Part 1: The Big Picture.
Little is known about the West African country of Niger or its history. But with the ink barely dry on a Washington Post report about a new Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) being drawn up. And New York Times article reporting a new drone base being planned for the capital city of Naimey manned by U.S. military personnel. What do we know about this country? And who gains to profit when the Global War on Terror comes to town.
Niger is in the western portion of Africa. It neighbors Mali, Algeria, and Libya to the north. With Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, and Togo to the south. Its relatively unknown capital city Naimey, located on the western edge of Niger and nestled in the Niger River basin holds an interesting history.
In 1970 the United States government, during the height of the Cold War, was analyzing regions around the globe for potential forward operating bases (FOB) rich with readily exploitable resources in the event of the Cold War going hot. Niger was one of those untapped natural resource hubs. With proper investment into the infrastructure, the small African country could support follow-on operations into Soviet Union and, if needed, operations into Northern Africa. Naimey, at the time was in the middle of a small economic boom of natural resources with petroleum and crude oil refining in its infancy, as well as having a deep inland shipping port along the Niger River that many super powers and corporations began paying attention to.
So in 1970 the Unites States decided to help the capital and its local economy by building what is known as the John F Kennedy Bridge. Its construction enabled Niamey to expand west onto the right bank of the river. Thus opening up trucking routes along the N27 and N6 leading to booming port towns of Cotonou and Lome in the south. That 4 lane bridge was built to NATO specifications on the outside chance the weight of an M60 Main Battle Tank and other support vehicles would be needing to cross the Niger River. The Cold War ends literally due to the fact that the U.S. “out resourced” the USSR. And admittedly did an excellent job. After the US government analyzed this victory. It concluded that controlling or at the very least overseeing the distribution the world’s resources will and can lead to victory over the enemies of the US and her interests. So it seemed only prudent that the US began focusing on making backdoor deals, and acquiring land parcels within the OPEC controlled oil fields of the Middle East with help from various resource specific corporations within the United States and abroad.
Fast forward to the early 2000s and the Global War on Terror is in full swing. The United States and its allies begin a campaign to rid the world of terrorism and its influence in Middle East. Soviet Union is all but gone and America is left without any major contenders. But, what about China?
China has become one of the largest investors in the West African region. By 2015, China will be investing $50 billion in Africa alone, according to a Standard Bank report in February. That’s an estimated growth rate of 44% in 5 years. Chinese demand for raw materials increased 600% in less than a decade. Aid packages to Africa from China exceed that of the World Bank and in a 2009 report the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stated his government had set aside 10 billion in occasional loans to Africa over a 3 year period. In 2007 they invested 3,137,219.00 into Niger, specifically with the construction of the Chinese Friendship Bridge just south to the JFK Bridge along with a new embassy built within walking distance.
In response to the Chinese investments and rapid expansion into the region. The United States government took interest as well as companies like Maersk and Petolin Corp, a consortium partner with the likes of Shell and other US based oil/petrol companies. A 2009 report from the State Dept (Report #ISP-1-09-22A, March 2009) was submitted. The purpose of report discussed policy implementation and whether or not U.S. interests are being accurately and effectively represented. Or whether local resources were being used and managed properly. Along with the purpose, the reports indicate that a major overhaul to the internal infrastructure of the embassy building including the electrical, which include SIPR/NIPR net capabilities needed to be updated and increased. State Department slated the US Embassy in Naimey for overhaul for 2010.
With developing seaborne shipping lanes along southwestern Africa, as well as the highly improvable Niger river system. Maersk Shipping corporation took notice and began making moves to buy up property along the port towns of Lome, Contonou and in and around the Niger Delta. Maersk and Petrolin Corp also saw potential in the fledgling roadways of the N27 and N6 as arterials into deeper regions of the Sub-Sahara. Lobbying began to assist with these improvements. As of 2013, Maersk Shipping and Trucking now operates out of major shipping ports of Lome in Togo and Contonou in Benin with offices in Naimey and Gaya, which the latter resides along the Niger River situated strategically at intersections of the major roadways of the N1 and N7. Loading and unloading of imported and exported goods is happening 24/7 at most ports to stay ahead of and keep up with supply and demand issues. Petrolin Corp, the major fossil fuel collector in the region, also began spreading its fingers and grasping at property all along western Africa. Other investors include the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Shell to name a few. All in the hopes that billions in construction and contracts would begin to pour in. It paid off and CNPC began investing in Niger and other areas within West Africa. But with the US and its corporations embroiled in the Global War on Terror, it proved difficult to attract US based business.
But what if you’re a company that doesn’t like the oppressive control and oversight that China and its businesses usurp upon its investors? How do you attract skittish US based companies who became comfortable with military backing/protection in Iraq and Afghanistan who are also afraid of the volatile climate that is Africa? And, once you have these corporations ready to invest, how do you make it look like these investors are merely there fulfilling U.S. government contracts for infrastructure improvements? Simple, find an extremist group with potential global reach and Al-Qaeda ties. Pump this into mainstream local and international media organizations along with detailed coverage of attacks conducted by said extremists. Corporate aid or contributions to pro-GWOT politicians and their projects/campaigns begins. Thus increasing the amount of dissent and reprisals conducted by extremists groups in affected region. Local politicians will then feel a sense of obligation to its people and the international community and begin lobbying foreign powers for international intervention of terrorism in region. ENTER GWOT.
Stay tuned for FOB Niger Part 2…