Niger and Policy Experiments

Niger is a West African landlocked country. Despite being considered a stable country it is surrounded by countries that are directly affected by conflict. Insufficient access to livelihoods and problems with having civil documentation issued are just some of the challenges faced by migrants living there.

Niger is ‘a fragile setting for grand policy experiments.’  amongst its growing population. Food insecurity and drought affect the large population in Niger. HTiL would like to bring to your attention Niger: Europe’s Migration Laboratory, a brilliant piece from Refugees Deeply by Daniel Howden & Giacomo Zandonini.

What happens when you find yourself on the wrong side of a migration policy?

Ousmane Bah is one migrant who ‘found themselves on the wrong side of a new migration policy that defines migrant smuggling as a criminal activity.’ 

In accordance with a law that controls the movement of people. Soldiers working in the desert have been posted there to ensure that ‘smugglers are jailed’.Organisations such as the IOM – International Organization for Migration are attempting to help migrants.

IOM have been employing ‘community officers to warn migrants of the dangers they face farther north.’ Migrants are at risk of dying from hunger and thirst, when ‘abandoned by smugglers in the Sahara Desert’.


For the period of 2014 to 2020, the ‘European Development Fund awarded $731 million to Niger ‘. A review of this fund boosted these figures considerably to improve border posts.

These improvements include an ‘expansion of judges to hear smuggling and trafficking cases; and hundreds of flatbed trucks, off-road vehicles, motorcycles and satellite phones for Nigerien security forces.’ Refugees Deeply

A conversion program has been established to convert ‘smugglers to legitimate business people’.This scheme aims to encourage people to ‘quit the migration business ‘  through a range of objects it gives.

The informal sector

The informal sector ‘ across the desert has a long history in Niger and is rooted in the ancestral caravan trade. ‘ A World Bank report that discusses how Informal trade in sparsely populated areas such as deserts can present governance risk. Provides an insight into the evolution of the informal sector in Niger.

Suggesting that ancestral traditions changed during the 1970’s with fuel and food being subsidized by Algeria and Libya. This changed traditional trading practices. Traders became aware of and responded to new commercial opportunities.

These business people in the informal sector ‘exchanged food and fuel for livestock with the nomadic population from northern Niger and Mali. They exported increasing quantities of animals to Algeria and Libya, with the vast majority evading official trade circuits.’

The informal sector grew as trade networks became more developed in keeping with their growing profitability and levels of organization. From smuggling objects like cigarettes, drugs and weapons, humans soon became part of these trading networks. The informal trade soon ‘grew into organized crime supported by, at times, heavily armed militias.’

Currently, the World Bank suggests that ‘60 percent of GDP is generated in the informal sector‘ In Niger when policies and laws change that alter how the country functions as a migration corridor. The effects can be seen across the desert.



Ousmane Bah was among

‘ 80 migrants on the back of a trio of vehicles roughly two days’ drive north of Agadez. The drivers became convinced they had been spotted by an army patrol and everything began to go wrong’ Refugees Deeply

HTiL recently shared Refugee & Host Youth Stories which considered the importance of understanding migrants journeys from migrants perspectives.

Watch Ousman Ba share his story 


Read the full article from Refugees Deeply by Daniel Howden & Giacomo Zandonini through this link

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