development, Mr. Amadou Boubacar Cissé.
The working session continued the following morning at the Minister of State’s office. Immediately following the meeting, the Vice President and the Minister of State, accompanied by their respective members of staff, were taken to the office of the Prime Minister for a meeting with H.E. Brigi Rafini, also attended by technical ministers. Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili then held a working lunch with the development partners, before chairing a mid-afternoon public conference on the theme of “Gender and Development” in the Department of Arts and Humanities at Abdou Moumouni University.
After the conference, Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili and her delegation returned to the National Assembly to meet with its president, H.E. Hama Amadou, in the presence of the staff of the Economic Development Commission and the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank.
The next day began with a field visit that took Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili and the Minister of State, Mr. Cissé, accompanied by their associates, to the Tillabéri region where they were welcomed in Sansané Haussa by the local authorities.
This visit helped the World Bank Vice President for Africa understand the impact of a number of programs under way in the region that receive financial support from her institution.
She was therefore able to note the implementation progress of the “Cash Transfer” program in the community of Sansané Haussa, where she interacted with a very enthusiastic population grateful for the support received through this program. Most importantly, the community was one of the pilot centers for social safety nets, a new poverty reduction initiative launched in the country with World Bank support. Ms. Ezekwesili, who wanted to assess local efforts to eliminate poverty, got a firsthand view of a number of projects spearheaded by women.
The outpouring of warmth continued at the Kandadji hydroelectric dam construction site where the High Commissioner of the Niger Valley, Mr. Almoustapha Garba, explained to the World Bank Vice President and Minister of State’s delegation the status of the work and its importance in the areas of socioeconomic development and the achievement of food self-sufficiency by Niger.
The delegation made a detour through the nearby village of Sanguila where it was warmly received by the farmers whose numbers had multiplied owing to the arrival of inhabitants of other neighboring villages. Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili asked them to take ownership of investments under the Kandadji program, which is an important tool in the effort to combat food insecurity and poverty. She assured the population of the World Bank’s support for achievement of these objectives.
The delegation then set out for Niamey in the afternoon, where the Vice President met with the President of the Republic, H.E. Issoufou Mahamadou. After the meeting, she held a joint press conference with the Minister of State, Mr. Amadou Boubacar Cissé, at the Palais des Congrès in Niamey to take stock of her visit and discuss the status of cooperation between the World Bank and Niger.
The working visit was evidently very productive because it allowed Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili to interact with the highest authorities regarding the priority areas for investment and to observe firsthand the efforts made by local populations to combat poverty. In addition to officials, associations in the country were also able to air their concerns.
At the end of the various meetings and working sessions held during Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili’s visit, the areas of interest covered by the discussions included development of the rural sector to help the country escape the cycles of food crises and overcome poverty, the diversification of sources of economic growth, and the securing of progress toward democratization through the promotion of good governance and especially through investment in human capital.
With respect to this last point, the World Bank Vice President placed particular emphasis on the need to promote increased participation by women in efforts to spur economic growth. For this reason, she emphasized that education and health should be guaranteed to women, in addition to access by women to income-generating activities.
Specifically, she urged the authorities and populations to strive, each within his or her area of expertise, to put a stop to the severe marginalization and multifaceted injustices that besiege women, who make up 50 percent of the Nigerien population. Control over population growth, which is also a major challenge for Niger, was another area of concern to which the World Bank Vice President drew the attention of Nigeriens.