Baldanza said that the cost of the military air base is estimated at $50 million, in contrast to The Intercept website, which reported on Thursday, citing formerly secret documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that the base would cost $100 million and will be built in 2017.
The United States already stations its MQ-9 Reaper drones and supports France’s anti-jihadist force, Operation Barkhane, in the country’s capital of Niamey. The new base is expected to enhance the ability of the US to target Islamist extremists in surrounding countries, including Mali, Libya and Nigeria.
According to the UN's Human Development Index, Niger is the poorest place on Earth, with most of the population eking out a meager existence through subsistence farming amid perennial droughts. Niger's total fertility rate of 7.57 births per woman according to 2012 World Bank statistics, is the highest in the world; half of its population of 17 mln is under 15 years of age and 2.5 mln have no secure source of food. Only 14.4 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2012, less than in Somalia (32.7 percent) and Mali (25.6 percent).