Commercial oil production, slated to begin next month, will help boost economic growth in Niger to 8.5 percent next year, over double the 3.8 percent forecast for this year, the West African regional central bank BCEAO estimated.

Niger is due start supplying oil from domestic reserves to its new refinery in the eastern town of Zinder from December 1 for refining at a rate of 20,000 barrels per day. Some 7,000 barrels of that is for local use with the rest due for export.

The West African nation, already one of the world's biggest suppliers of uranium, will start production at its estimated 650 million barrels reserves under a $5 billion (£3.2 billion) deal with China's CNPC at the Agadem bloc.

The BCEAO said in a statement late on Friday that investment in public infrastructure and continued production from Niger's uranium mines, which supply France's nuclear energy sector, would be the two other main components of growth in 2012.

Separately, the European Union announced during a visit that it was granting Niger 42 million euros (£36 million) in financial support to help good governance and security in the country, which is in the Sahel-Saharan zone currently targeted by al Qaeda allies.

(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaatchi; writing by Mark John; editing by Keiron Henderson)