The Agadez region of Niger has been the subject of many studies on migration dynamics in recent years. Following the implementation of restrictive migration policies in Niger, much attention has been given to the way in which such policies have affected the living conditions of migrants transiting through the region on their way to Libya and Algeria, and to their economic impact on local populations where high numbers of people benefitted from the so-called migration industry. Such impacts were noticeable early on and continue to leave their marks on the socioeconomic situation in Niger’s north as well as on local governance dynamics. This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of both migration governance and its impact on the socioeconomic situation and governance dynamics in Agadez. It will place the migration debate in the broader framework of governance issues and will draw out some longer-term impacts of restrictive migration policies, specifically on the economy and the position of local governance providers. The main research question that this paper addresses is what are the longer-term impacts of international migration policy in the Agadez region on the socioeconomic situation, on the perception of governance providers, and on conflict management and mediation mechanisms.
Research is based on interviews with key informants in Agadez, carried out between May 2019 and June 2020. In addition, it is based on conversations between the authors and policy makers, humanitarian actors and residents of Agadez region between 2017 and 2020.
The first part of this paper looks at how the construction of a ‘migration paradigm’ in Niger affected its northern region through the imposition of stricter controls on mobility and projects aimed at slowing down or stopping migrants travelling northward. The analysis will aim to unpack some of the narratives and assumptions commonly used by international organisations and policy makers to legitimise such an approach, and will outline the mismatch between a region that has historically used mobility and connectivity as a form of livelihood diversification and the policies that seek to reduce those dynamics.
The second part of this paper will discuss how, several years after this initial clamp down, the impacts on the Agadez region remain problematic in nature. This paper looks at the region’s economic composition and discusses human smuggling and the smuggling of goods, as well as other sectors of the economy such as gold mining and small-scale businesses, and sets out key dynamics in each sector. In a section on governance, the paper explores the effects of migration policies on the perception of governance providers. While previous research has shown the effects on central and regional authorities, much less research has been conducted into the effects on traditional authorities. This subsection therefore mainly focuses on traditional leaders, discussing their complex positioning in the political ecosystem and how that position has altered since 2016. Lastly, this paper looks at how different conflict management and mediation mechanisms available in Niger’s north attempt to remedy feelings of discontent in the Agadez region and how they navigate the new dynamics of economic deterioration and declining trust in governance providers.