Nigerien Air Base 201 bazaar boosts Agadez economy and relationship

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Jan Valle
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

A local artisan bazaar, hosted June 20, 2021 by Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, generated approximately $14,000 (4.2 million Central African francs) while strengthening relationships between service members and the community. This event was made possible with the help of Airmen from the 409th Air Expeditionary Group and Soldiers assigned to the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron civil affairs team. There were 43 vendors from different ethnic groups in the local area to sell their products.

With a population of approximately 25 million people, the country of Niger is statistically viewed by the United Nations as an impoverished country. Similar to all locations hosting a U.S. military installation, the city of Agadez has received some financial sustainability from it’s proximity to AB 201.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been less opportunities to interact with the locals, but Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Gipson, 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron commander, hopes to see more events like the bazaar take place in order to strengthen the established bond.

“We're very fortunate to have great partners in the Agadez region, and the city of Agadez,” Gipson said. “We really look forward to continuing with the United States Africa Command and the United States Department of Defense, building partnership capacity in the Agadez region and Western Africa in general.”

In addition to supporting the security of West Africa with the Nigerien Armed Forces, the base contributes to the Agadez region’s economy by hosting events and activities with the local population.

“The bazaars are a great way for us to bring the local community on base so they can interact with our Airmen and Soldiers,” said Gipson.

The bazaar had a wide range of items available for purchase, to include traditional Nigerien garb and products made by local craftsmen. Jewelry, figurines, clothing and camel rides were among the most popular options offered.

“Since the drop of tourism to Agadez, the ability for local artisans to ply their trade has dropped significantly,” U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jarrod Mattison, Civil Affairs Team lead said. “These bazaars offer the chance to make much needed income to support their families and allow their skills to be appreciated by others within the community.”

According to Gipson, hosting events between AB 201 and the host nation improves partnerships and helps validate the U.S. as a partner of choice. There are discussions for future activities to potentially be conducted both on the base and in the city of Agadez.

“The more that we have a good relationship with this city and region of Agadez, whether it's through economics or engagements, or the great charity work that many of our private organizations are doing, the more likely they are going to be to take care of us and help with our force protection stance,” Gipson said.

Some other ways that Airmen and Soldiers helped the community was by rebuilding a primary school in the Tadress village, donating school and medical supplies to a school in the village of Teghazer, and assessing broken construction machinery from the city of Agadez. These projects were led by the civil affairs team with help from Airmen assigned to different units including Civil Engineering and Vehicle Maintenance.