Niamey is undergoing a facelift. The president wants the capital to play a central role in his Niger Renaissance plan. However, it hasn't all been plain sailing.
IT IS 2:45 AM. OVERLOOKING THE conveyor belt in Diori Hamani International Airport, a billboard discreetly advertises the presence of the French company Bollore in the Republic of Niger.
The Royal Air Maroc flight landed 20 minutes ago, spilling its batch of travellers who flock to retrieve their suitcases and other luggage before being finding a horde of taxi drivers waiting at the building's exit.
As you leave the airport, it is hard to miss the huge billboard promoting Roger Muntu, the French-speaking radio host, a superstar in the region, who presents on the airwaves of American public radio boradcaster the Voice of America.
Welcome to Niamey, capital of the Republic of Niger and showcase for President Mahamadou Issoufou's reformist policies.
Issoufou was elected in March to lead the country for a second term of five years. The city, which will host die African Union Heads of State meetings in 2019, is changing rapidly. Less crowded than the capital cities of neighbouring Mali or Burkina Faso, Niamey; with its 1.3m inhabitants, has been selected to spearhead the programme for the "Renaissance" of Niger as set out by die Presidency.
The government has decided to invest massively in the city and it shows.
New roads have been built, new roundabouts and intersections. Two highway interchangers have also been built to ease traffic A third is being built by Sogea-Satom (a subsidiary of Vinci) at a total cost of CFA41.6bn ($70m), co-financed by the West African Development Bank (BOAD), Bank of Africa Niger and the Niger government.
The government has also targeted the development and asphalting of 70km of urban roads in the capital (including a ring road). In addition the government has installed solar panels and street lights in 13 districts. The city, as its residents said, will no longer be in the dark.
The Niamey Nyala programme (loosely translated as Trendy Niamey) was launched in 2011 by a then newly elected Issoufou with the aim to change the face of the capital and to make it more appealing and fun to live in.
Having seen his budget considerably augmented, the high commissioner in charge of Niamey Nyala is working with the city's mayor to completely overhaul public services and to provide the citizens of the capital with the basic services they are sorely lacking.