IMF Approves Three-Year $276mln Loan Deal for Niger

 The International Monetary Fund has approved a three-year loan deal for Niger worth around $276 million, the IMF said on Thursday, warning that security risks threatened the West African nation’s economic outlook.

According to U.N. data, the decision allows the immediate disbursement of $55 million to support basic infrastructure and social spending plans, desperately needed by the 10 million Nigeriens – or 40% of the population – living in extreme poverty,

Even though the IMF forecasts a rebound of economic growth to 5.4% this year and increased momentum in the medium term with the start of oil exports via a new pipeline to the Atlantic coast in neighboring Benin, the coronavirus pandemic slowed economic growth by over two percentage points to 3.6% in 2020.

“This broadly favorable outlook is, however, subject to significant downside risks related to heightened security challenges in the Sahel region and Niger’s increased exposure to the effects of climate change,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette Sayeh said in a statement.

Niger lies in the semi-arid Sahel region, where armed Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have destabilized swathes of territory in recent years. They have carried out regular attacks that have killed thousands of people and displaced millions.

Niger ranks last out of 189 countries in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which measures health, education, and quality of life.

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