top of page

Mali, Burkina Faso, & Niger withdrew from ECOWAS to create their own alliance

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, three Sahelian countries ruled by military juntas, announced on January 28, 2024, their joint withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This move followed months of tension between the three countries and ECOWAS, primarily stemming from military coups, security concerns, and disagreement with ECOWAS leadership.

All three countries had experienced recent coups, and ECOWAS had imposed sanctions and demanded transitions back to civilian rule. The juntas saw these sanctions as "inhumane" and ineffective. Moreover, the three nations are facing significant security challenges, including terrorism and insurgency. They accused ECOWAS of failing to adequately support them in addressing these threats. And the juntas felt ECOWAS had become subservient to "foreign powers" and did not prioritize the interests of its member states. For these reasons, the three Sahelian states decided to withdraw from the ECOWAS to create their own organization, called the Alliance of Sahel States. The question here to ask ourselves is the following? Was it the right time to leave ECOWAS? What are the foundations on which this alliance is built? Will it be sustainable?

It is undeniable that the intention behind this move is admirable for those who promote pan-Africanist ideologies. But if we want to predict the outcome of this new alliance, it is important to look at it from a purely analytical and logical perspective rather than an emotional one just based on intentions.

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger are three landlocked countries with a very limited supply of agricultural resources. Their main natural resources are hard commodities such as uranium, gold, lithium, and manganese. These countries do not have the domestic productive capacity to unfortunately process these resources into consumable goods. Moreover, all three of them have been highly dependent on ECOWAS members, notably Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal to export their raw commodities to the global market.

In addition to depending on them to export their raw materials to the global market, these three Sahelian countries also depend on the ECOWAS members for the supply of certain goods such as electricity, oil, mineral fuels, distillation products, processed tobacco…etc. Ivory Coast alone supplies electricity to Mali and Burkina while Nigeria supplies electricity to Niger. When these three Sahelian countries were then ECOWAS members, they benefited from these goods at low costs or even free of charge, depending on the cooperation agreement they had in place. Moreover, these three Sahelian countries have their diaspora living in ECOWAS-member states. This is because, in accordance with the ECOWAS charter, citizens of ECOWAS-member states can travel and settle within the community without a visa or residence, a little bit like the Schengen model.

Now that they’ve withdrawn from the organization to create their own, a few things are certainly going to happen. First, ECOWAS-member states will now charge them a premium on all the goods supplied. This will naturally increase the cost of living in these three countries, thus, making it more expensive for its people to afford basic necessities. Second, ECOWAS-member states will impose a visa or resident permit on all the citizens of these three countries. This means that it will become even costlier for the diaspora to remain in these countries. Third, these countries want to create their own currency as a way to ascertain monetary sovereignty, which will inevitably lead to more inflation, uneven redistribution of wealth, and more poverty in the long run.

While the intention of having their own currency is emotionally appealing, the economic outcome of that initiative will be disastrous because they will be printing money at-will, and printing money at-will depreciates the currency, creates hyperinflation, and reduces the purchasing power of consumers, which will make them even poorer than they already are.

The problem with this decision to withdraw from ECOWAS is that these three countries are among the poorest countries in the world and are far from becoming self-sufficient. They do not have the resources to become self-sufficient. This withdrawal should have been done gradually rather than abruptly. By doing it abruptly rather than gradually, it puts the citizens of these three Sahelian countries in a precarious position while the leaders of these countries continue to increase their power and wealth.

Subscribe to The Lake Street Review!

Join our email list and get access to specials deals exclusive to our subscribers.

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page