Angela Merkel’s three-day Africa tour answers concerns in Germany over immigration.
The Chancellor wants to show support for efforts to reduce departures – through private sector investment in the sub-region to create jobs and military backing for the war against al-Qaeda’s offshoots in the Sahel.
Germany already has 430 soldiers in Mali as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country (Minusma).
A further 40 German Minusma soldiers are based in Niger’s capital Niamey, where Mrs Merkel arrived this morning.
Merkel wants to convince the German public that more soldiers and equipment are required in the Sahel.
Minusma needs them: the Netherlands recently withdrew its attack helicopters from Gao.
Through her visits to Mali and Niger today, Mrs Merkel becomes the first European leader to highlight the deadly desert crossing African migrants undertake before reaching the Mediterranean.
Ethiopia, which she is due to visit on Tuesday, hosts 700,000 refugees – one of the highest rates in Africa, according to the UN refugee agency.