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15 Feb, 2024 14:52

Niger seeking port access amid regional bloc exit

The landlocked country is reportedly in talks with Togo to maintain maritime trade despite its withdrawal from ECOWAS
Niger seeking port access amid regional bloc exit

Niger has taken steps to secure access to the sea through neighboring Togo for commercial purposes, after announcing plans to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which allows cross-border trade and visa-free movement among its members.

On Tuesday, a Nigerien delegation led by Transport Minister Colonel Major Salissou Mahaman Salissou held talks with Togolese Maritime Economy Minister Edem Kokou Tengue in Togo’s capital, Lome, according to local media. The meeting reportedly focused on the possibility of transporting Nigerien goods through the autonomous port of Lome.

Salissou commended the Togolese government for allowing goods to transit to Niamey despite ECOWAS sanctions, including border closures, imposed in response to the July coup that deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.

Niger’s military government, along with its counterparts in Burkina Faso and Mali, have jointly announced membership withdrawals from the 15-nation regional political and economic alliance in protest at “harsh” sanctions.

In an exit notice last month, the coup leaders accused ECOWAS of being a tool for foreign powers and posing a threat to their sovereignty. The bloc has asked the three former French colonies to rethink their “hasty” decision, claiming the move would subject their countries to hardships. However, Ouagadougou, Bamako, and Niamey have insisted on “immediate withdrawal,” ignoring the group’s one-year exit notice rule.

On Tuesday, Togo committed to facilitating trade and goods transit for landlocked Niger with the goal of strengthening regional cooperation and assisting Niamey in its efforts to overcome isolation, the Togo First news agency reported.

Maritime Minister Tengue said Togo will ensure that commercial exchanges with Niger boost the economic growth of both nations.

Last December, the foreign ministers of Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad endorsed an initiative launched by Moroccan King Mohammed VI, aimed at granting them access to the Atlantic Ocean and boosting their development. All four former French colonies lack territorial access to the sea and face isolation from global markets and high transit costs. Under the project, Morocco has said it is willing to make road, port, and rail infrastructure available.