West Africa: What Withdrawal of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso Will Cost Ecowas - Official

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is made up of fifteen member countries.
25 February 2024

"The withdrawal of the three-member states could result in the halt or the suspension of all ECOWAS projects and programmes worth more than $500 million," a communique issued at the end of the Saturday extraordinary summit said.

West Africa's regional bloc, ECOWAS, on Saturday, said that the exit of three of its members would cost the region a lot including projects worth about $500 million.

"The withdrawal of the three-member states could result in the halt or the suspension of all ECOWAS projects and programmes worth more than $500 million," a communique issued at the end of Saturday's extraordinary summit said.

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso in January announced their withdrawal from ECOWAS over what they described as inhumane and illegal sanctions imposed on them following coups in the countries.

ECOWAS also highlighted other implications the withdrawal could have including socio-economic, political, security and humanitarian impact.

According to ECOWAS, the impact would be felt most by the citizens of the three countries and the regional integration process.

It urged the three member states to reconsider their decision given the benefits that ECOWAS member states and their citizens enjoy in the community.

It further encouraged them to resort to dialogue, negotiations and mediation to address their concerns.

"The authority urges the three member states to adhere to the provisions of the 1993 revised treaty relating to withdrawal, particularly article 91."

"The authority encourages ECOWAS to sustain its rapprochement and overtures towards the three member states and continues to remain seized of the situation."

On political and security implications, "the withdrawal will affect security cooperation in terms of sharing intelligence and participation in regional counterterrorism initiatives, such as the Accra initiative, and the Multinational Joint Task Force."

It also noted that it could lead to diplomatic and political isolation on the international scene, where the countries have obtained bloc support for their candidates and candidature in the contest for international positions within the African Union, the United Nations and similar bodies.

"The authority recognizes that the withdrawal will automatically affect the immigration status of the citizens, as they may be required to obtain visas to travel around the region," ECOWAS said, adding that citizens may no longer be able to reside or set up businesses under ECOWAS arrangement and may be subject to diverse national laws.

Additionally, the three countries will cease to use the ECOWAS passport, ECOWAS biometric national identity card and the region-wide ECOWAS brown card vehicle insurance.

Even though the three countries represent only 10 per cent of the region's GDP, their departure will constitute a reduction of the market size of ECOWAS, the bloc noted.

Other areas that would be affected include intra-community trade, regional projects and programmes including the Regional Food Security Reserve which the three countries hold 52 per cent, amongst others.

"Reviewing the implications at the institutional level, the authority notes that the withdrawal will not only require the closure of four regional entities in Burkina Faso, two regional bodies in Mali and one regional office in Niger, it will also affect the job security of some 130 ECOWAS staff who are citizens of the three countries."

Currently, 77 staff members are from Burkina Faso, 23 from Mali, and 32 from Niger.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission has also been instructed to invite Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Guinea, to attend the technical and consultative meetings of ECOWAS as well as all security-related meetings.

It also reiterated the urgent need for ECOWAS to expedite the operationalisation of the standby force in its kinetic mode to fight against terrorism in the region including the elements of the Multinational Joint Task Force, and the Accra initiative.

"In this regard, the authority instructs its commission as soon as possible to convene the meeting of ministers of finance and defence to propose modalities for financing and equipping counterterrorism forces."

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