Membership has its privileges. For the Francophone country of Niger, located in west Africa, there is comfort in being part of the ‘franc’ currency bloc, the West African Economic and Monetary Union.
“We have an institution in charge of the regulation, which enables member states such as Niger to be slightly protected from the financial crisis,” says Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, minister of finance and economy. “Our common central bank is planning to launch a plan in order to fight the crisis. That is why the country cannot isolate itself and cannot think it is going to find the solutions on its own.”
Mr Zeine expects Niger’s FDI levels to take a dip as a result of the crisis; government coffers will also be hit and there could be some outward migration. “Niger is not like Mali, Ghana or Nigeria as it does not receive money from people outside the country,” he says. Most importantly, there is a danger of detrimental impact on the country’s key export: cattle.
“We fear this crisis especially in terms of exports, as Niger exports its cattle. We have noticed a consequence on the price which is slowing down, but nothing major. However, our country has some stocks which enable us to fight the crisis because the demand has been the same so far,” he says.
To cope with the crisis, Niger made large public investments in 2008 and will carry on this policy in 2009. Mr Zeine says: “We have identified the sectors which could produce more money and create a lot of employment opportunities. It is the first response, but we are working inside the common zone as well as outside.”