Niger achieved independence from France in 1960 but one of the conditions for that independence was a Defence Treaty that gave France priority access to strategic material deemed crucial for France’s security. These materials included principally uranium which had been discovered under the Sahara in 1957. That treaty was signed in 1961.
From the 1970s, according to the French government’s nuclear officials, Nigerien uranium was indispensable for France’s energy independence.
For the first few years Niger received not a penny in royalties. By contrast Nigerien politicians were shocked to see the levels of compensation for French farmers whose land was commandeered to build French nuclear power plants. Staggering sums when set against Niger’s national budget.
As recently as 2014 Niger was receiving half the sum in uranium royalties compared to the sums paid to the governments of Australia and Canada for their uranium reserves.
The royalty rate is now on a par. But in Niger, according to the World Bank, only around 10% of the total population has access to electricity. In rural areas that figure drops to 1%.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and is ranked by the United Nations as the world’s least developed country in its Human Development Index.
By contrast, in France 1 in 3 lightbulbs are lit thanks to uranium from Niger.