Niger secures $4.8 billion in donor cash for development

PARIS Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:25pm GMT

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PARIS (Reuters) - Niger secured pledges of $4.8 billion (3 billion pounds) from international donors at a conference in Paris on Wednesday, giving President Mamadou Issoufou's government the funds to press ahead with a four-year plan to alleviate poverty.

Niger, one of the world's poorest countries despite its oil and uranium reserves, convened the Paris roundtable meeting with donor nations to seal the funding for its 2012-2015 economic and social development plan.

"We have been able to mobilise $4.8 billion, just higher than the needs we identified," Planning Minister Amadou Boubacar Cisse told a news conference.

In return for aid, the government will press ahead with administrative reforms to ensure greater transparency, with the international community helping to monitor the efficacy of spending, he said.

"We need to have an administration which is capable of using these resources effectively enough to have the required impact," Cisse said.

Niger, one of the world's newest oil producing nations, has become of increasing strategic importance since a Tuareg rebellion in neighbouring northern Mali was taken over by a mix of local and foreign Islamists.

Many European nations are alarmed at the prospect of an al Qaeda enclave so close to home. The Africa Union approved on Tuesday a plan by West African states for a force of 3,300 troops to expel al Qaeda-linked groups from northern Mali.

In an effort to placate its own restive Tuareg population, Niger has given better representation in government to the nomadic community and spurred efforts at regional development.

Issoufou's government, elected last year after a coup d'etat which ousted former President Mamadou Tandja, is headed by a Tuareg, Prime Minister Brigi Raffini.

Donors present at the conference included South Africa, Germany, Brazil, Canada, France, the United States, Italy, Japan, Turkey and the Arab League.

(Reporting By Daniel Flynn)

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