An entrepreneurial Vision for Niger’s Digital Future

Niger ranks among the world’s poorest countries. Despite the Sahel region’s interior harbouring valuable raw materials, the majority of the country’s gross domestic product is earned in agriculture and the informal sector. Approximately 80 percent of the population survives on subsistence agriculture, and nearly half of Nigeriens live in extreme poverty. The goal of Swisscontact’s local entrepreneurship promotion programme (PROMEL) is to improve collaboration with institutional partners and the private sector, improving access to markets for businesses, and creating income opportunities for women and young people through educational qualifications.

Niger has one of the world’s highest birth rates and its population will double in the next 20 years. This will further exacerbate unemployment among a mostly young population. Already today, more than 50 percent of the population is under 15 years of age and lives in rural areas. Added to these unfavourable demographic and economic conditions are droughts and floods, which cause frequent harvest failures. All these factors engender poverty and food insecurity, indirectly contributing to political instability and conflict.

Improving Livelihoods Means Preventing Conflicts

PROMEL (Programme de promotion de l’entreprenariat local) – by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) – specifically promotes agricultural value chain development (dairy, potatoes, vegetables, and groundnuts) to create gainful employment and income for young people, helping to alleviate nutritional and food insecurity. By strengthening these economic activities and with the help of digital solutions, the programme is helping to prevent and mitigate the impact of conflicts. Wherever conflicts occur, trade routes are cut off, value chains are interrupted, and service networks are damaged. 

This is precisely where it is important to strengthen the resilience of local structures. Conversely, the efforts of organisations such as Swisscontact in applying principles of conflict sensitivity can help to prevent tense standoffs from escalating into conflict in fragile contexts. For this reason, these efforts are also geared toward enhancing entrepreneurship, optimising value chains, and opening up efficient channels for marketing Fairtrade products.

Difficult Conditions After the Coup

In reaction to the military coup d’etat in July 2023 and the president’s fall from power, member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have imposed sanctions in the region that affect micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises particularly harshly. As a consequence of the sanctions, government funds of Niger in central banks of neighbouring countries were frozen and all financial transactions with ECOWAS were halted. Not only were border crossings closed and flights grounded, but the supply of medicines and electrical power from abroad was also cut off.

Everyday activities, including those of Swisscontact, were shut down by the power outages and travel restrictions. Sanctions on financial services and money transfers, along with difficulty procuring raw materials, resulted in further limitations. While contact with employees and partners in these regions were maintained thanks to digital communications, the new situation also posed a challenge to our long-term objectives in Niger.

Work Continues

With the new conditions imposed by the military coup, our local staff members responded in coordination with local partners, including agribusinesses, financial service providers and institutional actors, with a series of measures to maintain their ability to continue operating. Thus, the programme limited its focus to the Dosso and Maradi regions, in which Swisscontact has a solid presence.

Partner organisations operating in agricultural processing were given support to convert to solar energy so that they can continue to operate independently in the event of power outages. Support to our partner organisations continued through digital communication tools, while PROMEL helped partners expand their business activities by connecting them with new sources for raw materials and better product marketing.

PROMEL is thus helping to improve living standards and support disadvantaged populations, who in the future will become important players in the country’s economic development. By strengthening local resilience and expertise in food supply, our project partners are better equipped to tackle the acute challenges of daily life. Building more sustainable structures also helps to mitigate the impact of violence and conflict over the long term.

“Since the coup d’etat, the Mini Laiterie de l'Union (‘Mini-Dairy of the Municipal Union’) has been facing immense challenges due to rising commodity prices, border closures, and power outages. We invested in a generator, temporarily replaced gas with firewood, and had to raise our product prices. Currently our monthly revenue is around 4 million CFA francs (approx. 5,700 CHF) vs. 5 million (approx. 7,200 CHF) before. Consequently, we had to downsize our staff from 33 to 21 employees. At the next meeting with the PROMEL team, we will try to enhance the intervention in cattle production, renew our loan, and evaluate solar energy to lower production costs and open up new markets in order to restart our growth. There is always a way to keep going!”

Alou Mahamane, Managing Director of the Mini Laiterie de l'Union, Tchippal


With PROMEL, Swisscontact is developing digital solutions accessible both with and without an internet connection. These enable the online trade of agricultural products and facilitate business relations among value chain actors.

  • Agrishop: An online digital marketplace for trade of agricultural products and services. It promotes exchange and linkages between agricultural value chain actors, as well as enabling them to share suggestions and opportunities.
  • Agricall: RECA-AND Call Centre for Agricultural Extension Services, an agricultural extension service in Hausa, Zarma, and French. The call centre offers access to agricultural extension services provided by Niger’s National Network of Agricultural Chambers (RECA).  RECA provides space, as well as training and guidance to telephone agents.
  •  Rayuwa: the offline information service is a USSD application developed for use in regions where internet connections are weak or unavailable. Rayuwa enables its users to subscribe to news services for weather, agricultural commodity prices, agricultural advisory services, plant treatment methods, and more.
  • Terrafinance: with this tool, PROMEL supports financial inclusion of small businesses run by young entrepreneurs. These businesses might need e-banking services and guidance with regards to loans and other financial matters. Terrafinance reduces the highest transaction costs from decentralised financial services.

“In 2022, we began partnering with PROMEL to improve our post-harvest potato storage and sales. The purpose was to ensure a reliable supply of organic potatoes, while offering a high-value seed credit system and technical support to young farmers. These efforts were put to the test with the coup-d’etat in July and the subsequent ECOWAS sanctions. Due to the closure of the border with Benin, there was a delay in the seed supply, and this caused logistical challenges and higher costs. Thanks to a meeting between various stakeholders facilitated by PROMEL, solutions were found. Despite the delays, we are satisfied with this year’s production and can avoid the loss of seed material at the borders and difficulties repaying the loan that we took.”

Hamza Allasane, Chairman of the Potato Producer Network, Doutchi

Project Results

  • Partnerships with 35 private companies, who, since January 2021, have offered services and funds totalling over 500 000 USD to the programme.
  • Easier access to the employment market for 4637 women (36 percent) and young people.
  • Assistance in starting up agroprocessing businesses provided to 602 people, 98% of whom are women.
  • Over 70% of agricultural businesses achieved revenue growth of over 10%.
Labour market insertion, Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Local entrepreneurship promotion programme 
The programme objective is to create jobs and income opportunities for women and youth in rural Niger through the promotion of entrepreneurship and facilitating access to markets. In particular, the empowerment of women is to be promoted. This opens up new opportunities for economic and social development of these two border regions that depend significantly on agriculture and industry.
Results and Impact 2023
A sustainability strategy with a solid foundation 
Financial Statement 2023