China's state oil company has signed a $5 billion deal to develop oil reserves in Niger.
In a statement Tuesday, the China National Petroleum Corporation said it has agreed to develop the Agadem oil block in eastern Niger, and to build a refinery and a 2,000-kilometer pipeline.
Niger's government says the Agadem oil block has proven reserves of 324 million barrels.
The deal is expected to bring thousands of jobs to Niger, one of the most impoverished countries in Africa.
China has invested heavily in Africa in recent years as it seeks oil, minerals and markets for its booming economy.
The oil block is located in Niger's Diffa region, far from parts of northern Niger affected by a revolt by ethnic Tuareg rebels.
Last year, a Chinese uranium mining company shut down its activities in northern Niger after threats from the rebel Niger Movement for Justice.
The rebel group kidnapped and then released a Chinese uranium executive after accusing Chinese companies of supplying arms to Niger's government.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.