Niger’s military leaders have commissioned a 2,000-kilometer-long crude oil pipeline linking the country’s oilfield at Agadem to Benin port of Seme.
The pipeline positions Niger, one of the world's poorest nations, to enter the international crude oil market for the first time.
The Commissioning ceremony to commemorate the milestone took place at the Agadem oil site, situated more than 1,700 kilometres from the capital, Niamey, in the desert region of Diffa.
Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine emphasised that the resources derived from the oil exploitation would be pivotal in "ensuring the sovereignty and development of our country."
The initiative has been launched against a backdrop of strained diplomatic relations, as the border between Niger and Benin remains closed due to heavy sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following the military takeover on July 26.
In a show of solidarity, energy ministers from Mali and Burkina Faso, both of whom have experienced military coups in the past two years and have expressed support for Niger's new leadership, were in attendance at the ceremony.
Originally slated for completion in 2022, the pipeline project faced delays attributed to the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to the project owner's statement to AFP.
The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) plays a pivotal role in oil extraction, contributing to an estimated $6 billion investment in the project. Niger's government reports that $4 billion was allocated for the development of oil fields, while $2.3 billion was dedicated to the construction of the pipeline.
The substantial investment has enabled Niger to ramp up its oil production to 110,000 barrels per day, with an official target set to increase to 200,000 barrels per day by 2026.