Alex Krainer on the Niger coup and more. As usual energy supply is a big issue, this time uranium and gas
On 26 July 2023, Niger’s General Abdourahamane Tchiani overthrew the government of the President Mohamed Bazoum and seized power. It was the sixth coup against a western-friendly government in central and western Africa.
The event unveiled some of the underlying causes of the panic that had seized French elites over the recent years, and which drove them to break ranks with the Anglo-American establishment, as I discussed in “France Under Attack.” The alliance, which was based on “our shared values” seemed unbreakable, but as it turns out, the French elites prioritized other values.
This, perhaps, was what motivated Macron to ask to be invited to the BRICS Summit in South Africa and why his government invited the leaders of African nations to Paris on 22/23 June for the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact. It was a charm offensive to preserve to colonial status quo in a new and improved LGBT packaging, but always under the auspices of the IMF and World Bank. The initiative did not work as hoped and many African leaders openly berated President Macron. Kenya’s William Ruto bluntly told Macron: “You are not hearing us!”
Among the first decisions that General Tchiani took upon taking power was to suspend Niger’s exports of Uranium to France, with immediate effect. So, that’s going to hurt: France depends on Niger for a substantial percentage (anything between 25% and 40%) of Uranium for French nuclear power plants, and France depends on nuclear for over 70% of its electricity demand, the highest percentage in the world.. According to some estimates, one in 3 lightbulbs in France are powered by Nigerien Uranium.
Until now, Niger’s Uranium was exploited by a French controlled company Orano which owns 63.4% of the Société des Mines de l’Aïr (SOMAÏR). The remaining 36.6% of this is owned by Niger’s Société du Patrimoine des Mines du Niger, known as Sopamin. So these interests and everything downstream from them would be in distress by these developments. Two days after the coup, on 28 July, Orano released a statement that “the situation remains unstable” and that they’ve set up a crisis unit to prioritize the safety of their employees, but reassured that the event would not have “any immediate impact on its activities in Niger or on the value of its assets.”
So, if I understood that correctly, that’s a buy? Hopefully Jim Cramer will weigh in, but for the European economy, this could prove a dramatic blow not limited to the supply of Uranium, nor to France: there’s also the Trans Saharan Gas Pipeline (TGSP) project. The pipeline was planned to traverse Niger to deliver up to 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Nigeria through Algeria and on to Europe. The new government in Niger will want its fair share of the transit fees.
EU had already blown up the bridges with Russia
Recall, the EU shot itself in the face by sanctioning Russian oil and gas supplies, then scrambled to secure alternatives. The stakes are indeed extraordinary. Accordingly, President Macron gave a statement that attacks on France and its colonies interests in West Africa wouldn’t be tolerated and would be met with an immediate response. But things are getting complicated as Niger’s uppity neighbors including Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and even Algeria jumped into the fray, pledging support for Tchiani’s junta.
While France obtained the “permission” from Niger’s deposed President Bazoum to launch air strikes against the new government and the military, this will prove a very risky gambit. First, it is already galvanizing more African nations to close ranks in their anti colonial struggle and against France and other colonialists. Second, by going along with the UK/US/NATO’s excellent adventures in Ukraine, France has largely disarmed itself and Macron has alienated much of France’s own military brass. More imperial adventures in Africa aren’t going to strike any patriotic chords among them.
If history is any guide, that patriotism was traditionally rekindled by virtue of fortuitous terrorist incidents, but let’s hope that we won’t witness an attack by Nigerien terrorists in France in the coming days.
Britain offers military “professionalism” to Africa
France is not the only colonialist country that’s vexed about the tide of anti colonialist uprisings that are spreading across Africa and clearly gathering momentum. After the Russia-Africa Summit last month, Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was sufficiently alarmed to issue a statement that London was “ready to seriously consider any requests from African leaders regarding capacity building and training in the British Armed forces.” Cleverly added that British troops can export the professionalism of the British military to the African continent, and that Russia and China have only made “superficially attractive offers” to some African countries regarding security.
