China intercedes to end Benin’s ban on Niger’s oil exports

China has brokered a deal that enabled an end to Benin’s blockade of Niger’s oil exports through a Chinese-built pipeline.

China had extended a resource-backed loan to Niger to build the pipeline that connects its oil fields to Seme port in Benin, which blocked exports earlier this month in protest over Niger’s closure of its border to Benin’s goods.

Benin had joined the ECOWAS in imposing sanctions on Niger following the coup in 2023. Five months later it opened its ports to Niger imports and exports.

A Chinese vessel loaded 1 million barrels of Niger’s oil from Benin on Sunday, marking eased tensions and China’s growing clout as a mediator in the continent.

The détente came after a Chinese delegation, including executives from state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), held talks with Beninese President Patrice Talon last week.

CNPC has invested $4.6 billion in Niger’s petroleum industry, and its subsidiary PetroChina owns two-thirds of the country’s Agadem oilfield.

Niger has obtained a $400 million loan from China that it plans to pay by shipping oil. The loan is seen as one of the first steps to wean financial dependence on the West, with whom the military rulers are increasingly at odds going as far as breaking military cooperation partnerships.

The pipeline would help Niger increase production to 100,000 barrels, offering the landlocked country an export route.