Press "Enter" to skip to content

Can the exit of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso from ECOWAS be a setback for West Africa? -Susa Africa Analysis

Relations between ECOWAS and the three countries have been tense after military coups took place in Niger in 2023, Burkina Faso in 2022 and Mali in 2020. ECOWAS has called on all three countries to return to civilian rule.

The enormous semi-arid region of Africa known as the Sahel divides tropical savannas to the south from the Sahara Desert to the north. It covers many geographic, agro-ecological systems and is home to 400 million people. The political region of the Sahel, as defined by the United Nations strategy (UNISS), covers 10 countries (Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria). Dakar (Senegal), Ougadougou (Burkina Faso), Niamey (Niger) and Bamako (Mali) now hold about 25 percent of the Sahel’s population and each year grow by another five percent. The Sahel contains a lot of natural and human resources, which means it has a lot of potential for rapid expansion. However, the region also has long-standing environmental, political, and security issues that could compromise its prosperity and stability.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is made up of the fifteen member countries that are located in the Western African region. The 15 members of the ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. According to the bloc, “The Heads of State and Government of fifteen West African Countries established ECOWAS when they signed the ECOWAS Treaty on the 28th of May 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria with its stated mission to promote economic integration across the region.”

Initial ECOWAS Member States

A mutual defence pact between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso was established on September 16, 2023, and became known as the Alliance of Sahel States (ASS). When a coup had occurred in Niger earlier that year, the West African political organisation ECOWAS vowed to intervene militarily to restore civilian authority. This led to the creation of the accord during the Nigerien crisis of 2023. In the meantime, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, and Mali has announced their departure from ECOWAS. The union, which has been pushing for the junta-led nations to revert to democratic governance, had already suspended them from membership. The withdrawal from ECOWAS, according to the three administrations, was a “sovereign decision”.

Alliance of Sahel States (ASS)

The three nations’ official broadcasters read out a joint statement in which they said that ECOWAS had “drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism.” The statement continues, stating that ECOWAS “under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to member states and peoples,” and that the bloc had failed to help them tackle the terrorists violence in their countries.

Read Also: Niger coup and Nigeria’s need for restraint

However, Timothy Musa Kabba, the foreign minister of Sierra Leone, has refuted these claims. The claims, according to Mr. Kabba, who was a member of the team negotiating between Ecowas and the administrations led by the junta, are that the accusations are “unfortunate” as Ecowas’s intervention was intended to “find a solution to the impasse” and ensure peace, security and stability in the region. He then said, “And we are not in any way under the influence of any external power to mediate between Ecowas and Nigerien authorities.”

ECOWAS and The Alliance of Sahel States

In spite of being suspended from the bloc, sanctions, negotiations and threats of military intervention, the military authorities have been more assertive in their denial that other forces are influencing the bloc. In September, the three nations established “The Alliance of Sahel States,” a mutual defence agreement, “aims to create an economic and monetary union and a currency called Sahel.” Thus, the three countries have severed their connections with France, their former colonial power.

As they fight to quell terrorist insurgencies connected to al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the three military chiefs have stated that they would prefer to restore security before holding elections. Officially, the military authorities in Niger have stated that “they want up to three years for a transition back to civilian rule.” Elections in Mali were originally scheduled for February, but the military government has already moved them to an unspecified later date. The battle against the militants is still Burkina Faso’s primary concern, according to officials, even though elections are scheduled for this summer. Also, Russia and Wagner are capitalising on the manner Western powers are making lives difficult in the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to advance their own interest.

Nonetheless, Mali, the Niger Republic, and Burkina Faso claimed that the community’s apparent failure of the community to fulfil its founding fathers’ vision for effective regional integration was the reason for their quick departure from the West African bloc. The regional body was charged by the three nations for “failing to support their fight against terrorism and insecurity while imposing illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions.”

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, however, claims that it has not yet received any official information directly from Burkina Faso, Mali, or the Niger Republic regarding their intention to leave the Community. The Commission said it has been “working assiduously with these countries for the restoration of constitutional order. Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain important members of the Community and the Authority remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse. “The ECOWAS Commission remains seized with the development and shall make further pronouncements as the situation evolves,” the statement continued.

The Matters Arising

A total of 5.2 million square kilometres that make up the ECOWAS region. One of the pillars of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was set up is to foster the ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states. As a trade union, it is also meant to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation. “Integrated economic activities as envisaged in the area that has a combined GDP of $734.8 billion, revolve around but are not limited to industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial issues, social as well as cultural matters.”

It has been suggested by observers that the countries of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso as well as Africa at large would suffer if they were to leave the ECOWAS. Sports, cultural exchanges, and informal trade are examples of other areas of social cooperation that may suffer some losses as a result of the withdrawal, but these changes will occur quickly since democratic leaders will soon replace the current governments in those nations.

West Africa Current Situation
West Africa Current Situation

The three countries’ exit, according to the analyst, will hurt both sides. One key factor influencing economic growth is market size. For instance, in 2022, Niger’s exports to Nigeria decreased to $192.9 million from $197.3 million; Mali’s exports to Nigeria increased to $17.4 million from $5.03 million; and Burkina Faso’s exports to Nigeria decreased to $13.6 million from $40.2 million.

The flow of both human and non-human resources within the subregion would be hampered, according to experts. Losing access to the ECOWAS Passport program, which allows for visa-free travel inside the bloc, would affect Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Due to their landlocked locations, these three nations are even more isolated.

Parallel to this, the three nations are also participants in the eight-nation West African Monetary Union, which use the Euro-pegged West African CFA franc as its unit of currency. The ECOWAS leaders had severed their access to the regional central bank and financial market following the coups in Mali and Niger, and as a result, the countries had joined the monetary union. Niger’s access is still blocked, however Mali’s was later reinstated.

A Better Way Forward

African leaders should uphold good governance in democratic countries across the continent by advocating for social fairness in order to reduce the popularity of coup d’etat on this continent. Observers have suggested that the decisions made by the three nations will have an adverse effect on Nigeria’s leadership position in the subregion, Africa, and the world at large. Furthermore, rather than focusing on the symptoms of the military coups in the area, ECOWAS must address the underlying causes. They ought to be searching for solutions to these issues. If not, the West African body is about to experience the first signs of depletion. While finding lasting solutions to the many factors that are orchestrating military coups in the region, ECOWAS has been fighting and inflicting economic sanctions in a bid to force deposed democratic governments back in their countries. It should be highlighted that ECOWAS is facing a grave threat to its future since it has been using the conflict between the superpowers to undermine its own existence.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.