Hopefully the Africans haven’t noticed how well all that professionalism hadd served Ukraine. Last week Cleverly went on a tour of African countries and visited Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia to affirm the “mutually beneficial commercial relationships” with African nations. How mutually beneficial these relationships have been over the past 200 years was well articulated by one of the protesters against the old regime in Niger: “We have uranium, diamonds, gold, oil, and we live like slaves? We don’t need the French to keep us safe.” They don’t need the British either.
It’s coming from all sides…
The emancipation movement isn’t only jeopardizing the flow of natural resources from the global south. It’s also opening to competition for markets, military support and technology from Russia and China which is particularly vexing to the American “interests.”
Last Wednesday, Josh Wolfe, co-founder and managing partner of the $5 billion private equity LUX Capital gave a testimony before the House Select Committee on the CCP. The title of the hearings was, “Commanding Heights: Ensuring US Leadership in the Critical and Emerging Technologies of the 21st Century.” LUX Capital may not have been randomly selected to testify: it appears to be more than just a profit-focused investment fund. They invest on behalf of “leading philanthropies, foundations, endowments and children’s hospitals, among others.” Their areas of investing dovetail with the priorities of the American military-industrial complex’s: it’s all about defense, biotech, neuroscience, cyber security and the like.
China’s nuclear costs a fifth of the American!
Thankfully however, LUX Capital isn’t in it for the money but predominantly for freedom, democracy, human rights and othersuch “our values,” which are now under threat from the CPC. Accordingly, states LUX Capital, “When it comes to China, it’s principles over profits.” The alarm is about China overtaking the US in developing advanced new technologies. Again, it’s all about energy economics and we circle back to the issue of nuclear power:
“Nuclear, I think is critical, not again for proliferation, but nuclear reactors. I don’t think people really appreciate this. And I know… we speak about AI and biotech and quantum, I think a vector spotlight should be on nuclear because I think it’s really serious and here’s why. US went from 104 to 93 reactors. We’re down 10%. China went from 2 to 25 to 55 and they’re on their way to 150. 5% of their electricity is produced by nuclear. It’ll be 20, which approaches ours. But it will be a much larger population. But that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me is they’re beginning to export the technology. And not for nuclear proliferation, but for creating dependency. You think about all the countries on the coasts of the African continent, all the countries in South America and Central America. And the reason… the idea that something is cheaper sometime makes it more attractive. The Georgia plant that was done in nuclear here in the US recently, $25 billion. That’s about $11.5-12 billion or so per gigawatt. China is producing nuclear for $2 billion a gigawatt. So that’s a huge contrast. If you’re a foreign country, China can easily come in and say, we will build it for you, we’ll finance it for you and then, by the way, we’ve got you hooked for the next few decades and dependency on fuel and maintenance, etc. … this is an area that we should dominate, and as you noted with Westinghouse, the AP 1000 and many other reactors with a lot of other history, we should make sure that these are the ones that the wolrd is buying, not Chinese nuclear reactors.”
Wolfe did not specify how exactly the US Congress, or whomever he refers to as “we,” should make sure that the world is buying 5-times more expensive Westinghouse’s reactors. If the Chinese can offer nuclear energy at 20% the price of Western ones and finance it without forcing IMF loans, their crushing “structural reforms,” mandatory LGBT indoctrination and parades, and all other humiliating nonsense, then the fight has already been lost. We may have reached the beginning of the end of 300+ years of western colonialism, and good riddance: it’s been the worst malignancy to afflict humanity since the days of the Roman Empire.
This is a millennial struggle for all humanity
Throughout history, endogenous rebellions have been routinely and successfully put down by the colonizer’s superior and better funded force. But today, the presence of effective air defenses and Russian hypersonic weapons effectively cancel the West’s military superiority (I discussed this in March in the article, “Why Hypersonic Weapons Change Everything.”
If Russia and China are serious about slaying the empire, and I think they are, they will not take their fight half way. Still, we shouldn’t celebrate prematurely. The system of governance that has shaped western predatory imperialism is very resilient and will prove hard to kill. Regardless, killed it must be because its predatory methods aren’t only aimed at foreign colonies: this beast invariably sows mayhem abroad and misery at home. The present struggle is the struggle for all of humanity.”