In this episode, I share my take aways from engaging discussions I had on corruption, leadership, democratization, and being a woman in Niger. But I have decided to make my first contribution as genuine and personal as my trip was.
Here I am, at the airport of Niamey. Many questions come to my mind. I have chosen to come to Niger with limited research on the country. I have decided to come with a minimum of preconceptions and assumptions. I wanted to discover it all on my own, on the ground. Whether I get surprised or get my expectations fulfilled, I wanted this journey to be unscripted, unfiltered, and unmediated by any external source.
My journey to Niger happened to be a return to a source.
The concept of return is not exclusively physical. It does not only reflect the way back of an African to Africa. In fact, many friends including Moroccans have not intuitively perceived this endeavor as a return. Actually, many expressed astonishment – and often enthusiasm- towards my trip to what some alienated as “Africa”. Morocco’s rooting into the African continent is both strong and undeniable. The geographic, ethnic, cultural, religious, economic, social … links need no justification. However, some reactions point out to the need to emphasize Morocco’s african identity in education and politics, but this is a whole other theme…
My trip to Niger was a return in an abstract sense as well, it exposed me to the new and yet paradoxically, drove me to an origin. To better grasp this effect, it is crucial to understand that my narratives on Niger are denuded from any exoticism or orientalism of Africa. They are -foremost- self-reflections on the impact of a country on my person and persona.
In fact, the first motive that enrolled me in this trip was primarily academic and professional. I came to Niger for a mission on corruption for Transparency International. But the human can not be completely detached from any other profile. If Niger was undoubtedly a crucial case to scrutinize, it also offered a culture, a people, and a history to learn from, as a person.
Despite its rich resources, the combination of a neo-(or continued) colonial system and an endemic corruption condemned its people to poverty, and the whole country to the bottom of international human development rankings. But if Niger was an enriching case to study, Niger was also a place to heal. It is a place where people’s easygoingness and truthfulness have to teach the many, or at least taught me substantively.
Lesson 1: Be
Niger cured my approach to the present. I had anteriorly lived in places that dictate for every minute of my present to be dedicated -and sometimes sacrified – to building a future. Every step, conversation, email, meeting, or thought had to serve a tomorrow. In Niger, for the first time, I learned to live and feel the very moment. My actions including interviews, sensibilization campaigns, and other missions undoubtedly contributed to construct a future project, but for the first time, when I interviewed someone I freed my self from the motive of the question, and learned to listen completely. When I acted, I fully embraced the moment, and detached from the future’s concerns. In fact, Niger was the first place where I learned to forget the destination and fully enjoy the journey.
Lesson 2: Give
I had the opportunity to be in Niamey but also discover six other rural zones including: Simiri, Kolo, Namaro, Karma, Torodi, and Djeladji. Everywhere, and as most expatriates and local Nigeriens confirmed, one is stricken by people’s kindness. People’s openness, politeness, gentleness, and familiarity are genuine. I proudly thought that Moroccans were the most welcoming people until I came to Niger. It is a place where Islam has softened people’s emotions and where peacefulness is a character. I don’t want to make empty generalizations, but most people I had the chance to meet and work with have this extra-ordinary power to make you family. For this very reason, I made the strong wish that every Nigerien student, worker, or visitor who would enter my country would be as well received as I was in theirs.
I hope this message of peace and reciprocity reaches all the Moroccans of my African country.
 UNDP’s Human Development Index of Niger in 2013 is 0.304, it is ranked 186th/187 countries.
Link to article : http://moroccannomad.com/niger-episode-1-when-the-journey-begins/