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Central Bank Head Sees Niger Shrugging Off al-Qaeda Attacks

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June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Niger’s economy may grow about 10 percent this year as the government overcomes the security threat posed by Islamist militants, Central Bank of West African States Governor Tiemoko Meyliet Kone said.

Fighters affiliated to al-Qaeda carried out the first suicide attack in Niger last month, killing at least 23 people in simultaneous car bombings at an army base and a uranium mine owned by French nuclear company Areva SA in the north of the country. Niger, like other nations in the region, has the “capacity to respond” to the threat, Kone said in an interview on June 3 in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

“We have solidarity between the countries to fight this type of risk,” Kone said of the eight nations the bank represents. The authorities in Niger “will take the necessary action to halt the impact which this kind of event could have on the economy.”

Niger is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of uranium, the fuel used in nuclear power plants, according to the website of the World Nuclear Association. The West African nation shares borders with Mali, where French military forces intervened earlier this year to fight Islamist rebels, and Libya, where conflict after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 led to a proliferation of weapons and armed groups.

The African Development Bank forecasts Niger’s economy may grow 5.5 percent this year, compared with 13.1 percent last year. The Central Bank of West African States also represents the nations of Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast, according to its website.

Ivory Coast

Growth in Ivory Coast, the biggest of the eight economies, may reach 8.9 percent this year as the country recovers from the effects of a political crisis in 2011, Kone said.

“In 2013, in general, all the countries, even Mali, which has experienced problems, will have continuing good growth,” Kone said.

Growth in the region is being bolstered by improved agricultural output, Kone said. Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa producer, while Mali and Burkina Faso are the continent’s two biggest cotton growers. Senegal is Africa’s No. 4 groundnut producer, according to Food and Agriculture Organization data.

“The member states will carry on these efforts in the agricultural sector, in the extractive industry, and also in public investment in basic infrastructure and social infrastructure,” he said. “This is an important factor for growth and today the member states are making a lot of effort to try and increase basic infrastructure.”

The central bank on June 3 left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 3.75 percent as inflation in the region slowed to 2.3 percent at the end of April from 2.8 percent in December.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rose Skelton in Dakar at rskelton7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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