Tue. Feb 27th, 2024
By Aishah Umar Sanda

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has for long been the cornerstone of regional cooperation and integration, fostering economic, political, and social ties among its member nations. However, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso’s declaration of their withdrawal from the regional bloc has raised concerns about the potential negative consequences for the countries and the broader West African region. Without these countries, it could be harder to address common challenges and work together effectively. It could also affect trade within the region. Additionally, the security cooperation among member states might also be affected which could have implications for tackling issues like terrorism and organized crime in the region.

ECOWAS has been playing a crucial role in promoting peace, security, and economic development in West Africa since it was founded in 1975. With the departure of these three countries, the unity and collective efforts of ECOWAS could be weakened. Cooperation in addressing common challenges, such as regional conflicts and humanitarian crises might become more challenging without their active participation. Senator Shehu Sani (@ShehuSani) in a tweet on X, for instance, suggests that “The Withdrawal of Mali, Niger Republic, and Burkina Faso from Ecowas is a serious setback for West Africa. It signifies the failure of diplomacy and dialogue. We lost our African blood brothers because of our Western conditional friends. We sacrificed our hands to keep our wristwatches.”  The three-member states exiting from ECOWAS would disrupt the existing economic structures and trade relationships that have been established among member states for decades.

One of the key objectives of ECOWAS is to facilitate the free movement of goods and people within the region. If Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso leave ECOWAS, it could disrupt the smooth flow of trade and services in the region, this is a grave concern that cannot be ignored. Tariffs, border controls, and other trade barriers might be reinstated, hampering the economic integration that ECOWAS has worked hard to achieve. This could hurt businesses, cross-border investments, and overall regional economic growth. According to Ann Tunji (@Ann_tunji) in a tweet on X, “Those asking about the usefulness of ECOWAS, A lot of Nigeria exporters use other West African ports because of the inefficiency of the Nigerian port. If ECOWAS collapses there will no longer be free movement of goods between countries, & the struggling sector will be affected.” Currently, these nations benefit from established trade relationships within ECOWAS and their departure could disrupt the seamless flow of goods and services among member states, impacting the economies of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

ECOWAS has been instrumental in fostering security cooperation among its member states. It has played a significant role in combating terrorism, organized crime, and other security threats in the region. The departure of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso could equally weaken the collective efforts to address these challenges. Cooperation in intelligence sharing, joint military operations, and border security might be affected, making it harder to maintain peace and stability in the region. Atiku Abubakar (@atiku) in a tweet on X suggests that “Reports about the withdrawal of three countries from our sub-regional body, ECOWAS, is concerning. It is a matter of serious diplomatic meltdown. We must keep the country’s national security interest, especially the fight against terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and others in focus while we appraise the situation.” The West African region has been grappling with security challenges, particularly in Mali and Burkina Faso, where terrorism and internal conflicts have been persistent. ECOWAS has played an important role in coordinating regional efforts to address these issues. If these countries leave the organization, the collaborative security mechanisms may weaken, potentially exacerbating the existing challenges and affecting the stability of neighboring nations.

In conclusion, the negative impact of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso’s leaving of ECOWAS extends beyond economic concerns to encompass security, political, and developmental repercussions. Regional cooperation has been a crucial driver of progress in West Africa, and the departure of these nations could undermine the collective strength needed to address the complex challenges facing the region. It remains imperative for leaders to consider the broader implications and seek solutions that preserve the unity and stability of West Africa.

Aishah Umar Sanda is a graduate of International Relations and Diplomacy, currently an intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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